Monday, November 26, 2007

Thank you Maxine and Kevin

It’s Monday 26th November, the sky is blue and the birds are singing - not much more to say really.

I was in downtown Adelaide this morning and there is a real buzz in the air. The place is busier than it has been for months - people were cheerful and chatty and it seemed to me as though the dark veil of the last decade had been lifted. There is a real vibe - a refreshing newness about the place - finally.

Thank you Maxine and Kevin.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

35% of nothing is still SFA

Following on from my previous post about the Libs “rusted on” cheer squad being around 35% of the vote at Federal elections - here is some more.

As background, we know that over the past 20+ years the Coalition had a minimum primary vote of 35%. Psephologist - Possum has suggested that this 35% is the “rusted on” support base of the Coalition.

My question is - why is it so high?

It clearly can’t be because Coalition governments are always the same - because they have been demonstrably different over the past few decades. A bit of history.

In 1975 Malcolm Fraser was elected Prime Minister - he was then head of the Liberal party and formed a Coalition government with the Nationals. At the time this government was seen as conservative but not overly so and certainly not spectacular in any way. It was seen as a safe, relatively risk free government - albeit one that took few chances. It was middle of the road and at the time I remember thinking who cares. And mostly, no-one did.

Then in 1983 the Coalition lost to Labor’s Bob Hawke - arguably this was the most radical change in government in a generation - even given the Labor experiment between 1972 and 1975 with Gough Whitlam - but that’s another story.

It says a lot about the Australian people that they chose a Labor government in 1983 after many decades of conservative Coalition rule. Clearly the nation needed a change - and it got one. Hawke and his Treasurer Paul Keating were a breath of fresh air. Along with the rest of the Ministry they embarked on a hectic program of reform to ensure that Australia caught up with the rest of the world. Eventually Keating became Prime Minister - but the reform agenda never really slowed and was still underway in 1996 when the Coalition re-gained control.

In 1996 the baton passed to the conservative Coalition and Liberal leader John Howard. By that time the Keating government was tired - having been in power for 13 years. The early Howard years were unspectacular - even reformist in a minor way. The Port Arthur massacre allowed the new Prime Minister to undertake a gun buy back which was well received. There was even reluctant agreement when he introduced the GST in 2000 - the necessary Hawke-Keating reform agenda seemed to be continuing.

But that’s when something happened and it all stopped - toward the end of 2001. Of course 9/11 was the catalyst for an inward focus on security matters but nothing else even remotely reformist happened until after the 2004 election when WorkChoices suddenly appeared unannounced.

Australians had become relaxed and comfortable and then all of a sudden they discovered that their government was intent on shafting them. Now of course we know what actually happened - Howard became lazy and complacent, he was focussed on sucking up to George Bush - took his eye off the ball and big business took control of government.

And now we are in 2007 in the final days of an election campaign - between Howard and Rudd - who do you think deserves to win?

Anyway, my main point is that the Coalition is not a static thing - over the last 20+ years it has been a very different experience - mostly depending on who was Leader. We can’t just assume that it is a benign thing that is interested in looking after the interests of Australians. An important perspective is that in 2007 even Malcolm Fraser is critical of the Howard government.

The truth is that the Coalition was once quite harmless. In the Malcolm Fraser years it was benign and it didn’t do too much damage. But in the Howard years it has abrogated its responsibility to big business and has allowed them to screw the Australian people - big time. It is now further to the right than Genghis Khan.

So it might be that 35% of the voters still support the Coalition - but my guess is that this is because they are not yet paying attention. One day they will wake up to discover that their beloved Coalition is actually a rabid dog. Let’s hope that they get the message before it gives them rabies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

35% of Nothing is - well it's SFA

According to Possum Pollytics if we look at the primary vote of the Coalition over the last 20 years, it becomes pretty clear that there are a fixed number of voters that support them regardless of how their parties (Lib, Nat) are behaving.

The Coalition never seem to get below 35% for its primary vote. Using Newspoll for example, it has received estimated primaries of 35.5% in 1998, 36% in 2001 and 35% in 2007 – but never below 35%. This suggests that there is about 35% of the Coalition primary vote that is “rusted on” given the ordinary course of politics.

So the question that I am interested in is - why?

Does this mean for example that we can have the most incompetent government (Coalition of course) in history and their primary vote will never fall below 35%?

Could the Coalition government commit the nation to an illegal and immoral war in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people and their primary vote will be around 35%?

Could we have a Coalition government promising to build 25 nuclear reactors around the Australian coast and their primary vote will never fall lower than 35%?

Could we have a Coalition government that is so unconcerned about Climate Change that Australia becomes a pariah as the world’s worst polluter - and 35% of us will still barrack for them?

My guess is that the answer to these and other similar questions is yes - the Coalition primary vote will never be lower than 35%. This is simply because the people who are “rusted on” are unconcerned by logic or truth or facts or morals - they are only interested in their “team” - the Mighty Coalition and how they are going to defeat those Labor Socialists and their fellow travellers the dreaded Communists. And perhaps they are also interested in keeping some “face”.

My suspicion is that a large number of “rusted on” Coalition voters are actually very confused. For much of their lives they believed the utopian story put about by the conservatives - but more recently they have had doubts. The problem is that they can’t change now - after a lifetime of Coalition support - that would mean betrayal. And anyway where would they go - Cuba or Melbourne?

But the good news is that their children are going elsewhere for their political and ideological fixes - they are primarily heading to Labor and the Greens.

