Dead man talking

First at Tim Blair and then Andrew Bolt, so why not here? An interview with Bill Shorten not to be missed! The problem is that Shorten is the walking dead. He will not lead the ALP into the next election. Labor will make the switch as close to the next election as possible to maximise the potential for Tanya to run at the same time as Hillary. Meantime, there is this to help see us through the night.

So you don’t think it can get any worse, do you?

Do you want to be afraid, really afraid? Tucked away at the very end of an article today on political reading lists for the beach this summer was this on behalf of Bill Shorten:

. . . and US senator Elizabeth Warren’s A Fighting Chance.

As with the election in 2008, the only way that Hillary Clinton won’t be the next President is if the Democrats come up with someone worse. And they have.

Members of her party’s anti-bank, anti-capitalist wing have found somebody to stir them as she never did. And Warren erases Clinton’s gender advantage.

Most telling, the left’s intensity is growing since the GOP midterm rout. Instead of being chastised, the populist wing absurdly claims that Democrats have been too willing to compromise.

No more of those Obama half measures for Warren, the fake Cherokee oddball far-left nutty professor now Senator from the great state of Massachusetts. She and Bill will make quite a pair. For those who think it can’t get any worse, oh yes it can.

Barnacle Bill

Tony Abbott has asked nervous government MPs to maintain internal discipline in the face of the ABC funding controversy and bad polling, reassuring them he will knock “one or two barnacles off the ship” before Christmas.

Other than with the title, I’m not sure there is much of a lesson for us moderns other than that sensibilities do indeed change. This is from 1935. Anything similar is unimaginable today although I was shocked to see Olive Oyl playing the field as she does. But for all that, thinking of our leader of the opposition as Barnacle Bill does have an appeal specially when presented as a menace as he is here.

Should also mention how well the PM’s speech was yesterday. In fact, I was sitting next to a minister assisting the minister and was saying just that to him when he said why don’t you say it to Tony. And there he was passing by as he was leaving, so I said it again to him. The speech was reported in this morning’s AFR with the headline, “Abbott puts the onus on business”.

Tony Abbott on Wednesday night appealed to the business community to help the government sell its economic agenda foll­owing a decision to dump or water down key budget measures and new evidence the budget is far more vulnerable than previously thought.

The Prime Minister told the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Australian Business Leaders’ dinner last night that the success of his government depended partially on strong business backing.

“My hope is that you won’t just be interested but engaged in 2015. You matter and your voice is heard,” he said in a similar plea issued recently to the Business Council of Australia. “Reform or stagnation, budget repair or endless deficits. More tax or less. Your choices and your statements count.”

Prosperity travels through business; there is no other way. Crony capitalism is not the free market; it is a reversion to the mercantilism Adam Smith is supposed to have seen off the lot. Barnacle Bill is playing with fire. They created the mess that will sink our living standards while they pretend it has been those who are trying to repair the damage at fault.

UPDATE: The imagery is complete. Viva [many, many thanks] in the comments noted that Abbott is being portrayed as Popeye by Moir in his cartoons!

abbott as popeye

Having dinner with the PM

barnacle bill

Along with about 400 others. But do not worry. I have my binoculars and my hearing aids are turned up to max so it should be all right.

Most interesting for me is to see what he’s going to do about Barnacle Bill, how he’s going to scrape those last few barnacles off and get on with governing. He has all the makings of a great Prime Minister but needs to get untracked. As the picture shows, he is just warming up.

The one news item that I found relevant about tonight’s dinner was the front page story in The Australian. Where I will be tonight is at the dinner of my previous employer, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ACCI is to employers what the ACTU is to unions. It does much else but I have even presented the National Wage Case on occasion which is something of a career highlight. And the story in The Oz was, “Business raises the case for workplace change”. Goodness knows we need it.

Labor along with many others perennially confuse the need to improve the lives of working people with the need to make unions more powerful. I am no enemy of unions but it is essential that their power is contained if an economy is ever to succeed. Slush funds and such are only just the start of the problem. I wrote six reports on the failings of the current industrial relations system while Labor was in government (here’s one) and with none of the legislation as yet changed, the problems continue.

