Thursday, 19 October 2017

Trump's bullshit about the media, Australian journalism's freak show and links to other interesting news and views

Nearly half of voters are buying Trump's bullshit about the media - Media Matters for America

Australian journalism’s freak show: how a serious newspaper deals with its enemies - Crikey
Intellectual Property for the Twenty-First-Century Economy - Project Syndicate
Developing countries are increasingly pushing back against the intellectual property regime foisted on them by the advanced economies over the last 30 years. They are right to do so, because what matters is not only the production of knowledge, but also that it is used in ways that put the health and wellbeing of people ahead of corporate profits.
Post-Brexit, the U.K. is becoming a hotbed of far-right violence - Think Progress
Hate crimes and Islamophobia are rising, and security services are overstretched.
With fast-charging, electric cars will soon match or beat gasoline cars in every respect - Think Progress

Quebec Enacts 'Religious Neutrality Law' That Curbs Full-Face Veils In Public - NPR

What's in a name?When it comes to wine it's a lot of dollars.
Wine producers spend plenty to promote their brand as they try and persuade us that what they spent $4 or so to produce is worth paying $40 or more for.
Good luck to them. It's the free enterprise way I guess.
But not the way that my brother David and I have approached the wine business over the last 42 years. We prefer the honest and no nonsense way. Forget the image building and give value for money to wine lovers. We have been doing it since starting Farmer Bros as retailers in Canberra back in 1975.
Now that David has his own winery in the Barossa the savings from this honest-to-goodness approach are even greater. No middle-men and no expensive brand building hype. Just well made wine at a value for money price.
Like this one.
Fabulous Barossa Gold

Singalong as Julie "Tora Tora Tora" Bishop attempts to rebuild trust with Jacinta "can't work with her" Ardern.

The Owl warned her.
Back in August we warned that Jacinda Ardern put Tora Tora Tora Julie Bishop on notice following poll surge in NZ election race. "You're so Vain" we suggested as the appropriate political singalong.
And now it has come to pass.
Jacinda has the top job across the ditch and Julie will have to play please forgive me.
The diplomats who were shocked at the strength of Tora Tora Tora' s outburst at the time, now claim "the bilateral relationship is strong and broad enough to bear the strain".
Perhaps a chorus or two of this might make things easier.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Singalong as Tones makes Malcolm "do things I don't want to do" in the great power debate

Yeah yeah yeah yeah

He makes me do things I don't want to do
He makes me say things I don't want to say
& even though I want to break away
I can't (stop saying I adore him
I can't stop doing things for him)

The irrelevance of opinion polls a long time out from an election

While updating my table of The Australian's Newspoll results today (you will find the collection HERE) it struck me once again just how irrelevant poll results are a long time out from an election.
The table below compares Labor's two party vote 15 months after an election (like the one this week) with Labor's actual vote at the following election.

Labor on Newspoll 15 months after an election Labor vote at next election Difference in percentage points
55 49.3 5.7
43 46.5 3.5
58 50.1 7.9
48 52.7 4.7
49 47.2 1.8

The Australian's Newspoll from 2016 election to present

Date ALP Coalition Green OneNat Other 2 Pty ALP 2 Pty LNP
15/10/2017 36 37 10 9 8 54 46
24/09/2017 36 38 9 8 9 54 46
3/09/17 38 37 9 8 8 53 47
21/08/17 38 35 9 9 9 54 46
4/08/17 36 36 11 8 9 53 47
24/07/17 37 35 9 9 9 53 47
10/07/17 36 35 10 11 8 53 47
19/06/17 37 36 9 11 7 53 47
30/05/17 36 36 10 9 9 53 47
16/05/17 36 36 10 9 9 53 47
24/04/17 35 36 9 10 10 52 48
3/04/17 36 36 10 9 9 53 47
20/03/17 35 37 9 10 9 52 48
27/02/17 37 34 10 10 9 55 45
6/02/17 36 35 10 8 11 54 46
6/12/16 36 39 10 5 10 52 48
20/11/16 38 38 10 4 10 53 47
5/11/16 38 39 10 4 9 53 47
25/10/16 37 39 10 5 9 52 48
10/10/16 36 39 10 5 9 52 48
27/09/18 37 38 10 - 15 52 48
12/09/16 36 41 9 - 14 50 50
30/08/16 36 41 9 - 14 50 50
2/07/16 34.7 42 10.2 1.3 11.8 49.6 50.4

How long does the typical political party last? And links to other interesting news and views

