Equality – an update

Wednesday, 19 October 2016    

On the issue of marriage, I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious and historical view around that which we have to respect. I do respect the fact that’s how people view the institution.

Penny Wong 2010

I do find myself on the conservative side in this question. I think that there are some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future. If I was in a different walk of life, if I’d continued in the law and was partner of a law firm now, I would express the same view, that I think for our culture, for our heritage, the Marriage Act and marriage being between a man and a woman has a special status.

Now, I know people might look at me and think that’s something that they wouldn’t necessarily expect me to say, but that is what I believe.

Julia Gillard 2011

Personally speaking, I’m completely relaxed about having some form of plebiscite. I’d be wary of trying to use a referendum and a constitutional mechanism to start tampering with the Marriage Act. But in terms of a plebiscite — I would rather the people of Australia could make their view clear on this than leaving this issue to 150 people.

Bill Shorten 2013

Questions of marriage are the preserve of the Commonwealth Parliament. Referendums are held in this country where there’s a proposal to change the constitution. I don’t think anyone is suggesting the constitution needs to be changed in this respect.

Tony Abbott 2015

Marriage is primarily a social institution rather than a legal or political one. If some whacky law was passed tomorrow annulling all marriages, they would of course continue to be recognised by society, both by those in them and everyone else. Society is constantly evolving and so naturally does its view of marriage and its relation to the family. Decades ago, divorce had a social stigma and children born out of marriage were considered illegitimate. These days, every social attitude survey and opinion polls indicates that society recognises marriage between same sex couples and so you’d think the law would be changed to reflect that.

You’d think.

Actually if anyone believes politics is about reflecting what society wants, they haven’t been paying attention. Politics has its own dynamic. And on the issue of same sex marriage, politics has got itself in a right pickle.

When Howard put forward the Marriage Amendment Act in 2004, effectively banning same sex marriages, it could be argued that it reflected the public view at the time. But even then, the view was shifting across the developed world, and starting to be reflected in legislative initiatives, especially in the US. Howard’s amendment was partly to stave it off.

But safe to say that Howard’s main concern was not protecting the sanctity of marriage, but playing on Labor’s insecurity with its base. The real cause of the insecurity was the declining social relevance of the unions that formed Labor. But Labor under Latham was trying to recover the connection with Real Australia through “values”, a parody of working class priorities commonly found amongst the enlightened left. So Labor dutifully fell in behind Howard. No need for consciences then.

Because Howard’s ban on same sex marriage was mainly a political manoeuvre, it almost exactly coincided with the start of a shift in society in the opposite direction. This was despite the issue pretty well being ignored in the political sphere. By the time Latham’s acolyte, Julia Gillard, took over in 2010, despite the major parties mostly ignoring it, the majority of the public were now recognising same sex marriages. Nevertheless, Gillard Labor, with a new push on “values” of Real Australia, continued to refuse to do so, “respecting” society’s traditional view on marriage – which it no longer had.

The issue returned to the political sphere for several reasons. The first was the election of the first Green MP in the House of Representatives in 2010 who took it out of the hands of the major parties with a Private Members Bill in 2012.

But more importantly, it became an issue as the whole “values” strategy of aping Howard fell apart. Gillard, followed by the Yin to her Yang, Abbott, proved no more popular with Real Australia than Unreal Australia. Same sex marriage then became an internal political weapon used by both sides to undermine their leaders.

For Labor, same sex marriage became the badge of recognition by the party “modernisers” grouped around Rudd. This started to come to a head in the 2011 party conference by when Labor’s position was becoming more conservative than Coalition supporters, let alone its own. But attempts within the party to bring its marriage policy into line was meeting resistance from the leadership. By then it was less due to a Lathamesque attempt to relate to Real Australia, rather internal considerations applied. The push for same sex marriage was seen as undermining a Gillard leadership that was now under pressure from lousy polling and a resurging Rudd.

The result was a compromise to hide behind “consciences”. An issue that Labor had lined up on as policy in 2004 was now considered a deeply personal/religious issue that was beyond mere politics. There is of course no doubting the sincerity of Labor MPs consciences. But they proved remarkably in line with political interests.

Gillard’s opposition to same sex marriage came from a deeply personal held view that stemmed from her being read Bible stories as a child. But her opposition was also a way of not only broadcasting her social conservatism to Real Australia but also her union backers on which she came increasingly to rely. Similarly, the deeply personal journey that Rudd went on over the issue also happily coincided with him shifting to a position that placed his rival Gillard under internal pressure. Even more remarkable were the deeply personal simultaneous journeys travelled by other Labor MPs between 2011 and 2013 (especially those in Western Sydney seats), that mirrored the shift in balance of forces of the NSW Right away from Gillard to Rudd.

