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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Uncategorized

Week 8: Tony Abbott and the Washington Post Interview

Australia has had a long standing (and very strong) relationship with the US, particularly under Gillard and Howard. My history teacher in high school attributed this to the US bailing us out during World War Two, after Britain conveniently stopped answering our calls for assistance. Or something, I didn’t pay close attention in High School History. Our relationship with the Us has strengthened over the past 70 years, with the passage of the Australian and US Free Trade agreement and our ongoing military support.  Our relationship with the US is so strong, we are being seriously considered as the 51st state and may rename our country to become “Ameristrarlia”.

Well, not really. But I hope you can understand how important our relationship with our big brother, US, is to Australia.

Evidently, Prime Minister Abbott didn’t have my superior knowledge of international relations and political etiquette  when it came to a Washington Post interview with Lally Weymouth. PM Abbott started off reasonably well, by saying “I will do everything I humanly can to work closely with the government and the people of the United States. Australia will be a good ally of the U.S. and a good friend and partner — strategic and economic — to the United States.”. He also expressed continuing support for the marine’s base in Australia and was hopeful for the opportunity to meet with Obama in the future, however understood how busy the President was.

As the interview progressed however, it became apparent that Weymouth is quite the skilled interviewer, because he is clearly a little too relaxed in his answers. After a while, he starts to gradually revert back to attack mode. Abbott was queried what he meant when he said that Australia was “open for business” once again, to which he responded with –

The previous government would often say the right thing but it would invariably do the wrong thing when it came to business. There was an explosion in red tape and green tape. There was a whole thicket of new restrictions in the labor market. There were big new taxes. It was a government which thought that there was no problem that more public servants, higher taxes and further regulation couldn’t fix.“.

He also suggested that he would do his darndest to shrink the public service and he was looking forward to having a bonfire of red and green tape. Sounds like a party really, I love a good old fashioned bon fire every now and then. The Prime Minister was then quizzed about the roll back of Labor’s NBN. He could have responded with something to the effect of “Considering the global economic situation and deteriorating fiscal outlook, we believed it would be inadvisable to pursue costly investment in infrastructure at this point in time. While we appreciate the former Government’s vision for a broadband network for the future, we believe it would be inopportune to consider such as venture at this stage of the game.”

But no. Abbott responded with this delightful chestnut in relation to the ALP’s fibre to the node policy –

Welcome to the wonderful, wacko world of the former government.” When prompted further, Abbott responded with ” I thought it was the most incompetent and untrustworthy government in modern Australian history.”

It was like returning to the wonderful world where Abbott was opposition leader and he was hurling negativities upon negativities in our general direction. But this time, he’s doing this as our elected representative on a well respected, US publication. Awks much? Of course, he gets better –

They made a whole lot of commitments, which they scandalously failed to honor. They did a lot of things that were scandalously wasteful and the actual conduct of government was a circus. They were untrustworthy in terms of the carbon tax. They were incompetent in terms of the national broadband network. They were a scandal when it came to their own internal disunity. They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power.  It was an embarrassing spectacle, and I think Australians are relieved they are gone.

I just want to take a few moments to deconstruct that nugget of a quote. First, the reference to the great “lie” that was the Carbon Tax. The Carbon Tax became one of the most effective policies at reducing our carbon emissions. It was also a political necessity to get the Greens to form a temporary coalition with the ALP and help them to form Government.  Second, the reference to the great incompetence that was the NBN, that struggled to stay under budget and within the allocated time frame. Let’s cut the NBN a bit of slack here -this represented one of the most significant infrastructure investments in Australia’s history. I suspect the Harbour Bridge, or the Opera House, the Snowy River scheme and so on weren’t completely in a timely, fiscally responsible manner. Third, the ALP disunity. Well, I can’t argue with that one – it’s hard to have a unified party when your members are running around with knives and blabbing their deep dark secrets to the media.

The point is – he shouldn’t have made those remarks. That is not the conduct that befits a Prime Minister, irrespective of where in the political spectrum they lie. Sometimes, I wonder whether Abbott realises that he is actually Prime Minister, and he can take a small break with the electioneering.

The aftershocks of that interview have been felt in the media. Norman Ornstein, from the American Institute apparently “winced” when he read the interview, which he attributed to as being a bit of a “rookie mistake”. (SMH: 2013) However, like talking about your exes on the first date, talking about previous governments with disdain is also a bit of a diplomatic no no.  In an unexpected display of wit, our modern day Oscar Wilde, Doug Cameron, ALP Senator described Abbott as the “Wacko” and stated that he was embarrassed by the PM’s display. (SBS: 2013) It remains to be seen whether this will affect Australia /US relations, I suspect it won’t. But still, one should expect more from our elected leader, even if his mandate was the fact that his party wasn’t the ALP.

Until next time, brace yourself, climate change is coming.

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

Week One – The Mark of a Leader

Kevin Rudd’s failure to bring about a resounding election victory and a concise concession speech has meant it’s time to think about who will lead the fractured ALP. How long that battle will rage on for is reliant on the political ambitions of Bill Shorten,  the ALP Caucus and some guy by the name of “Tony Abbott” (not to be mistaken with internet ego, Tone Abet) . The ALP, under Rudd, have also allegedly reformed their ballot process to incorporate the members. We’ll see how long that lasts for. I’m giving it a week, and then people will get bored and go back to watching the true political contest – The Bachelor.

There have been three candidates that stick out in my mind who may be poised to take the lead. We’ll start with the most aspirational candidates.    

Tanya Plibersek – Member for Sydney 

Tanya Plibersek is the dream candidate for many Australians, particularly her inner westie, feminist loving fangirls  who drink too much tea in cafes and lounge around Surry Hills lamenting about the state of politics. In other words, people like me.

