Australia is crying out for a stable government that can be trusted to deliver what it promises. The Herald believes only the Coalition can achieve that within the limited mandate Tony Abbott will carry into office should he prevail on Saturday.There's two begged questions right there.
No party platform in Australia's history has been fulfilled so comprehensively as the agreement signed between Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott with the Gillard government in 2010. Had the last election returned a simple majority of Labor MPs, it would have set aside key pledges and seen internal brawls. If Tony Abbott had become Prime Minister then, by contrast, his government would have set aside key pledges and seen internal brawls.
There is no such thing as a 'limited mandate'. You either win government or you don't. The first Howard government and the first Rudd government achieved relatively little of what they were elected to do. The second Howard government (1998-2001) and the first term of the Bush Administration in the US (2001-05) had what this editorialist would call a 'limited mandate', whatever that is, but they pretty much did what they liked.
The Sydney Morning Herald predates our federal political system and the parties that seek election to it. The editorialist, speaking in his masthead's name, trashes its history by such gullibility and ignorance.
Abbott does not so much deserve the chance to do what Labor could not do in the past six years. Nor has he earned the right to govern with a clear, articulated vision, as the Herald has sought from him during the campaign.Tony Abbott has been leader of the Liberal Party for more than three years. For very little of that time has it been seriously attempting to pin Abbott down about what he might do in government. Negligently, its coverage has mainly taken two forms: first, gushing at his effective media strategy of saying nothing of substance, and secondly quoting his words verbatim as though no further verification might be required. Again, the Herald has no excuse for indulging any politician to that extent.
During the campaign, the Herald has accepted Abbott's shortcomings rather than challenged them in the exertion of the power of the Prime Ministership. Its political editor even asserted that we cannot handle the truth, reinforcing him and the editorialist - as well as Abbott - in their belief that facile reporting is all we deserve, and all that ought be expected of them. Their chairman has over many years demonstrated his commitment to this sort of feeble, reader-repelling content too.
The feeble plea at the end of that last quote that the Herald has done all that could be expected of it is only true if you underestimate what journalism is, and how little thorough journalism there is in federal politics, particularly coming from the Herald.
But the party he leads is untainted by scandal and infighting, and therefore has the best chance to unite a tired and despondent electorate.That is sheer bullshit. The opposite of that is true.
Scandals surrounding Mal Brough, Christopher Pyne, and even potentially Joe Hockey arising from Justice Rares' judgment on a sexual harassment case are yet to be played out. Arthur Sinodinos' links to the Obeid family are yet to be clarified, let alone explained. There has been plenty of Liberal infighting, but the Herald has chosen to ignore it and treat outbursts as isolated incidents: only today, the confusion about whether or not our internet will be slowed further by a filter imposed upon us bodes ill for calm and measured government. The fact that the Herald has chosen to cover those matters in a cursory fashion does not mean that the assertion of its editorialist can be sustained.
Labor will not be able to do this until it is stripped of corrupt rules that have rewarded those who value power more than the public interest.The Coalition is not exactly short of "those who value power more than the public interest". Putting out facile statements while asserting that they are detailed, costed policy is the work of those who really do value power more than the public interest. Its internal matters are a matter for its members, and for those who feel loyal to the party by voting for it. It's a mistake to assume that the Liberal Party that brought forth Jaymes Diaz, Fiona Scott and Matthias Cormann can be regarded as "unblemished" or free of "those who value power more than the public interest".
Abbott needs to be true to his word. As he says, "No surprises, no excuses … No more, no less."And if he's not? Seriously, what sort of idiot takes Abbott at his word?
The Coalition has put to the people some aspirations of which the Herald approves if applied fairly: value for taxpayers' money, greater workplace flexibility and ending the age of entitlement. It has aped good Labor policies and banked sensible savings.If applied fairly.
Is it fair, or even sensible, to assume that such measures might be 'applied fairly' by such people? If it is, to whom is the 'fairness' to be directed? The Herald has catalogued political promises made and broken for over one hundred and eighty years. Why Tony Abbott of all people is the shining, sea-green incorruptible exception to such a history is both inexplicable and amazing.
Notably, Abbott has also signalled policies the Herald considers unfair and a threat to national progress: slower broadband, his paid parental leave scheme, turn back the boats, and education inequity. And we will, as many Coalition figures privately do, continue to rail against these populist and frivolous indulgences.So that's the purpose of the Herald: to rail, like a blogger. I guess all those 'Coalition figures', unnamed but railing, put the lie to the idea that infighting is unknown in Coalition ranks.
A Coalition government will be entitled to pursue any elements of its agenda that have been detailed to the public.A Coalition government will feel entitled to pursue any elements of any agenda it bloody well feels like pursuing. And the Herald will do little more than praise such a beast for its political shrewdness, apart from the odd bit of railing maybe.
