Saturday, November 24, 2007

'98 vintage

MY VOTE.............

For the quote of the election:

"...because her (Jackie Kelly's) husband may have done a foolish thing, that should not automatically be visited upon her. I would have thought that was a very old-fashioned view"

John Winston Howard, National Press Club November 22nd.

"I wonder what he thinks about second cousins?"

Stephen Keim, barrister for Dr Mohamed Haneef.

Boom, boom!


The contempt that lurks beneath

Australians are very practical people... and whatever judgment the Australian people make at the end of the year, I’ll accept with the greatest of good grace...

That was then, and this is now...

I think there are some people [who are saying] maybe it's time for a change... I'm focused on spending my waking hours and my energy over the next three days in saying to that group of people... It’s not like a Christmas present you didn't want and you can take it back at the Boxing Day sale, it's not like that.

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Good times

Here’s Kerry O’Brien wrapping up ABC-TV’s Victorian Election night coverage late last year.

The Bracks Labor Government won!!

Chirpy looking chappie, isn’t he?

(Apologies for the poor image quality, it was the best I could manage on the night...)

In the event tomorrow night of a Howard-hugging Rudd-rout, it may be moderately interesting to observe Kerry’s aspect at the end of the night’s coverage.

If possible, I’ll post an update pic of Kerry for comparison.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Goat Friday

click to enlarge  —  image source

Mouse . . .

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Of hanging chads and PMs "not there"...

The desperation is everywhere. Like the humidity thick in the air prior to a summer thunderstorm, it pervades the the government's final week of the campaign. Days out and with the polls hugely unmoved, nothing the government has done has altered the view of an electorate looking for something different.

On the 7:30 Report the PM, looking all of his years and stridently trying to keep to his one message, presented himself and his campaign as the ultimate contradiction. He wants to look to the future - that's what matters. All the while he examined Labor's past - the Keating past. Any examination of the government's past was, well, just that - the past. It was of no consequence: only Labor has past; the government is the future.

Just to make it clear, the Labor party's past is a malleable thing too. Howard, terribly serious and full of gravitas, demonstrated this by rewriting that history in front of the ABC audience and a clearly stunned O'Brien when he bald faced claimed that Labor under Keating had not legislated to introduce Enterprise Bargaining at all; no, not in 1993 and certainly not before Howard changed the IR world in 1996. Never mind the statistics (4,500 registered agreements, federally, by 1995), Labor did not introduce enterprise bargaining. No. Full stop.

I'd suggest that's news to the rest of the country; certainly to those who struck those non-existant agreements.

Why would the PM mangle the truth? Why would he lie and rewrite history? To suit the claim that Labor would return to its past (that only it has in this campaign) and to centralised wage fixing. The fiddling with history and the truth is blatant.

Howard, the scare campaign - "union fanatics", "they'll stuff the economy", "we're commin' back", "wharf strikes, rail strikes..." - having achieved little and with little left to say has resorted to the ploy of his hated predecessor, Keating. "If you change the government you change the country". The former member for Blaxland must love the irony.

Elsewhere Howard promises that if you elect him he won't be there and even gives an example of how it is he won't be there. He'll call a party meeting and resign. Annabel Crabb of the Herald says it better:

Oh voters; if you really care

Elect a man who won't be there!

Vote for him on Saturday

It's guaranteed he'll go

Alexander Downer, in a huff over the fact he may lose his job on Saturday, declares that nothing but cliche's fall from the Opposition Leader's lips. Worse, those lips often adopt a smirk. He would know, I suppose, sharing the front bench with the smirk of Australian politics and being well familiar with the meaningless platitude and cliche over the his time in office. Given his performance at the AWB enquiry, its nice to know he can recall who the opposition leader is and what a smirk looks like.

The prize in the desperation stakes though goes to Andrew Robb and his cohort of dirt diggers. This crew have waited until the final week to discover the Florida hanging chads of the 2007 election. You can't vote for this crew or we'll challenge the results. Truly desperate stuff. As if this "fact" was not known earlier. Eleven of the twelve have dismissed it for what it is: a desperate smear. You can bet that the only challenge might be to - an as yet unelected - Newhouse. If there are any challenges at all.

Penny Wong (ALP SA) said it best yesterday: "They have nothing left to say to the Australian people".

Absolutely spot on: nothing whatsoever. It defines the government campaign nicely.



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Spider Tuesday

click for hairy-legged detail  —  image by jarcob

No, this is not the start of another weekly thematic spot. It’s just that I found this brute up near the ceiling in a corner of the garage. And, um, it’s Tuesday... We’re on the cusp of spider season here in Spider Gully.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

First Lady gets on the Generals’ case, ASEAN demurs

Whatever other criticisms one may have of the US First Family, one has to applaud the Bushes’ activism on the problem of the evil regime of the Burmese generals.

The First Lady, Laura Bush, has lately called for a global boycott of jewels from Burma.

She says every Burmese stone bought, cut, polished, and sold sustains an illegitimate, repressive regime.

Mrs Bush says Burma’s military rulers have just opened a potentially lucrative gem auction show in the capital seeking much-needed foreign currency amid tightening Western sanctions.

The junta hopes to sell some 5,500 lots of jade, gems and pearls, worth about $US300 million during the 13-day auction.

Mrs Bush’s call pretty much exactly echoes the stance taken by Human Rights Watch on the Burmese gem trade, but good on her for standing up to endorse it.

