The state of politics: weekend political commentary

Three articles from the weekend news media go a long way to sum up the parlous state of politics in Australia.

Guy Rundle has a piece in the Saturday Paper The political caste playing student politics in Canberra which goes a long way to explaining how this state of affairs has come to pass.

Rundle points out that with the appointment of Tony Smith as speaker we have reached the point where all the key roles in both chambers, on both sides of politics, are occupied by former student politicians. Moreover, many of the reporters writing about them, including himself, wrote for student newspapers.

These are people who had free university education, had plenty of time for student politics, and have never had a job in the real economy since. Journalists talk of a political “class”. But says Rundle:

    “Class” suggests a social category, a group too broad to know one another. The people we are now ruled by constitute a political caste, quite a different thing – a group small enough for all the principals to know one another, have associations, obligation and affinities stretching back decades, and hidden from wider view.

Rundle sees a similar phenomenon of narrow castes operating in Britain and the US. In that context, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are attracting attention and support because they are outsiders, real people if you like.

We had an outsider here too, one Kevin Rudd, who saved us from the GFC. But the GFC has not in fact gone away:

    Few people have been fooled by talk of recovery in Britain and the US following the 2008 crash. These have been paper recoveries, leaving millions stranded in un- or under-employment, in decaying cities and blighted regions, with no prospect that a real old-fashioned upswing may take place. Those doing well have lives that groan under the weight of student debt, unaffordable housing and squeezed living standards; those losing out are watching the permanent structural transformation of the world of work, which leaves no place for those denied education and training – or never offered the chance to take it up later in life.

There is real desperation in parts of Britain, the US and Australia.

    When the tsunami from the West’s financial earthquake really hits our shores, the political caste may well find itself being dragged away in a manner that has no pretence about it all.

Peter Hartcher finds one government that is adult and competent – that of John Key in New Zealand. In his piece Good government needn’t be a punchline, Tony Abbott he recounts how last year Key brought about half a dozen of his ministers to Sydney for a joint cabinet meeting with their Australian counterparts. After the meeting they put their heads together and quickly came to a consensus:

    The NZ leadership foresaw that “it will all end in tears”, as one NZ participant put it to me. That was February 2014. The Abbott government was five months old.

    So while the Key government was re-elected last year for a third term with an enlarged majority and an impressive reform record, the Abbott government is in survival mode, its reform plans in tatters.

    The Australian Prime Minister’s office is a crucible of crisis, waging a full-time operation just to keep Abbott in his job for even a single term.

There were two reasons:

    First, they saw that the Abbott government had no reform narrative. It had slogans, but no persuasive case.

    Second, they concluded that it had no “political architecture” to manage the government. They were “puzzled about the absence of an architecture for conducting the business of government – how to take the backbench along with the executive, how to reach out to the crossbenches, how to connect with key constituencies”, says a participant.

Finally, the old warhorse Laurie Oakes’ column appeared in the Courier Mail under the heading:


Parliamentary security staff have been on drone alert. Similarly the PM’s Office are keeping a close eye on Scott Morrison.

    Morrison is definitely not a drone. He is energetic, clever and ambitious. And members of Tony Abbott’s Praetorian Guard would not have missed the punchline in an article on the Social Services minister and his family in the latest Women’s Weekly.

    Morrison, it says at the end of six pages of flattering copy, is “ready to lead”.

Amongst all the political games being played during the week, Scott Morrison was the key figure in putting together the big majority for Tony Smith’s successful bid to become Speaker. Morrison demonstrated his political potency.

While there is no move against Abbott under way, Oakes says:

    the truth is that Morrison’s rise increases the possibility of a move against Abbott before the election if the chaos, brawling and lack of direction in the government continue and the coalition’s opinion poll ratings fail to improve.

A poor result in the Canning bi-election will generate chatter.

There is an increasing expectation within the party that Morrison will lead, should the LNP find itself in opposition after the next election.

That’s my potted version.The articles repay reading in full.

