A Slice of Life
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commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology
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19 Apr 16 I don’t want to appear to be a misogynist but…

julia_gillard_cleavage Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Parliament wearing a low cut blouse. Quite conservative as low cut blouses go and pretty much standard attire for many women in government and corporate roles, and in general. Despite this, Australian columnist Grace Collier sparked the a controversy after telling a panel on Australia’s ABC Radio National that Gillard should show less skin in the workplace.

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05 Oct 08 Poor Malcolm’s deprived childhood

malcolm turnbull warped

“I do not come to the leadership of the Liberal Party from a lifetime of privilege. I know what it is like to be very short of money…”

 

 

 

 

malcolm turnbull warped

“I know what it is like to live in rented flats. For a time daddy and I had to rent a dingy penthouse in Double Bay…”

 

 

 

 

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04 Oct 08 Who won the debate?

lipstick on a pigSeveral commentators have stated that Sarah Palin won the vice presidential debate simply because she exceeded expectations. While Palin may not have committed anything like the excruciating gaffes she made in the interview with CBS’s Katie Couric, her performance was anything but convincing. Others have said Palin won by being more ‘likeable’. While her folksy language and mannerisms might endear her to some, anyone who can muster a few thoughts would surely dismiss her posturings as nothing more than cheap populism.

Palin managed to avoid making more monumental bluders with a novel strategy; she simply avoided the issues, and the questions in favour of well rehearsed campaign rhetoric. Joe Biden came across as approachable, human and credible. His detailed answers on foreign, domestic and economic policy gave a firm impression of an experienced statesman who knows what he is talking about and knows what he is doing.

Biden has a right to feel aggrieved by analysis which awards a win in the debate to Palin just because she made few mistakes. His was a solid and credible performance. Palin’s performance did little to change the perception that she has recently established: she is a political airhead.

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21 Sep 08 Kevin’07: Obama’08?

rudd, obama, howard, mccain, morphing comparison Can any parallels be drawn between the Australian elections of 2007, (the Kevin’07 campaign) and the current U.S. presidential elections? There are some similarities and some obvious differences. For a start, America is a super power and its political trends have far reaching global implications while Australia is by comparison an inconsequential backwater (the arse end of the earth to use the phrase coined by ex prime minister Paul Keating). Australia’s political system is fundamentally different to the American system and is based on the British Westminster system. Despite the fact that in Australia and Britain votes are cast for one party or another rather than the leader as head of state, both have moved closer to presidential style campaigns in recent years. The personality of leaders is ever more important and campaigns are carefully planned in response to polls and demographic analysis.

In both the 2007 Australian election and the 2008 American election, long serving conservative governments faced off against an opposition claiming to represent the winds of change. Despite McCain’s efforts to distance himself from the Bush administration and present himself as a ‘maverick’, years of alignment with Bush’s policies will make any distancing difficult. Howard described himself as a ‘climate change skeptic’ and refused to sign the Kyoto protocol. McCain is also seen as weak on the environment.

Both Howard and McCain are older men and both struggle to represent themselves as men of the future. Both Rudd and Obama are younger men and have found it much easier to present themselves as a breath of fresh air, despite lacking any truly revolutionary policies.

Perhaps the greatest similarity between the Australian campaign and the U.S. campaign is the advent of the internet as a potent political force. Howard was slow to employ the web to his advantage and his use of it showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the medium. Howard’s YouTube videos were stiff and conventional, much a like a party political broadcast on tried and true TV. Howard’s YouTube received numerous negative comments and users were outraged when their comments were promptly deleted. It also quickly became a spam magnet. Rudd primarily used MySpace and his tone was much more casual and relaxed. The majority of comments were positive but negative comments remained on the site. Rudd’s savvy use of the web medium made it easier for him to be portrayed as future friendly and helped his campaign resonate with younger voters.

