01 February 2012

The National Pikers' Club

Mirrors on the ceiling
The pink champagne on ice
And she said "We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"
And in the master's chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can't kill the beast

- Eagles Hotel California
Tony Abbott made a speech at the National Press Club yesterday.

The more gullible members of the journosphere claimed yesterday morning that this would be the speech where Abbott went positive rather than just gainsaying Gillard. They had no basis for reporting that, as Abbott wouldn't have shown them the speech beforehand, so they made this claim on the basis of Liberal spin, which they passed on without thinking whether or not it might be true. Why would Tony Abbott want to "go positive", given his success as a nark? On what basis could he do so, given his record? This sort of scrutiny is what adds value in journalism; in today's reporting from the Canberra press gallery it is almost entirely absent.

Abbott has achieved what generations of politicians have only dreamed of: the media take him at his word. His speeches are reported verbatim and accorded a merit they do not deserve. Where his words differ from those of others (particularly the Prime Minister and members of the incumbent government), he is assumed to be right and they wrong. This veneration of Abbott by the press gallery (always "Mr Abbott" from the press gallery; he is rarely addressed as "Tony" while the Prime Minister is addressed regularly as "Julia") is unprecedented in a democracy. Stalin achieved this state of absolute credibility at some point in the 1930s; so too did Mao 20 or 30 years after that. It's unnatural, and in a country like Australia - not only a robust democracy but a place that prides itself on taking the piss - this uncritical approach to a politician is unheard of.

References to appalling dictators aside, the reason why the Australian media give Abbott the free pass that they do is not from any sinister intent, or even a consistent ideology. Abbott is the anti-Gillard. You can't make the case that Gillard is a hopeless cretin who should be chucked from office at the first opportunity if you believe that Abbott would be worse. So, they pretend that Abbott wouldn't be worse, and that when he says he loves his country and wants to help the unfortunate, such statements treated as though the unfortunate are being helped by his very words - if only that damned incumbent government would just rack off out of his way.

What follows is a very long post which takes Abbott's speech, and some of the media commentary that followed it, seriously. The speech shows up Abbott's weaknesses and why he can't lead an effective government (and reinforces my long-held view that the guy will never lead the Liberals to victory).

The headline of the speech is "My Plan for a Stronger Economy and a Stronger Australia". It's mostly a "greatest hits" of attack lines, combined with a wishlist about how he'd like his government to go if everything went as well as it possibly could all the time. There's no plan, only a dream.

It's nice that he wishes things were different and better, we all do. Abbott has only showed that he doesn't have what it takes to get our country to that better place. He's been Opposition Leader for more than two years now, head of a party with a long and proud record in government, and the best he and his people can come up with is a wishlist with a few punchlines embedded in it.

It is a testament to the stupidity of the Australian media that they regard it as a "fresh start", "promising", or other descriptions which belie a keening urge to believe in Abbott so long as he remains a potent threat to Gillard. Don't let me colour your perceptions though, heavens no. Here, read it:
The government often cites the fragile international economic situation but fails to propose any new policies to respond to it.
Nowhere in this speech are any new policies for the Coalition.
Labor’s economic strategy is to hope that China’s strength will keep our economy growing. It’s lazy, complacent economic management ...
It sure is, and it's the very economic policy that the Howard government pursued since about 2003. Those assumptions are baked into Abbott's assumptions too, as we'll see.
The Eurozone crisis is a terrible verdict on governments that spend too much, borrow too much and tax too much yet our prime minister is lecturing the Europeans while copying their failures.
You only say something like this if you know you're talking to mugs. Europe's in debt, Australia's in debt, therefore Australia must be down the economic toilet like Europe is (the UK is outside "the Eurozone" but it is still in economic trouble, far worse than Australia's). Only if you are sure that you'd get away with it would you even make such sloppy linkage.
At the heart of Labor’s failure is the assumption that bigger government and higher taxes are the answer to every problem.
That assumption doesn't support the fact that government is smaller as a share of GDP and the tax take is smaller in real terms than it was under Howard and Costello. It was true that Labor loved big-government solutions, but not in the past 30 years or so: strangely, toward the end of his speech Abbott cites Ben Chifley with approval, but never once mentioned Menzies or any other Liberal other than Howard.
Gambling is a problem so let’s force every club to redesign every poker machine.

The government has completely failed to appreciate the iron law of economics that no country has ever taxed its way to prosperity.
That's as dishonest a non-sequitur as anything we've seen from the gambling lobby, the government or anyone else. Measures to help gambling addicts are not taxes, they actually depress government revenue.

