31 August, 2013

Rock and Roll is dead

I've always been slightly bemused by the way every rebellious, revolutionary generation whose parents just don't get it, looks at subsequent generations and says their fashion, music and culture is all rubbish.  Just accept that whatever you listened to between the ages of 13 and 30 is always going to feel more important to you than anything else, regardless of artistic merit. I am as guilty as anyone else. I find a lot of modern music offensive, purely on a creative level, but since I'm on the wrong side of 40 now, I'm sure that's the point. 

So when your favourite bands - formerly edgy and dangerous bands like the Rolling Stones, The Ramones and Guns 'n' Roses - are the new feature of a Fathers Day sale at one of the more downmarket chains of affordable apparel and cheap undies, it's time to admit you're just not cool any more.

Any boost to Best & Less's street cred by having a range of rock shirts is surely outweighed by the blow to the street cred of the bands by being sold at Best & Less.

Hope I die before I get old.

28 August, 2013

I invite you, if you can stomach it, to listen to, or read, the speech of the deputy opposition leader and shadow minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop MP at the LNP's campaign launch in Brisbane last Sunday:

In a Abbott government, this wannabe comedian would be our head diplomat.

Vote for whoever you want.

24 August, 2013

Tony Abbott has gone mad

Tony Abbott has gone completely MAD!!!

Now he's offering cash for boats!*

Fishing boats, passenger boats, a leaky old tinnie - Tony's buying the lot!

It doesn't matter if you're an honest fisherman or a callous people smuggler. If you've got something that will float, Tony Abbott offering you cold, hard, Aussie cash!**

If that's not the craziest thing you've ever heard, then Tony guarantees it's all Julia Gillard's fault.

*No, Really!
** Offer only available in Indonesia.

Once again, unless you're from Victoria and of a certain age, you might need this to get the reference:

22 August, 2013

If Abbott had kept going...

Matthew da Silva wrote a great observation on Tony Abbott’s ‘shut up’ moment last night, that it was basically Abbott reverting to type.  I agree completely.  Anyone who has ever been to high school has come across the kind of meathead with more ambition than talent, who likes to suck up to the crowd with bullying.  And anyone who has ever been to school can probably imaging what would have come next if Abbott hadn’t quickly remembered that he’s trying to keep himself nice – or at least keep plausible deniability for his boorishness.

Probably something like this…

Does this guy ever shut up?
I mean c’mon, does he ever bloody shut up! On and on and on!
“Oh look at me! I’m Kevin Rudd. I wear glasses, that means I’m smart. I go on about programmated special whatsits.”

I mean, what you’ve gotta remember about old Ruddy here is… He was beaten by a girl!
No shit! He was dead set beaten by a girl!  And not just any girl. He was beaten by a redhead! How pathetic can you be?
Kev got beat by a giii-irrrrl!
Kev got beat by a giii-irrrrl!
Kev got beat by a giii-irrrrl!

Oh no, I’m sorry Kev. I didn’t mean it. I don’t wanna make you cry again.

But you’ve got to admit it’s pretty pissweak that it took you three years to get her back. And now that you’ve finally got her back for beating you, now you’re getting your arse kicked by a bunch of darkies in boats. I mean, who cares if they drown or if they’re getting shot at. It’s not our problem, is it?

Kev’s big idea now if that we ought to allow queers to marry each other. Who cares? Why’s Kev so friendly with poofters now?  Makes ya wonder, doesn’t it? You a poofter, Kev? I reckon Kev might be a poofter.

He keeps whingeing about policy detail. What a dropkick! We’re not all as boring as you, Kev! Some of us have lives. Some of us know how to have fun. You want costings? Okay mate, you know what? I’ve got your costings RIGHT HERE [grabs crotch].

Oops. I probably shouldn’t do that around Kev. He might think I’m a bit of alright. I’d better keep my back to the wall in case he wants to give me one up the arse.

Australians want a real man for prime minister. Just get a load of this [lifts shirt]. Pure Aussie muscle, that! I got that ’cos I was out surfing and doing triathlons while Kev was practicing how to talk ching-chong. I’ve driven fire trucks. I bet Kev hasn’t even driven a Tonka truck! [pauses to laugh at his great wit]

You’ve got a clear choice at this election. You can have boring old mister nerdy four-eyes brainiac  here, or you can have someone who looks like a real Aussie, acts like a real Aussie and talks like a real Aussie.
Now I’ll see you all in the bar where it’s my shout.
Bye, Kev! Say hi to your boyfriend for me!

Remember that a “gaffe” is usually when you forget to not say what you really think.

How to succeed in business, media and politics* without really trying

(*assuming there is still any difference)

There’s an old saying, attributed to several different sources but that’s not really the point, that the secret to success is sincerity, and once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

This no longer applies.  Observable evidence suggests that nobody really cares about sincerity any more.