The incomplete nature of Rudd’s return and the modernisation meant that Shorten could block an attempt at the ALP’s 2014 Conference to make support for same sex marriage binding, so leaving it a conscience vote until after the next election.

As for the Coalition, there’s been deliberate re-writing of last year’s decision to call a plebiscite on the issue. It was not, as some opposing the plebiscite now claim, to defer the lifting of the ban on same sex marriage – that had already been done with the Coalition’s decisive party room vote to maintain the current policy just before the plebiscite was announced. Rather, the plebiscite was meant to defuse the issue becoming a rallying point for those opposing Abbott’s leadership.

It would have been thought that with the failure of the “values” strategy, Labor could now stop with their parody of what working class people think and act like the nice middle class professionals they generally are.

But something odd has happened. Instead of just doing their job and reflecting the support of Labor voters on same sex marriage, Labor began to repose the debate. From being simply about where society’s at on marriage, as they were (falsely) doing under Gillard, Labor was now making it about “love” and “equality” .

Leaving aside that the institution of marriage has never sat comfortably with formal equality, Labor’s reposing it as about equality obviously contradicts with its “conscience” position – when was equality an issue of conscience? Labor’s internally motivated compromises have not kept up with its shifting public tactics.

By Labor making it about love and equality, it naturally makes those against it about hate and inequality. This was, of course, not something that Labor would apply to their own policy opposition just a couple of years before – a double standard that has not gone unnoticed. This now being about love/hate, equality/bigotry, it has naturally led to a marked change in attitude to a plebiscite – from being “relaxed” about it in 2013, and even up to the Irish referendum (if seeing it unnecessary), to now claiming it could be harmful, a potential platform for hate, and linking it to mental health and suicide.

In doing so, Labor has suddenly decided to pick up the message from those same sex marriage activists who, barely a year after celebrating the Irish referendum, are now warning of the dire consequences of a repeat of any such public debate in Australia. After years of publicly campaigning for marriage equality, now the whole idea of a minority having to campaign to a majority on their rights is being considered as “demeaning”. A campaign that was supposed to be about getting social recognition of same sex relationships is now objecting to having to do precisely that.

It is worth noting that this opposition to a public debate and a refusal to call on majority support for minority rights is a marked contrast to the whole thrust of civil rights movements over the last half century. The US black civil rights movement was precisely about demanding minority rights from the majority, against an often vitriolic reaction from local white communities. Those brave souls who marched in the Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978 against the contempt and violence from the then Labor government’s police force, also did so to force a minority demand for equality into the public arena.

Given the far greater backlash such social protests would provoke in those days, they could almost seem irresponsible to activists of today. This retreat from such a public debate represents the implosion right across the spectrum of such social movements in the last fifty years to become the retreat of identity politics.

But the issue here is not really what has happened to social movements and identity politics, but the mainstream politics it was meant to challenge. Far from challenging it, the implosion of identity politics, whether feminism or indigenous rights, is being taken up and used by the major parties for their own purposes – as Labor is now using the retreat from the public sphere sounded by same sex marriage activists.

At one level, the reason for Labor’s sudden responsiveness to what SSM activists think is quite banal. Let’s be blunt, having opposed same sex marriage in government, Labor now wants to own it in opposition, especially to appeal to younger voters against the Green threat in the inner cities. It is why at the same time as it warns of a public campaign, it has been doing precisely that under its own banner, both at the last election and with Labor MPs flocking to the Mardi Gras and whizzing selfies up on social media.

It is also why Labor is continually putting up bills in Parliament that it knows will fail, even if they clash with bipartisan crossbench bills, as it did last month, just so it can keep it as a partisan issue that boxes the Coalition in – to the annoyance of those like Warren Entsch who are looking for a free Coalition vote with perhaps more sincerity and consistency on the issue than Bill Shorten.

Similarly, despite the attempt by some Coalition conservatives to undermine the credibility of the plebiscite by saying they would oppose it regardless, the fact a plebiscite win would have been the best chance for former opponents like Morrison and Abbott to throw their hands up and support it under the cover of public opinion, is now secondary to making sure it exists only as a campaign with a “Vote Labor” at the end of it.

