Tag Archive: politics


With the Queensland Plan forum in the news, and in the wake of the southern states of Australia winding their clocks forward an hour for daylight savings this weekend just gone, that thorny old issue of daylight saving time in Queensland has once again raised its head.  Despite the best intentions of both the ALP and LNP to keep it under wraps and pretend that daylight savings is a non-issue north of the Tweed, the Queensland public has again declared a desire for action on this somewhat stagnant issue.

A brief history lesson now – daylight saving time was introduced permanently in parts of Australia in the early 1970s, after being initially briefly employed previously during the world wars as an energy saving measure.  New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia have all since undertaken the practice of winding their clocks forward one hour in spring, and back one hour in autumn, so as to capitalise on the excess morning light delivered by nature during the summer months.

At this time, Queensland was under the rule of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s National Party, with a predominantly rural and profoundly conservative voter base.  To them, and Sir Joh’s Nationals, the concept of adjusting clocks twice a year was more than a minor inconvenience, and after a brief flirtation with the practice, was permanently stopped.  The sharper-minded observers will recall the mutterings from the then-Queensland Premier about how daylight saving time would fade the curtains and make the cows produce sour milk.  Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke famously told the world that Queensland’s resistance to the concept was because “Joh wasn’t getting out of bed an hour earlier for anyone”.

Of course, all (word deliberately omitted) things must eventually come to an end, and with the revelations of corruption and the onset of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, Joh’s Nationals were turfed out of office in 1989 for the Wayne Goss’ Labor Party.  Goss sought to immediately introduce a trial of daylight saving time in Queensland, which ended up running for three full summers, before a referendum was held in 1992 to decide whether Queenslanders were prepared to embrace daylight saving time.

The result was clear, and even the most sceptical of statisticians and psephologists admitted its conclusions.  The ‘no’ campaign won the day with over 54% of the statewide vote, with opposition to daylight saving time reaching levels of over 90% in some areas in far north and west Queensland. Interestingly, South East Queenslanders embraced the concept, unlike their regional cousins, with almost all voting districts in the South East registering overall support for the extra hour of daylight in the summer evenings.  However, their support was overall insufficient, and in March 1992 Queensland ended its last ever period of daylight saving time since.

Since 1992, a few half-hearted proposals for the reintroduction of daylight savings in Queensland have been thrown around.  A political party dedicated to the concept was registered in the late 2000s, and in 2010, a private members’ bill was introduced into Queensland Parliament to establish a separate time zone for South East Queensland that ran on daylight saving time in the summer months.  However, without the support of either major party, it was quickly defeated, and the status quo remained.  It is of note that since Goss, no Queensland Premier has advocated the introduction of daylight saving time while in office (though both Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman are on the record as privately being supporters of the concept).

So, how do you tackle a thorny issue such as this?  There’s no doubt that the state is deeply divided on it, with the far north and west bitterly opposed, and the South East generally supportive.  The status quo has seen the South Easterners surrender to the north on the issue, with year-round standard time being the norm.  However, this must be questioned when two-thirds of the state’s population resides in this area.  One is forced to question the wisdom of allowing a clear minority of the state’s population to dictate terms regarding time zones, despite the state capital and its largest tourist areas all being located within areas that would clearly benefit from daylight saving time.

The rationale behind daylight saving time in the South East is clear: in summer, sunrise occurs at approximately 4:45am EST in Brisbane, yet sunset is before 7pm.  Winding forward one hour would bring sunrise to the much more respectable time of 5:45am, and would push sunset back an hour to closer to 8pm.  While the sun would still set earlier in Brisbane than in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Hobart, daylight saving time would give people in the South East an additional hour of light at the end of the day.

Then of course is the time difference factor – for six months of the year, Brisbane is one hour behind the eastern states, and even half an hour behind Adelaide, despite being significantly further east.  This time difference plays havoc for business relations between Queensland and the southern states, and proves especially confusing at the NSW border.  The state border is far from clearly defined in most areas, meaning people can cross it and change time zones without knowing.  Quite literally, there are parts of Coolangatta, the southernmost town of the Gold Coast, where you can cross the road (in a dense urban area mind you) and have changed states and time zones without even realising.  This proves confusing for locals and especially tourists, noting that the Gold Coast is one of this state and our nation’s most popular tourist spots.

To reflect my objectivity, I note that the arguments against daylight saving time in the north of the state are strong too.  Cairns, for instance, is 800km further west than Brisbane, and some 1500km further north.  This means that the sun naturally rises and sets later anyway, and in summer the days do not grow longer to the extent that they do further south.  Objectively speaking, it is perfectly reasonable for people in Cairns to wish to remain on standard time for 12 months of the year.  Mount Isa also fits into this category, being even further west than Cairns, as do many other towns and cities to the north and west of Brisbane.