The typical political party only lasts 43 years - Quartz
The following chart shows the number of parties that have placed in the top two in terms of seats since 1950. Only the 21 countries for which the database has data going back to 1950 are included. The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia are notable for their stability.
How long do parties usually last? To calculate this number, we used a statistical technique called survival analysis (pdf). It is a method for estimating a person or organization’s typical lifespan when some of the people or organizations that are part of an analysis are still in existence. We found that the median major political party lasts around 43 years, and one third of parties don’t even last 20 years.
Why Spy Now? The Psychology of Leaking and Espionage in the Digital Age - CIA
Don't turn doctors into killers - Eureka Street

Jockeying for cash: North Korea allows racetrack gambling as sanctions bite - Reuetrs

Austria's Great Millennial Hope Walks a Fine Line - Sebastian Kurz hasn't so much copied as temporarily defanged the far right - Bloomberg

The spread of populism in Western countries - Vox

Monday, 16 October 2017

Will Tony be drafted and be top of the pops again? A singalong as we consider if Tony Abbott will make a comeback

Explained: How Liberal leadership spills work - ABC News
Here ... is a guide to how a spill could work.
Any member may move a motion to spill leadership position(s)
When the party meets in the party room, any member can move the motion to spill the leadership position.
He or she would rise, with or without prior indication to the leadership group, seek the call and move a motion to spill.
The motion would normally specify whether the spill was of leader, deputy leader or both.
A seconder would be called for, but is not technically required if the leader chooses to let the discussion proceed.
The leader invites speakers 'for' and 'against' the motion
An exhaustive discussion and debate will follow.
Members will indicate, usually to the leader or deputy leader, their desire to speak.
Speakers will often be called in alternating order; a "for" followed by an "against".
In the past, members have spoken, offered commentary, but neither declared themselves "for" nor "against".
All who want to speak may. Normal time limit for contributions is a "bell" at three minutes.
The leader assesses general will or mood of the party room
Even if every member has not yet spoken, but it is becoming obvious that there are many more "against" the spill motion than "for" it, the leader may exercise the right to call that the motion clearly will not succeed, and that debate should end and there is no spill.
There is no show of hands, rather the mood is gauged by listening to the speeches.
Alternatively, once all members have spoken, the spill may proceed.
Nominations are called
Candidates will stand and nominate themselves.
Whips will conduct a call of the roll, to get the exact number of members in the party room. That number of ballot papers will be prepared and distributed for a secret ballot.
Each member will write the name of the candidate they vote for on the ballot and place in a box.
Whips count ballots, rank the candidates in order of votes received and advise the result to the party room.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Giving Thomas the Tank Engine some female friends and links to other news and views

Thomas the Tank Engine gets two female trains as show is overhauled for a new generation - London Daily Telegraph

Bannon: 'It's A Season Of War Against The GOP Establishment' - NPR

Harvey Weinstein was protected for decades by the cowardice of the press - The Guardian

‘Mind-boggling’: Daniel Barenboim on Jacqueline du Pré – and speaking out - Financial Times
Christopher Nupen’s short film The Trout endures as an important, and charming, group portrait of talented young musicians on the cusp of greatness. It follows Barenboim and du Pré, together with Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman, during their rehearsals and live performance of Schubert’s Trout Quintet as part of the festival of South Bank Summer Music (of which Barenboim was artistic director) in 1969.

Balance of power: Shift toward renewable energy appears to be picking up steam - The Japan Times

Global policymakers grapple with half-baked recovery short of wage growth - Reuters

In both football and politics, Corbyn has a surprising weakness – loyalty - New Statesman
He might have been a rebel in parliament but he is a loyalist when it comes to his team.
Corbyn’s support for Wenger has an emotional element, too: the two men have known each other for a long time, and they discuss not only football but politics and philosophy. It might seem counter-intuitive, given his long record of voting against official Labour policy, but Corbyn puts a great premium on personal loyalty. That’s why he will not use his enhanced internal clout to conduct a wide-ranging reshuffle, even if Theresa May refreshes her team, as seems likely. Corbyn feels a sense of obligation to those MPs who stuck with him even during his most difficult period as leader. 
 Coerced sterilization lawsuit filed - Canadian National Post 
In July, the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority released an external review conducted after several women came forward saying they had been pressured into having tubal ligations in the hours before or after giving birth. The reviewers were contacted by 16 Indigenous women with experiences of coerced sterilization, who said they felt “powerless, ignored and coerced into obscurely explained tubal ligation procedures,” the statement of claim says, referring to the report entitled “Tubal Ligation in the Saskatoon Health Region: The Lived Experience of Aboriginal Women.”

