Australian Politics, Climate Change, Cuts, Greg Hunt, Kevin Rudd, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott

Week Ten : Keating Versus Abbott – The ABC Interviews

Last Tuesday night was a particularly delectable affair on the ABC. Kerry O’Brien had the astute honour of interviewing former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, who is one of the most formidable political, economic and social minds of Australia’s history. Now, I may be prone to hyperbole every now and then, but Keating has long been my personal idol, a veritable intellectual behemoth and probably one of the best things to happen to this country.

During the interview with Kerry O’Brien, you got a real sense of where Keating came from, not only a politician but also as a person. He was clearly a man of conviction, vision and ideas. I was particularly impressed when he said “ Having enemies worries some people, for me it is a badge of honour”.  It seems to cut deep into the current polity, which is more concerned with polling than with what is actually best for the country.

Keating was also a man of class. He had the ear of the working people and the respect of the knowledge class.  Yet most importantly, he didn’t try to portray the illusion that he was just the “everyman”, who lacked an interest in cultural and intellectual pursuits like Howard did. No, here was a man with an appreciation for neoclassicism, a fondness for antiquities and clocks as well as a thirst for knowledge. His Prime Ministerial career was far too short, but his legacy in parliament was considerable.

If there was anything to bring me back into reality, it was a recent interview with Leigh Sales,Tony Abbott and the Prime Minister’s pause utterances last Wednesday Night on the 7:30 Report.  The interview kicked off with the apparent mandate for the Coalition’s electoral win – the repeal of the Carbon Tax.  Sales queried what Abbot would do in the event that the bill to repeal the tax is unsuccessful.

Abbott: Well, um, I won’t make the assumption that it won’t get through the parliament. The Labor Party are deeply divided on this Leigh. It said that Bill Shorten himself would prefer to let it through. Certainly, if you’re fair dinkum about supporting worker’s job security, about saving families $550 a year, getting power bills down by $200 per year, gas bills down by $70 a year, you will allow the Carbon Tax Repeal legislation  to go through.

Abbott continued to press the apparent mandate the LNP government has in terms of repealing the carbox tax, despite the fact that the true source of the Coalition’s win was that they weren’t the ALP and lacked their party politics that inflicted itself on Australia since 2007. The Prime Minister did provide assurances to the claim that the ACCC will act as a “price police” to monitor the ease of cost of living pressures. However, considering that the Carbon Price had a negligible affect on the cost of living, I find these claims remarkably hard to substantiate.

Perhaps if you say things loudly enough, the masses will believe it. It seemed to work while the LNP were in opposition.

Sales then addresses the topic of of the LNP’s direct action policy and whether it will be able to secure the 5% reduction in emissions. The Prime Minister was “very confident” that they will be able to achieve the reduction, even though Greg Hunt MP saying on breakfast radio that the 5% reduction will be unconditional. Abbott made no assurances that if the 5% emmissions cut wasn’t reached, that he would increase spending. Rather, the direct action policy is capped and fully costed and it will work. No. Matter. What.

The interview continues with the standard model answers – namely contingency plans are completely unnecessary because the plan will work. Furthermore, anytime the question was raised that the public would be interested in accessing information, which informs Government policy, Abbott responds with derision or pulls out his often quoted slogans of “Stop the Boats”.

I’ve watched the interview several times and quite frankly there isn’t enough wine in my house to dissect Abbott’s responses without falling into an alcoholic stupor. For the sake of my mental sanity, I will leave my analysis there. I do hope that as Abbott’s term in government continues, he will stop blaming the legacy of the ALP and actually start taking accountability for his actions.

Until then, this girl can dream. Oh wait, one of those dreams nearly came true – Kevin Rudd has retired from Parliament, which meant that any attention  directed at Abbott’s woeful interview performance went straight back to the Kevin Rudd for More Kevin Rudd Party. Well played, KRudd.

Next week, I look at the Coalition’s Government’s approach to the so called “asylum seeker problem” over several bottles of white wine while on a boat. I suspect the coalition’s approach to human rights will make me feel even more nauseous than the combination of wine and motion sickness. Wish me well.

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Australian Politics, Climate Change, Greg Hunt, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott, Uncategorized

Week Nine : Abbott and Hunt InDirectly Acting on Climate Change

Greg Hunt MPI decided to tackle the Coalition Government’s Direct Action Climate change policy for this particular blog post because it was an area of policy I lacked any understanding off. It seemed I was also not alone in my ambiguity – the Liberal National Party Website did little to furnish my understanding of something of critical importance. (LNP: 2013) Suffice to say, the LNP website didn’t provide any meaningful analysis or material as to what the Direct Action policy would entail, rather it was just a broad sweeping critique of the Carbon Tax and the Emissions Trading Scheme.

I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but a clearly structured policy position wouldn’t go amiss on such an important issue.

The LNP’s position can broadly be described as building a fund of $1.5 Billion over a three year period to pay for a variety of greenhouse gas abatement strategies. It is anticipated that the “fund” will replace the Carbon tax controversially set up by the Gillard Government. (BS: 2013) The LNP are critical of Gillard’s Carbon Tax legacy as apparently it has caused a rise in cost of living pressures and has generally been ineffective, despite numerous reports demonstrating otherwise (SMH: 2013)

As a disclaimer, I thought it would be best to articulate my position on climate change.  To me, climate change represents the most significant economic, social and scientific challenge in modern history. My views closely align with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (affectionately known as the IPCC) who have conducted studies which have found that global warming has affected the way people live. Most importantly still, the IPCC has found strong evidence that the changes in climate are the result of human activity.

