In the news … November 2020

Biden looks like just another conservative

25 November 2020: US president–elect Joe Biden’s cabinet choices so far make him appear to be another conservative in the mould of Obama and Hillary Clinton.  US political rhetoric aside, the Republicans represent the extreme right, Democrats are mostly moderate conservatives, and only ‘outsiders’ like Bernie Sanders or ‘the Squad’ stand for progressive or even left wing policies.

Biden’s choices so far, subject to Senate approval, are all people that could be described as Democrat apparatchiks, having served during the Obama administrations in various positions.  There is no fresh blood.  Yet.  No positions for Sanders or the Squad.

I find myself agreeing with Bernie Sanders’ editorial on the need to woo back working class voters who supported trump in 2016, and again this year – in record numbers!  His editorial said:

If the Democratic party wants to avoid losing millions of votes in the future it must stand tall and deliver for the working families of our country who, today, are facing more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression. Democrats must show, in word and deed, how fraudulent the Republican party is when it claims to be the party of working families.

And, in order to do that, Democrats must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades. I’m talking about Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry, the military industrial complex, the private prison industrial complex and many profitable corporations who continue to exploit their employees.

If the Democratic party cannot demonstrate that it will stand up to these powerful institutions and aggressively fight for the working families of this country … we will pave the way for another rightwing authoritarian to be elected in 2024. And that president could be even worse than Trump.

Sanders made the predictable point that the Republicans lied about being the champions of the working class.  In fact, they lied about everything.  More importantly, though, Sanders argued that the Democrats need to demonstrate by word and deed what they stand for:

Democrats need to make it absolutely clear whose side they are on.

One side is for ending starvation wages and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. One side is not.

One side is for expanding unions. One side is not.

One side is for creating millions of good paying jobs by combating climate change and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. One side is not.

One side is for expanding healthcare. One side is not.

One side is for lowering the cost of prescription drugs. One side is not.

One side is for paid family and medical leave. One side is not.

One side is for universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in America. One side is not.

One side is for expanding social security. One side is not.

One side is for making public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families, and eliminating student debt. One side is not.

One side is for ending a broken and racist criminal justice system, and investing in our young people in jobs and education. One side is not.

One side is for reforming and making our immigration system fair and humane. One side is not.

While I have been disappointed by this apparent business–as–usual approach, European politicians have a different view, talking about being reassured by the ‘new direction’ in foreign policy.  Meaning give us anything but Trump’s shambolic blustering.

Portugal’s foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, said the next secretary of state was ‘very pro-European’.  Portugal is due to take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union in January.

Deutsche Welle reported:

“The problem with the Trump administration was that President Trump treated his European allies as if they were enemies or adversaries,” Santos Silva said. “We are not adversaries of America. We are good friends of America. We are allies.”

German Foreign Minister Maas echoed Santos Silva’s sentiments while speaking in Berlin, saying he wants to “repair” trans-Atlantic ties under Biden after years of “damage control” with the Trump administration.

Norbert Röttgen, a foreign policy expert for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, called Biden’s Cabinet appointments “the best that we could have wished for.”

Speaking to the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group, Röttgen noted that he knew Blinken, Sullivan and Kerry personally, and had been “talking to them for years.”

“Their view of the world is very similar to ours,” he said, adding they can “bring a new energy into the trans-Atlantic relationship.”

Comedy hour with Ita ABC and Scotty from marketing

24 November 2020: You’d have to be devoid of any sense of irony not to get a chuckle reading about Ita Buttrose’s defence of the ABC to a Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation audience, and Scott Morrison’s plea for understanding from China to an audience of the right wing UK think tank, British Policy Exchange.

What Buttrose said about intensifying ideological attacks on the ABC by Coalition MPs and apparatchiki is quite true.  And it should be a major concern to anyone who supports the Enlightenment values of Western civilization.  Freedom of the press is central to those values, but is being actively undermined by media magnates like Rupert Murdoch and Nine Entertainment chair Peter Costello, with laws permitting the most concentrated media ownership in the developed world don’t help either.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was founded in 2017 with money left by the late philanthropist, Paul Ramsay.  It has been strongly criticized as vehicle for promoting a white supremacist, patriarchal perspective on history, principally because right wing politicians in Australia supported it as a circuit breaker to what they described as left wing subversions and critiques of Western culture.

Ironically enough, those same right wing politicians are the ones working hard at dismantling the institutions, practices, and habits of Western civilization by defunding some, abolishing others, and playing to plutocrats with populist demagoguery.

In a similar vein, prime minister Scott Morrison turned logic upside down when he gave a virtual address to the right wing English think tank, British Policy Exchange, asking for China’s understanding that Australia has its own interests and isn’t just a proxy for the USA.

Not even Australians believe such nonsense, and certainly not from a PM whose understanding of foreign policy is surpassed by the average wombat.  That Morrison should be awarded the think tank’s inaugural Grotius Prize for his efforts promoting rules–based international relations is just bizarre.  Hugo Grotius wrote about the notion of a society of states.  Morrison’s conception of a state is no more sophisticated than as a source of taxpayer funds to steal and redistribute to rich patrons.

Most tellingly, though, Morrison’s message to the Chinese would be far more convincing if closet fascists in his own party didn’t use the Senate as a Star Chamber in which to demand that Australians of Chinese extraction denounce the Chinese Communist Party ‘dictatorship’.

Perhaps the dimwitted character of Australian right wing politics is surpassed by the buffoonery of same in Britain, and the disaster made of it by Donald Trump in the USA.  Yet it seems tragicomic that Australia is being vandalized by such imbeciles.

Responsibility for war crimes rests with officers, cabinet

22 November 2020: Former SAS officer and Vietnam veteran Michael von Berg:

There is no way, if you are a good officer, that you don’t know what is going on with your troop or squadron or regiment.

My personal view is that this should go right up to the top, to the prime minister and cabinet, and the reason I say that is because we have flogged these poor buggers over multiple tours and many of the tasks they were doing were basic infantry tasks.

The comments come after a decision to disband the SASR 2 Squadron and rescinding its unit citation.

News media is racist: surprise, surprise

22 November 2020: Registered anti-racism charity All Together Now (ATN) released a study last month finding that Australian news media editorials contain racist sentiments more often than not!

ATN’s website says it monitored The Age, 60 Minutes (Nine), The Australian, 7:30 (ABC), The Courier Mail, A Current Affair (Nine), The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, and The Project (Ten).

In 2019, our research showed that racist social commentary (96%) was overwhelmingly authored by people of Anglo-Celtic (72%) and European (24%) backgrounds.