Some interesting links to news and views with a moron edition of the political singalong

Paul Krugman's Friday night music: moron edition
Since what prompted Rex Tillerson was, reportedly, Trump’s desire for a tenfold increase in America’s already civilization-destroying nuclear arsenal, the obvious:

Which bank could give Australians a better bang for their buck? The RBA - Nicholas Gruen in The Guardian

The thoughts of Chairman Xi - Xi Jinping is tightening his grip on power. How did one man come to embody China's destiny? - BBC News

“I Hate Everyone in the White House!” - Trump seethes as advisers fear the president is “unraveling.” - Vanity Fair

Silicon Valley’s Religious Drive - New Republic
The engineer Anthony Levandowski has reportedly founded a religion led by bots, the latest manifestation of the tech world's spiritual underpinnings.
The First Anglo-Afghan War shows us how the same pattern follows whenever Afghanistan is invaded - Dawn

Triumph of the Shill - The political theory of Trumpism - n+1

Is This How The Trump Administration Might Save Coal? - NPR

Say Goodbye to the China Bid The flow of Chinese money into assets around the world is coming to an end - Wall Street Journal

Paris Mayor Plans To Eliminate All Non-Electric Cars By 2030 - NPR

Why the Harvey Weinstein story became such a major news event - Think Progress

Miss Russia Thanks Putin for Lack of Weinstein-Style Harassment in Russia - The Moscow Times

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Peta Credlin, the Grace Jones of Australian politics, turns on Laura Jayes for talking "piss and wind"

Grace Jones knows how to deal with lesser people
And so does Peta Credlin as she gives a verdict on her Sky News colleague Laura Jayes

Eminem calls out President Trump in today's political singalong plus other news and views

Eminem wasn’t just calling out President Trump. He was talking to his fans - Think Progress
Tuesday night during the BET Hip Hop Awards, Eminem essentially initiated a rap battle with President Trump. He also, as he put it, “drew a line in the sand” for anyone who loves his music: You can’t be a Trump supporter and an Eminem fan.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump - and other news and views for the day

Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump - Brookings Institution
The public record contains substantial evidence that President Trump attempted to impede the investigations of Michael Flynn and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including by firing FBI Director James Comey.
The fact that the president has lawful authority to take a particular course of action does not immunize him if he takes that action with the unlawful intent of obstructing a proceeding for an improper purpose. 
While the matter is not free from doubt, it is our view that neither the Constitution nor any other federal law grants the president immunity from prosecution. 
How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics - New York Times

Wicked gambling firms exploit the weakest - The Times, London

Has Tony Abbott jumped the goat? Singalong politically to appease the volcano gods - Politicalowl

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Has Tony Abbott jumped the goat? Singalong politically to appease the volcano gods

Well that's a story worth singing along with.

Fancy some other political singalongs? Click HERE

Socialism is back and would Kim Jong-un rather be obliterated then give in? News and views links from the Owl

Socialism with a spine: the only 21st century alternative - John Quiggin in The Guardian
Socialism is back, much to the chagrin of those who declared it dead and buried at the “end of history” in the 1990s. ... The soft neoliberalism represented by Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Paul Keating has exhausted its appeal, and not just in the English-speaking world. Throughout Europe, new movements of the left have emerged to challenge or displace social democratic parties discredited by the austerity politics of the last decade. ... The idea of a socialist economy with unconditional access to basic incomes and greatly expanded provision of free services might seem utopian. But in the aftermath of neoliberal failure, utopian vision is what is needed. To re-engage people with democratic politics, we need to move beyond culture wars and arguments over marginal adjustments to tax rates and budget allocations, necessary as these may be in the short term.