So, what does one do?  The politically easy option is to retain the status quo – it’s at least uncontroversial.  No politician wants to piss of the regions, nor be seen as the person splitting the state.  This is why you see people like Campbell Newman, who campaigned strongly for the introduction of daylight saving time as Lord Mayor of Brisbane, resisting any action on this front.  But that doesn’t solve the issue – it merely means the South East continues to miss out due to the minority in the north, and gives the southern states even further evidence of Queensland being a backward state that, as a resident of Brisbane, I can assure you that it otherwise does not justly deserve.

The only pragmatic solution, and the only one that gives people what they all want, is for Queensland to operate two time zones in the summer months.  Draw a line no further south than Gympie, and no further east than the Dividing Range, with everywhere south-east of that line observing daylight saving time in summer, and the rest of the state remaining on standard time.  Sure, it will have its logistical challenges at first, as any change in time zones will, but it’s the best solution to this dilemma.  We wouldn’t be the first place in the world to split a state into more than one time zone – Florida observes both Eastern and Central time in the USA (due, like Queensland, to its expansive geography), and closer to home, Broken Hill runs at a constant half-hour behind NSW time, despite being in that state.

Why don’t we trial that for a few years – please everybody for a while, and see if anyone wants to change back at the end.  Of course, if the South East embraces the change (as I anticipate they will), let them keep that time zone.  And if Gympie, or the Fraser Coast, or Toowoomba, or Bundaberg want to join in, let them wind forward too.

In my view, a dual time zone arrangement is the only realistic solution to Queensland’s split on support for daylight saving time.  I believe it can be made to work, and in my view, its implementation will be beneficial for both those involved and those who lie outside these areas.  So, Premier Newman, what are you waiting for?

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A not-so-minor or popular rant coming up here, initially provoked by today’s announcement by Coles Supermarkets that they will be reducing prices across a number of items in their fresh produce departments, though largely fuelled by the media and some regular offenders’ contributions to the discussion of this announcement.

The headlines say it all; “Concerns over fruit & vegetable discounting”, “Fear for farmers over Coles cuts” and so on. In my mind, they should read: “People complaining about cheaper prices”.

The irony I find in the situation is expressed henceforth. In a society where everyone, particularly the populist media, makes such an issue of the supposed high costs of living for everyday Australians, they see it fit to jump on the big supermarkets whenever they say anything, positive or negative.We saw the same thing happen when Coles and Woolworths announced last year that they were decreasing the price of milk and bread –  a populist anger and outrage that prices were being reduced for consumers. Why?!

Now’s the part where everyone will chime in claiming that the supermarkets through their duopoly over the grocery sector in this country use their market power to pay pittance to farmers for their produce, only to sell it with high profit margins in their stores nationwide, and that these price cuts will only see farmers paid less for their produce. While I’m not going to deny that supermarkets undoubtedly make efforts to reduce the wholesale cost for the products they sell, all I can say is, who can blame them? A supermarket, like any other shop in the world, is a business. It provides a service and aims to profit from doing so. People seem to have this fanciful notion that supermarkets exist (or at least should exist) solely for the good of their suppliers and customers, when nothing could be further from the truth. They aim to make money, that’s the purpose of their existence! And a business makes money if it minimises its expenses (aka the price it pays for the products it sources), and maximises its takings (aka the price you pay at the register for those products).

So to get back to what I was trying to say, today in the media we had everyone from an AusVeg spokesman, the CEO of the National Farmers Federation, a spokeswoman from that defender of consumer rights (translation: the mob that aims to protect people from their own stupidity when shopping) Choice, and even the Greens coming out and criticising Coles decision to cut these prices, despite not actually knowing what items specifically would be reduced in retail price. AusVeg, the NFF and the Greens were touting much the same argument, namely that lower retail prices inevitably translates into lower wholesale prices for producers, and that’s bad for farmers. Choice’s main concern that these items were being used as loss-leaders; namely cheap deals that lure customers into stores with the intention of then enticing these customers to buy other premium-priced products as well.

