Infighting on the right in Australia

June 4th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Age reports:

Demented? Unhinged?

Call it definition of character.

Malcolm Turnbull, a barrister by trade and chairman of the board by inclination, chooses his words and his adversaries for maximum effect.

And so, when he lined up neo-conservative commentator Andrew Bolt for a free character assessment, he was addressing not simply the bothersome Bolt, but the jury and the shareholders of his current organisation, which happens to be the Liberal Party.

The Liberal Party, of course, isn’t exactly Turnbull’s party at present. It’s Tony Abbott’s party, the same Tony Abbott who stripped the chairman’s title from Turnbull a few years ago by one vote and then, glory be, took the whole show to government.

So what has happened?

Andrew Bolt had the temerity at the weekend to get Abbott on his TV show and ask him if he thought Turnbull had designs on the prime ministership.

Well, duh.

Bolt suggested Turnbull was trying to do some undermining by having dinner with Clive Palmer, a man Abbott can’t stand but whose little party and fellow travellers will control the Senate balance of power next month.

It’s not immediately obvious how such a dinner might lever Turnbull to the prime ministership, nor how this might have been a secret meeting, given it was at a popular restaurant. Clive likes to eat, and the restaurant was a few hundred centimetres from Turnbull’s luxury Canberra pad, which might have been a better rendezvous for a secret meeting.

Bolt isn’t a man who gives up easily. Next he was blogging about how Turnbull had spoken at the launch of a Parliamentary Friends of the ABC, and how awful this was, given that the ABC was no friend of the Abbott government.

Well, duh. Again. Turnbull is Communications Minister. The ABC is the national broadcaster.

I think the author is being somewhat silly. The Freinds of the ABC is a lobby group that attacks the Coalition for its funding cuts of the ABC. Turnbull speaking to them is a very big thing.

It is clear Turnbull is positioning to take over – which is very different to launching a coup. A coup would fail as he has little caucus support. But I am far from convinced Abbott will make it to the election, unless his political management improves.

Throwing out a policy that worked

June 27th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This graphic is from Andrew Bolt. It shows that the Howard Govt policy on deterring boat people was a stunning success, and the Labor Government’s changes entirely coincide with a massive explosion in boat people numbers. So when they drown at sea, it is because the previous policy of deterrence was dispensed with.

A Katter amongst the pigeons

March 13th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Guest Post by Peter Freedman:

It had to happen. Sooner or later Bob Katter would do something absolutely tasteless, totally without any merit of any kind, to try to win votes in the Queensland State election.

Katter is a sort of Australian Winston Peters. He has been in politics for yonks and recently formed his own party. He called it the Australia Party, then decided a more humble The Katter Party sounded better and tried to delay the entire election while the change was made. He lost that round.

Now he has come up with this ad:

For those who can’t get to the link, the ad about is the attitude of opponent, Liberal leader Campbell Newman, over gay marriage.  It repeats the same clip of Newman saying he supports gay marriage, interspersed with a pixelated pic of two apparently naked men being friendly, but not THAT friendly.

The ad asks: “Is a vote for Campbell Newman a vote for gay marriage?” The answer to that incredibly complex question will come later.

On the surface it is just a grubby tasteless ad, the sort that has become a part of modern politics. Sigh at the drop in standards and move on.

Yet this ad has caused a huge kerfuffle in Australia! You would think The Governor General had been snapped performing oral sex on the Prime Minister, while the entire Australia cricket team stood admiringly waiting their turn.

Yes, this is a strange country. The GG, Quentin Bryce, is actually a female.  Ask that question at your next trivia night.

But the reaction to this ad is probably the strangest I have seen since arriving in Australia. Everyone is talking about it. Still worse I can’t find anyone who is defending it, except Bob K himself of course. And me.

The ad, while perhaps disgusting and offensive to some, is true. Newman DOES support gay marriage. The pic of the two men is not indecent, the pixels cover their chests, FFS, and the shot stops well before the dangly bits.

