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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

goings on in federal parliament « Previous | |Next »
March 1, 2006

Whilst the former chairrman of AWB, Trevor Flugge is telling the Cole Inquiry that he couldn't remember anything at all except that he couldn't remember, I've been watching Question Time in Parliament these last couple of days.

The Government's line that there'd been "no suspicion, no suggestion, no alarm bells" about AWB shonkiness prior to the Volker Report in 2004 looked decidedly shaky with newly declassified diplomatic cables showing that the Government ministers were informed back of the kickbacks around 2000- to April 2001.

The new defence of Ministers Downer and Vaile is that, yes they were aware of the kickbacks before the Volker Report, (rather than only becoming aware of them in April of 2004); but hey, they didn't believe the warnings. That is why they never took seriously the growing pile of evidence (around 24 warnings) that AWB was funding the regime of Saddam Hussein, right up to the outbreak of war in March 2003.

Geoff Pryor

Alas for the ALP, its point of attack is being weakened by its factional brawls. The Government front bench (especially Costello and Abbott) is making hay with them. The Government's continual reference to sleazy deals, bad blood and poisonous atmosphere inside the federal parliamentary ALP makes the ALP the issue. It has placed them on the backfoot.

You can see why trust in the Government continues to decline as the notion of truth is debased by the workings of power. Insulting the ALP and paying the man instead of the issue doesn't address the legitimate questions that are being raised.

What next? The reappearance of the government dirt unit?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:43 PM | | Comments (12)


"What next? The reappearance of the a government dirt unit?" According to Crikey today, yes: "Where's all this come from? Andrews is better known for sanctimony than sh*t sheets. Perhaps we should look at his staff. Perhaps the idea of a government dirt unit wasn't just a figment of Mark Latham's imagination. And perhaps we've just witnessed its return."

Andrews? Do you mean the Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews?

I did see him produce a flow chart of the stacks, slush funds and factions in the Victorian ALP in response to a Dorothy Dixer yesterday in Question Time. It was good theatre.

The flow chart with lines all over the place was part of a pile of documents and it all looked like someone had done a heck of a lot of work. But the flow chart is not on the Minister's website.

The ALP is going to have to tak a lot heat over the Victorian pre-selections. Beazley is not handling it well.

It is because of the wheat scandel no doubt, they are pulling every smelly rabbit out of the hat to get the heat off the government.Labor can attack them ad-nauseam on this issue they just aint getting any traction.Why? Well fore mine they have got the wrong bloke leading the charge.Kevin Rudd in my opinion is an articulate intelligent man,however he comes across as a school boy nerd in shorts.He obviously re-searches his facts and always seems to know his topic.It is his delivery that is letting him down,he sounds like a spruiker at a fish market.(carping).Anyway that's how I see him.In my humble opinion,and I am going to get howled down here.But here goes!There is a perception amongst the rank and file of the A.L.P. that unless there is a huge shake up in the Party and a lot of blood letting,the A.L.P. in its current shape, is going to be in opposition until the next mellenium.I am no political scientist,but it is money in the bank,that some of the high rollers in my beloved party are going to get the chop.Any bets?To give you a a very small example.Some time ago Bob Hawk came out in public trumpeting the huge advantages,and the money that would flow into Australia from letting the worlds nulear waste be dumped in Australia.I think,I may be wrong S.A. was the preferred area.This from a supposed representative of the working class,who last I heared,lives in a 3 million dollar shack on Sydney Harbour.Many of my mates who are rank and file of the Party went into a catatonic coma.And of course now the great champion of the "No child will live in poverty"fame has spoken.Nuclear energy waste is back on the agenda.Because I am a poor man and can't risk getting sued I can't tell you what the average member thinks of our current leaders.Suffice to say think of sex and lots of it,with a sprinkling of snow.So trade deficits,wheat scandals,old people getting raped in old folks homes,tampa,the Iraq War etc,etc,etc,should be enough to get even a Saint the sack,but unless you have people to articulate the bastardry of all of this in a manner that is going to impress.You have had the Richard.


