24 September 2007

When all other alternatives are exhausted

Now that Liberals have stopped taking Jason Koutsoukis to lunch in order to hand-feed him tidbits of blah, he's had to do some work. First the Gillard thing, now this.

The clearest illustration that Koutsoukis has missed the point of his own article is his dismissive approach to the one Democrat Senator with half a chance, Andrew Bartlett. Bartlett's leadership of the party might not have survived the incident described, but his work on committees and in brokering sensible outcomes in legislation certainly has - or should.

The main problem for the Democrats is, like the Liberals, they haven't planned for their future. The sign of a party in decay is not that Lees and Stott Despoja went at each other, that sort of thing happens all the time in politics. The sign of decay is that membership dried up and the pool of new candidates has stagnated and drained away. Andrew Murray claims that their vote went up in 2001 - but there were no new Senators elected then, and had there been things may have been different now.

A party is healthy when it attracts capable candidates willing to run for office, and the Democrats are not a healthy party. The Liberals might be eating their future but all the Democrats can do is starve.

Lyn Allison is a worthy contributor to Senate deliberations, but she's not a leader and nor is she a winning candidate for the Senate in Victoria. In a healthy party, she'd have been challenged by a number of wannabes and either lifted her game or succumbed. Now, all she's going to do is light all Democrats the way to dusty political death.

The Democrats have no choice but to throw everything they have behind Andrew Bartlett. With the likelihood that neither Labor nor the Coalition will have a majority in the Senate, someone needs to show what can be done through patient parliamentary busywork. Who else is going to do it? What choice do they have? Why have they worked themselves into a position where this, or extinction, really is their only choice?

The sensible middle ground of politics has been occupied by Kevin Rudd, who looks exactly like the sort of person the Democrats would have put up as a candidate ten years ago. In the next term of government people are going to vote Labor in the hope of securing that ground. The Liberals have abandoned it and their moderates are too weak to slip the leash and seize it for themselves. In the term after next, people will realise that the sensible middle has gone missing - what then? Will there even be an Australian Democrats organisation by then, or will the image of the party be dominated by ridiculous old hippies like this?

The image of the Fielding First Senator tooling around calls to mind that Christmas carol parody of "One on a scooter, blowing his hooter/Smoking a rubber cigar". Stop laughing, that guy is in a far stronger political position than the Democrats.

21 September 2007

Is the media to blame?

This is a question most often found in the mainstream media. Its very presence is designed to testify to their openness, when it just indicates self-absorption. It is always answered in the negative because no journalist will drink with any other journalist who answers it any other way.

Insofar as this takes us anywhere, it takes us to David James. He used to be a journalist, now he just writes stuff for the papers.

Journalists used to tell you about things that most people couldn't find out for themselves.

Now that most people can find things out, journalists have a role in helping readers navigate the ocean of information out there.

Alternatively, journalists can spend their employers' time and space moaning about the apparent disconnect between what gets you respected as a journalist and what people would read if they have the choice.

Which, of course, they do. Which of course, they used not to when David James and I were lads and people had nothing to read other than whatever half-baked crap one could jibber down a phone line while half-pissed at 4pm every day.

Like short paragraphs.

Young people today and their creative writing courses, I just don't know.

As there are more readers/ listeners/ viewers than there are journalists, and as the former pay the wages of the latter and not the other way around, here are five suggestions both as valid and as funny as anything you might find from David James:

1. Ask a spokesman.

Spokesmen know everything. If you want to know about the government, ask a government spokesman - or failing that, a spokesperson. They've got lots of them. They're more likely to return your call if you went to school with them, or if they used to be a journalist and take pity on you. Once you've gotten a twenty-word quote from a spokesperson, the hard work is done. No further investigation is required: only old-school journos or bloggers do that stuff.