The Government has been promising a review of the IR system by the Productivity Commission, which is what today’s news story was about. It is certainly time this was called on, if not actually long overdue.

The rhetoric of progressives

You think America has no further distance to fall. These are Elizabeth Warren’s 11 Commandments of Progressivism. Who’s Elizabeth Warren? Senator from Massachusetts and if Hillary doesn’t get the nomination, then she will. The only question is how long before we hear Bill Shorten saying the same:

– “We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.”

– “We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth.”

– “We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.”

– “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.”

– “We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.”

– “We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.”

– “We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.”

– “We believe—I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work.”

– “We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America.”

– “We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform.”

– “And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!”

And the main tenet of conservatives’ philosophy, according to Warren? “I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.”

This kind of rhetoric is like catnip to the perpetually uninformed which in the US is now well beyond 50% of the voting population and climbing. That things only get worse when people like this are elected is just one of those things that defy explanation for those who nevertheless vote this way.

Same old same old

According to today’s Oz, the Leader of the Opposition has joined the rest of us in seeing that the R-G-R government was a hopeless mess.

BILL Shorten has attacked the governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, highlighting their flaws, mistakes and misjudgments, arguing that he has learned the lessons of Labor’s election defeat and declaring the party must accept them too.

That’s a start, but where to from there? Will it be balanced budgets, no more wasted money, no longer jumping onto every PC bandwagon such as global warming. Will it be pulling unions off the back of business, reducing regulation, telling the truth before elections and then doing what you said you’d do? Well actually, nothing as specific as that. This is the list of six vapid principles, as content free as it is possible to imagine.

The first is to “treat people with courtesy and respect”.

The second is not to “launch a thousand ships, a thousand ideas (and) a thousand thought bubbles”.

The third is to focus on policy implementation.

The fourth lesson is to build a good relationship with business..

Fifth is to be a “no surprises” government.

The final lesson was to communicate with voters more effectively. “You have got to explain what you’re solving. Don’t go straight to the solution.”

And then there’s a seventh:

“Having a formal relationship with unions” which he said “is a strength, not a weakness.”

In other words, nothing new. Just hoping that the present government irritates just enough voters in doing what needs to be done to get Labor back over the line at the next election. A Shorten-Palmer Government should be quite an experience.

It’s a worry

I found this in Tony Abbott’s Battlelines which is a quote he took from John Howard:

A conservative is someone who doesn’t think he’s morally superior to his grandfather.

Very nice, very neat and in its own way sums up just how difficult it is to be a conservative these days. Because the sentiment will actually only appeal to a small proportion of the country. Most won’t know what it means and a majority will surely think their morals are superior because none of us live in the moral space of people fifty and a hundred years ago.

Which brings me to the latest polls. Is the Coalition behind? So says The Age, down 48-52. Although not as bad, it is to some degree echoed by The Australian:

TONY Abbott and the Coalition have lost their post-election glow, with voter support for the Prime Minister and the government continuing to fall as Bill Shorten and Labor climb back from the election loss.

I expect people who rise in the political process to know a thing or two about politics but they often don’t know how things look from our here. And the biggest issue from where I sit is the absence of good news stories, how things are being done and Labor is being raked over the coals for the harm the last six years have done. The fact that Julia Gillard feels capable of commenting shows just how little shame Labor feels about the damage they did.

Government is not admin. It is not just fixing things up behind the scenes. It is not only about doing, it is also about explaining. It is about maintaining your support. If you are going to govern against the grain of the zeitgeist, which every conservative government must do, there needs to rhetoric to go with the action.

The only stories I see really being carried in the media have been about rorting travel allowances and a major blue with Indonesia. We already knew about the NBN, the budget black holes, the deficits and the boats. But I worry that the government may think quiet competence will do the job, and people will notice.

If you build a better mousetrap, the reality is the world will not beat a path to your door. Being a better government is not enough. If you do not explain yourself and engage in the rhetoric of politics, if you do not have an agenda of your own but are merely at the mercy of the next revelation by The Age, Guardian or The ABC, you are inviting trouble.

Maybe it’s just nothing, it’s only early days, but I do worry.