Hey ACL: If your “Christian Values” endorse One Nation, you’re doing it wrong

It’s election time in Australia, which means its time for various Christian pundits and thought leaders to put out their ‘how to vote’ guides, because, clearly, most of us can’t possibly work out how to participate in the democratic process without some sort of pre-packaged checklist highlighting where the parties stand on the issues we’re told we should care about. If you’re after advice from me I’ll stand by my how to vote in (not) easy steps post from the 2016 election, and leave you trying to work things out.

Long time readers (if there are any) of this blog (if that’s even what this is) will know I’ve been a strident critic of the Australian Christian Lobby for various reasons; but mostly because they, historically, never spoke about Jesus, or about why a particular policy direction they took was a particularly Christian approach. There were some observable changes when former chief Christian, Lyle Shelton, left to fight for marriage with the Coalition For Marriage, and then to run for the Australian Conservatives. The new chief Christian, Martyn Iles, has been doing a creditable job making Christian arguments for various (conservative) positions on various issues, he even made promises to broaden the platform a little (as the former chief did when tackling penalty rates). The change has been, I think, a breath of fresh air and represents at least a desire to enter the political realm or public square in a pluralist, secular, democracy as Christians, rather than as people who neuter ourselves and argue for and from status quo assumptions given to us by a hard secularism that assumes religion doesn’t belong in the public life of any individual or society.

The breath of fresh air turned fetid and stale overnight, for me, when the ACL issued its ‘how to vote’ card for the May election. They’ve picked five, that’s right, just five, ‘key’ battleground issues for Christians in this election. And there are certain issues that seem particularly self-serving for Christians, which then frames how our positions on issues like abortion and euthanasia might be understood (that we care more about being in control than being considered as a voice in the mix). The ACL’s “Policy Analysis” considers abortion and reproductive health, euthanasia, religious freedom (specifically for Christian schools), sexual orientation and gender identity, and keeping the Lord’s Prayer in parliament. Picking just these five issues seems an interesting narrow cast; and perhaps it’s because on all the other big issues all the parties are exactly the same? Maybe that’s it? But given the ‘wings’ of this table are ‘all green ticks’ and ‘all red crosses’ it does appear at least to be about contrasting the ‘Christian’ options (the Australian Conservatives) and the ‘non-Christian’ options (the Greens). It’s weird to devote so much column space to Derryn Hinch, and not the many, many, minor parties throwing hats into the ring this election. But what’s perhaps most beyond the pale for me is that picking such a narrow agenda ends up not just endorsing Bernardi and Shelton’s Australian Conservatives, but Hanson’s One Nation Party.

I’m going to put it out there that if your policy platform ends up endorsing Pauline Hanson’s One Nation as a ‘Christian vote’ in the current climate, there’s probably a problem with how you’re defining your platform. Especially if you don’t prosecute a party’s platform, persona, or character beyond those issues that serve your own interest — or worse, beyond the way that party promises you access to the political process. This is the mistake evangelical Americans have made as they’ve been co-opted by the Trump administration in the U.S; a failure to maintain a distinct sense of Christian character and virtue beyond what is politically expedient, and what is happening to the church in America. These politically active Christian conservatives in the ‘religious right’  have done significant, measurable, damage to the reputation of Jesus amongst the general populace of the United States (and possibly globally) because of the way they’ve jumped into bed with a bloke who literally embodies the vice list in Colossians 3 just because it’s politically expedient to do so; because we Christians, like our neighbours, have bought into an ethic detached from a ‘telos’ or from life in a cosmos where God and his nature defines what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and started pursuing politics like good little utilitarians; jumping on board whatever train will deliver our political ends, no matter what that means.

When I pressed Martyn Iles about this expression of a ‘preference’ for One Nation on Facebook, he justified the position with the following remark:

“…their doors are far, far wider open to Christians than most of the groups listed. They are easy to deal with, are often convinced to do the right thing, and they happen to line up on the social policy issues listed here.

I am pretty happy to defend where they’ve landed in our flyer just on the basis of how willingly their elected politicians work with Christians.

I get it that they have their problems (including serious ones, like their support of euthanasia), but I’ll take 10 One Nation Senators over Palmer, Hinch, or the Greens any day of the week.”

Their relationship to One Nation is, then, analogous to the relationship between the big end of town and the major parties, and the sort of insidious relationship we keep seeing exposed between foreign ‘soft power’ and our parties; the kind that leads people to suggest banning political donations from such quarters. Votes for access is a terrible pathway to the worst kind of democracy; the craven type where elected representatives act based on what will secure votes, rather than what is good, true, and beautiful, and where lobby groups that aim to distort the process for the sake of special interests urge for votes not based on what is best for all, but what is best for them — measured, predominantly, by questions of power and access.