And good on the US Senate for voting unanimously to urge ASEAN members to suspend Burma from the regional body until the generals show respect for human rights.

And a pox on ASEAN for declining to do so.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mutiny on the Beas - or - Relentlessly partisan

I shall have others who will need no compulsion to follow their leader. If you wish to turn back now, you are at liberty to do so – and you may tell your people that you deserted your leader in the midst of his enemies.

The PM speaking to Alexander Downer back during the September showdown at the OPEC corral? Not quite. Replace “leader” with “king” and you have Alexander of Macedon addressing his troops at the Beas River, somewhere near to modern Lahore, Pakistan, 325 BCE. His troops, now ten years down the track from the Macedonia they’d left, had finally woken up to the fact that this bloke was going on forever and were going no further unless it was in a direction of their choosing.

The similarities, war aside, are strong. Alexander got his way and his troops went homewards – via some dozen more peoples as yet unconquered. Howard got his way too: he followed his troops’ wishes and caved to a “succession”. He, though it must surely have galled him, acknowledged it publicly. And he will lead his troops into another battle.

The point of difference being that where as Alexander went on to visit his frightful pique upon the Indian cities unfortunate enough to be on his “path home”, occasioning massacres and murder, Howard will march on, hubristic hat in place and take his troops to a hiding. And, should the ALP only just get there – seventeen to twenty seats – a hiding it will still be. Howard will have, in a period of three years, converted a large and – in conventional thinking – unassailable majority, within a single term, into a spanking loss.

The poisoned chalice of a Senate majority is, in large part, what will haunt this government to the tally room next Saturday night. Howard was first to declare that such a majority would not be wielded with hubris. He was, surely, also the first to recognise the unparalleled opportunity that had been presented to him: no negotiations, no Dems to dialogue with, what I can get the party room to stomach is law. Within weeks the long cherished industrial relations agenda was taking shape. It bore no resemblance to the pie in the sky nebulous statements of the campaign platform document. It bore no relationship to the claims of the PM during the campaign that no extension of the WorkChoices legislation was planned.

By November of 2005 it was done and dusted. The new WorkChoices would be in place by March 2006. Like it or lump it. It transpired that large swathes of the electorate wanted to lump it then as they do now. Hubris? None at all if the PM bombastically declaring that there would be no changes to his legislation, no further negotiation and no addition of any unneeded safety-nets ranks as self-effacing, humble language.

The was no need for any “further” safety net – further than those award conditions left standing. The safety net – enforced on the government by a “hung” Senate in 1996 – was summarily removed by the new legislation.

Not even Howard realised how badly it made the government smell. Further, he failed to realise that such behaviour had become rather the modus operandi of his government. The image of high handed rule coupled with a seeming absolute lack of accountability in ministerial behaviour painted a picture of arrogance. An arrogance heightened by a listless and abysmal opposition.

In 2006 Howard again passed up the opportunity of “generational change” and rebuffed his deputy. He was going nowhere and largely did not care how this played in the public arena as come 2007 there’d be Kim waiting to be done over…again.

Throughout the back-end of 2006 the ACTU trial ran its anti WorkChoices campaign. It bit and continues to bite. The Howard government, led by the PM, declared it to be totally partisan and utterly misleading. Howard continued to insist throughout the later part of the year that no changes were needed to his legislation and nor would they be.

That all began to change after the ALP dumped Kim for RevKev, the “revolution” candidate. By the close of the first quarter of 2007, trailing hopelessly in the polls, the stench of WorkChoices had made its way into the executive offices of Parliament House. Come May Howard, likely as galled (if not more) as he would be in September, announced that he’d discovered the requirement for a “fairness test” in his legislation. Too late. Far too late.

The PM is in a pickle entirely of his own making. He had no intention of “listening” to “the people” until it was shoved down his hearing aid by poll after interminable poll. The internal party polling will only have shoved it further.

His ego and hubris has left him open to what, eighteen months ago, would have been considered nigh impossible: a flogging. His government, stripped of its mojo and poll numbers, looking for all the world like the US fleet limping out of Tassafaronga Strait in 1942, has lurched through this election year and this campaign largely stumped. Nothing it has done has altered the consistent numbers running against it. The government’s primary vote is as consistently poor as the ALP’s is strong in every poll taken this last year. It does not indicate a “soft vote” for the ALP. That path is thinking along the lines of the electorate exercising some "Australian humour".

Three years ago the electorate looked longingly, for a period, at what it thought to be a credible alternative. It wasn't but that should have sounded alarm bells. This time the poll numbers and their consistency suggest the electorate's found it.

Should the poll numbers prove correct on election day, the stench of WorkChoices and the arrogance of the government that pushed it will become the stench of the government's corpse. The Liberal Party can look back on their Senate majority and ponder how wisely they used it. Then they can look at their defeated leader, the beligerent barnacle that refused to move aside “for the good of the party”; that preferred instead to arrogantly stare down his “shoulder tappers” and call for blood on the floor.

The coterie of Liberal tresantes (Spartan for "tremblers", those who disgraced themselves in the phalanx ranks) proved exactly that in September: they blinked. Barring a huge shift in voter sentiment, there appear to be few tresantes in the electoral phalanx bearing down upon the government forces and the Prime Ministerial guards.

Perhaps back in September he again echoed Alexander. Perhaps when Downer likely informed him that he’d lost the support of a substantial section of the party room and that if Downer were Howard he’d step aside for the good of the party, Howard replied “I would too, were I Alexander Downer”.

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