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Labor’s media problem

One reason Labor lost the election has to do with deliberate lies and distortions of its policies. Labor’s Tony Burke pointed this out in his interview with Patricia Karvelas (ABC Afternoon Briefing, May 23, 2019): “Much of our time at polling booths was spent telling people there was no death tax and negative gearing would not be removed from properties they already own.”

A related reason has to do with Labor’s inability to explain things, to defend itself, to counter lies and to call them lies—in short, its inability to fight (the franking credit refunds policy is the perfect example). Labor has an inability to remove its jacket, get down and dirty and fight for what it believes in. The sort of news media crap that Labor has been experiencing for some years now would not have happened to Bob Hawke or to Paul Keating. They could speak directly to the news media or the public and make it stick.

During Julia Gillard’s era I complained a number of times that Labor was unable to fight for itself. Gillard took a wrong turn on this when, in response to a rambling question in the National Press Club, she responded with “Don’t write crap.” You can’t counter journalists by insulting them; it aggravates them, making matters worse. Her Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, rushed out a media reform bill early in 2013, at the beginning of the longest election campaign ever. He wasn’t serious about it (possibly because it was a hurried effort), tossing it on the table with a “Take it or leave it” comment.

Conroy’s bill was met with furore, mainly from Murdoch’s News Corp print media. The Daily Telegraph, and others, likened Conroy to certain tyrants. Labor responded with anger, official complaints and warnings. The main objection was to censorship, although the bill had nothing to do with censorship. It proposed a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA), an individual with two functions: to ensure the regulations the media had previously agreed to were enforced by the media regulator  and to oversee takeovers and mergers of existing media outlets which, at the time, were subject to limitations.

The real source of media’s anger was the PIMA (which was seen as a barrier to future takeovers) rather than the lie and furphy of censorship. See what the federal LNP government has done since with media takeovers and mergers. While claiming before and after that Australian news media is now more diversified than ever due to publications appearing on the internet and across social media, more print media is now in the hands of News Corp and TV channels are being merged. There’s now less diversity, not more.

Bill Shorten eventually became Labor’s leader. Shorten needed to take public speaking lessons, along with the MPs standard course in dealing with the news media. There was no doubt he needed them. I’m sure they would have been suggested to him, but he was probably offended by the idea. His delivery was soft-ish, usually, with frequent digression as one thought seemed to need more detailed explanation or led to another thought, leaving things unexplained. Sentences would often end in a way that completely lacked emphasis. The gentle pumping of his left fist would have me shaking mine. I wanted him to shout and thump the lectern occasionally. I wanted to see some real passion. It never emerged.

To solve its problem Labor ministers could turn to people already in their offices: the senior news media advisers. These people usually are journalists seasoned in politics or other fields; they are experienced communicators and observers of political and public reactions. If anyone knows how journalists think it is another journalist. I can’t tell you who the Labor or Liberal senior media officers are (I no longer work in that area), but I can imagine where the Liberal advisers worked previously. LNP ministers’ campaigns sound like Daily Telegraph page one headlines—short, punchy and to the point, even when misleading everyone. Gillard made another mistake in hiring a media consultant from the UK. Although he’d worked for UK Labour, he was out of touch with the Australian version and the Australian people. Whoever these advisors are now, I can’t believe ALP MPs are paying any serious attention to them. Perhaps they only hire them to write flowery speeches, being careful not to offend anyone.

Why doesn’t Labor take News Corp on? Some say News Corp is fading, no one takes any notice of News Corp today. Others say taking on News Corp would be political suicide. The LNP federal government’s preferred approach was to make a $30 million donation to Murdoch’s Fox Sport, supposedly to publicise women’s sport, a gift that no other TV channel received. I think Labor should go into battle every time News Corp starts one of its nasty campaigns. Failure to do so leaves them open to a litany of lies and distortion that is time consuming and frustrating to deal with. You can’t deal with it if you haven’t developed the necessary skills.


I have a few questions for you

Do you think corruption in politics can be addressed by a new political party, one specifically designed to deal with the problem?

Is corruption in politics inevitable? Is it the inevitable consequence of adult behaviour?

Is it true that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely? Is this a cliché, with some truth to it? Is Queen Elizabeth II corrupt? Is the Pope corrupt? Is the UN Security Council corrupt?

Are you prepared to continue to vote for political parties that are occasionally tainted with corruption, or with members who are accused of corruption?

Would you vote for a political party that dealt severely with elected members found guilty of corrupt behaviour?