2. Journalist discovers he is not much of anything.

Journalist Jason Journalist was in his cups at the Journalists' Club. "When I was a political journalist I thought I could make or break governments, swaying the popular mood this way or that with my insightful prose", he said. "Then I thought I was a theatre reviewer, lauding some otherwise pointless politician who could recycle a nasty remark that was first uttered in Westminster or Washington in the '60s". Confronted with the idea that all his breathless intrigues on the imminent Howard-Costello challenge was a waste of everyone's time (including that of Howard and Costello), Jason said, "hey, Peter Costello's press secretary bought me lunch".

3. Now we have to do our own legwork

If paparazzi are going to shoot themselves, how are we journalists supposed to find out what's going on? To be a proper journalist, you have to sit at a desk with a computer, and phone a spokesperson or two. Bloggers don't even phone spokespeople, that's why we sneer at them. Who's going to get the big stories, you know: ACTRESS WEARS DRESS, SMILES, the sort of thing that my bosses like to print to cross-promote the new movie that my boss's other company has made.

4. Better to print a lame story than an interesting one

"The media is full of whinges about plane flights", said Eddie Editor. "People who are in planes whinge, people who are on the ground underneath planes whinge, people who own airlines and airports whinge - where there's whingeing, there's a story, right? Doesn't matter what the whinging is about, or that there's no new angle on the story. In my experience as a journalist, you just run the same old story over and over, and people will never regard you as irrelevant."

Eddie Editor is a media legend who has worked for all capital city broadsheets and tabloids and has driven readership downwards by at least 20% everywhere he's worked. He teaches Journalism Studies at the University. If you want to know anything about news, you ask Eddie. It's one of them laws I think.

5. Or, you could read the wire services

Wire services do the work so journalists don't have to. If they summarise a finding, you don't have to seek out the original document - just summarise the summary to the point of parody. If there's a disease that has a 90% chance of death, and some new treatment will cut that to 80%, make sure you write it up as a cure. Then, if some do-gooder writes in and complains, that's two days' stories for the price of one.

The mainstream media. We're good, just ask us.

18 September 2007


George W Bush has invoked his Democrat predecessor Harry Truman as someone who was underestimated in his own time, and who was regarded more highly after he left office than during his tenure. It was surprising when Bush did it, but now that Josh Frydenberg is doing it, it just seems lame, with that combination of patronising and banality that is becoming this person's hallmark.
And it seems the Labor Party is already sizing up drapes for the Lodge.

In Australia we call them 'curtains', Josh - and seeing as the Howards don't use The Lodge, why not?
With Australia experiencing record economic prosperity, our standing in the region further enhanced after APEC and the electorate now being offered a united Howard-Costello leadership ticket with a timetable for change, a Labor win is not guaranteed.

How many begged questions can you fit into one sentence? Who do you mean by "our", and how was Australia enhanced by a mealy-mouthed declaration slapped down by the Chinese President? What makes you think there's a "timetable" for change in the leadership, when there is no "timetable" for change to policies that need changing?

When Josh refers to McCullough (as though everyone knows who McCullough is, darling), he should realise that Republican candidate Thomas Dewey (everyone knows who Dewey is, darling) was far more media-averse than Kevin Rudd, and that the media environment of 1940s USA was different to today's Australia.

If Josh is going to grasp at straws learn lessons from history, he should keep context in mind and not attempt to skate over inconvenient truths. While his skating ability got him jobs with the Howard government it bodes ill for any future of which Josh were to be part if these skating skills are all he has to offer.
Should the Labor Party continue to withhold the details of its policies on such totemic issues as the provision of choice in health and education and the true economic costs of its emission targets, then the electorate may inflict on it a high price.

Should Josh continue setting up straw men, he may gain a reputation as a setter-up of straw men.

It is Howard who is light on the detail of what he wants to do next, and who is constrained by his own inability to change direction in any significant way - Rudd doesn't appear to have these constraints, and such constraints as he does have will only become apparent later.

The election hasn't even been called - all Labor has to do is display a cool head and sound balanced and responsible, and people will give them the benefit of the doubt.
In his remarkable victory against all odds in 1948, Truman was deemed the "miracle man".

Truman was re-elected once. Howard has been re-elected three times already, and he wants a fourth term with no clear agenda other than to possibly maybe hand over to someone he disdains.
It led to a period of deep introspection among America's leading commentators and pollsters, who asked themselves how could they have got it so wrong.