To anyone who thought Wilkie's proposals were flawed, and that Gillard's offhand sop to him was worse, note this speech: an Abbott government will do nothing to help gambling addicts. They don't see it as a public policy problem, and will therefore propose no public policy solutions. It's no good asserting that you feel great sympathy for gambling victims and their families, or throwing some money at counselling. There was a time when gambling reform was possible, the time has passed; and those who wanted change and were clear about what they wanted have to wonder whether they did as much as they could. Abbott wasn't obliged to go into detail about this issue in this particular speech, but he also wasn't obliged to be quite so naked about the sheer absence of any motivation to consider whether pokie addiction is a problem, let alone whether or not there are appropriate and cost-effective public policy responses open to a Coalition government.
The only foundation for a successful country is a strong economy. The only way to take the pressure off family budgets, to increase job opportunities, and to have the better services and infrastructure that every Australian wants is to build a stronger economy.

That’s why my plan for a stronger economy is to scrap unnecessary taxes, cut government spending and reduce the red tape burden on business.
This is the heart of the speech: a gobbet of banality. He doesn't understand, here or anywhere else in the speech, that in order to "have the better services and infrastructure that every Australian wants" is to increase taxes; conversely, that to reduce taxes means some of those services and infrastructure will have to wait. It's dishonest to pretend that you can have better services/infrastructure while cutting taxes.

Again, you can only get away with saying stuff like that if you know your audience are credulous mugs.
My plan to reduce the cost of living pressures on families is to take the carbon tax off their power and transport and make government live within its means. That way, there can be lower taxes and less upward pressure on interest rates.
No: power and transport costs will increase anyway, and Australians will miss out on trade opportunities from international commercial action on climate change. Some plan.
Australians can be confident that the Liberal and National parties will provide good economic management in the future because that’s what we’ve always done in the past.

We’ve done it before and we will do it again. After all, 16 members of the current shadow cabinet were ministers in the Howard government which now looks like a lost golden age of reform and prosperity.

Australia was a stronger society because we had a stronger economy. Between 1996 and 2007, real wages increased more than 20 per cent, real household wealth per person more than doubled, and there were more than two million new jobs.
Not only were the latter achievements due to the "lazy" policy of relying on Chinese growth, but also on the crazy asset-and-debt manipulation which has reaped the whirlwind of the Great Recession/Global Financial Crisis. Only Liberals, aching for the perks of office, regard the Howard government as "a lost golden age of reform and prosperity"; it is flatly dishonest to imply, let alone state, that a Coalition government could or would Restore The Good Old Days.

Besides, Abbott has promised to abolish the carbon pricing mechanism before. Nowhere in this speech is a new initiative. He's also being sneaky in implying that such abolition won't impose costs on the economy (and yes, on household budgets) in the same way that interest on borrowings is a cost.
What Australia most needs now is a competent, trustworthy, adult government with achievable plans for a better economy and a stronger society.
Abbott and his crew can't offer that - neither absolutely, nor relative to the flawed Gillard government. Aspirational statements just don't count - not after two election losses, and two years as leader. There's the usual snark about whether Abbott can be described as "competent, trustworthy, adult" in himself, or that his team can be described as such - both in themselves and in comparison with the incumbents.
My vision for Australia is to restore hope, reward and opportunity by delivering lower taxes, better services, more opportunities for work and stronger borders.

The government I lead will do fewer things but do them better so that the Australian people, individually and in community, will be best placed to realise the visions that each of us has for a better life.
In the above quote, "vision" should be replaced with "wish". People will have their wishes but they can only be realised if we drop the pretense that Abbott can or will run a government that delivers better services and infrastructure (I'll get to his terrible cant about disabled people presently).
At the heart of our plan for a stronger economy is getting government spending down and productivity up so that borrowing reduces, the pressure on interest rates comes off, and taxes can responsibly come down ... Australians can have tax cuts without a carbon tax but only if we get government spending down by eliminating wasteful and unnecessary programmes and permanently reducing the size of government.
What Abbott is proposing is to return the tax base to what it was under Howard and Costello. That tax base was headed for a structural deficit over time, with an ageing population - and without skewing taxes toward economic growth areas and away from taxing small business and personal incomes. There's nothing strong about a structural deficit, quite the opposite in fact.

