Posts Tagged ‘Tony Abbott’

Regulars like you, Dear Reader, will note that we predicted a narrow win for Labour in the recent election in Victoria, but without a huge degree of confidence, and that’s the way it has turned out. The late swing back to the Liberal-Nationals we spotted was there, but it came too late to save them and Labor ended up with 9 seats more than the Coalition – which was at the upper end of our speculation, although their overall majority is just 6, which is about where we guessed it would be.

What’s more, the Greens won two Lower House seats – an historic result which most notably allows one of their MPs to second a motion by the other, which will make a hell of a difference to their impact on politics in Victoria, and which has been largely ignored by everyone.

We freely confess we didn’t think they’d win any lower house seats, and they are obviously to be congratulated for effectively outflanking Labor on the left.

A completely unexpected win over the Coalition for an Independent in Shepparton completely flew under our radar as well – although to be fair on ourselves, it did for everyone else, too. Even the successful candidate seemed surprised. It was also very annoying for us as we lumped on significantly with bookie Tom Waterhouse on the Coalition to lose the election by 8.5 seats. In the final wash up, thanks to the Shepparton result they actually lost by 9 seats, which means the Family Wellthisiswhatithink is drinking Jacob’s Creek Sparkling this Christmas and not Bollinger Special Cuvee. Helas!

The new Greens MP Ellen Sandell owes her victory to Liberal voters.

The new Greens MP for the seat of Melbourne Ellen Sandell owes her victory to Liberal voters.

Fascinatingly, the Greens defeated Labor in the seat of Melbourne on Liberal preferences, despite the Liberals very publicly and emphatically putting the Greens last on their how to vote card, behind Labor, as this extract from the VEC preference count shows, with a third of Ed Huntingford’s Liberal votes going to the Greens, enough to give them the seat.

Fully one-third of Liberal voters preferred the Greens to win – even if it might cause a “hung” Parliament, and against the wishes of their party – which is a significant fact to be considered when predicting future elections.

It also shows that a very significant number of voters simply don’t follow How to Vote cards …

To:  Green ALP

Transfer of 9412 ballot papers of HUNTINGFORD, Ed (5th excluded candidate) 3038 6374 9412

 

With all results declared the vote for Labor was 38.10% and for the Coalition 36.46%. – a margin just over one-and-a-half percent. So before they get too cock a hoop, it should be noted that Labour was really only delivered victory by Greens preferences. In their own right they were clearly barely preferred over the Coalition by the State’s voters, although it should be acknowledged that many people will have voted Green as a statement of political preference (or protest) intending that their votes would inevitably flow to the ALP before the Liberals or Nationals. But not all of them, as the seat of Melbourne showed.

In other words, the result was actually quite a lot closer than it might have been portrayed on election night or since.

 

andrewsspeech2

 

What now?

Daniel Andrews still has a significant job to establish credibility with the Victorian electorate in our opinion, (perhaps more than ever after belatedly and laughably asking voters and media commentators to “Call me Dan”), and he faces a competent and engaging new Liberal leader in Matthew Guy.

Guy is young and energetic, famously self-confident (although he will need to watch that), hard working and combative – perfectly suited to be an Australian opposition leader, in other words – and although he has been pretty quiet since assuming the top job we expect him to provide Andrews much more competition than the avuncular but somewhat unimpressive Ted Baillieu or Denis Napthine.

We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the opinion polls showing a very brief honeymoon for Andrews indeed. He has started poorly by immediately breaking a key promise – to release the East-West road link contracts on “Day 1″ of a new government for public scrutiny, and as ABC local radio pointed out this morning, also completely failing to say why he is suddenly reticent to do so, either.

 

guy

 

Critically one thing Guy HAS said since winning the leadership is that the Coalition will continue to support building the East-West Link, which by election time had garnered poll support from among Victorians of 63%. Despite the ALP’s election success, many Victorians are dismayed that the key road project is not going ahead – including many Labor voters – especially now Labor has also been forced to admit that their standout public transport project – the Metro Rail Tunnel – doesn’t have enough financial backing to actually go ahead anytime soon, which the Coalition said all along.

Indeed, the Federal Government told Labor point blank 18 months ago and regularly recently that a Coalition Government in Canberra would not be funding the Rail Tunnel. So now, in effect, we get no new road, and no new rail tunnel, but we do get $300 million of “planning”. Commuters driven mad by lack of trains, train delays, and bottleneck roads might very well argue that we have had more than enough bloody studies already, what we need is some action.

What’s more, transport experts are now talking about putting new tolls on the sites of railway crossing removals promised by Labor. Which is why they’re transport experts and not politicians, we guess. The argument is the removal benefits car owners, so they should pay for it. In fact, removing level crossings also means trains don’t have to slow down for them, so it benefits public transport users too. We look forward to the same experts arguing that Zone Fares should go up. Anyhow, the toll idea is ludicrous: an act more likely to enrage millions of motorists could hardly be imagined.

The result of all this confusion is very likely to be inertia. If that’s the case, don’t be at all surprised to hear Matthew Guy cry out “See! Labor is all talk, when are we going to see some action?” about every other day between now and the next election. The “do nothing” catchcry killed the Brumby Government, and history can, and does, repeat itself.

The Abbott government - looking very tired, very quickly.

The Abbott government – looking very tired, very quickly.

One term governments are likely to become much more common than they have been in Australian electoral history.

Napthine’s gone.

Campell-Newman in Queensland is looking rocky next year.

And we are more than prepared to call the big one right now – if the Liberals and Nationals don’t dump the awesomely unimpressive Tony Abbott soon (in favour of Malcom Turnbull, we hope, but just as likely Julie Bishop, which is somewhat alarming) then the current Federal Coalition will be a one term government too.

Daniel Andrews needs to start thinking already that the same fate could face him if he doesn’t “get something done”. And fast.

Final seat count

ALP 47
Liberals 30
Nationals 8
Greens 2
Independent 1

abbottdutton

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L), and Australian Health Minister Peter Dutton (R) during a press conference in Sydney, Australia, 5 November 2014.

 

As we have pointed out before, Australia has been slow and mealy-mouthed in sending aid/health workers to try and control the Ebola outbreak at source.

Yet even now some small move has been made, as PM Abbott and Health Minister Dutton have been dragged kicking and screaming to the table, people around the world, and indeed at home, could be forgiven for being a little confused about Australia’s response to the Ebola crisis.

The government has been sending out somewhat mixed signals over what help it can offer, as is now pointed out for the world to read on the front page of the BBC website in the UK. Nice.

First, the Abbott government refused to send any official medical or military personnel to West Africa, a decision for which he was widely criticised on this blog, inside Australia, and overseas, at the same time as President Barack Obama was saying the US should be encouraging health workers to volunteer to go to the frontline.

Mr Abbott has now bowed to pressure and announced Australia will be contributing A$20m (£11m; $17m) to help fund a British Ebola response clinic being set up in Sierra Leone. However, the prime minister has been vague about who will be staffing it.

The Australian side of the operation has been contracted out to the private health provider Aspen Medical and Abbott suggested most of the staff would be recruited locally, but contradictorily health officials in Sierra Leone have said the principal thing they are lacking is qualified local doctors.

Meanwhile, the managing director of Aspen Medical, Glenn Keys, has said around 350 Australians have registered with the company to go and help.

What is clear is that the prime minister is sticking by his line that no government medical teams or military personnel will be dispatched.

Mr Abbott said the decision to contract in Aspen had been reached after Britain agreed to treat any Australians who become infected while in West Africa, something the Australian leader had said was his principal concern.

It’s now emerged though, that the European Union had already made a similar offer to treat Australian staff that Mr Abbott had rejected.

 

How many innocent lives could Australian workers have saved in the last few weeks? We will never know.

How many innocent lives could Australian workers have saved in the last few weeks? We will never know.

 

Yet the media in Australia have been perfectly silent in asking him “Why?”, and still are. Especially as the end result is Australia’s response has looked very tardy and been delayed by crucial weeks. Meanwhile the poor of West Africa continue to face death rates from Ebola of up to 90% of all those infected.

Add to that the strong criticism Australia has faced after it became the first developed country to ban the issuing of visas to anyone from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The Sierra Leonean government called the move “discriminatory” and “counter-productive” suggesting it created a climate of panic.

As the BBC say, anyone who’s visited Australia will know they take a tough line on bio-security. There are strict rules about bringing in food products due to fears of bringing in disease.

But given that only a handful of people have been tested for suspected Ebola in Australia and all have tested negative, the government here risks being accused of showing a lack of compassion in the eyes of many around the world.

What is more important is that if this outbreak is not stopped AT SOURCE, and somehow transmits itself into other poor areas of the world with bad sanitation and inadequate health services – the rest of Africa, India, Pakistan, Central and Southern America, great swathes of South East Asia, even China – then we would be looking at an Armageddon scenario. In the face of which, Abbott and Dutton looked nothing more nor less like rabbits stuck in the headlights. So much for “strong leadership”, eh?

obama in churchMeanwhile, the political and media beat up worldwide on the outbreak has continued, with near hysteria levels, in the USA in particular.

A couple of weeks back we predicted that there wouldn’t be another Ebola case in the USA in the next seven days. It’s now 14 and counting.

But has the fever of commentary died down? Hardly. And why is so annoyingly obvious. The Republicans knew that by making Obama look “weak” on Ebola, by terrifying the population, in simple terms, then they would hurt the Democrats. And so they did, as seen in their “wave” of wins in the mid-terms on Tuesday just gone.

In fact, as is widely acknowledged, Obama’s response has been a small miracle of intelligent healthcare policy.

That he has not received the credit for acting smartly, promptly and effectively – not just in the USA, but in West Africa – is truly sickening.

AbbottThe Australian government is facing yet more criticism for not sending health workers to Africa to help fight Ebola.

A 25-bed US field hospital that will treat international health workers who contract the virus is due to open soon.

The Australian government now has no excuse not to fund health workers to travel to Africa, said Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King. And she’s right.

“It is now up to the Abbott government to act,” Ms King told journalists in Canberra on Friday.

Australia has so far refused to send health workers to Africa because it says it could not evacuate and treat them if they got infected with the virus.

It has provided A$8m (£4.4m) to frontline services and A$40m (£22m) to the World Health Organization and has not ruled out increasing that contribution.

‘A risky situation’

“We will not be putting Australian health workers in a risky situation in the absence of evacuation plans and an appropriate level of medical care and we cannot currently supply that,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said last month.

But the Australian Medical Association, the Public Health Association, the Healthcare and Hospitals Association and non-government organisation Medecins sans Frontieres have all called for the Australian government to substantially increase its contribution.

Sierra Leone and Amnesty International have condemned Australia’s decision to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa as “counterproductive” and “discriminatory”.

Ms King said there was a split in Cabinet about its response to the crisis, with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison “taking charge” and Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Health Minister Peter Dutton losing control of the debate.

Nearly 5,000 people have died of Ebola so far. More than 13,700 people have been infected in total, the vast majority in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

UPDATE NOV 5th It has today been announced that the Abbott Government have caved in and will allow volunteer medical staff to travel to the affected areas in a government-supported effort.

putinshirtless“Look, I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin … you bet I am.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s fighting words about insisting Vladimir Putin face up to his complaints about the downing of MH 17 by Ukrainian rebels almost certainly sent the diplomats in the Russian Embassy rushing for their Australian slang dictionaries on Monday, not to mention Pravda’s opinion writers to bend over their sweaty typewriters in faux outrage.

Many Australian observers were also left scratching their heads at the evocative choice of words, which hails from the lexicon of Australian Rules football.

Ultimately Mr Abbott (or his media manager) may be the only one who truly knows what he plans to do during bilateral talks with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, at the G20 in Brisbane next month.