And –

We assess the content and context of a media piece to determine whether it portrays racialised communities in an inclusive, neutral or negative way. These categories are defined using the Racial Discrimination Act and the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, in addition to contemporary literature and our previous media monitoring research results.

None of this should surprise us.  The majority of Australian news media are owned or controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Nine Entertainment under the chairmanship of former Coalition treasurer Peter Costello.  Both organizations are conspicuous supporters of right wing, nationalist, populist demagoguery, as practiced by the right wing of the Liberal National Coalition.

That brand of populism has always been bigoted, with racism and sexism leading the pack of prejudices pushed by the demagogues.  It stands to reason, then, that the propaganda from those news organizations would be laced with the same prejudices.

More argument for legislating for greater media ownership diversity.

Brereton report should be impetus to lift government’s autocratic secrecy fetish

21 November 2020: The revelations of a murderous culture in Australia’s armed forces should be the final straw in forcing the Morrison government to end its psychotic fetish with secrecy and its corrupt sabotage of open and honest government.

We should remember that the Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison administrations have resisted, at every turn, revealing their intentions in persecuting whistle–blowers, obstructing freedom of information (FOI) requests, and bullying news media to prevent accurate reporting of questionable ministerial and public sector decision–making.

Last year the Australian Federal Police raided the ABC and the home of News Corporation journalist Annika Smethurst to search for the source of information about potential war crimes by Australian Defence Force teams in Afghanistan dating back to 2017.  The Coalition government supported this effort to suppress news that is now shamefully revealed by the report of Major General Justice Paul Brereton (a reserve military officer and judge of the New South Wales Court of Appeal).

Days ago it was revealed that the prime minister’s office complied with FOI request time–frames in only 7.5 per cent of cases, illustrating Scott Morrison’s contempt for open and honest government.

In previous weeks the attorney general, Christian Porter, revealed a plan for a federal integrity commission that would effectively exempt politicians, their staff, and other public servants, from any public scrutiny.  An admission in itself that the Coalition has a lot of malfeasance and corruption to hide.  And law proposed by a man since tarnished by sexual misconduct allegations.

The Morrison government is arguably the most secretive, authoritarian government since the cold war.  Not to protect the country from foreign enemies, but to cover up its own misdeeds while broadening its power to spy on citizens.

This is an anti–democratic culture bred by lack of consequences for misbehaviour and corruption.  Morrison hasn’t reprimanded or fired a single one of his ministers for demonstrable shortcomings in upholding the highest ethical standards, as is expected of all parliamentarians.

Instead he has acted like a petulant five–year–old, countering all questions of Coalition misconduct by demanding that the other side be investigated instead.  Like little Johnny responding to rebukes for hitting his sister Mary by squawking that she knocked over his Lego creation.  An admission of guilt, but seeking to legitimize the crime on the basis that no one else is a saint either.

This is the prime minister who voted against the banking royal commission 26 times, and called people demanding it whingers. The prime minister who ensured not a single banking executive found guilty of criminal fraud has ever been brought to trial. He is also the former minister in charge of persecuting asylum seekers who refused to reveal the methods he used, while primping and posing with the same general who yesterday delivered the Brereton Report, Angus Taylor.

How much more proof do we need that the Morrison Government is in the grip of an anti–democratic, secretive, authoritarian culture that undermines our nation’s integrity, fairness, rule of law, and individual liberties?

War crimes an oxymoron

20 November 2020: Shock and disbelief expressed in news media about the evidence of war crimes uncovered by the Brereton Inquiry strikes me as incredibly dishonest, or astonishingly naïve.

The inquiry, conducted by Major General Justice Paul Brereton, uncovered ‘credible’ evidence of 39 murders by Australian SAS and commando troops in 23 incidents.  I am surprised this number is as low as that.

Moreover, I’m surprised that anyone in Australia is surprised by the idea that sending troops to kill the ‘enemy’ inevitably involves killings that are not sanctioned by rules of engagement.

There is a good argument to say that Australia’s culpability in the American betrayal of the Mujahideen after the Soviet war there was a war crime in itself, giving us the Taliban and the American war in which we should never have participated. But we’ll never see the responsible politicians indicted, will we. John Howard, Alexander Downer, Ian McLachlan, and John Moore.

Did anyone really think organized, imperialist ‘conflict’ is anything but organized murder?  And does anyone really think Australian troops did not act in similar ways in every other conflict?

The only scandal here is that senior officers claim to have not known.  At best they looked away, but more likely they encouraged a culture of aggressive homicidal mania without workable plans to keep it in check.

We will, of course, seek to expiate our collective guilt for the murders identified in the Brereton Report by pinning the blame on discretely ostracized individuals.  But what is the plan for fielding an effective fighting force in future if senior officers get away with whatever rôle they played in these murders, and only elite troops, trained to commit such acts, are found guilty?

ADF chief Lieutenant General Angus Taylor and the federal government need to answer that question before washing their hands by throwing to the wolves the soldiers about to be crucified in an odious public spectacle designed solely to excise the entire nation’s guilt for not having given a crap about these issues.  An entire nation reaching for the shallow, ridiculous ANZAC myth to make ourselves feel better for not having to pull the trigger in person.

Trumpist lies in News Corp headlines about Rudd petition

19 November 2020: Confecting headlines not supported by any evidence in a story devoid of facts, fabricated solely to justify the headline, is now a new norm for News Corp in Australia. Does the Australian media regulator now have to reclassify Murdoch’s propaganda activities as entertainment rather than news? Don’t hold your breath.

Following the stunning record support for former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s e–petition calling for a royal commission into media concentration, with a particular focus on the toxic influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, yesterday’s Australian front–page carried a fiction about 1000 or more signatures of that petition having been faked.

The parallel with disgraced and defeated US president, Donald Trump, and his more imbecilic supporters, pushing lies about the presidential election are compelling: Trump’s vastly overstated claims of widespread voter fraud ended up concerning such small numbers of votes, the overall outcome of the election wouldn’t be changed if they had been true; the claims are all unsubstantiated by any evidence beyond the claims themselves; and the claims appear to be designed to fool people into supporting violent, anti–democratic demonstrations.

Just so, even if 1000 signatures on the Rudd petition had been forged, that number wouldn’t make the slightest difference to the overwhelming public support for it; the allegations are completely unsupported by the headline or story in the Murdoch propaganda vehicle; and the entire story appears to be designed to create public support for the anti–democratic activities of the Murdoch propaganda empire.

News Corp has been strongly criticized for its symbiotic relationship with the Abbott and Morrison Coalition governments.

I have commented previously that Australia is effectively subject to anti–democratic activities by the Coalition–Murdoch–Nine triumvirate.

