Posts Tagged ‘Paul Kelly’

Musical interlude

My friends, having just listened to it, I must strongly recommend Coverville 544 – The Paul Kelly Cover Story. I’m an avid fan of Coverville, a podcast dedicated to playing cover versions of songs. This episode consists mostly of covers of Kelly’s songs, along with two cover versions performed by Kelly.

I’m travelling to NSW’s Hunter Valley at the end of next week to see Kelly play A Day on the Green with Leonard Cohen, so I’ve been playing a lot of his original recordings in anticipation. This made a refreshing change.

It’s free and it’s great – do yourself a favour.

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That is all.

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Gerard Henderson now says:

Costello did not have more than 20 votes in the Liberal Party room which could be mustered to challenge the incumbent prime minister. Up until at least the eve of the Coalition’s defeat in November last year, a clear majority of Liberal parliamentarians believed they had a better chance of holding their seats under the four-time winner Howard than under Costello.

But last September, Paul Kelly said:

It seems Howard was surprised at Downer’s report. While different versions of Downer’s soundings are sure to be spread, the majority sentiment was for a change. One cabinet minister reported yesterday that the sentiment was “overwhelmingly” for change. Another said the mood was for change by a distinct majority. The word from another, on Howard’s side, was that a variety of views were expressed and sentiment was equivocal.

Now it is at the very least possible that both reports are accurate (i.e., there was a majority for Costello in Cabinet but not the party room), but I wonder just how plausible it is. It seems Henderson is trying to rehabilitate Costello’s image – as is much of the rest of the commentariat. And I guess I’m not their target market, but it seems to me that it will be a hard sell for many.

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Not surprisingly, the OO’s theme du jour is that energy policy will be the bane of the Rudd Government’s brief existence. Of course, the OO also stakes out its own position, which is that the future must be radioactive. We were all just too stupid to listen to John Howard.

The Editor-at-Large exemplifies the Oz’s current horoscope prophecy forecast for Kevin Rudd:

AUSTRALIA’S energy policy debate is about to erupt. The emissions trading system pledged by Kevin Rudd looms as a policy nightmare that means higher energy and transport prices.

And now an old demon has re-emerged, with demands Australia should go nuclear.

It is as though Australia is sleepwalking into the biggest restructuring of its economy for a generation, with a popular culture that thinks climate change solutions are about light bulbs and carbon-free concerts.

The community is utterly unprepared for the harsh application of climate change mitigation – if the Rudd Government has the will to impose it. The question is whether a political constituency can be mobilised for a rigorous emissions trading system that will make Australia, outside Europe, one of the few nations to enter such carbon pricing arrangements.

Yes, the other hallmark of our elite punditocracy – the unshakeable belief that the Australian populace is stupid. They know exactly what, and how little, we think.

The only OO opinionata to bother noting that another leader in our Parliament may be facing a similar quandary, not to mention the real possibility of being toppled from his job in the near future, was Lenore Taylor:

Behind the scenes, there are clear divisions within the Coalition about how to balance short-term realpolitik with long-term responsibility in the position it takes on emissions trading.

But if Nelson gives in to those advocating that he abandons the bipartisanship that existed around the fundamentals of this debate at the time of the last election, it will make sensible policy formulation even harder. Not to mention endangering the Coalition’s hard-won reputation for economic credibility.

Despite the typical OO slant towards spelling doom for Labor, they actually have hit the fundamental point on the head (for once). Emissions trading and the other elements of energy policy should be the most important issue that determines the success and/or failure of both major parties over this Parliamentary term. The challenge for both the Government and the Opposition is to formulate a coherent and effective policy. The rising voice of the Greens in the Senate will ensure that there is legitimate criticism and analysis of their positions.

But the temptation that both major parties need to resist is to believe that the voters are dimwits who don’t understand the stakes and the costs, whose votes can be bought through cheap stunts that relieve our short-term pain without addressing the challenges of the future. They need to recognise that we are more sophisticated than Paul Kelly gives us credit for.

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One more stunt

The Boogeyman!

Good grief.

