Where is our politics going?

By July 15, 2017History, Politics, Society

For the last month I have been more than usually interested in Australian politics, not because I have a strong interest in the outcome of the next election or three, or because I have a horse in the race. Rather, because I think we are seeing a slow shift to something with which Europeans are more familiar than Australians, a more-or-less stable multi-party system.

In fact, it is really the Anglophone countries that regard a two-party system as the norm. When it works, as it has done for much of the past century, it works quite well. I analysed it fifty years ago in Stability and Change in Australian Politics. At that time (late 1960s), our party system was a bit over fifty years old. I argued that the party system had enabled modern democracies to work, through its capacity both to distil the issues important to the electorate, and to provide voters with a choice that was fairly simple.

Because it worked, voters quickly came to develop and maintain an allegiance to one or other of the main parties, rather as they might to the local football team. The party chosen then represented them, and looked for support at the next election. Furthermore, the issues that governments had to deal with were often complicated, so that the parties, whether in or out of power, had to wrestle with them for some time. For the ordinary citizen to do this, across the dozen or so issues that are live at any time, would represent a great expense of time and energy. Most of us, I felt, wanted to be left alone, and leave all that to the politicians, our representatives.

Nonetheless, my ten years of field work and analysis of political behaviour did not make me feel that Australia had discovered the best thing since sliced bread. ‘Too many citizens,’ I wrote, ‘have acquired their political judgments without a thought as to their meaning or significance’. And, in the last paragraph of the book, ‘the foundation of Australian democracy is habit, not understanding’. I thought understanding would be a more substantial basis for a good working democracy. Maybe that shows I was one of those elitists, but it was my view at the time.

One more passage from that book. ‘It may be that [the future]… will be noted more for the painful choices that are offered democratic electorates than the pleasant ones. On past experience the reaction of the Australian electorate, fed for the most part on ideology and personality and unused to debate or discussion, will be to declare a plague on both houses.’

I think I was prescient, though I saw this happening rather earlier, in the 20th century, not this one. I do feel that there are signs of the electorate’s declaring a plague on both houses, and if it continues, as I have argued in earlier essays, the old assumptions about the stability of Australian politics will have to be re-examined.

The most decisive ‘two-party’ election in our federal history was that of 1910, when the Liberal Party (so-called at the time) and Labor won all but five per cent of the votes, and won all the seats. That was never to happen again. The Labor Party and the Liberals fractured during the Great War, and the Country Party appeared in 1919. The Labor Party fractured again during the Great Depression, and the Liberals during the Second World War. Labor fractured yet gain in 1954/55 to produce the Democratic Labor Party, while from the 1970s on there has been a succession of small parties whose relatively significant voting strength suggested, at the very least, that a decent fraction of the electorate was dissatisfied with both major parties.

There are those who don’t think any of this matters, because after all, they say, it all depends on the distribution of preferences. While our preferential system does indeed force most of us to think about who we want next (or who we want least), my interest here is in the signs of dissatisfaction. There are a few one can turn to easily. Let’s take the share of the vote won by the two major groups.

Labor in 2017 is for once not bedevilled by any fractions (it is bedevilled by factions, but they are inside the party, not outside it). Its rival is ‘the Coalition’, which consists of the Liberal Party, the Nationals, the Liberal National party (Qld) and the Country Liberal Party (NT). If we go back not quite a quarter of a century ago, to the election of 1993, the major party groups won 83 per cent of the vote for the House of Representatives. In 2016 the same groups won not quite 77 per cent of the vote.

Let’s look at turnout, which is regarded, even in Australia, as an indication of interest in the outcome. We are all supposed to vote, but for all sorts of reasons there are circumstances that can get in the way. Before we had compulsory voting, turnout ranged between 50 and 60 per cent (the first three elections) and then between 60 and 70 per cent (the Great War). After the introduction of compulsory voting in 1924, turnout shot up to the 90 per cents. In 1993 it was 95.8 per cent; in 2016 it seems to have been around 91 per cent.

Informal voting is another proxy, at least for some, for interest in the outcome and a feeling of engagement in the process. The smaller the informal vote the great the feeling of involvement. In 1993, informal voting was at 3 per cent; in 2016 the figure was at 5 per cent.

These are small signs, but they all point in the same direction: the role of the major parties is shrinking slowly, and the feeling of involvement is shrinking with it. I have written before that today’s politics is the politics of the single-issue group, and all the major parties can do is to bid, cajole or promise. The capacity of the single-issue groups to direct preferences, let alone primary votes, is almost unknown. But these groups attract the attention of the media, which gives them a prominence they do not possess in simple numbers. It is their passion, not their numbers, which is important.

If you want to call yourself a ‘political party’ you have to register and show some kind of general support. The Australia Electoral Commission (AEC) maintains a register of political parties. If you want to register you need at a minimum a written constitution that sets out your aims, a sitting MP or, failing that, 500 or so supporters who don’t belong to any other party. The AEC will do some scrutiny of your application, and let the world know about it as well, and about your logo, if you want one. Does this deter you? Well, there were 57 political parties registered for the 2016 elections.

Most of them did poorly and won’t be heard of again. But the Nick Xenophon team in South Australia won a quarter of a million votes. Bob Katter’s Party won 78,000 and returned him to Parliament, while Independents of various hues won 380,000 votes, and two seats as well. One Nation, derided by the mainstream media, won nearly 600,000 votes at the Senate elections in 2016, and Newspoll had One nation at 11 per cent this week. These are not trivial numbers. The electorate contains about 15 million people, and about 1,400,000 didn’t even vote last time.

Mr Turnbull was exercised this week about where the Liberal party sat in the party system, and opted for ‘the sensible centre’. I don’t think that matters much to anyone other than a few dissident Liberals. What seems plain to me is that the dissatisfaction with Australian politics as it presently is can be seen in various small signs of disengagement. A major external crisis of some kind, and the emergence of a leader who made sense to people on both sides of the party divide, could change all that.

But I see no real sign of either, and in default I predict a continual slow movement away to attractive Independents, protest voices like the Greens and One Nation, and regional champions like Nick Xenophon and Bob Katter. Put together, they make the business of Australian politics much more diverse, and the task of governing our country even harder






Join the discussion 125 Comments

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Don, I think your analysis is many, many, years too late. Even as a young man, fifty years ago, I was forced to express a preference for a party, many of whose policies I loathed, and which were executed because they had a ‘mandate’.

    Many polls have shown that the electorate as a whole do not endorse policies central to the platforms of the two major parties, yet we are forced to vote for them, and implicitly endorse them, because we have no other choice. Abbott read the electorate correctly in his decision to limit access to ‘boat people’, yet this is still an open policy for the Labor Party, and if I vote for them, I vote for this. I cannot, but I do not want to vote for the alternative..