Gee Phil,
you are even tougher on the ALP than I am.

My account is pretty close to that of Mark Lathams in his Latham Diaries--have you read them? He opens the lid on the factional power games from the inside of the inner power circle. He doubts:

"that the Party would embrace a cooperative reform program of grassrroots policies to rebuild social cooperation and mutality. Labor politicians come into Parliament to take control, to pull the levers of public administration. They support a top down process of governance based on the expectation that politicians and political maachines can direct and control social outcomes."

It's a very good book.It highlights the way the Right faction has gained control of the party and how Beazley is beholden to the Right. What we are seeing in Victoria is payback as well as renewal; renewal on the Right's terms.

My judgement is that the ALP Labor has swung to the right under Beazley and that in doing so it has lost its way. The Bill Shortens are really cloned conservatives with union politics.

I think that you underestimate what the ALP has achieved re the AWB kickbacks.

Given the Coalition's control of the Senate and the poorstate of the ALP after 10 years in opposition, it was always going to be painfully slow progress with little chance of finding the smoking gun. The Canberra bureaucracy would make sure of that.

But Labor has established that the Government knew about the kickbacks prior to the publication of the Volker Report. Mark Vaile is huffing and puffing about this but his defence has been brenched---as has that of Alexander Downers.

So the blind eye charge sticks. And you have negligence by the Ministers---thast is waht Downer is fighting to deflect but it is not that convincing.

My judgement is that the Howard Government is lying about that this, but that it is not a big deal outside the hothouse of Canberra --cos the electorate is comfortable with Howard. He and Costello still deliver the economic goods. A decade of prosperity is a strong record.

Gary.I sincerely hope you are right.Time will tell?
Yes Howard has delivered a prosperous economy,but at what cost?.The chickens still have to come home to roost on the deficit and balance of payments.A one or two percentage hike in interest rates could see a lot of the supporters of Howard lose their homes.I am not economist but from what I read we are are on the verge of a possible recession?.If the Chinese take their bat and ball and go home,or as I strongly believe an attack on Taiwan is in the pipe line we are in a world of trouble.When quarry Australia comes to a slow down,and it will?Australia cannot survive on a service industry.The reason I am so sour on the Labor Party is they have forgotten who they are working for.And their method in attacking Howard in my humble opinion is wrong.But hey I listened to the Senate today and heared Faulkner getting into them,the way it should be done.(This man in my opinion is in the wrong house).To remind the Australian people every day of the somnolism of the Howard government.But you are right the people that are currently in control of the Party,are closet conservatives(not exactly your words).I and other lay members can only come to one conclusion they are only there to get on the gravy train.It is my humble opinion that Hawk was the greatest conservative P.M we have ever had.Oh but you say he must be pragmatic.Well pragmatic for who ? certainly not his core base.Wages and living conditions went down under Hawk and this cannot be denied by his most fervant supporters.This is why the Labor Party supporters abandoned them,like they had the plague.Not me of course I will still needle the Party and I will have my say.The classic love hate relationship.


Gary.I must apologise.No I hav't read the Latham Diary's but will get a copy.Contrary to most peoples opinion on this man,I thought he was a breath of fresh air.A man a bit like my good self,shoot your mouth off,and repent at leisure.

My, this is confusing! I leave one comment and when I come back I've left 3 more...'cept it wasn't me. Now that's cleared up, I actually have little disagreement with the discussion. I got Latham Diaries for Christmas. It was sort of an eye-opener while being depressingly predictable. All major parteis participate in minor and major acts of bastardry: Labor tends to do it more in public (or at least get more exposure). The Diaries minuted it all and with the current shenanigans (Crean et al) the party is doomed to opposition for ever and a day. It's elitist I suppose to label the 'silent majority' of voters as uninformed, but you do need a reasonable grasp of events (and cause and effect) to understand that current economic prosperity is far more dependent on the resources boom and easier credit than any major reforms (replacing one type of tax with another). Howard and Costello have mastered the narrative and just keep repeating, and perceptiosn bear their story out. Through this (in a nutshell), Howard has colonised Labor's traditional heartland. But it won't last - when people on short term contracts and mortgaged to the hilt (banks have had to change their lending principles greatly to take account on insecure employment) start losing their jobs and their houses, let's hope that Labor has a credible narrative ready to go.