We wouldn’t have thought Mr Putin was the easiest person to shirtfront as he is so often without one.

So what exactly is a ‘shirtfront’? For those uncertain as to the niceties of Australian Rules Football, it goes something like this.

Shirtfront (Australian Rules) noun, “A fierce tackle, usually delivered by the shoulder to the chest of an opponent.” verb, “The act of delivering such a tackle.” – Oxford Australian Dictionary.

"Who's the guy over your left shoulder?" "Can't remember, keep smiling ..."

“Who’s the guy over your left shoulder?” “Can’t remember, keep smiling …”

Good news for everyone who has missed Julia Gillard in public life – and there are some – she’s back.

The former Prime Minister has lain low since the 2013 leadership spill — but she appeared in public today to launch a former colleague’s book. Looking healthy and cheerful, (and on her pension, frankly, why the hell not?) Gillard launched former climate change and industry minister Greg Combet’s memoir, The Fights of My Life, at the NSW Trades Hall this morning.

In her address, Gillard issued a language warning to readers — joking that anyone who blushed from bad language needed to have a cold compress on hand.

Interestingly for us, Gillard also confirmed she urged Combet to run as leader when it became clear it was her time to go, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. She said: “I wanted to see the next part of his life being for the support of his colleagues to lead the Labor government into the 2013 election but it was not to be”.

Former Labor minister Combet recently told the ABC’s 7.30 that Ms Gillard had offered to stand aside for him if he wished to do battle with Mr Rudd. Instead he retired from politics at the 2013 election.

In our opinion, history will judge that this was a crucial loss of nerve. Combet is tough as nails, as seen by his principled and courageous leadership of the dockworkers in their battle with Patricks and the Howard Government, especially when battling the intransigence and bullying of Peter Reith. As the veteran of dozens of industrial negotiations, he had the sort of “real world” experience that a political junkie like Tony Abbott lacks, and although he would probably still have lost to Abbott on the principle of Buggin’s Turn (Labor was surely un-re-electable, wasn’t it?) he would have made a thoughtful, serious, incisive leader of the Opposition and #onetermtony would have very predictably been up for taking in two and a half years.

As it stands, we suspect our next Prime Minister will be Combet’s mate Bill Shorten, (although he did back Albanese in the leadership contest), so no harm done, from their perspective. But with his gnarly, bespectacled intensity and sheer intellectual clout we think Greg Combet might just have been the Prime Minister Australia never suspected he could be. We said so at the time. No-one agreed – in fact, we were were laughed out of court by everyone we advanced the theory to. Which is why we now find Ms Gillard’s and Mr Combet’s revelations interesting. Or to put it another way, nar nar nar, we told you so.

If this isn't the next Prime Minister of Australia, then god didn't make the little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime ...

If this isn’t the next Prime Minister of Australia, then God didn’t make the little green apples, and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime …

We’re historically pretty good at picking winners.

Despite a recent (but very temporary) bump in the poll standings for Tony Abbott over his brawny Putin-tweaking response to the downing of MH17, put your money (if you can find someone to take it) on Malcom Turnbull to replace him in a coup before Christmas, especially after the shambolic ALP in Victoria nevertheless manage to reasonably comfortably topple the incompetent but poorly-communicating Liberal-National Party Coalition in November.

In Victoria, Labor are current 3-1 “on” a victory, (hardly worth the risk, except one third of your stake for certain is better than none of it for getting it wrong, we guess) and the Coalition 2-1 against. If the Coalition suddenly lifts its game we reserve our rights to change that prediction, because if a week is a long time in politics then 122 days and 5 hours is a positive aeon, but we don’t see any real sign that is going to happen.

Considering the Napthine Government just delivered the highest spending infrastructure budget in Victoria’s history without borrowing a cent, one does actually feel rather sorry for them.

Of further interest to those who mainline psephology, (oh, look it up), we see that Labour in the UK are 5/6 to win the largest number of seats there, against Evens for the Tories. We think that’s too tight, and Labour are currently much better placed. We’d be interested, if you disagree, to know why. And in the US the Democrats are paying 1.60 to the dollar against 2.25 for the GOP. Unless Hillary is discovered doing something highly illegal between now and 2016, we reckon you should lump on, although the mid-terms later this year will be a further helpful guide, so maybe hold off for now.

Er … that’s it.

*Gabbled in a very fast high-pitched voice “All betting advice is purely speculative and should not be taken as true. Don’t rely on us. All care, no responsibility. No, nu-uh, tough shit, so sue us.”*

detainee

 

CHRISTMAS ISLAND, AUSTRALIA,
JULY 2014 ~ A POEM

 

She takes a bottle,

smashes it against a breeze block

they used to build the barracks

that bake at noon and sweat at midnight.

 

Sorts out a piece of glass

sharp, fits neatly in her hand

draws it across her slender wrist

a green transluscent bow ’cross a brown cello.

 

She lies back, deeply tired.

More tired than she thought possible

sun incessant on her face

and, dignified, hoses her life over the wooden steps.

 

Within a few minutes they come running.

Rush her to the infirmary

wrapping her, scolding her,

but she is silent, crying silent, bleeding silent.

 

A dozen at least like this, they say,

because if they die their children

will have a golden future.

Dreaming of the lucky country.

 

And in the Ministerial offices

a man with glasses and a poor haircut

says we do not comment on detainee self-harm

we could not possibly comment.

 

We lock them up.

We send them back.

We give them over.

We un-person them by not talking.

 

And on the island, the woman lies

wrists bandaged, children frightened.

She is an operational matter:

she operated on herself,

but we are not allowed to know.

 

The blood bakes black on the wooden steps.

Birds carol raucous in the trees.

Her children weep midst the breeze blocks.

Merry Christmas Island.

Not.

broken bottle

Much to ponder. From rooster to feather duster in under a year?

Much to ponder. From rooster to feather duster in under a year?

 

Bad news for Tony Abbott and the Coalition continues today with the publishing of another poll that shows just how dramatically the Liberal and National parties have slumped since 2013’s election.

The latest poll shows the Abbott government is now a full 10 points below its election-winning vote. This is way beyond mere “out of honeymoon” blues.

The Newspoll, published in The Australian on Tuesday, puts Labor ahead of the coalition 55-45 per cent in the two-party preferred vote, a further depressing drop of two points for the coalition since the previous poll two weeks ago.

Primary support for the coalition is also down two points to 35 per cent, from 37 per cent, while Labor is up one point to 37 per cent – two points ahead of the coalition. This result would have seemed impossible in the dark days when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were engaged in their death struggle. It remains to be seen if Tony Abbott goes down in history as the only man capable of breathing new life into the Labor corpse which seemed crucified, dead, buried, with multiple stakes through it’s heart and then cremated such a short while ago. That they are even competitive again so soon is startling.

It’s not all good news for Labor. Outflanked on the left, the Greens have also gained three points in the primary vote – up to 13 per cent.

Voter dissatisfaction with Tony Abbott has reached the highest level since he became prime minister, 62 per cent, and is his worst personal result since November 2012, The Australian reports. With his approval rating at 31 per cent, Mr Abbott’s net approval of minus 31 points is the worst for a prime minister since Julia Gillard scored minus 34 points just days before she was replaced by Kevin Rudd in June last year, when she was widely considered to be leading the Labor Party to certain disaster. It will not have escaped Liberal and National backbenchers that Abbott now appears to be doing the same.

 

They also serve who only sit and wait. Is that just the hint of a smile?

They also serve who only sit and wait. Is that just the hint of a smile?

 

Whether Abbott’s vast slump into extreme unpopularity will prove enough of a motive for the hard heads in the Liberal Party to replace him with the much more moderate Malcolm Turnbull remains to be seen. We have always been of the view, even before the last election, that Turnbull would be Prime Minister before Christmas 2014. Abbott is both simply too relentlessly self-satisfied and negative to play the role of Prime Minister, a job which requires the ability to reach across the aisle to independents and natural Labor supporters to build a centrists’ coalition.

Abbot is not a conservative. He is not a “one nation” Tory. He is a radical right winger – a born-again Thatcherite, his idol in his youth. As such, he was never going to sit well in power with the essentially small-C conservative Australian public. We are seeing the hubris of Nick Minchin and others on the hard right coming home to roost. They wanted their boy – they got him up by one vote – and now he is proving to be manifestly un-re-electable. A great opposition leader doth not a great prime minister necessarily make. They might have won less big had Turnbull remained at the helm (they might have won bigger, too), but they would have won more enduringly.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has also regained a 10-point lead as better Prime Minister that he took after the budget – on 44 per cent, with Mr Abbott on 34 per cent. We do not believe he is yet “popular” – he has neither the common working man’s touch of a Bob Hawke or the swaggering certainty of a Paul Keating. But he has hardly put a foot wrong yet, revealing that he has both a good “ear” and a smart brain. His meek persona also contrasts nicely with Abbott’s arrogance.

It is well-known that Shorten wishes to keep his powder somewhat dry, and not to “knee-jerk” to every mistake or missed step from the Coalition. Thus former federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan played Shorten’s stalking horse yesterday when said Liberal-National Party backbenchers were too gutless to speak out against the “savage cuts” in the budget, which he sees as reflected in the Newspoll. “If they had any decency, they’d be standing up in the party room and holding the LNP to the promises they made to the people of Australia at the last election but they’re not because they’re gutless,” he told reporters in Brisbane. “There’s no spine in the LNP backbench either at the state level or the federal level. They sit back and meekly accept the savage cuts … which are going to hurt the peace of mind and welfare of families right across Australia.” You can expect to hear a lot more of that as each and every Budget action wends its way trhough the legislative process.

To be fair, Swan was probably speaking from the heart, too. As a Labor backbencher during the early 1990s, Mr Swan led a revolt against the Keating government’s unpopular post-election budget that increased taxes.

Anyhow, the next few months will be interesting indeed. From being one of the most successful Opposition leaders the Liberals have produced in a long time, Abbott may well go down as their most unsuccessful Prime Minister. A recalcitrant Senate filled with newly hopeful Labor and Green representatives is now replaced with one with even greater complexity. At first blush, the new Senate looks like a more amenable one for Abbott. But appearances can be deceiving. Clive Palmer, for example, knows full well that supine agreement with the Government – any Government – would render his populist message irrelevant. There’s no point being “anti” the establishment and then joining it, as the Australian Democrats discovered over the GST, and the Liberal Democrats in the UK and the Free Democrats in Germany can attest more recently.

We can therefore expect regular little eruptions of rebellion from Palmer and his mates, and watching his eye for publicity and gesture politics one can expect those rebellions to be on core issues, such as the politically smart agreement to scrap the unpopular carbon tax and return the dividend to ordinary voters as a reduction in household costs. And if they aren’t core issues, he will trumpet them as such, anyway. And every time he lays a glove on the Government, Abbott will not only look dumb, but weak. A terrible combination.

The essential problem that Abbott faces is that by manufacturing a financial crisis out of a structural deficit (which is not, after all, the same thing) he has critically reduced his room for manoeuvre. As a result, he is now stuck with slogging round the country telling everyone, basically, bad news, for at least the next 18 months.

He might even have pulled that off if his presentation, and that of his very lacklustre Treasurer Joe Hockey, had been less simultaneously preachily self-congratulatory and ham-fisted. But apart from his suddenly incoherent and uncertain delivery (has any senior politician anywhere in the world ever said “Er” so often?) he has also wedged himself by a serious of actions that were never going to get through the Senate, and which were guaranteed to appear mean and un-necessary.