    Both parties think that population is power (in the UN, of course), which, in their minds, is the only metric that matters. Another million, and the PM would stand one centimetre higher in the tower of power. Compare Switzerland, which is indifferent to these metrics (who is its President, Prime Minister, or leading politician?). I doubt even you know. Yet where do the rich head, and which country deals most strictly with ‘asylum seekers’? It fined Muslim students who refused to shake hands with a female teacher, upholding its own standards. Can you imagine the uproar this would cause in Australia?

    But I digress. True democracy reflects the will of the people, on specific issues, not just on a vague preference for a particular ideology. The Swiss discovered this, and possibly Australia might be in the process of doing so, though the major parties surrendering power to the people will be an unparalleled political convulsion.

    • Neville says:

      So Bryan I take it that you would support adoption of direct democracy in a referendum? Switzerland favours this addition and so do a number of US states and recently referendums on legalising marijuana were adopted by some states.

      I must admit that the support for legalising the dreaded weed in those states surprised me, but perhaps others were not surprised at all. But then again most polling in those states did show support before the vote.

      But I’m sure that a referendum on much stronger border protection would be adopted here in OZ if the electorate had a chance to vote on it.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        Neville, people choose to kill themselves in any number of ways, some of which are more socially acceptable than others. Societies also. Democracy only works if the overall goal of the populace is freedom of choice. If a sufficiently large minority elects otherwise … well, you have a democracy. Don’t you?

        • Neville says:

          So Bryan you do support DD then? I certainly support it even though I know some initiatives will pass that I strongly disagree with.
          Ya wins some and ya lose some.

  • Mike says:

    I recall an observation “politicians don’t lead, they follow public sentiment”. Maybe lack of engagement by the general public has allowed the “long march through education and civil service ” by elites who now seem to control government.
    It’s pretty obvious Global Warming would not have got off the ground other than for the complete failure of working class politics. How can the best interests of low income groups be served by inflated energy policies based on dubious Climate models?

    • Aert Driessen says:

      Spot on Mike. But besides the elites who now seem to control the government, there is the fake news emanating from the media, generated by journos who don’t know what investigative journalism is or means. They have their own agendas. And, as most of us know, ‘Our’ ABC is the worst offender because they do this with our money. Fairfax is the same. But at least when you stop buying Fairfax papers, at least they feel a cost, as they currently do. But not the ABC. That groupthink swamp is now like a cancer to our society and governance, but not always so. Until that organisation is reformed, we will continue to have a problem. Out biggest problem right now is the understanding of climate change vs natural variability and the trillions of dollars being wasted and misdirected on green energy etc. When will they host an honest and open debate on this issue so as to properly inform the people, as is their duty.

      • Ross says:

        Hi Aert.
        Did you catch 4 Corners’ investigative piece on retirement homes a few weeks back?
        Pretty eye opening stuff.

  • spangled drongo says:

    What has changed most in recent times is the MSM’s big shift to the left and their wild enthusiasm for fact-free vilification of all things conservative.

    The present PM, by shedding traditional right wing policies feels he is treading much more comfortable ground with much less press denigration [is it his courage or ideology that is the problem?] whereas traditional Liberal PMs had an easier ride.

    But he seems to be a sucker for a good report after seeing what the MSM did to Abbott.

    This MSM hysteria is happening in the US with Trump to an even greater degree.

    We now have the conservatives casting the “middle” aside simply because it has moved too far to the left but according to the polls the net result is not favouring the PM even when those RW votes are included in his bag.

    I suspect that in spite of the govt trying to grab more of the LW vote there is an ever increasing entitlement mentality from migrants awa the ever-increasing, Uni educated generation that don’t need to live in the real world, that is eating democracy alive.

    • tripitaka says:

      nope drongo. There has been no shift to the left by the MSN. The ABC is still favouring the LNP and giving Labor less coverage than they deserve in their political reporting and their social, cultural and scientific reporting is still focused on new ideas and looking for the way that civilisation is changing and progressing while maintaining coverage of the more rational conservative views which one finds on the Religion report, Counterpoint, and Tom Switzer’s show.

      Of course there is no coverage or very little about the crazee ideas of creationists, the flat earthers, the Catholics who claim that the new pope is the anti-christ, the climate change deniers and the other ratbags and right wing nut jobs.

      But there are many leftist ideas that the ABC do not cover: there are never any discussions about how bad Capitalism is and has been for ordinary people and how socialism in some form or other could come about as the successor to the failed neo-liberal ideology.

      I have to go to other sources to keep up with the new ‘leftist’ and ‘socialist’ ideas that are happening in the world. But the ABC represents the Overton Window.

      Do you have any explanation that makes sense as to why the mainstream media has turned and how come the conservatives with all their power and ‘truth’ are so weak and powerless that they haven’t been able to turn things around.

      Where does this power that ‘the left’ have come from? My answer and what I see all around me among my usually rusted on right wing voting neighbours is an increasing realisation that the right wing media in the form of the Murdoch Media Machine has been lying to them. They thought that they were among the lifters and have been loyally voting for the party that told them they were better than the dole bludgers and the other leaners, that ‘small government’ would make them better off and that they could all climb the ladder and be rich and guess what?

      It turns out that their kids are more often than not dole bludgers and they see that there are no jobs to be had no matter how much lifting they do or how much they spent getting them into private schools. It turns out that small government means that they can’t trust the privatised services like they used to be able to trust the govt services even if they were slow and inefficient; at least they were honest and they didn’t deliberately rip people off like privatised human services do.

      There are many other things that my LNP voting neighbours are waking up to but the main one is that it is not the climate change scientists who are lying to them but those ‘lifters’ who stand to lose a lot of money when we stop using coal.

      I wonder how many foolish replies you will make as you measure again your mark on a rock to my comment in a futile attempt to influence anyone that you have a better grasp of what is happening in the world than I do. 🙂

      • spangled drongo says:

        If you must blither, trippi, at least use some semblance of basic facts to make it worth responding to.

        As they say in the bush, you are all over the place like a mad woman’s manure.

    • Ross says:

      Poor Drongo. You sound quite hurt.
      Is it the Trump thing?

  • chrisl says:

    Politicians have sub-contracted their jobs out to the public servants. Who live in a bubble in Canberra. And don’t have much of a clue. They love to run with the themes of the day . Like Same sex Marriage and climate change. As a conservative it is is very hard to get excited about these issues. To me it is always about the economy 1,2 and 3 then daylight.
    Living in a very safe labor seat, my vote doesn’t count anyway so I am basically disenfranchised. I know the government is running out of money so they will be coming after mine.
    So what to do?

    • margaret says:

      Hara-kiri? I live in a safe LNP seat so I know the feeling.