If you chuck virtue and character out the window when assessing what party to vote for, in the name of results, you are making a bed that the rest of us have to lie in. If you end up platforming a party whose leader consistently appeals to the worst ‘angels’ of our nature; who promotes conspiracy theories rather than truth at every turn, who blames the media when her chosen representatives are exposed as degenerates, whose party cosied up with the NRA to try to soften Australia’s gun laws, whose positions on issues affecting the most marginalised members of our society or the global community are well documented, and who moved a motion in the Australian senate using a phrase (“it’s OK to be white” typically used by white supremacists). Hanson is a climate change denier (and the Australian Conservatives come pretty close), she is opposed to foreign aid (in all its forms). The party can’t seem to keep an elected representative in its folds, let alone in parliament. And according to the Australian Christian Lobby they’re the party who’re the second most deserving of your vote, because of what we Christians might get from the deal. Donald Trump might embody the vices in Colossians 3 solo, One Nation’s candidates prefer a cooperative approach.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other… — Colossians 3:5-9

I’m not suggesting that One Nation’s elected representatives should behave like Christians, or that we should expect them to… but I do think Christians should behave like Christians and exercise our participation in the political process as Christians who are ambassadors for Christ — and so not endorse vice for the sake of being closer to worldly power. I’m suggesting that virtue matters for us (and that it’d be nice to elect politicians who display virtue rather than vice, or to call for those sorts of standards rather than pure utility). A Christian vote is not about how they behave, so much as how we behave, and about what it is we express is important. There is no current political party that exhaustively embodies “Christian Values” (even the ones that have Christian in their name), which means a ‘Christian’ vote is not about who we vote for, but how one votes (and participates in political life) as a Christian.  Here’s what should mark our participation in public life.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. — Colossians 3:12-17

If you want to “vote for Christian values” then those are the values, or virtues, you might want to see on display in the people you’re electing and expressed by their policies. What’s tricky, in the way politics happens in the modern world, is that these virtues are thoroughly embedded in a life where a community ‘lets the message of Christ dwell among them richly’… And perhaps a better way of framing our participation in politics (beyond just the ballot box) — a politics built from “Christian values” — would be for us to push for Christians to deliberately and transparently bring Christian virtues into public life. The problem is we’d be bringing them into a “public” that has largely rejected virtue for the sake of utility, and where the key, distinctive, Christian idea that virtue comes not just dispassionately from ‘nature,’ but from a relationship with God is even more remote. To embrace a politics of utility enforces this chasm, which is the very chasm our Christian witness seeks to close.

In his work A Secular Age, Charles Taylor makes this observation about the ‘field’ public life, including politics, now takes part on, or at least about the way we think about how we should live as people in the modern world.

“The dominant philosophical ethics today… conceive of morality as determining through some criterion what an agent ought to do. They are rather hostile to an ethics of virtue or the good, such as that of Aristotle. And a Christian conception, where the highest way of life can’t be explained in terms of rules, but rather is rooted in a certain relation to God, is entirely off the screen.”

Taylor suggests the stakes of playing the game with these rules and assumptions are high; they reinforce the view that reality is a ‘closed system’ or an “immanent frame” that excludes God from the picture. There’s a real danger that the way we do politics, if we embrace ‘utility’ or the idea that being good is about obeying certain rules, or having a certain moral framework, rather than imitating the character of God, actually serves to reinforce the assumption that God isn’t in the picture, Taylor says that promoting a morality (or politics) that arises from ‘an impersonal law” or “impersonal order” — rather than from “a personal relation” is a problem for Christians. He says: “All these forms of impersonal order: the natural, the political and the ethical can be made to speak together against orthodox Christianity, and its understanding of God as personal agent.” Playing the political game this way, as Christians, takes the game further and further away from a Christian view of reality.

“On one level, we have the natural order, the universe, purged of enchantment, and freed from miraculous interventions and special providences from God, operating by universal, unrespondent causal laws. On another level, we have a social order, designed for us, which we have to come to discern by reason, and establish by constructive activity and discipline. Finally the Law which defines this order, whether as political/constitutional law, or ethical norms, can be expressed in rational codes, which can be grasped quite independent of any special relationship we might establish with God, and by extension with each other. The human relationships which matter are those prescribed in the codes (e.g., Natural Law, the Utilitarian principle, the Categorical Imperative).”

Christian values are going to be the ones that push back on the idea that we should make political decisions simply about what’s going to be convenient for certain groups — including us — here and now, they’re going to be the ones that say there’s more to life than just political success, or lawmaking, or winning, they’re going to be the ones that point to an actual, not just mechanical, relationship with God being at the heart of reality. And while keeping the Lord’s Prayer in parliament could be a nod to this higher ordering of reality, I’m not sure that having a bunch of politicians pray the Lord’s Prayer — including the line ‘your kingdom come, your will be done’ (which is a prayer for the Holy Spirit to come, and for the sort of kingdom ethics expressed in the Sermon On The Mount, where the prayer is found, to be lived) — who are then going to do their best to do the opposite — is the sort of pushing back on this closing of the system that’s required. Hypocrisy is not a “Christian value” and I think we should avoid the enshrining of ironic hypocrisy, especially given how Jesus opens up his teaching on prayer when he teaches the Lord’s Prayer: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5). If we’re going to ask our politicians to keep praying the Lord’s Prayer, we’ve also got to ask them to both believe it, and mean it, and to turn their attention to the sort of ethical vision and kingdom that the prayer entails.