Isn’t this ad just another example of free speech?

Not if you believe last night’s Q and A on the ABC.  There were five people on the panel, an Aboriginal leader, a bright young Labor Cabinet minister, an elderly weather beaten farming leader, a cocky youthful feminist writer and a Liberal MP who wants to be the party leader but dare not say so. A more diverse mob would be hard to find.

Yet they all agreed. Katter’s ad should be banned. It demonized gay people, it was homophobic and deeply objectionable. Throw it on the fire, I say!

But wait, there’s more. Australia’s third most rightwing columnist, Andrew Bolt, the same gentleman so adored by Australia’s fourth most rightwing columnist, Janet Albrechtsen, wants the ad banned as well. Or so the feminist writer said.

Bolt’s blog is here:

Nowhere that I can find does he call for a ban. But he clearly didn’t like the advertisement, terms like “a vile ad, openly and shamelessly appealing to homophobia” tend to give that impression.

Unfortunately for his credibility, Bolt has been openly and shamelessly appealing to the worst of human nature for years.  This man has been openly and shamelessly in and out of court so often there’s talk of providing a revolving door marked “Andrew Bolt Entrance” on one side and “Andrew Bolt Exit” on the other.

Bolt is a “Stolen Generation” denier. Despite all the historical documentation he continues to claim that large numbers of black kids weren’t snatched from their families to be placed with white families. He once asked a professor to provide “just 10 names” of stolen kids.  When the prof produced four pages of names, Bolt still remained unconvinced.

Then he defamed a magistrate, claiming she had hugged two drug traffickers as she set them free.  The magistrate said she shook their hands to congratulate them for completing a rehab programme and a jury believed her. Bolt got it wrong because he couldn’t be bothered contacting the magistrate for her side of the story, one of the first things I learned when I became a journalist. It is called “balance” or “getting both sides”.

That little mishap cost Bolt, or his employers, $246,000 in damages.

Then in late 2010, Bolt was sued by seven people for a series of columns claiming white people in Australia sometimes pretend to be black for political or career advancement. Again he was found to have broken the law. Fortunately for his employers the seven only wanted their names cleared and sought no money .

Every time he is criticized Bolt falls back on his rights  of free speech.  But isn’t Bob Katter’s ad free speech? Apparently not.

I am of Jewish ancestry. If a Nazi in full uniform marched up and down a public spot yelling  “Sieg Heil” I wouldn’t stop and offer him some matzo ball soup.  But I would believe he had a right to make a dick  of himself, whether  beschnittener or unbeschnittener. It’s called free speech.

“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend with my life your right to say it” – Though these words are regularly attributed to Voltaire, they were first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906).

 “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also”  Henrich Heine,99 years before the Nazis came to power.

 Think about it.

For the record I do not agree with what Peter has said on Andrew Bolt.  Nowhere has Bolt said the ad should be banned (as noted) so there is no issue of consistency. I would have thought Peter would welcome the leading conservative commentator in Australia saying “But to oppose civil unions is just bloody-minded interference in the lives of others”.

There is also another side of the story on the issues cited about Bolt. For example the debate about the stolen generation wasn’t whether or not lots of Aboriginal children were not put into white families. It was about how many were taken without the consent of a parent, and where there was no abuse – which is far fewer number.

Bits and Bytes

August 14th, 2008 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Lots to cover in brief. First the Australian political party leader who told off his 17 year old daughter on Facebook, exposing her drunken party photos to the world! Also wonderful is the conversation between two of Alexander Downer’s children on Facebook about why he was so pompous in a photo 🙂

Bernard Hickey complains (as I often have done) that we are paying $79 million into TVNZ6 and TVNZ7 yet they won’t make them available on Sky TV. He quotes former TVNZ Head of News Paul Norris in support – they have a reponsibility to make them widely available and could extend them with a flick of a switch to 700,000 households overnight.