I find it incredibly frustrating when we elect to have “debates” about the existence of climate change, considering the strong scientific consensus. The debates between the “believers” and the climate change deniers presupposes that these polar views have equal merit and weight.

They don’t. We need to get our shit together, you hear?

To Quote Dr Ken Hentry, the decision to pursue a “direct action” policy which uses a green army to combat climate change is “bizarre” to say the least. (The Australian: 2013) The Direct Action policy is contrary to the well informed advice that has been provided to Government which explicitly states that an emissions trading scheme is the best way to reduce emissions. If 33 out of 35 of Australian’s leading economists agree that an ETS is the way to go, one would expect that a Government would take heed such learned advice. (AFR: 2013) Unfortunately, Abbott’s proclamations of governing for everyone sound remarkably hollow.

The ALP has recently pushed towards having an Emissions trading scheme as a central policy platform for addressing climate change. (ABC : 2013) It’s a move I generally support. However, Shorten has been criticized for not standing firm on the Carbon Tax and there are concerns within the ALP membership that this policy backflip is a poor move.

The reactions about Shorten’s decision to ditch the tax and support an ETS reflect a long standing ALP policy decision. The Carbon tax was constructed as a way to set up a Government created price on Carbon emissions which will be eventually moved onto the market. Therefore, Shorten’s position isn’t viewed as particularly forceful against the LNP’s direct Action policy, it doesn’t contradict with the traditional ALP position.

Climate change is a complex issue on both sides of politics. For some supporters, the answer seems clear – Just. Do. Something. However, that “something” still remains elusive, even with the widespread scientific and economic consensus. It represents a fundamental tension in modern day democracy, which is fuelled by election cycles, a lack of political courage and vision. The topic of climate change has also been a significant issue for the ALP, with Cassidy describing the issue as positively “diabolical”. (ABC: 2013). Seeing as the climate change issue has seen the political downfall of two Prime Ministers, a position needs to be found by the opposition and that a commitment to the position is unwavering.

Until next time, load up your books, the Direct Action Policy Green Paper comes out over the Christmas break. Don’t look too excited now.te Ch

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Cuts, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott, Uncategorized

Week 5: Is that a wedding in your pocket, or is my expense allowance pleased to see you?

Believe it or not, Abbott has been our Prime Minister for a little over a month now. Potentially more frightening still, the ALP hasn’t decided who will be the next opposition leader and, like that  Arts student we all know and love, has requested an extension on the ballot.

Over the past few weeks, Abbott has slashed funding for anything to do with Science, making the decision to eliminate the science department or any other branch of Government that hints to the existence of climate change. Personally, I’m not shocked at all by these announcements and I continue to baulk at people who do so.

Politically Oblivious Friend: Did you know they were going to cut back the science department? I’m shocked and appalled. Plus what about climate change?

Me: Well, Abbott has held the view that, and I loosely quote, climate change is a lot of “crap”. So it’s hardly surprising that he would do such a thing.

POF: But … I voted for the LNP and I expected better.

Me: That’s your first mistake. Never mind. Take some panadol, have a nap. You can even cry into this framed photo I have of Turnbull when he was leader of the opposition. Remember those days? He stood for something, and not just on something or someone. Just think – this could be over in three years if you play your cards right.

POF: Thanks. I feel a bit better now. I’d better go, I think I hear the women knocking on the cabinet door again. God they’re persistent.

One area of political life which hasn’t been subject to budgetary thriftiness is weddings, also known as the great economic stimulant of the Abbott Government. It was recently announced that Prime Minister Tony Abbott claimed $600 to attend Peter Slipper‘s wedding, the very man who holds the dubious honour of being a political pass the parcel that no one ever seems to want. Naturally, Slipper is flabbergasted at the flagrant hypocrisy of Abbott being able to repay the amount he was able to claim in 2006, an opportunity that was never afforded to him and he now faces potential charges for the misuse of cab charges. (SMH:2013) Apparently attending weddings are an expensive business. Attorney General George Brandis and veritable Comedienne of the National Party, Barnaby Joyce also claimed considerable expenses to attend Michael Smith’s wedding. It apparently costs a few thousand dollars in tax payer funding to attend the wedding of a shock jock. ( SMH: 2013 ) Prime Minister Tony Abbott also claimed thousands to attend Mirabella wedding, however in light of Ms Mirabella’s delightful reputation, he should have just kept the money as payment for a community service. ( ABC : 2013)

The scary thing though is not the fact that Brandis apparently dominated the dance floor, but the formerly loud voices of accountability aren’t being heard. I’m not one to say this too frequently, but where is Chris Bowen when you need him? He politely requested the LNP “come forth” and admit they were wrong. Christine Milne  has announced that the Greens will propose accountability legislation once Parliament resumes ( SMH: 2013) however I can’t imagine that would garner much support as both sides have shown how capable they are at helping themselves to the public purse.

There have been public calls to tighten the scope for politicians to claim back compensation. I understand that the Department of Finance and Deregulation specifies that expenses for official business such as “meetings of a Governent advisory committee or taskforce are permitted”. I also understand that claims can be made for “functions representing a minister of presiding officer”.  (I don’t really, but let’s pretend that I do) We should make things much more straightforward and eliminate the legalese – “if in doubt, there’s no pay out”. Therefore, any event that does not relate to the good governance of Australia is not entitled to receive tax payer funding, particularly times in budgetary distress. That’s right, I’m looking at you weddings.

