Tag Archives: John Howard

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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.

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.

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Everybody’s changing

Sometimes there’s a real synergy between a number of different topics that fits nicely under the one blog heading. In a brief synopsis today’s blog will feature a mention of my trip to Brisbane, the Labor Leadership change, the Ashes, and whatever else occurs to me in the course of penning – or typing – this entry. Oh, and I recently became the proud owner of Liberia.

I’ll start with the known knowns – and move towards the known unknowns, ignoring completely the unknown unknowns.

I spent a few days in Brisbane last week. That was weird. It was a work trip and I was doing all sorts of official things demonstrating my competency and learning lots about tourism in the process. I’ll start the account from the beginning, which is, as we know courtesy of Rodgers and Hammerstein, a very good place to start.

I flew into Brisbane on Wednesday night, having spent most of the plane trip playing “eye spy” with the inquisitive six year old seated across the aisle I was ready to collect my bags and make a mad dash to the front of the taxi queue when suddenly there was a loud bang (well more a muffled whrrrr sound) and the lights went out. The baggage carousel shuddered to a stop and I was stranded waiting for my rather large, brown, antique suitcase to appear. It did. I got a cab. It drove me to my parents house. I disembarked (got out). I had dinner (cold steak). Wrote some of my sermon (which I will be preaching at church up here this Sunday night). And went to bed. I’m now tired of the blow by blow account – no doubt you are too.

Thursday was a day filled with meetings – well there were two – I met with our two PR companies who are largely responsible for sourcing the travel journalists I host in the region – and thus largely responsible for my free steak tally. It pays to be nice to the people who provide you with free steak so I duly told them what a wonderful job they were doing sourcing (and saucing) my free steaks. We established the parameters of our working relationship for the next year (with a steak quota now firmly entrenched in their contractual obligations) and moved on. Thursday was also my pseudo birthday – the day my family arbitrarily sets aside to endow me with gifts. So we celebrated in splendid fashion with noodles, waffles, and friends.

I also used my time in Brisbane to walk past the new State Library and its infamous balls of steel – which I’ll admit to finding mildly aesthetically appealing, while also admiring the skyscrapers which have been added to the CBD’s skyline since I left in March. I didn’t get to check out GoMA but I’ll save that for my next trip south. I did however, manage to visit JB Hifi, where I spent way too much of my hard earned wage purchasing a number of CDs I’ve been unable to locate in Townsville to date. Gotye, Bob Evans, and a few other JJJ favourites including Keane have now taken their rightful place in my CD collection. Keane segues nicely into my next topic – the lyrics from their song “Everybody’s changing” are quite apt when considering the Rudd takeover of the Australian Labor party.

So little time
Try to understand that I’m
Trying to make a move to stay in the game
I try to stay awake and remember my name
But everybody’s changing
And I don’t feel the same


Queensland’s second most famous Dr Death, Kevin Rudd, managed to wrest control of the party from the grasp of Kim Beazley, taking a caucus majority of 49-39 and “uniting” the party room behind his partnership with Julia Gillard. The more things change, the more they stay the same – Rudd’s Labor party will face the same challenges the Beazley party faced. He still needs to convince the public that he’s not too academic for the top job – with criticism of his extensive vocabulary already airing. I like Rudd – and he’s got a solid base of experience and expertise behind him. Solid enough to convince me that he’d be a suitable Prime Minister – I’m just not sure I prefer him to Howard or Costello. They all look like politicians to me.

It strikes me that 10 months out from an election is not an ideal time to be changing leadership – it also strikes me that with Labor polling ahead of the government this change was fairly unnecessary. Although I’m not sure anyone really wants Beazley to be prime minister – it’s more a case of public sentiment turning against Howard following the IR laws. I’m yet to be convinced the IR laws are a bad thing – but equally – I’m yet to be convinced they’re a good thing. There have been a number of issues that just haven’t registered with me as anything more than standard bureucratic incompetence – the AWB scandal, Children overboard – and in fact anything that has gone wrong in the last 10 years – seem to me to be the cost of the democratic process and not a compelling reason for governmental change. My biggest issues are with things like health, education and water – which all seem to be state government babies.

By the time you read this post Australia’s fate in the second Ashes test will be well and truly sealed, I’m predicting a win for the Aussies – and have been a believer all day.

Cole’s Red Spot Specials

Terence is not a name I’d choose for myself or any of my future children. Nor is it a name I’d ascribe to a dog, a cray fish or a cockroach. One must, when one meets a Terence, enquire as to why they chose not to adopt the more acceptable Terry – or even Tezza… but I digress.

Terence Cole was the man responsible for the “Cole Report” the document produced following a $10 million inquiry into the so called “AWB scandal” – the biggest piece of politically charged controversy since the children overboard fiasco. The Australian Wheat Board – or the wheat mafia – is the organisation which represents Australian farmers to ensure they get the best possible price for exported wheat. The AWB decided that the Iraqi wheat market was particularly lucrative due to UN imposed trade sanctions – and sought to secure the Iraq contract by providing “payments” to the Hussein regime. These payments were worth $290 million and were reportedly used to supply Hussein’s soldiers (heretofore referred to as Moustache Petes*) with weapons of individual destruction (ie guns). (Sidenote – if I was going to start selling miracle weightloss pills I would call them weapons of mass destruction). Somebody flipped the lid – blew the whistle – or revealed what was going on and the whole thing created a public furore… well actually it didn’t. It should have. But the whole issue hasn’t really engaged with the public at all. The Australian gradually moved the AWB scandal coverage from the front page to the middle – in a surefire sign that the issue wasn’t moving any more papers. It hasn’t had an adverse affect on the government’s popularity – which should be at record lows according to the media’s protests over changes to industrial relations laws, media ownership and this scandal.

