Tuesday, 13 March 2012


In the past, they branded criminals with a mark on the face, using a hot iron or tattoo. This week, “the world’s worst war criminal” was branded by a highly successful ad campaign.

Five days ago, when the red and black KONY 2012 logo flashed across my screen, I assumed it was either the launch of some kind of Kindle-from-Sony or a funky new fashion label. As it happens, the latter assumption wasn’t entirely wrong. If you haven’t got your must-wear KONY 2012 metal bracelet yet, bad luck. At $30-for-two they were a snip, particularly seeing as you got to “shape history” at the same time.

In case you’ve missed all the Joseph Kony ballyhoo (where are you living? on an island in the Murrumbidgee?) this grotesque African warlord is rapidly becoming the world’s most famous person, thanks to his unsavoury habits of abducting African children, getting them to kill their parents, sexually enslaving them, and mutilating those who displease.

Or rather, thanks to a highly effective social media campaign that uses every trick in the adman’s book; an eye-catching logo, an exciting countdown to build awareness and a powerful call to action.

Using breath-taking hyperbole, this online phenomenon is strategically reminiscent of high adrenalin marketing campaigns for films and computer games combined with the “one-night-to-save-the-world” faux activism of Earth Hour – and, indeed, has already sucked the oxygen from this year’s imminent Earth Hour.

An ad campaign for our times, KONY 2012 is tailored to those who need constant stimulation, thrive on ‘Oh My God!” online emotions, crave individual recognition and have the attention span of guppies. “The next 27 minutes are an experiment,” warns the filmmaker and narrator, Jason Russell, at the beginning of the youtube clip that so far has been viewed by 70 million people, “but in order for it to work you have to pay attention.” To ensure you do, the film uses every advertising technique available, from anthemic rock songs to fist-punching crowds to take you on a roller-coaster of emotions, linking the future of humanity to the fate of this African scumbag to the actions of you and your facebook pals. To make it personal, there’s a young boy called Gavin for us to channel our emotions through. Advertisers have long exploited the charm of the cute kid who looks up to his Dad (remember those Telstra ads and the rabbit-proof Wall of China?) and this film follows the format, promising that with your help Gavin can “grow up in a better world.”

“Star Wars” gets mentioned, allowing Gavin and the viewers to contemplate just how evil Darth, I mean Joseph, Kony really is. A second boy, Jacob, who was abducted by the LRA, is far more relevant, and moving. “They killed him using panga,” he says, tearfully, as he recounts his own brother’s death. “They cut his neck.” This information isn’t quite good enough for the film-maker, clearly a member of today’s visually-obsessed generation. “Did you see it?” he asks, to which Jacob confirms: “I saw it.” This is the most sinister part of the film, but it also gets to the heart of the advertising strategy, as Russell remarks “If that happened one night in America it would be on the cover of Newsweek.”

To “make the unseen visible” is the aim of the campaign. Tick, job done. Kony is now the celebrity’s criminal celebrity of choice, making headlines around the world and endorsed (or rather, condemned) by the likes of Oprah, the Kardashians, George Clooney et al.

There’s a brief rundown of Kony’s crimes, and of the Invisible Children foundation’s charity work, which again sounds very ‘George Lucas.’ “We built an early warning radio network to protect villages from rebel attacks.” But mostly the film is an emotional plea with a strong call to action; there are email petitions, online tracking of your progress, an action-packed Action Pack, donations “funded by an army of young people” and – crucial to all successful social media campaigns - a genuine real life “offline” event. In this instance, it’s a global bill-postering due on the night of April 20.

There’s not just one catchy slogan, there’s dozens, such as “We’ve heard their cries”, “We will fight war”, “The game has new rules” and “Cover the night.” Crucially, there’s a cut-off point designed to galvanise the apathetic. “This movie expires on Dec 31 2012,” warns Russell.

Using classic marketing techniques, the film-maker has created a mass movement with a single-minded goal. It’s the first time anyone has turned catching a real-life war criminal into a branded computer game.


As flood waters again swamp New South Wales, Prime Minister Julia Gillard – looking particularly fetching in an attractive grey top and black trousers – was welcomed by grateful members of relieved working families along the banks of the Murrumbidgee.

Reminding those affected by the floods that the ravages of climate change are now being felt throughout the land on a daily basis, Ms Gillard, accompanied by her popular partner Tim Mathieson, helped air-lift food to a group of grateful kiddies frolicking on top of their house.

“We will fight climate change on the disappearing beaches and from every submerged rooftop, and I’ll raise the carbon price to $75 a tonne if I have to until these waters recede,” the Prime Minister promised, to loud applause.

“Thanks to the superbly profitable and educational National Broadband Network, these children will now be able to move forward, despite the floods, and enjoy the privilege of our educational revolution, which has been spear-headed by the popular and successful Gonski reforms, currently being implemented in every school throughout the country, except those private schools run by greedy, self-interested vested interests,” said the Prime Minister, as she brushed off rumours of a recent Newspoll. “As you know, polls come and go. Newspoll, in particular, went a long time ago when the Murdoch press sank without a trace, so we don’t have to trouble ourselves with hypothetical speculation about what it may or may not have contained because it doesn’t exist anymore.”

The Prime Minister was quick to point out that the floods were entirely due to the irresponsible negativity of long-term Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. “Not only is the mining boom responsible for the devastation wrought by our two-speed economy, with disgustingly overweight mining tycoons carrying on willy nilly gorging themselves on the fat of the land while working families battle the floods, but Tony Abbott himself continually attempts to create a two-speed democracy, where he disgracefully disagrees with everything the Australian people want me to get on with doing.”