Dr Hewson summed it up beautifully when he said that the LNP were at the risk of loosing their reputations as economic managers by retrieving funds from the taxpayers purse. Abbott will need to take swift action on the issue of MP expenditure in the same way Howard did in 1996-7. It will cost him a few ministers, but if history teaches us anything it’s that Australian voters have remarkably poor collective memories when sport is on the front page.

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, leadership, Tony Abbott, Women

Week 4 : A Conversation with Gillard and Summers

Credit - Instagram: @theagonisedone and Twitter: @Fiona_MH

Credit – Instagram: @theagonisedone and Twitter: @Fiona_MH

I was incredibly fortunate to be able to attend the Gillard talk which was at the Sydney Opera House last night with two amazing friends of mine. Regardless of your political affiliation, to be able to see a woman of such intellect, passion and charm such as Ms Gillard was an opportunity not to be missed.

Credit: Instagram - @theagonisedone

Credit: Instagram – @theagonisedone

On my way into the Opera House, I turned into something of a fan girl. I walked past former treasurer Wayne Swan, who was wandering around the Quays, and squeaked with nervous joy. I also saw other ABC personalities such as Mike Bowers, with his trademark camera in tow and radio presenter Fran Kelly. It was at that point I realised I watched far too much ABC for my own good.

The opening of the talk was electric – Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” came blaring out of the speakers as Julia Gillard stepped out on stage. What greeted her was an auditorium of adoring fans giving her a much deserved standing ovation. I personally was a bit overwhelmed by the wave of love and emotion that I nearly shed a tear or two. The love in the room for her was simply awe inspiring and I think it was a way for supporters to try to tend the wounds of her time in office. My friends and I were also absolutely delighted that she looked radiant – I think at one point we all swooned and had a bit of a feminist girl crush on her. Gillard looked revitalised, happy and the twinkle in her eye had resiliently returned. Plus, Tim did an excellent job on her hair.

The talk itself was a revelation – her strength and resolve are an inspiration not only to women, but to everyone who has had to endure such hostility. Her charm really came to the fore in the conversations, she was witty, funny and just an absolute delight to listen to.  It was a real shame that most Australians simply never got the opportunity to see that side of her, they were too focused on the vitriol. At least now we will be able to take some time to reflect upon Gillard’s accomplishments while she was PM of a hostile government – they were significant and too lengthy to list here.

Credit - Instagram @theagonisedone

Credit – Instagram @theagonisedone

Looking at Gillard last night, my friends and I reflected upon how different Australia could have been if she was given the respect she very much deserved. But at least Gillard came back into the welcoming arms of her audience and hopefully we reminded her that history will be kind to her, and there were people who will remember her legacy as the First Prime Minister.

After the speech and after having a few vinos overlooking the Harbour, I rewatched the passionated Sexism and Misogyny speech. I remember that day so vividly when I first heard the speech. I was so proud of my Prime Minister to call out the vitriol and the sheer disrespect of the opposition and it was a speech that seemed to resonate with a lot of women, not only in Australia but worldwide. Listening to it again, it was just disheartening to see how minute the progress had been for women in the LNP, with only Julie Bishop in cabinet. We have gone from a female PM, Governor General and growing representation in parliament and the Senate, to just Julie Bishop. It really makes you think.

This morning, my dad proceeded to ruin my breakfast by telling me about what Alan Jones thought about the talk. Apparently he was absolutely livid that Gillard was not only alive and well, but people would actually fork out

Instagram - @theagonisedone

Instagram – @theagonisedone

money to hear her talk. I simply don’t understand Jones’ hostility – his party won, the status quo has returned and the Earth as we know it continues to spin. Leave us progressives to unite and celebrate an intelligent, articulate and highly skilled political leader. His rage also extended to the ABC who kindly decided to broadcast the speech. In true Jones’ style, he called for the ABC to be privatised to prevent this nonsense from being shown to the people. Misogynist, thy name is Alan Jones.

Thank you Gillard – thank you for showing women what is possible and thank you for your service to improving the lives of Australians. History will be more than kind to you. It wasn’t easy being the first, but someone had to do it. Let’s hope that is is easier for the next future Prime Minister and that we all learn to be much more mature about women in power.

I’ll be taking the next few weeks off this blog as apparently I need to study my law textbooks and not the ABC. Hopefully, by that time, Abbott will have stopped the boats, developed a policy position and the ALP will have a leader. Not going to hold my breath on any of those though.

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Election, leadership, Uncategorized

Week Three: The ALP Leadership Debate

Now, I know that the main premise of this blog is to examine the Abbott Government one glass of wine at a time, but even I am particularly intrigued about recent developments within the ALP. The most notable has been the decision by The All Knowing and Omnipotent God, I mean, Kevin Rudd, to allow the members a say in who will be the next ALP leader. It’s a format that also works particularly well for Australia’s Got Talent. Essentially, 50% of the caucus gets a say, with the remaining 50% going to a vote with the members. If there is still no leader, Bill Shorten’s head explodes and the universe as we know it ceases to exist.

Fairly easy to understand methinks. If you’re lost, you probably should refer to the ALP rule book, because let’s face it, no one really knows what’s going on.