      • chrisl says:

        The problem is the calibre of the politicians. They seem like they are there almost by accident. I give you Derryn Hinch,Sarah Hanson Young, that timber miller worker and Scott Ludlum who took 9 years to figure out that he wasn’t really meant to be in parliament. Plus at $200.000 a year they feel as if they are underpaid. Considering the fellow who was recently sacked as operations manager for the AFL was on $900,000, they may have a point.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    To give it credit, the ABC reports the news, and it does it well. What it then does, at taxpayer expense, is interpret it, which is not in its charter.

    • Neville says:

      IOW Bryan they encourage and promote their left wing agenda. Like so called CAGW, so called refugees, same sex marriage, so called Aboriginal disadvantage, so called Islam -phobia, so called Jewish crimes etc , etc as on and on it goes.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Bryan, it also spends days headlining stories that only interest those of the left persuasion.

      Like anything that invokes Trumpaphobia, agenda 21, awa what Neville lists.

  • tripitaka says:

    Seems to me Don that it is only the right wing that is splintering and creating new political parties; the left continues on pretty much unchanged in the form of The Greens and Labor looking for ways that we collectivists can make a better world for everyone, whereas on the right, there are malcontents and discontents and even delcontents who are desperately seeking to assert that their particular individualistic version of conservatism/liberalism is the truth.

    • Don Aitkin says:


      I’ve said before that both parties are ‘coalitions’. Labor dealt with its internal diversity during the Hawke period, with the establishment of official ‘factions’, and so far that has worked well enough to keep the fighting internal, not at the elections. The Liberal party is likewise a collection of points of view and backgrounds. Much of the Greens support comes from former Labor people who think that the environment is more important than the class struggle.

      And all parties and groups maintain that their perspective is the real truth…

      • Chris Warren says:

        What does this mean?

        “Much of the Greens support comes from former Labor people who think that the environment is more important than the class struggle. ”

        Is “much” 10 members, 50 members or 33% or 50%????

        Where has any Green supporter said that the environment is more important than the class struggle?

        • tripitaka says:

          Yeah Chris I was going to take up that issue also but had too much else to say. 🙂 The Greens I know are not no way former Labor people.

        • spangled drongo says:

          “Where has any Green supporter said that the environment is more important than the class struggle?”

          Poor ol’ blith. Or should I call you Kermit. Conveniently forgotten recent history already?

          Don’t know about Gaia?:


        • Don Aitkin says:

          Chris, Labor used to be close to 50 per cent of the vote. It has been around 40 per cent in the last thirty years. In that time the Greens have gone from 1.4 per cent in 1990 to 11.8 per cent in 2010, and currently seem to be at about 10 or 11 per cent in the polls. One Nation has done comparably well, though not so consistently. One can assume that Labor’s lack of support is connected to the Greens’ significant support, just as the Liberal’s electoral weakness is connected to One nation’s strength. It would be hard to argue that The Greens ranks include a lot of former Liberals, or quondam Liberals, or that One Nation is made up of former Labor people. Some cross-over, yes, but the Labor/Greens alliance does say something.

          • Chris Warren says:


            “Voters” is a very different concept to “supporters”.

            In any case, I am pretty sure that Green voters are not registering a view that the environment is more important than the class struggle. In fact I doubt whether most Green voters even know what the class struggle is.

            Some Greens have been tagged as “watermelons” – Green on the outside and red on the inside. So for these elements, it seems that the environment is just as important as the class struggle and vice-versa.

            There have been times when disaffected Labor supporters have supported a new political party – the DLP and more recently, the Nuclear Disarmament Party.

            Presumably the Australian Democrats represented some disaffected Liberal supporters (ie voters and ex-members).

            My guess is that if you polled Greens members you would find that some would be ex ALP and Liberal but others will have had no prior party membership or maybe previous experience in the Nuclear Disarmament Party or (in the case of the ACT) campaigns such as against the multi-function polis. Others would have joined the Greens through other political trends such as the Helen Caldicott supporters.

            Previous ACT Greens leader Deb Foskey was a previous member of the ACT NDP and I doubt whether she would subscribe to any suggestion that the environment is more important than the class struggle.

            In NSW economist Frank Stilwell and ex BLP Greens Bans leader Jack Munday have supported the Greens and I doubt that either would suggest that the environment is more important than the class struggle (or vice-versa).

      • tripitaka says:

        Nope Don, it seems clear to me that the left is not undergoing any sort of upheaval like right wing ism is. The differences between the opposing ideologies of libertarianism and conservatism are no longer able to be papered over and these right wing parties will not have any say in what is going to happen in politics.

        As Turnbull ineffectively tried to argue, the Menzies Liberal party was a pragmatic centrist party and was able to take a reasonable middle ground on social and economic issues. But then came the rise of neo-liberalism; libertarian economics rode in with their toxic ideas of individualism, profit at all costs, denying that there was any such thing as society and Captialism with a capital C took off again as it did during the Industrial revolution and then again in the 30’s before the crash and the great depression.

        During the past decades, everyone including the Aust Labor party became neo-liberal except for Jeremy Corbyn and Doug Cameron of course. Labor floated the dollar and endorsed the policies that saw Jobs disappear. Dole bashing was a feature of both parties and profit at all costs replaced the Australian way of life in which it was understood that business should make a living for the bosses and look after the workers and aspirational values replaced the Australian disdain for money grubbers.

        Of course Labor were less nasty than the LNP but it was Labor that neutered the unions and nurtured fake lefties like bloody Mark Latham the bully with the handshake who breaks taxi drivers arms and the hubristic narcissistic Kevin bloody Rudd to mention only a few of the horrors who pretended to be leftist during those years.

        But libertarianism has had it’s day; it’s over; it’s a dead parrot and enough of the ordinary people can see that all we have for those years of exceptional economic growth is lots of stupid meaningless stuff that clutters up our lives, greater inequality, and a more unfair society; out here in the regions we can clearly see that it didn’t trickle down although we worked as hard as anybody else did.

        The left is not splitting into political factions like the right and modern leftism certainly doesn’t imagine that there is one real truth; the left have understood and accepted post modernist philosophy and knows that there are many truths and that old white man western civilisation is not disintegrating but is certainly undergoing a phase transition into a new state space that will be shaped by what women want.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Who pays for the better world of collectivism? Someone must.

      • tripitaka says:

        You will Bryan – we are going to make sure you rich people pay your fair share. Property is theft you know. 🙂 and rich people used to pay way way more tax than they do now. Lets go back to the good old days.

        • Peter Kemmis says:

          Wow, Trip – – so property is theft, eh?

          Now let’s imagine a hypothetical case: you are a hardworking farmer in a village, using your brains and your energy to produce effectively from your small plot of land. I am the next door neighbour, indolent and carefree. you build up your farm – it becomes a highly productive enterprise. Mine is just a bunch of neglected opportunities. So you will share your hard-earned largesse? As an indolent layabout, I look forward to that.