I’m not going to cast my vote just to secure an ‘open door’ and a few key ‘ticks’ on policy areas that serve my interests. A Christian vote is not the vote that secures the best possible result for us on certain positions, or the best access to those in power, no matter the cost. A Christian vote is the one that looks to our relationship with Jesus as Lord, to his example, and to his commands, where we vote with integrity and character and virtue — the highest of those virtues being love. This will certainly mean that Christians consider the elderly, the sick, and the unborn in our political matrix — but also the refugee, the foreigner not on our shores, the widow, the poor, the not yet born (whose natural environment our decisions affect), and just about any ‘other’ — given that they all fall into the category of ‘neighbour’ or ‘enemy’ and Jesus calls us to love both (but first to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength). Here’s the paradigm that’s meant to mark our politics as Christians because it’s what it looks like to be a citizen in the kingdom of God — the kingdom Jesus launched in his death and resurrection, at the cross.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” — Matthew 16:24-27

Cosying up to One Nation might gain us the whole world in terms of political access and power (it probably won’t); but what if the cost is not just our soul, but our witness to our crucified king? Is it worth it? Or is it the equivalent of trading our birthright in God’s family of promise for a bowl of gruel?

UPDATE: A friend connected to the ACL has reached out to suggest the take put forward by this piece on the flyer is less than charitable, and that a statement posted by Martyn Iles might clear up what the aim of the flyer is. Iles says:

“There is an important difference between an education resource and a political tool.

A political tool has to effectively appeal to people who are disengaged and influence them.

An education resource is for people who are engaged, and it takes them on a much bigger journey.

If our flyer were primarily an education resource, it would include all parties and all conceivable “Christian” issues (which I do care about – anyone who follows my vlogs and blogs will know that). It would also have a small distribution, targeted to rusted-on Christians.

But it is not.

(Actually, it wouldn’t be a flyer at all – it’d be a website).

There are a number of good resources of that kind already available, which most people who are that engaged will already have seen.

The flyer is for middle-Australia, marginal seat, politically disengaged, Christian-sympathising voters. It has a mass distribution.

It’s for a target that other groups are simply not reaching. It is for a target that is not in yours or my mindset.”

I’m not sure I understand how this makes my post unreasonable, I’ll let you be the judge. There’s a little more in his post.

I will say, briefly, that I think this explanation makes things worse, not better. If this is designed to present a ‘Christian values’ approach to politics to people who are largely not actually Christian, but might share some Christian values, then this misrepresents the heart of Christianity (and Christian political concerns). It might be politically expedient (or utilitarian), but it is not helpful for the wider mission of the church (or the Kingdom of God, of which the ACL is, universally, a part). I’d also point out that there is a website that goes with the flyer, and lots of opportunities for the ACL to be clearer in its repudiation of One Nation, especially for the sake of those who receive this flyer in the mail who might be confused about how Christians stand with regards to that political party.

Election day

The countdown is over. We voted this morning. Robyn told me afterwards that she’d voted for Family First. It was a funny joke. We laughed. 

Here’s why I don’t vote for Family First…

  1. While I appreciate that Family First put the family first and often that means supporting things that are good for Christians and Christianity – I think their very presence dilutes the conservative vote and is counterproductive for Christians looking to vote on their issues. 
  2. I don’t like the idea of giving politicians a mandate to turn Australia into anything other than the democratic system we have now – theocracies are great provided you’re a believer. Which I am. But they don’t do a good job of protecting minorities or other interests. I’d rather a candidate sympathetic to all than a candidate only sympathetic to me. 
  3. It’s not the state’s job to convert people to Christianity – it’s ours. Separation of church and state is a protection for the church too…
  4. Better the devil you know – I know that the LNP and the ALP will act in a predictable manner based on their convictions. The same can not be said for Family First members. There have been too many loose cannon loonies running for the party for them to have much credibility as a united voice. The idea of a united Christian voice is nice in theory – but you only have to look at the Uniting Church to see it in practice. 
  5. It’s a wasted vote. Unless we’re voting for a Federal senate spot the party will never the numbers to get candidates into seats. What’s the point of voting for Family First when you can be voting against a party you disagree with and keeping them out of power.  