Insurance companies that had refused to compensate for what they called an “Act of God” were angrily rounded on by the popular Prime Minister, who accurately pointed out that: “Climate change is an Act of Man. One man in particular. Tony Abbott; who has done everything in his power to destroy the lives of working families up and down this river with his attitude to the important reforms introduced by my government.”

In other critical national developments, Mr Jeff Lawrence has stood down as secretary of the ACTU, confirming to reporters what had long been the subject of industry concern; that an in-grown toenail was severely disrupting his ability to successfully do his job of improving the lives of working Australians. He then strongly recommended that the supremely talented Mr Dave Oliver of the hard-working Australian Manufacturing Workers Union replace him. So he will.
Meanwhile, responding to criticism of Fair Work Australia’s reasonable and sensible work practices, popular chief Bernadette O’Neill explained that as a Union Official she had a duty of care to her membership to avoid co-operating with interfering police officers, according to accepted community expectations and long-standing practices that the Trade Unions movement and FWA are above the law. “How can we help honest hard working Australians such as Craig Thomson prove that they’ve done nothing wrong whatsoever when the police keep butting in every five minutes? It’s a disgrace, and someone, preferably Tony Abbott, needs to be held to account.”

In Canberra later today, eminent QC Ray Finkelstein will accept the nation’s gratitude for services to raising Australian journalistic standards at a ceremony presided over by respected Senator Stephen Conroy and broadcast live via the government’s popular fibre optic cable network.

In economic news, former Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin, speaking publicly since the end of a six-month period of quiet contemplation and relaxation, has labelled Treasurer Wayne Swan as "incapable of making an error" and praised him for "single-handedly developing the fabric of good economic policy in Australia".

Treasurer Wayne Swan has been described by the Fin Review as “the most competent Treasurer since Jim Cairns.”

This article has been approved by the News Media Council.

A CONFUSION OF CONTRADICTIONS (Spectator leader March 10)

“It’s very unhealthy for you to go back and look at things I said previously. You’ll only get confused with contradictions,” our new Foreign Minister said, in what sounded like bizarre medical advice or a mafia-style threat.

''(I) have to have one view and that's the official view of the government. The views I now have will be formed by discussions with professional diplomats,” he claimed; which is a shame, because many of his personal views are to be commended. We have previously praised him for his balanced approach to China and America. His friendship with Israel is to be applauded, as is his tactless but accurate observation of the Arab world as “politically retarded.” But if he abandons these insights and convictions, what qualifies him for the job?

The answer is his “communications skills.” Apparently, the role of Foreign Minister is essentially a media one, with the hard, political decisions being left to (dare we say it?) a “faceless” group of bureaucrats and party machine men.

Bob Carr has always been an enigma. And a survivor. The contradictions aren’t only in what he has written and said. Preaching blue-collar values he was more than happy to snaffle up a job at Macquarie Bank. Having decimated the “second home” market in NSW, he promptly bought himself a holiday house in New Zealand, out of reach of his own punitive taxes. A popular Premier, he shirked the tough infrastructure decisions, whilst boasting of creating endless National Parks. His greatest achievement, arguably, was knowing when to jump - just before the public realized the hull of the good ship NSW was full of holes.

Let’s hope he brings his acute sense of timing to helping solve some of the confusing contradictions he faces in his latest incarnation.

WORLD’S GREATEST TREASURER (contd) (Spectator leader March 10)

Our economy is lurching to the left, like a drunk staggering down the sidewalk, keys in hand, looking out for the cops..

Demonizing sections of the mining community as “poisonous” one minute yet calling the Greens “irresponsible” the next, fanning the flames of class envy whilst pretending to support democracy, pandering to conspiracy theories and promoting a massive redistribution of wealth through a dishonest tax, the Treasurer is tipping a toxic brew down the electorate’s throat.

In 2010, Swan and Gillard bought Bob Brown’s potent Tasmanian moonshine – the carbon tax –and downed it in one, untroubled by the fact that at $23 a tonne the tax contains a shot of pure hardcore leftism that will leave the economy reeling. Even Brown now admits the tax cannot achieve its stated aim, letting slip on the 7.30 report that “when… coal is burnt overseas, (it) puts greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which will completely cancel the carbon package we've just seen go through the Parliament.” Swan, of course, is canny enough to realize that the tax, whilst doing nothing to solve climate change, will bribe “working families” with frothy pints of “compensation” whilst their jobs disappear one by one, decimated by higher energy prices.

To ensure the success of this project, the “world’s greatest treasurer” (who says the Europeans don’t have a sense of humour?) decided to embark on the lowest political strategy of them all – to demonize the rich. How fortunate for Mr Swan that at least two of his greedy “vested interests”, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, look like cartoon tycoons; all the easier to sneer at. Swan’s jittery, hyperventilating attack on mining magnates included such deceptive and provocative statements as “I can tell you there's a lot of unease in the Australian community about the activities of some of these people.” Really? Where? Or is it simply that the Labor Party can’t bear any form of criticism from those who have the funds to broadcast them?

Sweating over “the ranting of shock jocks,” Swan labels “insidious” those who “use enormous amounts of wealth to distort a public purpose openly and in full confrontation with government.”

Clearly confused about the purpose of a democracy – perhaps he should have attended one of Mark Steyn’s lectures (see page viii) – the Treasurer’s desire to silence those who disagree with him is the strongest warning yet about the dangers of Ray Finkelstein’s call for a government-appointed press regulator.  

When challenged on Lateline by feisty Emma Alberici that his mining tax is “a watered-down version of (Rudd’s) original,” Swan’s thin-skinned and evasive answer belled the cat. “(That’s) yet another example of… that stuff that gets into the media and is exaggerated and (our italics) isn't subject to the serious scrutiny it ought to be.”