Between Rupert Murdoch behaving like he’s the little guy fighting the toffs,
Andrew Bolt, whose ’blog hosts some of the most hateful comments this side of 4chan, and whose own posts are sometimes only slightly less ugly, dismissing Twitter as a “sewer of hate,” (Warning: links to Bolt’s ’blog) 
and Tony Abbott.  Where to even begin with Tony Abbott? 

He has claimed that turning the needy away is in line with Christian teachings. He and his front bench are complaining that Labor is not giving details on its policies despite not released any details of his own policies and insisting that all will be revealed “in good time,” with just over two weeks to go until the election. Then there was last night’s second leaders debate with the venue, host, broadcaster and format of Abbott’s choice. In this forum, after spending three years chanting mantras about boats, carbon tax and demanding an election, Abbott fell back on a pathetic, frat boy tactic of pointing to Rudd and asking, “Does this guy ever shut up?”

Tony Abbott gets his statesman on

Forget faking sincerity. The secret to success is, whether by accident or design, to be completely and utterly oblivious to your own rank hypocrisy.

Anyone who hasn't spent their whole life in a bubble will tell you that the first refuge of a bully is to accuse your target of your own worst behaviour. We should be beyond  being shocked at Tony Abbott's unmitigated gall, but his accusation that it was Julia Gillard of turning political discourse into "crude political head-banging" has got to break some kind of record

Any real man who would say THIS after standing in front of THIS should die of shame.

Vote for whoever you want.

16 August, 2013

Absolute power

After three years of saying ‘Let the people decide,’ (ignoring the fact that the people did decide in 2010 only it was a decision that he didn’t like) Tony Abbott seems to have amended his position to ‘Let the people decide, so long as it’s a decision we approve of.’  This appears to be his strategy in deciding to preference the Greens last, behind Labor on LNP how-to-vote cards. 

Of course, it’s the Liberal party’s prerogative to distribute their preferences however they see fit and it doesn’t mean that anyone who votes Liberal first will distribute their own preferences according to how the card advises.  It’s likely to have the most impact from people who vote above the line in the senate. 

However, dressing this tactic up as some kind of righteous stand is rather disturbing.  Naturally, Abbott and the Liberals want a clear majority. Every party does. Everyone in politics wishes to be able to enact their agenda unhindered by boring stuff like having to convince a majority of the people’s representatives that it’s a good idea, but Abbott’s insistence that an outright majority is the only workable outcome suggests that we should perhaps add ‘democracy’ to the list of things that Tony Abbott doesn’t quite get.

Abbott insists that the hung parliament has been a failed experiment – an assertion that is clearly incorrect if only because of the fact that it went full term despite the opposition’s insistence that it wouldn’t last and all their efforts to ensure it wouldn’t.  The hung parliament may have been a novelty to a pair of parties that have both become used to either controlling the house of representatives or not, but it is neither an experiment, nor a failure.  It’s the way things are supposed to work.

Last week, Tony Abbott addressed voter concern that’s he’s a risky prospect by saying that in a Westminster system, you elect a team, not a leader.  It was an astonishingly hypocritical comment after his lines about voting for Kevin and getting Julia, then voting for Julia and getting Kevin.  It was also completely wrong.  We don’t elect leaders. We don’t elect parties. We don’t elect governments. We elect representatives. That is all.

I have written about this before, but it’s worth repeating: The parliament IS the government. In this parliament that has just been dissolved, there was no constitutional reason why we couldn’t have had Julia Gillard as prime minister, Tony Abbott as deputy prime minister, Kevin Rudd as leader of the opposition and Bob Katter as speaker. There is nothing to stop the parliament appointing the best MP for each position except partisan intransigence.  The notion of separating government and opposition is mere convention, but it’s a comfortable and familiar convention.

It’s a convention that voters are familiar and comfortable with as well, which is why I am not going to pretend that who will form government and who will be prime minister are not usually higher considerations for most voters than who will make the best local representative.  I am in the situation myself of having a local member who is a good person and a decent representative but standing for a party that I absolutely do not want in government and therefore, I am going to have to put him last. 

Such strategic voting is the reason behind the Liberals’ decision to put the Greens below even their arch-rival, the ALP, only they’re trying for it en masse. They have decided that government should be a binary choice between one mob and the other mob, even if it means possibly helping the other mob over the line in a couple of marginal seats and senate places. In Abbott’s mind, the party that forms government should be able to do exactly as it pleases. Well alright, as mentioned, every party wants that deep down. Both major parties are guilty of trying to stack the parliament with generic McCandidates who are there to represent the party in the electorate, not the electorate in the government.

It comes back to the perennial dilemma of representative democracy. Do we vote for those who we trust to represent us best, or do we vote for those whose agenda we most approve of and authorise them to enact it? Is this a participatory democracy, or merely an elective dictatorship?