This happened in Australia in 1993. They seemed to recover remarkably quickly, because the Liberals won the very next election (in 1996) just as Truman's party lost the Congress in 1948 and went on to lose the Presidency at the very next election. Having had your analogy blow up in your face there's only one thing to do: run away, run away.

17 September 2007

Brilliant and terrible

The Australian is sometimes called "The Government Gazette" for its bias in favour of Howard, Bush and their collective worldview. I'm with Oscar Wilde: it's not important whether it's biased this way or that, what's important about the Oz is not just its defiance of economic gravity but also that its content is occasionally brilliant, occasionally rubbish. It's worth an occasional read on the hope of catching the former while running the risk of the latter.

For the most part, Matt Price is a hopeless press gallery junkie who has no idea that a star turn in Australia's dullest theatre is of no importance whatsoever, no matter how much or even how well it is reported. "You've gotta love Tony Abbott", he frequently declares (actually, no you don't). But when he does something like this, you understand why the guy was hired at all.
I thought Rudd would wreck his ambition of becoming prime minister by prematurely felling Beazley.

You were hardly alone there Matt, but the question is: what are you doing to snap yourself out of press gallery groupthink? Anything at all? Do you think it's worth doing? Do you think your service to readers will be the better for it, or are you focused only on Chris Mitchell or Harto as your bosses and as your peers, the kind of people who show up to Alexander Downer press conferences?

Price absolutely nailed Albrechtsen and Bolt for not going down with Howard. Howard did everything they wanted him to do and now they've cut and run on him. It's one thing for people who never liked Howard, or who disagreed with Iraq or WorkChoices or whatever, to feel vindicated by current polls. These people cheered every time Howard outflanked Costello. Price is dead right to go them, both News Ltd Kulturkampfsturmgruppefuehrern - even though in a general sense there may be collateral damage in discouraging political commentary from outside the press gallery. I'm willing to take this risk due to the banality of the targets concerned, so well done Matt Price.

Price not have succeeded entirely in getting over himself and press gallery groupthink, but his piece was a refreshing contrast with some who doesn't think it's even important to get your head out of the Canberra vortex.

Having admitted that Rudd is a more formidable opposition leader than Howard, or his Irish counterpart, has faced, Milne ignores the lesson and ploughs on with a tendentious Irish parallel anyway. Leave the extensive quotes of other journos to pad out your column to Alan Ramsey, Glenn.
... in a bid to "divine the benign" as I like to put it: to penetrate a voter mood in Australia ...

If you've already framed it the way you like it Glennie, what is poor Frank meant to do? Your job is to report affairs from the capital to the nation, not the other way around - there's no point in you or anyone penetrating a mood, a silly piece of imagery that goes to the very otiose nature of the Milne perspective. It's not your job, Glennie, to decide that dissatisfaction with the government represents "micro-grievance", an effete and idle dismissal of your readership.
You get the feeling that they could run back to make it all good again at any moment.

Based on what, Glennie, apart from your wishful thinking? And why the use of the third person - if you could make Milne realise that he is addressing those he would "penetrate", he might think and write differently. Well, it might be too late for Glennie personally but here's hoping anyway.
Oh, and the swing back came in the last week.

Oh, so all those paeans to the inherent cleverness of the government and its power of incumbency, all those false warnings of the imminent bounce (after the "honeymoon", the Sunrise Anzac thing, the strip club etc.), let's forget all that. Here Milne contrasts himself unfavourably with Price: he's not willing to examine the quality of past punditry as a means of re-examining the way he does things going forward. Oh, and what if you're mistaken about that too, Glennie?

The only point you can draw from Milne's bilge is that it doesn't make sense to take control of both houses of parliament from one major party and give it to the other, where the agenda is not particularly different. This is the point worth making, which is why (what I like to call) padding out his column about Ireland is so silly, so redundant, so Milne.