Abbott has no right to be believed that he would cut the size of government. Nowhere in his background is there even a single event, like Howard standing against car industry donations in 1981, in Abbott's background. Abbott is all about spending more money with less accountability over time. Small government fans have set their cap at the wrong man; he is not entitled to be taken at these words. Geoff Kitney does so in The Australian Financial Review today - it's a junior-reporter error and every greybeard who made it should be sacked at once.
... pink batts ... school halls ... Victorian brown coal power stations ... Telstra’s copper wires ... a National Broadband Network that people don’t need ... The last coalition government turned an inherited $10 billion budget black hole ...
Blah blah - he's happy to talk about infrastructure and stimulus in general but he decries it in the particular. He's decided that people don't need NBN, a quote that will haunt him throughout history and wreck any claims he may have to being a visionary, or understanding the serendipitous effect that infrastructure generally (and communications in particular) has on economic growth and development over time.
At the last election, the coalition identified $50 billion in responsible savings ...
No you didn't, and all the little mice who've been in the press gallery for two years or more should have called bullshit on that.
Finding savings is a big task but we’re up for it and will release all our costings in good time for the next election.
What patronising drivel - "in good time"! Abbott's costings are vague and sloppy at the best of times an they seem to have learned nothing from the last election, other than to blame the accountancy firm that gave the cover (if you're running a consultancy, and the Federal Opposition approaches you wanting some work done - run for your life!). He has no right to be taken on face value. Such assertions should simply be regarded as "uncosted" or "unsupported" until proven otherwise.
The starting point will be programmes that have become bywords for waste. Discontinuing the computers in schools programme, which parents are now having to pay for anyway, could save over half a billion dollars.
Why has it become "a byword for waste" and are there no benefits to investing in young people in this manner? None at all?
Not proceeding with the extra bureaucracies associated with hospital changes that no one will notice could save over half a billion dollars. Not proceeding with the so-called GP super clinics which are delivering new buildings not more doctors could save about $200 million.
Reversing bureaucratic changes is not cost-free. How much could be saved by not proceeding with a new layer of bureaucracy supporting local busybodies who can hold up efficient healthcare delivery without improving it? Oh wait, that's actually a Coalition proposal.
Big savings could be made in the government’s $350 a throw set top box programme since Gerry Harvey can supply and install them for half the price.
How much would you expect to pay, Tony? How much would you expect to pay? Harvey has been blindsided by e-commerce, what do you think he knows about set-top boxes? Are you seriously going to base public policy reform on an idle comment?
Vastly reducing the number of consultancies (which have cost over $2 billion over the past four years) would produce significant savings.
Sure - but then all oppositions say that, don't they. No consultancies would wan to work for the Coalition after their disgraceful treatment of Horwaths.
Not proceeding with the carbon tax would deliver $31 billion in savings over the forward estimates period with a net improvement of $4 billion in the budget bottom line. Not proceeding with the mining tax would deliver $14 billion in savings over the forward estimates period with a net improvement of $6 billion in the budget bottom line.
All of those figures are bullshit. This isn't my fault, I'm just pointing it out; and journalists should do so too.
There are many problems with the government’s so-called Fair Work Act: there’s a flexibility problem, a militancy problem but above all else a productivity problem which is hardly surprising when workplace negotiations are always meant to involve outside union bosses rather than the employees of a business.

A serious review of the Act would have been given to the Productivity Commission rather than to departmental officials even under the auspices of a distinguished committee.
That would be the same Productivity Commission that proposed mandatory limits on pokies, and the disability care scheme that will be axed (more on that below); you'd think that the Coalition would have done its own review and come up with a few ideas of its own, surely.
The coalition will save business $1 billion a year in red tape expenses by requiring each department and agency to quantify the costs of its regulations and to set targets to reduce them.
Garbage. What self-serving nonsense that would be on the bureaucrats' part, and hardly cost-free.
We’ll give people the chance to show what they can do – not what they can’t – by offering employers incentives to take on young people and seniors who might otherwise become trapped in the welfare system.

There will be tough love too. Why should fit young people be able to take the dole when unskilled work is readily available? Why should middle aged people with bad backs or a bout of mental illness be semi-permanently parked on the disability pension because it’s easier than helping them to experience once more the fulfilment of work?
Why haven't any of those half-arsed incentive schemes worked? Why would they work just because Abbott hopes they might?
We’re going to work with the states to make public hospitals and public schools more accountable to their communities with local boards and councils choosing leaders, employing staff and controlling budgets.
Nowhere is there any evidence that this will improve health an education outcomes: quite the opposite, especially when you consider just how skewed the board members will be if the US experience is any guide. The US provides a warning, not a model, for Australian health and education services, and this should receive greater scrutiny than it has.
And we’re going to deliver a fair-dinkum paid parental leave scheme, not the government’s re-badged baby bonus.