The problem – perhaps epitomised best by the actual report – is that no mud from this situation is sticking on John Howard’s Teflon ministers. Once upon a time ministers were called on to resign at even the whiff of a scandal. Now the government prefers to take to the trenches and sit out the public furore before making any moves. The fact that the memos made their way to Alexander Downer’s department – but were not read by the minister – suggests a gross failure on behalf of the bureaucrats involved. Labor tried laboriously to labour home the point – but failed to score – with John Howard now winning the PR battle by calling for apologies to all the senior ministers who were so spuriously burdened with the weight of the opposition’s aspersions. But really – who cares? Nobody. And we should – on one hand we’re off liberating the Iraqis (a concept I’m not entirely opposed to provided the traditional interpretation of “liberating” is adhered to and not the Bush government’s – which requires the carpet bombing of “liberated” areas to truly ensure the “liberated” state is reached.) – and on the other we’re putting guns in their hands. Surely we could have supplied them with water pistols, or something slightly less deadly. Perhaps water pistols should be standard issue weaponry in all wars – then Pte Kovco’s mother would not have to attack the government for any form of cover up over his death in Iraq.

And finally, I’ll be in Brisbane from tomorrow until Monday – if you’d like to see me please contact my agent to negotiate an exorbitant appearance fee.

* I’ve never mentioned the moustache Petes before – I just wanted to use the word heretofore – I will also hereafter refer to said shady characters as moustache Petes – particularly in this month of “Movember”**
** A stupid concept.

Promises, promises… oh and an apology…

So when is a promise a promise? Some unnamed politicians (who will probably be named later) would suggest only “core” promises are promises. Consider this hypothetical (and by hypothetical, I mean real) dilemma:

In a job interview, in order to impress the interview panel, a potential employee suggests he or she will stick around for a lengthy period of time. The potential employee gets the job. Was that promise a core promise? Who knows.

Then for the sake of argument, say a job with substantially better pay is advertised and the particular employee believes they have a fairly high chance of securing the other job – should they stay or should they go?

Disposable promises are an insipid social malaise. No one wants to be bound by these promises any more. And it’s all because of politicians. Here’s an article posted on one of the Herald’s blogs about another form of apparently disposable promises (the marriage vow).

While I’m on the subject of politicians and what they say – I’m betting that following the Prime Minister’s apology on the interest rate rise there’ll be at least one letter to the editor asking why he can apologise for that but not for the treatment of aboriginals.

Well let me give you my insight into apologies. A topic on which I’m an expert. You can’t apologise for something that you didn’t do – you can say I’m sorry for the way you feel about it… that’s every kid’s favourite trick. The government can’t admit responsibility for the actions of previous governments. That would open up all sorts of litigious wormholes.

On the other hand. I’m sorry for all the… and by that I mean for my excessive use of the elipsis…

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You can take the dog out of the fight – but sometimes you need to kick him before he gets the message

Sorry to all the people out there who don’t care about politics – another story in the Sydney Morning Herald has just grabbed my attention. Kim Beazley has guts. There’s no denying it. You can’t – they’re there in plain sight. He’s also got heart. Obviously or he’d be dead. Ok, so he’s courageous. Lion like. He’s willing to go through defeat and bounce back (I imagine literally as well as figuratively). You’d think after losing two elections to a midget with funny eyebrows that big Kim would have got the message. The Australian public are less inclined to have him leading the country than a man who has demonstratably misinformed the public on a major international crisis (Iraq), potentially misinformed the public on the conduct of a national governmental body (AWB) and deliberately misinformed the public on the refugee issue (the children overboard fiasco).

“I want to face John Howard because … when you do things like wreck the industrial relations system, and make people’s lives insecure, you answer for it,” he said of the man who has twice beaten him.

It seems Big Kim hasn’t learned his lesson after all. He’s come out calling for Howard to stay in the top job till the next election (due in a year and a half). There’s no denying that Kim Beazley is an intelligent man. He’s a Rhodes Scholar. He’s articulate, eloquent, erudite and boring. He’s the most boring man ever interviewed on TV. He misses out on golden opportunities to engage with the Howard government on controversial issues. He’s inept. He has the charisma of a piece of cardboard. But he thinks the industrial relations reforms will be enough to sweep John Howard out of office. The fact is, when voters are faced with a choice between an idiot and a moron or a boring man, and a slightly less boring man with a voice, eyebrows and glasses that can be easily lampooned by cartoonists – they’ll choose the incumbent every time.

Unlike selectors for next week’s State of Origin – both Queensland and New South Wales have given their teams from last year a significant overhaul.