For Australian media outlets to station journalists at Parliament House incase they say something interesting is a bit like stationing journalists in Bali incase a bomb goes off. Colour pieces on stoned surfers would be at least as enlightening as content-empty statements, re-announcements and unconvincing dirt files. Political journalism needs to be rethought: it is the weak link of media's future. Now that the "Government Gazette" model is exhausted, it is entirely possible that The Australian can develop a way of reporting on public affairs that informs and evaluates rather than patronises.

13 September 2007

Dropping the basket, probably

The Liberals put all their eggs in one basket when they elected John Howard as leader in 1995. Last night, Howard dropped the basket.

A government seeking re-election has to create the impression that there is a lot of work to be done, and that only by voting for the incumbents will that work be done properly. What Howard told the man Liberals call Red Kerry is that there's much to do but he can't be arsed doing it. It is way too late for this nonsense. He asked his Cabinet if he was the problem - they said no, now he's decided he is the problem but he still won't go.

Not that switching to Costello will work. The press gallery, tired of having Costello call them liars after a night on the grog, will treat him as the entree to Rudd's main course. If you thought Costello was smug now, wait until he gets the PM's job and becomes the Liberals' answer to Frank Forde. The pics of Costello's family will be buried under an avalanche of bad publicity about Mrs Costello's job, which will bite now that people are actually listening to what Labor is saying as they weren't before. There is nothing that Costello offers that Rudd doesn't, except the Labor leader looks more stable.

The Liberal Party fetishised Howard, he led them away from what they believed in (subsidiarity of power through federalism, small government with minimal compliance costs) and now he's botched it on them. They had an heir lined up and he's botched it too.

Speaking of exhausted volcanoes we have this, hopefully a final wheeze. He's run out of nasty gossip and has no principles to operate from, so all he has is pabulum:
In the Liberal Party, however, the latest news is that people are not even bothering to seek preselection.

This was also the case in 1992, when John Hewson was polling 10-20% ahead of Keating. At the time this should have been evidence that something wasn't quite right. There was a bit of a groundswell in the leadup to 1996 but the preponderance of sitting members, and the convention (honoured in the breach in Wentworth) of letting even the sleepiest of sleeping-dog MPs lie, means that there hasn't been a lot of competition in federal Liberal preselections recently. Again, JHP is trying a beat-up that works a treat among the ignorant.
A rebirth in Australian political volunteerism is rather a big ask; it is inconceivable that large numbers of citizens will abandon their internet and DVD toys in favour of the stereotypical branch meetings in draughty trade halls.

Laziness, both intellectual and civil. When I was a (Young) Liberal branch President I never convened meetings in trade halls, draughty or otherwise. JHP may have, but then he's guilty of what he laments. He is too lazy to examine ways of undoing his own dirty deeds, and resents anyone pointing this out.
things are probably now at the point where we should think about the US method of choosing candidates through democratic primary ballots.

Or, probably not. This probably hasn't been clearly thought through and will probably lead to a less representative democracy - like they have in the United States - rather than more so. See what happens when quality analysis is applied in reverse and the sheer flaccidity of JHP's (probable) suggestion becomes apparent.
For the Liberals, in particular, the need for change is now acute.

You know an article is badly written when something so obvious that it need not be said becomes the only sensible thing worth reading.

It is ironic that Howard and Costello are demonstrating how fragile a monoculture can be, and how short, how quick it is to go from the apex of might to, as Peter Hartcher's subbie put it, into the void at terminal velocity. If you probably can't be bothered re-examining what you're doing and how you do it, you probably won't go anywhere but into the void. Like that would be a bad thing. Probably.

11 September 2007

Full of it

You can hear the plop, plop, plop of suffused leeches dropping off the carcass of the Howard Government, and even bits of its own flesh giving way.

First, we have Jase dissing the sort of people who were once his luncheon companions and column-stuffers. The stuff in the third-last paragraph should have occurred to him much earlier and he should have reported on that basis, were he to have the credibility he lacks now. Margaret Simons from Crikey gave Jase a big rap, but only because she obviously isn't familiar with his tedious oeuvre.