When the Treasurer sees personal vilification of wealth-creators as an acceptable strategy, combined with a desire to control adverse commentary, the guardians of our liberties are indeed on a bender, with a pounding economic headache awaiting us in the morning.

THE PROUD INFIDEL (Spectator March 10)

Mark Steyn is a bigoted, bullying, brazen, egotistical, unfunny, crass, self-serving Islamophobe and right wing homophobe with the wit of a Soviet drains inspector and the sartorial understatement of a deposed Middle Eastern dictator whose tedious views and repetitious anecdotes leave the listener feeling depleted of insight and starved of intellectual oxygen.

Actually, none of the above is true (apart from the sartorial bit - even Gaddafi would have thought twice about the gold tie and orange handkerchief combo) but the good bit is that I'm totally confidant the Spectator Australia’s and the IPA's recent celebrity guest, who dazzled Australia with appearances on Alan Jones, Counterpoint, Q&A and a sold-out speaking tour to promote his book ‘After America’ - won't sue me for defamation. Plagiarism, maybe, if I nick any of his jokes, which I would dearly love to. But defamation, no. That's the beauty of free speech. It’s a doddle when you're addressing people who are secure in their convictions, passionate in their attitudes yet happy to confront diversity of opinion. Free speech only gets tricky when you're dealing with religious zealots or (just as bad) government bureaucracies who, when taking offence, threaten to imprison or kill you in order to silence you. Adapting Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of World War 1, Steyn maintains that we are losing the war on free speech: “The lights are going out all over the world on core western liberties; one light at a time, one cartoonist at a time, one novelist at a time, one filmmaker at a time, one newspaper columnist at a time.”

His mission, he says, is to “re-light those lamps.”

Anyone can be in favour of free speech for Barney the Dinosaur and the Wiggles,” says Steyn, “but if you’re not in favour of free speech you find offensive and repellent and loathesome, you’re not in favour of free speech at all. And you’re on the side of creeping totalitarianism.”

Such is the legacy, according to Steyn, of the collision during the last two decades of two gargantuan forces; the West’s cowardly appeasement of radical Islam, and the Left’s ever-increasing desire to protect collective groups from being offended.
The upshot, according to Steyn, is that “if you belong to certain privileged groups, the State affords you rights it does not extend to others,” which “strikes at the heart of the bedrock of justice; equality before the law.”

In 2007, Steyn “fell afoul of the Tolerance Enforcers and Diversity Compliance Regulators of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal,” who “devoted an entire day to analyzing the ‘tone’ of my writings,” even flying in a professional stand-up comic to give an expert appraisal of his wit. In the end, they “let him off the hook” but nonetheless accused him of flagrant Islamophobia. As Steyn quips: “How is flagrant Islamophobia any different to normal Islamophobia?”

Speaking of stand-ups, Mark has an unhealthy obsession with how many lesbians it takes to change a light bulb, or, more pertinently, to turn out the lights of our liberties. "Surprisingly few," was his humourous retort (you had to be there) before illustrating the dangers to our basic freedoms posed by the "hierarchy of phobias," in which one minority group’s sensitivities can be judged more worthy than another’s. “A joke or a song is a criminal act according to whom you perform it in front of.”

“I’m phobiaphobic,” says Steyn, jabbing his finger passionately at the crowd, in a way that makes the front row, John Howard and myself included, sit up. (John and Janette Howard, incidentally, received a lengthy burst of applause as they discreetly made their way to their seats, of the heart-felt and spontaneous sort that Gillard must lie awake fantasizing about.)

The head of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie was interviewed on the BBC and expressed the view that homosexuality was "immoral," was "not acceptable," "spreads disease," and "damaged the very foundations of society," Steyn explains. “A gay group complained and Sir Iqbal was investigated by Scotland Yard's "community safety unit" for "hate crimes" and "homophobia."

“Independently but simultaneously, the magazine of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association called Islam a "barmy doctrine" growing "like a cancer" and deeply "homophobic." So Scotland Yard had to investigate GALHA for “Islamophobia.”
“If a Muslim says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, Scotland Yard will investigate him for homophobia; but if a gay says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, Scotland Yard will investigate him for Islamophobia.
“Two men say exactly the same thing and they're investigated for different hate crimes,” says Steyn, incensed.

It’s a contradiction that Steyn himself has had to deal with. When a Mohamed Hazard tweeted that demographic figures proved the rise of Islam in Europe is irreversible, nobody batted an eyelid. Yet Steyn was lambasted for saying precisely the same thing on his blog with his normal dollop of wit: “By mid-century a majority of Austrians under 15 will be Muslim. Salzburg, 1938, singing nuns, Julie Andrews – "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" Salzburg, 2038: How do you solve a problem like Sharia?”

After the audience stop laughing, Steyn wryly observes; ‘When I discuss Muslim birthrates it’s a hate crime, when Mohamed Hazard discusses it its part of life’s rich tapestry.”

Steyn also cites the chilling case of Lars Hedegaard, convicted of a hate crime in Denmark for claiming – in private – that “girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins or their dad.”

“He was tried, acquitted, retried, convicted, (and) fined for a private conversation in his own home.”

Just as ludicrous is the story of Constable Sam Adams in Britain, where, as Steyn jokes, “everything is policed except crime.” The gay constable, who happens to be his local area’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Community Liason Officer, overheard street preacher Dale McAlpine chatting about the Bible’s disapproval of homosexuality. McAlpine was promptly carted off to the nick, booked, and held for several hours. As Steyn puts it, “Constable Adams arrested Mr McAlpine for offending Constable Adams.”

Meanwhile, when 14 year old Mancunian schoolgirl Codie Stott was assigned to a group discussion with five girls who only spoke Urdu she went to her teacher and said "'I'm not being funny, but can I change groups because I can't understand them?” Codie, too, found herself whisked down to the station and charged with racism.