She comes from a background of student politics, so she’ll be well positioned to deal with the immaturity of the LNP.  I thought she was a fine health minister and she’s a consistent performer in parliament. She’s also a great supporter of women’s rights and she receives vocal support from some whacky group called “Women’s Agenda”, in addition to her raving fangirls.  I  suspect that her commitment to the feminist cause is something of a perplexing riddle to the LNP, who are secretly wondering why she isn’t in the kitchen and making more children for the good of the nation. She also apparently likes the gays and has worked consistently to eliminate discrimination. As a full time lesbian, this pleases me greatly.

This comes from a place of love and concern, but I just don’t think Plibersek has the stomach for it. But give her time. I think of her like a fine red wine – with time, she’ll develop into something really special. Perhaps I need to stop watching Q&A with a glass of wine while appreciating the fine form that is Tanya (and potentially stop being such a creep).

Bill Shorten – Member for Maribyrong

Bill Shorten is a policy powerhouse and is not only a heavyweight within the party, but also its kingmaker. But can the King Maker become King?  He has the backing of the right factions and the AWU, which makes him a formidable candidate however he has lacklustre support amongst the members. Despite his ability to articulate ALP policy effectively and not shying away from a fight, he represents the old order of Rudd v Gillard v Rudd. Whether he can become leader will depend on whether he can wash those bloodstains out. If I recall correctly, it worked really well for Lady MacBeth.

Shorten has officially thrown his hat into the ring (I wonder if Katter let him borrow his?). However, if he has any aspirations to becoming PM, becoming the opposition leader may cause him to become the next Brendan Nelson. And hey, whatever happened to that guy?

I couldn’t support a party who would elect Shorten as the leader. There are several reasons for this. To misquote Craig Emerson, who is famously the lead singer of Emo and the Wipeouts, the years of instability has broken the ALP. He’s absolutely right. Now is the time give Dr Phil a call and exorcise those nasty demons. Making Shorten leader is like taking several steps back – he will completely lack legitimacy and the support of future ALP voters. It will also give the right factions a bit too much influence within the party. I also think that it is remarkably hypocritical for people to call on the resignation of Rudd and then permit Shorten to become leader. I suspect it’s time for Shorten to take a sabbatical, and come back into the political front when people’s memories have faded a bit.

Anthony Albanese – Member for Graylnder

Anthony “You Can’t Spell Labor without Albo” Albanese is the frontrunner for the grassroots members of the ALP.  Albanese is part of the left faction of the ALP and was not only the Deputy Prime Minister for a few minutes but the Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy despite having much in the way of a tech background. (Having  twitter or an Iphone doesn’t count, ok?) However, his previous portfolio would represent a stark contrast to Abbott, who is apparently content to stay in the 1950s where the women were in the kitchen, the gays were in the closet and the climate was doing sweet heck all.  He has apparently given notice to Shorten that he was intending to run for leader, but there may have been a game of Chinese whispers afoot. From what I can gather, he hasn’t make a public declaration.

I moved from the electorate of North Sydney to Graylnder, where Albo rules with a fair and steady hand, about a year ago. I have to say, I wasn’t particularly sold on him. But a good friend of mine told me that I had misunderstood him and that he represented the narrative of the ALP movement.  The more I saw him in the media, the more that I couldn’t help but agree with him. Albanese is well and truly loved in his electorate, which is impressive considering Graylnder is one of the most left leaning seats in Australia. In this election, there was a solid swing towards Albo and there are no signs that it will swing over to the Greens in the future. I firmly believe that Albo may be able to bring in the disillusioned believers who strayed into The Greens, provided he can articulate a well thought out, progressive vision for the country.  This remains to be seen, but I am hopeful.

On a personal note, I also owe a debt of gratitude to Albanese. He was part of a troupe of students at the University of Sydney who decided to barricade themselves in the Quad Clock tower to protect the Political Economy faculty. Twenty years on, I was able to study Political Economy, where Frank Stillwell would regale us with stories of certain political figures getting up to their usual hi-jinks. So, thanks Albanese. You’re alright.

There have been other candidate names that have been floating around. An honourable mention goes out to former QC Mark Dreyfus, who I think would also make an excellent candidate (apparently so does Mark Latham, which may be the kiss of death for Dreyfus’ political ambitions. Lolz.). Greg Combet also gets a mention, but I don’t think he’ll toss his hat into the ring. Chris Bowen fortunately bowed out a few days ago, causing a collective sigh of relief from pretty much everyone. Besides, he’s well suited to the position of Shadow Treasury. He seems to be okay with the numbers and stuff. There have also been a lot of speculation about trying to find a way to get Penny Wong to come into the lower house and take over as Leader. I personally would love to see that happen, just in case Abbott’s head explodes. But I don’t see the utility in speculating in hypotheticals.

The one thing I know for certain is that it could be a while until the ALP have a leader with the voting reforms. Some guy called “Conroy” thought it would be cute to publicly diss the the reforms. I don’t think he realises how attractive the idea is to potential ALP members who want to stop the backroom antics and have a say. To be fair though, I don’t think Conroy realises his head wasn’t quite screwed on correctly, so I’m quite comfortable in dismissing his opinion entirely. I think getting the members of the party to select the leader is a good move – so long as you don’t go the way The Democrats went and try to get membership participation into every facet of the party. People have lives you know.

In other news, the LNP have found a solution to the fiscal crisis and economic downturn – they were elected to office. So apparently we can now have a serious conversation about our strong economic credentials, steady employment growth and triple A credit ratings.

On behalf of all Australians, thanks Joe. Until next time,  if you can’t love yourself, love your local member

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