Then voters can judge Abbott on delivery in three years or, should he prove unable to manage a democratic parliament, much sooner.See, this is where I'm confused. The incumbent government succeeded in managing a democratic parliament and yet it is considered unfit to continue governing (which of our parliaments might be considered non-democratic?). What if Abbott is removed by his own party (without, of course, any infighting at all; a phenomenon unknown in the history of conservative politics)?
Abbott will be free to conduct his commission of audit on government spending and implement recommendations within his pledge of no cuts to education, health or frontline services.What if he has his audit and cuts those services anyway? Will the editorialist faint from sheer surprise?
Imagine Tony Abbott breaking a pledge. Journalists may pride themselves on lacking such imagination, transcribing what is said to pad out word-count rather than examine how we are and would be governed.
He should conduct the promised reviews into workplace relations, industry assistance, regulation, legislation, competition law and tax.He should have done those already.
The whole idea of election policies is not to provide checklists for journalists (or even party activists, within one party or within its opponents) to tick off. The idea of election policies is to show the extent of your thinking over the past three years - who you've spoken to, who has impressed you, and what sources you use for your anecdotes, data and ad content. The quality of that thinking informs what is done in government far more than what may or may not appear on a fucking brochure, for crying out loud. Politically homeless knows this, and The Sydney Morning Herald doesn't. Ponder that, ye perishing few who still believe the future of Australian media is strong.
Why hasn't the Coalition been having those debates from Opposition? Surely the Best Opposition Leader Ever would, like Whitlam, prosecute his case with whatever meagre resources are available to oppositions so that his capacity for government appears all the more formidable. And here we find ourselves at the very event horizon of the black hole at the heart of not only this Herald editorial, but the very idea of an Abbott government:
That will help him develop the sort of detailed policy reform agenda he has failed to flesh out in the past three years for fear of a political backlash. Australia needs to debate new ideas and better ways to ensure the economy is flexible enough to survive the end of the resources boom.One person's "backlash" is another person's "debate", I suppose. The Coalition can't pursue ideas from any forum other than from government. They can and do even disconnect the very idea of debate from what is actually done, rubbishing painstaking research and expertise with the sheer force of executive decision-making. It's surprising, and more than a little sad, that the Herald can't see that and doesn't think it's a problem.
It seriously shares the Coalition's belief that you put them in government first, and then hold them to account to, um, what little extent they discussed it beforehand. 'Limited mandate' my arse, you stupid bloody people.
But the Herald will scrutinise a first-term Abbott government with the same independent eye that has exposed Labor graft and attacked Coalition policies.i.e. none at all.
Too often Abbott has asked voters to buy his plan sight unseen; to believe his numbers even though they have emerged at the eleventh hour.Given the complicity of the journalists in all this, at the Herald and elsewhere, Abbott cannot be blamed for trying it on. Voters are the ultimate decision-makers here. The quality of the information they receive, from the Herald and others presenting the low farce of campaigning as though it was all that politics is about, is inadequate. The Herald should not escape culpability for the poor quality of information about politics that is leading to a deeply inadequate choice at an election where not only adequate, but capable government is called for.
Then there is a surprise reduction in foreign aid and water buybacks as well as an extra efficiency demand on the public service.Which bog-ignorant political ninny is in any way surprised by Coalition proposals to cut foreign aid, or impose an imaginary 'efficiency dividend' and punish public servants for failing to nail it down? Here the sheer inadequacy of the contemporary Herald is in full view, its perfectly justified lack of confidence in its own self, its history and its future. Those of us who disdain people surprised by easily foreseeable events have a point, don't we.
Abbott's mandate will be weakened as a result of this opacity.No more than Howard's was with his light-bright-and-trite campaign in 1996.
Abbott has hidden much and, as such, much must be taken on trust, just as Gillard Labor had to be taken on trust at the 2010 election.Bullshit. NBN, DisabilityCare, education funding, tobacco packaging - hiding in plain sight the whole time.
Labor then was a party that had corrupted the NSW government and allowed faceless men to unseat an elected prime minister.If you had the resources of The Sydney Morning Herald at your disposal, you'd know that the corrupt Askin government in NSW played little role in the Coalition losing the 1972 and 1974 elections, and was little impediment to the re-election of an unelected Prime Minister the following year. It's funny how things turn out, isn't it.
After that election produced a hung parliament, the Herald recommended Abbott be prime minister because "stability is more likely".Rarely does a slow-media outlet own up to getting it so wrong. Gillard provided more stability than the Herald gave her credit. Abbott would have gone to a double dissolution election, and it's a real pity that the Herald's political reporting resources fail to point this out. And as for this:
But Gillard retained power by, it emerged later, breaking her promise of ''no carbon tax under a government I lead'' in a deal with the Greens. Labor betrayed the voters.That's a Coalition talking-point rather than a historical fact, as an examination of the Herald's own archives will attest.