The lofty ideal of anti-racism is going to be to this century what communism was to the last,” opines Steyn. “It is happening in UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Austria, Scandinavia and now Australia,” he says, referring to the recent federal court case in which columnist Andrew Bolt was found guilty under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

In fact, so fired up was Steyn by the ruling that he recorded an entertaining DVD in support of the IPA’s demand to ‘Repeal 18C’ on freespeech.ipa.org.au

During a thought-provoking panel discussion with John Roskan, Janet Albrechtsen, and Tom Switzer, Steyn has a genuine “fire in the belly” moment, urging Australians to fight for their free speech. “You are free men and women, you have a proud history, you are one of the world’s oldest democracies. You don’t need some hack mediocrity to tell you who and what you can read.”

He defends Bolt on the grounds that “if the State creates a human right to be offended and extends it only to members of certain interest groups, it is incentivising membership of those groups. So how we define membership… is a legitimate matter of discussion.”

However, he sees in most left-of-centre governments, such as ours, an “insecurity and touchiness” about diversity of opinion and warns that “if you give the State extraordinary powers, they start at the fringes and move their way in.” In a country where critics of the carbon tax and the mining tax find themselves under ever-increasing attack from senior ministers, it is a salient point.

Steyn, a Catholic born in Toronto and educated in the UK, gives a quick History lesson: “In 1215 Magna Carta Libertatum (his emphasis) couldn’t have made it plainer: Real human rights are restraints that the people place upon the King.

“Today, we have entirely perverted and corrupted the principle. We’re replacing human rights with ersatz rights that, rather than restraining the King, give him vastly increased state powers to restrain his subjects.

“It’s an abomination, and is explicitly Orwellian because these new rights are not handed out equally to individuals but… according to what particular identity group you fall into.”

He compares the bravery of Salman Rushdie – who in the face of the fatwa maintained “free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game” – to the cowardly response of the West to the Danish cartoons fiasco. “The minute someone threatens to kill you the conversation is over. ”

I, along with many others, almost died listening to Mark Steyn - from laughter. It's rare to have somebody make so much sense in such an entertaining fashion, although his cover of 1970’s disco hit Kung Fu Fighting probably won’t trouble the youtube hit parade. But then again, you never know. Particularly if he sticks to that dazzling tie and ‘kerchief combo.

Neither of which managed to survive the fiercesome ABC wardrobe department, leaving Mark to front up to Tony Jones's Q&A in more casual attire, where his enthusiasm for free speech must have been sorely tested by the musings of Adelaide luvvie Paul Grabowsky. Ever the perfect gentleman, Steyn listened patiently to his every word.

“What benefit can there be in allowing him to speak?” a human rights lawyer recently said in prosecuting a particular eccentric who had caused offence to some group or other, prompting Steyn to ask: “How many more of us will one day find the State saying they “can’t find any benefit” in allowing us to speak?”

Fortunately, Mark Steyn is one light the lesbians, the Islamic radicals, the white aborigines, the Chinese disco-haters, the Urdu schoolkids, the climate change fanatics and all the other collective offence-takers haven’t yet managed to switch off.

HE HAD HER AT HELLO (Fin Review March 5)

It’s a marriage made in Labor heaven. The Master of Spin hooks up with the Mistress of the Backroom Deal. Two needy, lonely hearts, who in embracing, compensate for each others glaring deficiencies. As Renee Zellweger said to Tom Cruise in chick-flick ‘Jerry MaGuire’: “You complete me.”

For Julia Gillard, her debilitating inability to connect with the public will now be handed over to the man of the mellifluous voice and head-line grabbing soundbites, while her complete lack of political nous will be more than compensated for by the wily former Premier’s almost canine-like knack of sniffing every nuance floating on the political breeze.

For Bob Carr, who has fantasised about this job but was never prepared to put in the hard yards to earn it, he now has the queen of the late night negotiations doing the dirty work for him, leaving him free to pester the newsroom in the wee hours of the morning before he “shoots off” overseas. Of course, the fact that he is able to waltz into one of the cushiest, most high-profile gigs in Australia without actually having broken into a sweat says all you need to know about the political quagmire that is our current federal cabinet.

Bob Carr is the architect, interior designer and chief salesman of one of the least attractive governments in NSW history; the eyesore on the political landscape that was the 1995-2010 Labor government. His record in government is woeful, with Sydney’s infrastructure shamefully neglected during his decade in power. Now, as well as wallowing in a highly-paid job with Macquarie Bank, he is an avid student and blogger on foreign affairs. This is probably the first time in our history that this most coveted and critical ministerial position has been awarded to someone simply because it’s their hobby. It's like putting the builder of Redfern’s notorious, recently-demolished Block onto the Architectural Council just because his favourite TV show is 'Grand Designs.'

Carr's 1995 "written in blood" pre-election promise to resign if he didn't halve hospital waiting lists within twelve months was as brazen as Gillard’s "there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead." The waiting lists soared, while Carr unblushingly stayed put. But where Gillard has been brought to her knees by her foolish pre-election promise, Carr’s mastery of spin saw him slip out unscathed. No wonder she’s a fan.

Similarly, his eleventh hour promise to scrap M4 and M5 tolls - a commitment that saw two crucial Liberal seats in Western Sydney fall to Labor and thereby put Carr in Macquarie street by one seat - was abandoned straight after that same election. According to former Roads Minister Michael Knight, in Marilyn Dodkin’s ‘Bob Carr: The Reluctant Leader’: “The toll was a big mega-example of a broken promise. It wasn’t the toll per se that was hurting us, it was the character trait of breaking promises and of being untrustworthy and shifty.” Sound familiar?