Do you think political parties might be influenced by donations they receive from big corporations?

Is it reasonable that corporations that legally manage to pay no tax in Australia should receive subsidies from the Australian government? On what grounds?

Are you satisfied that the continuing sale of public assets is the right thing to do? What assets, if any, should governments and taxpayers retain?

Do you believe in trickle down economic theory? Why, or why not?

Would you work as a volunteer to raise funds locally for a local candidate to avoid the obligation that might come with a corporate donation to your party?

Should replacement Senators be nominated by their party or should they be elected by voters?

Should the most senior party officials decide who can represent the party in parliament?

Should all candidates for parliaments, State and federal, be local people, chosen by local party members, free of interference from State and federal executive members?

Would you like to have a say in what policies a party should pursue and implement? Should this be left to career politicians and party executives to determine?

Should parties, politicians or candidates be obliged to keep their promises?

Should there be severe penalties (like loss of seat) for an elected parliamentarian who deliberately lies to mislead voters?

How should a candidate or an elected politician who deceives his or her party be dealt with?

Is it reasonable that a party in government should favour one sector over another?

Do you believe that balanced government is a necessity, or that balance over time is a reasonable alternative?

What area of policy is most vital to Australia’s future?

Do you believe the original Australians, the indigenous Aboriginals, should be treated equally, without further delay, and uplifted to the utmost of their abilities?

Are you satisfied with the treatment and assistance provided to Australian Aboriginal communities to this point?

Should Australia continue to rely on the USA as a major defence partner? Can you outline an alternative approach?

Switzerland has a long-standing reputation as an independent, unaligned nation. Can you see a role like that for Australia in the Pacific and near-Asian region?

Do you think a centrally based political party, favouring neither traditional labour nor traditional capital sectors, could have a role in providing stable, progressive and balanced governance in Australia?

Do you see issues such as those outlined above progressive, forward thinking and balanced, or “populist”?

Do you think the term “populist” might used in the pejorative, to denigrate popular or challenging ideas?

Are you prepared to work for a new political party that would implement the basic philosophy outlined above?

Would you like to participate in trouble-shooting and fleshing out some of these ideas into actual policies?

What is the greatest threat facing the attempted formation of a new progressive political party today?

What is the first step in forming such a party?

Why religion?

I’m an atheist. A hard core non-believer.
Religion grew out of Mankind’s increasing self-awareness and a feeling that somehow we were just too significant for our life to end with our death. Hard to say when it began, but Neanderthals showed reverence for their dead and ancient Egyptians (and not only the Pharaohs) went to extraordinary lengths to provide for their afterlife.
Religions are now firmly rooted in almost every culture and all without a shred of evidence for an afterlife. Most are based on a magical mystical unexplainable appearance of rarely seen “entities” issuing orders on how to behave from now on. In much the same way, the conquering general rides into town, climbs the town hall steps and tells you how it will be from now on.
I object to this nonsense because basically it relieves many from the need to think for themselves. Because of that, I see religions as being anti-human rather than humanist.
In my world, I have no doubt about my “afterlife”: worm fodder, dust to dust, and no soul or spirit to go to some nonexistent place.
I am not religious, but I manage to behave in a moral way with constant concern for the well being of my fellows. I wonder what we could achieve as humans if we all dumped these old-fashioned, unproven and very strange religious beliefs and began to think for ourselves.

Why TURC is a farce

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption (TURC) is a farce. It is not hard to prove this.

Proof hangs on a single item: A Royal Commission has been established to do the job existing law enforcement agencies should be doing. It is as simple as that.

For reasons not known to me, the trade unions do not argue my case. They have appeared before the Royal Commission for months, only objecting recently when it was learnt that Commissioner Dyson Heydon had accepted and deferred an invitation to be a guest speaker at a Liberal party event.

Whether or not the event was a Liberal fund-raiser is irrelevant. Commissioner Heydon initially responded by saying he would attend only if the Royal Commission was no longer sitting. At that point he was well aware of the possibility of a perception of “apprehended bias”. He responded appropriately.

The Royal Commission has been set up to drag trade unions and Labor through the mud. There is no doubt about that. “Some mud always sticks” — a well established principle in dirty politics. The Coalition government leader, Tony Abbott, announced his intention to establish a Judicial Inquiry into the Australian Workers Union (AWU) while he was Opposition Leader, just before the 2013 federal election. After gaining government, he announced the inquiry into the AWU would become a Royal Commission and would be extended.