While the Gillard government achieved important national reforms in trying circumstances and kept the economy strong, it squibbed tax reform, skewed taxes, overspent on optimistic revenue forecasts and did nothing to remedy Labor's fatal flaws.The Howard government did little of the former and much of the latter, and Abbott promises less and worse on all fronts.
All the while, Rudd remained a destabilising force; a reminder of betrayal - and an even bigger one when he retook the leadership just over two months ago.Really? I thought the instability in the Gillard government was all her fault, not Rudd's. The Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald said that Rudd was "a happy little vegemite" on the backbench and that the instability was simply due to 'umble Labor loyalists concerned about the polls. The Chief Political Correspondent of The Sydney Morning Herald said that the Gillard government's problems were caused by one of her former lovers decades before. Now, all of a sudden, this instability is Rudd's fault? Imagine my surprise.
Rudd Mark II has presented some laudable policy reforms on boat people and emissions trading.Really? I thought they were cop-outs myself.
Which part of asylum-seeker policy is in any way 'laudable'?
He talks of Labor's big ideas so Australia can rise beyond our station. But reformers must take the people with them - and reformers must be trusted to deliver.The amount of trust placed in Abbott is unbelievable, and unsustainable.
Rudd has struggled to outline how Labor would strengthen the economy, beyond relying on its worthy record during the global financial crisis. Faced with shrinking budget revenues, Labor did well to outline a plan for a return to surplus, yet lost the moral high ground over Coalition costings.There is no Coalition high ground on budget costings. The government has provided evidence of sound economic management that the Herald, at the cost of its own credibility, has chosen to ignore. Be that on its own head, not Abbott's or Hockey's.
It wasn't until his official launch that Rudd pushed Labor values based on a fair go for all.All parties, at every election, base their pitch upon a fair go for all. Even Abbott did that. Again, if you had access to the archives of The Sydney Morning Herald you'd see that it's true, but hey.
The Herald believes Australian democracy needs Labor to modernise and prove it respects the privilege of power. It cannot be supported for abusing that privilege.There is nothing, nothing 'modern' about the Liberal Party - still less about any of the other parties in the Coalition. It has not proven that it respects the privilege of power. Tony Abbott certainly has not proven that, Jaymes Diaz and Malcolm Turnbull and Peta Credlin and Christopher Pyne haven't, and neither has any other member of his team. This too is sheer bullshit, useless to support the Herald in making such a case.
Voters should not reward Labor before redemption ...The Coalition is unredeemed from 2007. It does not know why it lost that election and will govern as though the past six years were an interregnum rather than a legitimate government. Again, the Herald is in breach of the What's Sauce For The Goose Is Sauce For The Gander Act in its partisan defence of its position.
... nor reward those who owe their influence to factions and betrayals of trust that have marked the past six years.Abbott became leader of his party because of a betrayal of trust. His ascent is inexplicable unless you examine factional manoeuvring within the Liberal Party. Another silly and ignorant assertion that undermines not only the case they are making, but the very idea of the Herald as repository and provider of political information.
Labor under Kevin Rudd in 2013 is not offering a stable, trustworthy government on which Australians can depend. The Coalition under Tony Abbott deserves the opportunity to return trust to politics.Matthew 7:3-5, motherfuckers.
First, The Sydney Morning Herald decided to support the Coalition and then it decided to build a case upon all of its readers accepting that assumption. You'll note in the above that it is possible to point out the logical flaw in the Herald's reasoning without resorting to Labor (or Green or Liberal) talking points. Nonetheless, those who defend this worthless piece will claim that any and all criticism can only be partisan.
That failure of perception, real (in this editorial) and reasonably anticipated (in the defence by whoever the editor is this week), underscores why those who trust in the future of The Sydney Morning Herald, and who blame only others for its demise, are kidding themselves and avoiding the real ailments of a withered organ they mistake as vital.
It almost goes without saying that I'm beyond pissed off at this elaborate practical joke unfolding around me.
... Yeah, my blood's so mad feels like coagulatin'All week I've been dreading the very prospect of an Abbott government, but last night I saw someone who dreads it more: Joe Hockey, sweat-beaded and gasping like a landed fish, having laboured so hard for so long and all for so little.
I'm sitting here just contemplatin'
I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation
Handful of senators don't pass legislation
And marches alone can't bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin'
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin'
And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
How you don't believe
We're on the eve of destruction ...
- P F Sloan Eve of destruction
Hockey's much-awaited economic statement was worse than Richard Nixon in 1960 because Nixon hadn't crammed it all in the last minute, with an easy and lazy cut to foreign aid. So much for all those costed policies, ready to go last year or the year before.