Albanese toxic office culture claims gain credibility

18 November 2020: Yesterday it was easier to dismiss as malicious hoax an anonymous letter claiming to be from five ALP staff about a toxic workplace culture inside opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s office.  Today it’s much harder to avoid the conclusion that Albanese handled this so badly there might be some truth to the claims.

The letter, addressed to Albanese, but apparently never sent to him, was posted on a specially created (but unidentified) webpage on Monday, taken down on Tuesday, but widely distributed to journalists and others.  Curiously, it appears no journalist has tracked down the domain ownership for that webpage, or account details if it’s a publicly available hosting service like WordPress.com.

I have not seen the letter, but this morning I read in several sources that it caused the resignation, on mental health grounds, of Albanese’s deputy chief of staff, Sabina Husic, daughter of the ALP’s shadow minister for agriculture and resources, Ed Husic, who replaced Joel Fitzgibbon in that position on 10 November, following the latter’s spectacularly ill–tempered resignation.

News reports claim that Albanese’s chief of staff, Tim Gartrell, recently warned staff not to form cliques.  I have seen no evidence  for that claim either, nor confirmation or denial from Albanese’s office, other than that the letter itself is ‘fake’.

Based on available evidence, I have come to two conclusions: Sabina Husic is not cut out for any senior staff position if an anonymous personal attack caused her to resign on mental health grounds; and Albanese’s response, only calling the letter ‘fake’ was weak, suggesting a tenuous hold on his party leadership.

A strong ALP leader would have responded to the claims by telling journalists he’d not seen the letter and would comment after looking into the matter.  That would have given him one or two days to come back with a strong statement: a categoric denial, including calling the letter cowardly for being anonymous, or a strong condemnation of named culprits.  If there is any truth to the letter originating within the ALP, I would also expect a leader to go after and terminate responsible staffers, side-lining their bosses along the way.

I see Joel Fitzgibbon’s hand in this, even if only by way of the OTIS ginger group of Labor MPs facing tough re–election campaigns in constituencies facing large job losses if coal and other extractive industries are wound back to address ALP environmental policy.

Albanese has not performed well as opposition leader, but I cannot see the ALP winning an election with Fitzgibbon as prime ministerial contender.  Some are whispering: ‘Tania Plibersek’.  Bill Shorten actually said it publicly.

Turmoil in the ALP is good news for the Coalition–Murdoch–Nine Triumvirate, but not yet a coup de grâce.  If Labor emerges with a stronger leader, it will hurt the Morrison gang in ways Albanese has not been able to engineer.

Robodebt settlement proves government criminality

17 November 2020: The Morrison government’s decision to settle a class action by welfare recipients to appeal Robodebt extortion for $1.2 billion tells us two things: the government knows it’s guilty of deliberate fraud; and a sufficiently generous settlement prevents a court from uncovering precisely who in government knew it was fraud, and at what point in time.

The bottom line is that the Coalition government has once again been found to be embroiled in unethical, criminal activity, the other instances being tied up in the 2019 bushfire relief funding failures, the many and varied business dealings of Angus Taylor, and the ‘sports rorts’ affair.  These are all instances we know about, and dismissed as worthy of investigation by Scott Morrison.  The way he voted against a Banking Royal Commission 26 times.  The way his government is now trying to prevent any integrity commission oversight of politicians, their staff, and the most politicized public service in the nation’s history.

Who knows what other crimes the government is still covering up.

There is no question any longer.  The Coalition government is directly guilty of criminal conduct, and suborning such conduct from the public service.  The PM should resign for being an accessory after the fact, if not direct complicity.  But, of course, he won’t.  The man doesn’t have an ethical bone in his body.  Nor do any of his cabinet members.

Rowland channels odious America ‘greatest nation’ narrative

16 November 2020: The ABC’s Michael Rowland wrote an editorial targeting Americans, urging them to take the pandemic seriously.  A noble but futile gesture.

To get there, though, he argued:

I love America. I really do.

For all its flaws (and there are many), it is still one of the greatest countries in the world.

Rowland doesn’t mean largest, because that’s Russia.  Nor most populous, because that’s China.  The richest nation?  In absolute figures that might be the USA, but not in per capita figures.  Qatar beats it handsomely; the USA isn’t even in the top ten.

So, he’s feeding the myth of ‘greatness’ as some measure of achievement, eminence, or distinction.  And in that category, its failings loom larger than its successes.

There is no doubt that the USA has an enviable record of achievements in the arts, sciences, and military.  But an equal, if not greater record of monumental failures: civil liberties, encroaching theocratic tyranny, social inequalities, white supremacist extremism, gun deaths, totalitarian interventions in other nations, and, for the past four years, in subverting democracy itself.

And that’s directly reflected in a fragile national inferiority complex.

Is there a more insecure nation in the world, obsessively flying the flag and missing no opportunity to proclaim itself as the ‘greatest’ nation on Earth?

Ordinary Americans fly the stars and stripes outside their homes, as if to remind themselves every day exactly where they are.

What other nations do this?  China?  North Korea?  What comes to mind for me immediately is Nazi Germany, with its obscene fetish for the swastika flag.

Michael Rowland is just wrong to feed that greatness narrative.  The USA might be one of the most influential nations on the planet, but no more so, today, than China.  Maybe no more so, today, than a bunch of other countries much more modest about their achievements and prestige.  And much more mindful of civil liberties, social equality, keeping religion away from the administration of the state, safeguarding liberal democracy from encroaching populist demagoguery, and respecting the sovereignty of other nations.

Costello wants extorted funding for crap media content

14 November 2020: Peter Costello is a bad liar.  He argues that Google and Facebook owe Nine Entertainment royalties … for linking to paywalled content.  What a farce.

That’s delivering potential customers to Nine’s shopfront, isn’t it?  Nine should be paying Facebook and Google for that service.

Unless Facebook or Google pay to extract and publish in full the ‘premium’ content Costello talks about, there’s no free ride going on.

Let’s remember that Peter Costello, the chair of Nine Entertainment, was John Howard’s long–time treasurer, and a contender for the prime ministership, even if only in his own mind.  Ergo, the man is through and through Liberal Party.

His own partisan political prejudices have been on clear display at Nine, particularly since it absorbed the former Fairfax press, with highly visible shifts in editorial policy away from impartiality and towards the News Corp ‘distortion of truth’ and ‘disinformation’ model cited by James Murdoch.  Not surprisingly, the model favours the Coalition Government, which is the chief purveyor of ideological twaddle, right wing extremism, and disinformation.