Although it may be the most honest thing he has said on the campaign, with his demand of all or nothing, Tony Abbott has made it clear that he errs on the side of the latter on both questions. This would not be quite so worrying if he had presented any kind of detail on his very broad policies. If he is genuine about not being prepared to negotiate his agenda through another hung parliament, should there be one, then one has to wonder why not. It goes against the spirit of parliamentary democracy. It’s one thing to put all your policies on the table and say, “These are our plans, take it or leave it!” It’s quite another to say, “Just give us carte blanch or else and we’ll work out the details later.” That should worry people, no matter who it is.

PS: I realise that this is the third post in a row criticising Abbott. Lest anyone think I am showing partisanship, if Kevin Rudd or indeed anyone not in the Liberal party says anything equally shocking, then you can rest assured I’ll have something to say about it. 
Frankly, the election campaign so far has been The Tony-Abbott-Said-WHAT?? Show. Whether this plays better for the Coalition or Labor or the minors is yet to be seen.

13 August, 2013

The Rules: Glass Houses of Representatives

The world barely blinked when we changed prime ministers late last June.  But now that there's an election campaign on, the world outside Australia has started to notice things are happening here.

So far, the moments that have been the most noticed internationally have been...

Some poor muppet who didn't know what his own party's policies were even though he was holding them in his hand.

A candidate for the loony right One Nation party being compared to Sarah Palin.  This is most unfair.  Even Sarah Palin isn't so stupid as to think Islam is a country or that Jews follow Jesus.

And Tony Abbott's suppository.

Many may point out that this is nothing by trivia and a distraction from the real issues.  And they would be absolutely right.  But a trivial and distracted world is watching.

Australia, it's time to stop laughing at the United States.

Back around the time the offensive menu story broke, one of my US correspondents remarked to me that Australian politics had become even uglier than the US.  He was right.  Now we're pulling ahead of them in the idiot stakes as well.

I know Australia likes to punch above its weight and beat the rest of the world, but could we let somebody else win this one?  Please?

12 August, 2013

Who’s fair dinkum?

To truncate a quote from Donald Rumsfeld, there are known knowns, there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns. Although he said some rather laughable things, this was actually one of the wisest things he ever said.

Picture credit
In this election campaign, there are also things we know and things that we don’t know.

We know that Tony Abbott has been demanding an election every day for the whole three years since the last one.

We know that for all that time, he has insisted that the coalition has a boatload of policies and costings waiting to be released as soon as the election is called.

We knew that the election would have to be called for some time before the end of November this year.

We know that Tony Abbott knew this.  Wait, scratch that.  That’s actually my assumption that he knew it.  It should be a pretty fair assumption, but it’s an assumption nonetheless.

We know that the Coalition’s ‘Real Solutions’ document has a starbust saying “Fully Costed” on almost every other page.

We know that the election date has been announced for Saturday 7th September.

Putting together all of the above, we know that we now have the conditions under which Mr Abbott said he would release his policies and costings.

And we know that in the first debate last night, a full week after the election was called and with less than four weeks until polling day, when pressed on the costings of his policies, Mr Abbott said,
“You will see in good time before polling day exactly how much we're going to spend and exactly how much we’re going to save and exactly how much better the bank balance will be under the Coalition than under the Labor Party.”

This seems like a funny definition of “in good time” for someone who has spent three years demanding an election next week and who has given the impression that all the details have been sorted out and they were just waiting for an election date to release it all.  What we don’t know is what would have happened if there had been an election a year earlier.

What we don’t know is what on earth “in good time” means.

Of course, 5pm on September 6th is technically before polling day.  You just have to ask yourself, to use Mr Abbott’s own words, who is fair dinkum?

Vote for whoever you want.

11 August, 2013

What would Rupert Murdoch do?

The Murdoch press made it abundantly clear who they are supporting and who they think you should support with the Tele’s first front page of the campaign coverage.  It continued on Thursday with a front page featuring a story barely worthy of page 10 that included Kevin Rudd and Anthony Albanese photoshopped onto Colonel Klink and Sgt Schultz respectively.  This is presumably the reason for the recent spike in Google searches for Hogan’s Heroes since nobody under 40 is likely to get the reference.

Before we go any further, spare me any nitpicking over whether the screaming headlines we’ve seen from News Ltd are actually representative of Rupert Murdoch’s personal point of view.  We have 50 years of history to tell us how Murdoch operates.  Did he get on the blower to newly parachuted-in head honcho Col Allan and say, “Listen son, get yer biro out. This is what the front page is gunna say…”?  Of course he didn’t.  He doesn’t have to.  Rupert Murdoch is many things, but he’s not stupid.  He doesn’t employ people who have to be told what to do.  He employs people who know what to do, what the company’s position is and what’s expected of them.  There’s no shortage of people who will tell you what happens if you try to flout the company policy.  Like any good organised crime syndicate, there are plenty of buffers between the commanders and the footsoldiers to give the head of the family plausible deniability.  So if you want to point out that we can never be completely certain that the papers would look exactly the same this week if Rupert himself were editing them, save it for the debating society.  If you honestly have genuine doubts that Murdoch wholeheartedly approves of these front pages, then please leave your credit card number, expiry date and security code in the comments so that I can send you your prize.