Let’s deal with these concerns in order. For starters, the NFF is the organisation dedicated to protecting farmers’ rights and livelihoods, or as they dub themselves, “the voice of Australian farmers”. They act much like a workplace union would, attempting to lobby for additional rights and benefits for farmers. Essentially their aim and purpose of existence is to help farmers make as much money as possible. They would be quite pleased to see farmers be able to charge top dollar for the produce, which is essentially what is being argued for here. However, if Coles and Woolies were forced to pay top dollar to obtain produce, let’s examine the real impacts. Prices would rise for produce in Australian supermarkets, as wholesale prices would increase and the supermarkets would have to maintain their margins. So suddenly your $2 kilo of bananas would cost more like $4 or $5, as would everything else increase. If that were to happen, imagine the outrage from the cost-of-living-concerned individuals and tabloid newspapers/”current affairs” shows then!

The Greens coming out in defence of Australian farmers continues a string of patriotic-bordering-on-xenophobic policy statements recently regarding the protection of Australian farming and the limiting of overseas ownership of Australian farms and the importation of food. Confusing really, considering the Greens are the party who actively promote and support multiculturalism in every other way. While their concerns for the financial stability of Australian farms and farmers are noble, I sense it is a little in vain. To this day I’m yet to meet a farmer or anyone from the land who would even entertain the concept of voting Green, yet the residents of their one seat of Melbourne would be far happier with cheaper supermarket produce.

And Choice, don’t get me started on Choice. As I said earlier, their sole purpose for existence is to protect idiots from their own stupidity, and that is only proven by the arguments offered by spokeswoman Ingrid Just today on ABC News. Yes, a loss-leader is a product marketed below cost to attract people to your store, and yes, not all products in a supermarket will be loss-leaders, because it’d be a pretty stupid way to run a supermarket if all your products sold for less than they cost. However, if you’re not a gullible fool you’ll realise this, and realise that you can buy your cheap fruit and vegetables without paying extra for other products, and you as the consumer will win, which is what Choice claim to be all about supporting. How a consumer group can oppose lower prices really confuses me, and only convinces me of their continued irrelevance. Though Ms Just’s explanation of a loss-leader does shoot down the arguments made by the NFF and the Greens earlier that farmers will solely bear the burden of the reduced prices.

However, despite these pointless comments from vested-interest groups, one thing has gone amiss in this discussion: fact. The fact is that growing conditions in many parts of Australia over the last few seasons have been the best they’ve been for nearly 20 years. As a result, the supply of many fruits and vegetables available is grossly in excess of demand. Coles’ solution is this: rather than seeing excess product go unsold and have farmers turning tonnes of their good quality produce into fertiliser for their next crop, why not spark an increase in demand by lowering retail prices. That way sales increase so farmers can move more produce (which as any producer will tell you, selling stock cheap is better than not selling stock at all), and retail sales improve due to reduced prices. Not to mention, we the consumers get cheap food. It’s making the best of the situation.

Now I don’t mean to stand here and be a supermarket apologist. And yes, I know you’ll all claim I’m biased as I worked for one of the major supermarkets. However, all I’m doing is presenting the facts and what I believe to be the case, without the usual vitriolic hatred directed at supermarkets from most parts of the media and of popular opinion in general, or for that matter any profit-making institutions in this country. All I ask is, can you say the same for what you believe?

Now I’m off to buy some cheap veggies…

A backflip too far?

Late last year I wrote a post bestowing the virtues of the current minority government status we have in our federal parliament. Rather naively and/or presumptively, I wrote that

…it is almost certain that Australia will have these cash-guzzling machines limited in some fashion, if not removed from existence altogether…

I wrote this based upon the fact that, in November when those words were committed to paper (or whatever its digital equivalent is), the situation was thus: the government had an agreement with key independent Andrew Wilkie to implement pre-commitment technology on poker machines by 2014, and Wilkie, who then held the balance of power, had promised to renege his support for the government should they fail to do so. At this time, what we didn’t expect to see by mid-January was the whole Slippery Pete speaker swap, reducing Mr Wilkie’s influence, and now the government’s decision to abandon its agreement with him on poker machines.

This latest episode, which did cause Mr Wilkie to withdraw his support as he promised to do, simply goes to reinforce the image that this minority Labor government is illegitimate and prepared to abandon any principle and backflip on any agreement in order to gain or maintain power.

Look at the list: Rudd dropping the ETS because it was too hard to legislate, Gillard overthrowing Rudd before the election, Gillard subsequently abandoning the need to act on climate change, Labor gaining government with a minority by wooing a few independents, Labor then backflipping on the backflip over carbon pricing to introduce the carbon tax, Labor seducing Slipper into the speaker’s role to shore up its numbers, and now this pokies backflip. The list is quite damning, seeing as this has occurred over not even two years.