I have no numbers to back this up. But I’m sure I could find them. I know that some people who are single issue voters on abortion will get angry when I say this. But voting for family first when you’re a nominally conservative voter who doesn’t like abortion is pretty much a vote for Labor – who (despite their name being similar to the act of giving birth) are the most likely party to legalise abortion in Australian states.

Obviously the preference system allows you to make this statement while still essentially voting for the LNP – but a real statement would be made by the number of people not preferentially voting at all – and ousting a government without having to rely on preferences at all. 

It may be a principled move. It may make a statement.  But it’s a phyrric victory only. So I won’t be making that move any time soon. 

This is too late to change anyone’s mind anyway. But it’s my two cents worth.

Also, I think it’s slightly ironic that the Greens print out how to vote cards. They’re such a waste of paper. Perhaps we should change the legislation to allow each nominated candidate to place a “how to vote” card in the voting booth. That’s under 10 printouts per candidate per booth – rather than thousands.

Categorical denial

Today was a busy day for me – what with elections being tomorrow and my job being what it is… you can check out what the candidates have promised North Queensland on our website.

I also played around with my “categories” – culling some, combining some and rearranging them into the following order… you can now also subscribe just to a category. It’s as easy as clicking on the RSS images below.

Election Scorecard: Labor’s attack ads

The Labor Party is telling us we can’t trust Springborg because a couple of months ago he said the current economic climate was not like the Great Depression. That it was different. 

The ad runs a bunch of clips from world leaders (Obama, Rudd, and Brown) telling us what a crisis this is, and comparing the situation with the Great Depression. 

So, was Springborg wrong for saying it’s not? No.

Here’s the thing. A lot of the problems we’re currently facing are caused by a crisis of confidence. Obama’s address to congress last week was optimistic. Politicians should be talking up the economy. We all know what happened when Wayne Swan said the inflation genie was out of the bottle. 

It’s perfectly reasonable for a politician to be optimistic, or positive. Particularly when they’re in opposition. That’s their job. 

The other thing is – the representatives featured in the ad are all from the left – the same side as Labor. The fact that Springborg disagrees with these people should be expected – and possibly applauded. 

Labor at a state level hasn’t really learned the power of a positive campaign – and the cost of a negative campaign – even after Obama’s victory, and Rudd’s, the electorate is sick of smear campaigns. We want to know what you offer – not what the other guys do. 

The ads look nice though. Black is the new black for election advertising. 

Grade: D+

On a Downer

Well. Who’d have thunk it? The Australian electorate (nb –not me because I didn’t actually get to vote) has collectively decided that it can forgive and forget an ear wax eater – and anoint him Prime Minister with a night of pompous cerumeny(sic) – that was my funniest joke ever. I promise. Click the link. Do it. So anyway, K-Rudd came through and became the ultimate tall poppy – now watch the media pack turn and devour him with the relish once reserved for Howard – who is now almost universally regarded as a hero of our times – albeit an unpopular, out of touch hero who somewhat selfishly singlehandedly brought about the destruction of his team – no sorry, that’s Willie Mason. The Liberal party is now Rudd-erless (unlike the other guys) and in a state of disrepair and disconnection from power never before seen – in fact Brisbane is the last bastion of official Liberal power – a stronghold at City Council level – held by my sur-namesake Campbell Newman… I can only surmise that with a dearth of experienced out of work pollies spread around the country the next few state elections will see a swing back to the Conservatives… In the meantime the Liberals and their country cousins – the Nationals are without leaders. This situation will keep the election aftermath in the news cycle for just that little bit longer – even I’m sick of the politics now – as the Libs have their own little election. We can only hope this one won’t be fought out in cyberspace with each candidate trying to outviral the other (Election 2.1 anyone?) – I for one don’t want to see anymore of Alexander Downer than I have to. Turnbull should get the nod – leading the Liberals into a new age of whatever it is waterfront magnates feel is important other than the accumulation of wealth and material possessions… so more of the same. My prediction is that Costello will sit on the backbench until the Liberals decide they really are better off with him – and he’ll come riding in from the sunset (where his career now sits metaphorically) on his trusty steed “Economic Management” – which is a stupid name for a horse, expect to see it running at next year’s Melbourne Cup.

Election 2.0

Ben has been persistent in his insistence that I be more consistent with my election ramblings – which currently number a couple of references to YouTube. So here goes. This election campaign is being hailed by members of the “new media”* as being Election 2.0 – the rise of the interwebs (Sequel to Election – The worm has (re)turned) – note that only those with a vested interest in promoting online content to boost advertising revenue streams are pointing people away from the traditional media. I’m not sure I buy this whole interweb campaign – ironic really, given that in posting this blog I’m contributing in a very small form to the debate…

But I digress… Kevin07 – Licence to ill (AKA the earwax video) is now a matter of international significance. The sequel to this episode could well have been Kevin goes to School (and gets mobbed by cheering children – note to K-Rudd – children can’t actually vote…) – however, in a priceless piece of electioneering – Kevin managed to get an old man from a retiree’s choir to swear at him… in front of the cameras (note to K-Rudd – old people can vote – even when senility sets in…). Rudd was obviously pandering to an audience that J-Ho has been traditionally popular with and boy, did it backfire.