The two players in this Shakespearean tragedy are Anthony Albanese – or Albo to his mates, and Bill Shorten – or just Bill Shorten to everyone else. The apex of the drama unraveled on Tuesday night at the ALP leadership debate held at the University of Technology. The debate allowed questions from the floor and gave the members a unique insight into the policy differences between Albo and Shorten. After an hour later, it turns out the policy differences are fairly minor. It also turns out one shouldn’t watch too much politics on a romantic holiday away with the missus, or else someone gets a little cranky.

Anyway, this is a long post, so get comfortable …

The Opening Address

Bill Shorten kicked off the debate with a stirring opening address. He commenced by discussing the impressive (his words, not mine) history of the ALP. As leader, he wants to make the ALP relevant to Australians by making sure it’s a party that stands up to improving the quality of life for its citizens.  The party needs to bring in fresh blood, rather than rely on the true believers to turn around the fate of the party. Shorten also ripped off – I mean, drew on the material of former PM Whitlam, who emphasizes the importance of the three Ps – Party first, Policies second and then the People. Essentially this means that the party needs time to reconstruct, formulate a vision for Australia and eventually this will be communicated to the broader community. Shorten believes that in order to win the next election, they must be an effective opposition in parliament. However, unlike a certain opposition leader they weren’t keen on, the ALP must stay positive about their vision of society and be the party of ideas.

Shorten’s address seemed to learn from the ALP’s previous experiences in opposition after the 1996 election. During that time, it seemed that Beazley, Latham and even Rudd to an extent wanted to distance themselves away from what I consider to be a proud period of reform under Hawke and Keating. His speech was focused remembering the Rudd / Gillard / Rudd legacy and reflecting on their impressive contribution to Australia. (NB: backstabbing not included).

His opening address concluded with something of a PSA – that the ALP needed to be the collective voice of the vulnerable and the voiceless, which is undoubtedly a powerful sentiment in light of Abbott’s proposed cuts and suspiciously all male cabinet.

Albanese’s opening address revisited many of the themes touched on by Shorten.  There was so much emotional and respectful touching going on. I was expecting the two of them to burst out into an open bro hug, saying to one another “No, you be leader Shorten”, “No Anthony, you would be a great leader”. Albo was impressed with the revamped energy within the ALP, saying that he couldn’t believe that this was the state of the party after loosing the election. I think that has a lot to do with seeing a whole lot less of Kevin Rudd, who has a remarkable ability to sap the life source out of anyone really. Albo’s view of the ALP is that it’s a party that needs to be united and focus on becoming a better and fairer country in the future. Typical lefty stuff really. He also discussed the four pillars, but as I loathe anything related to numerical points or support beams, I will refer you to his website instead. (http://www.alboforleader.com)

First Question from the Floor: What type of PM would you be?

Albanese had a classic two pronged approach to this question. First, he decided to blatantly attack Abbott’s self appointed title as the Infrastructure minister.

According to Albo, the affectionately known Infrastructure Prime Minister has made significant cuts to the NBN, roads and public transport. In response, Albanese intends to wrestle for the title of Infrastructure Prime Minister,  provided he has the required fitness to catch Abbott during a triathlon. Albanese stated that he would invest in public transport, roads and the NBN to create the economy for the future.

Now, I appreciate the fact that these politicians are in the business of visions and big ideas, however even I had a niggling thought about how these big projects will be funded. But let’s not concern ourselves with the minor details, right?

The second tier to Albanese’s answer was that he didn’t really answer the question at all. On the onset, it was an attack response against the PM. This was spectacularly inefficient considering you’re already preaching to the converted. If you’re going to find a room filled with people who didn’t like Abbott, it would most likely be an ALP convention trying to work out who would be the most tenancious opposition leader. But I digress. I personally was disappointed he didn’t do a strong job at articulating his vision for the type of PM he wanted to be. But again, to be fair, Albo never anticipated to be leader of the ALP or Prime Minister for that matter. I do however hope that this is something he considers further in the future and will be able to better articulate the type of leader he wishes to become.

Shorten took a markedly different approach to Albo – he wants to be the Prime Minister for the Powerless and the Disenfranchised. I wonder if the faceless men in the ALP satisfy that particular definition? Potentially. Shorten also took an unexpected turn, saying that he wanted to give a voice to those who had suffered from domestic violence who are unquestionably one of the most powerless and disenfranchised in the community.

Overall, I though that Shorten was much more polished and eloquent than Albo in respect to this answer. I do wish to note however that Shorten’s political apsirations are one of Canberra’s worst kept secrets. That said, I felt that Shorten had a much more cogent response to the question which was well articulated. The audience seemed less than impressed and a great deal more cynical to Shorten’s vision and expressed greater warmth toward Albo.

Second Question from the Floor: What is your strategy for engaging with young people?

As someone who is a fairly hip and happening “young person” on the instabook and twatter, this question was particularly relevant to me. Both Shorten and Albo recognized that the interwebs were central to being relevant with the kids. If this means more selfies a la Rudd style, I politely decline all involvement with the ALP. Thankfully, both candidates seem fairly adept at using technology. Albo in particular has that whole “You used to be kinda cool and I was pretty impressed with your song choices on Rage” type vibe going for him. It’s almost like he’s the anti hipster in an electorate full of hipsters – he was cool before people knew what was meant to be cool.