Team Howard stenographers, Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan, tell us exactly what John Winston Howard thinks:

JOHN Howard has warned Australians they risk electing a Labor-Greens alliance that would impose a new national direction and conduct radical experiments with their values and institutions.

Bring it on. Our nation needs a new direction, and our values and institutions could do with some reform.

Convinced his hopes of a Coalition win at the weekend are not yet extinguished, Mr Howard said: “Part of my mission this week is to drive home the risk. My every waking hour and every available minute will be to drive home the risk of Labor.”

Scare the pants off us, Johnny. We can take it.

“There will be a return of political correctness. There will be a softening in relation to things like drugs. You will get a less socially conservative country at the very least.


“I think the country’s mood is that people want economic progress but they don’t want experiments with our basic values and institutions. Imagine if you are depending on the Greens to get a measure through the Senate on education. Imagine what they would extract.”

Social justice?

Asked about the economy, Mr Howard said: “It is a watershed election on industrial relations reform. If you believe in a freer labour market, you can’t possibly support Labor. They will roll it back and it will never return, because the non-Labor side of politics will say that forever and a day you can’t do what Howard did. It will become part of our folklore that you cannot permanently reform industrial relations. It’s as crucial as that. That would be a tragedy for Australia because anybody who studies our economy knows these reforms have been beneficial, and have generated jobs.

“Work Choices will be thrown out, unfair dismissal will come back, pattern bargaining will come back. In effect, compulsory arbitration will come back, because under Fair Work Australia you can have one person being represented by a trade union in a bargaining process and if the union disagrees with the offer, it has to be resolved by Fair Work Australia. That’s compulsory arbitration in my language.”

Are you arguing against Labor, or for it? Do you understand that WorkChoices has been the albatross around your neck?

Asked about the future under the Coalition, Mr Howard said Peter Costello “will be elected unopposed” as his successor. In a warning to leadership aspirants, Mr Howard pledged to the Treasurer, saying this would be “the right thing” for the Liberal Party and for Australia.

You’re now appointing yourself Kingmaker?

On the economy, Mr Howard attacked the Opposition Leader’s repeated warnings about an end to the resources boom. “Rolling back industrial reform will be the first time in 25 years that this country has turned backwards on a major reform,” he said.

That says something about the poor quality of the reform, doesn’t it?

“It’s not dependency to give a tax break to people for doing certain things,” he said. “I find this blurring of the distinction between expenditure and tax incentives as ridiculous. We encourage people to make choices about their children’s education through tax breaks … We support people who have children by giving them tax breaks. That’s authentic Liberal orthodoxy.

Transferring public debt to private debt so that you can claim to have improved the economic situation without making life any easier for Australians – that’s Liberal orthodoxy.

It’s a shame that two political journalists (ahem) put their byline on a Prime Ministerial press release. It also seems quite illogical to do so when that person will lose power in less than a week.

ELSEWHERE: Bugger – Darryl Mason says something similar to me, only smarter; Sam Clifford sees through the scare campaign and views it as a sales pitch for a better Australia.

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Good Grief

They’re at it again – or, in the case of Shanahan and the Editor-at-Large, they’re still at it. Both are continuing to tell their readers about Labor’s backflip on international greenhouse gas emission targets. Paul Kelly at least has the decency to point out some of Howard’s flaws and mistakes in this area. But Dennis Shanahan is all about Labor’s faulty policy and the “me too” charge that arises from Rudd having to modify Garrett’s original statement. No mention in either column of the renewable energy targets Rudd set yesterday. They have just carried yesterday’s story through to a second day of Labor criticism for the hell of it.

Meanwhile, Janet Albrechtsen finds a new menace lurking in the Labor Party – “lady lawyers” who will want to contaminate the justice system for the years (or decades) to come by appointing activist judges. What has anyone in federal Labor said or done to suggest this is a key priority? Nothing. What might this “activist judiciary” do? Focus on things like human rights. But the pinnacle of Janet’s argument is when she points to the upcoming retirement of Justice Michael Kirby as an opportunity to create an activist judiciary – the same Justice Kirby Janet has targeted in earlier columns for his own “activism”. So Labor might get to swap one progressive judge for another? That should make a huge difference.

