Tuesday, 31 January 2012
“When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose,” said Bob Dylan, when asked to comment on Julia Gillard’s approach to matters of political principle and moral conviction. Actually, he was singing about another arrogant, untrustworthy woman, identified only as "Miss Lonely," who also lost her way in a morass of dodgy deals and broken promises. Nonetheless, his words hit the nail on the head when it comes to defining what is really wrong with the whole Wilkie/Slipper/Gillard shenanigans that the Australian electorate has been forced to endure over the past twelve months.
When you hold no principles, you have no problem abandoning them.
A lie built upon a betrayal built upon a lie pretty much sums up the foundations upon which our federal government now precariously perches. The first lie? Regardless of whether you sit up at night fretting that the planet is heading towards an environmental Armageddon unless we price carbon or you think the whole climate change kerfuffle is a case of overblown hype, the simple fact remains that in the days leading up to the last election the two most senior members of the Labor team promised - yes, promised - that they wouldn't introduce a carbon tax in the life of this government. But they did. The second lie? In order for Julia Gillard to be granted permission by the Governor General to form government out of the fractured, unsatisfactory 2010 poll, Gillard promised - yes, promised – not only to Andrew Wilkie, but by definition also to his electorate, to the Australian people and to our Head of State that she would introduce Wilkie’s pokie reform legislation into the parliament by May of this year. But she won’t. And the betrayal? In order to be able to break both these promises yet still hold a parliamentary majority, Gillard persuaded a member of the Liberal party to betray - yes, betray - his own electorate and party for a fistful of dollars, or thirty pieces of silver - whichever analogy you prefer.
Nowhere in this grim saga do political principles – or indeed any ethical principles - come into play. The NSW disease, a particularly virulent and toxic form of political paralysis, has now infected the entire body of the federal Labor party. The light on the hill turns out to be the flashing, blazing, glittering lights of ‘Deal or No Deal.’ Whatever it takes in order to stay in the game. No principle is so sacred that it can't be jettisoned in order to hold onto power. Just ask Chris Bowen, Peter Garrett, Wayne Swan, Stephen Conroy or any of the others who daily turn their backs on what were once deeply held convictions or commitments.
Penny Wong, attempting to justify the latest lie, claims that it’s all about “getting the job done” and “getting results.” This betrays an arrogance about the use of power and the privilege of being trusted by the electorate to keep your word that is verging on the sociopathic.
It's hard to imagine the Australian voter is taken in by this stuff. Even if within "the beltway" left-leaning and overtly optimistic pundits are impressed by Gillard’s wheeling and dealing, can a political party really survive without any genuine principles? The answer is, of course, no. As Abe Lincoln pointed out, and his compatriot Kristina Keneally recently discovered, there comes a point where the majority cease to be fooled. The trickery wears thin, the spin ceases to mesmerize, and the lies start to fester away under the stairs, leaving a smell that can’t be got rid of no matter how much Glen 20 you spray around.
According to Senator Nick Xenephon, Gillard’s actions are a “gross breach of trust”, and she has “backstabbed the person who put her in office.” As Kevin Rudd can testify, it’s not the first time either.
“Integrity in government and being able to trust your politicians - to know your politicians will deliver on their promises - is a much bigger and more important issue,” admitted Andrew Wilkie, as the scales belatedly fell from his eyes. A worthy soundbite, and in fact, the most interesting sentiment to come out of his mouth since he opted for the role of lone avenger. As Wilkie is aware, far more people care about the “character” issue - whether or not their Prime Minister can be trusted to keep his or her word - than about the issue of $1 bets or mandatory pre-commitment. Furthermore, Andrew has stated that he believes the Prime Minister “never intended to honour her deal.” If true, then it takes away every shred of legitimacy (and decency) this government pretends to possess. Ironically, Wilkie, determined for so many years on a variety of hot-button issues to make his mark on the national stage, may finally have unwittingly done just that. Even if his pokie reforms, in whatever shape or form, ever do materialize, it will probably be his role as Gillard’s fall guy and in being so comprehensively dudded by this brazen, conniving and untrustworthy Prime Minister that will be his legacy. With any luck, he’s even spawned his own verb: to be “wilkied” may come to describe that dreadful feeling of having been played for a goose by a person or persons in a position of authority.
Pictured sitting forlornly on his front porch, Mr Wilkie can presumably now answer Bob Dylan’s pertinent question: “How does it feel? When you stare into the vacuum of her eyes and she says “do you want to make a deal?”
Bob Brown maintains he has been dudded over the logging agreement. Now Wilkie’s been shafted on his promised pokie reforms. Rudd was stabbed in the back because he’d, er, “lost his way.” The electorate were lied to over the carbon tax. And Her Majesty was assured that Gillard could form a stable government.
Asked to comment, Dylan had only this to say: “There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.”
“Order, order, can we all please settle down,” said the co-Chair, squirming in his seat. “The Expert Panel has an important job to do here today. The hand of history lies delicately upon our shoulders, I think you’ll all agree…”
Marcia rolled her eyes back. “When you say ‘hand’, could you not be a little more specific? It could be misconstrued as a white hand, and that would be paternalistic.”
Around the room, heads nodded feverishly.
