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

the conservative noise machine cranks up « Previous | |Next »
September 8, 2010

My my. The bitterness, anger and resentment in the conservative side of politics this morning over the formation of a minority Labor government supported by two regional Independents is something to behold. Is this a sign of what is to come?

The wing nuts are on the rampage in the comment threads of the mainstream press with their partisan rancour about traitors. The conservative noise machine is being cranked up. The smell of blood is in their nostrils and you can hear the sound of their gnashing teeth as they hunt down their limping prey.

Greg Craven, writing in the National Times, says that the result is a mess:

Whichever way you look at it, this is a first-class parliamentary mess... This is no triumph of participatory democracy for Australia. This is a Parliament that looks like an upturned jigsaw puzzle...The fundamental question is, how long can it all last?...with a double and diverse minority in the Senate and the House, this is an exceptionally vulnerable government. Its mid to long-term prospects are not strong...Is government really worth having at this price and in these circumstances?

The partisan op-ed commentators are hostile. For some it is wrong that a third of the infrastructure funding should go to regional Australia.

Others are in a more toxic mood. Consider Janet Albrechtson in Games powerful independents play in todays Australian

Politics does not get more elitist than what happened yesterday. The independents use fine rhetoric of grassroots politics, respecting their constituents, supporting their electorates, improving our democracy.Windsor and Oakeshott revealed that independents play raw politics just as toxic as either of the political parties that independents like to scorn. Their game has been one of self-interest clothed in the tricky language of stability and longevity. Backing the party less popular with voters does not improve democracy. It diminishes and devalues democracy.

Windsor and Oakeshott used their power to get a better deal for regional Australia. Their argument was that regional Australia's concerns had been sidelined over the last decade and that this was inequitable. Such a strategy, they have said, works better for regional Australia than that pursued by the Nationals, which is aligning with the Liberals and having the concerns of regional Australia ignored.

Albrechtson is not interested in engaging with such an argument. What matters is undermining the legitimacy of the Independents. She continues:

Their holier than thou positioning is a pretence. Oakeshott and Windsor have been playing some pranks of their own.There was always a sneaking suspicion that Windsor and Oakeshott were enjoying their moment in the sun far too much.The transformation from irrelevant backbenchers to media tarts playing kingmakers was too quick. Now we know that their singular focus on stability has been a singular focus on making sure they remain in the spotlight for as long as possible.

Yep, they remain with the balance of power for as long as they can to ensure the inequity issue for regional Australia is addressed as much as possible. They've probably got three years max before majority government returns.

For Albrechtson the credibility of the Independents must be destroyed. Hence the talking point that what they are doing that they doing has a great deal to do with self-interest and very little to do with national interest. For Albrechtson the last election was a sham. It was undemocratic.

The conservative strategy is to bring on the next election as soon as possible by whatever means. Attack, attack, attack. Destroy, destroy, destroy. The national broadband network has already been marked (huge cost blowouts; a minefield of waste and incompetence) as this was 'the broadband election'. The NBN was a result of market failure and it addresses the issue of poor net access in rural areas, because it is uneconomical.

The talking point of the Abbott-led Coalition campaign against Gillard Labor is already clear: Gillard's minority government is without legitimacy. Labor faces an antagonistic media that will take delight in both jabbing Labor's wounds and supporting an aggressive Coalition who will have fun pulling out the stitches in Labor's wounds.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:34 AM | | Comments (15)


I guess we are going to hear a lot more about "the nation being held hostage by a couple of power-hungry independents" from the partisan Murdoch Press. It is partisan because they would not have run this line of the two Independents had supported the Coalition.

Can you imagine the volume of the noise machine if the independent MPs had all been black, and negotiated for a better deal for Aboriginals?

Paul Kelly continues the Australian's attack in his Recipe for uncertain government. The Gillard Government is a weak and uncertain government. Why so? Because the political logic of this result will undermine pro-market reform and promote government intervention and special fixes.

What is more the Independents stability argument-- a three-year parliament--carries little weight:

in this situation there is nothing special, ethical or superior about a three-year parliament. What, pray, is wrong about another election at some stage? Why shouldn't the people get the chance to decide the issue that the independents arrogantly assume is their right to decide for the next three years? How ineffective does the parliament have to become before the people get the right to elect a new parliament?

The stability argument Kelly continues:
smacks of the independents putting their own interests first... Understand what happened yesterday. The independents decided to back Labor and to avoid letting the people revisit this contest for another three years.

It's just another way of saying bring on the election.

re your comment "if the independent MPs had all been black, and negotiated for a better deal for Aboriginals?"

I hope I live to see the day.

Michael Gordon in The National Times makes two good points in his commentary. First, the balance of power election:

result has delivered a road map to a more open Parliament, a less dominant executive and a framework to tackle climate change, tax reform and the divide between city and country Australia.

That is good news. It's a good result, even if the Coalition believes to its core that it has the greater claim to legitimacy.The second point Gordon makes is that:
Windsor and Oakeshott have delivered more for regional Australia - in health, education and infrastructure - than some National Party MPs contributed in the entire life of the Howard government. That must rankle.