Andrew Bolt has a fascinating exchange with an academic over the “stolen generation”. While there certainly is much in Australia’s past that was deplorable (as in NZ), it is apparent that certain portions of it such as the “stolen generation” have been over-hyped. He cites the example of one Aboriginal leader who claimed to be part of the “stolen” generation who was “taken from my family” but in fact was put up for adoption by her father who could not cope with five children.

Lindsay Perigo writes a moving account of his last face to face meal with Anna Woolf, who is dying of brain cancer. Even just reading his account makes the eyes water – I can’t imagine how hard it is for those who are close to Anna, let alone Anna herself.

The Telegraph points out that if Michael Phelps was a country, he would be coming 5th on the Olympic medal table – ahead of Italy, Russia, Australian and Great Britain.

Frog Blog joins Nick Smith on wondering why DOC is spending so much money on a new corporate brand, when it has just laid off 60 workers to save money.

Liberty Scott exposes Sue Kedgley’s scaremongering over cellphone towers. Good God, this debate was settled over a decade ago in terms of science. I’d be more inclined to take Sue’s campaign against the towers seriously if she’d give up her cellphone.

Lindsay Mitchell covers the launch of a second Maori based party. The Hapu Party is led by David Rankin, and three policies to date:

  1. To have Maori eligible for the pension at age 56, because of the lower life-expectancy of Maori
  2. To introduce a flat rate 18% personal tax and GST rate.
  3. To immediately allocate all treaty settlement money directly to hapu and marae

They have me with policy No 2. Policy No 3 is between Iwi and Hapu to resolve in my opinion, and Policy No 1 has no chance. Worryingly for the Maori Party, Rankin also talks of financial irregularities with a Maori Party MP and a SFO complaint.

The Rudd Government

June 14th, 2008 at 4:12 pm by David Farrar

I have had a fairly benign to positive view of Kevin Rudd as Australian Labour under his leadership seem so much more moderate than NZ Labour. And he cut taxes in his first budget – unlike Helen who raised them, and didn’t cut them until budget No 9.

I was intrigued to listen to Andrew Bolt, talk at length on Kevin Rudd a few months ago, Bolt, was dismissed by a few people here as ill informed because he is a conservative commentator. But what I found interesting is that his criticisms were not that Rudd is left wing, but that Rudd is inclined to ill thought out populist ideas which annoy his colleagues and that he is ill disciplined.

I have to say the more time goes on, the more I regard Mr Bolt as having been very insightful with regards to Rudd. I’m not saying the Rudd Government is pursuing bad policies (overall quite good), and the Liberal Party leadership is near unelectable, so I still regard Rudd as the best choice (until Turnbull steps up anyway). But Rudd’s proposed EU style Asia-Pacific Union seems to be exactly what Bolt was speaking about.

There has been considerable comment in NZ that Rudd didn’t even consult New Zealand over his proposal, which is just plain stupid. Helen Clark has fairly astutely fired a subtle barb back without it coming directly from her lips, as Fran O’Sullivan notes.

Audrey Young also blogs on the issue, and quotes Greg Sheridan:

Sheridan has written an excoriating column this week against Kevin Rudd’s recent forays into foreign policy – after just six months in office. Rudd is just completing a visit to Japan.
It is a column with which Clark may have some sympathy.

”KEVIN Rudd is in danger of turning what should be his greatest strength into a serious weakness,” writes Sheridan.

”I refer to his weird and increasingly ratty habit of announcing foreign policy initiatives of soaring ambition and utterly amorphous content on the run, half baked, with no detail and no credible prospect of success.

”In the past week alone we’ve had Rudd threaten to “take the blowtorch” to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to produce more oil and lower prices, nominate [former diplomat] Dick Woolcott to reform Asian security and trade structures, and now appoint Gareth Evans to head a commission to end nuclear proliferation and secure nuclear disarmament.