          • tripitaka says:

            Peter let us look at all the misunderstandings you have about the way wealth is accumulated; it is not by working hard and using ‘brains’; wealth was and is accumulated – stolen – only by people lacking empathy and the ability to love their neighbour who can and do take advantage of others less fortunate than themselves.

            If you have more ‘brains’ and are more hardworking, you are a lucky person and you should as Jesus said use these abilities to make the whole community including your ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid’ neighbour better off.

            But lets do this exercise and explain how it happens that one person is such a lifter and the other is such a leaner.

            Is it just the way God made us that some of us are good people, hardworking and thrify and others are lazy and stupid? And if God or evolution created human nature this way, tell me why.

            This is the really stupid thing that you right wing loons can’t explain and make no attempt to explain and it is what left wing people do try to understand and explain and why we will make the future a better place for all.

            So no more waffling and carry on with your totally outdated way of trying to discredit a large part of the human species.Tell me why people are either lifters or leaners.

            And yes I do share my largesse with my dysfunctional neighbours; what do you need?

        • margaret says:

          Maybe the carefree and indolent neighbor has no expectatation of getting a share of his neighbour’s enterprise.
          On the other hand there is the old folk tale The Little Red Hen … but have you ever heard of working as a group to achieve a common goal?


          • spangled drongo says:

            I don’t think you were paying attention, marg.

            That is called capitalism, free enterprise, free market etc.

            “If the other animals had helped the Little Red Hen, the bread would have been ready sooner and they would have been able to bake more bread and reap even greater rewards. For teams united in their common goals; productivity is higher and results are significantly greater.”

          • tripitaka says:

            This is true also Margaret. I have no desire to work hard at things that bring in money and I would never have been the hardworking farmer who accumulated wealth and shunned my neighbours because I imagined that they wanted to take my stuff. I don’t even like gardening. 🙂

            I did briefly go through a stage of my life when I imagined that happiness would come from having expensive stuff. That experience gives me some empathy with and understanding of people who are still in that stage of development and are lacking the support that would give them the ability to rise above such shallowness and find a more functional way of living a good life and ‘being-in-the-world’.

        • JMO says:

          If property is theft Trolpitaka, why did I have to pay a substantial deposit and sign to a mortgage on each of my 11 properties I have or have had so far (currently 6 but recently 8). And why did the purchasers of my properties had to do the same. Your statement clearly shows you are living in la-la land. Do as you preach, go to a hard socialist country – say Venezuela and join the protesters there. Live your beliefs and stop your boring ridiculous and rude comments on this blog.

          • tripitaka says:

            JMO really I should stop commenting? Do you want to take away my freedom of speech? If my comments are so ridiculous, this should provide you with some amusement rather than irritating you, surely?

            Why are you so annoyed?

            I do live my beliefs and Venezuela is not socialist.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            “I have no desire to work hard at things that bring in money … I don’t even like gardening”

            I’m fascinated. Pray enlighten us. How do you obtain the (presumably material) largesse upon which you subsist, and that you share with your dysfunctional neighbours?

          • margaret says:

            It’s great for you to have a property portfolio JMO – I just hope that you intend to give one each to your grandchildren as they’ll have Buckley’s of doing what you’ve done.

          • tripitaka says:

            Bryan why are you so interested in my life? It’s my ideas that we should be discussing and that you should be responding to if you want to argue that your ideas are the truth and that property isn’t theft.

            This ignoring the ideas and attacking the person stuff is very juvenile and so boring.

            Let’s talk about human nature and explain to me how it happens that some people like me presumably are very bad lazy stupid and nasty people and others like you presumably are so wonderful.

          • spangled drongo says:

            “I do live my beliefs and Venezuela is not socialist.”

            As JMO says, trip, you live in la-la land.

            That’s how socialism always ends up. A bankrupt disaster.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Trip, I’m not interested in your life. I find you a curiosity, indeed an absurdity. I asked how you made a living, given your statement that you declined to work (hard) or possibly at all.

            I quote: “How do you define ‘work’ drongo and why do you assume that I don’t work?“ Could it be because you said so? You can’t even be bothered maintaining a garden?

            You then turn around and assert that “This ignoring the ideas and attacking the person stuff is very juvenile and so boring” so why do you do it? You know, the ‘old white men’ thing.

            Let’s consider “people like me presumably are very bad lazy stupid and nasty people”. You said you would not work hard, so it’s difficult to believe that you make a serious contribution to communal welfare when your whole ideology is essentially a return to some sort of communist utopia.

          • tripitaka says:


            I asked drongo “How do you define ‘work’ drongo and why do you assume that I don’t work?“

            I think it is important that people who want to understand each other do define the words they use and not assume that everyone understands terms in the same way.

            My definition of work is that it is having to do things that one doesn’t like to do. It is not that I can’t be bothered gardening as you put it; I do some gardening because I like to be part of my community. I don’t like doing it and nobody pays me for it so it is work. My neighbour loves gardening and for him it is not work but enjoyment. Do you understand that?

            There are things I do in my community that other people call hard work but I am good at these things and I enjoy doing them and so they are not work to me. Do you understand that?

            And….I didn’t say I didn’t work; I said I wouldn’t work hard at activities that bring in money, and this was said in response to the silly story about the hard working farmer who was rich because of his hard work while his lazy neighbour was poor.

            I would never have been that hardworking farmer looking askance at his less fortunate neighbour and being paranoid that this neighbour would be a bludger.

            I would have made friends with my neighbour and would have helped him with the things that he isn’t good at so that we both were pretty much equal. Just as my gardening neighbour helps me out with tips for getting things to grow and where to put them. Do you understand that?

            It is a myth and such a stupid story that there are such things as hard working farmers living next door to lazy farmers; it is far more accurate to understand that what really happens in the real world is that there are people who like digging in the dirt and growing things and have the sort of brain that gives them the ability to understand plants and the other abilities that make for a good farmer like robust health for example, and then there are people who are better at other things such as organising the community to build a hall that everyone can use and then there are people who can entertain the hard working farmer with music and other things that human beings value. Do you understand that?

            The not hard working farmer type of person is not lazy and stupid because they simply choose to not work hard at farming or accumulating properties.

            In a just world in which the maxim from each according to their ability; to each according to their need, everyone would be able to use their abilities for the good of their society not for their own self-aggrandisement and this is not a utopian idea; it may appear utopian to you but that does not mean it is.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            “there are people who like digging in the dirt and growing things and have the sort of brain that gives them the ability to understand plants and the other abilities that make for a good farmer like robust health for example, and then there are people who are better at other things such as organising the community to build a hall that everyone can use and then there are people who can entertain the hard working farmer with music and other things that human beings value. Do you understand that?”

            Obviously. I also understand that someone has to pay for these activities. Who do you suggest? The farmer, whose activities earn money? You, who depend on the public purse, or on the sympathy of the community for doing nothing? Are you an actress, singer, performer? If not, exactly what do you do that justifies your existence?