The most obvious example is the GP co-payment, which looks and smacks like nothing more than soak the poor, and should never have been advanced in a month of Sundays. But once advanced, it was not “sold”, beyond a repeated mantra that this was somehow “for the good of the country”. Scores of worried little old ladies and the chronically ill duly queued up on talk-back radio stations of all political inclinations to tearfully ask what would become of them now they couldn’t afford to go to see their doctor. The message that the co-payment was theoretically designed to be capped at a maximum of $70 a year completely failed to cut through. Once again, the central Liberal Party message-meisters and their political puppets have been shown to be far less competent and aware than they are often painted.

Denis Napthine. If he's not careful, Abbott will do for him, too.

Denis Napthine. If he’s not careful, Abbott will do for him, too.

(A similar problem assails the Victorian Liberal and National Parties, where two years of good financial management and the resulting announcement of the biggest-ever infrastructure spending program in the State’s history – in any State’s history, actually – is being completely overwhelmed by the unpopularity of the Abbott Government. Liberal and National Party publicists seem at a loss to know how to punch their message through. (There’s a clue in this paragraph by the way, boys.) Meanwhile Denis Napthine despairs in his eyrie and Daniel Andrews hugs himself with glee, saying very little, cheerfully waiting to fall into office. But that’s another story.)

Those surrounding Abbott need to understand this: it’s one thing to drag down an unpopular Prime Minister in whom trust has been lost. It’s quite another to sell a swingeing austerity package that very few people think is needed in the first place.

They – and he – need to lift their game very fast, or yibbidah yibbidah, that’s all folks.

 

 

Froth and bubble: the UK is engaged in a double election. But what do the results mean?

Froth and bubble: the UK is engaged in a double election. But what do the results mean?

The Local Council elections in the UK can be seen, pretty much, as an excellent opinion poll for the state of the major parties in the UK. But that comment must also be taken with a whoppingly large pinch of salt. They are historically much better at showing trends rather than accurately forecasting a future general election.

For one think, local factors can and do count. In a Borough like Eastleigh, for example, where the Liberal Democrat “machine” is well established, the Lib Dems just held all their seats and even gained one from an Independent. That result for that party is, however, very unlikely to be repeated elsewhere. They have lost control of Kingston upon Thames, for example, a “flagship” authority for them.

Various results are in and many more are not, but as at about 5 am it appears that certain matters are clearly becoming obvious, even if the analysis is still very much “broad brushstroke”, and subject to change.

Um. Er. Well. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg faces an uncomfortable future.

Um. Er. Well. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg faces an uncomfortable future.

Labour is doing moderately well, although not as well as it needed to, to look like a convincing alternative Government, hoovering up seats from the Lib Dems in particular.

The Conservatives are doing moderately badly, leaking seats to UKIP. But UKIP are also picking up seats (and missing many others narrowly) in all sorts of strange places against all the parties, including Labour.

The Lib Dems are currently looking to lose about a third of their Councillors, not quite as bad as the half that we predicted, but still a very poor result.

Which will do nothing to lessen the pressure on their embattled leader Nick Clegg. Who may well go down in history as “embattled Nick Clegg”, the phrase is being used so often now. Anyhow, here are the current standings:

 

Councils Seats
Party Total Change+/- Total Change+/-
Labour 20 -1 429 +54
Conservative 14 -7 374 -87
Liberal Democrat 1 0 96 -57
United Kingdom Independence Party 0 0 84 +83
Independent 0 0 30 +7

 

Euro election results will not be released until Sunday, and here again they are a good “opinion poll”, but will be skewed by the very nature of the body being elected. Thus we expect UKIP to do even better than they have done in the local elections, because of the particular focus their party places on Europe, and the widespread disapproval of much of the EU’s behaviour in recent years.

More news as it comes to hand for those political tragics, like us, who find much to ponder in these things. And if our early call ends up looking inaccurate, we will issue a new bulletin. We would also be delighted to hear “war stories” from the front line from any candidates or campaigners in the UK.

Tony_Abbott_-_2010And just as an aside, Dear Reader, the Washington Post has just christened Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as the most unpopular leader in the free world, after a swingeing “austerity budget” delivered a week ago, which is sitting somewhat uncomfortably on the shoulders of the population of the richest country in the Western world which is not at all sure it needs an austerity budget at all, thank you very much.

There’s now even an irreverent hashtag #MorePopularThanAbbott, which suggests that both toilet paper and flat tires are more popular than the conservative prime minister. Our favourite #MorePopularThanAbbott so far as been “the HIV virus”. #onetermtony is also trending well. This for a Government elected less than a year ago on a wave of enthusiasm.

Electorates are getting much more fickle. As Harold Wilson once remarked, “a week is a long time in politics”.

And those crowing at the moment in the UK might also carer to consider that other favourite aphorism: “Today’s rooster, tomorrow’s feather duster.”

 

Repeat after me: You will like this.

Repeat after me: You … will … like … this.

 

Far from backing down over the howl of protest of the last few days at the floated “tax increase” ahead of the Budget, and in what is, in our opinion, an astonishing display of mule-headed tone-deaf bravado, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says voters will eventually thank him for trying to repair the budget bottom line, even if it includes breaking his very clear promise not to introduce new taxes.

But Mr Abbott says he knows people will be “disappointed” with some of his methods and is again refusing to rule out reports he will raise income taxes for those on higher wages.

Some Liberal MPs – closer, perhaps, than the PM to the Coalition’s overwhelmingly well-off blue-collar and middle-class backers, many of whom earn more than the mooted $80,000 threshold were the new income tax levy will kick in – are leading a backlash against the deficit levy with some even threatening to cross the floor in opposition to the move, if it is included in next Tuesday’s budget, as expected.

This, of course, would be something of a meaningless gesture, as it certainly will not be in large enough numbers to actually defeat the move. They would be better advised to try and “roll” the PM before it gets into the Budget bill. But given the locked-in support of the PM, the Finance Minister, and the Treasurer, this looks unlikely, too, meaning that the net sum effect will be “Libs split on new tax” headlines everywhere.

Abbott has obviously decided he can burn some of his political bank account and ride that out. We are not so sure. If the polls continue to turn relentlessly southward over the next few months we believe many of his backers, both in Parliament and in the wider party, will demonstrate long and accurate memories.

Potentially rebellious Liberal MPs say the new “levy” would breach the Coalition’s pre-election pledge not to introduce new taxes. They are, of course, absolutely right.

"Was that a core promise? Was it? Hmmm?"

“Was that a core promise? Was it? Hmmm?”

We cannot help but idly speculate who has been advising the Government on its post-election economic and political strategy, given that John Howard, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are all Sydney chums, and Howard and Abbott have historically been very close. In an eerie throwback to Howard tactics, the Prime Minister now says the Government’s “most fundamental commitment of all” was to “get Labor’s debt and deficit disaster under control” and that justifies changing tack from his pre-election commitments. This has strong echoes of John Howard’s much-derided “core and non-core promises”. We are surprised no-one in the mainstream media seems to have picked that up. Maybe today’s political pundits are just not old enough to remember.

For those who haven’t made a lifetime’s habit of watching Government, the Liberals have form. In 1996, the new Howard Government soon found that the previous Keating Labor Government had allegedly left them with an unexpected $7.6 billion “black hole” budget deficit. The new treasurer, Peter Costello, and Finance Minister, John Fahey worked at reducing Commonwealth expenditure. This involved reneging on a number of election commitments, which Howard defended as “non-core promises”. At the first Coalition government budget, the public service was “down-sized”, the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) was privatised, and cuts were made to all departments including with the exception of defence. (Readers will note that this budget, too, will be brought down against the backdrop of a massive $12.5 billion increase in defence spending on the new fighters from America.) Back in 1996, $8 billion in spending cuts were made over the government’s first two budgets.

But in the ultimate example of hubris this time round, Abbott says voters will eventually “thank” the Government if it meets its top promises. Is he right?

“I’m not going to deny for a second that there will be people who are disappointed,” Mr Abbott told Channel 9 this morning. “No-one likes difficult decisions, Governments don’t like taking difficult decisions, voters don’t like the consequences of difficult decisions.But you’ve just got to make hard decisions at times like this, and I think in the long run the voters will thank us for doing what is absolutely necessary if Labor’s debt and deficit disaster is to be tackled. I’m not going to comment on the detail of the budget, but I want to assure the people of Australia that this is a Government which is going to bring down a budget which is fair.”

In a week, and in following weeks, we’ll know if the country agrees with him. Our advice? Don’t hold your breath, Tony.

Those who ignore history are fated to repeat it. One option for tax reform (by which everyone of course always means “collecting more taxes, as painlessly as possible”) which is most definitely on the table in Australia is an increase in the rate of GST, or broadening the items it applies to, such as food.

Whilst we doubt we’ll see it in this Parliament, it is being constantly promoted by the business lobby, and could form a centrepiece of a “Give us the tools* to do the job” campaign by the Coalition at the next election. *Read: more money please.

Along with swingeing cuts, perhaps the most controversial of all of Howard’s economic reforms was pushing through a GST n the first place. In an early election dubbed a “referendum” on the move, on 3 October 1998, the Howard Government won a second term but with its March 1996 majority of 45 seats slashed to 12. Current Liberal MPs on smaller margins will be looking at that statistic with some alarm. The current Coalition majority is 30.

Back in 1998, exit polls had even predicted a government loss. Some smart marginal seat campaigning by the Liberals, and a phenomenon of Labor piling up votes in seats it was never going to lose, prevented that.

In the final wash up, a 4.6 percent swing away from the Government translated into a two-party preferred vote of 49.02 per cent for the Government to Kim Beazely’s Labor’s 50.98 per cent. (Leading to him being promptly installed as the most unlucky Labor leader ever.)

It’s worth remembering that one feature of an unpopular conservative government is that it tends to see a drift of inchoate disenfranchised protest voters to fringe parties on its own right. For more than a year in 1988, for example, the Libs had been leaking support to the far right, much as the Conservative Party in the UK are now to the UKIP, the result of which will be very decent levels of success for the appalling far right party at the upcoming council and European elections.

But despite One Nation winning almost 1 million votes and its 8.4 percent first preference vote being larger than the National Party’s, Pauline Hanson did not win her run for the House of Representatives seat of Blair. Howard was widely seen as having “seen off” One Nation.

Perhaps more accurately, given the inevitable drift back to him of their preferences, he had gambled and won that he could see them off “just enough” to retain power without being embarrassingly outflanked on the right.

But the runes don’t look as promising for today’s Coalition. In 2015 or 2015, Abbott will almost certainly face a much more cashed up and powerful populist force to his right in the Palmer United Party, and a force that appears definitely to eschew high-taxing Government. They will provide a much more natural (and less offensive) home for disaffected protest-minded “a plague on both your houses, but ‘specially yours, Tony” voters than One Nation ever did, or would have.

Here’s the thing: it is a long-term feature of Australian politics that Governments govern from the centre, and stray to their right or left at their peril. A combination of huge cuts and tax increases – especially as weapons against a “budget crisis” that few people either sense or understand – will mark Abbott’s cabinet as having shifted hard to the right.

That has its own dangers, but the murky future is made darker still when one factors in that when the next election comes, the Liberal National Coalition will not face a Labor Party weakened by continual bickering and top-level incompetence at the next election. Instead, they will face a photogenic and mild-mannered centrist leader with a good ear for popular soundbites who is very wisely keeping his powder dry at the moment – albeit a bit too dry, in our opinion. His “front and centre” deputies, Plibersek and Albanese, are generally very popular as well.

The current Government would well advised to remember that in the 21st century there are more “independents” than ever, and many fewer people consider themselves “ironed on” supporters of one party or another. As a result, we loan power to parties, not give it, and nowadays we have short memories and even shorter loyalties.

Howard successfully entrenched his position through endless handouts of welfare and tax cuts to the middle class, who quickly worked out that “they’d never had it so good”.