Meanwhile the incumbent PM has been busy being heckled on his morning strolls canters – all while trying to lay down the law to a bunch of petulant bankers – warning them that there’ll be hell to pay if they raise rates and he’s re-elected… way to antagonise your core constituency J-Ho. The cynic in me thinks this is all a rouse designed by the PM to keep Costello away from the top job. Call it petty, call it what you will, but I’m fairly sure supporting the guy who’s constantly trying to stab you in the back and take your job is a tough ask – the idea that Howard is throwing the election because he’d prefer Rudd as PM over Cossie is pure, baseless, speculation.

In other news – a faceless caricature has emerged as the leading suspect in the case of the missing British girl Madeleine McCann. In a case that’s going from bizarre to more bizarre one of the McCann’s friends has only now come forward with a story about a man striding away from the hotel on the night…

It turns out the Scud, the Poo, the artist formerly known as Mark Philippousis is now ranked a stunning 1,109 in the world at tennis – his croquet ranking is a marginally better – 1,093 – which is a good thing because he can still enter Wimbledon (which is of course played at the All England Tennis and Croquet Club). The Scud attempted to make another comeback from another knee injury against a bunch of tennis grandpas (over 30s) and lost to John McEnroe. He’s now officially worse than when he started – his ranking then was a respectable 1,072.

A long time between drinks

Dear Blog Reader – after a month of silence it may be time for me to resurrect this ‘ere little piece of ego stroking personal indulgence I like to call my “Blog”. I call it my blog largely because that’s what it is – a blog pertaining to me and things that I want to write about. I’d like to be able to catch you up on the last month of happenings – but due to the constraints of time and the like I’ll give you the “nutshell” version. It was good. For those wanting a more extended analysis of the wedding, honeymoon, return to work and the normality of married life please call me on the phone – or maybe check out some photos here, and here.

Orpheus Island photos will be put online when we get our home internet connection working. It seems that in my hiatus some kerfuffle has kicked up over the future governance of the nation. Bring it on, I say. We spent some time over the last couple of weeks powering through series 7 of the West Wing. We were wondering what to fill our lives with now that we’ve watched all seven seasons (approximately a full week’s worth of viewing… which is pretty impressive) and the real thing pops up to occupy our screens. Elections are fun. Expect me to write a lot about them in coming posts.

This’ll be a short one – it’s mainly designed to let Leah know that my blog’s not dead – and let Ben know that I am paying attention to the election.


I was reading through April’s edition of The Monthly magazine (see how dropping that in an early sentence makes me seem heaps more intelligent and cultured – well only if you are an intelligent and cultured person – whose opinion will now have been tainted by the fact that I tried to generate cheap pops by name dropping such an austere publication – everyone’s a critic these days). As I said, I was reading through the aptly named The Monthly (on closer review there are only 11 editions per year – so it’s a misnomer) magazine where an op ed (opinion editorial) piece suggested this year’s (or early next year’s) Australian election is likely to be fought out on the issues of Climate Change, Industrial Relations, Iraq and the Australian Government’s treatment of David Hicks. Now I’m no disillusioned lefty – I’m not overly worried about any of those issues – sure we should probably not have entered Iraq, but getting out now creates a number of major problems. I’m not a worker who has been disadvantaged by people’s greedy exploitation of the IR reforms – nor am I a small business owner with increased freedom under those laws, I’m an educated professional (haha) worker with a better than average chance of competency based career advances, the Howard Government has a track record of creating jobs and stimulating the economy that can’t be argued with. David Hicks is another issue – the question of the civil rights of Australian citizens and how far the protection of those rights extends when the person in question is essentially fighting against the ideals their citizenship represents is a murky one. Global warming is one of those issues that really should not be a political football – if humanity is too blame for a change in climate – then it’s a corporate and individual responsibility to deal with it. The government has enough issues on its plate without having to save the planet.
K-Rudd is yet to score any points on his economic scorecard – and what really matters to Australian voters is the hip pocket – we can rant and rave about the environment all we like – but when it comes to the crunch people aren’t going to make a conscience vote on an issue that is likely to cost them money or jobs. I can’t even begin to comprehend why these issues have taken precedence over traditional government staples like education, health and roads.
The issue of immigration has taken a back seat in recent times – but the Department of Immigration and Citizenship struck an early blow (that’s a pun which you’ll pick up shortly) preventing US Gansta rapper Snoop Dogg entering the country due to a checkered past dotted with drugs and guns. Snoop Dogg was scheduled to host the MTV music awards but was not granted a VISA – I predict a four point bump in the polls for the government on the back of this decision alone. What do you think the election issues in the next elections should be?

