If Abbott and the Coalition Win The Election, We’ll Need to March in the Streets

My minimal following of the election campaign – which occurs largely by accident since I turned off the radio and stopped visiting the news websites – suggests that a certain Tony Abbott might well become prime minister in a few weeks.

I can’t tell you how unhappy this makes me. The level of bullshit that man, in cooperation with the news limited papers, has gotten away with is astonishing. Claiming hat the Australian economy is in dire straits, when in fact it is the envy of the world. That we are inundated with “illegal” boat people, when the numbers are actually quite small, and nothing compared to the 1.5 million refugees who have fled Syrian into neighbouring countries in just the last two years. That the country has unsustainable debt when in fact we have one of the lowest government debt to GDP ratios of any country in the world.

I could go on, but I begin to froth with rage, and wonder out loud how it is this can perpetuated. Facts, it seems, have become completely irrelevant.

If that arch conservative and his creepy cronies and advisers get the keys to the government, here are some predictions about what we will be in for. Hopefully, at best, they will prove an incompetent and incapable administration that tries and fails to implement any of their terrible policy ideas. It would not surprise me if Abbott barely lasts two years as prime minister before his blundering causes his party to knife him. Or one of several impending court actions makes his position “untenable” as they say. This, people is the best case scenario.

At worst, well, I’ll meet you on the streets to protest the following:

The return of Work Choices, and other attacks on workers rights, pay, conditions. And indeed organised labour.

Climate Change, which apparently doesn’t exist. Tell that to the polar bears.

The East West Link. A dumber piece of infrastructure would be hard to imagine. It’ll cost $1 million per metre, and even the toll road operators don’t want anything to do with it.

Abortion and Women’s Rights in general. Mr Abbott has been known to say that abortion is “the easy way out”. Trust me, he’ll be trying to legislate about women’s reproductive rights.

Gay and Lesbian Rights. You filthy queers will be feeling god’s wrath.

Who knows, he’s even made noises about change the laws around divorce, like that’s a battle that wasn’t fought and won some 30 years ago. We can also probably look forward to a wholesale importation of the War on Women currently taking place in the USA.

If you listen carefully you can hear the aging white men in their suits salivating at the prospect of telling us all what to do, building some fancy new roads to make a buck or two, and getting put all them vagina owners in their place.

In the words of Le Tigre “Get off the internet, I’ll see you in the streets.”

This Election Makes My Skin Crawl

I’ve been trying to start this entry ever since I heard the election had finally been called. But… I’ve been so consumed with apoplectic rage, I haven’t been able to construct a sentence.

Regular readers will know I am in fact a card carrying member of the Australian Labor Party. This is largely meaningless until there’s an election and they need bodies to hand out fliers or scrutineer, or very very occasionally when there’s a preselection for a seat. In my nearly twenty years of membership, I’ve voted in maybe two, at most three preselections, always for the losing candidate.

I watched the almost crushingly inevitable dumping of Julia Gillard. I hate reading opinion polls, but after that they became the only thing about federal politics I watched intently. “This had better bloody work, you back-stabbing bastards” I thought, this had better win this government another term or you look even more like bloody-minded fools.

Which is not to say I support this federal government wholeheartedly. There is a list of grand things they’ve done, the NBN for example, but they’ve besmirched themselves or worse with their “solution” to the “illegal” boat “problem”, and then gutting foreign aid to pay for it. Which will, as has been pointed out, kill people – you stop funding clean water programs in the third world, you condemn some of the locals to death. And then taking a huge chunk out of university funding. Because we after all are just a country that makes money by digging stuff up. A banana republic if you will.

I have no special liking for Kevin Rudd. He is an ego-maniacal, power hungry, amoral career political arsehole. However, the other ego-maniacal, power hungry, amoral career politician leading the other party, Tony Abbott, is noticeably worse. Rudd at least isn’t a misogynist – his highly successful millionaire wife would kick him out the door if he was. Rudd at least doesn’t plan to use his prime ministership to impose a narrow Catholic world view on the nation. Rudd at least pretends to be socially progressive, when it suits him.

I know we don’t just vote for the prime minister. Which gives me some hope given the good ministers in the ALP (although my favourite, Lindsay Tanner, is long departed). And scares the hell out of me when it comes to the Liberals. The shadow ministry includes such charming and rational individuals as Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop and Barnaby Joyce. The only member of the liberals I would piss on if he was on fire is Malcolm Turnbull, and only because he used to head the republican movement. Which is not to say the ALP isn’t full of deadwood, Darren Cheeseman being a fine example.