It seems that the GG has taken it upon itself to ensure that we know all of Labor’s faults – both real and imagined.

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The GG are going all out to discredit Peter Garrett and tag Kevin Rudd for another backflip relating to Labor’s position on Kyoto. Says the Editor-at-Large:

Welcome to Labor’s climate change policy chaos. While John Howard can be attacked for not ratifying Kyoto, he does more importantly have a post-2012 policy that is sensible and his minister, Malcolm Turnbull, does know what it is.

Except, of course, that Turnbull apparently doesn’t agree with the pre-2012 policy. Kelly also writes off Kyoto as a failure (if so, which is questionable to say the least, the US and Australia have helped to make that so), asserts that Australia is leading an “umbrella group” of industrialised nations (leading toward “aspirational targets”, and leading from the rear), and suggests that Garrett’s position threw away any coherent negotiating position, but that Rudd’s reframed position is a “me too” of Howard on climate change.

Shanahan (with Patricia Karvelas) gets into the act as well:

China’s President Hu Jintao and US President George W. Bush both agreed to the Sydney declaration on greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Garrett’s concession on not seeking binding targets on developing countries would allow China to back away from the Sydney declaration and avoid binding targets from the UN process on climate change beginning in Bali in December.

Except that the Sydney declaration did not commit anyone to binding targets anyway.

Labor certainly hasn’t been handling climate change well and Garrett is not putting in a flawless performance, but the GG’s assertion that Team Howard has a coherent and world-leading position that will inevitably bring us toward binding emission targets for all is nonsense. If you’re going to smack a party for internal contradictions and flawed policy positions, have the decency to apply the same approach to all parties.

There’s more discussion on this going on at Larvatus Prodeo, where the consensus appears to be that this is, and should be treated as, a minor issue rather than a major gaffe.

Meanwhile, Mark Vaile has made his own contribution of climate change skepticism, demonstrating just what leadership the Coalition can be expected to provide on this issue.

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Emptying the kitty

The Editor-at-Large:

With this package the Rudd election strategy remains in place: stick close to Howard on the economy but project vision. Rudd is on message. But he has a lot less money left in his kitty.

Labor did not expect to be delivering a tax reform of this magnitude in the first week of the campaign. It has neutralised Howard’s package. The cost over the forward estimates is the same for the Coalition and for Labor. But Rudd has committed most of the surplus to matching Howard’s agenda, leaving far less for Labor’s agenda.

i.e., Howard is in a better position because he has no agenda. Of course, he is still going to need more money to spend on buying votes in key demographics and marginal seats.

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It’s pro-Howard editorials ahoy! at the GG this morning. From Janet Albrechtsen:

The Prime Minister is undaunted by a presidential campaign. Indeed, on the day the real election campaign began, Howard pinpointed Rudd’s weakness. As he said on Sunday when announcing the November 24 election, love him or loathe him, voters have always known where the PM stands on an issue and what he believes in. During the past decade he has earned himself a reputation as a conviction politician, tackling issues unfazed by the howls of opposition from some quarters. Witness his long-time involvement in the culture wars, his sponsorship of gun controls, the introduction of the GST, Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war, the intervention into indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. Each was pursued because of Howard’s conviction on these issues.

WTF?! The “never ever” GST? And the NT intervention, followed by the reconciliation pseudo-backflip? I’m surprised that she didn’t point out his commitment to climate change. And we’re supposed to like the fact that he has been an unwavering sycophant on Iraq? Apparently, having conviction is more important than being right and open to new ideas.

Then we have academics Sinclair Davidson and Alex Robson (the same authors who recently published a critique of the Australia@Work report in the GG) lauding the Coalition’s “tax reform”:

How should Labor respond to the tax challenge? That Peter Costello appears to have caught the Opposition off-guard reflects poorly on its own tax policy (or lack thereof). If Kevin Rudd really is the economic conservative he claims to be, he will embrace this tax plan and go even further to avoid any possible me-too criticism.

