21 July 2010

Raw deals and burnt offerings

I love it that we live in a country where a joint press conference by two politicians (do not dare call it a debate) gives way to a cooking show. Perhaps they could both share the same theme:

'Cause you're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in then you're out
You're up then you're down
You're wrong when it's right
It's black and it's white
We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up

(You) You don't really want to stay, no
(You) But you don't really want to go
You're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down

In the comments on the previous post, derrida derider reckons we get the government we deserve. I think this is only true if you believe our democratic processes are more remote than they are. It harks from a time when the class of voters was limited and those who ended up in Parliament could be expected to be reasonably representative of the franchise. I can't be convinced that the people of North Korea deserve the Kim Dynasty, nor that Zimbabweans deserve Mugabe; and that's sticking to our own time and avoiding Godwin's Law assiduously.

That said, Australia deserves better than we are offered:

Julia Gillard enters the campaign carrying the baggage of a Labor government which since 2007 has squandered its political capital on muddled, wasteful spending and a failure to begin the crucial productivity and infrastructure developments needed to lock in the China boom.

Couldn't agree more. However:

Tony Abbott begins his run for the prime ministership trying to lose the image of a Coalition so absorbed by leadership fights since the dying days of the Howard government, that it has failed to do the work on policy needed to renew the conservative agenda.

The Coalition is not absorbed by leadership fights.

There was no leadership fight in 2007: Costello was no further advanced in his 'fight' then than he had been in 1997. Nobody, no-one at all is holding a candle for Brendan Nelson. Malcolm Turnbull is giving Abbott industrial quantities of rope. Greg Hunt is entitled to refuse to serve on Abbott's frontbench, but there he is plugging away like he believes what he's saying. Inflated lightweights like Chris Pyne, Tony Smith and George Brandis have their shoulders to the wheel. Apart from Turnbull all of the leading best foremost Liberals are on Abbott's frontbench: no pretender is skulking away on the back benches, no fifth column of moderates or Illinois Nazis is nibbling away. God help them, the Liberals are giving this election all they have.

That quote is partly right at hinting that conservatism needs renewal. After Bush and the various pipple running the UK Tories, conservatism is seriously in abeyance and there are no green shoots to be seen. The Tea Party and the various brands of British xenophobes offer nothing to the Liberal Party: the vigorous activity of people like Limbaugh, Palin and Griffin is just the sort of twitching you see in a maggoty corpse.

The challenge for both leaders in the next five weeks will be to demonstrate they have thrown off the past three years of missed opportunities, that they have not been rendered frightened and timid by the recent past. They must show us that they appreciate the aspirations of modern Australians and how far voters have moved away from old ideological settings. Above all, both Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott need to understand that a community's yearning for stability does not mean an end to growth or a return to a "little Australia".

Indeed it is. All that is necessary is to ignore pretty much everything that The Australian has ever printed and will ever print. It is only a paper read by the elites; no seat, no election has ever swung on anything that has ever come out of that paper. Yes, it would take a real leader to say, "who gives a damn what's in The Australian?", and after the initial intake of breath from the journosphere the gig would be up.

I particularly loved the fresh breeze of sense eminating far from Canberra in this:

A new Galaxy poll of four marginal Queensland seats has found support for an emissions trading scheme (ETS) continues to grow.

Rudd was going quite well until he backed away from this issue. Under derrida derider's theory there would have been a lot more quiet acceptance of this, despair from those who want action on climate change and quiet vindication from those confused and fearful of any such action. This is further reinforced by this quote from an otherwise self-serving piece:
... the collapse in public support for Rudd was not the result of introducing reform. It was the opposite: appearing to abandon reform and the principles voters believed he stood for. He had promised to be different on asylum seekers and he had made emissions trading his own. The mining tax, announced on the eve of the May poll, played into voter reservations about competence. Net result: Labor voters shifted to the Greens and other minor parties in protest. Coalition voters stayed put.

Anyway, back to the Oz:

As Paul Kelly writes today, "the entire reputation of modern Labor is now on the block".

At every election, the entire reputation of modern Labor is on the block with its skirt hitched up too high and winking at leering passers-by, thus the government-or-opposition stakes at every election that comes around. How poorly served we are, not only by clownish pollies but by the intellectually exhausted journosphere.

Mr Howard was an extraordinary prime minister but he failed in two areas: he did not institute a succession plan around Peter Costello; and he avoided administrative reform, leaving the Liberals trailing the ALP in terms of party organisation and capacity to mount a sophisticated election campaign. Mr Abbott will be a formidable campaigner, having brought the Coalition back to a competitive position. But his lack of adequately developed policy mirrors Labor's shortage of fresh ideas.

That bit about 'administrative reform' got my hopes up - until I realised it was about the Liberal Party, which uses Young Liberals as carrier pigeons and still pays for ads with arrows from Asia stabbing Australia in the backside west. It is Howard who failed on the infrastructure front, and whose policy legacy can be seen with the proposal to jack up the price of school uniforms (now that they are no longer being made by Australians).

Both have leaders of considerable talent who have decided this is not the time to rock the boat with imagination and ambition for the nation.

In sport, we write off players of considerable talent who botch it in the big tournaments. Hand-wringing bullshit like this is designed to pander to an appalling situation where journalists cannot find out what's going on in government unless they maintain good relations with pollies.

The fourth leg of his pitch - to stop the boats - demonstrates how much both parties will seek to build their case for government around controlling our borders. This is a valid concern and the bipartisan acceptance of offshore processing is common sense.

No, it is bullshit and every oxygen-thief who blows their own brand of smoke into it shows their inability to handle real issues of the kind timidly mentioned here: urban infrastructure and environmental issues, in particular the idea that if you can't extract something without wrecking the water table or doing some other great vandalism, you leave it alone.

Labor must formulate a climate change policy that addresses the electorate's demand for action on carbon reduction without frightening business and coal-dependent sectors.

Hard to do in a month: much easier to faff knowing full well that the alternative is much, much worse; and they are.

Our leaders must understand the aspirations of modern Australians and show how they can truly move us forward.

Yes. And if the journosphere don't understand them either, and don't understand the issues they report on, what's the point?

This hand-wringing is all based on the idea that conservatives can no longer have faith in a Liberal victory. Shaun Carney is right: "A damning critique of the government is fine, but it's not enough". Talk of an Abbott Government is, like, so last week.

The Liberal Party really must get past John Howard. People are disappointed in Rudd-Gillard but they are only truly loathed by those they displaced from cushy and impressive-sounding jobs. Start by getting rid of his boy. Tony Abbott helped lose the 1993 election for the Liberal Party, he helped lose the 2007 election ("that's bullshit" - no, really), and now he's going for the trifecta. If anyone's earned a job in Sussex Street, it's Tony Abbott: after the state election he could be their only chance.

Gillard does promise more than is being revealed at this election, and people seem willing to take her on trust. Abbott, on the other hand, is firing on all cylinders and has nothing to declare but his own unfitness for office.

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