There is a more contemptible example than Jase: this guy has learnt nothing from 11 years of his kinda government and drops his mates in it when they are of no further use to him. He owes the Liberals at least one more verbal handjob cheer.

To top it all is this hand-wringing effort worthy of an ABC luvvie:
He is fit, capable and, like that Energizer bunny, he could stay on to fight another fight. But voters appear to have turned off Howard. They appear to have stopped listening. Each new initiative that was meant to deliver a electoral bounce has failed to do so.

Janet, when Howard was announcing each of these new initiatives - what were you doing? You were cheering him on, weren't you. You were sneering at those who said that it wouldn't have the desired effect, weren't you. If Howard goes - at the polls or before - will you go too? Why should Howard alone bear the brunt of the mistakes of yourself and all the other Howard boosters?
The last rabbit Howard should pull out of the hat is Peter Costello.

Those who doubt if such a change (from Howard to Costello) would have much of an impact should reflect on recent events in Britain.

Gordon Brown had established a separate identity to Tony Blair; Peter Costello has kept his powder so dry for so long that it's reasonable to doubt if there's any powder at all.

Most importantly: Gordon Brown doesn't have to go to the polls in a few weeks. In a few weeks, Janet. Peter Costello might be less old than Howard but any notion that he's "fresh" is a joke. It would destroy whatever advantages the Coalition have as incumbents to switch now, rewarding Rudd for not being so flighty with a chance to prove himself.
the same qualities that made and defined Howard as this country’s most successful prime minister, his courage and persistence, may also work towards his eventual electoral ruin and that of the party.

Menzies was this country's most successful Prime Minister, not Howard. If they are the same qualities, you have to wonder whether the qualities you describe were indeed successful, or just chimerical.
There is little nobility in defeat if it means his prime ministership will be forever tainted by him losing his seat.

There is considerable nobility in sticking to your principles, and ignominy in abandoning them for populism which is rewarded only by electoral rout.

It's easy to be wise after the event - what's hard is to be right and to wear the sneers of silly people like Koutsoukis, Bolt and Albrechtsen. You flogged this horse to death, the least you can do is step away from it so that it can be buried decently and curb your hankering for a new ride.

The theme that's clearly emerging is that Howard can do nothing right. Watch for stumbles and bumbles by Coalition figures to fit this. While it would be great to think the MSM will at long last scrutinise government policy, in reality Rudd will get an easy ride and Coalition self-pity will be projected onto the press, which is as fickle as any addictive substance.

Eugene McCarthy said that being in politics is like playing football: you have to be smart enough to understand the game but dumb enough to think it's important. Annabel Crabb demonstrates that she's the latter without being the former, and that like any hopeless addict she's bored by that which she can't leave alone. Oh, and Annabel pet, The Brothers Karamazov is not a "lesser known work". It might not be the cliche that falls out of your head, but that hardly diminishes it.

05 September 2007

If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure

The Age have identified failed Liberal preselection candidate Josh Frydenberg as someone whose views are worth publishing. Going by his efforts so far, this appears to be a mistake: has Jason Koutsoukis has so trashed his own name that he's using someone else's?

As I said in my previous post, exposure in the media is a potent factor in securing Liberal preselection. Don't let any of that ABC/The Age bagging fool you: these people live to see their name in the paper, and I bet no amount of criticism would rile this individual as much as if I misspelled his name.

Frydenberg sees his role as to not only defend the performance of the Howard government but also to suggest new ideas going forward. He fails on both counts. He doesn't address the gap between where we are and where we need to be, which is the whole point of an article like this.
WHAT do the wine cask, the bionic ear and the flight recorder all have in common?

All were invented and marketed in the face of a myriad of bureaucratic entanglements. Find out what these were Josh, whether they still apply and identify ways of removing those that do more harm than good Josh, there's a good chap. It might take more than a Wiki/Google search, but if you're the man people say you are then you can do it.
Australia needs to renew its commitment to generating ideas and exploiting them. At every stage of our economy, we need to be thinking creatively about new sources of value.