At its simplest, Abbot risks losing power and being condemned by history as a one-hit wonder if he attempts to skewer exactly the people he needs to keep him in the Lodge.

Those who care about such things should perhaps whisper in his ear: “Maybe we could do with a few less F-35s, Tony?”

Abbott and his friends make their opinion of "temporary" tax increases very clear after the Queensland floods.

Abbott and his friends make their opinion of “temporary” tax increases very clear after the devastating Queensland floods. Now he proposes exactly the same idea.

We are on record as eschewing the general “bagging” of politicians per se, believing that some respect for our system of Government – some general belief that it is not entirely corrupted and merely the venue for amoral power-hungry sociopaths to do nothing but big note themselves and promote their career – is necessary for the well-being of the community and the country, but sometimes, even for a committed small-D democrat, it is very hard not to despair and simply scream incoherently “a plague on both your houses”.

It’s not just the nonsense they spout: it’s the nonsense they spout when they defend each other spouting nonsense.

If you give it, you have to take it. Abbott ruthlessly and effectively crucified Gillard. Is it his turn now?

If you give it, you have to take it. Abbott ruthlessly and effectively crucified Gillard. Is it his turn now?

In Australia, senior Liberal Christopher Pyne (or “Christopher Robin” as he is known in the Wellthisiswhatithink household, because of his repeatedly childish behaviour in Parliament and elsewhere) has denied that the introduction of a “deficit levy” – read, an extra tax to pay down debt – would be Tony Abbott’s “Julia Gillard moment”, (Julia Gillard being the immediate past Prime Minister, deposed by Abbott, who never got over being christened Juliar for bringing in a carbon tax when she had said pre-election that she wouldn’t), despite a majority of Australians saying the Abbott move would indeed be a broken promise.

Abbott promised repeatedly not to increase taxes. “You can’t tax your way to prosperity” was a mantra. So was “Tax cuts, without new taxes”.

Despite this, the Liberal-National coalition frontbencher played down the latest Galaxy poll, which showed a whopping 72 per cent believe the tax hike would indeed represent a blatant broken promise.

Australians know the government will have to make tough decisions to get the budget back on track, he said. “They know it won’t be easy and it is important that everyone shares in that burden of repairing the damage Labor did to the economy and to the budget,” Mr Pyne told ABC TV on Sunday.

The Australian Government can afford 58 of these, but needs a new tax to pay for the "budget crisis", and needs people to work till 70 till they get their pension, and is going to make wholesale cuts in the coming budget. When people work out that these are choices, and not inevitabilities, the backlash for Abbot could be horrible.

The Australian Government can apparently afford 58 of these, but now needs a new tax to pay for the “budget crisis”, plus it needs people to work till 70 to get their pension, and it is going to make wholesale cuts in the coming budget. When people work out that these are choices, and not inevitabilities, the backlash for Abbot could be horrible.

This is, however, in the face of the Government paying a massive $12.5 billion to buy new fighter jets, the serviceability and usability of which are the subject of on-going debate in defence circles as well as the country as a whole.

The contrast between “toys for the boys” and forecast swingeing cuts to welfare has brought the debate into sharp relief, not to mention damaged the Government’s standing.

It now trails the Labor Party that it just replaced by four percentage points. Two party-preferred support for the coalition has plunged 5.5 percentage points since the September election, with its vote now 48 per cent compared to Labor’s 52 per cent. Short honeymoon even by today’s low-attention ten-second soundbite standards of public discourse.

According to the poll, published by News Corp Australia, the Abbott government is facing a voter backlash over the possible new debt tax on those earning more than $80,000.

Certainly, the government has yet to confirm the deficit levy will be included in the May 13 budget but it seems that only a howl of outrage from the Australian middle class will prevent it.

But with huge – some would say laughable – bravado, the Prime Minister has said any levy would be temporary, and therefore wouldn’t break an election promise not to increase taxes.

So let’s just get that clear. If you only break a promise for a while, it’s not a broken promise, right? So what does it become? A bent promise? A slightly tarnished promise? Do we now have a whole new level of Government probity (or otherwise) to parse?

Mr Pyne went on to deny that a levy (read: a new tax) would be Mr Abbott’s “Julia Gillard moment” – a reference to the former prime minister’s broken promise on the carbon tax. “There is no easy way out from the debt and deficit disaster that Labor’s left us,” Mr Pyne said. “But what we do has to be fair to everyone, and it has to be right for the country. That’s the job of government.”

Newly-minted Opposition Leader Bill Shorten finally woke up from his slumber and weighed in. He said Labor would oppose a deficit levy, and urged the prime minister to drop the tax hike before next week’s budget.

“Increasing taxes on working class and middle class Australians is a terrible mistake, and people will not forgive Mr Abbott for breaking this very big promise,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

Whilst we find it somewhat stomach-churning to hear it from one of the core team who allowed wasteful spending to again become a way of life for Australian Governments – and who lacked the guts to challenge Gillard for the top job in time to actually repair Labor’s fortunes – we think he’s right.

Having allowed his plans to leak and become discussed, Abbot is now between a rock and a hard place. If he backs down on the new tax because his advisors reckon he can ride it out (or, more likely, are so deep in their bubble they fundamentally misjudge the anger it will cause) then he will be seen to be weak in the fight against the very fiscal crisis that he has promoted as needing fixing.

If he levies the tax, he will be pilloried for breaking the most fundamental pre-election commitment he made.

And in other commitments made pre-election, Abbott also locked in several “No Cut” promises leaving him, hopefully in this correspondent’s opinion, with even less wriggle room. Just take a look at this:

 

Right: noted.

Right: noted.

 

Against a backdrop of Coalition MPs privately venting that the new tax move was “Crazy”, and “Electoral suicide”, even the uncontroversial (generally) Sydney Morning Herald asked yesterday “Could it become known as the “Abbott moment”, when a prime minister cursed his political fate and consigned his government to one term? A big call, to be sure, especially so far out from the next federal poll in 2016.”

We are under no illusion. We think Abbott is about to hand the Liberal Party leadership on a plate to the man who should have had it all along, Malcolm Turnbull, were it not for the “hard right” putsch that idiotically deposed him in Abbott’s favour by a single vote. Not immediately, not in the very short term, but before long. You heard it here first. Our tip would be just before Christmas 2014, as it was even before Abbott won the General Election.

To misquote George Bush Snr, “Read my lips: no way out.”

The Australian public is agog at the news today that the Abbott Government has placed an A$12.5 billion order for the F-35 strike fighter. That’s a lot of money for a nation with 22 million people. The Labor Opposition (who started this macho nonsense) needless to say agrees with the decision.

F 35 fighter

Wheeeeeeeee!

Which is interesting, because the troubled F-35 programme has its limitations.

It’s been plagued with developmental problems, not least of which the plane is extremely noisy and annoys local residents wherever it is based, so the good burghers of Newcastle in New South Wales may find themselves less than enthusiastic about their soon-to-be top gun neighbours than they might have thought.

But perhaps most relevant for the Australian public is that without in-air refuelling (and Australia has just five in-air refuelling units, by the way, to service what will eventually be a collection of 72 sooper-dooper shiny fighters, so presumably now we’re going to have to invest in a lot more of the refuelling planes, too) the new fighter jet has a maximum range of 2,200 kms, out and back.

Which logically means that the residents of Queensland should probably leave off looking for mud crabs and start building air-raid shelters, as they won’t reach anywhere else. Big place, Australia.

Meanwhile, the Abbott Government is saying it is so worried about Australia’s budget position that they are flagging we will have to pay an extra $6 to visit the GP, on top of the money we already contribute to Medicare via our taxes, and we will eventually be allowed to retire and claim our pension (which we have paid into all our lives) when we are about 82 or some such nonsense.

Forgive me for being naive, but I am reasonably sure that I remember that what we spend our public money on used to be a choice? In which case, I vote for fewer toys for the boys, a health system free at the point of use, and to be allowed to retire when I was originally promised I could.

To be more serious for a moment. The only time these planes would ever be used in anger would be if America or perhaps the EU asked us to join them in some military adventure in some far-flung region, and offered us base space over there so we could help out. Just as we did in Afghanistan, flying from a base in Kyrgyzstan.

But does the Australian public have much of an appetite for such efforts, still? After the pain endured in Afghanistan and the wanton idiocies of Iraq, (and we are still waiting to see Messrs Howard, Bush and Blair arraigned as war criminals), we doubt it. And that’s really what should be being debated over this purchase. Just where, exactly, Dear Prime Minister, do you intend to be using these aircraft, and why?

Lockheed Martin and the American government will no doubt consider this a wonderful decision, but we consider this an egregious and excessive use of our tax dollars that concretes us in even more tightly in lockstep with America at exactly the time that our growing engagement with Asia, and especially China, suggests that a slightly more neutral posture would be a wise and measured stance.

Do you agree?

Democracy becomes a farce

Dear Australia: I frankly expect better and I insist. Do you agree?

Faced with an Upper House result in our election on Saturday which is clearly ludicrous, I append below a letter I just sent to The Age and the The Australian. I’ll let you know if either of them print it.

If you are Australian, and you agree me, then I suggest you make the letter your own, and send it to Tony Abbott, or someone.

Dear Sirs

The solution to the current farce in the Senate – with preference deals delivering seats to people who initially achieve miniscule popular votes – is not to ban minor parties, nor even yet their convoluted preference deals.

It is simply to remove the requirement for people to vote “exhaustively”, (to number all the boxes), and to make the change not just in the Senate but in both houses of Parliament.

It is obviously ridiculous and impractical, if an elector does not understand or does not wish to follow a pre-set preference flow, and therefore intends to vote “below the line”, to insist that they express a preference between 97 Senate candidates, as we had to in Victoria.

And it makes a mockery of democratic will for candidates that clearly have no popular support whatsoever to be gifted a major role in determining what legislation successfully wends its way through Parliament.

Just let us number as many boxes as we like, then stop.

And it is just as ridiculous, in the lower house, to force us all to ultimately transfer our vote to one of the major party candidates if we don’t want to. We should be entitled to transfer a preference just as far as we, the electors, decide, not to be forced to end up donating our vote to a party with which we fundamentally disagree, merely because they are the lesser of two evils. That is fundamentally un-democratic.

And if, as a result of such a change, a lower house candidate fails to achieve 50% +1 in a seat, then the solution is simple – have a re-run after a short period of reflection for local electors to consider their options.

The necessary change to the electoral legislation would take five minutes to write. And it will be much more sensible, and less disruptive to Australian traditions, than many of the other ideas you will hear mooted, such as making it prohibitively difficult or expensive to establish a political party, or getting rid of mandatory attendance at polling stations. (Note, not “mandatory voting”, which we do not have in Australia.)

I look forward to our zealously reformist Prime Minister-elect acting on my suggestions forthwith.

Your sincerely
Stephen Yolland

PS Dear Reader, if you do anything as a result of reading this, let me know.

Deep, deep concerns about the wisdom of this course of action - the least the powers that be could do is show us the evidence.

Deep, deep concerns about the wisdom of this course of action – the least the powers that be could do is show us the evidence.

With his “red line” commitment, and the likely imminent bombing of Syria, Obama may have committed the worst blunder of what has in many ways been a Presidency mired in lost opportunities and disappointment.

When all’s said and done, it was never likely that Obama’s incumbency would reach the height of expectation generated by his first election victory.

And the economic crisis he had to deal with – and which he handled with some aplomb despite the criticism of an ornery Congress and the rabid right in America – dominated his first term.

Yet as we go along, there were also worrying signs that Obama lacks any genuine understanding of his role as a centre-left reformer on vital civil liberties issues.