“Possibly even racist,” muttered Expert Panelist 17 under her breath.
The co-Chair felt beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead. The room was claustrophobic enough, nineteen people all crammed around one long table, without the feeling of dread that had been creeping over him these past few minutes. “Of course, of course. Allow me to rephrase that, er… let the minutes show that the black armband of history sits…”
Expert Panelist 13 slammed her hand down. “It’s not the black armband. It’s the black hand. We have to get these details right.”
“I’m sure that’s what my learned panelist meant,’ said the other co-Chair, swiftly coming to his co-Chair’s rescue. It had been a long, exhausting process. Tempers were frayed. He picked up his dog-eared copy of the Constitution that lay forlornly on the table, covered in gigantic red crosses and angry red lines that made it look more like the victim of a road crash than the most important legal document in the land.
There was a hesitant cough. The thin expert panelist with the neatly trimmed beard sitting at the far end of the room adjusted his glasses as he summonsed up the courage to speak. “I just think, perhaps, without overdoing it, but in, a, er, non-confrontational spirit of, er, mutual recognition, we might, er…”
“What?” said Marcia, fixing him with her formidable gaze.
“I, er, just thought that perhaps we should, er, possibly consider, um, just simply changing one or two words… that was all.”
Around the room the expert panelists all started angrily gesticulating and speaking at once.
“One or two words?” shouted Megan, grabbing the tattered document. “Look! Section 51. I’ll read it to you. ‘The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to the people of any race, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.’
“That is soooo racist,” said Panelist 12, the youngest expert present. The rest of the room agreed, shaking their heads in disgust.
“Special laws for special races. Sick,” said Panelist 9.
“In the bin!” yelled Panelist 14, screwing up the offending pages into a tight ball and lobbing them across the room.
“Whooaa!” yelled Marcia, snatching back the document. “Not so fast. Not everything’s gotta go. Not the new bits. They have to stay. The bit about advancement, for example.”
“Which bit was that?” said one of the token MPs, stifling a yawn. Canberra politics was bad enough, but this mob were something else.
Marcia glowered at him. “We have to have it legally enshrined that we can advance certain cultural groups.”
“But isn’t that, er… racist?”
“Don’t talk such rot! Some of them don’t even speak English! Of course they need special treatment!”
“You mean like teaching them English?” said the shy developmental and educational expert, who’d been longing for an opportunity to get involved in the discussion.
Panelist 5, an expert in indigenous welfare and social deprivation issues looked aghast. “How racist can you get?” she muttered, shaking her head in disbelief.
Marcia slumped back wearily in her chair. "What I have in mind is a substantive section in the Constitution that accords indigenous people recognition. And not some recognition lite which involves interpretation by some future High Court or government. Got it?"
The Independent MP reached for his glass of water. He’d always found Julia tough to negotiate with, but this woman was something else. “Of course, of course,” he said, swallowing nervously.
“So. We remove sections 51 and 25 from the Constitution because of their outdated racism? Agreed?”
Around the table, heads nodded enthusiastically. “And we replace them with the proposed section 116A. Agreed?”
“Sorry, er, what was that again?”
“The making of laws to protect the cultures, languages or heritage of special groups."
“You mean, er, special laws for special races?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” snapped Marcia. “I mean special advancement policies for indigenous groups.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Well?” said the co-Chair, swiftly wiping a bead of sweat from his brow. “Are we all agreed?”
One by one, the expert panelists turned and nodded. The other co-Chair gratefully shook his co-Chair’s hand. “Done,” he said, sighing with relief. “Can’t wait for the referendum.”
The world of children’s politics was rocked to its foundation last week with news that Kev will return to the limelight, replacing “hired hand” Julia who has stood in for him for the last eighteen months.
Proudly donning his yellow skivvy, Kev announced that following his abrupt departure in 2010 he realized he had “unfinished business” and that over the Christmas break he had happened to have informal discussions that led to him being asked to rejoin the original lineup of ‘Captain Magic Buttons’ Arbib, “’Cocky Want a Cracker’ Howes and ‘I Want to Wear the Jacket’ Shorten.
“The opportunity was too good to pass up,” said Kev, grinning excitedly. “We always made beautiful music together and the kids love us. With such famous songs as ‘Hot Potato - Ode to the Carbon Tax”, “Great Big Man In The Red (Wayne’s song)” and our Broadband hit “Knead Some Dough” we brought politics to a whole new level of silliness.”
Tightly clutching her own tattered yellow skivvy, deposed band member Julia struggled to fight back the tears as she complained to a packed press conference that she had been ostracized and treated badly all along. “During my time I contributed enormously to the achievements of the group,” she said, citing in particular “We’re the Cowboys,” “Wheels on the bus (have come off),” and her personal favourite “Can You Point Your Finger (at the Opposition leader)?”
“On top of that, I can single-handedly take credit for our best-selling DVD ‘Captain Featherbowen Fell Asleep on the Smugglers Ship’ and its mega-hit “"Our Boat Is Rocking on the Sea,” which has been hugely popular as far afield as Indonesia, Malaysia and Afghanistan.”
A spokesperson confirmed that Kev will rejoin the group for a sell-out national tour before the end of the year.