Firstly, this ignores the very good work that many people are doing toward this very end. Josh is showing that you can take the boy out of Canberra but he'll still be in a world of his own. Secondly, this point is so anodyne and has been made better by more sensible people: but this is only the second paragraph, so let's not be mean and give this article a chance of making a well-considered point.
the Howard Government has overseen an impressive increase in government investment in research and development ...

the promotion of closer industry and university co-operation


Firstly, you'd think that a $500,000 research grant from the government was equivalent to half a million dollars from the private sector - but you'd be wrong. After 11 years of Howard government and AWAs in the University sector, academic careers live or die by their success in attracting government funding. The public sector remains the light on the hill to which the eyes of academics are always turned - you don't have to be a leftie to see that.

Secondly, the Australian tax system should, like its US equivalent, provide significant tax incentives for donations to research institutions. The absence of this makes a mockery of "a sharper focus on education and training more generally" (sharper than what, Josh?). It also makes a mockery of notions that the GST back in the late 1990s, or trimming corporate tax a bit, is all the tax reform this country could possibly need.

Seriously though, if you're going to have universities do research into Queer Studies, wouldn't you rather it was funded by some old queen's bequest rather than some hapless minister who's past the novelty of Media Exposure?
The OECD ranks Australia outside its top 10 in the production of patents per head of population. This is below that of some of our competitor economies.

Ranking Australia anywhere below top of the list puts us below competitor economies. It shouldn't be necessary to create a blizzard of buzzwords to make a blindingly obvious point - but hey, this sort of thing has gotten Josh some Media Exposure, and that's all that matters apparently.

I should point out that the title of this post is meant to be ironic, a reference to the kind of anodyne fluff like the above that riddles this article.
there needs to be a revolution in business' approach to innovation. Companies need to exercise the apparent paradox of less caution but more discipline in the creation and development of next-generation business models.

This is a man who has ingested too much press-release piffle. An example would not only help understanding but be a great relief from this pointless verbiage. WTF is a next-generation business model, and do I need some merchant bank to help me offset the cost of implementing it (and the responsibility if it all goes wrong)?
It is not about incremental changes that will deliver the next quarter's profits but about encouraging creative thinking that goes beyond linear approaches ...

Incremental change is innovation. You can build a better mousetrap without genetically overhauling all members of species rodentia. Gutenberg's printing press was a slightly modified version of the wine press used for centuries in and around his home town of Mainz. All the great innovators knew that they stood on the shoulders of giants: if you want this sort of stuff get it direct from Tom Peters, no point filtering it through Josh.
... and challenges conformity in the workplace

Have you even heard of WorkChoices? You can bet that Josh's employer punishes companies for spending on research that isn't immediately and incredibly productive, and that Josh isn't rocking the boat trying to change this.
Many businesses have the innovative idea within their organisation and people; they just need to be prepared to take the risk and spend the time to create change.

Those who lead government and business have little time and actively seek to minimise risk. More than a century ago, Banjo Paterson wrote: "For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste". All of the test between "First, there needs to be a revolution in business' approach to innovation" and "Others need to follow ..." is bullshit. Keeping it vague ain't keeping it real.
Other mid-sized economies, such as Ireland, Finland and Singapore, have capitalised on their proficiency in information technology to drive value-creating service sectors.

Yes, they have. What exactly is it about their economies and regulatory systems that we could use here, Josh? What is the Howard government doing, what should it be doing, to those ends, Josh? I'm increasingly of the opinion that we need to get rid of the Howard government to realise such a future, but for our man Josh this is touching the third rail.
The Federal Government is spending a record $6.5 billion on science and innovation in 2007-08, but federal and state initiatives need to be co-ordinated so that they are mutually reinforcing and deliver a common and agreed set of measurable goals.