I want to change Australia for the better. That means change which reflects our best work and family values and our deepest instincts. That’s why paid parental leave is best understood as a conservative reform that makes it more achievable for women to have combine larger families with better careers, if that’s their choice.
That's the nearest there is to a tangible "plan"; it was announced already, and the funding model was bogus (a "special levy" rather than a Great Big New Tax That Will Be Passed Onto Us All).
As far as I’m concerned, there should never be first and second class Australians based on where they were born, how they worship, or the length of time their forbears have been here.
Fine words. The leaders who believed that sentiment, like Malcolm Fraser, jumped on splitters like Cor Bernardi with both feet when they attempted to play up community divisions. Next time a Liberal does this, watch for Abbott to do absolutely bugger-all or come out with some weaselly Howardism like asserting their right to free speech.
Now, I want to end forever any lingering suspicion that the coalition has a good head but a cold heart for dealing with Aboriginal people.
Yes, let's. No evidence-based policy, arbitrary shifting of goalposts every few years, and a refusal to consult anyone other than Pearson makes Aboriginal policy an absolute shambles. Abbott turns up to Aboriginal communities in order to patronise,not to learn.
Should I become prime minister, I will spend at least a week every year in a remote indigenous community because if these places are good enough for Australians to live in they should be good enough for a prime minister and senior officials to stay in.
Imagine the expensive facilities used for once a year by Prime Minister Abbott and a squad of bureaucrats, and know that they'll be better than the facilities of people who live there every day - and that little Potemkin Village will be better than the standard, and not much else will change.
After all, the measure of a decent society is how it looks after its most vulnerable members ... The coalition strongly supports the Productivity Commission’s recommendation for a disability insurance scheme but, with an estimated price tag of $6 billion a year (roughly equal to the Commonwealth’s current interest bill) this important and necessary reform can’t fully be implemented until the budget returns to strong surplus.
The whole idea of the national disability insurance scheme is to improve independence and outcomes for people while joining up expensive programs that are currently disjointed. It is a revenue-saving, intelligent-spending measure, not some expensive nice-to-have that is forever on the never-never.
One of my final acts as health minister was to establish the Medicare dental scheme to give people on chronic disease care plans access to up to $4000 worth of dental treatment every two years: not check-ups but treatment.

I always envisaged that this would be the precursor to putting dental services more generally on Medicare ... The big problem with Medicare, as it stands, is that it supports treatment for every part of the body except the mouth. People sometimes spend years on Medicare-funded antibiotics because they can’t get Medicare-funded dentistry. One in three Australians say that they’ve avoided dental treatment because they can’t afford it.

I stress that Medicare funded dentistry is an aspiration not a commitment.
The whole reason why politicians get elected to government is to solve problems. Pissant quibbling over "an aspiration not a commitment" undermines any benefit gained from talking about this issue in a considered way, and completely negates any digs at the incumbents for not acting. There was all this build-up, addressing a real issue, and then - pfft, it's not a commitment, I'm not promising anything, blah blah weasel weasel.

It’s the kind of initiative that can’t responsibly be implemented until the budget returns to strong surplus but it’s the kind of social dividend that should motivate the economic changes that Australia needs.
In other words: it will be put on the never-never forever and a day by the Coalition, if you really want it you'll have to vote Labor.

Politicians have to address issues as they arise. It isn't good enough to say (as Abbott does) that you'll only deliver when everything's absolutely perfect, when there's plenty of money and the sun is shining and the wind's in your hair and your footy team is winning and ... no. Politics is the art of what's possible under the circumstances. Abbott is vague about the circumstances in the hope that nobody will notice the fact that he's vague about what he'll do. Because he's talking to a bunch of people who are desperate for him to succeed, they overlook the fact that he's a fair-weather sailor and would be hopeless if circumstances turned against Australia.
No one should be fooled by Labor’s carbon tax which is socialism masquerading as environmentalism and won’t actually start to reduce domestic emissions until the carbon tax is well over $100 a tonne. The best way to reduce emissions is to invest intelligently in the changes that cost-conscious enterprises are already making to become more energy efficient.

That’s what our $10 billion emissions reduction fund is for: reducing domestic emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 by reinforcing what businesses are already doing.
This point has been made before but it bears repeating: Abbott believes Labor's market-based solution is socialism, whereas his plan for splashing around billions of dollars of taxpayer money "by 2020 by reinforcing what businesses are already doing" shows that he really doesn't understand the business of politics, he doesn't understand what words mean; politics and words, the very business he's in.
That’s why the Green Army providing a reliable, substantial workforce to support the land care efforts of local councils, farmers and volunteers should turn out to be one of the next coalition government’s signature policies.
There's going to be a layer of bureaucracy over volunteers doing what farmers should be doing themselves - sounds pretty nanny-state socialistic to me.
A Plan for Strong Borders
You've heard this shit before: next.
Finally, the coalition’s plan for a more prosperous future will try to ensure that our children and grandchildren look back appreciatively on the big decisions this generation has made.