John McCain claims not to know how to even use email and has all but admitted he is technology illiterate. Obama’s campaign seems to be using the web much more effectively. The reasons for this are quite simple; the Obama camp spends way much more on advertising. Obama’s web site is much more popular McCain’s site; it is visited monthly by 4 times as many people as McCain’s one (2.2 million vs. 583 thousand). Obama is also much more popular with various social media sites as well.

comparison of Obama and McCain web traffic
Comparison of Obama/McCain internet traffic source

Sarah Palin’s use of her personal email account to conduct public affairs in Alasksa, which allowed a hacker to gain access to her account does little to negate the perception that the Republican camp is technologically challenged. McCain may have chosen Palin as running mate partly because of her youth. Despite getting a temporary boost after the convention, Palin’s inexperience now seems to be doing little more than making McCain look old.

Effective use of online media may not be the deciding factor in this campaign, nor was it in the Australian election, however, it is undeniable that the political importance of the web is now much greater. This is also a particularly telling factor when candidates attempt to promote themselves as agents for change and leaders for the future.

McCain is looking more and more like yesterday’s man, as did John Howard.

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16 Sep 08 Palin: a very ordinary person

lipstick on a pig Apparently Sarah Palin has attracted a great deal of support because people identify with her; because she appears to be an ordinary person, “just like you and me”. The truth is, successful politicians are not ordinary people. They have highly specialised skills, knowledge and experience. Such qualities are kind of necessary when managing a national economy or facing a potential global crisis. Anyone who disagrees with this should consider running for office.

In response to questions on Palin’s foreign policy credentials, supporters have said that she must have a good grasp of foreign policy as Alaska is close to Russia. Perhaps she also has a strong grasp of space policy; Mount McKinley is in Alaska and quite close to space.

The New York Times called her “a tyrannical woman who pursues vendettas and fires people who cross her.” She made an ex schoolmate director of the State Division of Agriculture after citing her childhood love of cows as a qualification for the job. She has also had her office ring to berrate bloggers who posted material that offended her. Perhaps I’d better be careful as to what I say about her. No matter what your opinion of Palin’s ‘pro choice’ pro NRA evangelism might be you’d have to admit her leadership credentials are a bit shaky.

The U.S. and the world now faces an economic crisis, possibly of the dimensions of the great depression. A McCain/Palin adminstration would only continue the distastrous economic policies put in place by George Bush. Ill advised tax cuts, a highly expensive war and mounting levels of private and national debt have brought about the current crisis. China is one of America’s largest creditors and seems set to become the new global super power.

Now is surely not the time to elect an ‘ordinary person’ with little economic or foreign policy experience. Only an extraordinary leader has any chance of dealing with the challenges which loom on the horizon.

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14 Sep 08 The dogs of democracy

Costello and latham, dogs of democracyPoliticians must be aware when they enter politics that they have a use by date. Sooner or later, due to scandal, party machinations or electoral rejection the time comes when there is no option but to make an exit. If politicians are aware of this, why do so many of them feel the need to publish memoirs subsequent to political demise which are intended to be highly damaging to their own side?

The Latham Diaries, published in 2005 were unashamedly spiteful. The same can be said about Peter Costello’s recent memoirs which abounds with attacks on his political colleagues. Michael Costa recently added his name to a growing list of disgruntled politicians taking the opportunity to damage their own party after being shown the door. Did these people enter public life with no ideals of serving a cause? No matter how disgruntled you are, why not make a dignified exit rather than become a wrecker? Such indulgent expressions can be seen as nothing more than rampant self interest.

Sometime during his career Peter Costello acquired the nickname ‘dog’, mostly for his looks. Now more than ever his behaviour deserves the same title. Costello has no excuse for the venom contained in his new book. After years of waiting for the Liberal leadership to be handed to him on a silver platter he now refuses it when it is laid at his feet. Perhaps a deep self doubt lies behind Costello’s ‘captain smirk’ egotism. Perhaps he realises that when push came to shove, he never had the ability to win an election in his own right or lead his party through a bleak period of opposition. Costello’s behaviour since losing the 2007 has been mysterious. Perhaps it is true, (as has been suggested in the press) that his current position on the leadership is just a way of promoting sales for his book.