The current federal government have earned themselves a formidable reputation for grandiose promises that are casually dumped into the ‘too-hard’ basket post-election (last weeks axing of solar rebate springs to mind, along with the ETS, cash-for-clunkers, grocery watch and so on) but Gillard and Rudd are mere babes in the wood when it comes to Bob Carr's track record of ditching promises and avoiding commitments. A master of timing, Carr sensed precisely the right moment to jump before the public realized that the Good Ship NSW was riddled with holes.

Carr and Treasurer Michael Egan were the Gillard and Swan of their day when it came to lazily relying on "taxing the boom" to account for supposed sound economic management. For Carr, Sydney's 1990's real estate bonanza provided a never-ending cascade of ready cash. Quick to capitalize on it, the pair introduced the unpopular NSW Land Tax (decried at the time as a wealth tax, death tax, investment tax and envy tax all rolled into one) followed by the greedy and short-lived Vendor Tax. According to Dodkins, “Carr was seen as a Robin Hood, taking from the rich to give to the poor. He revelled in (it).” In much the same way, Gillard and Swan are revelling in the promise of milking the resources boom and re-distributing the nation’s wealth through the mining and carbon taxes. Wayne Swan’s recent attack on “tycoons” makes it clear that he, too, views himself in the Robin Hood camp. Julia, presumably, will be happy to play Maid Marion.

Already, Carr has put to good use his booming voice and new-found relevance to spruik Julia’s favourite obsession. “The horror of an Abbott-led government,” was his first classic sound grab, eagerly lapped up the newsroom.

No wonder he had her at ‘hello’.

INSIDE THE ABATTOIR (Fin Review March 2)

Shocking images smuggled out of Australia of sadistic, cruel and inhumane practices have yet again sparked a furore in neighbouring Indonesia. Filmed in secret by undercover journalists from the Empat Pojok current affairs program, the grainy footage re-affirms that in Australia human beings are being humiliated, tortured and verbally abused before being savagely put down.

“We’d heard rumours of such barbarity, but we couldn’t believe that this is how they treat their politicians in Australia,” said the program’s producer.

Airing tonight, the documentary features never-before seen images taken on a mobile phone smuggled out of the notorious Labor Party boardroom known as “the Slaughterhouse.”

“It was sickening,” said the reporter, wiping away tears. “They dragged the poor beast in – I think his name was Kevin but I couldn’t be sure, there was so much squealing and yelling going on.”

Visibly shaken by her ordeal, the reporter looks horrified recalling the grisly scenes. “The creature was clearly on his last legs – limping, and bleeding, with big dark rings under his eyes. He looked like he’d just got off the red eye from Washington. Apparently he’d been on his feet for hours, even days, staggering aimlessly through shopping malls and TV studios pathetically looking for some kind of support. It was heart-breaking.”

Struggling to maintain her composure, the reporter goes on to describe the final, brutal moments before the kill. “He got up to make a speech, pleading for mercy, and reminding the baying mob – there were about a hundred of them - that he was the only one who could beat Abbott. But they were in a frenzy. One woman was screeching “let’s move forward,” and then out came the knives and they all just started attacking him with these dreadful barbed comments.”

Clips from the documentary leaked onto youtube clearly show the Australian Treasurer, Wayne Swan, engaged in a vicious assault on his former school chum, in scenes of gratuitous violence that have horrified the Indonesian public. “To put the boot in like that, over and over again; in most civilized countries they use a policy issue to humanely bring down a leader, but these savages go straight for the jugular.”

“It was medieval,” said another viewer, dry retching in disgust. “The whole gang laid into him. Not content with merely wounding him, they broke his spirit, too, calling him all sorts of degrading names like ‘psychopath’ and ‘prima donna’.”

“What distressed me the most was seeing that sweet, innocent Kate Ellis suddenly turn nasty, even after it was all over. She just got stuck right into his warm corpse on the 7.30 report. So what if Kevin went to some pub and called Gillard an atheist, childless, ex-Marxist? It’s not as if Australians live in some whacky, sharia-obsessed theocracy,” said Indonesian animal-activist (and animal) Abu Bakar Bashir as he was whisked back to prison.

The video claims such practices are common throughout the Canberra Meat Belt. “First they stunned him back in 2010, without any warning. Then they just left him battered and bruised. The mistake was that nobody bothered to check whether he was really dead. I should have just slit his throat on the spot,“ says one of the faceless butchers, known only as “Bill.”

With tears streaming down his cheeks, another participant in the savagery attempts to justify his actions. “I just want to kill Tories,” said Albo Al-Banese. “But they keep saying “No”, so I have to slaughter my own people instead.”

Shortly after the killing, one of the perpetrators , Ar-Bh'ib, can be seen being persuaded to fall on his own machete. Visiting the abattoir yesterday, journalists were sickened to see the practices continuing unabated. “There was a fresh Bob Carcass lying on the Senate floor, groaning and thoroughly humiliated. He never stood a chance.”

Cancelling his recently purchased ten thousand dollar boat ride from Indonesia (cabin, life jacket, food, water and document shredder included) Iraqi professional refugee Mustafa iPod was quick to express his disgust. “I thought I was going to a civilised country that respects your basic human rights and offers you liberty, dignity and a free Bravia. But the way they destroy these poor creatures sickens me. At least in Abu Graib they just treat you like a dog, they don’t put you down like one.”

Meanwhile, in unrelated news, an asylum seeker who arrived on Christmas Island by private jet has lashed out at Australian border police. “I am fleeing persecution in my own country – if I go back they will almost certainly string me up from the nearest lamppost simply because I went and butchered half my population,” said Mr. Al Assad, speaking on condition of anonymity.

SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THE LOSERS (Spectator leader March 3)

While the victors prance from one after-party shindig to the next, reveling in the seductive glow of their glittering success and affirmation of their new-found popularity, spare a thought for the losers. For those for whom there is no limo ride home, no cheering throngs to greet them at the door, no newspapers hanging on their every word.

We refer of course to the dejected, disappointed, demoralized runners-up in the greatest drama yet to grace our TV screens, last Monday’s long awaited, highly anticipated and ultimately anticlimactic star-studded ego-fest known as “The Great Labor Party Train Wreck”, or more simply, “Kevin, the Downfall.”

It was a spectacle to remember for many years to come, as they all turned up, in their most fetching finery, strutting the red carpet to flashing cameras and breathless reportage.

There was Antony Albanese, blabbing his way to the podium, only to find out he'd licked the wrong envelope. Who can forget his hectoring performance only six months ago in front of his own constituents, as he berated little old ladies and bullied those who had dared speak out against a carbon tax? How the mighty have fallen, as he broke down in front of the cameras, wrestling with his inner demons and his addiction to backing the wrong horse. Only a few weeks ago, he drew guffaws for his pathetic rendition of a serious politician, a performance movie buffs were quick to spot was a blatant plagiarism of Michael Douglas. Clearly, this is one star whose best days are behind him, with his latest vanity project –the battle flick Tory! Tory! Tory! – struggling to find any backers.

And what to make of the tragic, haunted figure of Chris Bowen? Forced to play so many different roles with equal sincerity over the past twelve months, hopping from one ludicrous “solution” to another, his credibility and integrity have now collapsed to the point where audiences can no longer suspend their disbelief.

The comic interlude was left to veteran funny man Rob Oakeshott, for whom, alas, the laughs now seem to have dried up. Attempting to reinvigorate the crowd, and unsuccessfully reprising his famous “Kingmaker” role, Rob’s gag about Malcolm Turnbull taking over the leadership of the Liberal party fell completely flat, leaving him standing in the spotlight to an awkward, embarrassed silence. Rob – whose rambling and incoherent 2010 acceptance speech for the tedious docudrama “Ugly in its Beauty” clocked in at an extraordinarily dull twenty seven minutes - is not expected to return next year, or to be heard of ever again after the next election.

Hogging the red carpet in the run up to the big night, the two veteran entertainment writers Peter Hatchet-Job and Professor Van Nonselence, both of whom had confidently predicted that Rudd would sweep the awards, were nowhere to be seen in the aftermath, clearly not invited to any of the dazzling celebrations. “Kevin Rudd will become the leader, not because he's made a compelling case but because Julia Gillard cannot hold the confidence of her caucus,” wrote Hatchet only ten days ago, in what has now become a collector’s piece, along with Van Nonselence’s: “A move to Rudd by Albanese… would give Rudd the momentum he needs to create an inevitability about changing leaders.”

The bravest loser, who walked home empty handed after being expected to grab the Peoples’ Award for his brutal portrayal of a ruthless backstabber in the epic “Ides of March” flick, the popular heart-throb Kevin Clooney, tried to put on a humble face, but the punters weren’t fooled. “'I dedicate myself to working fully for (Ms Gillard's) re-election as the prime minister of Australia. I don’t hold grudges,” he said, in one of the few moments of genuine comedy during the entire show.

Scurrying away from centre-stage before he was booed off, hapless Senator “Marky Mark” Arbib –producer and director of such box office disasters as “2010: An Early Election” and “Kristina the Blonde” - suddenly remembered he had a family to go home to and left the scene early. No more late night backroom deals for him, apparently.

Champagne corks were popping, meanwhile, at the lakeside home of the Queen of High Drama, Julia Gillard herself, who – with her personal stylist and hairdresser boyfriend on her arm – was being lauded for her brilliant portrayal of Australia’s first ever female Prime Minister. “It was uncanny,” said one insider, flushed with excitement. “For a full ninety minutes, you could almost believe she was the real thing.”

Sullen and depressed, forgotten by the rich and famous, ignored by the powerful and the profligate, unlamented by the media and the spin doctors, the night’s biggest loser was nowhere to be seen backstage. We refer, of course, to Joe Blow, the average Australian punter, for whom the desire to vote for their own Prime Minister has now ended in tears.