The Madness of Donald Trump - The pressures of the presidency have pushed Trump to the edge, but is he crazy enough to be removed from office? - Rolling Stone

The North Korean Cult - Project Syndicate
It is possible that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, and perhaps even some subjects of his despotic rule, would rather be obliterated than give in. It would not be the first time that a quasi-religious movement turned suicidal.
Almost 40% of LDP candidates back U.S. military action against North Korea, survey finds - Japan Times

Monday, 9 October 2017

The political logic of bickering and other news and views for the day

Polarize and Conquer - The New York Times
Bickering with people who are in the news has a political logic: It deepens the country’s polarization ... The main objective of hating is to incense your critics so that they hate you back even more. Insults tend to provoke more extreme postures.
Cash, T-Shirts and Gallons of Booze: How Liberian Candidates Woo Voters - The New York Times

Why the NBN is a fiscal debacle - The Australian

Denmark jumps on 'burqa ban' bandwagon - Deutsche Wells

Why Bitcoin’s Bubble Matters - If there’s a price crash in the cryptocurrency, it could hit the tech sector—and more - Wall Street Journal

The mainstreaming of right-wing extremism - Washington Post

Tory nuts cause mayhem as Prime Minister's leadership is dead - London Daily Mirror

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The naughty Murdoch News Group and links to other news and views for today

Murdoch’s News Group admits benefiting from hacking of army officer's emails - The Guardian

This is a dramatic new revelation in the saga of criminality in Murdoch’s media empire - Labour Press
Tom Watson, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport,commenting on News Group’s admission of computer hacking, said:
“This is a dramatic new revelation in the saga of criminality in Murdoch’s media empire. Despite being asked about the use of private detectives by the News of the World at a parliamentary committee in 2011 it’s taken a five year civil case for the company to admit to further illegal behaviour.

“We can now add computer hacking to the long list of criminal activities undertaken by Murdoch’s operatives. We know from experience of phone hacking that there won’t just be a single victim. So my question to Rupert Murdoch and his subordinates is this: Who else was hacked?
Trump explains why he’s different than Harvey Weinstein - Think Progress

How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided a Criminal Indictment - The New Yorker

How Russia’s Facebook ads inflamed America’s social tensions - Think Progress
Fake Russian accounts didn't just push Trump or batter Clinton — they preyed on deeply-rooted cultural tensions between Americans
Inside North Korea, and Feeling the Drums of War - Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

As U.S. Retreats From World Organizations, China Steps in to Fill the Void - Foreign Policy
Beijing is trying to repurpose abandoned international agencies like UNESCO to serve its strategic interests — such as controlling the internet.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Melbourne the innovator - a report from the Brookings Institution and other news and views

Innovation districts down under: A postcard from Melbourne, Australia - Brookings Institution
I recently returned from a fascinating week-long visit to Melbourne, Australia, where I spent time with key representatives from the state of Victoria, the University of Melbourne, the city of Melbourne, and other key stakeholders to learn how Melbourne is advancing innovation districts. Frankly, I was surprised by the level of work underway: there are multiple innovation districts (or innovation precincts, as they are often called there) in various phases of development, which cumulatively has the potential to create a broader innovation ecosystem—or innovation spine—across the city.
In short, Melbourne is a city to watch. ...
Yet the biggest takeaway from Melbourne was their ambition to develop innovation precincts in multiple areas across the city. ...
To conclude, while Melbourne is at the initial stages of developing a cluster innovation districts, their work-in-progress offers a glimpse of what could be new models of innovation-led development for other to learn from—from the “superfloor” level to the “innovation spine.” We look forward to learning more from Melbourne in the months and years to come.
Kezelman saga timely reminder for McClennan royal commission - Gerard Henderson in The Australian

Speaking Freely, Retiring Sen. Corker Warns GOP He Could Oppose Tax Plan - NPT

Justice Department issues new ‘religious freedom’ memo that invites anti-LGBTQ discrimination - Think Progress

Swedish model gets rape threats after ad shows her unshaved legs The Guardian

A radical feast: why we need Michelin’s culinary elitism - Financial Times

A Former ICC Chief's Dubious Links Luis Moreno Ocampo hunted the world's worst war criminals and brought them to trial at the International Criminal Court. But internal documents show that he allowed himself to be exploited by a Libyan to protect him from investigation and that he took money from the billionaire. - Spiegel

How Tillerson Is Trying to Save the Iran Deal From His Boss - New York

What Jagmeet Singh’s historic NDP leadership win means for Canada - The Conversation

Our Time Has Come - How India is Making Its Place in the World - Council of Foreign Relations

Trump supporters eager to ‘drain the swamp’ help fill Republican Party coffers - Washington Post

How to remove a Conservative leader - New Statesman

Friday, 6 October 2017

Of gherkins, abortions and granola - some news and views suggestions for today

Dutch Regulator Warns Banks and Insurers to Factor in Climate Change - Bloomberg

Can white supremacy be legislated under Trump? - Brookings

The price of paid news may not stay high - Financial Times - Google could soon bundle information like a cable television company