Shorten and Albo touched on issues that were of particular relevance to young people such as education, the NBN, internet censorship and climate change. I was impressed with Shorten introducing the idea of further ALP reforms to make the party more accessible to young people, which is something I strongly support. I still vividly remember my first day at O-Week at the University of Sydney. My friends and I tentatively approached the Young Labor stand, expressing interest in joining. I was put off a week later after realizing that most people who were involved in uni politics were what I would call tossers. Considering that the ALP are a large part of the reason why I am here today, it was a bit heart breaking for an 18 year old ideologue.  But then upon further reflection, I realized that this sounded remarkably similar to what Albo had been advocating for not mere minutes, in Shorten’s case, but years. (Albo4Leader:2013)

If Shorten or Albo can do anything to make the ALP more relevant to  young Australia and get rid of the wanker element, they’re onto a good thing. Maybe they should have a chat to that Whitlam chap my dad keeps going on about. He had a few ideas about the youth of Australia and It’s Time we paid attention and re-engage with the kids.

Question Three from the Floor: The  Refugee and Immigration Issue

I wish to offer a personal disclaimer at this point in time – I wasn’t able to hear the responses to this question as a certain girlfriend took a call from a certain best friend and proceeded to interrupt my viewing pleasure of the ALP leadership debate. Let’s just say that the responses from Albo and Shorten were fairly similar – again, they rehashed the notion that Refugees needed to be treated with humanity and that the ALP have traditionally been the great parties for immigration.  However, again they emphasized that it was perfectly acceptable to have a controlled migration policy

I personally hope they address the UK backpacker situation. It would be nice to be safe in the knowledge that I don’t have to walk through Coogee and Bondi being drunkenly cat called by those who have overstayed their tourist / 457 visas.

That’s right, I went there.

Both Albo and Shorten did do their best to appeal to the lefties of the ALP and the not so lefty members. They also may have attempted to bring back some of those who had shifted to the Greens while still holding onto their base. I’ll be interested to see what happens to the Greens as the issue of asylum seekers is a “unique selling point”. (See what I did there, Gruen Transfer? You’re not the only one who can use marketing lingo at inappropriate moments.) On the issue of asylum seekers, it was just a classic case of sitting on the fence, hoping to appease someone. The ALP aren’t quite as inhumane as the LNP when it comes to people lawfully seeking asylum, but there is this underlying prejudice and xenophobia that needs to be appealed to. So what you have is a policy that doesn’t stand for anything or really do anything aside from perpetuate an unfounded fear of “boat people”.

Hopefully, both the candiates can flesh out a more nuanced response to this issue. Or if they did and my girlfriend spoke over the top of their responses, please let me know.

Question Four and Five from the Floor– Aged Care and the NDIS

The following questions from the audience relate to the ALP positions on Aged Care and the NDIS. Again, both Shorten and Albo’s responses fell into line with the ALP’s ideology, however there were two things I wanted to discuss.

The first relates to Albo suggesting that we need to set up a Sovereign Wealth fund to bolster the savings of the next generation of retirees. This may link back into my question of how he proposed to be the next Infrasructure PM. If this is indeed the case, we may be onto something of a winner here – if the Sovereign Fund was used to fund infrastructure at a reasonable return on investment – eg 5%, you’ve simultaneously solved two problems namely the lack of capital and old people.

Again, Shorten was remarkably impassioned during the question on the NDIS which he attributed to such landmark reforms such as Medicare, Superannuation and the fair working wage, all of these being pillars of ALP policies.  The ALP, according to Shorten, are at its best when it’s able to communicate to the community. Bloody obvious thing to say there Shorten, isn’t politics just an intellectualized form of Public relations? Forget it- let’s skip the intellectualized portion of that sentence- just PR? If the past 6 years has taught me anything, it’s that the ALP need a serious image overall and a few classes in effective communication because they delivered substantial reform in a hostile parliament and Australians still hate them.

Albo opened up to this question with a touching story about his mother, who had severe arthristis. This related to the NDIS  -sometimes you simply don’t know who to ask for help and people should always be able to ask for help. The ALP should stand for the most vulnerable in society, and it’s a sentiment I strongly agree with. Consider the ALP for example – we have Albo, who grew up in Housing in Sydney’s South West with a single mother and now he’s vying to being leader of the opposition. We have Kevin Rudd, who spent parts of his childhood living in his mother’s car, to Gillard who came from proud Welsh immigrant parents. Even Keating, the uneducated boy from Bankstown became one of Australia’s greatest poltical visionaries and economic managers. Going back even further, Whitlam was the darling of Cabramatta and Chifley was the working class man who dared to dream.

The ALP have a proud tradition of representing the voiceless or the often ignored in Australian politics. However, times have changed. Some guy by the name of Howard became PM in 1996 and immeasurably changed the socio-economic and cultural climate of the country. People don’t want to view themselves as the under-privileged – there is no nobility in being poor in Australia. They want to be a part of something, they want to be included into broader Australia and be aspirational. That was the allure for much of middle Australians, who would be later known as “Howard’s battlers”. Middle Australia ceased being battlers or the “disadvantaged”, they wanted a piece of the economic pie – and if they couldn’t score a piece, they at least wanted to taste some of the crumbs.