We have a responsibility to ensure that our land is as productive as possible, that’s why we are looking at new dam sites especially in northern Australia which could become a food bowl to Asia.
He negates himself once he gets down to details. Sic 'im, Grog!
With abundant coal and iron ore, Australia should have a natural advantage in making steel.
Should, but doesn't. Graham Bradley imperiously led Bluescope as it ignored the possibility that China might become a net steel exporter, and now that it has done so (China, that is) it appears that Bluescope has been wagered on the wrong outcome. If Bluescope's taxes were cut to $1 and all its employees worked for free, it would still be unable to exploit this "natural advantage" because there is no defence against dopey management. What's Abbott going to do about it anyway? Keen and rend his garments for the people who first labelled Menzies "Pig Iron Bob"?
With abundant bauxite and cheap power, Australia should have a natural advantage in making aluminium.
Cheap power? Really? I thought it was hellishly expensive, especially when you consider how far apart where the bauxite is and where the power stations are. Oh well.
With greater export orientation to drive higher production volumes, there’s no reason why Australia can’t sustain a viable motor industry.
There's sixty years of reasons why Australia can't have such an export industry, if only you'd face up to it. Here's why a domestic car market can't justify itself either.
The demands of the resources sector should help to sustain a sophisticated heavy engineering capacity in Australia. In this case, the tyranny of distance should actually be working for us, not against us.
Yes but it fucking doesn't, you stupid man. Engineering shops in WA are hitting the wall because mining operations are importing their heavy engineering ready-made rather than have Australians make it: high dollar, high wages, it's been going on for years. If you're going to strap on the fluro gear an the hard hat I wish you'd go to those places and find out why.
The ministers in the next Liberal National government will be responsible reformers.
No, they'll be people like Kevin Andrews, who had no idea, and Sophie Mirabella or Barnaby Joyce, who have no idea.
... we also understand that Australians are an optimistic people who want a government that sees potential rather than just problems.
And you will piss away that potential on dams with aluminium walls up in buffalo country, which is why you mus never become Prime Minister.
By the close of the next coalition government’s first term, I am confident that waste, mismanagement and reckless spending will have been brought under control; more tax cuts will be in prospect; there will be community controlled public schools and hospitals; and just about every fit working age person will be in work, preferably for a wage but if not for the dole.
Based on what?

What economic forecasting is going to claim that the economy will be strong enough to sustain full employment in five years? What does "in prospect" mean, and how is it different from "in your dreams"?
Better broadband will once more be delivered through market competition freeing more money to tackle traffic gridlock.
I've already called bullshit on that, and will do so again.
Instead, as the new parliamentary year dawns ...
Yes? Is this the bit where he gets all positive and gives us a glimpse of the sunlit uplands?
... Fair Work Australia ... Craig Thomson ...
The best way to help the country right now would be to change the government and the best way to change the government would be to give the people their choice at an election. Changing the government, of course, is but a means to an end: to bring out the best in our people and in our nation.
Depends who you mean by "our", really.
In his famous “light on the hill” speech, Ben Chifley said that the purpose of public life ...
Famous what? Fucking who?

It's a good thing I wasn't at the National Pikers' Club for this, because this would have been the point when my skull exploded from bullshit overload, and a whirring sound would have emanated from a simple plot in the Bathurst Cemetery.

Chifley was talking about the purpose of the labour movement, not some airy notion of public life. Abbott diminishes himself by misrepresenting Chifley in this manner, a bum note toward the end of what was supposedly a major speech. Chifley lost because he was deaf to fundamental shifts in the nation's development in his time, too.

But cheer up, it gets worse:
People should be in public life for the right reasons. Mine are to serve our country, to stand up for the things I believe in, to do the right thing by my fellow Australians as best I can, to build a nation that will inspire us more and to lead a government that will disappoint us less.
With ideals like that you might make a useful backbencher, but never a Prime Minister. A "government that will disappoint us less", well hooray for low expectations!

Members of the National Pikers' Club could have saved themselves time and embarrassment by reading this, but instead they lined up to take Abbott at his word:
  • Lenore Taylor adopted a Grattanesque more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone, declaring that however bad Abbott's speech was it was better than anything Gillard could offer. She made no case for such a claim. Abbott was so vacuous and slippery that he ought to have no standing other than the formal title of his office to criticise Gillard for anything.
  • Peter Hartcher said it was "a new start". The guy's been in office for two years and there was nothing new in that speech at all. It's not new and it isn't a start. It's bullshit, Abbott is bullshit and so too is Hartcher's hit-and-miss reputation as a commentator.
  • Phillip Coorey said the Coalition have a plan. There was no plan, there is no evidence that there ever was a plan, more bullshit.
  • Lanai Vasek tiptoes gingerly around the idea that, you know, it's possible that Abbott could be talking bullshit but other Liberals are talking bullshit too, so at least they're being consistent.
You don't have to go after Abbott in detail like I have here (thanks for making it this far). What you have to do to inform yourself about the alternative government and relate what they say - insofar as they say anything, "aspiration not commitment" - to observable reality. Maybe we could have some journalists unimpressed by puffed-up office-bearers who might do this. Instead, we have supposedly major speeches given by a piker to pikers, who congratulate him on squibbing the major issues of our time and claim this is better than struggling to address them.