”If you announce twice a week that you’re going to save the world and you manifestly lack the means to give the slightest effect to your pronouncements, the world soon loses interest. The chief casualty is your credibility.”

The test for Rudd will be how well he learns from his mistakes.

One of Rudd’s Ministers is Craig Emerson, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last year at CIS’s Consilium conference. He is now the Small Business Minister (a portfolio we could do with here).

He gave an excellent speech to the Sydney Institute two days ago. Some extracts:

… the role of policy makers is to allow the market to create prosperity and out of that prosperity to expand opportunity, not the welfare state. In the market democracy so fashioned, citizens enjoy freedom, self-fulfilment and sovereignty over the state, not subjugation to the state through financial and regulatory welfare.

This is the philosophy of like-minded people whom I call market democrats – the modern Labor champions of the traditional Labor values of prosperity, fairness and compassion. Market democrats harness the power of the market for the public good.

Not a bad term – market democrats.

But as a new recruit to the ALP I again began to ask: is there truly a conflict between self-interest and moral behaviour and is there a conflict between morality and markets? …

But self-interest is not synonymous with selfishness. An athlete is not selfish for wanting to win a tournament, but is self-interested. A singer is not selfish for wanting to win Australian Idol. An artist is not selfish for wanting to win the Archibald Prize, nor is an author for wanting to win the Booker Prize. A scientist is not selfish for wanting to achieve a breakthrough ahead of other scientists.

Athletes, singers, artists, dancers, authors and scientists are self-interested but this does not make them selfish. Some may be arrogant and rude, some selfish, others humble and altruistic, but all are self-interested. Without self-interest, economic and social progress is impossible.

A very useful differentiation between self-interest and selfishness.

Labor was making itself the party of competition and compassion. Out of the proceeds of growth, the Hawke government was lifting school completion rates, supporting the parents of poor children to keep them at school. My moral questions were being answered through the competitive yet compassionate philosophy of the Hawke and Keating Labor governments – a philosophy that sat easily with Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations. There was, I concluded, no inherent conflict between markets and morality.

How nice to have a reference to markets without a sneer, as one would get in NZ.

Competitive markets reward effort, risk-taking and entrepreneurship and they encourage innovation essential to the growth of a market economy. The forces of competition create pressure on businesses to be efficient and to come up with and apply new ideas for application in producing goods and services valued by consumers.

Yet markets are chaotic and wasteful. Predicting the prices produced by markets is always hazardous. Markets force businesses to close, wasting the building renovations and obliging employees to seek work elsewhere. But far more wasteful and chaotic are central planning and governments pretending to be good at running businesses in so-called mixed economies.

In other words markets are not perfect, but they are generally a lot better than the alternatives.

If poverty in Australia is no longer primarily a poverty of incomes but a poverty of opportunity, the goal of a fairer society is best pursued through a more equal distribution of opportunity than through a more equal distribution of income. A nation’s people are not better off if all live on equally low incomes. Of course it is unfair if the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. But why should governments seek to prevent the rich from getting richer if the poor also get richer as a consequence of the wealth creation process?

And he shoots bullets through the arguments of the poverty industry who use a definition which means poverty will never be solved.

Many Australians earning below-average incomes choose to forego higher pay in favour of spending more time with their families and friends or just relaxing or playing sport. By doing so they are making measured income inequality worse but, through free choice, they are making their own lives better.

Indeed. And incomes are also very tied to age and experience. Demanding that an unskilled 19 year old should be earning 60% of the average wage of 40 and 50 year olds with 20 – 30 years experience is madness. It is about opportunity.

The goal of market democrats is prosperity and fairness through opportunity for all in a market economy. Market democrats strive for a more equal distribution of opportunity. If opportunity is equally distributed, incomes in the future will be distributed more equally. Prosperity and fairness become partners not rivals.

I like how Emerson can say what I think, but state it so well.