“I hold myself in contempt!” shouted Jim Carrey, in the 1997 film Liar Liar, in which he found himself cursed to tell the truth after a lifetime of hiding behind evasion, half-truths and outright porkies.
A sequel could well feature our very own Julia Gillard. After all, she clearly holds her own word in complete contempt, having repeatedly shown a talent for blithely abandoning previous promises and commitments.
Sussex Street’s fondness for breaking election commitments, wasting time and resources on ‘trials’ and the like simply to postpone a difficult problem, trashing expensive projects at whim and generally treating politician’s promises as flexible or even expendable now appears to be the blueprint for Labor in Canberra.
The rot set in with NSW Premier Bob Carr. “It is an iron-clad guarantee. I'll sign it in blood if you want," he said, pledging to halve hospital waiting lists within twelve months or resign. He also promised to scrap motorway tolls in two Liberal-held western Sydney seats - which resulted in him securing government by one seat. (Sound familiar?) Of course, waiting lists went up, not down, there was no bloody resignation, and the tolls remained firmly in place. Over the following decade, Carr and his increasingly brazen minders discovered they could promise pretty much whatever they felt like – trains, hospitals, highways, buses - without any intention of delivering. It took NSW voters sixteen years to wake up to the concept of ‘spin.’
Those same minders now sit on Gillard’s front bench, so it’s hardly surprising that the idea of honouring your word doesn’t carry much weight with this government. The Gillard-Swan promise to never introduce a carbon tax was not only broken, but “justified” with further obfuscation and hair-splitting semantics. “Yes, I did say that but circumstances have changed,” Gillard said, before adding: “What my vision was, was to be elected as prime minister and to introduce an emissions trading scheme, which is not a carbon tax.” Oh, so that’s alright then.
Peter Garrett, although he now claims he was only joking, famously (and accurately) showed his own contempt for the Howard-lite Kevin07 pre-election commitments: "Once we get in we'll just change it all."
Penny Wong has been quick to play word games around the latest broken promise. "This is a Prime Minister who can be trusted to get the job done," she said – neatly twisting the meaning of ‘trust.’ And from Stephen Conroy, showing the degree to which he holds logic and straight talking in contempt: "It's a minority government – it’s not about promising something we couldn't keep.” Um, but wasn’t it the promise that created the minority government?
Even members of her own party obviously hold Gillard’s word in contempt, with the ugly boast by Craig Thomson that the broken pokies promise is a victory for the backroom deals of NSW Labor MP’s.
With such disregard for honouring your word, at the end of the day it’s pretty clear that it is the voters whom Labor actually hold in contempt.
Cabinet documents released yesterday have reignited the bitter feud between Julia Gillard and her former colleagues as to who can lay claim to the many policy decisions taken during the turbulent Rudd/Gillard/Rudd/Shorten/Combet government thirty years ago.
"Kevin's a dear friend of mine and I'm not going to get into some slanging match about trivial events that occurred so long ago, but the carbon tax was all his idea," said a defiant Ms Gillard, speaking to reporters outside her lakeside apartment as Canberrans shivered through their coldest summer on record. "I made it very clear to everybody at the time that there would be no such tax under any government I led. Yes, I was forced to change my mind, but that was Bob Brown’s fault."
But her former Treasurer Wayne Swan, enjoying a summer skiing trip in the Gold Coast hinterland, sees it differently. "What you have to remember is that all the Treasury advice at the time was that climate change gave us the perfect excuse to, er, make the numbers stack up again. How else was I going to balance the books after Rudd went and blew a perfectly good surplus?"
Former PM Rudd, questioned at his own lakeside home on the outskirts of Geneva where he has just reappointed himself to another five year term as UN Secretary General, was quick to dismiss the assertions as mischievous scuttlebutt from a bunch of "pretty crook cobbers." "The record shows quite clearly I had nothing at all to do with any of it. When I spoke of a great moral challenge I was not speaking of any detailed programmatic specificity, but rather, merely articulating a widely held and popular point of view. Let's not forget - am I the guy who said sorry to the indigenous population of Australia? Yes. And am I the humble kid from Eumundi Plains who in my first term as Secretary General of the World apologized to the Inuits, the Aztecs, the Armenians, and the Orang Asli? You bet.”
Former PM Shorten takes an altogether different view.
"Basically, when the shit hit the fan and the country ground to a halt in the Winter of Discontent let's not forget I was the go-to guy who the party turned to. And I massively increased productivity almost overnight by repealing the carbon tax, repealing the mining tax, and introducing Fair Work Choices.”
Former PM Greg Combet laughs dismissively at any suggestion that Shorten’s short tenure as PM in the last two weeks of August 2014 had any impact whatsoever on the country’s economic health: “The papers clearly show that it was under my leadership that we introduced the Super Profits Tax, the Medium Profits Tax, the Tiny Profits Tax and the No Profits Whatsoever Tax. These were all key Labor economic reforms that transformed the way we do, er, I mean did, business in this country.”