A leaked video of Kevin Rudd’s resignation speech has found its way onto the internet, believed to have been posted by none other than the former Foreign Minister himself.
Kevin Rudd: “Ah mate, this is just impossible. (Winces.) I get to the very end of dinner and I’m explaining to Ban Ki Moon that he has my absolute full and total support and that I in no way intend to challenge him for his job as Secretary General of the United Nations, which he is getting on with while I am getting on with mine because honestly I’m perfectly content being both Prime Minister-in- Waiting and Foreign Minister of Australia and then, strike me dead, I’ve got to zip over to the f--king Willard hotel in the middle of the night and… (lifts hands in exasperation)… make a resignation speech before they go and sack me! (Shakes head and looks away from camera, then takes a deep breath.) All because of these f--king hopeless time zone differences! I mean what f--kwit ever dreamt that one up? How f--king inconsiderate! (Takes a long slow sip of water, then mutters off camera.) Mate, can you tell these dickheads in the embassy to just give me a simple backdrop, something plain and unobtrusive, not this gold flock wallpaper, I’ve said this before, tell that bloody seppo that… Aarrrgghh this f--king language! You ask for a plain, simple, unobtrusive backdrop with a nice Aussie flag so I look like a normal, happy little vegemite coz you know something that’s exactly what I am and… and… those faceless men on Reception go and stick me in the bloody George Washington Honeymoon Suite with all these fancy gold patterns and swirls and floral motifs and it just complicates it SO MUCH, you know, how can anyone do this to me? I’m human like anyone else, aren’t I? (Winces again, as if fighting back the tears.) All the other rooms are shut up for the night and I can’t even get into my own room coz I can’t work that STUPID electronic swipe key! It might be easy for you to sit there and say it’s easy to do but let me tell you mate it isn’t!! (Shakes his head from side to side, moaning, as if suffering from hemorrhoids.) Nnnggghhh! (Sits up straight and stares at the camera for several seconds, not blinking.) Honestly? It’s time for some plain speaking here; the simple truth is I cannot be expected to carry out my stealth campaign against the Prime Minister if she’s going to sack me. I just think it’s pretty sad for everybody when a soon-to-be-former leader of our party behaves in this way. I sat up for three days and three nights with twenty PR advisers from around the world to work out how to persuade those ratf—kers in the Labor Party who fancy keeping their f—king jobs to just hurry up and draft me back and… It’s just you know, this is becoming hopeless! (Whacks table.) Because I am absolutely passionate about… I’ve been frustrated domestically, I’ve been frustrated politically by the lack of progress in my triumphant return to the Lodge but I will not be deterred and I will progress this matter and I will achieve the best possible means of bringing down this government. (Sighs and picks up a glass of water, then mutters off camera again.) Tell them to cancel my 6 o’clock brekky with Barrack Obama you know I just don’t have the f--king patience to do that – is this a f--king Chinese interior decorator here or what? (Stares at wallpaper.) Just f--king hopeless… (Grimaces.) And the bottom line is this… the bottom line is this… let me tell you this mate… there is no way I can be expected to stare in the mirror in the future and say ‘K-Rudd you passed up the core opportunity to get your old job back as the President… ‘ (Slams fist down on the desk, sending glass of water flying.) Aarggh! I f--ked up the last word…"
Meanwhile, Julia Gillard has denied that members of her staff have been working for at least the last two weeks on a secret acceptance speech. “I am not surprised that whether its people in my office or people more broadly in the Labor Party who are casting in their mind where circumstances might get to, but does that mean I know about it? Of course not,” said the Prime Minister.
In the speech she accepts that she has lost her job and accepts that Stephen Smith has taken over.

SPEAKING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE (Spectator leader Feb 25)

Hang on. There’s something fishy in the won ton soup. We’d always been led to believe that one of Kevin Rudd’s great skills was his talent for Mandarin, supposedly honed with First Class Honours at the ANU and finessed during his stint as a diplomat in Beijing. Yet it now turns out – if youtube is anything to go by – that our once and (potentially) future PM can barely string two words together in the language of the Middle Kingdom without exploding into a hissy fit of curses and f-bombs.

“Mate this is just impossible,” he snarled at his cameraman, as he struggled to get his tongue around a greeting video. But how hard can it be? The words were displayed on an auto-cue for him to read in the privacy of his own studio. The editor was standing by to cut the good bits together and leave out the mistakes. The message was presumably along the lines of “Sorry I couldn’t be there with you tonight, but I hope you all have a great time.” Hardly an orthoepic dissertation on aspiratory consonants in the Pinghua dialect.

Yet somehow the whiz-kid from Eumundi ended up all over the place, like a plate of left over dim sums at Sunday yum cha. “Just give me simple sentences! This f***ing language! How can anyone do this?” he dummy-spat, fretting like a Gonksi-ite schoolkid who’s just found out he’s come bottom of the class.

Was it all just a myth? Is Kevin’s lauded mastery of Mandarin no better than his mastery of economics (“save capitalism from itself”), diplomacy ("those Chinese f***ers are trying to rat-f*** us”), science (“the greatest moral challenge of our time”) or team management (“a psychopath with a giant ego”)?

Surely he hasn’t been hoodwinking us all along?

A BLOODBATH (Spectator leader Feb 25)

It’s an intricate two-step, but one false move now spells death. As Rudd surprises everyone including his own supporters with his adroit resignation, seeking the ideal strategic moment to knife his nemesis, the PM ducks and weaves hoping she won’t shoot herself in the foot again. Behind the scenes, however, it’s Tony Abbott who must take the credit for bringing about this deadly dance.

“The simple truth is that I cannot continue to serve as Foreign Minister if I do not have the Prime Minister’s support,” said Kevin Rudd, hilariously eschewing a “stealth attack on a sitting Prime Minister” and twisting events to appear decisive and “honest” whilst fraudulently painting himself as the aggrieved and innocent party (“the Australian people want an end to this soap opera.”) Jumping before he was pushed, he has cannily thrown the spotlight onto Gillard’s presumed inability to beat Abbott at the next election.

Normally, when a political party tears itself apart in such a spectacular and vitriolic fashion, there is a key policy issue at stake; Turnbull vs Abbott over climate change being an obvious example. But as with his original “faceless men” dethroning, Rudd’s latest move comes with no philosophical baggage. It’s simply a question of perceived popularity, mind games and who is the wiliest fighter.

In the absence of any clashes of conviction, another battleground had to be found for Rudd to attack on, and this was eagerly provided by the Press Gallery over the past few weeks, keen to notch up a hit after being wrong-footed by political events more than once over recent years.

A strong, confident leader would have been impervious to the hysterical but essentially empty provocations of Four Corners, 7.30, the Daily Telegraph and others. Gillard wasn’t. Above all, it is Tony Abbott’s success in fatally weakening the Prime Minister that is at the heart of her current predicament. Constantly carping on about his “negativity” and the “No-alition” has proven to be Gillard’s biggest mistake. At every turn, and on every policy issue, she has empowered Abbott in the eyes of the electorate (and, crucially, wavering members of caucus), whilst feeding the impression that she doesn’t know how to defeat him. Much like the picadors who soften up the animal for the kill, Abbott has relentlessly driven his spear into the spine of Gillard, making it that much more tempting for Rudd-the-matador to convince himself (and his supporters) that he can finish her off.