23 thoughts on “The state of politics: weekend political commentary”

  1. On my Twitter account people are recoiling in horror at the thought of a Scotmo led Government. And all I had to do to cause this little storm was tweet Scott Morrison. Disastrous or words to that effect.

  2. Paul, it is said that he has friends and supporters amongst the moderates of the party room. He doesn’t register much in opinion polls even with LNP voters. I suspect he’d be a disaster for the party.

  3. Sir Morro would be 3 times better than the big taxing, big Government, backflipping, promise breaking, left media apologist, liberty stifling, wet disappointment that Abbott has turned out to be.
    And 10 times better than Peanuthead Shorty.

    Give him a go I say.

  4. The Green Left war on science now includes rape and threats, attempted hacks on scientists email and facebook accounts and an unending stream of lies.

    One of the latest victims of the Green Left is the scientist Kevin Folta.

    If we have a referendum on gay marriage, I would also support a question about banning the Australian Greens. These people are almost pure evil.

  5. Karen, surely we need to make a distinction between the political party, The Greens, and activist greenie groups.

    And I’m sure many of the latter would not sanction unethical attacks.

  6. … surely we need to make a distinction …

    Not when we’re frothing at the mouth, we don’t.

  7. Karen: I looked carefully into the mirror after reading what you had said about the Greens and failed to detect pure evil. Ditto when I think about the other Greens I know.
    Would it be too much to ask why you insist on attacking the person when your arguments do not meet with overwhelming support?

  8. JD:

    The Greens party members near where I live are absolutely cuckoo with more conspiracy theories between them than you can poke a stick at.

    Here a female scientist, Alison Bernstein, details her experience and observation of the anti-GM left:

    I’m accused of being a “shill”, getting paid by a company (usually Monsanto) to share accurate information. Fortunately, that has been the extent of my negative experiences. Other members of this pro-science community have been attacked in far more personal ways. They are accused of being bad parents for feeding their children GM and non-organic food. There are death threats, threats of rape, being compared to Nazis. There are even organized attempts to intimidate scientists and science advocates. In just the past few weeks, a group started a birther campaign against Kavin Senapathy. Kevin Folta and other scientists have been directly targeted by activists abusing FOIA requests. In such a hostile environment, there is no room for dialogue and sharing of information. The people who lose in this environment are the people who aren’t scientists and genuinely want accurate information to help them make good decisions for themselves and their families.

    Why does the Green Left insist on threatening to rape scientists?

  9. Karen: On past performance I am reluctant to accept you as a reliable observer. “Cuckoo” seems to be one of your code words for “disagrees with me.” Pro science community seems to be code for something as well.

  10. I don’t what you accept, JD. The Greens are a side show of freaks who want to introduce some variant of Pol Pot’s Year Zero.

    Here is an example of their weirdness:

    GM foods have not yet been proven safe. A recent study has shown that double-stranded ribonucleic acid (dsRNA) proteins can be unexpectedly produced in genetic modification processes. These proteins transfer easily to humans and animals, and can change our genes.

    What the heck are these lunatics drinking? They really do think that GM food is going to change us all in to frankenpeople. How is this not as creepy as something a GOP Deep South teabagger might say? Why does our media let them get away with it?

  11. More on the Green philosophy for feeding the world:

    A variety of guiding practical and philosophical approaches aimed at attaining ecological sustainability have evolved.
    These include, Conservation Farming, Biological Farming, Organic Farming, Biodynamic Farming, and Permaculture.
    In substance, there is a great area of overlap that all approaches share. Permaculture, is not just about Agriculture; it is a design framework for sustainable living. Biodynamic farming may be regarded as the forerunner of sustainable
    farming in general.

    And this:

    Not least would be a public education campaign
    to promote a preference for food that has been grown without synthetic chemicals …

    The policy contains about 20 warnings about the evils of agri-chemicals.

    So these clowns want Government to go to war with conventional farming and promote things like Biodynamic farming which involves such activities as putting poop in a ram’s horn and burying it in the light of a full moon. They really think this type of thing will feed 7 billion people now and ~11 billion people by the end of the century (UN est.)! In other words they want to make agriculture subordinate to an utterly loopy political philosophy and as such, almost certainly condemn billions of people to hunger and starvation. This is pure unadulterated utopian evil. Didn’t we see enough of that last century?