However, Julia Gillard is adamant the records prove she was the key Prime Minister of the period. “My revolutionary Open Borders Policy was a huge success, ushering in a new era of vibrant and colorful Islamic culture into all aspects of Australian life.” But when questioned about the rumours of mass drownings taking place at sea during that era, Gillard is unequivocal. “Yes, but they were all Tony Abbot’s fault.”
Speaking from his tour bus on the Short Memories Anniversary Tour, Midnight Oil lead singer Peter Garrett called the release of the cabinet minutes "one of the greatest travesties of misinformation ever perpetrated upon the Australian people.” Mr Garrett, quivering with outrage and indignation, claimed: “When they said they were going to start digging up uranium and selling it willy nilly to the Indians I stomped my foot really hard underneath the cabinet table. And when they said they were giving the nod to basing more U.S. forces in Darwin I banged my fist really loudly on the table. Or it might have been the palm of my hand. But there's no mention of my steadfast opposition to both those thingies anywhere in any of the minutes.”
Of the mass-closure and bankruptcy of pubs and clubs throughout 2013 highlighted in the papers, Ms Gillard is unequivocal: “Yes, but that was all Andrew Willkie’s fault.”
Speaking via Wireless Hologram from his farm in Tasmania, former communications minister Conroy defended the blowouts of over two hundred billion dollars on the abandoned NBN as a tiny blip of no consequence whatsoever in the bigger picture of the government’s key economic platforms.
Penny Wong, currently President of the Gays Against Unfair Alimony Laws, said that gay marriage was one of the proudest legacies of her time in government.
In other news today, police hunting fugitive Malcolm Naden in bush north of the Barrington Tops say they are getting "very close."
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Andrew blinked as he stepped into the gloom. He'd always avoided this sort of place. Huddled over the rows and rows of machines, their desperate, haunted features illuminated by a pallid glow, sat the hopeless, forlorn punters. His heart went out to them, and he felt a lump rise in his throat, as he thought of the fortunes being frittered away every few seconds. All to no avail. It was time to put a stop to this madness.
"Welcome to Canberra, Mr Wilkie," said the friendly looking redhead woman at the door. "Would you care to play?"
Andrew swallowed hard. He'd always promised his constituents that he'd stay independent of this mob. That the sins of the flesh and political patronage were not for him. He knew he’d be able to resist it. He was different.
"Go on," said the woman, whose nametag labeled her simply as Julia. "Everybody likes a flutter. It's fun.” A cheeky smile played on her thin lips. “Pick any game you like the look of," she whispered.
“It's very dark in here!” he replied, his voice betraying his nervousness. “Aren't there any windows?"
Julia laughed. "Of course not, Andrew. Parliament House was specially designed that way - so pollies never know whether it's night or day and just keep on playing. Clever, isn't it? Come and meet some of the others.”
Sitting at a bright, colourful machine, with a huge bucket of money next to him, a young man was frantically shoveling in what to Andrew looked like millions, if not billions, of coins. "This is Stephen," cooed Julia. "He's playing National Broadband." The man barely gave Andrew a glance. "I'm winning!" he said, breathlessly. "I've already signed up 4000 users!"
"And this is Wayne, who was recognized recently as The Worlds Greatest Gambler," said Julia proudly. "He borrows over a hundred million dollars every day!"
Andrew glanced around at all the sad and lonely faces. “Why not have a go?” said Julia sweetly.
He took a deep breath. He must be strong. "Not today, thank you, Julia," he said. “I just wanted to see how everything works down here. I’ll just take a squizz, you know, have a bit of a poke around."
In the darkness, Andrew couldn’t read her expression, but the tone in her voice seemed slightly more sinister. "A poke, did you say? That’s funny. We have a game called Pokie Reforms. Perhaps you'd like to try your luck?"
Before he could stop himself, Julia had ushered him into his very own chair. Gently taking his hand, she placed it on the cool, shiny lever. The machine whirred, and lights started to flash, almost as if the harmless box possessed a life of it's own.
"Imagine if you were to win," Julia purred seductively into his ear. "The prestige, the power." Andrew felt his heart racing. "You could be a legend in your own lifetime. History books will sing your praises. Maybe name a statute after you – Wilkie’s Law! The Man Who Won on Pokie Reform."
Andrew struggled to resist. But the temptation was too strong. As the dazzling pictures and symbols flashed hypnotically before his eyes, he felt an exhilarating surge of adrenalin coursing through his veins. This was it! Finally, he was doing something important with his life. He was a player! As he pulled on the lever, a man at the next machine leaned over and started to say something but Andrew wasn’t listening. He pulled again. The sound, the colour. It was more exciting than anything he'd ever experienced. He pulled again. As the hours rushed past, he was lost in a frenzied, glittering whirlwind of newspaper interviews, television studios and flashing lights.
And then there was silence. As abruptly as it started, the game had stopped. Andrew stared at the blank, silent machine, stunned.
He called out for Julia, but she was far away, over the other side of the room, laughing and joking with another man; showing him which buttons to push on a glitzy game called Speaker of the House. Andrew started to panic. He wanted to keep playing. Frantically he searched in his pockets, but he didn't have any chips left to bargain with. It had all gone.
The man at the machine next to him leaned over again. "I'm Nick," he said, with a wry smile on his face. "I tried to warn you. Pokie Reforms is one hell of a game. I've been addicted to it for years. But I reckon it’s rigged coz no matter what you do the House always wins."