The Gherkin Story: For Explaining Exchange Rate Risk - Conversable Economist

Is it now okay to discriminate against people who oppose abortion? Globe and Mail

Indonesia strengthens navy, air force in face of China expansion - Nikkei Asian Review

FDA Says 'Love' Isn't An Ingredient In Granola NPR

Solving the Korean crisis with game theory - Roger Myerson

How experts can regain our trust - ‘They can learn from Trump, who communicates in stories and images rather than numbers and jargon’ - Financial Times

James Murdoch faces potential investor backlash at Sky AGM - Shareholder activist groups push for vote against his re-election as chairman - Financial Times

Is Nonviolence—or Fighting Back—the Answer to Far-Right Thuggery? As Trump incites violence, the left needs a counter-strategy. - The Nation

Nick Xenophon's had rambling fever all along - a political singalong for today

Thursday, 5 October 2017

When it comes to gender equality Australia is in the middle of the OECD pack

A new OECD report "The pursuit of gender equality - An uphill battle" shows Australia is a mid-range performer among OECD countries across most gender equality outcomes. A comparison of countries shows young women in Australia have made significant gains in educational attainment, and now make up 58.7% of all graduates from undergraduate degree programmes – a share slightly above the OECD average. Despite this strong educational performance, women are less likely than men to engage in paid work and continue to earn less. The median full-time working woman in Australia earns 87 cents to every man's dollar, relative to an OECD average of 85.7 cents to the dollar.

The report finds that many factors contribute to the gender wage gap, including women's higher likelihood of interrupting their careers for childrearing and employer discrimination. Another key contributor to the wage gap is job segregation by gender. Although Australian women are more likely than men to go to university, women are much less likely to study (and later work in) the lucrative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Related to this, there is also highly gendered segregation in job sector: only 8.7% of women in Australia work in industry, compared to 30.9% of men. Across countries, including Australia, women are much more highly concentrated in service jobs, which tend to pay less than more technical roles.

In summarising that Gender equality in Australia has room for improvement the report concludes:
Achieving gender equality in Australia will require a multifaceted approach. Women's disproportionate responsibility to provide unpaid caregiving presents a major barrier to women's labour force advancement across sectors, and Australia must recommit to gender equality in caregiving and promoting both parents' labour force participation. This requires strengthening policies that make it easier for both mothers and fathers to work, including longer paid parental leave, good-quality childcare, tax incentives, and out-of-school hours care. Australia has initiated some novel campaigns to break down gender stereotypes, but more work is needed. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Belief in heaven and hell, angels and demons - religion is not dead in Australia yet

A troubling sign for those "It's alright to vote No" people in this week's Essential Poll. While 53% of people who attend church at least once a month are against same sex marriage, those who never attend are 71% in favour. And the never-goers are a growing group. According to the 2016 official Australian Bureau of Statistics Census there are now more people saying they have no religion than there are Catholics - 30% no religion to 23% Catholics and 52% for Christians overall. Sometimes Christian attenders split 58% saying allow same sex marriage to 34% saying no.

When it comes to religion in Australia things have changed considerably over the last 50 years. Back in 1966 only 0.8% of people answered the Census question that they had no religion. And even among the Christian faithful the Essential poll suggests that all is not as it once was. Asked "How much trust do you have in the following institutions and organisations?", respondents had most trust in the Federal police (71%), State police (67%), the High Court (61%), the ABC (52%) and the Reserve Bank (49%). They had least trust in political parties (17%), business groups (27%), trade unions (27%) and religious organisations (28%).

Still, the pollsters tell us that religion has not lost all its influence. Consider these Essential findings:

A bold new way for Australia's High Court chief and other news and views of the day

Robert French first joined the High Court as Chief Justice. His successor, Susan Kiefel, assumes the office after having spent the best part of a decade already on the Court. Her record shows her to be, like French, a judge who is consistently in the majority. ... Kiefel assumes the office of Chief Justice at a time when she has consistently achieved an extraordinarily low rate of dissent on par with that of the former Chief Justice. There is no doubt that she is a key part of the majority that almost always determines the outcome of matters before the Court. In remarks delivered early in her new position, the new Chief Justice made clear her commitment to the continuance of the ‘collegiate approach’ to judicial decision-making that was so evident on the High Court under her predecessor. ... In the case of Kiefel, she became Chief Justice having already driven a significant change of direction on the Court. Arguably, her most important intellectual contribution to date relates to the use of proportionality in the balancing of rights and interests in constitutional contexts. It appears that her interest in and development of the subject has led the Court to embark upon a major reassessment of its use in the context of the implied freedom of political communication. McCloy v New South Wales, 68 a joint judgment comprising French CJ, Kiefel, Bell and Keane JJ, opens by setting down an elaborate reformulation of the proportionality test, heavily influenced by German jurisprudence. This structured approach represents a bold, new method of addressing such questions in Australian law, and may have a wider impact on how the Court balances rights and interests in other contexts 
Oprah is dropping hints again she might run for president - Macleans