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            What you are, trip, more and more obviously, is a second year social science dropout from a third rate university.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Bryan, trippi is too obtuse to understand that basic, unregulated capitalism is simply piracy but that’s what she is happy to practice to get her “entitlement”.

        What she gets now by a similar method just isn’t enough.

        Why work when you can rob people, hey, trip?

        • tripitaka says:

          How do you define ‘work’ drongo and why do you assume that I don’t work?

          • spangled drongo says:

            You mean you really earn a living, tripluv?

            We’d love to hear about it.

          • Chris Warren says:

            Another falsification by our resident loony drongo.

          • spangled drongo says:

            But possibly a little more pertinent than the blither from our resident blitherer-in-chief, hey, blith?

          • spangled drongo says:

            Work is what you do to earn a living, trip. Maintenance and gardening are not work. That’s play.

            Work is what keeps you awake at night wondering if you got it right and going over everything you are doing tomorrow and the next day and mentally examining new problems in infinite detail from every possible aspect.

            And when you are working for yourself, IOW a capitalist, you have to do things better than anyone else to be sure your business will succeed and if you are being paid to do a job you have to do it better than anyone else if you want to keep it.

            When I designed something and a manufacturer wanted to produce it, I got satisfaction from being asked to supervise production of a certain part that was too hard for anyone else to produce.

            That’s work.

            Doing something that produces a successful, functional and profitable outcome.

            It has a huge, positive flow-on effect in the community and the country.

            Now, tell us about your work.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Tripitaka, you wrote: ‘My definition of work is that it is having to do things that one doesn’t like to do.’ I have some sympathy with that point of view, and could reasonably say that I’ve never had to ‘work’ since I discovered what I was good at, and discovered also that people would pay me to do it.

            But we commonly and broadly define ‘work’ to mean ‘paid employment’. Some people like their employment, and others look fondly to Friday, but for all of those in paid work there is also a social structure, a group of acquaintances, possibly some good friends as well as the income. It is the loss of that social context that makes unemployment so empty.

            And while we might not like aspects of our paid employment, it usually means that something is worthwhile is done for other people.

            I think your definition is most limiting.

          • Chris Warren says:

            Unfortunately under capitalism “work” is only “paid work”. Capitalists will not remunerate domestic activity such as housework and child-rearing because this activity cannot be captured by Capital and supplied to their beloved “Market” in the form of commodities.

            There is a lot of necessary labour and activity that occurs outside paid work.

          • spangled drongo says:

            “Unfortunately under capitalism “work” is only “paid work”. Capitalists will not remunerate domestic activity such as housework and child-rearing because this activity cannot be captured by Capital and supplied to their beloved “Market” in the form of commodities.”

            Yes, blith, if only they could “capture” the personal effort-and-inconvenience market.

            Just think of the extra rewards all that cleaning and bum-wiping would provide for the “workers”.

            It’s an utter outrage how it isn’t mandated in law.

            When I think of all that unpaid “work” that the trips of this world do my heart bleeds.

            Are you trying to set a new record in blither, blith?

          • margaret says:

            “During the age of Enlightenment, revolutionary thinkers upended society with the notion that every man has a right to individual liberty and autonomy. Almost all of them stopped short at extending the same courtesy to women, whose main duty was still to endure repeated and dangerous pregnancies. Women were expected to raise and bear autonomous individuals, not become them.”


          • spangled drongo says:

            “Women were expected to raise and bear autonomous individuals, not become them.”

            Marg, some women in the old days became very autonomous.

            Remember this song:

            When I awoke next morning I had an aching head,
            My gold watch and my pocket book and my lady friend had fled.
            Looking all around the room, nothing could I see
            But a mop and a lady’s apron which now belonged to me.
            So, dressed in this ladies apron I wandered all forlorn,
            Till Martin Churchill took me in and sent me round Cape Horn.

            Hey Ushanty, my dear Annie.
            Oh you New York girls, can’t you dance the polka.

        • Boambee John says:

          spangled drongo,

          Please stop winding tripi up, find something challenging to do instead!

          • tripitaka says:

            Boambee you need to go back to your safe space at the Cat where that poorly published economist protects his little snowflakes who can’t handle any debate from all the scary and irrefutable leftist ideas and the wymmins lol that are bringing down their civilisation. Oh of course there is the token leftie who isn’t much of leftie at all really but he’s got your head on his wall. 🙂

            But I agree that it would be good if drongo could do something challenging, stop indulging his propensity for calling me and everyone else he doesn’t agree with names and actually put forward some defence of the arguments and claims that I am making.

          • Boambee John says:

            Good to see that you still visit the Cat regularly, and I am flattered that you follow my activities so closely.
            Actually, I had taken your advice about posting here. About four weeks ago, you asked whether I had better things to do on a Sunday. I looked at our exchanges, and decided that I did. Debate with you is impossible, so thank you for that advice.
            I only commented today because I could see more time being wasted. No need to thank me.
            On the subject of spangled drongo ceasing to call you names, perhaps you might lead by example?

          • Boambee John says:

            PS, You mentioned previously that you had been banned from the Cat.
            From my observation, that can be caused by three things, anti-semitism, but I have seen no sign of that in your comments, legally actionable comments, but you do not seem to make those, or persistent personal abuse of other commenters. You do seem to indulge in some of that.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Thanks for the advice, BJ.

            But I’m still waiting for trip to take up the challenge and tell all how she earns a living.

        • Peter Kemmis says:

          Trip, you state “My definition of work is that it is having to do things that one doesn’t like to do”. Well, that’s not my experience. There are many things I don’t especially like to do, or to put it another way, I’d rather do something else instead. But I don’t think about that much at all – there are many things one has to do that just need to be done, and frankly, I find the gift of life so marvellous that I just get on with whatever I’m doing, and make the most of it. I guess that is a bit of an aside to the discussion, but I just wanted to make the point that while working often pretty hard during my life, it has been pretty good fun overall. Maybe I’m lucky to be able to like what I do, be it mental, physical or social activity.

          It seems to me that the main thrust of your argument here assumes the good nature and intent of people to be generally universal. Well, I observe those characteristics very frequently, but I also notice their striking absence at other occasions. I do not find your view of the world corresponds to what I see. You suggest that I and others may see this as a utopian view – yes, I do. I do not think people operate that way consistently enough for what you suggest . . . from/to each according to ability and need. Last century from time to time groups have tried to set up such structures; they do not endure. If I am wrong, by all means name one that has endured.

          Finally,yo say: “Peter let us look at all the misunderstandings you have about the way wealth is accumulated; it is not by working hard and using ‘brains’; wealth was and is accumulated – stolen – only by people lacking empathy and the ability to love their neighbour who can and do take advantage of others less fortunate than themselves.” Now I do disagree with your point here; it seems to assume that there is a bucket of “wealth” of a fixed size, which all should share equally. I argue that material wealth arises in all kinds of ways, from growing or making something, or creating something that others value. I know that during my own professional work, I helped create opportunities for others, while at the same time earning enough to support my own family. Was I lacking in empathy doing so? From whom was I stealing? Was I taking advantage of others?