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on the National Press Club. Come, Mrs Reinhart, and sack the press gallery space-fillers over whom you will have influence or managerial control. Realise how little would be lost, and how well politics could be reported on from the communities affected by it.


  1. Great post, Andrew, and it cheers me to see you are keeping the faith on the matter of Abbott still being unelectable. I was concerned after Gillard's torrid week that you might waver, but I shouldn't have doubted.

    The glowing endorsement of Chifley's Light on the Hill speech left me bemused me, too. Equally weird was earlier in the address when he referred approvingly to Latham's inane 'ladder of opportunity' metaphor, even if he couldn't bring himself to mention Latham's name.

    1. And nothing on the rich store of Liberal policy enabling slow and steady middle-class opportunity through the 1950s and '60s.

  2. Space Kidette1/2/12 11:44 pm

    So how do you become a member of the National Pikers Club? We could all join and outnumber the old Pikers.

    Love your work, Andrew. You manage to capture all the things I'm thinking and feeling but can't manage to articulate.

    This paragraph had me rolling in the aisles:

    "It's a good thing I wasn't at the National Pikers' Club for this, because this would have been the point when my skull exploded from bullshit overload, and a whirring sound would have emanated from a simple plot in the Bathurst Cemetery."


    1. It's really time we understood the liberal forces loved by the pikers club. Our whiners are about the worst in the world, ever.

      They still let Abbott and Gillard babble about stopping boats and never tell them it is fucking illegal, they jail innocent people and the fucking media who can go to war zones won't face the wrath of the incompetent immigration thugs and go to Curtin or anywhere else.

      30th this year on the media freedom scale.

      We have the Murdoch far right liberal touts v the Fairfax not quite so far right liberal touts.

      Today though they have excelled - a boat sinks in New Guinea, we send help and no pollies come and call it a tragedy.

      A few refugees drown in Malaysia, Bowen is out of the trap whining that we have to drown more to stop the fucking drowning and the fucking trash media eat it up.

      Neither accident had anything to do with us or Bowen so why do the PG have to report his babble over one accident?

      The problem is they are all white and scratch all of them and underneath is a racist bogan who thinks we do control the world's borders

    2. SK, it's best to have them all in one place.

      Anon, I wish there was the good grace to say Australia's thoughts are with those who mourn the boat victims in PNG and Malaysia, and those who died at the Port Said soccer game - but there isn't.

  3. Bravo Andrew. That's as fine a demolition job as I've seen, on Abbott's appalling address to the NPC.

    The fact that it had to come from an unpaid blogger, while those smug lazy hacks from the MSM continue to spout their pious BS, is a bloody disgrace.
    Thanks for the time and effort you've spent on this. Hopefully, it just might shame one or two of them into lifting their game.

  4. Excellent piece. I'm glad you pointed out the 'in good time' nonsense, as Abbott always says that and gets away with it. While simultaneously arguing we need an election NOW. Then again, I suppose most of the press gallery is too busy watching Kevin Rudd to actually think about these things.

  5. Fantastic, but this kind of analysis only serves to frustrate and infuriate me more. I detest the malaise created by the National Pikers' Club. I loved this insight...

    "Instead, we have supposedly major speeches given by a piker to pikers, who congratulate him on squibbing the major issues of our time and claim this is better than struggling to address them."

    Thank you, Andrew

  6. The problem is that all the bloggers who actually do analysis only sing to their own limited congregations.

    The tossers in 'real' media still have the eyes, ears and minds of most people - they may think lowly of journalists but they still use those same journalist's filters to form their views.

    AS I said on Grog's piece yesterday, the press gallery of the 80's and 90's would have no truck with Abbott and the current opposition. Like starving piranhas, they would have stripped the bloated corpse that is the opposition to the bone in mere seconds.

    We are poorly served.

    1. Bob, if Fairfax's readership was growing at the rate my blog traffic grows, Mrs Reinhart may have to dig much further into the housekeeping money in order to take a share. If we end up with a Reinhart-Murdoch duopoly (with a gutless ABC), you watch blogs like mine, Grog's, Koukoulas', Tim Dunlop's and Bob Denmore's skyrocket in terms of reach and influence.

      You're right about the press gallery of the 1980s. Abbott is only held up because hey can't bear the thought of a dominant Gillard.