He didn’t close Guantanamo as he promised to – but why? Was there ever any real doubt that Guantanamo inmates could be housed humanely and safely in America? No.

Just one of the many blight's on Obama's record as a small "d" democrat,

Just one of the many blights on Obama’s record as a small “d” democrat.

After years of incarceration, he has not released Guantanamo inmates who have been shown by any reasonable standard, including the opinion of the Administration, to be innocent of any crime. And trials of those considered guilty seem endlessly delayed.

Guilty as hell they might be, but justice delayed is justice denied, no matter who the defendant is.

He has not intervened to pardon whistleblower Bradley Manning, a principled if somewhat naive young person who many consider a hero.

He has argued it is acceptable for the Administration to kill US citizens without trial, via drone strikes, even within the USA’s borders if necessary. (You can’t even lock people up without trial, but you can execute them, apparently.)

For all his posturing, he has failed to act effectively on gun control.

He has done nothing to persuade states to drop the death penalty, nor has he intervened in cases where it is patently obvious that the soon-to-be-executed prisoner is innocent.

Troy Davis, just one of many executions against which there was serious disquiet, where Obama could have intervened, but didn't.

Troy Davis, just one of many executions against which there was serious disquiet, where Obama could have intervened, but didn’t.

He has continued – indeed, increased – drone strikes in countries nominally allied to the USA, despite their counter-productive effect on local opinion.

And now, faced with worldwide concern that we might be about to slip into a morass from which our exit is entirely uncertain, he seems determined to bomb the hell out of Damascus.

Current plans involve nearly 200 cruise missiles being dropped on the poor, benighted citizens of that beleaguered city.

(And that doesn’t count the payload of war planes that were yesterday landing at a rate of one every minute in Malta, according to one correspondent we have.)

One of our more popular t-shirts. You might check out this one, and others, at http://www.cafepress.com/yolly/7059992

One of our more popular t-shirts. You might check out this one, and others, at http://www.cafepress.com/yolly/7059992

Large scale civilian casualties will be brushed off by everyone as “sad but inevitable” except, of course, by the vast majority of the Arab and mid-East populace, already instinctive opponents of America, who will become, without doubt, angrier at the US and the West than ever, whatever they think of Assad.

Meanwhile, rumours continue to swirl unabated that the gas attack in the city was nothing to do with the regime, and could even have been an appalling accident from stocks held by rebel forces.

The US claims to have evidence of rockets being prepared with gas by the regime, but as this article argues, then why on earth not release that evidence?

We also have previous evidence that Syrian rebels have used gas themselves.

We have the persistent assertion that neo-cons have been planning to use Syria as just one more stepping stone to Mid-East hegemony, and that current alarums are just part of a long-range plan to hop into Syria on the way to Iran, as disclosed by retired general Wesley Clarke, presumably to depose the theocratic Islamic regime and grab the Iranian oilfields at the same time.

The fog generated by the secret state also makes it completely impossible to discern what was really going on when the Daily Mail first printed, then retracted as libellous (paying damages), an article about a British defence contractor revealing plans for a false flag gas attack on Syria.

So now, on the brink of war, we have the Obama government refusing to release all the facts that it is showing to members of Congress.

We can only ask “Why?”

If the case against the Assad regime stacks up, then the world – especially those in the mid East – need to know it before any action takes place. So does the UN, whether or not the Security Council can be persuaded to unanimity. (Extremely unlikely.) Because after Damascus is reduced to a smoking ruin will be too late to save the West’s credibility if it acts prematurely, or without irrefutable evidence.

And forgive us, but politicians reassuring us that the evidence is irrefutable just doesn’t cut it any more.

The continual accusation that something murky is going on will bedevil Obama unless this whole situation is conducted with total transparency. Memories of the “sexed up” dossier that led to the bloody war in Iraq (casualties 500,000 and counting) are still raw and fresh.

If he cares less about his legacy, Obama would do well to observe how Bush’s and Blair’s reputations have been forever trashed by that event. The tags “aggressors” and “war criminals” will follow them to their grave and beyond.

Why not simply release all the evidence, publicly. Why? That's what you have to tell us.

Why not simply release all the evidence, publicly. Why? That’s what you have to tell us.

As far as Wellthisiswhatithink is concerned, one piece of commonsense reasoning stands out for us above all others, fundamentally requiring an answer.

Obama had issued his red line warning. Why, in the name of all that is sensible, would Assad risk bringing down the wrath of Nato on his head by flinging chemical weapons at a relatively unimportant residential suburb, knowing full well what the response would be?

The war in Syria is a stalemate, his regime has suffered some losses but also some gains, and there is no evidence his personal grip on power was threatened. Why would this turkey vote for Christmas?

On the other hand, if a rogue Syrian officer wanted to aid the rebel cause, then what better way than to launch an attack which was guaranteed to provoke the West’s intervention, and possibly tip the scales emphatically in the rebel’s direction, something they seem unable to achieve for themselves?

As we contemplate the utter and ultimately murderous failure of diplomacy, we feel constrained to point out that the West – and all the other players like Russia – had a simple solution to the Syrian conflict available on the 23rd December 2011, while casualties were still horrific but minimal (just over 6,000), and before another civilian population had been utterly torn apart and traumatised.

Instead of standing back and doing nothing except chucking verbal rocks, Putin could be part of the solution. Nu-uh. Not so far.

Instead of standing back and doing nothing except chucking verbal rocks, Putin could be part of the solution. Nu-uh. Not so far.

We offered it in an article that explained patiently that there cannot be a solution to the Syrian crisis unless the leaders of the Baa’thist regime are offered a safe haven somewhere (either Russia or Iran, in all likelihood) and also pointed that we would need to keep the bulk of the civil administration in place even after a handover to the Syrian opposition, in order to prevent a complete breakdown in civil society as occurred in Iraq. And, of course, to prevent handing over power to the appalling al-Qaeda forces that were swarming into the conflict on the rebel side.

Now, thanks either to the complete ineptitude of Western politicians, or due to some hazy conspiracy the details of which we cannot clearly discern, we have the ultimate disaster on our hands.

One hundred thousand men, women and children who are NOT combatants are dead, and countless others injured.

Assad is weakened but has no way out.

The Opposition is in thrall to murderous savages that cut the heads off innocent people with pocket knives and shoot soldiers captured on the battlefront.

And we are about to waste hundreds of millions of dollars that we don’t have “taking out” Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles which, in reality, means taking out civilian neighbourhoods with yet more horrendous losses while the Syrian Government squirrel any WMDs they do have deep underground where they can’t be found, let alone bombed.

As the new Australian Prime minister Tony Abbott presciently remarked a few days ago, our choice in Syria is really between “baddies and baddies”.

Not exactly the brightest intellectual star in the political sky, for once Abbott's common touch pitched it about right.

Not exactly the brightest intellectual star in the political sky, for once Abbott’s common touch pitched it about right.

He was criticised for dismissing the conflict so colloquially, but frankly we think he deserves to be applauded for putting it so simply. We may well be about to intervene on behalf of one baddie, when the other baddie is at least as bad, if not worse.

And we do not refer, of course, to the principled, secular and democratic Syrian opposition that has bravely argued for regime change for a generation, but for the lunatics who would hijack their cause in the chaos.

And we are not even allowed to see the evidence for the upcoming attack. We repeat: why?

So much for democracy. So much for humanity. So much for truth and justice. Meanwhile, let’s feed the population bread and circuses – a steady diet of game shows, reality TV and talent quests, with some sport thrown in – let us anaesthetise our sensibilities to the hideous nature of what is about to happen – while the real powers behind the throne seemingly effortlessly manoeuvre public opinion in a relentless search for power, personal wealth and to justify corporate greed.

Frankly, always more of a fan of the cock-up theory of public administration (that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) we are actually beginning to sense that the shadow state is more real than any of us beyond the wildest conspiracy theorists ever truly imagined.

And we are also so very grateful that we do not live in a country with major oil fields.

His administration decided that it was better to let gas attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war against Iran. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted. How times change, huh?

Declassified CIA reports reveal that his administration decided that it was better to let gas attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war against Iran. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted. How times change, huh?

Last but by no means least: how do you like the hypocrisy of flattening Syria for theoretically using chemical weapons – although we are not allowed to see the proof – that actually might well have made their way to Assad via Saddam Hussein, that were originally cheerfully supplied to him by America, to chuck at Iranian troops in the Iraq-Iran war?

That’s when Saddam was still our good ol’ buddy, remember. Before he got a bit uppity.

Those weapons – which the dictator was actively urged to use by America backed up by American supplied intelligence – killed tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of people.

But that’d be wrong, right?

Sorry, my brain hurts.

One of the funny moments of the night was my mate remarking "The bloody Abbott kids look like they're in a Robert Palmer video" and sticking the comment on Facebook. Next day, blow me down if that comment isn't an internet meme. Well done, Greg, I'm your witness.

One of the funny moments of the night was my mate remarking “The bloody Abbott kids look like they’re in a Robert Palmer video” and sticking the comment on Facebook. Next day, blow me down if that comment isn’t an internet meme. Well done, Greg, I’m your witness.

We are big enough at Wellthisiswhatithink to say when we got something wrong. And we did. We predicted a 6-7% swing to the Coalition over Labor, and it turns out, nationally, to have been about 3.5%. We thought we did detect a slight movement back towards the Government in the last couple of days, but not enough to alter our prediction significantly.

Well we should have. It looks like the ALP have done about seven seats better than we thought they would at their best.

So: to what do we credit the late Labor increase?

Possibly a sense from some voters, as they went into the polling booths, that they simply could not countenance voting for Tony Abbott. Possibly some intended to vote for the ALP all along but were too embarrassed to tell the pollsters that. Who knows?

Anyhow, it was still a bloody awful night for Labor, a very emphatic win for the Liberal/NP Coalition, and any talk that the ALP will find it easy to bounce back and win the next election is poppycock.

Labor is now a long, long way behind, and Abbott will have to make an absolute cock-up not to win re-election in 2016 or thereabouts.

Labor must use the interregnum to build a whole new party, with a clear idea of why it exists, and chock full of new talent, some of whom won’t even be in the Parliament yet. It needs to re-build itself as a major force, with a well understood purpose, and with infinitely more discipline than it has shown in recent years. And that’s just to be competitive.

The reason for Labor’s less-than-total-disaster-but-not-much-better result is essentially down to it doing better than expected in Queensland than expected, (including Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd holding their seats), and in New South Wales, where a bunch of Western Sydney seats that should have fallen appear to have been heroically defended on the ground by their sitting MPs and supporters.

Maybe the Coalition wasn’t quite as aggressive as they should have been, and missed a chance.

Then again, Tasmania was worse for the ALP than we expected, South Australia about what we expected, and Western Australia better than we expected – this really was an election that proves what many have said before: all politics is local.

Anyhow, here’s where we were right or wrong on a seat by seat basis.

Richmond NSW GainedNAT 0.01%
The local Labor MP is popular and may resist the trend, but this is traditionally a conservative seat and we pick it to return to the Nationals.
What actually happened: WRONG Justin Elliott suffered about a 4% swing against her but held on gamely.

Barton NSW GainedLIB 0.1%
With well-known local MP Robert McClelland retiring and the less well-known Labor candidate up against a Greek-extraction local Mayor, Doc Evatt’s old seat will be one of the more painful losses of the night for the ALP.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Labor suffered a swing of nearly7% and are hangling on by the thinnest of threads – 62 votes – with 77% counted. There’s over 7,000 mainly conservative small party and independent votes left to count and 3,700 Greens. Will go down to the wire.