However, Labor’s sharpening of its rhetoric against the plebiscite also reflects a more profound view of politics that is developing elsewhere. It was a view summed up in Gillard’s notorious Michael Kirby speech last year, best known for revealing that her previous “conservative” opposition to same sex marriage was a heavily disguised searing radical feminist critique. Perhaps of more interest are her reasons for opposing the plebiscite:

The speed and temper of our times is already working to undermine faith in the ability of democracies to cope and to embrace reform. The bonds that bind government and the governed together are already fraying. Enabling our nation to ready for the future, to adopt the continuing stream of big changes necessary, requires thoughtful strengthening of those bonds, not unusual tactics calculated to increase the wear and tear.

All this means a plebiscite or referendum is an idea of superficial appeal and long lived dangers.

What is happening here is that Labor’s insecurity about its own political project’s relationship to the base hasn’t gone away, but morphed into insecurity about the “frayed” bonds of the entire political system to society at large. The plebiscite threatens to not only create a counterpoint to Parliament but undermine its integrity.

The flipside to asserting the integrity of the political system to decide issues is the inability of society to directly do the same. While parliamentary consciences are a fine thing, the idea of society displaying theirs could be dangerous for mental health. There are some similarities to the discussion around this year’s referendum over Britain’s membership in the EU, where a debate that could be had forty years ago, when Britain was a much more openly racist society than today, cannot now be debated without risking the “unleashing of furies”. In the case of same sex marriage, Labor is using its opposition to the plebiscite and the argument of the activists about the dangers of the public to not only bolster its own campaigning, but the integrity of an increasingly unpopular Parliament.

The irony of all of this is such an approach could be self-fulfilling. As was perceptively noted by Peter Brent, despite the polling support for same sex marriage, there is still the possibility it could lose if it turned into a vote against the “elites”.

We know this is possible for two reasons. First, it has happened before when a lobbying group even more unsuccessful than Australian Marriage Equality, the Australian Republican Movement, managed to lose a republican referendum in a republican country, not least because they, and Labor, chose the most unpopular model to put forward, a President elected by Parliament. Here again the concern was the integrity of Parliament and the “long lived dangers” of setting up an alternative, more popular, pole of attraction. Doing so left it open for Howard to talk of a “Politicians’ Republic” knowing, what the ARM did not, that if there is one thing the Australian public likes less than the House of Windsor is their own political class.

We also know a defeat is possible because the Yes side have already gone the right way about losing it. First step in the run up to a vote is to tell the voters they are incapable of having it. Second step is to tell those that disagree they are hateful bigots. It is probably then best that such activists are looking to withdraw from the public sphere, since a majority support for same sex marriage that had little to do with them could turn into its opposite with their, and Labor’s, best efforts.


Failing state

Monday, 1 August 2016    

Isn't that what elections are for?

Isn’t that what elections are for?

When Howard announced the intervention into Northern Territory indigenous communities in the run up to the 2007 election, it was widely seen as a political masterstroke, comparable to the storming of the Tampa that was supposed to have won the 2001 election (so mis-reading both elections).

At the time this blog suggested that the invasion of Iraq might be a better comparison. Read more …

1 comment

Locked in – an update

Sunday, 3 July 2016    

A newly installed Prime Minister goes to the first election and claims a mandate that doesn’t exist while an opposition leader claimed a victory that he never won. The eerie mirroring of the 2010 result shows that Australian politics still hasn’t left the deadlock it’s been in since then. Read more …


The confusions of anti-politics: Brexit – an update

Monday, 27 June 2016    

The French can be cruel.

The French can be cruel.


It was hard not to escape the conclusion from the reaction to the shock Brexit vote that this was an internal Conservative leadership contest that had somehow spun out of control. Read more …


Words and deeds

Monday, 20 June 2016    

The “I” word

Against the terrible events of the last two weeks the general political response from left and right has been dire. It is not, as some have argued, wrong to immediately impose political agendas when something like the attack on an Orlando gay club or the murder of Jo Cox happens. It’s the inability of those political agendas to get a grip on what actually did happen that’s the problem, and the cynical way it was used in Australia immediately after.

After the Orlando shooting it was the right that could identify it as Islamist terrorism while the left dissembled the motive of the killer. Within a few days both sides had clambered over each other to take opposite positions on the murder of Jo Cox. This time it was the left who could call it the far right terrorism it was, while the right tried to shift the discussion away to his mental health.