While some of the policy outcomes (read carbon tax) have in fact been beneficial, that does not change what they were. Backflips. Reversals. Lies. And with the now two key backflips her government has perpetrated, Gillard has managed to alienate both of Labor’s primary supporter bases. The social conservative, suburban “Aussie battlas” were offended and driven away by Gillard, arm in arm with Bob Brown, deciding to introduce a carbon tax when it had promised not to do so. While I may support the tax, and these may be the people who choose to deny climate change based upon the fact that it was cold last night, nothing changes the fact that this backflip hurt her politically, at least on that side. Now, by breaking the pokies regulation promise, she has alienated the social progressive supporter base she had, the type who support government intervention on problem gambling. The two sides of the party who Gillard and Labor need the support of have both been alienated by two damning backflips that leave them feeling betrayed.

So where does this leave a voter like me. I reluctantly voted Labor at the last election, based upon the fact that I thought Kevin Rudd’s handling of the financial crisis was exceptional, and in spite of Labor’s lack of commitment to what should be core principles such as action on climate change and fairness to immigrants. However now, Rudd remains alienated in favour of an unconvincing politician whose every word sounds like it has been scripted and rehearsed, and who looks in no way either convincing to her voters or convinced of what she’s saying herself.

But what’s the alternative? As a progressive-minded young person, I’d rather be caught eating paddle pops in hell than vote for anyone like Tony Abbott, yet this government continues to find ways to make him look more credible than itself. His policy beliefs also swing more wildly than a loose gate in a cyclone, so he’s hardly a “conviction politician” like he claims himself and his former leader John Howard to be. And his core beliefs are so far right of centre that I’m sure Mussolini would be looking on in approval.

So what can we hope for? A change of leader in one or both of the major parties is probably the best option. Someone more convincing that Gillard or more moderate than Abbott to lead their parties would be a start. Then for some parties to provide some policy inspiration and give us something to choose between and a reason to vote for them at the next election.

Stop me now. I’m dreaming again.

Reverse-spin the news

A few weeks ago I wrote an article defending the ABC from the claims that the public media organisation holds a political bias (I can’t say whether the claims are that it is biased to the left or right, because the conservatives would have you believe it favours the left, while the progressives claim it is biased to the right).

However, one such media organisation that will not receive my support for its editorial line is News Limited, or specifically in this case, The Australian. Murdoch’s national broadsheet, which claims that it needs to “make a lot of noise” in order to be heard, and has already willingly expressed its disapproval for The Greens, possesses a conservative bias that surely must be evident to all but the most one-eyed Liberal Party supporters.

I’m not the first to point this out – the online news service Crikey makes the point often, as does the Grog’s Gamut blog, both of which are finer examples of media and political analysis than that shoddy rag could ever wish to be.

So why am I so incensed about this today? Well, I woke this morning to find the latest Newspoll results had been released. The figures showed Labor on 34% primary vote, the Coalition on 44% and the Greens on 14%. That’s a 1 point increase to Labor, a 2 point drop to the Coalition and a 4 point gain for the Greens. The two-party preferred figures are now 48-52 in the Coalition’s favour, a four point drop in the difference from the last survey.

Here’s how our unbiased friends at the ABC reported today’s poll results:

As the carbon tax continues to dominate the political debate, a new opinion poll shows the Coalition’s lead over Labor is narrowing slightly.

The Newspoll published in today’s Australian newspaper says Labor’s primary vote has risen one point to 34 per cent, while the Coalition’s primary vote fell two points to 44 per cent.

The Coalition is still leading Labor 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

A fortnight ago the Coalition led by 54 per cent to 46 per cent.

Yep, much as it was. Labor’s gained, but the Coalition still leads. Pretty much as it is.

This tone was obviously too simple (or more likely too left-wing) for The Australian, whose Political Editor Dennis Shanahan instead went with this angle:

ALP fails to profit from Liberal ructions: Newspoll

THE Coalition has kept its clear election-winning lead over Labor as Julia Gillard’s personal support co

ntinues to languish and Tony Abbott calls for an early “carbon tax” election.

Despite two weeks of publicity about infighting and squabbles within the Liberal Party, and a concerted government campaign against the Opposition Leader, there has been virtually no change in the party standings.

Look at the wording: “clear election-winning lead”, “Gillard’s personal support continues to languish”, “Abbott calls for an early carbon tax election”, “virtually no change in the party standings”. From that, you’d think Labor had been wiped out by the latest poll. In fact, even their claim that Gillard’s personal support is languishing is not correct, because the poll figures show an increase in Gillard’s satisfaction ratings, and a decrease in her dissatisfaction rating. Meanwhile, her opponent Abbott has fallen in satisfaction and risen in dissatisfaction ratings in the same period.