This time contestants get voted into the house

The American presidential race is still some time off. Several candidates are yet to announce – the Democrats (left wing) have two candidates polling competitively – Barack Obama (who’s probably the closest thing in the race to the West Wing’s Jimmy Santos) and Hillary Clinton (Mrs Bill). The Republicans (right wing) are busy trying to overcome the special characteristics of the current administration led by Dubya and are yet to annoint a successor – NYC 9-11 Mayor Rudi Giuliani is tipped to throw his hat into the ring but with neither POTUS or Vice-POTUS standing for election they’ll be starting with a clean state. An article in this month’s aptly name “The Monthly” magazine uses the dirt free campaign exhibited in the final series of the West Wing as an opportunity to score points on the Howard government and the recent muckslinging between the incumbent (known in some circles as “the rodent”) and the challenger (a politician with a really fragile glass jaw who bears a striking resemblance to Harry Potter). Art imitates life. The political process and behind the scenes machinations are shown for all to see in any reality television game show – the backroom deals, the back stabs, the back slaps – it’s all there. And now, from the creators of The Apprentice and Survivor (this is Donald “Wrestlemania” Trump and Mark Burnett) have joined forces with Myspace to bring you a new high point in reality television – the most political thing shown on prime time since big brother candidate Merlin wore his “free th(sic) refugees” protest shirt to an eviction (one feels his campaign would have had more traction if he’d either a: known how to spell “the” or b: campaigned to free th(sic) sick refugees… which reminds me – in the form of an electronic patent (and because all my good ideas keep being stolen)… I want to start a business called fooly(sic) productions – it’s here now. Documented. All mine.)…they give you this very special announcement (courtesy of Associated Press):

The online social networking site MySpace and reality TV producer Mark Burnett are teaming up to launch a search for an independent US presidential candidate.

Their political reality show “Independent” will come with a $US1 million ($1.2 million) cash prize and a catch: the winner can’t keep the money. The prize can be used to finance a run for the White House or can be given to a political action committee or political cause.
Contestants on the show, set to launch in early 2008, will meet the public and interact with supporters, protesters and others. An interactive “town hall” will give MySpace users and TV viewers a chance to rate their performance.

The full story is available here.

Wrestling for power

There are a number of high profile elections happening at the moment – with the Australian Federal Election on the horizon, the election of US Presidential candidates (note – not the election of the US President – that’s not until 2008) in full swing and the New South Wales state elections entering the penultimate stage with voting due any time now – nobody really seems into the whole thing, I guess that’s what happens when an election features two candidates nobody really wants to vote for.

I’ve mentioned the fact that I enjoy professional wrestling before, I’m not entirely sure who’s to blame for this, but living with Tim has done nothing to cure me of this affliction – but it seems wrestling has entered into the realm of politics.
The Sydney Morning Herald has produced a multimedia pre-vote analysis of the impending NSW election treating ballot day as a drawn out bout in the squared circle of the wrestling ring.

Japanese pro wrestler Masano Murakawa (pictured left) is set to contest a no holds barred* campaign to become the governor of Iwate. The masked wrestler has been serving the local assembly for several years and will keep his face covered if elected.

Smackdown’s luchadore** Rey Mysterio (pictured below) – a lifelong ambassador for the Detroit 619 Area Code is said to be weighing up his political options.***

Funnily enough while being a wrestling internet geek in some spare time (while I should have been asleep) the other night – I discovered that Shaun Morley – aka Val Venis – is a political animal promoting the concept of “freetarianism” which, from what I can gather, is the belief that there should be no laws whatsoever.

* Originally a wrestling term
** Mexican category of wrestler, famed for being masked until loosing a “mask vs mask” match against another luchadore…
*** By me for comedic purposes…

Oh, and guess what, the jury is in – Krispy Kremes are bad for you… who’d have thunk it.

EDIT: And now, by popular demand in a triumph of amateur photoshop and/or through the hard work of Australia’s political paparazzi (they’re out there – just ask Latham)… I give you… K-Rudd, the masked wrestler:

An Inconvenient Truth

K-Rudd has been caught with his proverbial pants down on Burkegate. This is an event clearly worthy of “gate” status. More details about MPs from both sides of the fence meeting with the shady former WA premier (and convicted felon) turned lobbyist will probably come to light this week and I’m tipping more casualties following the resignation of Ian Campbell. John Howard wants to make distinctions between ministers and MPs, and leaders and followers – which is fair enough to an extent, but there’s really no need to be meeting with someone like Burke. Lobbying is an interesting kettle of fish. It’s where politicians get their lurks and perks. Doctors get their fancy meals from pharmaceutical companies eager to secure future business – politicians get theirs from representatives of industries, interest groups and professional power brokers who are likewise eager to secure something for nothing (or for a meal – politicians are expected to sing for their supper). Benny reckons lobbying is an essential part of the democratic process –

“I love lobbying. i think its how things should work. lobbying and interest
groups should demonstrate the facts, views and opinions. the members of
parliament should act as mediators and decision makers. the MPs should take in
all the information to make rational and logical decisions. lobbying is part of
this process.”