If we go back to Abbott’s days as an economics and law student at Sydney university we find a young man who aggressively attacked student unions across Australia, as a disciple of the extremely reactionary Bob Santamaria, who hated the Labor party, trade unions and practically everything else. We also find Dyson Heydon sitting on the Rhodes Scholarship selection panel and favouring Abbott ahead of at least three Honours students.


Later in Abbott’s life, as an employee of former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, we find Dyson Heydon sitting on the legal panel that advised Abbott’s “No” case at the Republic Convention.

Heydon was later appointed to the High Court by the Howard Liberal government.

I now return to my original premise. Speaking outside the Royal Commission, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary, Dave Oliver, said any offences committed by trade unions or their officers should be investigated and handled by the State police, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Fair Work Commission.

He’s right. The really important question in all of this is why are these authorities not doing the job they were established to do? Why is it necessary to budget $80 million, so far, and to spend $60 million, so far, to investigate trade unions through a Royal Commission?

This superfluous spending is occurring when the nation is said to be suffering a “Budget Emergency!” and a “Debt and Deficit Crisis” brought on by the previous Labor government, according to Treasurer Joe Hockey. Hockey used this imagined situation to introduce a shocker of a Budget in 2014, which he described as “fair”. He later told a New Zealand audience the Australian economy was not in trouble.

Tony Abbott used the imagined critical Budget and deficit situation to carry out wholesale slaughter of the Labor government’s climate change, environment and other programs, along with a heap of welfare and funding for NGOs considered by some to have a voice capable of criticising his government. Allied with that was an on-going campaign against perceived bias in the ABC — again silencing his critics, but there’s more to it than that.

Abbott admitted the 2014 Budget had gone too far, that his government had to learn how to be “fair”. The 2015 Budget was designed to recover some of his lost political capital, but his personal popularity rating has not recovered since early in 2013.

The Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) Abbott’s government is signing will create great disparity between the wages and conditions of imported workers and those of trade union members. If the trade unions are silenced, discredited or wiped out they will not be able to highlight and campaign against these discrepancies. The big unions are also the main financiers of Labor party election campaigns.

Abbott’s actions are also part of the Liberals’ long-term campaign for lower taxes (replaced in part by a bigger and broader GST) and smaller government, the one depending on the other. The long-term implications of this are not being dealt with by the news media, or anyone else, as far as I can tell.

The government’s implementation of a harsh reconstruction of Australian society and culture is allied to the terms of its FTAs, as well as for ideological reasons.

It was necessary to digress above to point out what the Abbott government has been doing.

Why are the established authorities not dealing with crime and corruption in the trade unions? They are ferreting out and dealing with crime and corruption in corporations, companies and political parties.

It has been put to me by a union member and by a Queens Counsel that the Royal Commission into trade unions is necessary because the various police and other authorities have not been able to gather evidence of crime and corruption in trade unions, or are incapable of prosecuting it. But, clearly, this is a nonsense.

Proof of the nonsense lies in the evidence that has been uncovered and recorded by the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission is an authority, with authority to investigate, just like the authorities mentioned above. The Royal Commission’s investigators have this information in their possession before they put their questions to those who appear before them. They are not relying on their imagination or speculation. If the Royal Commission investigators can do it, so can all the other authorities that are charged with doing it and paid to do it — but are not doing it.

Abbott has an almost life-long hatred of trade unions. A severe warning from one trade union official caused Abbott to walk from his first paid job, in a cement products factory. His government slashes funding left, right and centre to reduce the accumulated deficit but provides $80 million for his war on trade unions.

The Labor party’s shadow ministers, MPs and some trade union officials have said they support the cleaning up of trade unions. No further proof is needed of Abbott’s ideological witch hunt against unions and the Labor party.

The real need is for a Royal Commission to discover why those charged with fighting crime and corruption are doing only half the job.

Tony Abbott — leader or destroyer?

A small heading in today’s Sydney Morning Herald said Tony Abbott is not a bad leader. But how do you judge?
If you judge him by his party’s 2PP polling he would fail the test. If you judged him by his personal popularity polling he would fail the test.
If you judged him on party loyalty, based on continuing Cabinet leaks, he would fail the test.
If you judged him by his ability to deliver balance in government and policies for all citizens he would fail the test.
Is there any test that Tony Abbott would pass as a national leader?
It’s often said that he was a very successful Opposition Leader. By this it is meant that he successfully destroyed a Labor government. He is and always has been a successful destroyer — he does pass that test.