How likely is that given Howard's commitment to duplicating federal-state functions? Do you really think state governments have a mother lode of research cash waiting to be invested? See my earlier point about private/public funding. One of us has to think about these issues, the other has a column with The Age.
Australians must demand world's best practice in science and maths teaching in schools and universities

By whom? With what? Why should a science graduate go teach at Frydenberg High when he/she could be taking your spot at Deutsche when you go off to Parliament, Josh? Answering that question might require more than an article, but the answer could make a useful policy paper. And if you ache to be in a position to make yourself useful, do so in a way that helps others - including the sort of people your anodyne jottings could not imagine except in some ridiculously generalised sense.
As the world awaits with anticipation the imminent announcement of the next generation of the iconic iPod, we are left to ponder a critical question — what will be Australia's iPod?

This assumes Australians are victims of whirring cycles of PR hype, and are sucked into a cargo-cult mentality. This may be accurate, but such mindsets are inimical to innovation, sensible planning and sound investment.

Appearances notwithstanding, people like Josh don't waste much time reconciling contradictions - there is no contradiction in wanting as much Media Exposure as possible. If all you have to do is generate a lot of drivel in a crunchy coat of jargon, then it's a low-risk proposition to generate Media Exposure and guarantee his prosperity in a globalised world for those who don't think, read or innovate for years to come.

04 September 2007

O, say can you see?

John Ruddick thinks that a sufficient number of stunts like this will constitute "media experience", a potent credential in securing Liberal preselection for Parliament. He may succeed at that, but only so long as you are impressed by the quantity of is media exposure rather than the quality. In the quality of a4a you see clearly that John Ruddick offers nothing beyond the stunt.

Conservatives believe that government involves long-term and well-thought-out policy that is in line with the past, addresses the present and promises continuity and room for growth into the future, in a responsible and sustainable way. John's problem is that he loves the rush of short-term sensationalism more than the hard and worthy work of representative and legislator. He just can't manage even the anodyne, third-rate analysis you get from his fellow aspirant, Josh Frydenberg. I have mentioned John in passing, but if you can bear to look at Ruddick's s(h)ite you'll see what I mean.

There were thirteen original states in the USA, represented by thirteen stripes on the US flag. Here are thirteen points on this site:

  1. The Battle of the Coral Sea was only important because of the Australian successes at Kokoda and Milne Bay. These Australian victories on land provided the pivot around which the American push succeeded. It is one thing to say that the Australian and American efforts complemented each other, or even that the Americans devoted greater resources; Aussies would never negate their own efforts to praise those of the Americans. This is not an alliance, this is fawning.

  2. The events he describes are strangely passive for such a mighty nation. There are better stories to tell about Menzies, because all sorts of third-world scumbags told Nixon how much they love America - not necessarily to the benefit of their countries.

  3. South Vietnam was not "on its way to being an Asian tiger like ... Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore". Its government was corrupt, small-minded and not at all investing in people and infrastructure like those other places. The more support they got, the more corrupt they became: the departure of the Americans was not an act of murder, but euthanasia. "The Western left" was never powerful enough to force either victory or defeat, but fighting the wrong fight in the wrong way could lead to no other outcome. President Eisenhower foresaw that a war in Vietnam would be a disaster, and if Australia had truly been a friend we should have held them to their best intentions.

  4. "If we have the guts to see Iraq through it will end up similar to Jordan and Egypt – a fairly stable nation where things aren’t perfect but are improving". It's hard to know what "improving" means in that context: things are no better or worse in those countries than they have been since the 1950s, without direct American intervention. Nouri al-Maliki governs not a country but a few blocks in Baghdad, a smaller constituency than Clover Moore. He is the new Arafat, someone who says in English what Americans want to hear but whose actions and omissions show someone in league with the worst opponents of America, capitalism and a stable society. As far as who he means by "we" - perhaps Ruddick might have succeeded as an Army officer, giving him both the leadership he craves and the responsibility he dreads.

  5. Demonstrators against capitalism and free trade also rely on downloads from the US, which is ironic. It is not anti-American to say that inventions from beyond the US are also important to Australians. This is a silly statement that doesn't even serve to knock down the straw man Ruddick sets up here.

  6. "The biggest beneficiaries of the fall of the USSR have been the Russian people" who see that all that crap that Marx spouted about oligarchy and mass poverty is being borne out. Ruddick hasn't made the case for Australian participation in the Cold War, which is a pity.