The broader question, which is worth debating, is whether this campaigning by media is going to make any difference either way.  Who cares what Rupert wants?  The overwhelming majority of voters have absolutely nothing in common with him.  Does anyone really go into a polling booth asking themselves, “What would Rupert Murdoch do?”
I fear the answer may be more people than anyone would like to admit.

This can be partly illustrated by this motivational poster quoting Steve Jobs.

We’ll leave aside the fact that it’s stupid advice to anyone who isn’t the head of a massive corporation, and the fact that as pearls of wisdom go, it’s not exactly “be the change you want to see.”  After all, that would take effort.   It’s an illustration of why having role models can be dangerous.  If you want to emulate someone else, you have to emulate all aspects of their character.  The attraction of this poster is that firstly, it validates the reader’s inner arsehole and more importantly and dangerously, it sends the message that if you can imitate the one small aspect of a very complex character that you are able to, then maybe one day, you too will be considered a visionary genius.

During last year’s U.S. presidential election, some wondered why people would vote against their own interests – why the poor would vote in the interests of the rich.  I read an article then (which I can no longer find, I’m sorry), which theorised that while the great majority of voters in any election may not be rich, most of them hope that one day they will be and that some of them work on the logic that if they vote in the interests of the wealthy, that’s going to put them one step closer to becoming like them.

Sure, the thinking voter may look at this kind of logic and say, “dream on!” but the fact is, celebrity endorsements work.  If you don’t believe me, have a look on a bus or a train station and count how many people have paid over $400 for a pair of headphones because they were allegedly designed by a rapper.  Never mind the fact that they’re probably being used to listen to badly encoded mp3s or, worse still, streaming services.  If you’ve got a sound system like Dr Dre’s, then you might notice the difference but if you’re listening to Spotify on your iPhone, then I’m afraid you’ve wasted your money.  That doesn’t stop people from proudly displaying on their heads the fact that they have more disposable income than judgement.  This is why people buy shoes according to which sportsmen wear them.  This is why you can’t go hear a shopping centre without the giant grinning mug of someone called Gok staring at you from every direction.  This is why people are happy to take home budgeting advice from Status bloody Quo!  And they all have the vote.

There are plenty of people who consider being rich and powerful to be virtues in and of themselves.  To them, Rupert Murdoch is the ultimate role model.  The fact that he upsets lefties and academics is a bonus to them.  The endorsement of Murdoch and his company, while being of no material interest to them, could still help them make their decision, figuring it will get them a little bit closer to being like someone they admire, as depressing as that may be.

09 August, 2013


British MP Tom Watson, who became a hero to many for his pursuit of News International over the phone hacking scandal and his grilling of Rupert and James Murdoch at inquiries related to the scandal, has announced via a series of tweets that he will be visiting Australia during the election campaign to counter Murdoch's influence. 

Upon hearing of the visit, News Ltd newspapers published a series of editorials slamming the visit, saying, "What right has some foreigner got to try an influence an Australian election?"

07 August, 2013

GST changes? Do you feel lucky?

Whether or not the Liberal party has any actual plans at this moment to increase or broaden the base of the GST, we can learn from history.

We know that the original GST as proposed by John Hewson in the “Fightback!” policy document (and whatever you thought of the contents, that really WAS a policy document) was 15%.

We know that John Howard and Peter Costello originally wanted the current 10% GST to apply to everything including basic food until it was taken off in a deal with the Democrats to get the rest of the GST through the senate.

We know that when the Liberal/National coalition unexpectedly gained control of the senate in 2004, they initiated the deeply unpopular WorkChoices policy, despite having made no mention of any such policy during the election campaign.  When John Howard was asked why he was instigating a policy he never took to the people, he said that everyone knew that workplace relations reform had always been his policy.

We know that many on Tony Abbott’s front bench were part of the Howard government that implemented WorkChoices.  Indeed, they like to remind us of that fact.

We know that Tony Abbott has said it’s sometimes better to ask forgiveness than permission.

So whether or not there is any substance to the rumours that the Coalition plans to increase the GST or apply it to food or both, you have to look at their history and ask yourself a question:
“Do I feel lucky?”

02 August, 2013

Through the Looking Glass

Consider this:

Imagine it's 1983.

And imagine someone told you that in 30 years' time, Russia would be granting asylum to an American dissident who is wanted in his home country for telling the truth about what his government is doing.

What would the reaction be?