Angry Anderson wants to ditch his nickname and enter politics as plain old Gary. He shouldn't. We’re already burdened with one watered-down rock star in parliament; we don't need another. Anderson needs to remain angry. Angry about the ‘clean energy legislation’ that he and many like him abhor, angry about the profligacy of this government, angry about the slippery deals done to hold onto power and angry about Labor’s disdain for the values of blue collar workers who once, like Mr Anderson himself, were rusted on supporters.
The idea of Angry Anderson, if not in fact the diminutive rocker himself, poses the single biggest threat to the Labor Party since John Howard decided to perform triple bypass surgery on his Lazarus persona. That a rebellious, dope smoking, son of migrants, hardcore lefty and hero of the underclasses like the former Rose Tattoo lead singer should find himself drawn to the National Party should have Gillard, Rudd, and Swan trembling in their boots. Because if he no longer identifies with, or can even stomach, the incumbent Labor government, it shows to what extent the once-proud party of the working classes has sold them out.
While the likes of Richo, Carr and Faulkner attempt to yell futile advice from the mosh pit - seeking in the process to avoid admitting their own guilt in destroying what Labor once stood for - those on centre-stage seem to have no idea how to get back to their roots and speak to their erstwhile fans.
So instead they will ramp up the spending, pile on the PR experts, flout the rules of government advertising and try every trick in the book to convince the true believers that they are worthy of an encore.
There are plenty of reasons for Gary to stay angry.
Much as the sinking of the Titanic came to symbolize the scuppering of the Industrial Era’s hubris and loftiest ambitions, so too is the sinking of the Costa Concordie an irresistible metaphor – already seized on by cartoonists - for the demise of another grand scheme; the Eurozone.
Brought undone by a toxic mixture of deceit, stupidity, vanity and politicians persistently ignoring the warning signs, the lessons of the calamitous single European currency will be taught to future generations as one of the great follies of our own era.
Yet standing on distant shores watching the boat go down, our Prime Minister has decided not to learn from this European tragedy, but rather, to gloat about it.
Responding to the recent decision by Standard and Poors to downgrade the credit rating of nine European countries, Julia Gillard chose, somewhat brazenly, to spruik her own government’s so-called ‘economic performance.’
"The contrast with Europe could not be more stark,” she boasted, before erroneously claiming that “our recession beating stimulus” and our “strict fiscal rules” have saved us from Europe’s fate.
No mention, of course, of the $45 billion Labor inherited from Howard and Costello, and then promptly frittered away. No mention of our ever-ballooning debt, currently running at $100 million a day. No mention of the one ace up our sleeve: China’s fondness for our minerals.
History will show that Europe’s current problems can be traced back to a succession of well-meaning, weak, left-of-centre minority governments allowing their spending commitments to spiral out of control. The philosophy of nations “living within their means” was gradually replaced with a heady mixture of EU protectionism, EU subsidies to unprofitable enterprises, trade unionism, excessive EU workplace regulation, crippling taxation on small business and of course, uncontrollable welfare spending. Unable and unwilling to balance the books, governments took to lying both to the EU and to their own people whilst borrowing and gambling with their futures in order to keep the funds flowing in.
The Eurozone was, and remains, a grand folly, where the bureaucrats and boffins of Brussels mandated measures that are impractical and anti-productive. For the next decade or so, it will be the taxpayers and workers of numerous European countries who will pay the price for this flamboyant and misguided project.
"The Government will keep taking the tough decisions needed to secure a strong, productive and sustainable Australian economy for the future," Ms Gillard bragged, rounding out her criticism of the Europeans. Fine words, but of course the reality is that this government, far from encouraging productivity and private enterprise, is indulging in grandiose and cripplingly expensive schemes of its own; reminiscent of the EU at its worst. The NBN, Fair Work Australia, the mining tax and, of course, the carbon tax all follow the Brussels blueprint of economic risk-taking and unnecessary regulation in order to splash excessive and wasteful benefits upon a misinformed public.
Rather than lecturing the Europeans, it might be smarter for our Prime Minister to start learning from their mistakes.
Thursday, 12 January 2012
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. It’s time for Peter Garrett to go. Now.
People enter politics either for the power or the passion, or hopefully a bit of both. Afforded every possible opportunity and advantage – a safe seat, celebrity status, easy entry onto the front bench, numerous ministerial positions - Peter has shown beyond doubt he is not prepared to use his power to implement the things he once was passionate about.
The excuse that is trotted out – from sympathetic commentators such as Canberra Times columnist John Warhurst, who claims Peter needs to be a "team player" in order to affect change "from the inside" - holds even less water than the now-defunct Traveston Crossing Dam.
It can’t have escaped Peter Garrett’s notice that not only has he sacrificed nearly every principle he ever held dear, but also he has been betrayed by nearly every political patron he trusted. That must hurt. Forget diesel and dust. His is a story of irony and pathos, which sadly, leaves him as one of the more tragic figures in Australian political history.