  7. "Finding savings is a big task but we’re up for it and will release all our costings in good time for the next election...The best way to help the country right now would be to change the government and the best way to change the government would be to give the people their choice at an election."

    Jeez, it's like he hands this shit to the journos on a platter. And still they miss it!

    Or maybe they're stunned by the revelation that in a democracy the best way to change a government is with an election. Thanks, Tone! I'll be sure to write a glowing review of your speech!

    Anyway, thanks Andrew. This piece and Grog's should be compulsory reading for journos across the land.

    1. Anon, should be compulsory reading for *voters* across the land!!!

  8. This is the first time I had seen any detail on what was actually included in the speech - apart from the aspiration not a promise point. I am perplexed as to who this is aimed at - who is going to follow this dogwhistle (apart from the MSM evidently).

    From what he has said, I see him promise to cut funding to public schools and hospitals, identify several good policies which he agrees with in principle but thinks are less important than funding cuts - and a couple of completely batshit crazy policies that he intends to invest in with the money he is taking from schools and hospitals.

    And how did nobody call him on the argument that cutting the mining tax would "save" the government money?

  9. One thing that really annoys me here is that things like the computers-in-schools program (inept as they may be) are nickel and dime stuff in a budget that by 2014-15 will spend around 414 billion dollars.

    In a budget that big, it is *inevitable* that billions of it will be wasted, and much of it in areas that are invisible to public debate (brought to you by the letters A, D, and F for instance).

    Cutting one Labor's harebrained election gimmicks and replacing them with their own harebrained election gimmicks is, frankly, noise.

    It seems to me that distressingly few in the Canberra press gallery grasp this.

    1. I don't know why press gallery journalists don't just go through the Budget with a packet of Post-it notes, and there's your stories for the year: following progress on building this and operating that and what was that thing we said we'd do last year?

      The thing about the ADF is that there are so many low-cost options that aren't even being examined, let alone budgeted for, because of this insistence that they're Special and Different.

      The press gallery consists largely of the wrong people doing the wrong job.

  10. Thanks for an excellent read. Loved your line about the "greatest hits". That's pretty much how I felt when watching his budget reply last year and I can't see why the media are so excited by a speech that is substantially the same.

    The line that had me most baffled was "People don’t save enough; so increase the superannuation tax." Was he talking about cuts to tax breaks (which doesn't seem to make much sense in this context) or was he actually calling superannuation itself a tax?

  11. If only the Government was as beautifully scrutinised in what is an otherwise excellent article.

  12. Great piece, shit speech, shit coverage of it by MSM.

    MSM commentators are irrelevant. There is a widening info gap between those who still believe what they read in the papers and those who don't. One can only hope the latter group grows while the former shrinks.

  13. What a great read. Now i must go check to see if Leonore Taylor has bothered to read and reported on PM Gillard's speech as she has already decided it could not be as "good" as Abbott.

  14. Terrific piece of writing and analysis. Thank you for taking the time. I was astounded by the superficiality of Leonore Taylor.

  15. So Andrew, what did you think about Gillard's "we are us" line? I bet you had a field day reviewing that speech !

    1. That speech was given to an ALP conference. Reviews of that speech are best left to all those long-standing members of that party who engage in "Whither Labor?" pieces. I'm not a member of that party so a) it wasn't my place to engage in that and b) it bores me.

      Abbott's speech was billed as new and exciting, setting fresh directions in what we can expect from an Abbott Government. If it was going to be his equivalent of the "we are us" speech, or a rehash of the budget-in-reply speech of last May, that should've been made clear by and to the press gallery.

  16. I'm a bit confused about how he plans to have community-controlled public schools ... unless he plans to build them himself. He might as well talk about cutting stamp duty and payroll tax - none of it is his to deliver.

  17. chrispydog2/2/12 9:49 pm

    Bravura performance, and I'm not talking Abbott's pablum. Our fourth estate sloths are now embedded so far up Abbott's meme (the government's totally crap and spending our grandkid's future) they fawn all over him like Pavlov's dogs at bell ringing time.

    When Tone says there's a light at the end of the tunnel, he's right, it's him, he is the 'lite' at the end of the tunnel.

  18. Ricardo Rodriguez2/2/12 10:49 pm

    Excellent work here Andrew!

    The main thing I picked up from Abbott's speech is that he intends to go back to the Howard era policy of punishing the disabled and other vulnerable people for not fitting into his fantastical work-centred utopia.