  12. Karen: All my Qld state branch says is:

    Genetically engineered organisms and their products must be thoroughly tested before their introduction and use in Queensland.

    Doesn’t seem unreasonable for a state where the alternative is not starvation.
    The world has had too many examples medicines that turned out to be harmful in the longer term. It has also had too many examples of the groupthink and peer pressure that allows companies to deny a problem long after the first signs of problems is raised. Then there are tobacco companies and….

  13. To me there are two issues here.

    One is the reprehensible actions of a few activists which should not be taken to smear whole groups. The greens and Greens I know and have met are gentle, intelligent people. That doesn’t mean I agree with all their ideas.

    The second issue is your view that any stance against GMOs is anti-science and practices like organic farming are also anti-science. I can appreciate your position in this regard, but the way you prosecute your case tends to be counter-productive IMO.

    When you last raised organic farming I was aware that my brother, a retired university agronomist, had joined a group of people who have set up a network to supply organically grown food directly to house-holders. Again, gentle, intelligent people.

    i asked him to do a post outlining the rationale for organic farming. His own field was pastures, rather than food production. He discussed it with the group, and one of their number was designated to do a guest post. I’m waiting, but not holding my breath.

  14. For some reason, GMOs and animal liberation seem to stir up deep passions and, indeed, stimulate actions that are not compatible with acceptable human values.

  15. John D:

    The argument that GM food is somehow akin to medicine is erroneous. The genetic change resulting from GM is in fact far less than that wrought by conventional and mutagenic breeding. The decision to subject only cultivars produced by one of these three alternatives to testing is based on politics not science.

    The trick Green groups and Green parties around the world have been using is to call for “thorough testing” and to then constantly raise the bar so that thorough testing is impossible.


    Organic agriculture is pretty much the definition of anti-science as it is based on the naturalistic fallacy, that is the false notion that synthetic is bad and natural is good. It is simply absurd. It is also grossly environmentally irresponsible because you need more land per unit of output.

  16. This article by Will Saletan from the left leaning Slate site on GM politics is well worth reading. It has been widely cited by the besieged pro-science camp on the Left in recent weeks.

  17. Karen
    Fortunately for some, all that can be dismissed by ( and I quote )” Unfortunately shit happens”.

  18. Jumpy, I’m not dismissing anything. Shit is shit. The question is what to do about it.

    On the other thread I was just saying that whatever chance Justice Heydon had, seems he blew it. That’s all.

  19. Karen, I can actually see your point about organic farming. Which is why I wanted to see the rationale spelt out.

    On a quick look I’d say that the Greens’ policy wasn’t written by agricultural or food scientists. which is a problem I have with greens and The Greens generally. They often pontificate on matters outside their area of expertise.

    Historically, about a decade ago, the well-known environmentalist Aila Keto gave the keynote address at the Gatton Agricultural College, as it then was. She told the dry-land farmers and graziers in the audience that it may well be time to pack it in and let their country return to nature.

    As a rainforest ecologist, of course she would know!

  20. Brian:

    The other thing that any good Marx inspired left winger such as myself must recognise is the intersection of ideology and objective material self-interest. In the US the organic industry now has a turnover in excess of $80 billion. On a per capita basis I suspect the organic industry in Oz would be about the same size.

    The organic industry is strongly connected to environmental groups and Green political parties in terms of funding and personnel. It takes considerable ideological heavy lifting by this Troika to convince people that the wilted organic beans they buy at the farmer’s market are better for their health and the planet than the snap frozen beans they could buy for less than half the price at the supermarket. Part of that heavy lifting involves defaming conventional farming and biotech.

  21. Karen, I haven’t read enough to make a comment. However, the group my brother is in are pretty fussy about the quality of the food they eat.

    Also, my wife used to get up early on Saturday mornings and shop at a farmers’ market. She still would, if she was younger and didn’t mind losing the sleep.

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