So where does this leave me? I have to chose the lesser of the two evils. In fact it’s not a choice for me – I would never ever in a million years think of voting for the Liberal party. There’s that skin crawling sensation again…

Why, I hear you ask, don’t I vote for the Greens? Simply because the Greens will never be in a position to form government, even in coalition. They will never be anything other than a protest party which might, at best, hold the balance of power like the Democrats once did. The Greens can have all sorts of wonderful progressive policies because they will never have to make them work in practice. They can’t introduce legislation and have it enacted, they can’t follow through on their plans, at best they will be able to point out the more obscene consequences of the legislation that passes through the parliament.

And it hurts me to say this about that party. I broadly support their social justice and environmental ideas. Just today I visited an awesome wind farm in Gippsland, and wished the whole landscape was covered with windmills. But at best they might win a few lower house seats, the new members can then sit with Adam Bandt and watch the governing of the nation happening without them.

It’s more than just voting for me, I could help even in small way with the election campaign for the party I am a member of. But… I live in the federal seat of Batman, where I got to watch not one but two feisty local women, one of them a personal friend of mine, passed over for a faceless man. There’s that skin crawling sensation yet again. If David Feeney’s campaign wants my help, I’m going to tell them to fuck off – in those exact words. I could pick another nearby seat to help out in, but the nearest marginal to me is Melbourne, which would mean campaigning against the greens – which might well cause my wife to leave me!

I have a new baby. I could spend my spare time helping out an election campaign for a party that is corrupt and hurts my brain, or I could stay at home playing with my six month old son. Whatever I do, I’m going to be seething with impotent rage, confined to ranting here and on twitter.

This is a grotesque state of affairs we find ourselves in. When our choices are between a party that makes pretenses at social progressiveness, when in fact they’re not capable to standing up to that undercurrent of racism that John Howard discovered and exploited, and then passed on to Tony Abbott. When we people who really care about things like unions, wages, the environment and education have to vote for a party which happily sends desperate people to one of the worst countries in the world. And happily cut funding to the tertiary sector when they claim to be a “smart” party. When the opposition, which is supposed to present themselves as a credible alternative, can do nothing but rage pathetically about the same handful of meaningless issues, because this plays well to all the press that Rupert Murdoch owns. When our choices for prime minister are two middle aged white men, one of whom was dumped by his party for being an autocratic tyrant, but who was then restored when it turned out the country liked him better than that upstart red head. And on the other hand we have a shallow, incompetent maniac who has been told by God that he will be prime minister, and will let nothing get in his way… These are the charming people we the citizens of this lucky country have to chose between. Enjoy.

For the record, I really like Julia Gillard

What can be said about the events of the last few weeks?

Our good old friends, the “faceless men”, have been at it again. Looking down the barrel of an electoral tsunami, a pioneering woman was dumped from the top job in the land.

I was planning to write a long rant about misogyny, but that topic has finally come to everyone’s attention and been done to death. Now she is not longer prime minister, of course it becomes apparent to everyone that Julia Gillard was subjected appalling treatment by the press, the parliament, the magazines, everyone. Now it can be revealed, like this was some huge secret. Here’s a tip people, it was the elephant in the room all along. A big ugly elephant with the voice of some shock jock frothing at the mouth about a woman who wasn’t chained to the sink.

Rant mode off.

For the record, history will judge Julia as a good prime minister. I’m getting in early – I really liked her. She is tough as nails, to have endured the tough job of running a minority government whilst being subjected to the aforementioned misogynist shitstorm. By some measures, for example, the amount of legislation passed, hers was the most productive Australian government ever. And progressive legislation it was, for the most part. Aside from the weeping sore of “illegal” boat arrivals and the bizarre and degrading solution they came up with.

If I turn my cognitive dissonance up to eleven and concentrate, I find much to approve of. Apologising to the victims of forced adoptions. The National Disability Insurance Scheme. Imposing a carbon price, getting us a seat on the UN security council, legislation protecting whistle blowers, the list is long.

Gillard was amazing in parliament. She gave as good as she got to the opposition, and the vile members thereof. I loved listening to her during question time, she was fiery, she was pointed, she fired barbs. And I will always admire this speech, as much for the way it was delivered as it content:

“Oh he’s looking at his watch because a woman has been talking for too long.”

I never understood why she was held in such low esteem. The government lost its way now and then, and they did a terrible job of communicating what they had achieved. To bolderize a famous quote, legislation must not only be enacted, it must be seen to be enacted.

I know that my circle of friends – largely inner city lefties – are not a representative sample. And I consume a very selective set of media, I never ever watch the commercial television news, I listen only to News Radio on the AM band, who at least attempt to be a raw source. And I read only certain news web sites. So in some ways I’m like the inverse Fox news watcher, my world view is shaped by the media I consume and I chose that very carefully to… support my world view.