Werriwa NSW GainedLIB 0.3%
Martin Ferguson’s elder brother Laurie should be a shoe-in for this seat held by former Labor leaders Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham but it is another pick by us for a shock result in Sydney’s western suburbs.
What actually happened: WRONG Laurie Ferguson one of the Western Sydney warriors who kept the swing down below their margin. Re-elected.

Bass TAS GainedLIB 0.3%
Geoff Lyons turned this into a safe seat for Labor at the last election, but continuing economic malaise in Tassie and coming up against a decorated war hero for the Libs will probably see him off.
What actually happened: CORRECT Decorated war hero Andrew Nikolic grabs the seat away from Labor with a massive 10%+ swing.

Hindmarsh SA GainedLIB 0.9%
The precedent to look at here is the defeat of the Keating Labor Government in 1996. Redistribution has made it slightly safer for Labor recently, but it’s older population are even less inclined to vote ALP than everyone else. Opinion poll in late August had it at 50:50 two-party-preferred. Labor have gone backward since then: gone.
What actually happened: CORRECT Steve Georganis swept aside by the national mood, where others like Kate Ellis in Adelaide survived.

Perth WA GainedLIB 1.1%
Labor have parachuted in a popular ex State MP and Minister and this seat may buck the trend, but no one is sure how big Stephen Smith’s personal vote was. (Our guess, it will still go.)
What actually happened: WRONG Great work by outgoing MP Stephen Smith as campaign manager for Alannah MacTiernan sees her home by a comfortable margin. One of the best results of the night for Labor.

Chisholm VIC GainedLIB 1.2%
Ex-speaker Anna Burke is popular locally but Victoria is falling back in line with the rest of the country after its pro-Gillard performance last time, and an excellent ethnic-Vietnamese Liberal candidate and a clutch of stalking horse minor right-wing parties all preferencing him will see her gone.
What actually happened: WRONG Anna Burke’s personal popularity gets her over the line after all.

Oxley QLD GainedLNP 1.2%
Pauline Hanson’s old seat has more couples with babies than any other in the state: no doubt paid parental leave will resonate here. And both Katter and Palmer preferencing the Libs will make this just one more of the overall ugly picture in the Sunshine State for the ALP.
What actually happened: WRONG Chalk this one up for the “Who the hell knows, it’s Queensland not Australia” factor. One of the clutch of Queensland seats that should have been gone for all money, but wasn’t.

Fremantle WA GainedLIB 1.3%
Melissa Parke is attractive, popular and talented, with a very impressive CV: she may hang on: but we pick her to fall in Carmen Lawrence’s old seat, somewhat unfairly perhaps, to the country-wide Liberal/NP tsunami.
What actually happened: WRONG Rather pleased to see we got this one wrong, strong union ties in the docks area will have helped.

Rankin QLD GainedLNP 1.6%
Craig Emerson’s retiring, and this rock solid Labor seat falling will be one of the news stories of the night. It won’t help the new Labor candidate that he was a policy wonk and then Chief of Staff to Wayne Swan, a man now actively detested in Queensland, nor by both Katter and Palmer interfering.
What actually happened: WRONG Bizarre. Has to be called a shock. One wonders, frankly, whether the fact the Liberal National Party candidate was Asian counted against him …

Kingsford Smith NSW GainedLIB 1.8%
Another “shock horror” news story. Bye bye Peter Garrett. Bye bye seat.
What actually happened: WRONG Called for the Libs by insiders on the ground as recently as two days ago … but one of the unexpected Labor “holds”.

Dobell NSW GainedLIB 1.9%
Craig Thomson’s seat. Need we say more?
What actually happened: CORRECT No, we didn’t need to say more. Gone.

Parramatta NSW GainedLIB 2.6%
Nearly went back to the Libs last time. Will this time.
What actually happened: WRONG Still ultra-marginal but Julie Owens survives – just.

Eden-Monaro NSW GainedLIB 2.8%
Australia’s most reliable “litmus test” seat, having been won by the party that formed government at every election since 1972. It will be again.
What actually happened: CORRECT Popular local Labor man did his best and looked like he might hang on, but he hasn’t.

Blair QLD GainedLNP 2.8%
Labor’s Shayne Neumann is popular locally, but that won’t save him from the anti-Labor swing in Qld.
What actually happened: WRONG It did save him.

Page NSW GainedNAT 2.8%
Since 1990 the electorate has been another key bellwether seat, being won at every election by the party that formed government after the election. Sitting Labor MP Janelle Saffin is popular, but nothing will save Labor in NSW this time round.
What actually happened: CORRECT Another popular local Labor identity who performed creditably, but the seat heads to the Nats.

Lingiari NT GainedCLP 3.3%
Combattive ALP member Warren Snowdon might buck the trend in the seat with the largest percentage of indigenous Australians in the country. But we doubt it. Then again, the NT is a long way from anywhere. CLP candidate confident.
What actually happened: CORRECT Veteran Labor MP looks like he has lost. Still a sliver of hope, but fading fast.

Capricornia QLD GainedLNP 3.3%
Michelle Landry did well for the Libs last time in a seat with a large mining sector. With Labor MP Kirsten Livermore retiring, she’ll go one better this time.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Labor suffered a swing of nearly 8% and are hanging on for grim death – 140 votes – ahead as we write – with 79% counted. Lots of conservative minor party votes to be distributed, we still call this as a Liberal gain.

Brand WA GainedLIB 3.7%
Kim Beazely’s old seat has been going slightly bad for the ALP for a while. The decline will be terminal for Minister Gary Gray on Saturday. Late icing on the Liberal cake.
What actually happened: WRONG Gray’s experience will be back to help Labor re-build in one of the most important “holds” for them on the night. His excellent relations with the mining industry lends the ALp much needed credibility.

Lilley QLD GainedLNP 3.8%
You really think Wayne Swan can win his seat again? Really?
What actually happened: WRONG He really did. Rudd apparently limiting the swing against Labor in Queensland – theoretically – ironically saved one of Rudd’s most passionate opponents within his own party. Remarkable result for Swan personally.

Reid NSW GainedLIB 4.3%
John Murphy is an assiduously hard working local member in what should be rock-solid Labor territory. But we don’t think he can resist the swing … when it’s on, it’s on.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Really too close to call yet. Green preferences may see John Murphy back, but it’s squeaky bum time.

Petrie QLD GainedLNP 4.5%
One of the more re-electable ALP members, Yvette D’Ath still looks very likely to be swept away in the landslide.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Incredibly close. Suspect D’Ath will lose, but time will tell.

La Trobe VIC GainedLIB 5.3%
Redistributions, demographic change, and the national swing will see this seat return to its former Liberal MP, Jason Wood
What actually happened: CORRECT Brave fight by popular Labor candidate, but gone.

Banks NSW GainedLIB 5.6%
Only ever held by Labor since it’s establishment, the local state seats have already moved to the Libs, and Labor’s Daryl Melham cannot resist how badly the ALP are on the nose in NSW. Gone.
What actually happened: CORRECT One that didn’t survive for Labor.

Moreton QLD GainedLNP 5.9%
Doesn’t matter how many times electorate redistributions nudge the seat back to the ALP, it’s gone in the Queensland bloodbath this time for sure.
What actually happened: WRONG The story of this election is the number of Queensland seats Labor defended against the odds.

Lindsay NSW GainedLIB 5.9%
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury has no Liberal cock-ups to rely on this time. He will be one of the early high-profile Ministerial casualties of the night.
What actually happened: CORRECT He was.

Robertson NSW GainedLIB 6.0%
Deborah O’Neill was one of the surprise winners for Labor at the last election, but there seems no realistic chance of her resisting the pro-Coalition swing this time.
What actually happened: CORRECT She didn’t.

Greenway NSW GainedLIB 6.1%
Despite Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz stumbling early on, there seems no reason why this seat will not head back to the Liberals. His popularity with local branches will help him perform credibly on the ground. And it’s Western Sydney. Nuff said.
What actually happened: WRONG Seems like local people were watching. Classic train wreck.

Deakin VIC GainedLIB 6.4%
Will be one of the early gains for the Coalition. Always a Liberal-leaning seat, it’s a certain gain this time.
What actually happened: CORRECT Huge Liberal effort paid off. Actually, they probably didn’t win as big as they expected to.

Corangamite VIC GainedLIB 6.7%
Popular local TV presenter and activist Sarah Henderson will win this most marginal seat easily. Indeed, she could even win on first preferences.
What actually happened: CORRECT And she nearly did, with 48.22%. Rock solid win.

So. We were sort of right. And sort of wrong. A bit righter than wronger. Just.

Labor lost other seats we didn’t expect like Bass and Braddon in Tassie. And as we said, Kevin Rudd kept his seat, just.

Phew. Quite a trot. Well, we’re all Aussie politicked out for a while.

And if you’ll believe that, Dear Reader, you’ll believe anything.

(Tomorrow, we try and make sense of the Senate election for you – Ed.)

"I have seen the future ... trust me, you don't want to know."

“I have seen the future … trust me, Kevin, you really don’t want to know.”

We are on record as calling this election for the Liberal-National Coalition about two years ago, and at no time, even in the briefest of honeymoons enjoyed by Kevin Rudd after his re-election as Labor leader, have we changed our mind.

Accordingly, it’s a bit boring for us to say “Whoo-hoo, Tony Abbott’s going to win.” Blind Freddie knows Tony Abbott’s going to win.

But how big, hmmm?

Well, we are also on record as saying that this could be the worst result for Labor in living memory.

Current radio talkback scuttlebutt is predicting a Lib-NP coalition win with roughly a thirty seat margin. Say 90 seats to 60.

We’re prepared to go further than that.

We think the swing from Labor to the Coalition nationally could be as high as 7% overall, rarely lower, and in some places higher, meaning the final Labor haul could be as low as 40 up to 50 seats, and the Liberal-NP haul could be in the 100-110 ten seat area.

A win, in other words, of truly historic proportions.

Both options are currently paying just over three bucks on Centrebet – in other words, the market agrees with me. (Betting prices are always a great indicator of likely results, because the party apparatchicks supplement their earnings by betting on what they know the likely results will be.)

Does the size of the win really matter? Well, no, not really. Except that faced with such an utter repudiation, it is possible that Kevin Rudd will resign the Labor leadership immediately, where with a closer result he might have hung on for a bit to see what happened. Who will take over? Surely Bill Shorten, but then again, who really knows with the Australian Labor Party any more? Their dearth of Front Bench talent is quite scary. Anthony Albanese would be another possibility, but, excellent performer that he is, is he really alternative Prime Minister material? I doubt it.

Why do we think the result will be even worse than currently predicted? Well, bluntly, we think, when polled, many voters who are actually intending to very begrudgingly support Tony Abbott are simply too embarrassed to say so, but they are nevertheless determined to wipe the Labor Party from power this time.

So for the record, these are the seats I think the Coalition will gain – and there could even be more than this – listed here with their new Coalition winning margins. There will possibly be some real huge shocks, even bigger than some on this list.

If you happen to live in any of these seats, clicking the seat name will take you to a detailed breakdown of that seat. (Courtesy of the ABC’s consistently excellent psephologist, Anthony Green.) Or you can just read our rationale.

Richmond NSW GainedNAT 0.01%
The local Labor MP is popular and may resist the trend, but this is traditionally a conservative seat and we pick it to return to the Nationals.

Barton NSW GainedLIB 0.1%
With well-known local MP Robert McClelland retiring and the less well-known Labor candidate up against a Greek-extraction local Mayor, Doc Evatt’s old seat will be one of the more painful losses of the night for the ALP.

Werriwa NSW GainedLIB 0.3%
Martin Ferguson’s elder brother Laurie should be a shoe-in for this seat held by former Labor leaders Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham but it is another pick by us for a shock result in Sydney’s western suburbs.