Aah so there are two Phils--

Phil and Phill? One with a blog and one without? The general consensus on the Howard decade is that a prospersous economy is doing the trick for him, and that Labor will only get a look in when things go economically sour.

An interesting and different view is put forward by John Carroll in The Age. He says

John Howard has two major achievements to his credit.

Economic management is not one of them. There is no dispute that the Howard Government has managed the economy successfully, and that this has been the primary reason for its electoral success. However, it has done little more than continue the policies introduced in the Hawke-Keating years... Moreover, I doubt that Howard's own most radical innovation - the GST - has made a significant difference, either plus or minus, to economic prosperity. At best, future federal governments may benefit from it, when they bump up the tax rate.
He turns to the politics to list the achievements:

The achievements are in the second half of the Howard decade. The turning point in the prime ministership was September 11, 2001. Machiavelli drew on the classical Roman view to assert that political success depends on a fusion of virtu - the character strength and virtue of the leader - and fortuna - good fortune.John Howard has had an extraordinary and sustained run of good fortune. For one, he happened to be in Washington on September 11, when the third plane ploughed into the Pentagon. From that day in 2001, he developed into a statesman who has very significantly changed Australia's geopolitical orientation. This is a major and lasting accomplishment.

The second achievement
..has been to develop a vision for Australia. He has articulated a realistic picture of the nation, and restored some balance to the people's perception of themselves. This has occurred almost unobtrusively, as if expressing self-evident truths, drawing upon his much-remarked personal affinity with the mainstream sensibility.

A conservative vision for conservative times?

Yikes. Talk about selective interpretation (Carroll that is). "Some have greatness thrust upon them" etc. In my view - and of course I'll be harsh on this - a statesman would have put the case for war to the country. Blair did. Howard didn't - it was another backroom decision, not made by the elected Parliament, and he lied that the decision had been made. He might have appeared more statesmanlike after the event (but only to some eyes, naturally). Carroll's second point relates to the 'culture wars' and is posited on a view that the Keating period was obsessed with symbols and imagery and the 'genuine' (for which read Lawson, the bush, Anazac, unlocked front doors and no shrill 'elites') Australia was disparaged. As ever there is a grain on truth in this, but we are coming at the issue from opposing persepctives because I would simply argue that the restoration of 'balance' is in fact the unshackling of racism/jingoism based on fear of those who are different.

Phil with a blog,

I thought that you might like it. So try this from John Roskam, the executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs:

Over his entire career, Howard has been consistent in his commitment to some key ideological touchstones. One of those is a belief in a limited role for government in the economy. "Economic rationalist" is an easy term to apply to the Prime Minister, but it fails to capture the full dimension of his contribution to national politics.
I thought that Howard was a big, centralizing government conservative myselfl not a libertarian.
Roskam continues to make his case:
At a more profound level, Howard has made respectable the everyday and ordinary desires of individuals and families. He has translated those desires into policies that acknowledge the limits of what politicians can do and should do. Exaggerated promises and grandiose visions are often unachievable and detract from the practical and mundane work of government.

Howard's vision for the nation isn't pretentious..[it involves] the belief that it is for individuals and families themselves, not government, to decide how they should live.
So what was all that recent federal legislation about marriage, the one that only recognized between a man and women?

Do these IPA guys know what is happening? Or are they confused about the differences between conservatism and libertarianism?


I have no brief for IPA (no surprises there) but at least they're a damn sight more consistent in their views than the PM on economics. Private good, public bad. Absolute minimum public - secure the borders and property rights (probably not in that order!!). I didn't read the Roskam article (guessing I knew what it would contain) but you're right, that comment about the limits of government etc is just wish-fulfilment on IPA's part, and doesn't relate to the coalition's traditional obsession with what people do with their naughty bits. As ever with the IPA, it's relationship management with big biz.