So, what Costello is really looking for is an economic rent.  Unable to make customers pay for what he calls ‘premium content’ – because really it’s crap content – instead of working to make Nine’s output gain consumer acceptance, he wants to continue publishing ideological crap with a funding model that has Nine’s hand in the pockets of some of the world’s most profitable companies.  What a coup: his mates in the federal government can make it happen.  He thinks.

If I were Google and Facebook, I’d just block Australian news content from searches and posts.  That might actually open the door to online startups actually delivering news to Australian citizens.

To repeat, what Costello wants is maintenance of an unashamed anti–Labor media oligopoly in Australia, exempt from competitive pressures, and propped up by subsidy while his mates in the government dismantle the ABC.

What a joke.

Petition against Abetz gets 25,000 signatures

14 November 2020: Less impressive than the half million signatures for Kevin Rudd’s media inquiry petition, the one by Get Up and Colour Code is no less significant.

That petition, which I signed, seeks the prime minister’s condemnation of Eric Abetz’s Joseph McCarthy moment in demanding from three Australians of Chinese extraction that they unconditionally condemn a foreign government.

Abetz is as close to openly fascist as it gets in Australian politics, now that Corey Bernardi drove himself to political homelessness with his extremism, which failed in the Liberal Party, and then his own vehicle, the Australian Conservatives.

Abetz essentially normalized racism and ideological extremism in the Coalition by demanding from Wesa Chau, Osmond Chiu, and Yun Jiang, during a Senate committee hearing, that they ‘unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship’.

The petition gained 25,000 signatures and has been delivered to Kirribilly House, the PM’s Sydney residence.

If Abetz had asked me the same question, or a similar one, I would likely have responded:

I am prepared to denounce the closet fascist dictatorship in Australia that sees fit to force citizens to agree with its own ideological extremism.

That’s not just rhetoric.  It is my realistic assessment that the ideological biases in the Coalition are a more real threat to me than any remote dictatorship could ever be.  Climate change denial, sexism, racism, class warfare (or culture war), homophobia, economic vandalism based on neoliberal articles of faith demonstrably failed in every instance for 40 years.  These are all a much more immediate threat to me, and other Australians, than Ji Xinping’s Chinse Communist Party.  In fact, our domestic ideological extremism is likely to harden Chinese attitudes, not reform them.

Abetz and Morrison would know this if they were capable of independent thought and analysis rather than leaning on dated, atavistic, imperialist jingoism.  A jingoism that resonates with US Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti–communist witchhunt in the 1950s, which destroyed many lives.  It also resonates with the anti–communist purges in Spain, Germany, and Italy during the 1930s, which destroyed democracy there.

Gratuitous advice to David Crisafulli

13 November 2020: A day after David Crisafulli was elected unopposed as the Queensland LNP’s new leader, only lacklustre analysis has been offered about the man and the challenges he faces.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  It’s not much of a story compared to the challenges faced by Annastacia Palaszczuk’s new Cabinet.

But here’s some gratuitous advice for Crisafulli: clear out Clive Palmer’s influence from the party; and neutralize the damaging mediaevalist messages coming from the Christian right.

Allowing a man who owns and operates his own political party to dominate the LNP is tantamount to treason, and proved to be electoral lead, sinking party aspirations rather than facilitating them.

Crisafulli should go hard, fast, and ruthlessly to push out Palmer shills and sympathizers from the party machine.  It’s either the LNP, or Palmer’s possession.  You can’t have it both ways.

Possibly worse, the LNP seems to rely on candidates and influences from the Christian right, pushing bigotry, anti–science, and anti–expertise in an age confronted with problems that need scientifically sound answers and expert guidance.

The continuing doctrinal opposition to women controlling their own reproductive health is bizarre enough in itself, but how does it win votes for the LNP?  Where?  Not in the inner city seats it needs to succeed at an election.  Anti–abortion positions are just untenable outside theocracies.

And how does homophobia help?  The entire country has rejected that position.  It makes the LNP look stupid to be beholden to Protestant big tent death cults who believe in the extinction of the human race in a Rapture.  But who still argue we should persecute LGBTQ+ people first, in some perverse, sadistic orgy of self–righteousness.

If the LNP can’t find better talent and funding sources than Palmer and the Christian right, it should settle in for long decades in opposition. Perhaps occasionally granted a single term as voters kick out a Labor administration for being in power too long, but then returning to Labor when the LNP invariably makes a dog’s breakfast of policy and professionalism, by confusing ideological rhetoric with reality or workable policy.

Maybe Albo must go

12 November 2020: No one is more gleeful promoting the idea of dissension in ALP ranks than the Murdoch–News Corp propaganda machine, even if followed closely in that fixation by the Peter Costello–controlled Nine Entertainment, which sadly includes the former Fairfax press.

Yet the Joel Fitzgibbon spat in the ALP was not some fake news or alternative reality.  At the last federal election he suffered a swing of 10 per cent against him in his regional NSW seat of Hunter, with massive gains by One Nation.  Rightly or wrongly, he attributed this swing to a perception Labor cares more for inner city cognoscenti favouring environmental targets that would cost the livelihoods of workers in extractive industries.

That’s almost like a propaganda line from the climate change denialist handbook.  But the ALP has made it real by never revealing a vision for those workers who feel threatened by time–lined and measurable standards for emissions reductions.  And the reported existence of an OTIS ginger group of Labor MPs, feeling the same pressure as Fitzgibbon, makes it an ALP problem the party just cannot ignore.

One of the most telling moments in last year’s federal election was an aggressive television reporter heckling Bill Shorten to cite the cost to Australia of his environmental policy.  Shorten had no idea, and couldn’t even deflect the answer!

I’m sorry to say that the ALP still has neither a credible answer nor an effective parry for this question.

To win the next federal election, Anthony Albanese needs to have detailed and convincing plans for a transition, with costings and projections directly relevant to industry and workers in fossil fuel intensive industries.

Why doesn’t the ALP have those answers?  It’s a legitimate question even for die–hard Labor voters.  Do the work, tell the public, and accept the inevitable consequence of global warming: it will cost profit and jobs which have to be found elsewhere.

I have no particular liking for Fitzgibbon’s behaviour in recent months, but I understand he’s fighting for his political survival.  Yet he hasn’t done anything to come up with a workable plan either.  Nor has the OTIS ginger group.

If this is all too hard for Albo (and Fitzgibbonites) the ALP deserves a change to a leadership team with a bit more energy and initiative to answer the questions that threaten regional ALP seats.

Acid evaluation of Trump legacy for Republicans

11 November 2020: It’s rare these days that I involuntarily inhale my coffee and choke on the laughter that caused the pulmonary aspiration.