All week, one in every eight to ten Australians are yet to make up their minds about who to vote for, making a mockery of 50-50 or 52-48 or whatever. There is a veneer of complacency in the assurances that Abbott will become Prime Minister no matter what, and underneath it is a shrillness that underlines a failure of persuasion; a government that has supposedly failed so comprehensively should be made of less stern stuff. It should not be so hard to knock over as it is clearly proving to be.
The experiments for our future in telecommunications, education, and disability care may well be abandoned. The dimmer journalists and Liberal shills will claim those as failures, not as spoils but as trash. Another series of experiments is being set up and may well be given a chance that those big-ticket items are yet to have. These experiments were gingerly begun under Howard, ideas to which he dared not give full rein if they endangered his tenure of Kirribilli House.
The enfeebled union movement could have been finished off by workplace legislation deft enough to outflank them; hell, they may have willingly embraced such legislation, as strategic geniuses like Martin Ferguson and Doug 'mind mah tea' Cameron had under Keating and Kelty. Instead, the union movement was emboldened by the inept WorkChoices. An Abbott government workplace relations policy (both the do-nothing one from two months ago that was abandoned, and the frenzied but gutless hints of Abetz and Alexander) assumes most people have secure salaried jobs. Let's have it, then, and see how we go. That 2m jobs thing is starting to look sick already, especially when you consider than one hour's paid work a week is a 'job' in Coalition terms.
There are few proven facts in economics, but one is that if you tax high-income earners highly then they move to low-tax countries. Something similar happens with researchers: when you cut research funds, and refuse to do anything clever with tax breaks for research, researchers leave or dumb down their output. The cuts to NICTA and to ARC grants, and coming to the CSIRO and NHMRC, show that the potential for economic growth and welfare through innovation is being squandered. I don't mind people trying and failing - hell, the fact that the Australian media hasn't shut up shop can be traced to the same attitude - but people who won't try at all are contemptible. We face a government that would hold us back, and yet want credit for having a go; fuck that, and them.
Those cuts to innovation from the Beechworth bandit Sophie Mirabella look like her final act of spite in public life (unless, perhaps, she bites someone outside a booth on Saturday). My generation of researchers, people whose careers were just getting going when Howard was elected, have achieved less than they might have because his government came too late to realising the value of publicly-funded research. Hockey promised to preserve research funding but was clearly overruled, assuming he opposed it at all. Along with the basket-case economies of Europe, we'll be proving-grounds for what happens when you bugger research; and that worst of all, those you hope might be grateful for eviscerating the boffins never are.
If you think sound economic management (or even effective politics) involves traipsing around the country acting like the Job Fairy, sprinkling ten jobs here loading boxes onto trucks or whatever, then you won't miss innovative jobs and the potential they offer until it's too late. Whether it's building infrastructure, or providing aged care to baby boomers who won't put up with the conditions that today's mustn't-grumble generation of seniors cops with good grace, the future workers of this country are almost certainly immigrants. They want to join us here and, even if you can set aside the cruelty to them, what 'cries out' to me is the lack of imagination involved in putting them to work.
There are only two choices with the 2m jobs thing: either they will come through, in which case the electorate won't thank them; or they won't, and all that "we'll keep our promises" stuff will be seen for hollow bullshit. The editorialist of The Sydney Morning Herald cannot imagine Abbott and bullshit to be anything but inimical to one another, which may explain why the demise of one may well also see the demise of the other.
One of the most cogent Coalition criticisms of the NBN was that most data travels over wireless, and that this is likely to increase. This doesn't explain the army of dumb boxes coming to our streets, where future posts and other dis-content will be coming at you via copper wire. Have you noticed that Coalition policy does not address actual problems that face this country? I have, because I'm not a press gallery journalist or a slow-media editorialist.
I've seen governments come and go, this ain't my first rodeo. I still think more babies than bathwater will be tossed out with the incumbents, and pity those who believe that the Coalition's own bathwater can be confused with the elixir this country needs.
I still think polls (as published in the newspaper) are bullshit. I'm sure there are some great polls, in the same way that there are nutritious hamburgers, but the diet of newspaper polls that temporarily sustains the slow media and some of the dimmer bloggers is no good for anyone. Not even the most ardent stats nerd can defend their use as determining the outcome to the extent we have seen at this election. It's monstrously disrespectful to say that the ballot is over before it's started, like the elections in North Korea or Turkmenistan are.
This blog will continue into the Abbott government, and beyond it: fuck it, every other bastard is breaking their pre-election promises. If The Sydney Morning Herald can assert that they are 'Independent' of anything other than sensible business and editorial practise, or that The Australian might be the heart of anything, this blog reserves the right to tinker with its subheading as may be required from time to time - and the rest of you can get used to it with as much good grace as you are capable.