The erstwhile senate candidate for the Nuclear Disarmament Party is now complicit in expanding our uranium production and selling it to a nuclear-armed state. The messianic singer who railed against U.S. forces being a “setback for your country” doesn’t bat an eyelid at new marine bases in Darwin. The political activist who sneered at those who toe the party line rather than fight for what they believe in (‘politicians party line, don’t cross that floor’) now lives by that very creed.
Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have humiliated Garrett, ignored him, walked all over him, repeatedly demoted him or shunted him aside (from the one portfolio he really cares about - climate change) and, grotesquely, have allowed him to be the public scapegoat for the ‘pink batts’ fiasco and the associated tragic deaths.
To quote Gary Gray in ‘The Party Thieves’: “For Rudd and his office to position Garrett as the fall guy was disgraceful, weak, sneaky, unprincipled and just plain wrong. All along, Peter properly put his objections to the administration of the program on the record.”
And yet Garrett allows the perception of his guilt in the matter to remain unchallenged, presumably thinking that he has to “take one for the team.”
But at what point does repeatedly taking one for the team become pack-rape by the entire scrum? Acquiescing to the dredging of Port Philip Bay? Ouch. Approving the Bell Bay Pulp Mill? Ouch! Expanding the Beverley uranium mine? Uuuggghh. Agreeing to sell uranium to India? Aaaarrrggh. Allowing U.S forces to base themselves in Darwin? Nooo! Stop!
And that’s ignoring such trivialities as him withdrawing federal funding from the Australian National Academy of Music, which surely must have given him at least one sleepless night?
Either as the frontman of Midnight Oil he was faking it and didn’t believe in what he was singing about at the time – which I can’t accept – or he has today abandoned those beliefs in the cause of – what exactly?
“I have protested, sung, marched, written, organised and campaigned on those things I simply believed were important, not just to me but to the life of the nation,” Peter reminded us in his maiden speech to parliament, just over seven years ago. And it was true. Whilst the high point of his activism was probably the clever ambush advertising for the Reconciliation movement at the Sydney Olympics, both as leader of The Oils and as President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Garrett had become the angry spokesperson for any number of controversial issues, from environmentalism to indigenous welfare with a bit of “Occupy the street outside Exxon” thrown in. Our very own Bono. The great hope of his generation.
Yet the only time recently that Garrett has taken a strong stance on any issue of newsworthiness is his reported threat to cause a by-election if, yet again, he were to be demoted by his leader. In other words, the principle he holds dearest at this point in time appears to be hanging onto his job. Peter Slipper in reverse.
Rock stars disappoint. One day preaching love and peace, the next up in court for assault. But out of all the politically-inspired popular musicians, none has managed to despoil the promise and sentiment of their own work to the degree Garrett-in-Labor has.
Rewind your memory. To the Oil’s heyday. Whether it be a singalong at Selina’s in ’78 or an explosive gig at the Hordern in ’87. And recall that shiver of excitement, that frisson of rebellion, at the drop-out lawyer with the gangly physique, the awesome voice and the frenetic dance moves, who in every note and dance step savaged the complacency of mainstream white Australia, berating us for our subservience to Uncle Sam, grabbing us by the throat and forcing us to face ourselves in the mirror over our neglect of our Aboriginal brethren, and flaying us alive for our trashing of the environment. Feeble politicians, conniving capitalists, evil company executives. They were all there, in a rogues gallery set to some of the most brilliant rock tunes ever written.
But what happens now? Does Garret simply stay schtum, whither on the vine and disappear in the wipeout of the next federal election?
Time is running out for Garrett to stand tall. Peter, pick an issue. Any one will do. And resign. Whether it be over your government’s failure to genuinely improve indigenous well being, or about the sale of uranium to India, or the basing of US forces in Oz, or off shore processing of asylum seekers, or mandatory detention, or your government’s inaction on whaling, or the threat of CSG mining, or any of the myriad issues you once were so passionate about. Do a Wilkie. Threaten to bring the whole show crashing down unless you get your way. Just once.
Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.
Downing a schooner in 11 seconds flat, stirring up the old embers of bitter political rivalry, offering gratuitous and unwelcome advice to his current successor. Hawkie’s getting up to his old tricks again. But why?
Boredom would be one obvious answer. It has been noted that Australians don’t really know what to with their ex-leaders. Where most countries either line them up against a wall, sling them into prison, or get them to set up their own library, your average Aussie ex-PM soon finds himself – once the memoirs have been published and the requests to appear on Q&A have dried up -twiddling his thumbs in a twilight retirement.
But for Bob Hawke, the great populist of his generation, being ignored doesn’t sit well. Hence the need to remind the crowd of his proven skills both as a beer-swiller and as a power-broker. Grabbing the headlines several times over the silly season, it is clear that RJH has a specific motive in mind. Berating Julia for being in bed with the unions comes across as a bit rich from the former head of the ACTU, so what’s the real story?
Bob Hawke never got over his chosen son Kim Beazley being knifed by Rudd and Gillard. He will not tolerate a return to Kevin, and presumably, like his old buddy Richo, he suspects the game’s up for Gillard. The polls say so.
What Bob has always craved is a successor in his own image. A down-to-earth bloke with a proven track record in the union movement. A pragmatist with the negotiating skills and economic nous that allow for progress, stability and reform. Someone who will be widely regarded as “the best Labor PM since Bob Hawke.”