    Welfare to work, work for the dole, working families, work work work ad nauseum. Hmmm... could Abbott secretly be a communist? ;)

  19. Delighted to hear your traffic is on the up, Andrew. You're the best thing on the internet these days.

  20. Whew! With so many journos praising him, I was beginning to wonder if I'd been wrong in my assessemnt of the NPC speech. Thanks for ressuring me. :-)

  21. Yes, and not only do the media tug their forelocks whenever 'Mr Abbott' comes into the space they inhabit together, but they constantly let him get off scot free with his tactic of only answering a few questions from the media gathered at his photo opportunity events, or parliament pressers. It frustrates me massively that he is able to bat away even feeble attempts at proper scrutiny like that, with consumate ease. Not to mention what would happen to scrutiny of the man as Prime Minister if Gina Reinhart, Clive Palmer, Kerry Stokes and Rupert Murdoch were in control of the media and he was in control of the government.
    The only question I cannot find an answer to in my mind is, how do the little fleas, the 5th Estate, on the big dog of media in Australia get to the hearts and minds of the masses?

  22. You don't know that Abbott regularly quotes Ben Chifley? This is because he is pitching to the Labor heartland. Also because he was a Grouper in his younger days and if the split hadn't occurred in the 50s would have been in the Labor party and may well have been its leader in 2004, in which case JWH would have been defeated then. So Abbott has knowledge of what hits Labor buttons.

    You are right in saying there was nothing new in this speech. Its basically the same one he delivered last year to the Lib Federal conference and also to Lowy Institute or similar - I saw them on APAC. Very few, if any, of Canberra press honchos would have been present or, of they were, would have paid much attention. Hence the successful illusionary rebadging.

    It was Kevin07 who introduced first person folksiness into the discourse for Labor leaders, a la "call me Tony" Blair. Hence Julia gets referred to as Julia on TV talk shows. But can you give any examples - any - where journos address her as "Julia" at press conferences or in interviews, other than as "Prime Minister? Likewise, Abbott is always addressed (correctly in my view) as "Mr Abbott", and on TV talk shows is usually only referred to as "Tony Abbott", not the familiar "Tony". The only place I've heard him addressed as "Tony" is on the Today Show. Hard to see any of this as evidence of stalinist/maoist "veneration .... unprecedented in a democracy"!

    On the media uncritically taking Abbott at his word - did you turn off before the question/answer segment that followed his speech?

    On his speeches being reported verbatim and accorded merit they do not deserve - is this not the job of news reporting, while the discussion of merits are for the op-ed pages? And that this rule applies for all parties?

  23. For some reason there seems to have been a flurry of articles in the Age this week about Gillard's leadership being in trouble, prompted by no particular development in that case. Michelle Grattan's article today styled as a letter from the backbenchers is an example. I think it was Paul Kelly yesterday who had an article which seemed to cite Abbot's Press Club speech as being a victory contrasting against Gillard's performance without any real analysis of either.

    Okay, we get it, the polls suggest Gillard is unpopular. But even the speculation articles seem united on the fact that the party won't support Rudd and there is no better alternative. Moreover there is no suggestion that changing the leadership will result in PM in a minority government being any easier.

  24. Andrew, I'm a bit confused over the spate of leadership articles.

    What exactly has changed over the last week?

  25. Laughing at this headline at Their ABC...

    Abbott lays out vision for Coalition government


  26. I see the 'Liberal voters' are in paroxysms of joy about all this leadership speculation and it's clear they don't understand that it's not about the Labor party, it's about the media and the dwindling attention span of your average voter. Like the Roman Colosseum, the interest is not in the prowess of the fighters but on the gore of the fight itself.

    What they don't realise is that, when Abbott is in power, the media will quickly turn on him, there'll be constant speculation about Malcolm, the media will lust in the hunt for more blood, another scalp, another corpse to feed to the baying masses. Just look at the O'Farrell government, no basking in the post-coital glow with the media there, despite Labor's state prior to the election.

    I really loathe political partisans, they're completely incapable of objectivity (axiomatic, I know) and don't realise they're feeding the beast that will turn on them - if you play nasty, those rules are used against you when the time comes. There's a reason for sportsmanship and it's fundamentally about self-interest.

  27. "did you turn off before the question/answer segment that followed his speech?"

    We've seen the question segment, such as it was. Problem is we've been waiting two years for the answer segment.

  28. Ethnic cleansing in Western Uusimaa in May 1918 and Forssa region. Some 200 Finnish civilians, men and women, were executed by the Swedish battalion in Western Uusimaa. The Swedes executed at least 460 Finns in the spring 1918.

    TV and newspapers broadcast disinformation about history and all political issues. Censorship in the mainstream media makes Sweden, Finland and Norway a kind of dictatorship countries, ruled by the political and economic elite.

    In the Scandinavian countries the political and economic elite controls the media.

    Finnish government to ban our organization? Helsinki district court was ready to ban our organization! An official had told this threat to our chairman in a meeting in the Ministry for Internal Affairs.

    A government's threat to ban a peaceful organization (because of its opinions) violates the principles of democracy.