Monday, 2 October 2017

Julie Bishop's critics don't understand - "Girls just want to have fun" so join our political singalong

The critics on the web are being quite harsh on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Her defence for attending the AFL grand final at taxpayer expense - that it is an international event - has not convinced the great unwashed. The Owl thinks it is all very unfair. Cyndi Lauper explains all.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Reports that Alan Jones to sing "Love Changes Everything" at NRL grand final

The National Rugby League has apparently been so delighted with the response to its decision to have Mickelmore sing Same Love before Sunday's grand final that radio shock jock Alan Jones might be approached to fill the half time entertainment spot with this rendition of Love Changes Everything:

NRL officials believe that Jones would bring political balance to the proceedings and blunt the criticism being levelled by Tony Abbott and others that rugby league has taken sides on the marriage equality question.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Tony Abbott's on the warpath - Send in the army is his cry as we singalong

Tony Abbott's on the war path. Send in the army is his cry according to this report on the website
TONY Abbott has been ordered by senior colleagues to cool it after he seemed to suggest the Army could invade the states which don’t expand natural gas production.

The former Prime Minister has said his successor Malcolm Turnbull could invoke “defence powers”, telling Fairfax Media the Commonwealth could then take management of resources from states.
His drastic response to warnings of a possible gas shortage next year was an implied criticism of Mr Turnbull’s deal with three major gas suppliers yesterday to ensure potential exports would be used to protect the domestic market from gas scarcities.
And it was immediately laughed off by senior colleagues of Mr Abbott.
“No we’re not interested in a khaki solution,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said curtly today.
And a senior Government source said the move would be illegal.
“The Defence Powers are a wartime provision. There is no way the High Court would allow it to be used like that,” said the source.
The defence powers allow the Commonwealth to impose domestic new controls during wartime, such as rationing and price fixing.
They have never been seen as a means to control the market or other governments during peace time.

Clearly it's time for another political singalong.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Is Tony Abbott the Joker of Australian politics?

Tony Abbott and trust

Abbott's disruption is raising the question: where will it end?

File 20170920 16403 1lwa2gd

Tony Abbott has reportedly threatened to cross the floor if there is any attempt to legislate a clean energy target.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Even in today’s often bizarre political environment, Tuesday night’s encounter between Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin and Alan Jones on Sky News was surreal.

Credlin, Abbott’s former chief-of-staff, now works for Sky, where she more often than not is a sharp critic of the Turnbull government. Jones, a highly opinionated voice on 2GB who has a weekly Sky program, spruiks for the former prime minister’s return to the leadership. Abbott is running a jihad against renewables, increasing the pressure on Malcolm Turnbull as the government struggles to bring together an energy policy.

It was a cosy threesome, and the off-air chit-chat would have been gold.

Among the on-air gems was Credlin asking Abbott whether he trusted Turnbull, because “you know and I know what happened in 2009”. What they both knew, according to Credlin, was that Turnbull ordered one line to be taken in negotiations over an emissions trading scheme while “telling the partyroom something completely different”.

Credlin wondered: “Do you trust the prime minister is going to do the right thing or is he going to sign you up to a clean energy target without proper debate?”

Abbott said the important thing was that the decision would have to go through the partyroom where there are “extremely serious reservations about this clean energy target”.

Abbott has poked and prodded at Turnbull on a range of fronts for two years, steadily raising the heat in recent months.

Now his disruption has reached a new level – so much so that one wonders how it can go on without coming to a blow up.

Constantly out in the public arena, Abbott currently is upping the ante over energy policy, and campaigning hard for a No vote in the same-sex marriage postal ballot.

On the latter Turnbull, a strong Yes advocate but leading a government split on the question, is in the hands of those who chose to vote in the voluntary “survey”. On the former, he’s ultimately in the partyroom’s hands. On both issues, these are uncomfortable and risky places to be.