Both leaders would do well to re-articulate their view of the ALP being the party for the vulnerable. Humans are strangely aspirational creatures – they want something more for themselves, their family and their sprogs – I mean, kids. The emphasis should be a better Australia for all Australians, which is inclusive and truly representative. Hopefully they will work it out for themselves instead of listening to a lone blogger.

Question Five from the Floor – What is the role for Women in Leadership?

Albo reflected on the ALP’s history when it comes to promoting women to position of leadership. Women, he argued have a critical role to play and rattled off an impressive list of women including Gillard, Wong, Plibersek and Nash. Women will continue to have an important role to play within the ALP – because let’s face it, there are more women in the ALP caucus then there are in the LNP. Plus, the LNP aren’t exactly on the hunt for female talent at the moment, with one in cabinet and one parliamentary secretary. One of the success stories of the ALP is that 40% of women are now on Government boards, and Albo believes that they have contributed immeasurably to those organisations.

Shorten discussed the ongoing systemic discrimination that persists in Australian society. Big words there, smart guy. He argued that the ALP needed to be vigilent to ensure that the Abbott Government doesn’t turn back the clock on equal wages, just in case they get wages and boats muddled up. Shorten also returned to the subject of domestic violence and was actually getting quite riled up about the topic. I’m not sure why domestic violence is the central point of distinction with Shorten and Albo, but I kind of like the fact he’s passionate about something, other than being the ALP kingmaker. Shorten concluded that if he were to become leader of the opposition, he would make Plibersek deputy, which is something that Albo is unable to do. Two Sydney inner west lefties don’t make a right, but they do make a delicious soy latte. It’s a smart move by Shorten and may have some affect of drawing in a few more female supporters.

Either way, I for one am happy that the ALP will continue to stand for women in parliament and within the party. However, they kind of have to in this situation, in light of the LNP’s lackluster way they’re promoting “female representation” in parliament. Still, it’s a good step for the party that brought us our first Female Prime Minister and our first lesbian, Malaysian Senator.

Concluding Remarks

In conclusion, Albo surmised his debate to argue that it is only the ALP government that tackles the big problems. He wanted the ALP to use this time to defend their legacy over the past six years. They needed to be a strong opposition, but not so negative to draw on the strategic inferences of the “no-alition”.

(On a side note, any time Albo makes a funny he does this little smirk and it’s kind of cute … Oh god, what is wrong with me?)

Albo also stressed that they needed to continue to be committed to making a different to ordinary people. Australians want their kids to inherit better living standards and better opportunities than what was afforded to them. In addition, all of the ALPs policies and approaches need to be sustainable and therefore they need to defend a price on carbon. He wound up his speech by saying that he never envisioned he would be leader. At first, all he wanted was to make a contribution to the team and to his electorate. But after further contemplation, he felt he had a role to play. He has the vision, the unity required, the experience and strength to be leader.

Shorten however wants the ALP to reposition itself to make sure it continues to be relevant to Australians. As opposition leader, he will ensure that Abbott will not set the discourse. Again, he returned to his Whitlam quote – that it’s about the party, the policy and then the people. For the ALP, the period of the messiah is over – they need to be a party that is brave, which is focused on the future and delivering for the powerless. I nearly self combusted with pure joy when Shorten said that it is less than “I and more about We”. I wondered whether Rudd could feel the subtle burn of that remark. Perhaps he was too busy taking a selfie to notice.

Personal thoughts on the debate

For me, the winner in this debate was Albanese, but not by much to be completely honest. Albanese will need more time to construct policies and clearly articulate his view of what he wants Australia to become. In this debate, he seemed on the offensive, but not against his running mate, but rather against the LNP government. He had some fantastic zingers though – my personal favourite was where Albo declared that climate change was a non-issue now that Abbott is in power.  He also brought forward quality material critiquing the “noalition” and their failure to do anything other than deliver cuts and hiding the boats.

I felt that was slightly off topic for the debate – his role was to articulate what makes him different from Shorten and what makes him a capable leader. But as I’ve mentioned before, it’s because he’s never had slow burning ambitions to become the leader of the ALP. Albo is a committed team player, and he’s what the party needs – a leader to heal the wounds of the past few years. I will say this- he was genuine and I felt like I could trust him. Albo has remained steadfast in his political views and aspirations. He is not interested in becoming leader for personal gain, but rather for the betterment of the party. His story is the embodiment of the ALP narrative – the kid who grew up in housing commission, caring for his single mother who went onto to university and dedicated his life to serving his party, his electorate and Australia.

Call me an idealist, but I think those are fine qualities in any leader. He is the Every Man. Let’s face it, he’s appealing to the youth, the left faction and the disenfranchised – in other words, what should be the ALP’s base. He has a broad appeal and the Roy Morgan poll has found that he has strong support with rank and file (Roy Morgan).  Hell, even members of the Right caucus such as Swan and Emerson have hinted support (SMH:2013)

Some guy called Latham, who is better known as the former ALP leader and all round noise maker has vocally dismissed Albo as an intellectual lightweight with no substantial policies and poor political intuition ( AFR : 2013). I disagree with Latham’s assessment and not just because of the 2004 election which featured him as leader. Not only he is probably being a bit of a sook that people actually like Albo, but thr attributes he is critical of are things which can develop over time. To quote Shorten, first the party, then the policies and then the people. In Albo’s case, two out of three isn’t bad so early in the game.