And so the moral of this story is - well nothing much. The dumb and the ignorant will probably always vote for the Coalition - it’s their children that we need to foster and encourage…

Australians named as world's worst polluters

Each one of us should be seriously concerned about this - and putting pressure on our Governments to act - now.

It's a tragedy of inaction on the part of the Howard Government over an extended period of time. Here is a small sample of the report.

"Each Australian produces nearly 11 tonnes of CO2 power sector emissions, the United States follows on nine tonnes per person, while Britain is ranked ninth at 3.5 tonnes and China - heavily criticised by the international community for its rapid development of coal-fired power stations - produces only two tonnes a year per person. Indians emit about half a tonne of CO2 per person."

Howard’s Contribution to Media Mogul Retirement Fund

$500 Million - it’s peanuts really. Half a billion barely buys you a good newspaper these days.

Nobody does a better job shoveling cash into the pockets of Australia's media moguls than John Howard.

In just 16 months, the Howard government has spent $500 million on anti-Labor, anti-union fear campaigns, pro-WorkChoices propaganda and so-called “government funded information advertising”.

This is not Liberal Party money - its Australian taxpayers money...

This responsible, restrained, competent and hugely popular government has spent more than $1 million a day on ads, for almost 500 days running and now spends more taxpayer dollars on advertising, per head of population, than any other country in the world!

Doesn't that make even the most "rusted-on" conservative wonder?

Now we have a bit of an inkling why Howard is so popular with Rupert’s The Australian.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Is It Just Me?

Is it just me who is out of step or are some of my fellow Australian’s really as dumb as they act?

I have had a number of experiences recently where people - who should know better - seem to have no clue about the election that is due on 24/11. Even fundamental questions like the "Role of the Senate?" and "What is a Half Senate Election?" seem to be too much for some voters. This lack of knowledge and understanding makes me despair.

Now I am prepared to believe that I am the one that is out of step but there is that small lingering doubt in my mind. A doubt that is fanned by reports that the Libs are actually still in the race for the election on 24/11. How can that possibly be?

I would have thought that even a superficial analysis of the behaviour of our Government over the past 11 years would be enough to show most citizens that they have been ripped off.

Perhaps no-one at the grass roots is actually doing the analysis? Maybe they are just following their noses like sheep normally do and are going to vote like they always have - regardless of the facts? Maybe people aren’t smart enough to see what is going on around them? Or if they are then perhaps they don’t care?

In any event, I think it makes the case to be rid of compulsory voting.

If Australians are not interested enough to educate themselves about the pluses and minuses of any political campaign and are swayed by bribes or by fear campaigns then we should gently ease them out of the responsibility to vote.

My proposal is that voting should be voluntary.

Additionally, there should be a minimum standard of knowledge that is achieved before people are able to vote. So in the same way that you get to drive a car or fly a plane with knowledge and a test then you should pass the voter test. It’s a big responsibility - everyone should be concerned enough to get it right.

If the price of this is to deny the lazy and the ignorant a vote then so be it. Those who are interested enough to be informed will have the responsibility of electing our Government for the next three years and will determine our future. Who wants the dumb and the stupid to determine where we head?

The test will examine your knowledge of our constitution and system of Government. It will explore the differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate and the States and why and how they exist and their purpose. It will show an understanding of the powers of Government and its officers.

It will result in a more informed debate - one that is built around truth and logic and what is good for the nation - not just what is good for an incumbent Prime Minister.

A Letter to Sturt Residents

Dear Sturt Resident,

It’s not often that I write to Sturt residents - Christopher Pyne is the local member and as some of you will know, his wife does much of his campaigning - woman to woman.

As a working mother of three children, I would have thought that she had enough to do keeping them and Christoper in check. But according to her recent campaign letter, she is concerned about “managing the household budget, finding suitable child care, balancing work and family time and ensuring our children have a good education”.

Well, I thought that Christoper was a member of the Liberal party - but it sounds like she is campaigning for the religious right, Family First party. Maybe she know’s something that we don’t?

She goes on to say that “Christopher takes his job very seriously. I see the effort that he puts in to helping our local community… I hope you’ll support him so he can keep using his experience to fight for us in Canberra”. Good point.

I wonder if this would be the same experience that helped push WorkChoices through without any scrutiny - which we now know was designed to reduce the wages and conditions of the low paid - particularly women and young people?

Do you suppose this is the same experience that let Philip Ruddock, Amanda Vanstone and others detain children in the most horrible conditions inside detention centres at Baxter and elsewhere?

Do you think that it might be the same experience that has allowed Mal Brough to invade Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory on the pretext of “saving the little children” when he has not implemented one recommendation of the “Little Children are Sacred” report?

I am wondering if it’s also the same experience that resulted in the AWB scandal where $300 million was used to bribe Saddam Hussein and fund his military at the same time that we were considering whether to go to war against Iraq?

It’s probably also the same experience that resulted in the Australian Government blindly following George Bush into war in Iraq - a war that has so far resulted in 3,867 dead and 28,489 wounded - US military soldiers and over 655,000 dead Iraqi civilians?

It might also be the same experience that caused Liberal insider Guy Pearce to write his book “High and Dry”, which shows how John Howard is wilfully blind to Australia’s real interests - and who has allowed climate change policy to be dictated by our biggest polluters?

So yes Carolyn, it is important for Australians to consider these important issues carefully when they vote on November 24th.