But for those out of the workforce who have income-earning prospects, perpetual income support payments without any effort to remedy the causes of disadvantage are not the pathway to a prosperous, fair society; they are a perilous road to welfare dependency, low self-esteem and servitude to the state.

When was the last time a NZ Labour Minister spoke about welfare dependency?

Seeking to use industrial muscle to gain pay rises in excess of productivity growth is inflationary and ultimately self-defeating. Modern unionism can involve offering a bundle of services that are attractive to members. These services can extend beyond representation in workplace bargaining to support for lifelong learning, financial, tax and legal advice and advice on superannuation, private health insurance and even personal counselling services.

A wonderfully clear statement that The Standard will hate. Pay rises without productivity growth lead nowhere.

In a market democracy governments should serve the people instead of seeking to subjugate the people to the will of government through high taxes and heavy regulation. By allowing markets to reward hard work, risk-taking and entrepreneurship without unnecessary interference, market democrats advance
freedom and self-fulfilment.

Serve not subjugate.

Market democrats think of markets first and, only where necessary, strengthen or complement markets with efficient regulation. In a market democracy, regulation is justifiable in strengthening markets and remedying market failure.

Exactly, regulation is basically a last resort. Which is why I supported it in telecommunications. There was massive and clear market failure after 15 years of waiting. But it should always remain the last tool, not the first tool, that Governments reach for.

But the previous conservative government thought of regulation first, presiding over what the Business Council of Australia describes as the creeping re-regulation of business. This is why, in a process initiated by Kevin Rudd, Lindsay Tanner and I are so vigorously working with the States and Territories in cutting back overbearing, inconsistent and overlapping Commonwealth and State business regulation.

While in NZ we get review after review of the need to reduce regulations ignored by the Government

Now not everyone in Australian Labor shares his viewpoint. But my God wouldn’t it be nice to even have a single NZ Labour MP who gave speeches like that.

Climate Change Censorship

April 18th, 2008 at 10:40 am by David Farrar

A lot has been written about the Listener’s dumping of “Ecologic” columnist Dave Hansford and whether it was linked to a complaint by Bryan Leyland – a prominent sceptic.

John Drinnan covers it in the Herald.

But Listener editor Pamela Stirling is insisting that the two events are unconnected and that she is losing a staffer because of budget cuts.

Wellington freelance journalist Dave Hansford has been the ecological columnist since November.

He has had differences of opinion with Stirling during much of that time and on occasion was asked to changed the tone of the column.

Hansford would not be the only staffer who has had differences of opinion with the Editor.

Stirling says Hansford was only ever hired as a short-term position for two months and the column was now being written by a staffer.

But it’s clear that Stirling’s approach to the eco-column – like her approach to the Listener – has been a lot more right of centre than the line of the old days.

Stirling took over in 2004 and she says that for a long time the Listener had been the house journal of the Alliance Party.

Stirling says the magazine is more centrist and allows everyone to express a view.

It was indeed the Alliance house journal. not that I had a problem with that – if enough people want to buy the Listener as a left wing magazine, good on them. And if enough want to buy it as a centrist magazine also good on them.

Poneke blogs on the issue also. Likewise Russell Brown. And the issue was first raised on the very good Hot Topic blog.

Meanwhile in Australia they have the opposite issue with Earth Day. The Melbourne Age is known to be a very left wing paper. I doubt more than 5% of their journalists vote Liberal/National. But even they have protested about the editor forcing them to write supportive material for Earth Day. Read this story in The Australian:

In a statement accompanying the resolution, staff said the Earth Hour partnership placed basic journalistic principles in jeopardy: “Reporters were pressured not to write negative stories and story topics followed a schedule drafted by Earth Hour organisers.”

Andrew Bolt points out:

In a statement of protest last week, 235 Age journalists confirmed that their coverage of last month’s Earth Hour had been, in effect, propaganda.