It must be said however that I was impressed with Shorten’s performance and ability to articulate his vision for Australia. He has also been a policy powerhouse and he has been instrumental at getting Disability Care through the parliament. Shorten, throughout his speech quoted Whitlam’s three p’s. Shorten employed his own three Ps – he was polished, professional and persuasive.  Even though Shorten’s performance was much stronger than Albo’s, I still feel unsettled by what he said.  His involvement in the leadership spills and ongoing instability within the party means his candidacy is tainted and would give the Abbott Government renewed fodder to draw on.

The general public haven’t warmed to Shorten in the way the Caucus has. I suspect, like an article from the Australian stated, it’s because his words don’t correlate to his actions. His talk about improving the visibility of women in leadership roles within the ALP doesn’t reflect his prior actions. (The Australian: 2013) There have also been allegations that Shorten set up one of the debate questions relating to the type of PM he hopes to become.( The Guardian: 2013) I suspect that those who have followed the ALP will take Shorten’s words with a pinch of salt. Shorten’s ambition for leadership is also off-putting, there have been allegations that he expects to secure the caucus. ( The Australian: 2013 )

There have been two wins out of this debate though. The first is improved membership involvement – even I am noticing more people are being compelled to join the ALP. Should Albanese become leader, it is expected that further reforms will take place to improve membership participation, and unlike Shorten, this is a position he has held for years. But it was also a win for mutual respect – both have pledged to support whoever is to become leader, and if those words ring true, it will be a good day for the ALP.

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AusAID, Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Cuts, DFAT, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott

Week Two: The Marriage of AusAid and DFAT

The Abbott Government recently announced that AusAid will be subsumed into DFAT in a bid to reduce “duplication and waste” across the public service.

The decision to integrate AusAid into DFAT will have clear implications upon aid delivery. First, this represents a considerable cut to DFAT and AusAid.  The AusAid Director, General Peter Baxter has already resigned in response to the reforms. It is expected that the merger will affect 1300 AusAid employees, who will see their numbers dwindle by way of “natural attrition” (SMH: 2013) These fears are enhanced after the then opposition announced it could make cuts totaling $4.5 Billion over the next three years.

It is, however,  unclear what this means for Australian aid recipients. Some analysts are expecting that this will mean our aid delivery will become more closely aligned to our diplomatic objectives. Surely this can’t be a bad thing – aid has been traditionally been used to further diplomatic objectives and build relationships with key strategic regions. At least, this is how aid has been traditionally been used as a foreign policy tool. Consider the Marshall Plan, developed by the US after World War Two, which saw the rebuilding of Europe. Or the favourable trade and aid policies afforded to East Asian nations, such as Japan and Korea. That was a mutually beneficial relationship – The US gained access to invaluable growing markets and the recipients were able to benefit from favorable trade conditions and millions were lifted out of poverty as a result.

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Credit : AAP

Unlike many aid organisations, I’m not entirely sold that this is a terrible idea. But then again – this largely is dependent upon how you define “aid” and what its purpose is in the global economy.

You see, some hippies like the Chief Executive of World Vision, Tim Costello, believe that Aid is for the betterment of mankind. Costello has a tendency to go on about “helping the poor” or some other hippy nonsense about feeding the hungry.  (ABC News: 2013).  Generally, this argument is entrenched in the heats and minds of do gooders who believe that people shouldn’t live in absolute poverty. They argue that we have a duty, as members of the developed world, to help those in need.

If that warm, fuzzy stuff doesn’t get you, these Aid loving freaks also suggests that this severely undermines our credibility on an international stage. Archie Law from ActionAid is a proponent of this argument – that by linking aid with trade we are effectively lowering our reputation internationally. He bases this ridiculous assertion on a few telephone calls with key international players, and the way the UN treated him when we had this policy presumably under Howard. (Radio Australia : 2013) Sure, whatever Mr Law, you my good sir are a Law unto yourself.

Other players on the conservative side of the political fence view it slightly differently. Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor of The Australian believes that this represents the most important reform to aid since … well ever.  He believes that aid was being used as a political instrument to garner international support in the UN and a seat on the Security Council. Sheridan argues that alleviating poverty, promoting development and ensuring that this work is in accordance with the national interest is what good aid is all about. (The Australian: 2013)

Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr Sheridan – but isn’t landing a seat on the UN security council in our national interest? Isn’t it in our national interest to develop a benevolent reputation in the international community? To show that we have a commitment to improve the global economy and combat poverty?

Nah.

On a serious note however, I do agree that we need to refine how we distribute our aid. Big aid doesn’t always mean effective distribution and I concede he makes a valid point about needing to target where we allocate our funds. Perhaps we will be able to achieve greater economies by integrating AusAid with DFAT. Perhaps the Abbott Government will push for a stronger, regional focus where our money can be effectively monitored, managed and used to the betterment of the Asia-Pacific region.  As it presently stands, I’m not sold, especially with Abbott’s disappointing announcement of cuts to foreign aid. But that’s not to insinuate it might not happen, after all, I live in perpetual hope.

The central problem of these reforms is that the focus is not about making aid more effective, but about pushing aid further off centre stage, while blurring the lines of accountability. I for one am disappointed – Australia should have a positive role to play in the global community. I quietly hoped that Abbott’s catholic values of charity and loving thy neighbor would shine through.

I was wrong. But we have three years for me to be proved otherwise.

If you want to know more about aid and why it matters, be sure to check out organisations such as Oxfam, Care Australia, RESULTS Australia or ActionAid. If you don’t want to know more, be sure to read The Australian.

