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.

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.

Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Election, Kevin Rudd, Social Media

Week One – A few thoughts on the 2013 Election

Like many left leaning progressives, I’ve been living under a self imposed rock about the results of the Australian 2013 election. Last Saturday, the LNP managed a convincing electoral win, with Tony Abbott becoming the Prime Minster. Kevin Rudd successfully managed to bore our collective brains out with his concession speech (prompting the question “Does this guy ever shut up” to be answered with a resounding no). But now it’s time for the ALP to lick its wounds, the newly elected senators to read “Australian Parliament for Dummies” and the LNP to … govern I guess?
I am just a curious observer of the theatre of the absurd known as Australian Politics. But may I present my four pillar explanation of the election result. Or was it a six point plan? I know it had something to do with stopping the boats. Where’s Jaymes Diaz when you need him?

1. The Lackluster ALP Campaign –

I will admit it’s difficult to create an inspiring campaign when you consider the internal conflicts that ravaged the ALP for many years. You don’t need a politics degree to know that the byline “Vote for us, and this time, we might actually keep our leader for the full term! (subject to Bill Shorten’s temperament)” on political posters isn’t exactly a vote winner. Worse still, many of the accomplishments under Gillard couldn’t be referenced at all because, well, it’s Kevin’s party now.
The lackluster campaign also lacked a cohesive message for the country. There was something about a national broadband network, “jobs, jobs, jobs” and school kids getting an education. There was also some vague form of support for marriage equality, but not really. It had a strong vibe of “we’ll just introduce a bill into parliament and see what happens, lol”. It’s even more difficult to run an effective campaign when all the opposition needed to do was show up and disagree with anything the ALP were standing for.
The ALP made a considerable misstep in emphasizing the LNP costing issue.  Guess who finds the budget interesting? Unfortunate eople like me.  People with Arts / Economic / Law Degrees who watch so much ABC it constitutes a health hazard. The average punter is generally disinterested. It’s ok, I understand. Numbers really are hard.  The ALP weren’t as effective as driving the message of potential cuts home, as they were under the Keating campaign of ’93, where many swinging voters made the last minute switch to the ALP due to concerns of cuts to medicare.
And guess what – the cuts weren’t even bad. I mean, sure there were cuts to the Aid budget and other minor sources, but they weren’t as horrific as what Kevin Rudd, I mean, the ALP hinged their political hopes on. Plus, who really cares about aid anyway? Or the budget surplus for that matter?
Oh, and in case you didn’t get the memo, we’re no longer in a budget emergency. That’s another win for the LNP! Hurray!

2.     Kevin Rudd

I understand that blaming the leader of the ALP for the election result is something of a cop out. But, as a well renowned cop out,  I’m going to venture down that path anyway.
Kevin Rudd took the helm, it ceased to be the Australian Labor Party. Instead, it turned into the Australian’s for More Kevin Rudd Party. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly rushing out to get a membership form. I will generally consider myself to be a Gillard supporter. She had won me over with her dazzling red locks, her ability to negotiate a hostile parliament and a certain speech she made about sexism and misogyny. Julia Gillard, to me at least, seemed like a person of substance and embodied what the ALP could be. It was a shame the circumstances in which she ascended to power, but for those three years, I was still proud to call her my Prime Minister.
Everyone was triumphant when Rudd returned. He was the comeback king, the John Farnham of Australian politics. But our jubilation quickly morphed into cynicism – it was clear he hadn’t learnt from his previous time in office. The damage was done and the honeymoon was over. In the hearts and minds of the Australian people, the ALP were not only a risky bet, but so unstable you wouldn’t leave a schooey of Carlton Draught resting on it.

3.     Social Media

Believe it or not, most of Australia’s population are older than 40. At my age, being over 40 means you might as well fade away in a home somewhere to drink Earl Grey tea and crochet. But apparently these remarkable people find the inner strength to carry on. As people over the age of 40 generally aren’t the latte sipping, instagramming, hashtaging hipsters I affiliate with, social media is something of a lost cause for a large section of this demographic.
Rudd’s campaign was heavy on the social medial. He did an AMA or “Ask me anything” session on reddit a week ago, pledged to swing last minute undecided voters on twitter and instagram images of a certain razor cut I’m still trying to forget. Personally, while he was out kissing hip babies and taking #selfies with the “kidz”, his message seemed lost on those who were still committed to traditional media. He was preaching to the more or less converted.
Which brings me to another point. The reliance on social media by the ALP was primarily underpinned by the rampant editorializing in the mainstream stream media. But the topic of the media is too complex to deconstruct in my under-caffeinated state.

4.     It’s not the Economy, Stupid

When considering the defeat of the ALP, it’s quite remarkable to look at the economic conditions of the past year. Our economy, despite international volatility, has still be growing at a steady pace and has done so for a remarkable 21 years.
That’s right. 21 years. There are people in this country who have never lived through a recession.  Or VHS, cassettes and the Backstreet boys. Good God.
Contrary to popular opinion, our economy is relatively strong. This is despite the Global Financial Crisis, reconciliation, Industrial Relations reform, pink bats,  the school hall project, the lies and the carbon tax. We also have relatively strong employment growth, low interests rates and a triple A credit rating. The ALP also received broad sweeping support for the economic policies – even The Economist gave them the thumbs up as economic managers. The moral of the story is that Governments loose elections, even when said government has left a legacy of strong economic credentials.
Let’s not continual to swim in the perilous tide that is the collective failures of the ALP in the recent election. The ALP clearly need time to pick itself up, dust itself off, put the king maker aka Shorten, as leader, Albo as deputy and work out who they’re going to represent. Meanwhile, the next three years will be interesting under a Conservative, but not necessarily a Liberal Prime Minister with a micro-party lead senate.
Oh dear. In unrelated news, the stock value of various alcohol manufacturers has been on the up, with analysts predicting dramatic increases in alcohol consumption. Political satirists are also expecting strong economic growth, with the lowest rate of unemployment since the Howard years.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens I guess.