I agree to an extent but I think professional lobbying probably circumvents the political process and ties up access to politicians from the run of the mill members of their electorate – the fact that my employers work as a lobby group backed by the collective might of our members from the North Queensland business community doesn’t bother me – but when you’ve got a disproportionate amount of funding (lobbying) poured into the exercise by an unpopular lobby group (say advocates for nuclear power) might have a disproportionate impact on the political process.

The political machinations behind Burkegate are fascinating – Ian Campbell’s decision to resign – or the decision for him to resign – was a masterful manoeuvre from Howard. Finding the moral high ground in the murky realm of politics will be an important step in the upcoming elections. If it’s going to be a “morals” debate the Coalition need to have their position on issues like AWB, the Iraq conflict and Hicks firmly entrenched on the “right” side (as opposed to wrong, rather than left) – Rudd probably has the advantage in terms of positioning because it’s much easier to criticise government than to govern. This scandal could go a long way towards undermining his integrity – but it could also burn the government if it comes out that more coalition MPs have met with Burke in the past.

It’s an interesting time in politics with the battle of who cares raging in New South Wales and Debnam resorting to physical comparisons with James Bond. The US race for preselection (it’s not even the real thing yet) is heating up with candidates from both major parties vying to outdo their own colleagues (with the amount of muck they spend throwing around within the parties it’s a wonder that any new stuff comes up in the actual campaign) – my early favourite Barack Obama is polling well and catching up to the “impossible to like even though she stood by her husband in America’s largest sex scandal” Hillary Clinton. The Democrats have the opportunity to make history with their leading candidates a female and an African American male – Joe says the Republicans should kill two birds with one stone by endorsing Condoleezza Rice.

In other news – I tried the spectacular “cat poo” coffee last week, I’m not sure I’d pay $50 a cup, but it’s an amazing brew, so smooth and sweet – without the standard bitter bite of a regular cuppa.

LarkNews – a good source for “Christian News” has been updated – my favourite story for this edition is the debate on whether the word “sucks” is appropriate for church – for those of you who have trouble differentiating between fact and fiction, please note that this is parody.

Only a little bit left

Climate Change is a buzz issue. The opinion pages of Australia’s leading newspapers have been filled with claims, ripostes and counter-ripostes as the debate on the changing climate, humanities contribution to the change in climate and whether climatic change is a change at all rages with no set end in sight. This media coverage and debates over Australia’s reluctance to sign the Kyoto protocol, the release of the Stern Report, and Peter Garrett’s appointment as Shadow Minister for Climate Change have all positioned climate change as a central issue in the upcoming Australian Federal Election.

That the climate is changing is undeniable – just like it’s undeniable that a large portion of Australia is in the throes of a long running drought. I’m not going to argue with that. However, I may have been miseducated but I thought we expected the climate to change from time to time. We have these things called seasons, we have meteorologists who forecast changes in weather – We’ve been taught that an ice age wiped out dinosaurs. If the world was once covered in ice, and now is not, it makes sense that the ice caps continue to melt rather than stagnate. The world’s climate is so finely balanced that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in China is said to cause a hurricane in Australia (ok so that’s just poetic hyperbole but it makes the point). What I will argue, along with my friend Benny, is that climate change should not be an election issue.

Ben’s analogy when arguing about why policy on climate change should not be a central election campaign issue related it to running an election campaign based on which party had the best plan to defend against alien and UFO attacks. Not because the issue isn’t real but because the issue isn’t an election issue. If the planets climate is changing there is very little that our country of 20 million people can do. While our fossil fuel emissions are fairly high per capita we’ve got nothing on the US or other “developing” first world markets. Our emissions are a small drop in the global bucket. Climate change is not a local issue, it’s a global issue. Campaigning on Climate Change is easy point scoring for any opposition party who can easily take the moral high ground and point fingers at all the areas that can be improved. It’s a popular issue thanks to the left wing media’s desire to pander to the stupidity and gullibility of the average consumer and it allows the opposition to be lazy. If climate change wins the next election for either party the electorate will have been dealt a disservice when other issues like education, health, roads and the strength of the economy should be firmly on the agenda. Sure, we could all be looking after the environment better – and we all should be. But go plant a tree or do your bit individually. Culturally Australian’s have a habit of bignoting our global importance based on our performances in the scientific and sporting arenas. We’re better educated than most countries and we tend to punch above our weight – but we’re small potatoes when it comes to population and associated issues. The election should be about the goverment which will best manage the country – not who will blow the climate change trumpet the loudest. If we educate our people better individuals will be better positioned to think about climate change and other issues. If we have better infrastructure our industry will be able to consider better environmental practices. Climate change is a spin off issue – not a root cause. Having a minister for climate change is like having a Minister for Philosophy or a Minister for the Ocean. Dumb.