This morning New Republic contributor and Yale political science lecturer, Walter Shapiro, provided one of those moments for me:

Trump’s only political success over four years was cowing the Republican party into submission. Instead of distancing themselves from an incompetent president, Republican officials hitched their wagon to his supposed star power. As a result, Republicans became a party that is not only anti-science, but anti-public health. Which is certainly an unorthodox stance in the middle of a pandemic.

The truth is that the Trump presidency was always destined to end badly. Trump’s narcissism does not allow him to change, because doing so would force the admission that his radiant being has a few minor flaws. How could Trump see the light when he believes he is the light? So instead he headed for the darkness of defeat still pretending that it was 2016 and Hillary Clinton was on the ballot.

Four Corners report entirely justified

10 November 2020: Contrary to criticisms from News Corporation’s senior operative Paul Kelly, and attempts by the federal government to block it, the Four Corners report exposing extra–marital affairs by two senior Liberals, and the Attorney General’s decades–long history of misogynistic comments, is entirely in the public interest.

Why?  Hypocrisy.

When politicians campaign on a nominally Christian conception of ‘family values’, as Alan Tudge and Christian Porter have done, they deserve to be called out for sexual misconduct.

Worse, the competence of such men must come into question in other regards if they are too dumb to conduct affairs behind closed doors rather than in public.

What will the prime minister do?  It seems certain that he was instrumental in bringing pressure to bear on the ABC not to air the programme.  That’s an admission of how damaging the facts are to his own government.  But he’ll do what he’s always done: nothing.  If pushed to it, he’ll laugh off the misbehaviours as ancient history, asserting that he knows of no improprieties since he became prime minister.

The message is that being a sexual libertine, and misogynist, is perfectly acceptable behaviour in the Morrison Liberal Party.  If it were not, Tudge and Porter would today be stripped of their portfolios.

Bush congratulates Biden

9 November 2020: Former president George W Bush has become the most senior Republican to openly congratulate Joe Biden on winning the presidential election, stating that he thought the election had been fundamentally fair.

Other Republicans to congratulate Biden include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and senators Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski.

That puts quite a bit of pressure on Trump to concede, though Bush made it a point to mention that Trump had ‘the right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges’, and praising him for winning 70 million votes.

If you intend to pursue legal challenges, you are unlikely to concede.  And Trump has a long history of using law suits to destroy opponents, silence critics, and keeping his own alleged criminality out of the courts.  This may be a different set of circumstances entirely, but it could be that Trump doesn’t understand that.

It’s all over bar the shouting … and Trump’s shouting

8 November 2020: A little before four this morning, major US television networks called the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  I remember tears streaming down my face as I checked the New York Times and Washington Post.

Why did I get so emotional?  Because it’s the end of a four–year nightmare in which a psychopath was enabled to wreak havoc on American democracy, its alliances, and national interests.  Worse, Donald Trump served as a role model for other political vandals in the UK and Australia.

Four more years of Trump would have left America as an autocracy, irreparably damaging not just American democracy, but the entire Western liberal democratic ideal.

For me the historic election outcome was best summarized live on TV by CNN analyst Van Jones.  Character and integrity matter!

But Trump’s baleful influence extended far beyond the USA.  He was a rôle model to other political vandals in the UK and Australia, encouraging them to start their own dismantling of democratic institutions and practices.  American voters ending his presidency after one term is a blow to those extremists, and encouragement for people with integrity to speak against dangerous demagoguery.

To be sure, a media declaration of an election outcome is not the same as a finished count and duly allocated electoral college votes.  It means that analysts, who were extremely cautious these past five days, decided that there was no way Trump could catch and overtake Democrat leads in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona.

Trump is refusing to concede, repeating allegations of electoral fraud, but without producing proof of any kind.  He is likely to proceed with legal challenges that could drag on for weeks, even if expedited.  But I cannot see how he can succeed with more than an order to recount votes in states where the outcome was very close. I think former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal has it right: legal challenges will not help Trump cling to power.

If I were a Republican strategist right now, I’d try to find a way to persuade or compel Trump to leave the White House.  He may fantasize about armed insurrection to illicitly retain the presidency, counting on redneck supporters to man the barricades.  But that just won’t work.  The open carry thugs in their camouflage gear aren’t courageous enough to take on the Secret Service or actual troops.  Rightly so.  The rednecks would be overwhelmed quickly.

From here forward, Trump’s temper tantrums and legal shenanigans will probably play out against him and the Republicans. They might even motivate an extra effort to flip the two Georgia senate seats to the Democrats, making a senate majority a possibility after the run-off elections in January.

My best wishes to America, this morning.

Trump laying groundwork for insurrection?

6 November 2020: Hardly anyone bothered to report that the outgoing president should never use the White House in an election period, let alone for party political purposes.  Yet Trump did just that a little while ago, using the occasion to repeat unsubstantiated electoral fraud allegations, but only in the states where the vote appears to be going against him.

It’s too late for his rhetoric to influence votes.  Counting continues, but voting ended two days ago (Tuesday US time, Wednesday Australian time).

There’s an interesting fact check from Germany’s Deutsche Welle here (in English) about US electoral fraud claims.

So why bother?  To influence the legal challenges he’s lodged?  Not much chance of that, even if he gets to the Supreme Court, which he could imagine he owns after appointing Amy Coney Barrett.  Or is he just feeding his towering narcissism?

There is another explanation: he’s laying the groundwork for armed insurrection.  No matter how extreme the possibility sounds, many Americans fear a violent outcome to the election result, either way.

By continuing the election fraud narrative, Trump might actually be prepping armed white supremacist militia to stage a coup d’état.  It’s not as important to know whether such a move could possibly succeed.  Right now it’s more interesting to observe that the Republicans are not rebuking him for this latest move.

Does the entire Republican Party now believe that armed subversion of elections is a legitimate political tool?

Ugly tribal politics from Coalition, News Corp

6 November 2020: The prime minister’s failure to rebuke his colleagues spreading conspiracy theories on the US election, and Murdoch’s Sky News encouraging misinformation again are ugly signs of entrenched party–political tribalism.

SBS reported on two Sky News tweets, one reporting Trump’s allegation of voter fraud as fact, the other misrepresenting Biden to have declared himself the winner.  Little doubt about which way News Corp is aligned.  Acting exactly the way James Murdoch said his father’s company operates: distorting truth and deliberately spreading disinformation.

More worrying, The Guardian reports former Liberal treasurer and ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, gave radio 2GB listeners the impression fraud in this US election is likely because of a decentralized American electoral system.  At the same time, LNP Senator George Christensen and One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts took to social media to support the unfounded Trump claim that there had been massive fraud in Pennsylvania because of a spike in Biden votes.