          It seems to me that that some of your statements come straight out of some Marxist handbook, to the extent that I wonder whether you really are who you purport to be, or whether you are just having so much fun taking the mickey out of me and some of the others who engage with you. If you are, well good luck to you, and I just have to laugh that you have done so, and have had such good fun at our expense.

  • spangled drongo says:

    How this case plays out could have a lot to do with where much of world politics heads in the near future:

    Does Michael Mann belong in Penn. State or the state pen?

    Mann has been suing Tim Ball for libel over that statement for the last 6 years and has been withholding the paleo evidence for his “Nature Trick” where he deleted the most recent tree ring data because it showed a decline in temperature instead of the rise required to manufacture the “Hockey Stick”.

    Mann is now proven to have wilfully hidden his data, so the court may rule he hid it because it is fake:


    But what’s the bet that the MSM would completely ignore it with yet another Trumpaphobia rant.

    • tripitaka says:

      Hi Peter

      thank you for your response. This sort of honest and respectful interaction is very lacking here and I have to admit that to some extent I am having some fun taking the mickey out of – not you I can’t remember having done that – some of the others who engage with you. I find that taking the mickey is the only way one can respond to the level of enmity that is apparent here toward new ideas.

      It is not just all fun though; I certainly do not make up the things I say just to stir up the usual OWM’s. If what I say is straight out of the Marxist handbook it is because Marx was a very intelligent man. I have not read much but it seems more and more to me that he was on the the right track about many things. Engels was even more interesting and his ideas about the development of human societies is being shown to be quite accurate.

      I learned about these men and others like Thomas Paine from my father who was never a communist – he thought Menzies was fool for banning the party. It was unnecessary he said because Australians would never have voted for a communist regime; we were too well off and only desperate countries will accept that sort of government.

      I don’t think that your explanation of the way you think about work and life is off topic; I find it difficult to distinguish the limits of topics as as far as I can tell everything is related to everything else. And so of course my attitude toward life has been very different from yours.

      Rather than finding the gift of life to be marvellous I found it incredibly difficult and so often wished I was dead. I was what they call self-harming in my early teens long before it was a thing that people talked about and I had made several suicide attempts even before my father who suffered from what is now called bi-polar finally took his own life.

      My mother is what is now referred to as being ‘on the autistic spectrum’ and she also was often in and out of psychiatric hospitals during my early life.

      You are right that the main thrust of my argument is that people are naturally good – there is much social science evidence to show that this is the case from studies done on babies and young children to the way the Australian aboriginal society and other hunter gather groups organised their interactions. This is a huge topic and I’m happy to back up my arguments with references in further discussions about how and why communities organised on socialist lines generally do not last for long within a larger capitalist society.

      And also I am not assuming that there is a bucket of wealth; wealth is another concept like work that there are many many definitions and no certainty about what it is. The earth which is a closed system though and that has to be the ‘bucket of wealth’ that I think we can use as a basis for imagining how we can be wealthy without stealing from other people; even if we are only stealing their freedom to not work and be homeless without being condemned or pitied or regarded as sub-human.

      You mention empathy and I’d argue that empathy is another concept that is not easily defined and for which we speaking as a social scientist have a lot of facts about that show that the traditional and conservative concept of the term is irrational and not helpful for understanding human nature and how we can create a world in which all the varieties of people can be raised to feel that life is so wonderful.

      The main thing I guess that I am trying to challenge is the conservative assumption that people choose to be lazy and stupid and that we can judge and punish these people; that they deserve to be derided and forced to live like the drongos of world would have everyone live. But of course I have developed sufficient intellectual understanding of empathy to see that the drongoes of the world are damaged people and so not have wonderful lives, not wealthy no matter how much money or properties they have and that is why they are so desperate about the changes that are happening.

      • margaret says:

        Tripitaka to Peter Kemmis

        “This sort of honest and respectful interaction is very lacking here and I have to admit that to some extent I am having some fun taking the mickey out of – not you I can’t remember having done that – some of the others who engage with you.”

        Unfortunately tripitaka, Peter K is not the honest and respectful “interactor” that you take him to be. His interactions are like the old nursery rhyme “Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly”.
        I was lured into the sticky web once and I watch his interactions closely.
        As women we like intimacy in our conversations – Peter to give him his due has an awareness of this, however, like so many men of his ilk disclosure of emotion and others truths let alone one’s own truth is scary and must be met with a ‘skeptical’ pat on head let us men get on with the things of the world that matter.
        This is the way he operates and obfuscates.

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    Shortly after I read this last post of yours yesterday, Don, I was listening to Margaret Throsby and Richard Walsh (of Oz Magazine fame) presenting a music program during which Ricard was explaining some of the reforms to our system of government that he would favour. I gather that he would like to see representation (House of Reps, I assume) reflecting the weight of votes that successful candidates actually received on election or re-election to Parliament.

    While such a change may be useful, I don’t think it does away with the party system, nor improve the calibre of candidates. As I understand it, political parties grew out of what must initially must have been quite a chaotic form of representation. And the party system appears to have served us well here in Australia until about 10-15 years ago.

    I think that what is killing us now is political correctness in all its forms; we have become afraid of plain speaking. The votes that Pauline Hanson and Donald Trump have been receiving are indicators of disenchantment with “spin”. Maybe the whole issue is not much more complicated than that.

    I used to think Doc Evatt had a screw loose, Bob Menzies far too comfortable in his own opinion, Harold Holt a babe in the woods, Billy McMahon a trifle, Malcolm Fraser a bully; but at least I thought I knew what each one stood for. As I did with Gough Whitlam, for whom I voted enthusiastically in 1972, and against whom I voted in late 1975. I’m one of those dreadful winging voters, the ones who make and break the success or otherwise of those political parties.

    So my advice to any aspiring politician would be “don’t give us the spin, mate/madam – just tell us as you see it. I may not agree with you on a lot of issues, but at least you’ll be honest with me.”

  • spangled drongo says:

    This is one stupid direction that needs to change:

    “Few can rival the Race Discrimination Commissioner for spotting what isn’t there, the latest example being his gripe that too many white men occupy board positions he would prefer to see allocated to quota’d minorities. Somehow, though, racist policies afflicting Indigenous kids escape his attention”


    • tripitaka says:

      Just because you and the quadrant crowd can’t see the problems that come from too many white men being in positions of power, doesn’t mean that these things are not a problem. lol you really are a thickee drongo.

      • spangled drongo says:

        But just not too thick to see through your supreme hypocrisy, hey trip?

        People get into positions of power because they have certain abilities.

        If you lack those abilities you can’t expect those positions on a quota basis.