It’s sadly typical of The Australian, and many News Limited papers, to report favourably towards the Liberal Party. God forbid they actually look at the results, which show a drop for the Coalition. And heaven forbid they dare mention that The Greens were the biggest positive movers in this poll, rising a significant 4 points in the primary vote alone.

So, I figure if they won’t write it, I will. Much like I did in that ABC article, here’s a quick re-write of the poll results with the shoe on the other foot.

———

Coalition on the nose as progressives rise

The Coalition’s internal rumblings and negative campaigning appear to have lost their appeal to voters, with the latest poll figures revealing the Liberals and Nationals leaking support to both the Labor Party and the Greens.

The Newspoll figures, published in The Australian, reveal that the Coalition has dropped two percentage points in its primary support, now sitting at 44%, barely above the 43.6% primary vote it lost the 2010 election with. Meanwhile, the Labor Party have gained one percentage point to be on 34%, and The Greens were the big movers, rising four percentage points to sit on 14%.

The two-party preferred gap has narrowed considerably as well, with the Coalition now only holding a slender 52-48 lead over Labor after preferences.

Party room dissent may also increase after the figures also revealed Liberal leader Tony Abbott’s personal support has taken a tumble in the past fortnight, with his satisfaction ratings dropping 3% overall to put him at a net satisfaction rating of -16. In the same period, Julia Gillard’s personal support has risen by 2 points overall. Mr Abbott has been accused of pursuing a campaign of “mindless negativity” and lacking in any genuine policy direction, recently claiming he favoured “pragmatic politics over policy purity”.

The poll results come on the back of an already disastrous week for the Coalition, with front-bencher and former leader Malcolm Turnbull launching public attacks on party colleagues and openly criticising the Coalition’s climate change policy. Tensions between Mr Abbott and his shadow treasurer Joe Hockey have also surfaced, with the two forced to put on a joint press conference in an attempt to quell speculation about a falling out.

Meanwhile, Labor and the Greens have been strengthened by a campaign launched by a coalition of community groups expressing support for the proposed carbon tax. The campaign, launched on the weekend, includes celebrities such as actors Michael Caton and Cate Blanchett, and is supported by public figures like entrepreneur Dick Smith and former Liberal Party leaders John Hewson and Malcolm Fraser.

———

Now I can’t claim to have anywhere near the circulation figures of The Australian, and although I deride them, their standards of writing are far superior to mine. However, it still feels nice to reverse the spin and stick it to the right-wing media in this country sometimes.

A common held belief, often pushed by elements of the right-wing of Australian politics, is that the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (or the ABC, Aunty, whatever you want to call it) maintains a level of editorial bias to the left-wing of politics.

This is quite a serious claim to make of a broadcaster that is both government-funded and legislatively bound to provide “independent” broadcasting to the Australian people. If the ABC did in fact maintain an editorial bias in its news publications and broadcasts, it would in fact be violating its charter, and would in fact deserve to have its right to exist questioned.

However, in my experience, and the experience of many, this is far from the case.

Take, for example, this news article about the latest Newspoll results. The headline reads “Abbott’s satisfaction rating on the rise”. Mmm, a headline proclaiming the popularity of the leader of the Liberal Party.

The rest of the article reads as follows:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has maintained her popularity over Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister in the latest opinion poll.

The Newspoll published in The Australian shows Ms Gillard leads Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister by 45 to 36 per cent.

Bang! Gotcha ABC! Look at that, blatant editorialising for the Left!

Sorry, sarcasm took over there. Let’s look at every statement in those paragraphs objectively. In the previous Newspoll, Ms Gillard led Mr Abbott in the preferred PM stakes 46% to 37%. In today’s Newspoll, she leads 45% to 36%. Same margin, only both leaders have lost a point. More importantly, it means the ABC’s reporting is factually accurate.

The next paragraph, like the headline, actually points out Mr Abbott’s gaining ground on the PM in different measures:

But the poll sees Mr Abbott’s job satisfaction rating up 6 per cent, from 36 to 42 per cent, in the past month.

Look at that, praising the Right. Surely this can’t be! Again, from the neutral point of view, this is factually correct, so there is no problem.

The article goes on to discuss the party results next, pointing out that:

The primary vote for the major parties remained steady, with the Coalition on 44 per cent, the Government on 33 per cent and the Greens on 12 per cent.

On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition continues to poll an election-winning lead of 6 per cent.

Again, pointing out the Coalition’s strong position in the polls, and again, doing so accurately. Certainly no left-wing bias here.

The article then concludes by quoting the Prime Minister:

The Prime Minister declined to comment on the poll, saying if she speculated on polls she would “get very little else done given the number of polls that we see”.