The National Party will be in meltdown. They will yell and yell that black is white--eg., their broadband is better than Labors. Or that $10 billion regional development fund (health education etc) is not good for regional Australia.

the level of support for Oakeshott and Windsor in their electorates suggests that thinking and politically astute rural voters are of the opinion that the Nationals automatic support of one party (Liberal) is not getting results like the old Country party did.

Today the rural politicians need to be non-aligned in order to achieve the best outcomes for rural people, rather than the Nationals looking like they are the compliant rural rump of the Liberal Party.

What the Independents have achieved is genuine improvements for regional communities based on good policy understandings and priorities (eg., broadband, health, education) as opposed to the old-fashioned porkbarrelling approach of the Nationals.

Michael Gordon's point about the decision of the Independents to support Labor delivering a framework to tackle climate change is a good one.

The framework refers to the "climate committee”, a condition laid down by Greens climate change and energy spokesman Christine Milne. The broad agreement between the Greens and Labor provides only that they will decide on the mechanism by the end of September.

The "climate committee”, will now focus on the policy rather than the naked politics that blighted and hopelessly compromised Labor's CPRS.

There's been a few times over the last couple of weeks, when Gillard and some of the independents have directly had a go at News Ltd journos, who've posed questions that come with a set of aggressive assumptions and premises. I'm not a big fan of Katter's policies, but seeing him treat some of these questions with an indignant anger has been a treat. I can't get over how smug and aggressive the canberra media pack are.

Is part of the commentariat's anger at the result, the fact that they can't just mouth horse-one's rhetoric at horse-two and vice versa? Not to mention the horse-neigh machine at News Ltd, that gets regurgitated throughout the ABC. Having six or seven horses to report and analyse will require different forms of comment and journalism. Hopefully!! Or we could see a reprise of the last days of the Whitlam government when the media went into scandal overdrive.

I think it is about time we stopped using the work conservative--nobody really knows what it means.

And just use the term right-wing as indicated and described in the USA book The Republican Noise Machine.

Many so called conservatives both here and in the USA think that Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are the last and best hope for the future of the USA.

There is an essay in Policy Review, an editorial piece in the current IPA Review that argues just that, and an essay in the new Quadrant too.

I see your point. It will be interesting to see how that theory transfers to the Qld LNP and how things go if they pip Labor out of office which is predicted (as predictions are)

I am interested to see how the new Green power pans out in the bush. If the numbers are that 20% of people overall voted for the Greens that means that 80% didn't. So if the percentage that voted Greens is higher in the city than the country (I am assuming that) then we have an extremely large percentage of country people that may be quite unhappy with lots of things after mid next year when the Greens start to become a major player.

That is when the shit will really hit the fan in the bush is my belief. Perhaps people will go back to the Nationals then.

I'm puzzled too by the commentariat's anger at the result. I watched the Oakeshott speech on ABC News 24 and sensed the Canberra Media Gallery's hostility in the room. It was more than impatience--give us the result dam you---and more of a general hostility directed at Oakeshott. They were antagonistic to what he was doing.

Why? I'm not sure. It's a puzzle. Ben Eltham in his Labor lost the war, but won the peaceat The Drum says:

he way in which Oakeshott explained his decision has been much criticised today, which shows you the narrowness and immaturity of our political media. Throughout the interregnum, many in the Canberra press gallery appear to have struggled with the new reality of careful deliberation and consensual decision making. Here was an elected representative of the Parliament carefully explaining the reasoning behind the most important decision of his political life - and journalists sneered at him as they impatiently waited to find out the all-important result. Nothing could better illustrate the impatient fury with which the media greets thoughtful political reasoning, and the barriers the media puts in front of a richer political debate.

He's probably right--the clash of the policy culture v the horse race media culture.

agreed about the use of conservative --Right wing noise machine is better.

I cannot find the IPA Review article your refer to online. Is it Tony Barry's The post-hope Prime Minister? Where is the Quadrant one? I cannot find the article in CIS's Policy magazine either.

Are they in the latest issues?

A hack job against Rob Oakeshott in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Imagine how western Sydney residents are feeling today - an area of the country growing rapidly in population and desperately needing infrastructure such as basic public transport to cope. Yet the bigger more pressing issue for the new federal government will be ensuring a far smaller population gets 24k gold-plated fibre optic cable for high speed broadband.The fact those in the country will be able to have better internet services is sure to console commuters who have to drive 90 minutes each way to work while paying about $80 in tolls a week for the privilege.

No consideration that high speed broadband can mean that you can work in the region and not have to commute to Sydney.

Janet forgets that there were 3 indi's. Why was BobKat left out of her vitriol? Oh yeah, he made the "right" choice. This girl is the Glen Beck of Aussie journo's.

a Liberal Party hack job from Glenn Milne on the ABC's The Drum. A Labor minority Government with support from the Greens and Independents is not democratic. Gillard is a creature of deal making and unholy alliances? It's a subversion of democracy.

Therefore, a Gillard Government is not legitimate.

The only constitutional test is whether Gillard has then numbers on the floor of Parliament when tested. A minority of one is enough to pass the test. If no-one wins a majority of seats then whoever can form a coalition governs. Abbott couldn't form one when he tried. Gillard could. Game over. She has the numbers.