But it was not just the back-flipping and hypocrisy of both sides’ positions in a matter of a few days. It got much worse than that.

A few weeks ago ISIS was reported to have made a call for “lone wolf” attacks across the Europe and the US during Ramadan. Within a couple of weeks there were two attacks close to each other, the Orlando shooting and the stabbing of two police officers outside Paris. Both followed the usual pattern: claiming allegiance with ISIS on Facebook and, in the Orlando case, by dialling 911, and holding hostages for maximum publicity. Both were designed to increase ISIS’s profile around the world at a time when it was on the retreat in Iraq and Syria.

What ISIS may not have allowed for, however, was the extent to which sections of the US political class and media would go out of its way to deny that the killer did what he several times said he was doing. Instead, the first response from some was to claim it was just another problem of gun control, ignoring not only the fact that he had a security licence and been twice cleared by the FBI, but the particular targeted intent of this attack rather than just a random cinema. Even worse, some jumped on the theory that it happened because Mateen was a repressed homosexual, as though that explained anything, a particularly tasteless speculation given the target, and the sort of psychosexual babble you’d expect in the 1950s of Agatha Christie and her homicidal lesbians. Reports that the FBI is dropping that theory are unsurprising.

The result of all this wriggling on the left side to avoid saying the “I” word – summed up by the President’s meaningless labelling of it as a “terrorism of hate” (as opposed to a “terrorism of love”?), a tactic followed by Clinton (wisely abandoned) – was to let the right completely off the hook and sound almost sensible. It obscured that Trump had no solution than to revive the Muslim ban he previously dropped, out of time not only because after the event, but given Mateen was born in the US, would have required time travel to around 1979 when his father came to the US and Islamic fighters were being armed by the US to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

When the left side did acknowledge that Mateen might be who he said he was, the usual response then was to argue that this shouldn’t reflect on other Muslims, even if they hold anti-gay views.

Actually, this is fair enough. Words are not deeds. There is a world of difference between saying a religious belief, no matter how vile, and carrying it out in practice (otherwise the world would be full of good Christians). Even the so-called “hate speech” preacher who was in Orlando weeks before the shooting and hurriedly (and opportunistically) denied a visa to Australia can hardly be directly linked to such killings.

Mateen’s profile is similar to many observed in Europe going to fight for ISIS in not being especially theological or even that clear on the myriad of Islamic militarist groupings in Syria. The answers surely more lie in the social reality they live for which Islamic radicalism is more likely a vehicle than the primary driver. For example, it has been reasonably suggested that the second generation immigrant status of many who go to fight for ISIS, and Mateen, is more pertinent to their radicalisation – nicely described as the Islamification of radicalism than the radicalisation of Islam.

The trouble is, however, this is not what the left actually thinks. Generally for politicos words are deeds, or at least an incitement to them. The whole concept of “hate speech” is embedded in much of left politics and the calls for bans on, er, black US rap artists coming to Australia is based on the idea that inflammatory speech will directly link to violent acts.

Thirty years ago, it tended to be the censorious right that was more willing to ascribe words or images to violent acts (the new-fangled “video games” were a particular target) while the left’s attitude was more to take pride in criticising what was said to reveal the social reality behind it. With the left having since lost its direct connection to social reality and also ascended into the ether, clamping down on words and images is now presented as an act of social change.

That’s why on Islamic terrorism it has nothing to say. So embedded is the idea that words drive action, that it is hard not to ascribe terrorism to the anti-progressive elements of Islamic teachings, rather than the particular lived reality of the terrorists in the west, and their response to it.

“Forces unleashed”

With the murder of Jo Cox, however, to this blogger one of the saddest political events, positions were at least initially more back to normal, and it was instantly ascribed to the far right ideology as details emerged.

But then it changed and it began shifting to something else than just about far right ideology. To understand why it is necessary to look at what was happening in the days leading up to the murder.

As noted before, the dynamic of the Brexit campaign was similar to last year’s Scottish referendum with two campaigns running at the same time: an official nationalist campaign, that was more a middle class concern, and a more hidden anti-establishment anti-elite campaign running in working class areas.

Cameron did the same thing he did in Scotland: wheel out the experts to warn of the economic danger of leaving, something that appears to have some impact on the traditional Conservative base. But the result was also to polarise the “anti-expert” mood in the Leave supporters, especially with traditional Labour supporters.

Labour’s low profile has been noted and explained by its unenthusiastic leader and as a tactic to let the Tories tear each other apart. But when tight polls put increasing pressure on Labour to bring its supporters in line, the real reason for the Labour reticence became clear, it had completely lost touch with them.