“I’ve got a lot of hard work to do as Prime Minister. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do as a government, and we’ll get on with doing that work,” she told AM.

I’m sure the Right would have you believe that a lack of a quote from Mr Abbott would indicate a left-wing bias. However, the only reason they’ve quoted Ms Gillard is because she fortuitously appeared on ABC radio this morning when the poll figures were released, so it was logical to seek comment from her on the numbers. Had Mr Abbott done the same (which he has not), he too would have been asked to comment.

No, the ABC does its absolute best to maintain its independence and freedom from editorial bias – something that cannot be said for its commercial competitors (*cough* News Limited *cough*).

If this article were to be written by an institution with a left-wing bias, here’s an example of how it might actually read:

—–

Abbott loses ground in latest Newspoll

Today’s Newspoll results spell bad news for Tony Abbott and the Coalition, losing 4% of it’s two-party preferred (2PP) lead to Labor, and failing to gain ground in other key areas.

Labor’s primary vote increased by 1 point to 33%, with the Coalition dropping by the same margin to sit at 44%. The Greens and others remained unchanged.

Labor has also clawed back on the Coalition’s 2PP lead – gaining two points to be at 47%, while the Coalition fell the same amount to sit at 53%.

The news was no better for Mr Abbott in the preferred PM stakes, with the Liberal leader failing to gain any ground on Ms Gillard, despite her rating falling by a point. Ms Gillard leads the preferred PM ratings 45% to Mr Abbott’s 36%, a net lead of 9%.

The only good news for Mr Abbott was a slight rise in his satisfaction rating as Opposition Leader, on the back of his opposition to the Carbon Tax and other government initiatives.

Mr Abbott did not offer any comment on the polling figures this morning, however Prime Minister Gillard was modest about her government’s improving fortunes in the polls. She said was not interested in speculating on poll results, and was determined to get on with the tasks at hand.

“I’ve got a lot of hard work to do as Prime Minister. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do as a government, and we’ll get on with doing that work,” she told ABC radio this morning.

—–

There you go, now THAT is a piece deserving of being labelled biased. Again, it tells the facts, however it represents them in a way that is far more favourable to the Labor Party, and critical of the Liberals. If I read that on ABC News, even being a left-leaning member of society, I would be disappointed in its lack of neutrality (and the fact that it looks like it was written in five minutes by a 22 year old non-journalist student, which it was).

I don’t know whether to believe that the Right expects that all media should do what Murdoch’s papers do and report favourably towards it, or whether their inherent opposition to any form of public-owned entity makes them anti-ABC, but I don’t understand it. The ABC, in my view, goes a long way to providing objective, unbiased, informative reporting in this country, and most certainly fills a void left by the commercial operators. Their taxpayer fundbase will always see them prone to political attacks, and while I think it’s vital that all media, the ABC included, be held accountable, I firmly support and am very thankful for the existence of the ABC.

Lots of Qs, even more As

Last night, a now much talked-about episode of Q&A was aired on ABC Television around Australia. The central theme of the media attention this episode has generated has centred around former PM and now foreign minister Kevin Rudd admitting that he made a mistake as PM by dropping the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and that there were divisions within the party as to how to deal with the CPRS prior to its dropping.

Now, the Right has predictably seized upon this as a demonstration of a divided and unruly cabinet, and Tony Abbott will (EDIT: he has already) point to Rudd’s confession as a sign that the Labor party is incapable of governing and needs to be voted out. Catchy lines and great spin that might win a few meat-head votes, but far from insightful or even correct.

Rudd last night announced a fact of no great surprise to anyone: that a political party is made up of people with differing views and opinions, and that those opinions were aired during the debate on the CPRS. I mean, is it really surprising that 83 Labor MPs don’t all share exactly the same view, and have exactly the same belief about how best to deal with what was undeniably a difficult issue?

Rudd for mine performed brilliantly on Q&A last night, he was forthright, refreshingly honest for a politician, and far from being filled with a desire for revenge on Julia Gillard, sought to simply clear the air about the goings on in his last few months as PM. His explanation of why the CPRS was shelved is the best explanation I’ve heard yet from anyone in the Labor party, and described the way he did last night, is fully understandable, and provides a real insight as to why it was shelved the way it was.

