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

Canberra watch: political housekeeping « Previous | |Next »
July 9, 2010

I've noticed that Julie Gillard, our new fang dangle PM, has been doing a bit of policy housekeeping in Canberra this last week or so --cleaning up the "dirty" issues that have been hurting federal Labor in the electorate, such as the mining tax and asylum seekers. The leaks say that the global warming issue will be cleaned up too--pushed under the carpet?

Get these slow burns off the agenda and the ALP sails home to a famous victory. Clever politics says the Canberra Press Gallery. The ALP was justified in removing a badly performing Rudd.


The trajectory of this kind of housekeeping is a marked shift to the Right: appease the multinational miners on the resources tax; appease the angry right wing populists on asylum seekers; and doing a bit of green wash on climate change (its real folks) to keep the ALP looking credible--- ie., not looking as if its been well and truely captured by the coal industry.

Clever tactics says the Canberra Gallery. This pushes the Coalition further to the right (so that Abbott looks extreme) and allows the ALP to stand firmly in the middle ground. This political strategy will ensure that the Gillard Government is elected.

That middle ground looks to be well inside the right of centre territory to me. The clearest indication of that is the reaffirmation that the mandatory internet filter to protect families will remain. What is rejected is education, policing of illegal material and targeted research on the internet and young people.This indicates politics not policy, a politics designed for those Christian populists who feel besieged by rapid change, and who talk about the threats to moral purity and the need to protect the family from “worldly dangers.”

They have, as Gillard put it, a set of concerns about the dark side of the new technology. The images of child abuse, child pornography are everywhere on the internet. This is not clever politics---it indicates that social conservatism is the heart of the ALP. That is what "western Sydney " as Labor heartland means.

For the Canberra Press Gallery, many of whom see themselves and each other as "players" in the "game" we now call politics, what matters is not the policy substance; rather it is the 24-hour contest between our political leaders to win the media on the day. John Hewson describes the politics this way in his Fourth Estate corrupting the political system at the ABC's The Drum:

This is a game where "winning" is everything, and where, increasingly, policy substance, values, ideas and ideologies don't matter. Where personalities, and "colour" and "movement" dominate, and where ability to "sell" or "spin", rather than merit or substance, are more valued and determinate.

What we have with this 24-hour politics of glitz and spin Hewson adds, are two candidates, devoid of real policy substance, claiming to "lead" us on significant moral issues, such as asylum seekers and climate change.

This leadership stuff is spin. We can decode that easily during an election. Only, now we know that once Gillard Labor regains power, they will not pick up the reform baton in in any substantive way, thanks to the heavy hand of the NSW Right. Federal Labor will spend most of its energy putting the brakes on the reform's required to adapt Australia to a rapidly changing world and improve the well being of the Australian population.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:09 AM | | Comments (27)


Hewson makes an good point in Fourth Estate corrupting the political system at the The Drum about the media:

By way of background, I recall when I became leader of the opposition that I visited most of the major newspaper editors to introduce myself and to outline policy intentions. I most vividly remember an early meeting with Paul Kelly, then editor of The Australian. Kelly stated quite emphatically that The Oz had a specific policy agenda, and if I said the right things, consistent with that agenda, I would "get a run". If I erred, I could expect to get a drubbing.

Hewson reckons that today, The Australian seems to have moved away from any specific policy agenda.

I disagree. The Australian has a specific policy agenda over and above just being anti-Labor.--eg., it is anti-climate change; pro war; free markets rule etc.

There's something a little bizarre about the whole political situation at the moment. Neither party seems inclined to propose anything of substance. Gillard is busy reassuring everyone that Labor doesn't have any new ideas about anything and Abbott isn't saying anything much at all.

The global economy is in a very precarious situation, yet neither party has anything much to propose in the way of economic measures to prepare for the worst. Climate change has been taken off the agenda except for cosmetic tomfoolery. Nobody wants to talk about issues of substance because they are incapable of making a sustained case for a coherent policy. Hewson is right.

we can expects lots of photos shots of Gillard for the women's magazines

According to the NSW Right Gillard stands for better messaging. It wasn't the Labor message that was the problem but its messenger, Rudd.The message comes from polling and focus group testing. What is most important is the packaging.

That is Arthur Sinodinos' argument in his op ed in The Australian today. I agree with him on this.

It's been too long since we had a national leader with the courage to lead.

It really is a choice between two people again. Ho hum same as before how boring. Labor has done nothing to justify being re-elected have they? But they do have a new cardboard cut out and the policies are just boxes of ceareal with a toy inside that breaks after the 2nd day. Yes, and the other side is just as froot loopish. Thats it you dumb Aussies line up to vote for your new illustrious leader.
Lets have the election on Xmas day......Bar humbug

I know how you feel, Les.