Bleeding, clearly rattled, and unable to shake off the “untrustworthy” tag, it is immaterial whether Gillard survives the imminent showdown. Her confidence and authority are shattered, and her Prime Ministership is doomed. Rudd’s tactics have so far outwitted her at every stage. He hasn’t missed a step, and it is unlikely he will stumble now, although there is always the possibility of a third contender popping up.

Whoever is left standing, the Labor Party has been battered to within an inch of its life. The internal bruising will take many years to fade.

DANIEL HANNAN (Spectator Feb 25)

I wend my way through a sea of pokies, those bastard children of free market capitalism. Pull on a lever and get rich quick. I'm on my way to the so-called “Celebrity Lounge” at City Tattershalls Club to attend a speech by free market capitalism's favourite son, the IPA's guest Daniel Hannan MEP, or ‘Dan Hannon’ as the sign at the door has misnamed him, presumably the result of some Gonski kid whose ability to spell has fallen dramatically backwards over the last ten years.

In Brussels they are also addicted to pulling levers to get rich quick. The seductive levers of “social democracy.” Go on a debt binge, splurge on subsidies, and wallow in the never-ending cascade of taxpayer-funded welfare.

Former President of the Oxford University Conservative Association, adviser to former Tory leader Michael Howard, Spectator columnist and speechwriter for William Hague, Daniel Hannan has been a member of the European Parliament – and thorn in its side – since 1999.

“You have run out of our money!” It was in the lofty chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 24 March 2009 – in the gloomy depths of the financial crisis - that Hannan came to global prominence, as he savaged Britain’s then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, labeling him a Brezhnev-era apparatchik addicted to debt and wasteful public expenditure, concluding “you are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued government.”

The video clip of the fiery speech spread like, er, wildfire, and so too did Hannan’s reputation. For two days, it was the most viewed clip on the planet and to date has attracted nearly three million sets of youtube eyes. The American TV circuit, blogs, newspaper columns and speaking tours quickly followed.

A brilliant and mesmerizing public speaker – the likes of which we sorely lack in Australia - Daniel Hannan is a passionate believer in “changing peoples’ minds through words.” Tonight, he treats us to his highly entertaining and thought-provoking insights into the failure that is the European Union and the strength of the “Anglosphere.”

It is with “a touch of wistfulness” that he sees in Australia – this is his first visit here – “what might have been had we not handed away our independence in 1973.” Britain’s entry into the Common Market, he declares, “was the biggest calamity of my lifetime.”

“Far from harnessing ourselves to a powerful locomotive we have shackled ourselves to a corpse.” Britain has suffered “a loss of democracy and a loss of wealth.”
“European culture and strength has always sprung from its diversity and competing plurality,” he explains, with a compelling assessment of the rise of Europe five centuries ago, when a bunch of disparate, feuding tribes – through rivalry and competition - overtook the orderly, ponderous Ming Dynasty and Ottoman Empire to lead the world in economic strength and technological innovation. Now the situation has reversed. “The tragedy is that precisely at the point Europe decided to become a monolithic block run by functionaries and bureaucrats, Asia learnt the virtues of diversity and competition.” Western Europe will sorely miss this “age that is coming to a close.”

Joining the Common Market “yanked us out of our natural orbit”, forcing Britain to trade with declining Euro economies rather than to pursue trade with those countries who not only share cultural, linguistic and blood ties, but more importantly, share what Hannan views in almost mystical terms; the Common Law. “The sublime idea that the law exists unwritten outside of government,” is, to Hannan’s mind, the crucial meme that sets anglo-style democracy apart from all other form of governances, particularly Euro technocracy. Almost poetically, he explains how a set of laws, “their provenance lost in the mists of time,” led in the English-speaking world to a unique relationship between governed and governing, unlike that found anywhere else. This “heritage of liberty” has now been lost to Britain, with four out of five of her laws now being formulated not in Westminster but in Brussels.

“The EU is chiefly a way for a lot of people to make a good living,” declares Hannan, the rebel who opposed ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the European Parliament and consistently attacks its profligacy from within. “Armies of bureaucrats, consultants and contractors” now maintain the EU not for any higher purpose, nor even in any pretense that it is what the people want, but simply to protect their own privileges and positions. It is a damning inditement of public servants run rampant. And futile, because “in the end, the money runs out,” as Margaret Thatcher predicted.

“How the left managed to use the language of compassion to steal their children’s futures and fund their own comfortable lifestyles is a disgrace,” exclaims Hannan, to loud applause.

The villain of the piece is John Maynard Keynes. “The bizarre idea that the way to stimulate an economy is simply to boost demand” is to Hannan largely responsible for the current global mess. “Increase consumption, but not production, and fund the difference with debt? In reality we are debauching generations yet to come to sustain an income we are not prepared to work for.”

Despite being pushed to say that Australia faces the same predicament, Daniel Hannan is optimistic about what he has seen. “This government has inherited an extraordinary legacy and it will take more than a couple of years to stuff it up,” he suggests, clearly unfamiliar with Rudd, Swan and Gillard’s proven ability to do just that. On the carbon tax he is less sanguine. “Economic strength has always been built on cheaper energy. It is simply crazy that with your natural advantages you are voluntarily disadvantaging yourself for no tangible benefit.”

Later on, we go out for dinner with Daniel. On the way, walking through a beautiful Sydney evening, we pass a beggar on Pitt Street, his head bowed down in his indignity and shame, a sign on his lap pleading for funds. In Sydney, you see the occasional tragic individual who has lost all hope. In Europe, you see whole countries.