        Nature and evolution doesn’t work like that regardless of how inadequate you may be and feel.

        You tell us all what a wonderful treasure you are to the world but all you do here is slag off all and sundry.

        You fail to impress, tripluv.

        • margaret says:

          Spangled, Chris was on the mark with his/her (never assume) comment about you some post back – tripitaka is not here to impress you, and you certainly don’t impress.
          You are one angry owm who cannot get over himself and his perceived contribution to ‘society’
          The Little Red Rooster could be your folktale – however you would probably have the ‘little lady’ bake that bread, (and maybe even plant the wheat – then you could do the fun part, harvesting on the tractor).

    • margaret says:

      Tim Soutphommasane is an impressive person. What’s unimpressive is how one of the rwnj’s in the comments section constantly refers to him as ‘Timmy boy’. What is that all about?

  • margaret says:

    Let’s see Julie Bishop and Tanya Plibersek as leaders of their respective parties. But sadly the roosters like to rule the barnyard.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Yes, marg, Timmy boy would agree with you that it’s time the fem quota was filled.

      But last time I checked a woman’s vote counted the same as a man’s.

      IOW, 1 hen = 1 rooster.

      And there 100,000 more hens in this country than roosters.

      Could hens possibly make a decision that favours roosters?

      So maybe we don’t need an idiot like Timmy boy to tell us who to vote for.

    • spangled drongo says:

      But you will be pleased to note that they have made the new Dr Who a woman.

      Years ago Joanne Lumley did it as a skit but now it is serious, mum.

      Oh, dear! You girls drink far too much gender fluid.

  • IRFM says:

    The voting system has to change. I dislike having to vote for parties which I have no interest in. The current system of preferential voting often disenfranchises the candidate with the highest first vote to the benefit of those receiving preferences from lesser performing candidates. This means that these candidates are receiving more than one vote. Now how is that fair. In the Senate it is worse given the appalling low first quotas that have been ultimately successful. One vote above the line is enough with the voter, at their option, able to vote their parties’ preferences if you must have preferences. Proportional voting should be outlawed immediately. We then might see a return to governments representative of the will of the first vote of the people and reduce the ‘unrepresentative swill levels’.

    I do support compulsory voting for the reason the right vote means just that. There is no right to not vote.

    A thoughtful note as ever Professor Aitkin

    • Chris Warren says:


      You do not know much about the electoral system.

      There is no compulsion to vote for parties you are not interested in. You just need to place a ballot paper in a ballot box. If you are unwilling to do even this for society, then maybe society should do nothing for you.

      The preferential system does not disenfranchise candidates.

      Obtaining the highest number of 1st preferences does not mean that any such candidate has more support than any other.

      • IRFM says:

        Thank you for your interest. Your last line in your comment shows the folly of the system as it currently stands especially when every box has to be numbered otherwise the vote is invalid. To repeat I do not see why I have to vote for every person on the ballot paper and see my preferences diluted along the way. First past the post, brutal perhaps, is they way to go. It also means there is a result the night of the poll.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          The folly of your position is that the two party system allows the party that has been elected to claim a ‘mandate’ for the implementation of a whole range of policies for which the electorate did not actually vote. No one wanted Rudd to open the borders; he did, and it has cost untold billions of dollars, and thousands of lives. And no-one wanted it.

        • Chris Warren says:

          The last line was not a folly. It produces representative outcomes for a representative democracy.

          When I last scrutineered, over 30 years ago, you did not have to number every box. Ballot papers simply “exhausted” at different stages of the count.

  • spangled drongo says:

    If only our politics was heading in this direction:

    “Pruitt blasts Europe, Merkel for ‘hypocrisy’ on climate

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt dismissed European critics of President Donald Trump’s climate policies as hypocrites on Wednesday, while chastising German Chancellor Angela Merkel for phasing out her country’s nuclear power plants.

    “I just think the hypocrisy runs rampant,” Pruitt said in an interview with POLITICO. “To look at us as a nation and say, ‘You all need to do more’ in light of what we’ve done in leading with innovation and technology — the hypocrisy is palpable in those areas.”

    Pruitt mentioned Merkel by name, urging the public to press her on the issue. If reducing carbon dioxide emissions “is so important to you, Madam Chancellor, why are you getting rid of nuclear? Because last time I checked, it’s pretty clean on CO2,” he said.”


  • spangled drongo says:

    Oo, look! Could we be getting some natural climate cooling to offset that 0.8c of nat var warming we have had since the end of the LIA?

    Those gallactic cosmic rays play larry dooley with your chilblains:


  • spangled drongo says:

    This may be the only way conservative PMs will get their messages out against the ABC et al:

    “Trump goes after the “fake news” media because he can and because it works. Trump speaks directly to his 34 million Twitter followers without being filtered by the media. This drives the media nuts, as it can’t game the system the same way.”

    • PeterD says:

      Hi spangled drongo,

      The ABC does have a left wing bias but it does logically follow that conservative PMs can’t use this publicly funded platform to convey their agendas. I watched the ABC today and Malcolm Turnbull is not being ignored. I don’t think our contemporary politicians use the media as well as John Howard or Paul Keating did: it’s not a matter of conservative or labour but the communication skills of the speaker. I am not an avid supporter of Cory Bernard but he uses the media effectively.

      In terms of new political directions, the spin cycle and how media-savy politicians exploit it, is a fundamental competency. Nick Xenophon illustrates this capability frequently.

      On Trump and his use of media, particularly Twitter: I much prefer the probing analysis of investigative journalists and ‘The New York Times’ is loving Trump because their circulation numbers are increasing. I heard one of their journalists say this year that if you have Trump in the title of your article, it is huge, automatic boost.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Yes, PeterD, Turnbull gets a better go than Tony Abbott but that is exactly my point. MT is “sensible centre” [koff].

        I much prefer investigative journalism too but that doesn’t pay for private lefty media anymore so “fake news” takes centre stage.

        Trump does what he has to to combat it.

        Because he is a competent conservative I almost never see a story about Bernardi.

  • spangled drongo says:

    “The Uncertainty Has Settled”.

    Is it already too late? Has the future of politics gone down the gurgler?:

    “This documentary has all the ingredients to become a milestone in the debate on climate change”

    “The human factor is ever present; the painful exposure of failed politics aimed at reducing human CO2, the devastating consequences for the landscape and nature, the income of entire populations that disappears and farmers who are busy producing energy instead of food. It eats away at the sense of justice of a man such as Marijn Poels”.


  • PeterD says:

    A theme of Don’s catalyst article for this forum discussion is the dissatisfaction with the two party system in Australia, the increasing attraction of independent parties and the difficulties of governing when the senate is so diverse and difficult, especially in terms of getting legislation through.