Costello’s memoirs are nothing more than the culmination of a long period of sulking due to John Howard’s refusal to hand him the leadership or have him and his wife over to dinner. While many might now decry Howard’s mishandling of Kyoto, The Republic issue, the children overboard affair, refusal to apologise to aboriginal people, the industrial relation debacle etc. his refusal to step aside for Costello now seems his most astute decision.

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10 Aug 08 Paris Hilton’s bid for The Pinkhouse

view the Paris Hilton parody John McCain has released a television commercial that likens Barack Obama’s celebrity status to other celebrities like Paris Hilton. The comparison was not meant to be complimentary. It targets Obama’s youth and inexperience with the catch phrase “Is he ready to lead?” Paris Hilton has released a commercial in response. Her parody calls McCain ‘the oldest celebrity in the world’ and likens him to figures such as the Golden Girls, Colonel Sanders, Larry King and Yoda from Star Wars.

view the original McCain adParis Hilton states that she is not from ‘the olden days’ and that she does not stand for change; she’s just hot, “so thanks white haired dude”. She does actually put foward an energy policy involving tax incentives and limited offshore oil drilling. She ends saying that if elected she might paint the Whitehouse pink.

McCain’s response is that Paris Hilton has a better energy policy than Obama. It’s quite surprising that Paris Hilton has actually made a coherent political statement, albeit inadvertently. John McCain’s age, the perception that he is rooted in ‘the olden days’ and out of touch with the future is at least as much of a negative than any doubts about Obama’s youth and inexperience.

In fact, it may well be much more of a negative than he realises.

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19 Feb 08 Political Animals

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and her colleagues last night questioned what impact Mr Rudd’s cat, Jasper, and his golden retriever, Abby, would have on the state of the lawns at the Lodge. With Kevin Rudd enjoying an approval rating of 70%, and Brendan Nelson languishing on a mere 9%, is this really the best the Liberals can do? Nick Minchin’s explanation of the figures as ‘the honeymoon peroid’ effect hardly seems convincing.

I mean, really… calling Rudd’s dealings with his family pets into question sounds a little desperate. A lot in fact. Do we really have to go through the whole Brian Bourke thing again. That was tried last year to little effect. The leaked revelation about Rudd’s visit to a New York night club seemed to make him more popular if anything. What next? Revelations about Rudd’s indiscretions as a schoolboy? Perhaps the Liberals are running out of straws to clutch at, but they surely need to have a better strategy than this incredibly trivial garbage raking if they are not to be consigned to political oblivion.

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17 Feb 08 The Apology

At long last, the vicious (to use Paul Keating’s words… classic!) reign of the Howard Government is at an end. Kevin Rudd and his cabinet don’t seem to have put a foot wrong so far, at least in PR terms. Howard’s failure to make any sort or apology seems mean spirited at least. His explanation that ‘sorry’ and ‘an apology’ are different things (admittedly, he was talking about interest rates here) seems lame at best. The apology has been a triumph for Kevin Rudd, and has left Brendan Nelson with egg on his face. Nelson really had nowhere to turn, his initial, non committal caution gave way to a qualified apology of a dubious nature, but had he refused to support the apology he risked seeming just as out of touch as Howard. Supporting the apology completely might have risked alienating those sections of the community who are offended by it, at least in Liberal perceptions.

I applaud the Rudd Government’s symbolic apology and acknowledge the meaning that has resonated within the indigenous community, but an apology with no compensation is at best a hollow gesture. The stolen generations deserve compensation as was recommended by the courts. Is this nothing more than an apology for an apology? Perhaps we should ask John Howard (sorry…)

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