Bass TAS GainedLIB 0.3%
Geoff Lyons turned this into a safe seat for Labor at the last election, but continuing economic malaise in Tassie and coming up against a decorated war hero for the Libs will probably see him off.

Hindmarsh SA GainedLIB 0.9%
The precedent to look at here is the defeat of the Keating Labor Government in 1996. Redistribution has made it slightly safer for Labor recently, but it’s older population are even less inclined to vote ALP than everyone else. Opinion poll in late August had it at 50:50 two-party-preferred. Labor have gone backward since then: gone.

Perth WA GainedLIB 1.1%
Labor have parachuted in a popular ex State MP and Minister and this seat may buck the trend, but no one is sure how big Stephen Smith’s personal vote was. (Our guess, it will still go.)

Chisholm VIC GainedLIB 1.2%
Ex-speaker Anna Burke is popular locally but Victoria is falling back in line with the rest of the country after its pro-Gillard performance last time, and an excellent ethnic-Vietnamese Liberal candidate and a clutch of stalking horse minor right-wing parties all preferencing him will see her gone.

Oxley QLD GainedLNP 1.2%
Pauline Hanson’s old seat has more couples with babies than any other in the state: no doubt paid parental leave will resonate here. And both Katter and Palmer preferencing the Libs will make this just one more of the overall ugly picture in the Sunshine State for the ALP.

Fremantle WA GainedLIB 1.3%
Melissa Parke is attractive, popular and talented, with a very impressive CV: she may hang on: but we pick her to fall in Carmen Lawrence’s old seat, somewhat unfairly perhaps, to the country-wide Liberal/NP tsunami.

Rankin QLD GainedLNP 1.6%
Craig Emerson’s retiring, and this rock solid Labor seat falling will be one of the news stories of the night. It won’t help the new Labor candidate that he was a policy wonk and then Chief of Staff to Wayne Swan, a man now actively detested in Queensland, nor by both Katter and Palmer interfering.

Kingsford Smith NSW GainedLIB 1.8%
Another “shock horror” news story. Bye bye Peter Garrett. Bye bye seat.

Dobell NSW GainedLIB 1.9%
Craig Thomson’s seat. Need we say more? 

Parramatta NSW GainedLIB 2.6%
Nearly went back to the Libs last time. Will this time.

Eden-Monaro NSW GainedLIB 2.8%
Australia’s most reliable “litmus test” seat, having been won by the party that formed government at every election since 1972. It will be again.

Blair QLD GainedLNP 2.8%
Labor’s Shayne Neumann is popular locally, but that won’t save him from the anti-Labor swing in Qld.

Page NSW GainedNAT 2.8%
Since 1990 the electorate has been another key bellwether seat, being won at every election by the party that formed government after the election. Sitting Labor MP Janelle Saffin is popular, but nothing will save Labor in NSW this time round.

Lingiari NT GainedCLP 3.3%
Combattive ALP member Warren Snowdon might buck the trend in the seat with the largest percentage of indigenous Australians in the country. But we doubt it. Then again, the NT is a long way from anywhere. CLP candidate confident.

Capricornia QLD GainedLNP 3.3%
Michelle Landry did well for the Libs last time in a seat with a large mining sector. With Labor MP Kirsten Livermore retiring, she’ll go one better this time.

Brand WA GainedLIB 3.7%
Kim Beazely’s old seat has been going slightly bad for the ALP for a while. The decline will be terminal for Minister Gary Gray on Saturday. Late icing on the Liberal cake.

Lilley QLD GainedLNP 3.8%
You really think Wayne Swan can win his seat again? Really?

Reid NSW GainedLIB 4.3%
John Murphy is an assiduously hard working local member in what should be rock-solid Labor territory. But we don’t think he can resist the swing … when it’s on, it’s on. 

Petrie QLD GainedLNP 4.5%
One of the more re-electable ALP members, Yvette D’Ath still looks very likely to be swept away in the landslide.

La Trobe VIC GainedLIB 5.3%
Redistributions, demographic change, and the national swing will see this seat return to its former Liberal MP, Jason Wood

Banks NSW GainedLIB 5.6%
Only ever held by Labor since it’s establishment, the local state seats have already moved to the Libs, and Labor’s Daryl Melham cannot resist how badly the ALP are on the nose in NSW. Gone.

Moreton QLD GainedLNP 5.9%
Doesn’t matter how many times electorate redistributions nudge the seat back to the ALP, it’s gone in the Queensland bloodbath this time for sure.

Lindsay NSW GainedLIB 5.9%
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury has no Liberal cock-ups to rely on this time. He will be one of the early high-profile Ministerial casualties of the night.

Robertson NSW GainedLIB 6.0%
Deborah O’Neill was one of the surprise winners for Labor at the last election, but there seems no realistic chance of her resisting the pro-Coalition swing this time.

Greenway NSW GainedLIB 6.1%
Despite Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz stumbling early on, there seems no reason why this seat will not head back to the Liberals. His popularity with local branches will help him perform credibly on the ground. And it’s Western Sydney. Nuff said.

Deakin VIC GainedLIB 6.4%
Will be one of the early gains for the Coalition. Always a Liberal-leaning seat, it’s a certain gain this time.

Corangamite VIC GainedLIB 6.7%
Popular local TV presenter and activist Sarah Henderson will win this most marginal seat easily. Indeed, she could even win on first preferences.

Anyhow. Please do not telephone after about 9pm on Saturday evening. We will be drunkenly incoherent at the prospect of a Government with a massive majority (always a bad thing in our view) which will be much, much more right wing than people realise. Just think, it if it wasn’t for the machinations of the likes of Nick Minchin, most of us could be even quite looking forward to the erudition and moderation of “small l” liberal Malcom Turnbull being PM on Sunday. O! May you rot in hell, Minchin! Slowly.

What will happen in the Senate is anyone’s guess and won’t be clear for some weeks. It is not impossible that we will have three essentially conservative independents delivering a majority of one to Abbott in the Senate, (with either Katter’s Party or Palmer’s Party picking up a Senator in Queensland at least), so he will be able to repeal the carbon tax over the head of Labor and the Greens whatever happens elsewhere. Much celebration will be had on the right of politics. That is by no means certain, however.

If that’s the case, the country will be left with an abiding problem. Climate change is not going to go away. Sans the carbon tax/price on carbon, international pressure will be brought to bear to ensure that Australia lives up to the carbon rebatement schemes of its trading partners. If we don’t have a carbon tax, then what do we have? Especially as the Coalition’s extremely expensive ‘direct action’ plan is widely considered unworkable and ludicrously expensive.

So. Last prediction for today? Expect to see some form of free market carbon-trading scheme introduced by an Abbott government inside the next three years. The very issue on which Turnbull was toppled.

Who’d be a politician, eh?

As for Labor, cue the most awful period of pained introspection a political party could possibly imagine. Labor has a dreadful paucity of talent, a miniscule and shrinking supporter base, is completely lost as to what differentiates it from the Liberals and Nats, and appears ever more comprehensively irrelevant. I have watched politics long enough to know that parties can and do bounce back from shocking election defeats, and sometimes surprisingly rapidly. But really: where is Labor’s Messiah? Where, even, is its light on the hill? To where does it turn it’s eyes, to which wheel does it place its shoulder?

Grim times indeed.

(For overseas readers who are not obsessed with Australian politics, Minchin was the eminence grise and now retired Senator who was behind the party room coup that toppled popular Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull and replaced him with hard-right Tony Abbott by a single vote. If he’s on a TV panel on Saturday night I will throw a shoe at the screen or worse.)

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paul_keating

Somehow the wagging finger rarely irritated. The brain behind it was so impressive.

Ex Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating is a fascinating man.

Uncompromising, arrogant – and even aloof – certain of his own intellectual superiority, frequently hilariously funny, master of Despatch Box wit, he was responsible for some of the most major reforms in Australian political history, including opening the country to free trade, and ensuring all Australians have some sort of superannuation to fall back on in retirement.

When "intellectual" wasn't a dirty word. Whitlam and Keating share a joke.

When “intellectual” wasn’t a dirty word. Whitlam and Keating share a joke.

Not for nothing was one of his mentors former Labour hero Gough Whitlam.

They shared a love of fine things, were both uber-brainy dandys, and neither brooked much opposition.

They controlled their caucuses by diktat, but they were so patently the most impressive guys around that no one really minded all that much.

Keating once memorable christened John Howard "His Oiliness"

Keating once memorably christened Liberal Party leader John Howard “His Oiliness”

To remember how good Keating was, one really only has to admire the strong, internationally-engaged economic state of the nation that John Howard inherited from him.

And one only has to trawl some of his more famous quotations – usually insulting put-downs – that framed the debate for year after year.

It would be easy to dismiss them as mere vitriol, but they were much more than that. Keating had an ear for what ordinary “little” people thought, and the imagination to wrestle that into pithy quotes.

Try these:

On Opposition Leader and then Prime Minister John Howard:

  • “The little desiccated coconut is under pressure and he is attacking anything he can get his hands on”
  • “What we have got is a dead carcass, swinging in the breeze, but nobody will cut it down to replace him.”
  • “He’s wound up like a thousand day clock.”
  • (Of his 1986 leadership contest) “From this day onwards, Howard will wear his leadership like a crown of thorns, and in the parliament I’ll do everything to crucify him.”
  • “He is the greatest job and investment destroyer since the bubonic plague.”
  • “But I will never get to the stage of wanting to lead the nation standing in front of the mirror each morning clipping the eyebrows here and clipping the eyebrows there with Janette and the kids: It’s like ‘Spot the eyebrows’.”
  • “I am not like the Leader of the Opposition. I did not slither out of the Cabinet room like a mangy maggot.”
  • “He has more hide than a team of elephants.”
  • “Come in sucker.”
Keating believed Peter Costello essentially "lacked ticker". He was right.

Keating believed Peter Costello essentially “lacked ticker”. He was right.

On Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello:

  • “The thing about poor old Costello is he is all tip and no iceberg.He can throw a punch across the parliament but the bloke he should be throwing a punch to is Howard, but of course he doesn’t have the ticker for it.”
  • “He has now been treasurer for 11 years. The old coconut (John Howard) is still there araldited to the seat.The Treasurer works on the smart quips but when it comes to staring down the prime minister in his office he always leaves disappointed.He never gets the sword out.”

Just because you were in the same party as Keating, that was never protection from his wrath.

Keating’s passions were French antique clocks, opera and piano concertos. The sports mad Labor cabinet didn’t stand a chance.

He could dish it to his own side, too.

Like this stoush with John Browne and Bob Hawke (who he memorably named “Old Jellyback” because of Keating’s perception of his preparedness to compromise on principle) when he was Treasurer:

  • “Now listen mate,” [to John Browne, Minister of Sport, who was proposing a 110 per cent tax deduction for contributions to a Sports Foundation] “you’re not getting 110 per cent. You can forget it.This is a fucking Boulevard Hotel special, this is.The trouble is we are dealing with a sports junkie here [gesturing towards Bob Hawke].I go out for a piss and they pull this one on me.Well that’s the last time I leave you two alone.From now on, I’m sticking to you two like shit to a blanket.”
Hewson famously lost "the unloseable election" to Keating with the schemozzle over their "Fightback" plan. The Liberal Party ever since is chary of releasing its polices for scrutiny, including in this election.

Hewson famously lost “the unloseable election” to Keating with the schemozzle over the “Fightback” plan. The Liberal Party has ever since been chary of releasing its polices for scrutiny, including in this election.