In recent months the only thing that the Labor government had going for it was that it did NOT have John Howard at the helm.

But it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference.

such cynicism lads. Where's your optimism? It's only an election campaign you are expereiencing. They are always depressing.


Think they will be avoiding bumper sticker slogans like Kevin 07 this time. Will be vote for fairness or something like that. The unemployment rate has had good figures so that maybe the cornerstone of their campaign. Dig more dirt and mention workchoices over and over again.

Gillard should of been able to catch that egg in a frypan and fry it up for lunch. I thought it was quite wasteful of her.

"....Where's your optimism? It's only an election campaign..."

Sure... the ends justifies the means, right?

It's not yet an official campaign and already it's become an auction to the right. The same thing happened (to a lesser extent with Kev). The aim is to ignore ideals and fairness in the hope of scooping up a few votes from Howard's battlers.

Just to stay in office and do.... what exactly? Keep taking the low road for 3 years??? Lesser of two evils, and all that.

Already it's "facts overboard" to pander to a handful of frightened banjo players. Already defenceless scapegoats have been targeted. Already distortions and myths have been reinforced.

I don't give a shit if it's just campaign trail rhetoric. Once it becomes policy, it becomes a REAL issue in the public mind. Asylum seekers arriving by boat are not a REAL issue, they're a political football.

Oh... and the biggest threat to my family, and our way of life, does NOT come from a few scruffy, starving people on leaky boats!

The biggest danger to our future comes from clean-shaven, educated guys in expensive suits... sitting in air-conditioned offices in New York, Canberra, London, Washington DC and Sydney. These are the people who can/will screw me into the ground without a second thought. These are the people with the power and influence to hurt my family.

But they're mostly English-speaking and "christian" so I have nothing to fear, right?

Damn! I really wish I could get this foolishness out of my mind and concentrate on the important things... like MasterChef, Kylie's new album and the State of Origin victory. Then I'd be in a happy place. Well... I'd be happy until the next boatload of bloody refugees drifted into our waters...!

BTW. Once Julia sorts out this boat-people invasion mess, do you think she'll get cracking on the whole IMMIGRATION problem??? These days, I'm seeing far to many strange, suspicious dark people around town. I fear they're after my kid's job and our womenfolk!

Our home is girt by sea for a damn good reason! Advance Australia fair, mate! The fairer the better.

Peter Hartcher's op ed on Gillard in The Age is good on deflating the surging hope of the centre-left vote. He says:

Gillard is, on the whole, more conservative than Rudd. Where he had started to edge his way to the right on climate change and asylum seekers, she has raced there. Why? First, because it's authentically her. She has been consistent on these issues for years. She is only a member of the Left in name. Second, because it is her support base. She entered Parliament with the support of the Right faction, defeating for preselection a candidate backed by the Socialist Left. And the coup that delivered her the prime ministership was also mobilised by the Right. Why do you think that the Left - outside Victoria - was the last bastion of support for Rudd?

Hartcher adds that abor treats its left-leaning voters with contempt. It assumes that even if they leave Labor for the Greens or "others", their votes will always flow back to Labor through preferences. Rudd, and now Gillard, assumes the progressive vote is captive.

The voters Labor worries about are the ones on the right end of the spectrum, the ones most likely to desert Labor and go Liberal. That's why it caters with slavish devotion to the proclivities and prejudices of the people Rudd deified as "working families", previously known as "Howard battlers".

Lenore Taylor in Half-baked pies going cheap in The Age says:

Labor will build a refugee processing centre but it can't be sure where; Abbott will turn back the boats, but he doesn't know where to, or what he'll do if they are no longer fit to sail. Both parties say they agree on targets to reduce our greenhouse emissions, but neither has a policy to efficiently get us there.

Her article is about Labor's proposed plans to address climate change---it will concentrate on getting businesses and households to use power more efficiently. She warns us not to expect too much from a Gillard Government .

Judging from what Lenore Taylor says on the way that Labor proposes to address climate change in her Half-baked pies going cheap she is on the drip feed.

Labor's idea was to delay the emissions trading scheme more or less indefinitely and desperately cast around for something else to say.That something else is to reduce demand for electricity but not to change the way we generate our electricity supply.

Marvellous getting in print. But Hartcher's article isn't exactly news, is it?

But here's a question... how far is Labor (and the coalition for that matter) willing to go? How far will they sink to salvage a few votes from battlers/working families and aspirationals/struggletown?