Over the summer recess, let’s hope Greg Combet has been working on his skulling technique.
Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees deserves his own special award. After all, as the founder of the so-called Sydney Peace Prize not only has he been handing out gongs for the past 14 years, but he’s also set himself up as an expert on who does and doesn’t deserve one.
Stuart’s award, which warrants being bestowed upon him at a glittering taxpayer-funded ceremony in the Great Hall of Sydney Uni, should be enscribed “for services towards the promotion of left-wing extremism, political bias and the unrelenting quest to create gratuitous offense and generate divisive controversy for no meaningful outcome.”
The award, of course, will be in recognition of Stuart’s sterling and relentless efforts to promote division and conflict by offering free PR and a bucketload of taxpayers loot to a dubious selection of “peace-loving” individuals, ranging from John Pilger and Hanan Ashwari to Noam Chomsky. (Common thread? Hatred of Israel, hatred of the US. Modus operandi? Complaining about complex and tragic political situations, but never coming up with any constructive solutions other than advocating violence towards Jews and/or Americans.)
Stuart’s most recent foray into the world of awards saw him pouring scorn and derision on John Howard for receiving the Queen’s Order of Merit in her New Year’s honours list.
“The invisible Buckingham Palace pundits overlooked his cruel record,” Rees sneered at the conclusion of a lengthy article attacking Howard both as a leader and as a human being, “and have given him an honour he does not deserve.” For Stuart, our Head of State recognizing our second-longest serving Prime Minister for his contribution to public service is undeserved.
Rees takes great exception to many aspects of Howard’s period in office, citing dark conspiracy theories about Guantanamo Bay, the Iraq war, his “cruel treatment of asylum seekers,” the failed referendum for a republic (it was all Howard’s fault, natch) and so on.
Stuart clearly sees little merit in the fact that Howard’s legacy was a well-functioning society, unencumbered with debt, that helped bring freedom to East Timor, sought to bring democratic values to Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of the most stable, prosperous, peaceful and envied country’s in the world.
Arguably, the Arab Spring, with its overthrowing of despots, owes more not to the whining efforts of Rees’s sorry collection of extremists, but rather, to the people of the Middle East desiring to share in the democratic values they get a glimpse of in only two of their neighbours; Israel and Iraq.
Strangely, in belittling the winner of four elections, Rees has chosen to ignore his own criticism of people who are disgruntled by awards he himself has doled out.
“We don’t think that derision is an appropriate form of commentary. When people have lost, they resort to character assassination,” complained Rees a few years ago, when yet again one of the recipients of his oxymoronic peace prize turned out to be someone loathed by the conservative side of politics.
Sound words. Worthy of an award.
New arrivals to parliament need to be better taught how to fit in, particularly as regards such issues as personal hygiene and joining the queue, according to Liberal backbencher Teresa Gambaro.
"Some members of the government have a distinct whiff about them, which, to say the least, is not all that pleasant. Take the member for Dobell, for instance. He hasn't been around long enough to learn any common courtesy. He should have left his dirty laundry in the smoky backrooms and bordellos of the HSU rather than dragging it in here to stink the place out."
Ms Gambaro's remarks have caused a storm of outrage within the corridors beneath Capital Hill. Recently promoted Speaker-of-the-House Peter Slipper was one who immediately took umbrage at her insinuation that he had queue-hopped. "I waited very patiently for months on end until such time as Harry Jenkins was finally knifed in the back and bundled onto the back benches. Then of course I was able to hop straight in, roll up my sleeves and get to work," he said, speaking from his new yacht in the Whitsundays. "As for fitting in with my co-workers, I feel perfectly at home sitting down for a long lunch with my new Labor Party colleagues."
Minister for Climate Change and All Sorts of Other Stuff Greg Combet was equally contemptuous of her remarks. “It’s well known that I have been politely waiting in a queue for several years now, without once complaining or ever raising my voice, behind both Kevin and Julia. But I have no doubt that my turn is coming up very soon now.”
However, Ms Gambaro has found some support for her criticisms of personal hygiene from unlikely quarters. Former PM Kevin Rudd was quick to point out that although the Heiner affair had threatened to hang around him like a bad smell for a couple of years he was able to get rid of it by taking a few simple precautionary steps, such as denying any wrong-doing whatsoever and shredding anything that could be construed as an incriminating document. Picking some wax out of his ear and eating it, Rudd went on to say that he saw “nothing wrong at all” with his personal habits.
Elder statesman John Faulkner was quick to offer some timely advice. "Yes, indeed, there is a rather toxic odour wafting around the joint that we have to all face up to. It's not any one individual. Rather, it emanates from the rotting carcass that is today's Labor Party. We need to rebuild it from the ground up. That's the only way to get rid of the stench." Standing behind him with their noses pegged, both Bob Carr and Steve Bracks reminded reporters that the nasty pong had nothing to do with either of them.