So I haven’t been witness to how Gillard was portrayed by Rupert Murdoch’s “news” outlets, or the kind of TV news that only shows a story if they’ve got good vision. Hence my puzzlement at the hatred she received.

She is a loss to the Australian parliament. I hope she finds something worthy to do in public life. I’m glad we have an ex-prime minister who is moving back to her rather utilitarian brick house in Altona. The ALP loves its old stalwarts – witness the way Bob Hawke is wheeled out for big occasions – I hope she joins that clan, like Gough and Keating, to be honoured by the party she once led.

Good luck, Julia.

The Death of a once great newspaper – Vale The Age

When I was growing up, there were three daily papers in my home town of Melbourne. The Herald, an evening broadsheet of conservative persuasion, the Sun “news pictorial” – which means they won’t publish a story unless there’s picture. And The Age. Many years before there had been another daily, which delighted in the name The Argus, but it was closed by Rupert Murdoch’s dad back in 1957.

The Herald was merged with the Sun in 1990, although it was more of closure. Nothing much of it was left in the Herald-Sun, it’s bylines disappeared and it’s people moved on.

Which left the Age as the only serious paper in this town. I was raised on it, that and the ABC where the media in our house. It was a fat paper, I remember Saturday editions in the early nineties that weighed about a kilo and had four or five sections of classifieds.

The Age presents itself as a relatively unbiased news source, not inclined to tow anyone’s line, and having a declaration of editorial independence for all including it’s board members. It is what they used to call a . It wasn’t owned by any moguls, although several tried. Most recently a certain mining billionaire has bought a stake.

But as we know, times have changed for newspapers. The Age was one of the first online, starting a website in 1996, which in Internet ages was only just after dinosaurs walked the earth. It still took a long time for the internet to start really killing papers, but Fairfax, the publishers of The Age, responded very late indeed.

As circulation dropped and dropped, The Age lost news pages, lost most of its classified pages, and lost readers. The management responded poorly, losing chances to buy in or create lucrative online sites to help pay the bills.

The crisis started really biting in the last few years. But rather than, say, focusing on being a quality journal, The Age retrenched many reporters, outsourced its sub-editing, and seemed to indulge in an ongoing series of restructures. There would be an overall editor for The Age and its sister paper in Sydney, the Sydney Morning Herald, who both also had editors. Then there would be editors for sections across both papers, and separate editor again for the Sunday papers. And of course editors for the website etc. etc. Then there’d be another structure, and more people would come and go. The dance would go on, indeed still goes on.

Finally early in 2013, some big changes – the paper went to a tabloid format, so people could read it on the train. I have yet to see anyone doing so, they’ve stayed diligently attached to their devices. Now this once paper of record looks like a slightly fatter local paper.

But what of the quality of the stories? Here lies the problem. Of late they have looked like utter beat ups. And stories with misleading headlines but little or no actual content. Then stories that look like they’ve been written up from a press release by a work experience kid. The multimedia section of the website features content dredged up from somewhere – decade-old documentaries and the like. And the only updates on their site during the day seem to be run of the mill crime stories plucked from police press releases, and celebrity gossip.

But the low point, the point that has made me decide never to read the paper again, online or on actual paper, was reached this week. First there was an opinion piece entitled Abbott, the thinking person’s prime minister. This piece of inaccurate drivel turned out to have been written by a former Liberal party staffer, and contained a number of barefaced lies.

The nadir however was the front of Saturday’s paper. I’m not even going to do the “story” the honor of linking to it. Suffice to say that a major Australian newspaper, a paper of record, an unbiased reporter of facts, demanded that the Australian Prime Minister stand down for the good of the country. I can’t tell you how livid this made me – and not just me. It’s bad enough that the mainstream media have had only one story about this federal government, focusing on leadership disputes rather than, say, critiquing the policies of the government or the utter lack of policies of the opposition. No, this paper had the gall to say that this leadership issue was clouding debate on policy when they themselves have been feeding the leadership debate because they seem incapable of finding another angle to report out of Canberra.

So as of now I refuse to read The Age again. This leaves me with few options for news. The Herald-Sun doesn’t report news, it reports what Rupert Murdoch is thinking. There are not other daily papers here. The Guardian’s Australian site which recently launched is proving to be well written and unbiased. And then there’s tiny little Crikey, who have some first-rate writers and a well honed bullshit filter.

Vale The Age. I knew you well. You brought this upon yourselves. I leave you to the dwindling, aging population of people who still read day old news printed on dead tree.