Given an effective beat-up by the media, who knows what this influential groups of voters will demand next. A nuclear-armed Australia, reversal of native title, the death sentence?

Never mind that most Labor voters would probably oppose these ieas, what would the Labor number-crunchers consider a worthwhile trade for the "right" vote?

We are so screwed.

But... more importantly... why don't the do-gooders stop harassing Richmond star, Ben Cousins. He didn't do anything wrong. He's a scapegoat.

Re the comment:

Labor's idea was to delay the emissions trading scheme more or less indefinitely and desperately cast around for something else to say.That something else is to reduce demand for electricity but not to change the way we generate our electricity supply.

So Labor does not think that switching to green electricity by 2050 would have economic advantages, especially for the vital export-oriented manufacturing industry? Or that it would also create tens of thousands of jobs?

I notice that Lenore Taylor says nothing about making greater and better use of photovoltaics. It sounds like we stick with coal (its lovely) and ask people (the greeny inner city professionals) to turn their air conditioners off when it is over 40 degrees. I'm sure there will be pledges to consult (with who?) and lots of rhetoric about seeking consensus (amongst whom?)

There's one tiny problem, Annon...

It doesn't really matter what any political party thinks would be advantageous for Australia, what you be the sensible thing to do or what would be the moral decision to make. What matters is what a handful of disengaged swinging electorates believe will benefit them in the short-term.

The pros and cons of a particular subject is beside the point. The benefits or disadvantages of a particular policy probably won't be seen for years to come. What matters is what those people think TODAY. What matters is getting (and keeping) their vote NOW. Government policy hangs around that priority. The only time the nation, as a whole, will benefit from a government policy is when it (by chance) coincides with what the swinging voters want to see.

Don't expect any sort of leadership from our leaders... it's much too risky!

I rememeber way back when the boat people first came. Those Vienamese ones. Everybody hated them and they were going to wreck everything with their slitty eyes. Guess what! They didn't. What they did do was work hard, bought houses, had kids and became in the main good little citizens. How they did it was easy. They came here for a fresh start and didnt bring their troubles with them. If the new ones can do that they will be accepted here in time too whether they come in a boat or a plane.

re your comment "If the new ones can do that they will be accepted here in time too whether they come in a boat or a plane."

Its happening in regional Australia

Looking at how Gillard's "get tough" policy has been pitches, I'd say that regional Australia wasn't really the source of all the blind panic and angst.

The finger for the refugees debate becoming an unedifying spectacle, is the dog whistling by Abbott's opposition. They are using misleading rhetoric about an "armada" and "tsumani" and "invasion" of boats arriving that threaten our safety and security (we are never told how). What is implied is that the boats are full of nonwhite nonChristian people, therefore.... (fill in your fears and anxieties and don't worry about political correctness).

The actual situation is that even with the increase of arrivals the numbers are very low.

The blind panic and angst is within Labor at what is happening to its base in western Sydney. Abbott has succeeded in stirring them up and they are drifting away to the right.

Re your comment:

It doesn't really matter what any political party thinks would be advantageous for Australia, what you be the sensible thing to do or what would be the moral decision to make. What matters is what a handful of disengaged swinging electorates believe will benefit them in the short-term.

The Gillard Government is trying to reclaim support from voters lost to the Greens when Rudd + Gillard ditched the ETS.

Let's not forget about business. They are warning Gillard to go slow on climate change.

yep business--Big miners and coal fired power stations--- have no time for policies that address climate change.

They say no to both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax; they'd reject a low carbon fuel standard, because it would increase gas diesel costs. They are opposed to renewable electricity standards/targets because that would cause electricity rates to rise. And green building standards that would add to the cost of a home and offices.

Why? Because fossil fuels are core business for the mining industry.Hence their opposition to clean energy. They will fight all reforms that will to shift the country to a clean energy economy so as to protect their special interests.

"...Because fossil fuels are core business for the mining industry.Hence their opposition to clean energy..."

And why do so many voters go along with this unsustainable foolishness. Because, in their eyes the mining companies have become TOO BIG TO FAIL. They are the massive engine which drives our lifestyle. For many (most) Australians to inhibit the miners is to strangle the golden goose.

Once again, it's the self-serving, short-term thinking that gets the prize.

The "better angels of our nature" don't stand a chance!

The reality is that the policies of the government and the opposition over asylum seeker boat arrivals have converged.

At the core of the policies of both parties is the creation of an offshore processing centre. We have a repackaged or rebadged Pacific Solution, where Australia's responsibilities are deflected onto our more vulnerable neighbours, for domestic political benefit.