Abbott’s onslaught against renewables is more than just disgruntlement from a man deposed. It’s a well-honed attack. Just like the one he and others mounted against Turnbull in 2009 over carbon pricing, which triggered Turnbull’s fall as leader and Abbott’s (unexpected) ascension.

Liberals still don’t think Abbott could recapture the prime ministership. But his power to harm an embattled Turnbull is enormous.

He is working on fertile ground in the energy area. A sizeable section of the Coalition is deeply antipathetic to renewables.

The Nationals’ federal conference recently called for the renewables’ subsidies to be phased out.

Turnbull initially seemed enthusiastic about Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s clean energy target, although he always made it clear a policy based on it must include clean coal.

But he has stepped further and further towards playing up the role of coal, to the point of his face-off with AGL over its determination to close its Liddell power station.

In his comments, Abbott notes Turnbull’s greater emphasis on coal, saying – with a touch of condescension – that he thinks Turnbull has “got the message” which is to his “credit”.

But Abbott has put the bar as high as possible. It’s not just a matter of allowing coal into the clean energy target – a target mustn’t be countenanced. “It would be unconscionable – I underline that word – unconscionable for a government that was originally elected promising to abolish the carbon tax and to end Labor’s climate obsessions to go further down this renewable path.”

In that one sentence Abbott seeks to own energy policy, both past and future.

The Australian on Wednesday reported that Abbott has threatened to cross the floor if there is any attempt to legislate a clean energy target, and would likely be followed by others. He wrote in an opinion piece for the paper that “the Liberal and National backbench might need to save the government from itself”.

He is inciting the followers to constrain their leader before or, at the extreme, after the decisions on energy policy are made. Usually, the decision-making flows downward, from the prime minister and the cabinet to a backbench that is consulted but basically told what will be done.

It’s nearly impossible for Turnbull and ministers to handle the rampaging backbencher. They try to dodge and weave. “I don’t think a former prime minister is going to move to put a Labor government into power,” Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Wednesday.

It’s counterproductive for them to get into a slanging match with Abbott, not least because the policy formulation still seems to be in shifting sands and also because they don’t want to agitate an already touchy backbench.

If Turnbull and the government embrace a clen energy target the danger is that Abbott might indeed be able to foment a revolt which, depending on the outcome, could be humiliating, or a lot worse, for Turnbull.

To the extent that Turnbull is forced to gesture to the Abbott line in the decisions made, Abbott will claim the credit.

The ConversationBut the more Abbott’s anti-renewables position can get traction, the worse the policy problem for the government. Turnbull may ensure coal has some prominence in the long-term policy mix but if the government were perceived to be turning against renewables, a growing industry would be set back, causing further investment chaos.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A few words from Barrie Cassidy on the wisdom of attacking AGL

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The old boy is back and he's cross - a little song as Howard slams Turnbull

The politically correct with no sense of humour and some political news and views

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Are Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor to blame? And some other suggested political reads for the day

  • In London's Financial Times Senior Tories play blame game over general election disaster has the Australian duo of Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor on centre stage.  
  • As there are increasing calls for Australia to take in Rohingya refugees there s a cautionary snippet, again in the FT, saying that the Indian government believes Rohingya Muslims are "a potential security threat" after the emergence last year of a trained and well funded group of Rohingya militants led by Saudi-based émigrés.
  • And an election update from Russia provided by Reuters, At a Russian polling station, phantom voters cast ballots for the 'Tsar'. "At polling station no. 333 in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, Reuters reporters only counted 256 voters casting their ballots in a regional election on Sunday. People were voting across Russia in what is seen as a dress rehearsal for next year’s presidential vote. Kremlin candidates for regional parliaments and governorships performed strongly nationwide.When the official results for polling station no. 333 were declared, the turnout was first given as 1,331 before being revised up to 1,867 on Tuesday.... - with 73 percent of the votes going to United Russia, the party of President Vladimir Putin."
  • Carmakers face electric reality as combustion engine outlook dims FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European car bosses are beginning to address the realities of mass vehicle electrification, and its consequences for jobs and profit, their minds focused by government pledges to outlaw the combustion engine.
  • A note on the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry - Drug maker ducks patent law by pretending its drugs belong to Mohawk tribe
  • Trump review leans toward proposing mini-nuke - Politico reports that the Trump administration is considering proposing smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs — a move that would give military commanders more options but could also make the use of atomic arms more likely.
  • China-born New Zealand MP probed by spy agency

Michelle Grattan on the Government and AGL

Treating AGL with public contempt seems hardly the way to get the best outcome

File 20170912 19534 vz4e8d

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg accused AGL of wanting to have its cake and eat it too.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

If anyone thinks the government isn’t behaving in a extraordinary manner in its onslaught against AGL over the future of the Liddell power station, just consider what the Coalition would say if a Labor government acted like this.