“Reporters were pressured not to write ‘negative’ stories and story topics followed a schedule drafted by Earth Hour organisers,” they said. 

That confession came after the ABC’s Media Watch released an embarrassing email sent by the green group WWF to Age editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan under the creepy header Re: Any last requests?.

In it, WWF staffer Fiona Poletti replied she indeed had more requests, and told Jaspan to run three more puff pieces for Earth Hour, a stunt in which readers were told to help save the planet from global warming by turning off lights for an hour.

Here’s one: “We would love the fashion story to get a good run. This has been given to Orietta and is about the fashion industry’s unified support for Earth Hour.”

WWF ordered, Jaspan obeyed. The Age dutifully ran that story, under the headline: “Fashionistas no dummies when it comes to be switching off.”

WWF’s request for a second story on businesses backing Earth Hour? Also obeyed. On cities around the world joining in? Obeyed. In each case Jaspan had journalists writing, albeit unwittingly, to a green group’s script.

Bolt also observes:

The joke is most Age journalists are so green they don’t need to be pushed to preach this gospel. But their bosses’ prodding changes everything.

What a reporter may freely write as news becomes propaganda if he or she is not free to report all the relevant facts. So all Age journalists writing about Earth Hour, or global warming, must for now be considered propagandists.

Too harsh? Then consider: after all that pushing of the green line by Age bosses, which staff writer would dare write that global warming in fact may have stalled, with oceans cooling and the planet not heating since 1998? Indeed, none has.

Which Age staffer would dare write that Earth Hour actually saved so little in greenhouse gases that just eight cars will make good those emissions in a year? Again, none has.

And finally Bolt uses his own situation as an example of how editorial independence should be preserved:

Responsible newspapers at least try to ensure their staff know they are still free to dissent and report inconvenient truths, which is why I’m still here, writing as I do, even after our boss Rupert Murdoch last year said it was time to “give the planet the benefit of the doubt” with global warming.

Yep, that is how it should be.

A trans-tasman apology

March 4th, 2008 at 10:03 am by David Farrar

For those who haven’t followed it, Australian conservative commentator Andrew Bolt blogged how he met me at the NZBR retreat. I then returned the favour.

In my comments George Darroch posted a long list of awful things Andrew has said, saying his views “border on insanity”.

The only problem, as Andrew pointed out back on both my blog and on his blog is that not a single one of the 16 comments Darroch attributed to Andrew, were made by Andrew. They were simply comments by others on his blog. Most people can tell the difference between a comment and a post.

Anyway after the publicity of being called to account on Australia’s most widely read blog, George has apologised to Andrew. Oh and then made it a Claytons apology by demanding Andrew state his opinion on the 16 statements he falsely ascribed to him. Darroch has now also blogged on the issue.

Who needs underarm bowling for a good Trans-Tasman clash 🙂

A decent cobber

February 29th, 2008 at 1:46 pm by David Farrar

One of the pleasures of attending the NZBR Retreat was meeting Andrew Bolt, who gave a superb talk about Kevin Rudd. Andrew is a former Labor staffer (and still good friends with several Labor Ministers), and now a columnist and blogger. His last book was “Still Not Sorry” which gives a clue as to his current views.

Andrew gives me a small plug on his blog.

His talk on Rudd was fascinating, as it was flavoured with a lot of inside info from within Labor.  Also discussed the current Liberal Party which is looking very very dismal. I predict they will allow Nelson to lose the next election then Turnbull will roll him.

The funniest thing was when I first met Andrew.  He was furiously trying to calculate something on a large pad, and was down to around line 30.

Upon enquiry I found out he was trying to work out how big China’s economy will be in 100 years time if it keeps growing at 10%.  So he was calculating it manually line by line over 100 years.  The look of relief on his face was palpable when I said I had a laptop with excel on it – took around 30 seconds.  I think he had spent 20 minutes already on it! Still good to see someone who knows how to do maths the old fashioned way.