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Old 4th Dec 2013, 08:44
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Ken Borough
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: All over the Planet
Posts: 782
Another objective view on the performance of our new political 'apprentices'. From The Global Mail by Mike Steketee

Let’s Play Political Whack-A-Mole

I’m getting so tired of writing about the nastiness and incompetence of the Abbott government. Truly. My intent today was to write about some of Labor’s stupidities.

That was the plan. To balance up the ledger a bit. To point to the idiocy of Labor’s determination to block the increase in Australia’s debt limit to $500 billion, for one. To highlight the hypocrisy of its decision to obstruct cuts to tertiary education, which Labor itself initiated, when in government.

These are tactically dumb calls, and, given the opportunity, I would have been happy to explain why.

But alas, the opportunity does not present itself. Every day, new examples of the nastiness and incompetence of the Abbott Government crowd out the possibility of writing about anything else.

And the events of the past 24 hours have been exceptionally target-rich, even by recent standards. It’s hard to know where to begin.

Perhaps we should start with Cory Bernardi. Remember him? Tony Abbott chose him as his parliamentary secretary when in Opposition. Alas, Cory was forced out after he gave a speech linking gay marriage to bestiality.

This homophobic, Islamophobic, climate-change-denying, free-market Christian fundamentalist burst back into the news overnight after word came out that he had initiated a major bitch session about the ABC in the Coalition joint party meeting.

Apparently the allegedly independent Speaker of the House, Bronwyn Bishop (whose early performances in the role, incidentally, suggest she may yet rival former Labor Speaker and trick cyclist Leo McLeay for competence and impartiality), joined right in.

Reportedly, so did Senator Ian Macdonald, of whom more in a sec.

Anyway, Bernardi, who someone once described as Sarah Palin without the lipstick (actually that was me), advocated cutting funding to the national broadcaster, the ABC, possibly breaking it up and forcing it to sell ads, or raise subscriptions.

Naturally, he went on ABC radio to talk about it.

He presented some odd arguments in support of his position. Like that the ABC “behemoth” was a threat to media diversity because it competed online with News Corp and Fairfax.

Diversity? Australia has the most concentrated print media in the developed world. The Finkelstein Inquiry found the big two operators controlled 86 per cent of metro circulation. News Corp alone had 65 per cent.

If Bernardi really cared about diversity, he would be welcoming of the arrival on the local media scene of Guardian Australia and The Global Mail. Actually, he despises both.

Diversity schmersity. This guy’s about helping the people who help him, i.e., News Corp.

Now, moving on to Ian Macdonald, who had something of an “emperor’s new clothes” outburst, in that he dared utter publicly something many of his colleagues have muttered quietly about.

That is the culture of “obsessive centralised control phobia” of Tony Abbott and his chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

In fact, numerous members of the government are royally ticked off with the meddling of Credlin in particular in everything from staffing appointments to media appearances, to policy areas.

Macdonald also suggested the leadership was already showing itself to be out of touch with the concerns of voters.

Oh, dear.

But let’s move right along, to Don Randall.

You will recall the entitlement rorts scandal of a month or so ago, in which various pollies – most of them on the conservative side, and including Abbott himself – were accused of claiming expenses for various dubious expenditures.

Well, Randall’s was the most celebrated case. He spent more than $5,000 of public money to fly himself and his wife to Cairns, where they had just bought an investment property.

He admitted no wrong, but paid the money back.

Well, guess who Tony Abbott okayed to sit on the Parliamentary Privileges Committee, which oversees the ethical standards of MPs?

You guessed it.

Then the oleaginous Christopher Pyne defended Randall as an “excellent” choice.

Believe it or not, Randall actually showed himself to have higher ethical standards – and better political judgment than his boss – and stepped down as soon as news got out.

But, wait, there’s more…

The pious Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews moved to repeal almost all of the harm-minimisation measures passed by the Gillard Labor government in November 2012.

The move was promptly condemned by the chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Task Force as a payback to the gambling lobby, which kicked very big money into the Coalition’s election war chest. See our post here.

And still there’s more ...

Attorney-General George Brandis approved ASIO raids on the homes of a former spy turned whistleblower and a lawyer, Bernard Collaery, working for the East Timorese Government in a dispute with Australia due to be heard Thursday in the Hague.

The claim is that former Liberal Foreign Minister Alexander Downer (can we again use the descriptor oleaginous?) approved the bugging of the East Timorese during negotiations over valuable oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea, to the commercial benefit of the resources company, Woodside.

(Guess who Downer wound up working for after he left office?)

The government, of course, claims no foul in sooling the wallopers onto these people. Reasonable people, such as Greens leader Christine Milne, say it stinks and should be the subject of an inquiry.

Meanwhile immigration minister Scott Morrison was announcing new ways to persecute asylum seekers, keeping those asylum seekers already in Australia on indefinite bridging visas without work rights , which means their options for providing for themselves are limited pretty much to charity or criminality.

And, last, but not least, of course, we had the latest OECD report of educational attainment in Australia, which found a dramatic slide in Australian kids’ performances, compared with other developed countries.

The report noted, what’s more, a continuation in the trend towards greater inequality of outcomes within Australia, which is exactly what the Gonski report warned of nearly two years ago, and set out to address.

The oleaginous (oops, that word again) “education” minister Pyne, continued to duck and weave about his government’s commitment to greater educational equity, and to try to blame the previous government.

They, in turn – and with far greater justification – blamed the government before them, the Howard government, which put in place funding “reforms” that greatly benefited elite private schools, in 2001.

So, folks, that about wraps it up for the day.

Promise we’ll get to Labor’s inadequacies some time soon. If the other side ever stops screwing up.
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