It would go beserk.

After hauling in AGL chief executive Andy Vesey on Monday, the government took its roughing up of the company to new levels on Tuesday.

Malcolm Turnbull accused AGL of not knowing what alternative it has to closing Liddell, despite the company previously flagging a plan.

Barnaby Joyce suggested its reluctance to sell Liddell was a case of “shorting the market”.

Following the report from the Australian Energy Market Operator of an expected electricity shortfall over coming years, the government is pressing AGL to keep the coal-fired Liddell station going for at least five years beyond its scheduled 2022 closure, or to sell it.

At Monday’s meeting with Turnbull and ministers, Vesey said the company would come back within 90 days with an alternative plan.

Vesey did agree, obviously reluctantly, to take the government’s options to its board. But that night he told the ABC’s Lateline: “I think that we are committed to finding the best solution for the market. We believe that we can deliver that without having to consider the extension or sell the plant. And that is what we are going to work on.”

Turnbull on Tuesday said the company had not articulated an alternative so the government did not know what it was. “And frankly, I don’t think they do either, by the way. If they had a plan, they’d be able to put it on the table now.”

Yet Vesey’s post-meeting statement had noted AGL had “previously advised the market that replacement of capacity will likely be provided by a mix of load shaping and firming from gas peaking plant, demand response, pumped hydro and batteries”. The company had canvassed the plan in its August report to the ASX.

Joyce didn’t mince words when he addressed Tuesday’s Coalition partyroom meeting. “AGL’s refusal to sell Liddell shows they are shorting the market. They will probably make more money out of having one operating coal-fired power station than two,” he said. AGL also has the Bayswater power station in New South Wales, which is near Liddell (as well as Loy Yang in Victoria).

Asked later on Sky about his comment, Joyce was reluctant to be so explicit. “I could never affirm to that otherwise I’d be off to court,” he said. “What I can say is this question has not been reasonably answered: why? Why pull a power plant to pieces if there are people out there who want to buy it?” He said he knew of two entities interested in buying Liddell.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg accused the company of wanting to have its cake and eat it too – promote its exit from coal while staying in coal for decades to come. He and Joel Fitzgibbon, in whose Hunter electorate Liddell is situated, had a very public face-off in the press gallery corridor.

In Question Time, Turnbull accused Fitzgibbon and another Labor MP of being collaborators with and apologists for Vesey and AGL.

The bashing of AGL – accompanied of course by a blame game against past Labor policies for high energy prices – sounded desperate.

If the government were serious about trying to persuade AGL to sell Liddell, wouldn’t some lower-key negotiation be the better way to go?

And if AGL, which has given years of notice of the close of Liddell, believes the shortfall can effectively be dealt with by other ways, surely it is premature to be so dismissive of what it is saying?

Treating the company and its chief executive with public contempt seems hardly the way to get the best outcome.

But the government is heavily driven by a combination of policy paralysis, electoral fear, and perception of a political opportunity.

An Essential poll published on Tuesday shows it has an uphill battle in front of it to persuade voters it is on top of the energy challenge. When people were asked which party they thought would be more likely to deliver lower energy prices, 28% said a Labor government, compared with 19% who said a Coalition government, while 35% believed there would be no difference.

The government is riven by division over the path ahead for its long-term policy, with those who give coal a high priority recently gaining increasing sway, and hauling Turnbull in their direction.

Meanwhile the government is trying to escape the odium of soaring power prices. Apart from hanging them on Labor, one way is to exploit the fact that, like the banks, power companies are villains in the public mind. So the government is painting the one in its immediate sights as grasping and gouging for profits.

But there is no guarantee the approach will succeed and it could backfire. What if, as appears most likely at the moment, AGL decides to resist the thuggery and persist with its plan? The government can’t force the company to bend to its wishes. In those circumstances, it would have to hope the AGL plan was sound or find other sources of supply.

Meanwhile the messages the government is sending are likely to raise concerns in business generally. Its conduct is going beyond its demonstrated willingness, on a range of fronts, to intervene in a very active way on energy.

The ConversationIt is unedifying bullying, in which some might even see echoes of Malcolm Turnbull’s former corporate days.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.