Let them eat cake…

While this title refers vaguely to the fact that I had cake to celebrate my birthday at work today (complete with tiara). It’s more to do with the original misquotation of Mary Antoinette.

“Let them eat cake” has been quoted throughout time as fundamental evidence that the elite ruling class is out of touch with the masses. Mary Antoinette was supposedly confronted with the news that her people had no bread to eat – and she infamously replied “qu’ils mangent de la brioche” – wikipedia claims that this quote is in fact a misrepresentation as she was only 10 and living in her native Austria at the time it was documented and was not born when the incident was said to have occurred. Although the quote is not accurate – it represents the disparity between the ruling class of France and its people – a disparity that eventually led to her execution during the French Revolution.

Australia’s politicians and intellectual elite are at the cusp of creating a similar chasm between themselves and those they rule (or us plebs). Fortunately John Howard is the ultimate bridge builder (according to Kevin Rudd he’s built a bridge too far…). I recently subscribed to Crikey – the elite’s trashy gossip magazine. In fact founder Stephen Mayne was at the centre of the Walkley controversy a couple of weeks ago when News Ltd’s political editor Glenn Milne drunkenly attacked him, pushing him off the stage. Through Crikey I’ve discovered a number of blogs where Australia’s “intellectual types” hang out and discuss why the country is going down hill. Left-wing secular humanists (and I think the left wing is tautological at that point) are the most annoying breed of snobs I’ve ever come across. I wish they would die. Or at least stop trying to inflict the rest of the world with their skewed view of logic and reason. Rudd has been simultaneously hailed as an intellectual hero while being shouted down as a man who dares to suggest religion should have some bearing on politics. They can’t have their cake and eat it too.

Rudd is an interesting character. It’s two working weeks since he took the reigns of the Labor party. The opinion polls spiked – as they always do with a new leader (in an interesting aside – it seems a political takeover sends value up, while a when a company takeover occurs the buyer’s share price often drops…), but most political scholars (with bias towards the government) suggest this will stabilise and Rudd will need to do more to actually win the election. The battlegrounds for the next election are in the process of being drawn – Labor will use IR and the environment as their trumps while the government will stick to the flashpoint issues of defining “Australian” and promoting their economic strength. Fortunately for Labor Rudd is a very smart man. Just like Kim Beazley. Unfortunately for Labor, early indications are that Rudd’s intelligence rubs the electorate the wrong way. Rudd has used his first fortnight in the job to position the party philosophically without revealing any major political differences to the previous leadership.

The key to success in Australian politics is engaging the fairly large, educated, middle class with political philosophy that they don’t necessarily care about. Labor needs to pick “wedge” issues that will polarise the populace giving them a majority chunk of voters. The Howard Government has perfected this method. IR and the environment have the potential to do this – but the Howard Government’s issues may be the biggest ace in the pack. Immigration, Australian history, racism and tolerance – they’re all big, divisive issues. To have any chance of winning the next election, and for Rudd to keep his head (in a less literal way than the French royals), Labor and the left needs to realise that a lot of their political postulating isn’t hitting home with the electorate at all. They’re stuck in a philosophical battle while the Liberals are scoring points by applying things where it matters most to the modern Aussie – their sense of “self” and their wallets.

Long time no blog…

I apologise for my lack of blogging lately. I would suggest attributing it to a complete lack of blogworthy content. Any other suspicions would no doubt be completely unfounded.

I was a Hair’s breadth away from posting some form of comment on the Pakistan cricket fiasco… but then decided not to. If Darrell Hair really does believe ball tampering was going on then good on him for taking a stand. Lucky Dean Jones wasn’t commentating at the time the Pakistani decision not to return to the field was clearly an act of sporting terrorism.

There’s a state election happening in Queensland soon. It must be the least exciting election ever. When you have to choose between an incumbent idiot and two challenging idiots who do you choose? Actually, Springborg strikes me as a really genuine kind of guy, it’s a shame he genuinely has no policy solutions for the health and water crises… neither of which are of his making. It seems unfair that he should have to clean up Beattie’s mess, and be punished for not knowing where to begin. That would be like me having to tidy my housemate’s room – or vice versa.

There were also some interesting word things that I thought I might blog about – but you can look up anally retentive on wikipedia for yourselves.

I went to Magnetic Island again yesterday with a journo from the SMH. It’s the first time I’ve hosted a journalist there in sunshine. We conducted site (and sight (i’ll never tire of that pun)) inspections of some very nice new developments over there that I’d buy if I had the money.

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