That Labour has disconnected from its base is hardly new and has been going on for at least 30 years. But until recently it could be ignored as politically in England there was nowhere else to go. While Scotland, its historical stronghold, was wiped out to the SNP, in England the only party making inroads was UKIP, and even here not as much as some thought – although the fact that an ex-Tory stockbroker could make any headway at all in northern England showed how bad the situation was.

With the EU referendum there is no reason to hold back, and the breach between Labour and its traditional working class base is now fully in the open. There is a highly illuminating video of a Guardian reporter following a Labour MP around her constituency in northern England campaigning for Remain. What is illustrative is not only the surprise of the Guardian reporter at the depth of Leave sentiment with white working class and Muslim communities, but the cluelessness of the MP that is supposed to represent them (the MP seeking refuge in the pottery factory near the end is especially amusing).

By midway through last week, Labour was in full panic mode. The problem was not only the breach with the base, but precisely because of that breach that Labour is desperate to retain ties with the EU bureaucracy. By mid-week some senior Labour figures were promising to make a deal with the EU to restrict immigration (unlikely) while being flatly contradicted by its leader. Guardian columnists were warning darkly of forces being unleashed from a working class no longer under Labour influence.

Then the murder happened. Almost immediately the panic in the Remain camp meant the traditional response to blame the message became focused not just on far right ideology but on the mainstream Leave campaign as well.

Leaving aside that Mair has been a far right activist decades before the EU referendum, from a democratic point of view this is not such a great development. For a UK political campaign, the Brexit campaign is pretty run of the mill. Indeed the farcical “flotilla war” the day before summed up for many what had been a petty and silly campaign. Britain has certainly had more vitriolic campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s. Nor is immigration being a centre-piece that unusual. The Conservatives ran directly on it in 2005 under the classic Crosby dog whistle slogan “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” (it flopped). Even at the last election, immigration was enough of an issue for Labour to issue reassuring mugs and Cameron to promise an immigration level he had no intention of fulfilling.

For a start, it is surely up to the public in a democracy to determine how a campaign is conducted and on what issues. More importantly, letting the actions of a far right nut job determine the limits of what can be talked about is hardly healthy. Even worse, the murder then became linked to a broader “anti-politics” mood against the “elites” that stemmed from the quite justifiable anger about MPs expenses – a bizarre accusation that had nothing to do with the murderer who seemed to be suffering less from anti-politics, than a bit too much of it. It seemed more about the reasserting the battered reputation of a political class than the murder of Jo Cox and her killer.

Cynicism at home

In Australia we saw last week just how crass this approach can get. In the Facebook leaders debate, fortunately watched by no one, Shorten tried to make a link between the Orlando and Cox shootings and the dangers of holding a plebiscite on same sex marriage (from which he later backtracked).

The hypocrisy of Shorten and Labor on this is staggering. Leaving aside that a plebiscite wouldn’t be needed if Labor had passed it in six years of government, it will be remembered that last year Shorten took the lead in blocking an attempt at Conference to make support for same sex marriage Labor policy in favour of keeping it a conscience vote. Funnily enough a block on same sex marriage that was policy when Labor joined the Coalition to apply it in 2004, must now be a conscience vote to lift it.

In reality, same sex marriage has been an internal party political football in Labor even more than it is in the Liberals. Support for same sex marriage has usually been taken up as part of a modernising push against right-wing union control. Their declining grip might have something to do with the shift in “consciences”, especially with NSW right MPs, over recent years, making it otherwise the biggest simultaneous conversion of consciences since the Resurrection.

This is just politics. But to then turn and echo the sentiment in the UK against the public, as being unable to do what the Labor party still can’t, is really too much. Probably one of the most annoying offenders is Senator Wong, who has spoken before about the homophobia in the public that makes her concerned over holding a plebiscite, forgetting that the “homophobic public” was able to tell pollsters they supported same sex marriage before her political career allowed her to do the same. Yesterday she was again warning of the dangers of a public debate, raising hurtful comments about bestiality, while forgetting that it came not from the masses but a fellow South Australian Senator opposite her in the chamber we are now supposed to solely trust with the debate.

The final irony to all of this concern over a public campaign on same sex marriage is, of course, it is precisely what Labor is doing right now in the election campaign. It seems the only safe way to campaign on any issue is when it ends in Vote Labor. And if words are now deeds, it seems the only responsible guardians of them from the public are the politicians they are supposed to elect.