Tony Abbott, himself no stranger to the post-workout anti-perspirant, was quick to defend his citizenship spokeswoman’s comments. "Um, ah, different people have different lifestyles, and, ah, um, come from very different cultures. In fact, ah, one of my co-workers, Malcolm, struggles to fit in at all but, um, for some reason we still tolerate having him around." Sitting all alone by himself in the canteen, Malcolm fretfully admitted that deep down he longed to return to his natural birthplace, the left side of the political divide, from whence he’d fled many years earlier. “I’ve had a sniff around but they won’t let me back in,” he lamented.
Speaking from their adjacent New England electorates, former loners and outsiders Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor were unapologetic. "We both found it very easy to fit in, once Julia made it clear we could have as many billions of dollars as we wanted. Nothing smelly about that whatsoever."
Sweating profusely, Chris Bowen was quick to seize on the comments as a personal affront. "The only reason I sweat so much is nothing whatsoever to do with deodorant or a lack thereof," he said, his red face glistening under the harsh light of the TV cameras. "It’s because I feel acutely embarrassed about what a disastrous job we've done." Standing stiffly behind him, Senator Conroy, a British immigrant, admitted that he still had problems adapting to some of the more outlandish Australian cultural norms. “Back in the old country we never bothered with such ridiculous rituals as a cost benefit analysis or a sound business model.”
But Green’s leader Bob Brown was unfazed by the controversy. "Everything around here smells pretty sweet to me. I get my own way on pretty much whatever I want and I only got 11% of the vote."
Julia Gillard was unavailable for comment, although rumours have it that some time in March she'll be taking a bath.
Friday, 6 January 2012
“The sound you make is muzak to my ears,” sneered John Lennon, as he savaged his former song-writing partner in the vitriolic “How Do You Sleep?” His normally sweet-sounding voice which gave us ‘All You Need Is Love” and “Give Peace A Chance” was now laced with poison, as Lennon went on to claim that the only Beatles composition McCartney had been responsible for “was ‘Yesterday’… and since you’ve gone you’re just ‘Another Day’.’”
Harsh words indeed. Almost as harsh as Keith Richards’ criticism of his own former band-mate. Mick Jagger, the great sex symbol of the 60’s and 70’s, could apparently only boast a “tiny todger” according to his former best friend and drug-binging partner-in-crime. And the hits? Well, the implication is clear. ‘Keef’ would come up with the riff, the tune and the main idea of the song and leave Mick to polish it up a bit.
And now another famous duo whose glory days are long past have publicly fallen out. Aging rockers Bobby J. and Paulie K. have spent the last week squabbling over who came up with precisely which bit of their greatest hits.
“It was basically me what wrote the entire “Float the Dollar” album,” Paulie told me, lounging back in his gothic mansion, his eccentric rock star collection of antique French clocks all madly ticking away at different rhythms and chiming at different intervals. “It may as well have been a solo album. I wrote all the songs. Even designed the cover.”
Bobby J. will have none of it, of course. “I don’t wanna get into some Paulie slanging match over all that again,” he said, downing a schooner of beer in his harbourside retreat, the beautiful Blanche curled up on the leopard-skin sofa beside him fondly stroking his silver mullet. “But Paulie really only played a minor part in the whole thing. It was a collaboration. I got all sorts of different people together, assembled ‘em all in this big room together, and told ‘em all to let rip. It was beautiful. Paulie never really liked the idea anyway. Me and the others had to talk him into it.”
“You gotta be pulling my plonker!’ explodes the ever-acerbic Paulie when I confront him with his former partner’s comments. “Collaboration? The only thing that twat ever collaborated on was nearly bringing down the whole show! Not once, but twice! Way back before I came on the scene and it was just him running the act – or the ACTU as it was called then - he gave every two-bit hanger on and groupie as much dosh as they wanted and they nearly destroyed the label! I had to step in, crack a few skulls together and restore some common sense.”
Bobby J. shakes his head and his craggy face breaks into a smile, a twinkle in his eye affording me a momentary glimpse of the charismatic idol who drove the fans wild all those years ago. “Paulie was very much under the sway of his guru, the Mahareshi Stone, back in those days. He was dead set against the whole thing. Said it would bring on a “revolution.” I knew it was all bollocks. Me and the other guys had to basically talk them both into it.”
But recently released documents tell a slightly different story. Dated November 2, 1983, the scribbles on the back of an envelope in Paulie’s distinctive spider crawl handwriting make it clear that he was already flirting with the main concept six months earlier. In an unfinished couplet labelled ‘Quantum Leap’ Paulie wistfully points out that "Beyond these essentially technical changes/ Lies the possibility of a floating exchange rate.”
Tensions between the two are not new, with Paulie claiming he “carried” Bobby through years of “emotional and intellectual malaise” in the mid 80’s. Following a secret gig in Kirribilli, it was even rumoured Bobby had offered to let Paulie take over lead vocals.
So who is right and who is wrong? The answer, of course, is both are right and both are wrong. What made the Beatles and the Stones great is what made Bob and Paul great. That intangible, indefinable thing that happens when two great talents spark off each other. The sardonic humour of Lennon combined with the warmth and melody of McCartney. The gritty earthiness of Richards combined with the prancing sexuality of Jagger. The shopping-mall popularity of Hawke combined with the ruthlessness of Keating.
One of the rarest and greatest political couplings. Together they made magic. But in the end, it tore them both apart.