I haven’t exactly been the biggest Rudd fan over my time. I didn’t even vote for him in 2007, and grew rather disillusioned with his direction, especially towards the end before his now famous “knifing” (as the Liberals have coined it). However, I was genuinely disappointed with the Labor party for the way in which he was dumped NSW-premier style in order to get a more attractive woman to win the election for them. For me, Julia Gillard has been a huge let-down – no longer do we have the fiery left-wing red-head vigorously fighting for her beliefs in the parliament, but we have a media managed puppet of the right wing faction who is being told what to do and say every step of the way.

Seriously, when Gillard, an open atheist, came out preaching the values of the Bible being taught to children last month, the little respect I had for her individual identity and beliefs was officially destroyed. That is, if it wasn’t already lost by her pandering to the Right on many issues, like asylum seekers, euthanasia and gay marriage. Gillard is a dud – she looks as if she has been granted the leadership on the sole condition that she does and says everything the right-wing faction tells her to. Never mind the fact that she is actually a member of the Left faction, with (God forbid) left wing ideals and beliefs.

We at least knew what Rudd stood for – he looked like a man determined to deliver on his ideals and beliefs, he looked passionate. Look at him saying sorry to the stolen generation, look at him providing stimulus during the GFC. He believed in what he was doing, and was convinced it was the right course of action. That’s why I think he suffered so badly when the CPRS was dropped last year. Climate change was another of his passionate beliefs, and dropping the ETS was an example of him abandoning those beliefs, seemingly because it became too hard. It was a complete backflip on this man of conviction, and was treated accordingly by the public, leading to his (in my view premature) demise.

When have you seen Julia Gillard as PM show the same conviction and belief in her policy as Rudd did? Maybe once campaigning for the introduction of the flood levy, but other than that she has looked wooden, boring, unconvincing and fake. While Rudd was hardly the most exciting media performer, one criticism you’d have never levelled at him (prior to the ETS backflip at least) is that he was fake.

Back to the topic of Q&A last night, for as refreshing as Rudd was, his opposition counterpart Julie Bishop was the complete opposite. She was uninteresting, predictable, and spouted nothing but the tired one-liners that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have been pushing endlessly since before Rudd was removed as leader last year. Seriously, she and her party mates can’t even think of another way to say the terms “knifed a first-term Prime Minister”, “Rudd shouldn’t have trusted Julia Gillard”, “stop the boats”, “great big new tax” and “carbon tax lie”. As a result, Julie Bishop could have been replaced by Tony Abbott, or even a well-trained monkey and you wouldn’t have known the difference (for more reasons than one) – her lines were that old and repeated that it didn’t take her to say them. Hell, why not send a Barnaby Joyce or Wilson Tuckey in her place – they might stumble on something or at the very least amuse us with their crazy antics. It’s no surprise that Ms Bishop was booed by the crowd (43:40 in to this video) for using these rather poor and ineffective tactics to answer her questions.

Still, the papers have gone crazy about Rudd’s comments, and this will inevitably be seen by many as Rudd undermining Gillard’s leadership, possibly in an attempt to regain it for himself. I believe neither of these to be true. Rudd appeared to have a strong desire to be honest and open, possibly for the first time, about his method of thinking and his approach to the issue that cost him the leadership. He does not want to undermine Gillard’s leadership, as it would only result in Tony Abbott becoming PM, which is a scenario even he, a victim of Gillard’s “betrayal” himself, could not support. And while he may still believe that he had potential to lead the nation in a greater capacity and for much longer, the realist within will know that it would be more than highly unlikely for that to ever happen again, that a Gillard-led government is the best possible scenario at the moment, and that being foreign minister cruising around visiting diplomats overseas for a living is a pretty cruisy job that should not be thrown away for a bit of an ego trip.

I read an interesting article today on the Herald Sun website today by journalist Alan Howe proclaiming the virtues of multiculturalism, and praising Victorian premier Ted Baillieu for celebrating the ethnic diversity of this state.

Alan Howe is executive editor of the Herald Sun newspaper here in Melbourne. He’s not exactly in-line with my political views, and his paper is quite the target of my rage due to its dumbed-down populist right-wing agenda. However, when I read this article, I was converted. I agreed, God forbid, with something written in that rag. It actually gave me hope that not all of the people in this country were right-wing xenophobes who loved to hate people of different ethnicities. That was until I read the reader comments on the article.

Here is a brief yet indicative sample of the hate-filed vitriol that Herald Sun readers dished out to Howe’s attempt to embrace ethnic diversity in our state:

Muslims and Sudanese do not intergrate but segregate themselves from the rest of the population . Politicians sit in their ivory towers whilst white Australians watch the degeneration of Australian culture.