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Cabinet, Julie Bishop, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott, Women

Week Two – The Cabinet’s Open but the Women are in the Basement

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Source: Tracey Nearmy: AAP, from The Drum (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-05/tony-abbott/4865344)

            Yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Elect Tony Abbott announced his cabinet and ministry. It was a triumphant conference; in fact his speech was so engaging I only needed 10 cups of coffee to stay alert for the full 15 minutes. Take that for inspirational speeches President Obama. For a man who was just reading a list, he should be nominated a Golden Globe for the number of pause utterances used in a single media conference.

My criticism of his media performance aside, the line up for the next LNP Government was well and truly less than inspiring. The first notable difference of Abbott’s Government was that titles for ministerial positions were much shorter. None of this “Minister of Education, Workplace Relations, Health Care, Shiny Shoes, Tea and Middle Australians for more Kevin Rudd” nonsense the ALP were apparently all about. No sire. In fact, I received an email this morning from the Excessively Long Business Card Association expressing dismay at the state of the new Government.

I am concerned in terms of what the contracted portfolios means for forging clear lines of accountability to ministers. For example, let’s consider the Government’s ill-advised decision to cut Science from the ministry.  The Minister for Industry, the Hon Ian MacFarlane, will subsume this position however this is not particularly clear. We live in a system which is reliant on an absurd notion called Government Accountability. The Executive is accountable to the Government and the Government is accountable to the electorate. Or at least, I think that’s how it works, I fell asleep during Public Law.

The Abbott Government’s ministry strongly sets the tone for the next three years. It is here to Govern with its shiny mandate, from the safe, conservative centre, with limited prospect for substantial reform. Abbott’s ministry doesn’t exactly scream a vision for the future, with science and research /development type portfolios making the cut. These structural changes are concerning for several reasons. First, my  concern relates to the economic viability of Australia in the future. It is anticipated that the Australian Economy will slow down further to reflect the global economic conditions and this will be compounded with the halting of the mining boom and uncertain consumer demand. Some guy called Keynes discussed the concept of counter-cyclical economic management – effectively  now is the opportunity to invest in capital which will put us in good stead to be leaders in the global economy. We need to start creating the jobs of the future and developing the infrastructure to ensure we grow for another 21 years. A government which is uncommitted to the structural reforms needed to ensure that growth will only create future stagnation.

My second concern is that this ministry will shape the type of Australia they hope we will become in the next three years and it looks remarkably like the vision Howard wanted in 1996 – 2007. I didn’t share that vision then and I don’t share it now. The Ministry suggests a strong return to nationalistic sentiment, a compelling example is promotion of Border Security to the cabinet and the elevation of sports in the ministry.

The Abbott Government has also rightly been criticized for the lack of women in Cabinet and ministerial positions. In the Cabinet, we have Julie Bishop and … well that’s about it really. I have tremendous amount of respect of Bishop, she is sharp, fierce and incredibly intelligent. But even this feels tokenistic. There is a stronger showing of women in the outer ministry, with Sen. Fiona Nash (great first name by the way), the Hon. Sussan Ley, Marise Payne and Michaelia Cash. LNP, give yourselves a pat on the back, 5 out of 30 is pretty much 50%. Good show old boys.

Much of the arguments used to counter claims of the poor female presence in cabinet are based on merit. I agree with this argument – to a point. It is hard to foster female talent when there isn’t a quota in place, as there is under the ALP or the Greens. It’s hard to foster that talent when the LNP operates like a glorified gentleman’s club. And it’s hard to foster talent when none of the LNP leaders has expressed any particular interest in bringing women to the fore and nurturing female talent. Of course, quotas and affirmative action policies aren’t the only way to help women make a positive contribution, it can also be attributed to the party’s culture and ability to be inclusive to new, key talent. The LNP has failed to demonstrate any of these attributes and continues to stay loyal to that particular tradition.

But it’s ok feminists – calm your farm. Tony Abbott expressed sincere disappointment about the lack of women in Cabinet. This is despite the fact that he more or less decided the list. It will just take time for the women to keep knocking on the door of cabinet until such a time they break the doors down.

If this were indeed the case, and it clearly isn’t, it would have been fantastic to see women in the role of Parliamentary Secretaries where they could gain the exposure and experience they needed to become fully fledged, Ministerial fighting machines. So far we have Sen. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Oh, and a few crickets in the mix. Yeah.

This is incredibly disappointing. It is clear that aside from the electoral buys of the Paid Parental Leave Scheme and Abbott’s daughters clinging off his arms at any available opportunity, we don’t have a government that supports women or the future of the economy. We do however, have a Government that is intending to slip underneath the radar, to bring sports to the front page and return to the idyllic age of the 1950s.  I hope the women that voted for the LNP and the people that wanted better services, better jobs for the future and a stronger Australia pause and reflect that the Government stands for. Remember, we had a woman Prime Minster, a government with the higher proportion of female representatives in our history, disability care, part of an NBN and potentially marriage equality.

What I’m getting at here is – don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.

And on that note, I’m going to go flick through my binders full of women and knock on a few cabinet doors just to see what will happen. I might even plan a trip to Afghanistan, just to work out how they run Government.

For a full list of Abbott’s first ministry, check this out – http://www.scribd.com/doc/168478869/Tony-Abbott-s-first-Ministry

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