  7. "America does far, far more than any nation today or in history for those less fortunate". The Marshall Plan was not about patronising the Europeans, it was about getting them back on their feet - such a pity that it has never been repeated. Beyond the immediate aftermath of natural disasters, when you give people handouts you make them dependent on you which breeds sloth and resentment. It's holding America to its best standards when you criticise America for falling short of that Olympian standard. Read the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty and know that the last five lines stand against everything John Ruddick stands for.

  8. "The American Constitution ... The Australian Constitution has provided us with beautiful stability of government and it is a merger of the best elements from Britain and America". It is a lament for both our countries that notionally conservative governments are trashing our constitutions and the freedoms embedded in them.

  9. "If (American culture) distresses you ask yourself, ‘what is it about me that dislikes success?'". If you were a conservative, you'd know that material success is not the only, or even the best, measure of success. Much that is popular can be corrosive of society. American sports tend not to be popular outside north America, and it is not anti-American to point this out.

  10. The bit on Murdoch is, like the rest of the site, meant to be provocative: in reality it's just a combination of fawning and self-pleasuring.

  11. It would have been embarrassing for Ruddick to attempt to defend this, which is probably why he didn't try. Truman was about the hard work necessary to build a framework: Bush is more like Rutherford B Hayes, a dilettante whose only historical significance is to presage disaster. Rice is a stuntmeister who's light on the policy; unlike John she looks good in knee-high boots.

  12. "in the 1980s New Zealand ended its proud tradition of fighting for freedom ... They currently have troops in East Timor, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands." Well, which is it? The Wallabies know that when they take on the All Blacks they have to be consistent, and so it is when Ruddick attacks people he falsely declares his "friends". It is simply a lie to declare that "Whenever the going gets tough, however, New Zealand takes the soft option". NZ's stand on nuclear ships did not delay the end of the Cold War and reversing it will not affect their economy one way or another. If you're going to be in favour of "ANZUS", you shouldn't diminish the A or bag the NZ.

  13. Like many who defend the Queen's position, John Ruddick commits numerous offences against the Queen's English but refers to a one-person operation with the royal pronoun, implying that his site includes the support of others than himself. He's finally found a political movement that won't roll him!

See the message below the Free Newsletter field on the left of his pages: he wants a commitment from you, dear reader, but he owes you nothing and he hopes that's OK by you. Once you know John you realise this is a genuine insight into the guy.

I first met John Ruddick when the ministry he aspired to was Anglican, but even with Jensenism ascendant the message of compassion and modesty from the gentle carpenter must have grated on him. Since then he was shunned by his fellow Young Liberals in seeking to govern them, and did not even offer preference-fodder for serious rightwing candidates in Liberal preselections. He was a performing monkey for a radio buffoon who spent as much time laughing at Ruddick as with him.

Once APEC is over and Bush leaves office, what then? After the coming election there will be a rush to the exits for many who realise their political heyday is behind them, and a shellshocked Liberal Party will contemplate the rebuilding of its fortunes. Ruddick will almost certainly fall short. Chances are you'll see him in a marginal seat thanks to his rightwing buddies, but voters won't warm to him. He overestimates how clever he is in disguising his Hansonite Anglo nationalism, which will get him lots of publicity but will damage the Liberal Party.

He could go back to Tamworth - his brother has edited the local paper and even though local Liberals and Nationals are desperate to get rid of Tony Windsor and Peter Draper, the fact is you'll only beat them with grown-up candidates who can relate to other grown-ups and the issues that affect them in a grown-up way. The CEC would love to have him, and he them ideologically - but he's enough of a pragmatist to know that even though he'd be a big fish in their little pond, they can't get him elected.

No, young John has been foisted on big-city suckers and while they may well take him on, people4ruddick would find the poverty of the national debate made worse by his being part of it. There are more important things for Australia - and our foreign alliances - than slaking the ambitions of yet another attention junkie who can't and won't give back.