Alan, take a referendum on this issue and I think you will find that the majority of Australians do not agree with you.

i always thought mixing in with the locals was the way multi/c worked,apparently i am wrong!but when whole suburbs are usurped by one nationality or one faith or another i reckon it’s fair to say it aint working

This is where you create problems with ghettos and ‘clash of cultures’ which can lead to terrorism.

It is about time we change interpretation of our multiculturalism where the term would mean to encourage every culture to contribute to our ONE and unique Australian culture.

When Asian gangs are in open conflict with African gangs in your street Alan, and your children are to intimidated to play on their own front lawn after 6pm, let me assure you that multiculturalism does not deliver the beneficial effect on society that you are extolling in this poorly conceived column.

All ethnics work towards their own ethnic ends,sending much money back to the home country, creating whole suburbs with just their own nationalities living there,this is a pot waiting to boil over.Parisites living off us,and the money they make off our country, are what the majority are,On the street level they want to own Australia not be an Australian

The general population know multicultarism does not work. THEY want everything their way…. bad enough….but they want to CHANGE us all and THEY ARE!!! Own swimming pools and so on…we’re on the way down.

…and so on. Basically, apart from a few slightly more level-headed interjections, the tone of the 54 comments left on this article was that having people of different cultures in this country was a bad thing and was ruining society.

What a load of garbage.

I don’t know whether it’s the extreme inaccuracy of those comments made, or the hatred they display to people of different nationalities that upsets me most. While it’d be ridiculously naive of me to assume that there weren’t people like this in our country, still seeing and hearing opinions like that in a public forum denegrates the standing of Australia society as a whole.

Naturally, it is at this point where those to my right would pipe up with the old “freedom of speech” argument that we all know so well. Now I am a believer in the right to express a view free from the threat of persecution or government intervention, but when it comes to being a racist and a bigot, my patience is tested. When I think of attacks on freedom of speech, I think of examples like the Chinese government deleting the Tiananmen Square protests from their history and prosecuting those who dare discuss it publicly. That is the form of freedom of speech I believe in defending, not simply the right to be an uninformed hack who hates coloured people.

Back to the point of multiculturalism itself, while the system and its implementation may not be in every way perfect, I think there is no doubt that multiculturalism has enriched our society. Australia now, more than ever before, is home to a diverse range of cultures, races and religions, all of whom share this great land. I have friends who are Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, not to mention Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic, and probably even more. Despite my being a white agnostic Australian with Croatian and English background, I am friends with and get along well with all these people of different faiths and nationalities. In a mono-cultural society, which is what it seems these opponents of multiculturalism are advocating, I would be denied the opportunity to have met and known all these people. I’d have been denied the opportunity to experience and gain an understanding of how different cultures work.

Again, I’d be shut down by those opposite with the claims that they do not want a mono-cultural society, just that they want immigrants to assimilate and integrate into society. They cite the way the influx of Europeans in the 1950s and 60s became a part of society, and have grown to be accepted by the “rest of us” (I use that term very reluctantly).

An interesting and amusing comparison that one. My grandfather was one of those European immigrants who came over in the late 1950s to flee an oppressive communist Yugoslav government. My grandfather came to Australia seeing it as an accepting place, a land of opportunity where hard work was fairly rewarded. He was at least half right. He has told stories of being assaulted by “Aussies” when trying to apply for work for “stealing their jobs”. He was also routinely refused work by employers for being “a wog”. He built his house in Bell Park, the suburb where a vast majority of European immigrants who came to Geelong lived. He was friends with other immigrants, he constructed a European style garden in his yard, he made is own wine and cured his own meats, he listens to Croatian music, and to this day still proudly displays the Croatian flag inside his home.

Now I’m not painting these things in a bad light at all. It’s just interesting to look at this example, especially when the common criticisms of the Asian, Muslim and Indian immigrants of today are denigrated for “stealing our jobs”, “occupying whole suburbs”, “not associating with anyone outside their ethnic group”, “bringing their country to ours” and “not embracing Australian culture”. Those same criticisms were aimed at immigrants fifty years ago, only they came from a different place.

My grandfather would probably be appalled at me criticising this country so much. Despite the tough time he had when younger, he still regards Australia as a land of great opportunity, and is immensely proud to be Australian (he was naturalised some years ago). He passionately believes we Australians can do anything and are given so much in our lives, and he’s entirely correct. I also have no doubt that the immigrants of today share his passion and love for this land too.

Maybe in fifty years time, these anti-multiculturalists will have moved on from pathetically complaining about the immigrants, just like they have about “the wogs” that came over all those years ago. Though I dare say it’s still a pipe dream to hope that at any point in time the people who made those comments quoted above will accept the migrants that make up this country, and recognise the benefits of being such a culturally diverse nation.