1 comment

Car crash

Monday, 30 May 2016    

Picture: Mike Bowers

Picture: Mike Bowers

If a car crash is two vehicles heading in the opposite direction on the same track, then we had the definition of it at the leaders’ debate on Sunday night. Both the press and the two leaders are grappling with the same thing but coming at it from completely opposite directions, and despite all the swerving and evasion to avoid it from both sides, the result ended up being a mess.

Away from the tedious finessing over policy detail, there really is only one issue this election: where both parties go from here now they’ve run out of options. Both parties come to this election exhausted. The leadership toing and froing of the last eight years has solved nothing. Rudd/Turnbull failed to take their parties somewhere new, the return of the old under Gillard/Abbott only made things worse.

Since it became clear that the 2013 election and the end of the Gillard/Rudd period, has solved nothing, there is now more talk of a widespread political malaise in press commentary. But no real attempt to get what was behind it. Instead there has been an exhortation from the more serious commentary to reignite the serious drive for reform from the Hawke/Keating era that never actually happened. As a result, we had this belief when Turnbull took over the leadership, that he could simply over-step the paralysis in the parties and solve the political crisis through his own Fabulousness and pick up where Rudd left off but without the policy waffle.

But Turnbull is no Rudd. He simply does not have the political smarts that allowed Rudd to defeat a long term Prime Minister and become, at least for a while, the most popular political leader in a generation. Rather than take on his own party as Rudd did, Turnbull looks keener to tread water and wait for an election victory to give him the authority he still lacks.

But this isn’t going to happen. Unless it is a landslide, surviving a first term against Shorten Labor is unlikely to be seen by his critics as such an achievement as to shut them up – especially as they will regard him as having watered down the agenda to do so. But as was already clear under Abbott, other considerations than electoral ones apply. Turnbull will still face the almost impossible task of finding a way of promoting the party’s brand and remain electorally viable.

So on Sunday night, we had a format and questions that were suitably high-minded and serious to evoke the, er, great debates of the Hawke/Keating/Hewson era, and two leaders who were simply not in a position to respond.

Of the two, Shorten at least seemed to have adapted more to the times. The little man act, the bad suit, the excessive politeness, the “keeping it real” counter-position of mums and dads against the big corporations and the banks with their $50bn tax cut, was more in keeping with the diminished expectations of current circumstances.

In contrast, Turnbull still has the windy rhetoric that he had when he took office but without the expectation now that it would actually mean something. Without understanding the situation both leaders’ find themselves, there has been understandable annoyance from the press at the two leaders’ lacklustre performance, but especially on Turnbull from whom so much was hoped.

The debate is unlikely to have changed much, given that it reflects the reality of which everyone is already aware. But it might give an indication that in the unlikely event Labor does win, there will be complete incomprehension from some quarters as to why.


The confusions of anti-politics: Brexit

Tuesday, 24 May 2016    

The current state of the British political project.

There is a fundamental (and fairly obvious) flaw at the centre of the Brexit campaign. Read more …


Locked in

Monday, 9 May 2016    

David Rowe, AFR

David Rowe, AFR

It is not right for Australians to be forced into a guessing game, and it’s not right for Australians to not face this year with certainty and stability. So in the interests of certainty, in the interest of transparency, in the interest of good governance, I have made the date clear today.

J Gillard, January 2013

Turnbull’s bold play came as the latest Newspoll showed his authority sliding, and his government wearing the costs of a perceived drift. Turnbull’s frustration at these perceptions has been as evident as it has been pointless. Having so many unknowns in play at once has done the new PM no favours.

This special sitting / early budget / early double-D election announcement will change all of that smartly.

Mark Kenny, 21 March

Poor polling is making the decision to defer the election until July look increasingly questionable.

Mark Kenny, one month later

This is the second election in a row that the date has been locked in well in advance. The key advantage of choosing an election date, so helpful to a Prime Minister’s authority, has been thrown away by Prime Ministers who desperately needed all the help they can get, because other concerns prevailed – namely the need to lock in a party behind them that was in danger of drifting and fragmenting beneath them. Read more …


Book review: Niki Savva’s Road to Ruin

Monday, 28 March 2016    



Like a dead fish, a paralysed government soon flips upside down in the water. Read more …



Monday, 29 February 2016    

Photo By Gary Ramage

Why has everyone been so desperate for Tony Abbott to quit the political stage? Read more …


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