— Barry Tucker (Twitter: @btckr)

The white trash of Asia

Hockey this much

Australia’s federal Treasurer Joe Hockey could retire today and he’d live comfortably on his parliamentary pension, apart from his accumulated wealth and income from property investments. But he’s still working, because he wants to ensure millions of Australians have a smaller pension to live on. He refers to this as “making the pension sustainable into the future”.

Joe Hockey also wants to ensure poor people are paying more for their health care and education, because “the Age of Entitlement is over”. Meanwhile, Joe ensures that his entitlements and those of other wealthy Australians go absolutely untouched.

The Liberal Party of Australia, directed by the policy makers of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), rather than its membership, wants government spending reduced (less welfare, States paying more for health and education through increased GST revenue) and smaller government (fewer departments, fewer public servants). This is designed to lead to “lower, fairer taxes” because the Age of Entitlement is not over for the wealthy who already reduce their taxes to the bare minimum. They can afford to buy taxation minimization advice and set up trust funds. Poor people don’t have access to these things.

Australians’ rights, freedoms, jobs, welfare and democracy are all being simultaneously trashed by the Liberal Party of Australia while our once great Australian Labor Party and trade union movement sits on their backsides and say and do nothing about it.

Critics in NGOs, the Public Service and the news media have been silenced, some under threat of jail for speaking out. The ABC’s independent voice has been questioned, its departments, producers, presenters and panelists are stacked with Liberal party operatives and moves are under way to censor and silence the ABC even further.

A former Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating, warned Australia was in danger of becoming “a Banana Republic” — an unstable country whose economy is dictated by a single export (say coal or iron ore) owned by foreigners. Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, warned that Australia could become “the poor white trash of Asia”.

Both men were right. They just didn’t predict that the Liberal Party of Australia and a complacent and compliant Australian Labor Party would combine to make these predictions a reality.

The injustice of non-recognition

The failure of white Australia to recognise Indigenous inhabitants in the Constitution from the very beginning has been an on-going disaster.
Reports to the English government and instructions to Governor Phillip make it clear the land was occupied and the original inhabitants were to be treated with respect.
Pretty weird when you think about it. We’re going to invade them and steal their land for settlement, but be nice about it.
By the time a Constitution was knocked up and the States and Territories formed into a federation, the Indigenous people had been “decimated” one way or another, forced into isolated corners and were generally disregarded. It was thought they would die out, a convenient solution.
But then WWI happened and some Indigenous people signed up. But what was their status? When they were uniformed, trained and armed, did they swear allegiance to the King? As what? Paid mercenaries? After the war these men were not recognised for their efforts.
Later still, some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to kidnap the children of some Indigenous and put them in “Christian” institutions or good Christian homes, so they could grow up to be good Christian people. Another presumption, a travesty and a tragedy for many. Imagine the effect on their parents.
If these Indigenous children were not recognised in the Constitution, who or what were they? What presumption to take them from their parents. It’s little different to sneaking into a neighbouring country, kidnapping children and taking them away to be given to “Christian” families for their own good.
The long fight for recognition of Aboriginal Title over lands held for perhaps 60,000 years, the fights with miners and other entrepreneurs for respect, justice and fair recompense still goes on today. Where you were born, your “country”, is extremely important to Indigenous culture. It is equally important that you are put to rest in the same country, otherwise your spirit will roam restlessly. If we expect them to recognise Christian values (not too dissimilar), it’s only right that Christians should respect Indigenous spiritual beliefs.
I know it is extremely important in Indigenous culture to say “Sorry” for wrongdoings. The white invaders have said “Sorry”, finally, and only recently. To me, it seems barely enough and nowhere near enough.
Some months ago I launched an effort to create the Centre Party of Australia. One of its policy discussion papers included a proposal to compensate Indigenous title holders for the exploitation of resources on their lands. This certainly seems right to me, and far better than the present federal government’s policy of abolishing and slashing everything to do with Indigenous assistance. God knows, they are already the most disadvantaged people in this nation. It irks me that the man responsible for this hacking and slashing is Tony Abbott, the one bleating about recognition in the Constitution and now taking the credit for it.
I’m sure I could take my Biro or Artline pen and fix the recognition problem in the Constitution by editing a few key lines. But because it’s the Constitution we have to have a drawn out discussion, a conference and a referendum, adding to the can of worms and further delaying justice.
A document on Constitutional Recognition has been prepared by the Australian Human Rights Commission.