It seems a shame that our former ambassador to the USA seems not to understand that election management is governed by state laws in the USA, potentially leading to more than 50 electoral systems (because of the District of Columbia and territories).  But that has always been the case.  There is no more or less chance of voter fraud than there has been at other elections.  What’s different this time is an incumbent, known for his towering narcissism, protesting the reality he’s not as popular as he thinks.

It’s worse with Christensen and Roberts.  We may consider the excuse that both have demonstrated on many previous occasions they are not very bright, so electoral math may be beyond them.  Yet even their own election campaigns should have told them that apparent spikes in votes for or against a candidate can occur when large polling station returns are added to the overall state tally all at once.

What should be noted is that these examples show what former prime minister Kevin Rudd has called the Coalition–News Corp protection racket as unashamedly pro–Trump, meaning the entire nation is now in the grip of a tribal politics that transcends national boundaries.  We shouldn’t be too surprised.  This appears to be merely a logical extension of Peter Dutton’s thinly veiled threat on Queensland’s state election eve, to economically sabotage a Queensland state government.  Partisan politics above actually governing in the national interest.

The way I see it, this tribalism undermines the national interest and the dignity of our Commonwealth Parliament.  If dignity is the right word for its character since 2013.

Scott Morrison’s failure to rebuke his colleagues for making politically partisan remarks about a foreign election indicates he thinks this kind of political tribalism is conscionable.  It strengthens a perception that he is quite distant from Australian realities, and prefers to adopt ideological prescriptions developed to address America’s political system rather than developing original, pragmatic policies to address Australia’s unique set of problems, concerns, and opportunities.

Voyager 2 responds after eight month silence

5 November 2020: Here’s a story that speaks about what we stand to lose as the US election hangs in a tight balance that seems to favour the stunning re–election of a Republican machine, with a record of progressively stripping away all the institutions and practices of civilization and democracy from the former leader of the free world.

This story begins on 20 August, 1977, when Jimmy Carter was the president, and both houses of congress were controlled by Democratic majorities.  On that day the USA launched the Voyager 2 deep space probe on a mission to explore the outer solar system.

The 722kg craft made its Jupiter flyby on July 9, 1979; Saturn on 26 August 1981; Uranus on 24 January 1986; and Neptune on 25 August 1989.  On 10 December 2018 Voyager 2 left the solar system’s heliosphere–a bubble of solar wind around the system that protects the planets from interstellar radiation–and entered the deep space between the stars.

The craft’s trajectory is southward in relation to the Earth’s orbital plane, meaning contact with it is possible only by radio antenna ground stations south of the Equator.  Eight months ago, NASA lost contact with Voyager 2, but upgrade works at the Deep Space Station 43 radio antenna outside Canberra, Australia’s capital city, meant that on 29 October 2020 the ground station sent a command to Voyager 2 … and the probe responded.  It is now 17 light hours distant, or about 18,750,000,000km from Earth, travelling further away at a speed of about 60,000km/h or 17 km/s towards the southern constellation of Telescopium.  NASA says that at its present speed, it will be one light year distant from Earth in 19,390 years.

This is a story about human ambitions to explore space and ready ourselves to colonize other worlds.  It is a testament to the capacity of the USA to harness science, technology, and human will to extend our knowledge of the universe.  It stands in stark contrast to the narrow, mean–spirited, selfish focus of populist right wing governments and their electors in the Anglophone world.  It is now the story of how the West hands over such leadership, by the default of not pursuing knowledge and science, to the Chinese and other powers still driven by big picture goals, beyond the mundanity of daily retail politics.

Stab in the dark: Biden to win US election!

4 November 2020: With US election coverage displacing mention of any other news, I’ll make a completely wild prediction, and suggest the Democrats will hammer the Republicans at the election, taking the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.

Most pundits are too cautious to make such a prediction, given Trump’s record of confounding polling data.  Not that my prediction is confident, but why do I call it that way?

The British experience.

Like the USA, Britain has a non–compulsory voting system, and in the post–war era this has tended to favour the Tories, with right wing voters seeming more determined to support their political causes.  Voters for more progressive parties have been less disciplined about showing up on election day.

What appears to be happening in the USA is a record participation rate, with almost 100 million votes already cast, and early signs of big crowds at polling stations.

News coverage of opinion polling, averaging out the scores for national and state averages, show the Biden–Harris team ahead almost everywhere.  As they did for Clinton–Kaine in 2016.  This time around, though, the margins seem bigger, with less chance of unexpected tactical upsets (like key counties in a swing state delivering a handful of deciding votes in a reversal of polling expectations).

Something that has changed since 2016 is that the voters for Bernie Sanders who refused to vote Clinton have been hectored this time to understand that thumb–sucking sulks at the election will deliver another win for Trump.

I’d argue, then, like a talking head on TV needing to fill in hours of empty air before meaningful numbers emerge this afternoon, that a record turnout indicates a protest vote–a vote against what is.  And the polling tells us what Americans want to get rid of.  Ergo, a Blue sweep.

My prediction probably won’t survive reality unfolding in a predictably unpredictable fashion.  And not today, but over the coming days, as postal votes continue to be counted.

I admit to a lot of wishful thinking in making my prediction. Four more years of Trump will end America’s hegemony in the West, speed the dominance of China, shift the centre of the West to continental Europe, and hasten the current dismantling of democracy in Australia.

The stakes are high. Era–defining history will be made today.

Porter’s corruption commission is a fraud

3 November 2020: Commonwealth Attorney general Christian Porter’s proposal for a federal corruption watchdog is a transparent fraud, offering corruption oversight only for law enforcement officials and agencies.

The part of the proposal to deal with pubic servants outside law enforcement, and with politicians and their staff will have no power to do anything much but shuffle paper.

That’s because that part of the proposed commission can act only after referrals from other agencies and regulators.  Nor does it appear to have any power other than refer a matter to the civil courts.

So, a commission established precisely because of a lack of confidence in other bodies cannot do anything unless those other bodies refer a matter to it.  And then it has no power except to refer such matters to courts of law?

Porter has been too clever for his own good.  It emerges powerfully from his proposal that he is concerned to protect friends and allies from public scrutiny he knows they cannot survive.  Thus he seeks to divert that public attention into the same blind alley that exists right now, for the deliberately designed purpose of killing off complaints.

A case in point.

In 2018 you write to the secretary of the Department of Human Services, alleging party political partisanship by her, and her senior staff, in executing ideologically–conceived plans to put in place a fraudulent robodebt scheme and quotas for Centrelink staff to suspend or terminate welfare payments.