But this will be difficult. The Labor Party platform already includes a proposal to increase the superannuation guarantee by 66per cent (from 9 per cent to 15per cent). That this impost is to be jointly funded by employers, employees and taxpayers is little consolation. It is a tax increase, no matter how you look at it.

A tax increase intended to ensure that retirees have enough super to prevent a greater burden on the welfare system as our population ages? How daft – it sounds like Labor is showing “the vision thing”, which these authors say a government doesn’t need.

Finally, we have the editor-at-large. Larvatus Prodeo already has a spot-on commentary about this one – Kelly’s focus is entirely on how the Team Howard announcements have been received, or indeed is an attempt to shape the narrative of how it has been received. There is no consideration of the fact that these policies actually have societal implications. Here’s my (least) favourite example:

Claims that Howard should have spent the revenue on better services are ludicrous in political terms. Health and education are Labor issues, no matter how much funding Howard provides. Howard and Costello must play to their strength: the economy, tax and jobs. This is the only avenue to their election victory. If they cannot win the election on their strengths then, by definition, they cannot win the election.

So, Howard is entitled to neglect key social issues such as producing the healthiest and best-educated nation he possibly can, because they are “Labor issues”? Possum Comitatus used the Crosby-Textor data to illustrate the way that issues can “belong” to one party or the other, so I can appreciate the political reality of what Kelly is saying here, but that does not mean that the media should give the pollies a free ride on issues. The candidates will try to keep the message on the issues they want to talk about – the voters should be given an opportunity to hear about the good and bad aspects of their policies. Kelly, along with the rest of the GG’s editorial staff, is helping to sell the political message for Team Howard rather than helping to facilitate a substantive consideration of the issues.

UPDATE: Shanahan was up to his usual tricks today, this time spinning the Newspoll analysis of how the parties rate on key issues. Possum Comitatus has shown it for the load of crap that it is with a couple of quick regressions.

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While you were sleeping

I’m still chained to the wheel today, so just a quick take on the “who wants to be a PM?” debacle. First, a round-up of links:

  • Bolt and Price fronted Lateline for a pretty tame chat. Price hinted that Paul Kelly would have a piece in the Australian this morning that would shake things up. Both seemed to agree that it comes down to today, and to whether Costello (or someone else) has the mettle to take Howard on.
  • Here’s the Kelly article, which suggests that Downer gave Howard an unfavourable assessment of the party’s mood last week, which Howard has apparently decided to ignore. Given Dolly’s capitulation last night, I don’t see Kelly’s article as having any forward impact – it’s a retrospective setting out (assuming it is accurate) the process that got us to where we were yesterday.
  • Bolt is continuing to offer his pro-Costello views.
  • Janet Albrechtsen continues to push for Howard’s martyrdom (“He must die to save conservatism for us all”), and even manages to invoke Thatcher this time around.
  • There’s fresh thread at Larvatus Prodeo.
  • UPDATE: Annabel Crabb is spot on: “THE past few days of leadership destabilisation in the Liberal Party has exposed an obvious complication: none of the Libs are any good at it.”

My take: Plenty of people, myself included, have had long-standing objections to the Liberal Party based on its (im)morality and its policies. More recently, a sizeable proportion of the electorate has moved towards Labor because they feel a Rudd Government would be better able to look after Australia than a continuation of the Howard-Costello Government. The past week’s events go far beyond that.

Now, the Liberal Party is in danger of becoming a complete laughing-stock. Costello is nowhere to be seen, which means that he either hopes to be carried to the leadership by others, or there is a third party (e.g., Turnbull) gunning for the top spot. The polls already show that the majority of Australians wants Howard to go; now, media reports suggest that even a majority in his own Cabinet want the same. They appear afraid of crushing defeat, they appear to desperately want change, and yet nobody appears willing to bring it about. Even as they seek to be free of Howard’s leadership, Howard is the only one capable of bringing it about.

I expect this will be defused by lunchtime. If not, we reach a point where even those who still believe in the party’s values might not have any faith left in its representatives.

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