To then Leader of the Opposition John Hewson:

  • Hewson: [if you’re so sure of yourself] why don’t you call an election?Keating: Oh no, Hewson, don’t think you’re going to get out of it that easily mate. I’m going to do you slowly, son …” The relish with which Keating delivered the word “slowly” has passed into Australian political history …

And about him:

  • “Captain Zero”
  • “I did not insult the Honorable Member for Wentworth. I merely implied that he was like a lizard on a rock – not dead yet, but looking it.”
  • “[His performance] is like being flogged with a warm lettuce.”
WIlson "Iron Bar" Tuckey only had to poke his head above the parapet to set Keating off.

WIlson “Iron Bar” Tuckey only had to poke his head above the parapet to set Keating off.

Most memorably, Keating would fire up whenever confronted with the teasing of extreme right-wing MP Wilson Tuckey from the seat of O’Connor in WA.

Unparliamentary language? For sure. But rather wonderful nevertheless.

  • “You stupid foul-mouthed grub.”
  • “Shut up! Sit down and shut up, you pig!”
  • “You boxhead you wouldn’t know. You are flat out counting past ten.”
  • “You filthy, disgusting piece of criminal garbage!”

Anyhow, without demonstrating quite the same level of vituperative humour, Mr Keating has made a memorable intervention in the 2013 Federal Election to opine that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard had steered the country through the “valley of economic death” in 2008-09 to be what no other country in the world has been.

“No recession, no great dip in employment,” Mr Keating said, launching the campaign of Labor minister Bill Shorten in his Melbourne seat of Maribyrnong on Friday, to rousing applause from party faithful.

“This is not like Europe. This is not like the United States. We’ve kept people in employment and given them real wages growth.”

Since 1991, real wages had increased 36 per cent and disposable incomes by 40 per cent, he said.

“This is the only country that has done this. It came from the policies of the Labor government. It didn’t come from the Tories. They know what they’re against. They never know what they’re for.”

Mr Keating credited Labor for creating equity in health, superannuation, education and now disability care.

“The others never do these things. They’re always mean. Mean little people,” he said.

“No imagination, no bigness and no heart. Just the natural cycle means every now and then they get another go.”

Mr Keating said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had to do more than offer slogans.

“Stop the boats, he says, we’ll get rid of the mining tax, and we’ll get rid of the carbon tax,” he said. “These slogans can never be an organising principle for the nation.”

Mr Keating accused the Liberals of walking away from accountability standards, saying they ignored former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello’s decision that treasury publish public accounts before an election.

“This is a very bad thing which is happening. Bad for the core integrity of the financial system, the way the country operates, bad for trust in the system.

“We’re facing a sort of flimflam opposition, one without standards.

“Even the previous conservative government accepted that standard but they’ve walked away from that.

“Cynical Joe Hockey says, ‘oh people are bored with numbers’. Really, Joe? They’re not bored with you are they?”

Except for his obligatory defence of Rudd, Gillard and, er, Rudd, Keating has nailed the Liberal’s essential intellectual vacuity, and he should be listened to. Sadly, the problem is that the alternative to Paul Keating is Kevin Rudd, and there is no cure for that.

Is there any doubt that Labor could win this election with Keating at the helm, instead of the Milky Bar Kid?

What as shame he seems to be thoroughly enjoying his retirement.

refugees.jpg

They look dangerous. Let’s send them somewhere acceptably primitive and tropical so no more come.

In a rush to the darkest hole in the murky depths of the political gene pool, Australian Labor have now decreed that any refugee attempting to arrive by boat who are intercepted before reaching the shores of our vast, under-populated and incredibly wealthy country will never be allowed to settle here, but will, instead, be shipped off permanently to Papua New Guinea.

PNG is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Their residency there will be paid for by huge Australian aid grants – theoretically, that is: the PNG infrastructure is woefully inadequate for their existing population, and it is hard to see how they could possibly cope with an influx of thousands of Iranians, Afghanis and Sri Lankans – but the Australian electorate are not even permitted to know what the scale of this financial support might be, as opposed to the cost (or likely benefit, as shown by research paper after research paper), of settling any refugees in Australia.

This is a disgracefully mean-spirited and petty move from our Prime Minister, who so often parades his “Christian” virtue – what a hypocrite. What a nasty little power hungry goblin of a man he really is, to be sure. He has the moral compass of a gang leader trying to take over a rival’s turf – in this case, the ever-strident ratbaggery of Tony Abbott and his radical right cronies.

It is a timely moment for everyone interested in the quality of our governance to remember Martin Luther King’s famous remark:

“Everything Hitler did was legal.”

The “PNG solution” is legal.

It is also wickedly, shamefully and embarrassingly wrong: it is morally unsupportable.

And that it could be considered an aid to the slim prospects of Kevin Rudd being re-elected is a swingeing indictment of the priorities of the Australian electorate, and of the endless campaign of misinformation that has been waged by the Liberal-National Coalition both in and out of office.

A plague on both your houses.

That we are obliged, by law, to exhaust our ballot choices until we inevitably vote for one or the other of you is no longer tenable.

It is time – long overdue – that “None of the above/No further” was an available option on our Alternative Vote ballot papers. A reform that would see many seats left vacant after an election, I am sure. Just the wake up call the hacks in the Australian Government and Opposition – and the commentariat that lets them get away with such appalling policies – deserves and needs.

And while we’re about it, let’s nail two other pieces of public policy bullshit.

Bullshit #1

Would you risk this, would you risk your family, if you weren't utterly desperate?

Would you risk this, would you risk your family, if you weren’t utterly desperate?

This isn’t about stopping asylum seekers from drowning at sea.

If that was our motivation, we would simply send a few chartered cruise ships to Indonesia, scoop up all the refugees, and bring them to Australia safely.

This is because, despite Australia’s legal obligations, we don’t want these people here.

Despite our honourable tradition of welcoming refugees – and of them becoming leading citizens at all levels of our society – we have now officially decided to turn our backs on some of the poorest, weakest, most persecuted people on the planet.

Because remember, these are not “illegal immigrants”. They are not “economic migrants”. Because if they are found to be, then they are repatriated. These are displaced people, refugees.

Bullshit #2

Why do these people have to try and make their way to Australia?

Because Indonesia and Malaysia are not signatories to the UN Convention on Human Rights. They won’t give these people a “safe haven”. They lock them up. They marginalise them. They persecute them. They won’t let them work, raise a family, make their own way.

So they HAVE to keep going. So tell me, someone, why does Australia support the Governments of these countries with economic aid? Why do we not leverage this aid to insist that they take up their responsibilities too?

No, I am not arguing that Australia should not take up a larger share of the burden – we have the resources, and Lord knows we need the people. But the hypocrisy of the Indonesian and Malaysian leadership is nearly as breathtakingly sickening as that of the Milky Bar Kid and his acolytes in Canberra.

It is time for ordinary people in Australia to become righteously angry about this matter. Sadly, I suspect that apart from a laudable and vocal minority, they will focus their attention on the cricket.

I am often criticised (in 99% of cases by ironed-on conservatives or Republicans) for being too critical about the quality of American politics, (which I freely admit fascinates me), and the performance of the right in particular. So I was pleased to see today’s report that the most popular politician (by opinion poll) in Australia appears to completely agree with my point of view.

Malcolm Turnbull says American politics is becoming 'profoundly dysfuntional'.

As reported in The Age, re-reporting an interview with The Monthly, published today, Malcolm Turnbull says American politics is becoming ‘profoundly dysfunctional’. 

He has sharply criticised the corrupting power of money in the US and described America as looking ”like a country that is barely governed”.

The former Liberal leader and member of  Tony Abbott’s shadow cabinet (note, “Liberal” in Australian political terms means the main Conservative party, and current Official Opposition, and not the “progressive” position it means in America, nor the centrist position it means in the UK), says American politics is becoming ”profoundly dysfunctional”.

He attacks the Republican idea that the budgetary situation can be improved by cutting the taxes of the wealthy as ”just bizarre”, and describes the right-wing Tea Party as extreme, reactionary and radical.

Author of the interview article Robert Manne writes: ”He thinks that American voluntary voting encourages Republican extremism and the search for ‘hot-button issues’, like abortion or guns or gay marriage or Obama as a secret Muslim.

”He is concerned about the fragmentation of opinion and collapse of the rational centre. He is profoundly concerned about the ‘self-evident’ corrupting influence of ‘the power of money’.”

Mr Turnbull is also very critical of the Iraq war – in which Australia was an enthusiastic US ally under the previous conservative Howard government.

”The argument for saying it was a mistake and misconceived is a very powerful one … There are plenty of people on both sides of politics in the US who take that view.’

I am delighted to hear a conservative politician break ranks on this, which is surely now one of the most accepted facts in international conflict studies. The Iraq war was launched on lies, conducted without adequate legal authority, with no exit strategy, managed appallingly badly by Rumsfeld and others, and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. Hardly a family in Iraq has been untouched.

Mr Turnbull, who agreed to the interview on condition he would not be asked about his leader Mr Abbott, says climate change denialism is ”contrary to the views of, I think, just about everybody in the Coalition party room”. Manne however notes Mr Abbott once described as ”absolute crap” the view that climate scientists had a consensus position.

The interesting thing for me is how much more mainstream Turnbull is than the current leadership of his party. I have little doubt that were they to dump Abbott for him, (Abbott having only defeated him by one vote in the party room, remember, after a well-organised right-wing coup), that they would be elected in the largest landslide in Australian political history, regardless of how well the Government does in the next 18 months.

Almost unthinkably by current received wisdom, as things stand, I firmly believe Abbott is on track to lose the un-loseable election.

We will see.

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard

Rudd and Gillard - this one could run and run. And if they don't, you know what? The other side could join in, too. Geez it'd be nice if they gave a toss about us out here in the real world.

So the Foreign Minister of Australia resigns in a fit of pique over criticisms that he is not being loyal to the Prime Minister – surely the worst kept secret in politics – and it’s on for man and boy as they say over here.

Well, woman and boy, actually, the woman being Julia Gillard, so recently fêted as Australia’s first female Prime Minister but now mired in accusations of incompetence – and Kevin Rudd as the boy she replaced when he in his turn was widely considered incompetent, and I say “boy” because he really does look like nothing more nor less than the Milky Bar Kid, which is very cruel for a man of some standing and intellect, but really quite amusing all the same.

So, we have a spill at the Labor caucus next week, and now the meeja blather on ceaselessly about the “leadership crisis” in the Labor Party, boring the pants off everybody except the politicians themselves and a tiny minority of political junkies and apparatchiks.

But to my mind, we do not have a leadership crisis in Canberra. We have an un-leadership crisis.

And ironically, it is not restricted to the ALP.

Whoever wins the caucus vote next week will get an opinion poll bounce – you watch – plucky little Kevin because he is undeniably more popular with the electorate anyway, who feel he was treated shabbily when they got rid of him, (conveniently forgetting that he was got rid of because the public were bucketing him in opinion polls), or “real” Julia, for successfully rallying her troops and finally showing some grit and mettle of her own.

And when that happens, expect the hard heads in the Liberal Party to start taking a long and detailed look at the relative popularity of their leadership options – Messrs Abbott and Turnbull Esq – versus whoever is Labor leader.

Think the faceless men of the Labor Party are ruthless? I reckon the top end of town leave ‘em for dead. If there’s the tiniest inkling that the Mad Monk (aka current Liberal leader Tony Abbott, he of handlebar ears, ridiculous swimming costumes, and extreme right wing Roman Catholic-tinged views) could fall at the final hurdle then he’ll be replaced by telegenic moderate Turnbull faster than you can say “well, Abbott only won by one vote last time”.

Meanwhile the voters deal with ever rising cost of living pressures and look nervously over the horizon at the chaos in Europe and the USA and – quite rightly – mutter angrily that their political masters simply don’t live in the same anxious country as them.

Same country? They barely inhabit the same planet.