It takes months for you to get a reply from a departmental staff member, who it turns out previously worked in the minister’s electoral office, to the effect your complaint has no foundation and the secretary never responds to her own mail.

By this time the secretary of the department has moved on to another highly paid public sector position, the department has been renamed, and the new secretary is actually called a chief executive now.  Reaching for private sector status and rewards.

You write again to assert the response you received was inadequate and dishonest.

It takes more months to get a phone call, this time, from someone identified only by a first name, to tell you the CEO never answers her own mail, and your complaint will not be investigated.  By phone to ensure, quite deliberately, there is no record of that conversation that could be construed as having legal standing.

Your options now are to write to the minister, who has also moved on to other responsibilities, or the new minister, and the Australian Public Service Commission.  None of these individuals or institutions replies months after your own correspondence.

This is a public feedback loop deliberately designed to suppress complaints about people supposedly serving them (the public) rather than ideological or personal interests.  It leads nowhere by design, and that’s exactly how Porter wants to keep it.

One more time: you couldn’t write to the new nominal corruption watchdog directly; the matter would have to be referred to it by one of the agencies following processes designed specifically to stymie complaints.  And these are agencies or regulators already thought be ineffective, otherwise why the call for a federal corruption commission in the first place?

Even if your letter were referred to the new commission, that new organization’s power ends at referring your complaint to the civil courts.  Years after your initial complaint, with zero chance of investigating the original circumstances, and no black letter law that makes it illegal to act with political bias in a public sector rôle, even if the outcome is highly damaging to the Australian public.

That means this half of the corruption commission would be effectively no more than an avenue for sinecure appointments for friends and allies, with no real responsibilities, but, I suspect, considerable salary structures.

The Senate should not indulge Porter’s effort to cover for colleagues and politicized public sector figures.

Remembering Robert Fisk

3 November 2020: In the turbulent atmosphere of the Queensland state election campaign climax, I almost missed news of the death of Sean Connery, and I did miss the death of Robert Fisk, 74, on 30 October in a Dublin hospital, following a suspected stroke.

Fisk was one of the greatest journalists of his era, and someone to look up to after the craft was subverted by Rupert Murdoch in the 1980s.

I was too young to read his coverage of ‘the troubles’ in the 1970s, when Fisk made quite a name for himself at The Times for reporting on British colonialism in Ulster.  His sympathy for the Irish extended to his decision to become a dual Irish and UK citizen.

He then became a rapidly authoritative Middle East correspondent, leaving The Times for The Independent after Rupert Murdoch required his journalists to obey ideological editorial constraints.  This was the Fisk I remember reading.  Questioning official narratives about the purity of Israel and the US by exposing underhanded tactics and deals.  And doing it for the rest of his long and distinguished career.  I have no doubt he deserved his many awards and honorary titles.

In the 1990s and 2000s Fisk developed what I considered to be an unhealthy sympathy for the victims in his stories, making him less trustworthy as a source, but still capable of the highest calibre of writing.  That’s no mean feat for someone who makes a living from it.

What appealed to me the most about him was his faithfulness to the Fourth Estate principle of telling truth to power, of challenging government spin, and of making the point, repeatedly, that anyone who proposes the existence or desirability of objectivity in journalism is an idiot who doesn’t understand the profession.

It’s a shame, I think, that the world was more influenced by Sean Connery than Robert Fisk.  Not that I don’t still enjoy many of Connery’s films, but Fisk might have served as a better rôle model for integrity and what it means to be a man in the world than a handsome, talented macho man actor.

Taylor–Telegraph conspiracy perfect illustration of News Corp’s propaganda role

2 November 2020: An investigation by The Guardian uncovers evidence that former PM Kevin Rudd is right to call Rupert Murdoch’s personal intervention to make his News Corp a protection racket in cahoots with the Liberal and National parties.

You’d be hard pressed to invent a more fitting example than someone in Angus Taylor’s office, probably Josh Manuatu (who is now director of the Australian Capital Territory Liberals), was working with Daily Telegraph journalist Anna Caldwell to deliberately confect a smear campaign against Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.  Because she undercut the federal government’s zero net carbon emissions target by ten years and declared a climate emergency.

Using invented, astronomically high travel expense figures, the Telegraph went ahead with a story Moore must have known to have been false.

More pertinently, WhatsApp messages released under FOI legislation showed Angus Taylor knew the story was wrong the night before its publication.

Not sacking both Taylor and the staff member responsible is evidence that the PM himself thinks it legitimate for the Liberal Party to collude with News Corp in inventing and disseminating fake news.

In this case, to support Ministerial attacks on real or imagined enemies.

It is evidence, too, that the contemporary Liberal Party is using ever more brazen tactics from the American Republican’s playbook.  Meaning democracy and national interest are distant second and third priorities behind hyper–partisan political bastardry.  Concocted with, and supported by, Rupert Murdoch’s politically interventionist News Corp media outlets.

Ideology the elephant in the room

2 November 2020: The Guardian ran an election analysis piece by Ben Smee yesterday afternoon that comes close to asking some valid questions, even if its shows signs of being thrown together hastily, with poor editing.

Smee cites all the expected issues: Palaszczuk’s profile for managing the pandemic; public and embarrassingly amateur spats within the party; Clive Palmer’s unwholesome intervention in the party through LNP proxies; abysmal performance in urban centres, and only limp results in LNP regional strongholds.

But Smee is onto something he’s too coy to spell out explicitly: the LNP lost because it is beholden to dated, inflexible, extremist, right wing ideology that does not appeal to voters looking for reassurance coming out of pandemic and recession.

It’s the ‘Mommy Problem’.  A concept popularized by the West Wing television show.  Translated into Queensland terms, when voters want to be comforted, they turn to mommy.  That’s the ALP, or the Greens.  When they feel vulnerable, they don’t want the stern and authoritarian daddy, which is the LNP.

Smee makes reference to the influence of the ‘Christian right’ and anti–abortion shenanigans at Maiwar polling stations.  Most tellingly, he wrote:

Another factor causing concern is the increased factionalism within the merged party, and claims that candidate selection for the Queensland election was largely based on ideological preselection battles rather than electoral common sense.

Broadly speaking, that has been the federal Liberal strategy too.

The Morrison Government may have reassured voters it handled the pandemic well, but its budget pivoted right back to ideology rather than pragmatic policy.  That could have been a mistake; positive pandemic leadership profile may not translate into electoral support for economic ideology that sank Australia into climate crisis and recession before the pandemic.

