15 November 2014

Found out

Two dozen other stupid reasons
Why we should suffer for this
Don't bother trying to explain them
Just hold my hand while I come to a decision on it

Sooner or later your legs give way, you hit the ground
Save it for later don't run away and let me down
Sooner or later you hit the deck, you get found out
Save it for later don't run away and let me down
You run away, run away, run away, run away, run away, run away and let me down

-The Beat Save it for later

One reason to read foreign newspapers online is because you can. I am old enough to remember when foreign newspapers were available only in the State Library, a few days old and often monopolised by some lonely expat who'd surreptitiously rip out a piece, denying you that article and whatever was on the other side of the paper.

Another is to find out how other countries run, what their priorities are. In looking for that you can often get some insight into how this country is run, what its - our? - priorities are.

This article is instructive about Australian politics - but not just for the passing mention of Adelaide's own Lynton Crosby, still junketing away on that Australia-UK Political Relic Exchange Program which gave us John McTernan.

This blog loudly and often bagged the Coalition in opposition for not engaging with policy, and with those affected by various government policies. This blog believed such engagement was essential for the Coalition to regain office, and it was wrong. This blog believed that a few more defeats would be necessary to get some focus, as had been the case in the 1980s and '90s; wrong again.

What I wasn't wrong about was that a policy agenda is necessary to build some respect to replace the inevitable disaffection, and carry a government through the ups and downs.

This government, like that of Gough Whitlam, has an economic policy crafted for another time. It is based on assumptions that no longer apply, such as continued growth in China (weaker than expected), greater engagement with India (might take a while, and looks like going backwards in certain respects, despite all that foreign policy happy-talk at the time). Because nowhere else is picking up the slack, our economy is going backwards, and economic austerity is exactly the wrong remedy for that.

Joe Hockey got more airtime than he deserved in denying the Global Financial Crisis because of a press gallery assumption (reinforced by in-house polls) that economic management was part of the Coalition DNA. In office, Hockey has given scant consideration to the revenue side of the budget, and to changing budgetary settings in the face of changing economic assumptions about growth, iron ore prices, and consumer confidence. He hasn't done the work.

Contrast Hockey with Paul Keating, who had been Shadow Treasurer for a month before taking the substantive role in government. Keating had a far better understanding of the economic landscape and the tools available to him than Hockey does.

The less said about Greg Hunt or Kevin Andrews, the better - but the Vics continue to wonder why they aren't driving the Liberal Party any more.

They thought they were being clever in presenting as little policy as possible to the public before last September. They were reinforced in that belief by a willing media, which must never be indulged in its lazy claim that it was even-handed in its approach to reporting and analysis.

The Coalition wasn't been lean and mean, just skinny and cranky. It wasn't lithe and disciplined, just anorexic and wasting muscles and organs. Its mind was not clear, just vacant.

The press gallery took this bunch of politicians at their word. This goes against the whole idea of journalism and the idea that it is valuable other than as a make-work scheme for journalists. Now that there are laws that would imprison journalists for doing journalism, and now that funding cuts will see journalists sacked and resources cut, this is why nobody rallies to what looks like self-interested pleading from people who've shed their credibility and appeal to get access to people who mislead them.

It isn't true that the Coalition deserves the benefit of the doubt, though that has been the animating principle of the press gallery - it can look like bias and journalists should understand this perspective and resist the urge to brush those accusations away. It isn't true that Labor does, either. Who deserves the benefit of the doubt? Australia. We deserve better, both in terms of government and coverage thereof.

The government hasn't done the work. The press gallery hasn't done the work, and refuses to do so. If the Labor opposition refuses to do the work (and gives up on the idea that the press gallery can even recognise work when it sees it), the task of replacing the political class member by member will be longer and more far-reaching than some might think it needs to be. Those who haven't done the work are being found out by changes to the economy, society and technology that slip away from lazy assumptions of those who govern and inform us.


  1. You are right Andrew about the coaltion being 'skinny and cranky' which is much less palatable to the electorate than 'lean and mean'.

    In the past the swingers of the 'lean and mean' tomahawk have provoked grumbles and resentment but have been forgiven because voters believed cuts were necessary to sustain a valued way-of-life.

    The govt came to power essentially promising to do what the ALP was doing, only better and, of course, without leadership tensions.

    Abbott lied about his agenda in my opinion and continues to do so. Furthermore the govt appears chaotic and now the MSM is toying with the idea of the Woman of the Year, Decade, Century? Taking over.

    As you said Andrew, this govt is 'skinny and cranky'.

  2. "If the Labor opposition refuses to do the work "

    I read recently that Shorten was talking to Michelle Grattan to try and convince her of Labor's "narrative".

    Looks to me that Labor does not have a clue about what to do and the choice at the next election will be between tweedle dee and tweedle dumber.

  3. The press gallery is not important. You've warned against it and it has happened.

    Victorians will vote for a Labor government soon, despite their major newspaper screaming, "ALP Crisis" today. Gosh, despite the threat of "we will lose 8billion dollars". Why? Because they know that no government - state or federal - will do that to people.

    So what next?

    1. So true. The Herald Sun is provided as reading in my local cafe. The other day I was having a read - I normally go strait to the letters where each seems to start with something like "Take a memo Mr Shorten". Anyways - screaming lead stating that Paluka had 12K from a CFMEU slush fund injected into his campaign - ergo BAD and *potentially* dodgy. Three pages in was a double spread interview with Naptime that read like "So premier - the last year and a half has been a runaway success. Do attribute this to your strong and decisive leadership or a weak and shifty Labor party - or perhaps a mixture of both?"

      But the polls are pointing to a LNP wipeout. Go figure. Naptime is getting great press, but he's toast.

  4. "It has no ability to negotiate with those outside its command-and-control."

    So true, and I hold on to this truth as a portent of things to come. It may yet be the salvation of those who think this government stinks.