Did the LNP miscalculate on that issue?  Did it rely on the debunked myth that it would be the better economic manager rather than actually pursuing policies that hold a promise of successfully addressing Queensland’s specific problems?

It’s an ugly public image: the LNP appears to be beholden to essentially reactionary Protestant ideology along American lines: bigotry all around, with a hint of white supremacist sentiment, and adherence to plutocrat economic policies that concentrate wealth, but don’t stabilize a state economy.  Said Ben Smee:

The situation has caused increasing frustration among moderates, who say the merged Liberal and National parties are being heavily influenced by the Christian right and regional interests.

Smee’s way of proposing the extremist right wing agenda is a hangover to the bad old days of Joh Bjelke Petersen’s National Party?

The conservative parties – as separate entities and then after the 2008 merger – have lost 11 of the past 12 Queensland elections. Some party members suggest the situation shows that the merger of the Liberal and National parties is “a failed marriage” that detracts from its messages at both ends of Queensland, and that a demerger should be discussed.

The question not addressed here is what Smee means by ‘conservative’.  Is he using it the way the LNP does, as euphemism to cover its true character as a party of right wing extremism?  Does he mean it sincerely, meaning he positions the ALP on the left?

In any dispassionate analysis, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor is a moderately conservative government with not a hint of the left wing radicalism right wing scaremongers like to attribute to it from time to time.  That makes any party to the right of it more extreme than merely conservative.

If even our journalists can’t call a spade a spade when it’s clearly not a shovel, what chance is there to break away from dishonest political stereotypes being peddled by the Murdoch and Nine Entertainment Liberal Party cheer–squads?

The Guardian’s Smee quoted the annoyingly smug failed former LNP leader Campbell Newman several times.  The current LNP doesn’t have a team that can win: meaning Newman backs a change of leader, aligned with one of the right wing factions mentioned in the story.

More tellingly, Newman says that polling has shown the LNP’s primary vote languishing below 40 per cent for some time now (Campbell’s disastrous election loss in 2015, during which he lost his own seat of Ashgrove, had the LNP pulling 41 per cent of the primary vote).  I’m sure Newman interprets this to mean that the party should move further to the right.

My own interpretation is that moving to the right is precisely why the LNP has performed so poorly.  You can’t disguise the incompetence and imbecility of candidates whose sole qualification for governing is good standing within a Protestant big tent.  Even voters naturally inclined to conservatism want some indication of workable political economy, and pragmatism when dealing with local issues, not abstract ideology.

A case in point: Frecklington’s proposed Townsville curfew for youngsters played out to be entirely tone deaf.  Townsville voters were not seduced by a message that payed lip service to the ‘tough on crime’ trope without any regard to the practicalities and likely outcomes of such policy.

Where does all this leave the LNP?  I suspect it will do the easy thing, because its leaders are simple–minded: another lurch to the right.  That would miss an opportunity to modernize the party by looking for professional, capable candidates talking pragmatic politics, not ideology.

And pigs might fly.

Palaszczuk win is authoritative

1 November 2020: Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will soon be recognized as a Labor icon, winning against heroic odds in 2015 to form a minority government after Anna Bligh’s government was routed in 2012, reducing the ALP to just seven seats.  She went on to win in 2017, and against all expectations for a minority government this time, looks set to have extended the Labor majority in yesterday’s election in the midst of recession and pandemic.

Her win is based mainly on Liberal National Party (LNP) losses, and the failure of other right–wing minors to gain ground, with One Nation being the heaviest loser.  Clive Palmer’s intervention with a well–funded scare campaign seems to have had no effect at all.

However, the ALP lost Jackie Trad’s South Brisbane seat to the Greens, and the Greens candidate in McConnell almost outpolled the LNP in first preference votes.

Another Greens member in the state’s 93–seat unicameral parliament, taken together with Labor’s predicted 52 seat majority, signals a shift to the political left in Queensland’s parliamentary politics.  One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party retain their seats: one and three respectively.  The Noosa independent remains, leaving only the LNP with losses.

Premier Palaszczuk’s government is probably best characterized as moderately conservative, holding on to neoliberal orthodoxies while backfilling some welfare measures and pushing for some cautious humanitarian reforms on abortion and euthanasia.  A stronger left focus may make coming environmental issues difficult for a Premier who tied herself to the coal industry for regional votes.  However, Palaszczuk has surprised her detractors before with political nous and a capacity to push electorally realistic compromises.

Palaszczuk has an undisputed authority now to push whatever legislative agenda she might have in mind.

I am very interested to see how the relationship between the Murdoch press in Queensland and the Palaszczuk government plays out from this point forward.  Murdoch has a Queensland press monopoly and attempted to demonize Palaszczuk and Labor from day one.  It didn’t work, and maybe that message will carry over into News Corp revenue.  Urban Queensland is probably not fertile ground for the low–brow, sleazy, populist right wing direction of the Courier Mail, the state’s main daily.

The campaign was as much about the leaders, Palaszczuk and the LNP’s Deb Frecklington, as about the pandemic.  Both the LNP and the ALP muzzled most of their teams during the campaign.  But the Prime Minister should take note that neither his messages nor his presence during the Queensland election campaign helped the LNP.  The outcome seems to have been a direct snub of his hectoring demands for re–opened Queensland borders before the local authorities were ready to take that step.

The de facto leader of the federal LNP/Liberal* extreme right, Peter Dutton, interviewed on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox platform by former Queensland premier Campbell Newman, said he had looked forward to being able to work with an LNP state government in the post–pandemic economic reconstruction.  Implying quite strongly that the federal government might sabotage Queensland economic recovery to create an exploitable backlash against Labor in Queensland in time for the 2022 federal election.  There’s no question that Queensland seats could make or break the Coalition.

Both Palaszczuk and federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese will have to look sharply at Coalition strategy for Queensland, and the prime minister will have to be careful not to overplay his hand; it didn’t work during this election campaign, and may not during his own.

Campbell Newman felt compelled to berate his former lieutenant, Frecklington, for not campaigning more aggressively and negatively on the pandemic border closures.  A losing proposition, as was evident early in the count.  So, Newman chose to argue a federal ideological line after it was comprehensively defeated at state level!  Could one detect federal political ambitions in Newman’s positioning?  That would be a disaster … for the Coalition.  Newman proved to be so incompetent he lost not just a huge majority, but his own seat, after a single term.

*NOTE: There seems to be widespread confusion about LNP and Liberal.  In Queensland the Liberal and National Parties merged into a single entity, meaning that all Queensland state members, and those elected to the federal parliament, are nominally LNP members.  However, federally, LNP members often act more like members of the national Liberal Party.  Peter Dutton is a case in point.

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