    In terms of the central question of ‘Where is our politics going?’ some legal cases indicate incipient, emerging issues:

    The present legal case around the financial damage incurred by cattle owners, following Minister Ludwig’s intervention in the cattle trade with Indonesia, is basically challenging government legislation. It may be the case that the Labor government were stampeded into action following an emotional ABC program but if significant damages are awarded, then the legitimacy of legislation becomes very contestable. There will alway be winners and losers – look at Trump’s struggle to wind back Obamacare – but this Australian case takes politics in a different direction if it is successful. Compensation and class actions are big business nowadays. Imagine all the people who will be suing for climate change if they have a flicker of evidence they have been disadvantaged.

    Andrew Bolt and free speech re his portrayal of Aboriginal people is another iconic case in point. Although underpinned by sloppy journalism and inaccuracies, this case is often touted by right-wing conservatives as a flagrant suppression of free speech. There was certainly a line of thinking that laws that protect civil rights are a threat to society and representatives such as the HR Commissioner were fair game for blatant ridicule by the likes of Ian MacDonald, ‘The Australian’ et al. Even the three Ministers who recently apologised to the Victorian court represent the same theme: there is an erosion of respect for judicial processes and denigration, as opposed to respectful critical analysis delivered in a more reflective context.

    In Don’s depiction of the two party system, the role of pressure groups, lobbyists, factions etc has always been critical but nowadays it’s becoming almost an abuse. It is interesting that even Tony Abbott is challenging some of the factional interests and lobbyists that, in his view, contaminate the Liberal Party. It could be easily argued that ALP Sussex Street territory, with names such as Richardson, Arbib, Dastyari, Obeid, a couple of NSW Treasurers etc have long poisoned the ALP from within.

    In the old two party system and Australian democracy in general, it could be argued that a proper respect for procedures was the basis of democracy but in terms of where our politics is going, it is the spin cycle, opportunism, single-issues party popularity, denial of financial realties such as budgetary balance and arithmetic, factional games and irreconcilable differences even within the same party on issues around climate, education, irrigation and water usage, taxation etc.

    While these are fairly general points, let me land closer to home. Often in these discussions there is a loathing and disgust with the ABC. At times I share some of these criticisms – obvious left-wing bias etc but never, for a moment do I want to see it muted, privatised or starved financially. An old criticism that used to be made of educational technologies were that they were “mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition” (Clark, 1983). A similar point could be made about the ABC: it delivers all sorts of information and content – sometimes through blurry lenses but it is a most valuable and trusted institution, according to many Australians.

    This idea of bagging and undermining institutions also surfaces in another form with the denigration of ‘peer review’ in terms of scientific publications. Sure, there are abuses, there are occasions where you need to sing the music the paymasters such as the ARC seek etc but is the whole system fundamentally flawed? Same with attacks on the CSIRO, the climate authorities, the Bureau of Meterology etc You name it: there is something wrong with it: all their findings are invalid because the system is in essence, stuffed.

    When I consider the question ‘ where is our politics going?’ what strikes me most is the undermining, the erosion, the contempt for institutions that were once well respected but now have fallen so low. I can only answer with a line from Yeats: ‘The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of a passionate intensity’.

    • Ross says:

      To paraphrase Senator Brandis; Even ‘sloppy inaccurate’ journalists have rights.
      Should they?

    • spangled drongo says:

      PeterD, what you refuse to understand is the ever-increasing brainwashing of these institutions by ever-increasing activism from cradle age.

      Ludwig caved in to it and bankrupted an established Australian culture overnight when a little investigation and correction would have put it right.

      You can’t seriously believe that white “aboriginals” have the right to protection from criticism under such a pathetic law as 18c?

      If you can’t see that institutions like CSIRO who admit to a max of 1c warming since the beginning of the industrial revolution and the end of the LIA, since when our population has increased by 1,000% and produced these sorts of urban heat islands [where most of the thermometers are kept]:


      yet scream that we are heading for catastrophic warming due to ACO2 and demand ever more funding for the wrong solutions, absolutely need all the bagging they get because they are simply not telling the truth.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Some detail on Bolt’s case before Justice Bromberg:

        “I argued then and I argue now that we should not insist on differences between us but focus instead on what unites us as human beings.”

        At issue was Bolt’s assertion that the nine applicants had chosen to identify themselves as “Aboriginal” and consequently win grants, prizes and career advancement, despite their apparently fair skin and mixed heritage.

        18c is in defiance of Western Principles of the absolute need for freedom of speech.

      • PeterD says:

        Hullo spangled drongo

        Do I refuse to accept ‘ever-increasing brainwashing’ as a phenomenon of our age? In my initial posting I identified the ‘spin cycle’ as a major problem. PR, weapons of mass deception, fake news: this is part of the stock and trade of our era. Do the institutions I referred to use it? Of course – they all employ PR figures, propaganda etc.

        My response is not to refuse to accept it as a reality but to try and cultivate a more critical perspective that enables one to analyse the issues, process the information in an intelligent way. In fact, one of the required attributes we all need these days is to have inbuilt bullshit detectors.

        Minister Ludwig was stampeded by the ABC program – same reporter, from memory, as the one who did the NT juvenile detention story and used misinformation to get special access. The ABC, especially 4Crns, seeks out stories that are a huge emotional kick in the guts but sometimes their stories are brilliant and ones we need to hear. The Adele Ferguson tax rorts, in conjunction with many other journalists around the world, is an example.

        Should the Minister have been more strategic and systematic in his response? Obviously, but my point is that class actions around compensation over government legislation is a pandora’s box.

        Protection of white aboriginals under 18C: my view is that you can make any criticism you like if it is based on evidence and data. What for instance would you like to say that you feel commentators can’t be said? I think it is important to write with respect. I know this can be a problem – notice that Don was once served with a writ – but there was little chance of him being convicted. I thought Bill Leak’s cartoon was a very telling and insightful observation about some male parental behaviour and there was no danger of him ever getting into trouble under 18d. Did he cop a backlash? Yes he did and I agree that it was intense from some quarters. Both Don and Bill would have felt the heat, even if it was only ephemeral but logically and legally, they had little to fear.

        You will very rarely see me comment on the science and data around climate change because I am almost scientifically illiterate. Have you seen anything I have written about catastrophic warming? On the CSIRO, however, my view is that it has served Australia very well and continues to do so. Like the ABC it is far from perfect but we would be much poorer without it.

        Essentially I was trying to argue that many of our revered institutions that they have served us very well, and continue to do so but they are far from perfect. The baby does not have to be thrown out with the bathwater.

        • spangled drongo says:

          PeterD, Ludwig was a big enough boy to understand what he was doing. Pressure was not something he was unfamiliar with. He not only didn’t give a hoot for the consequences to those people he sent broke, he relished the opportunity to do so.

          Under 18c, all the evidence and data in the world won’t stop you from offending and/or insulting someone if they insist on being offended and/or insulted.

          Because it is so stupidly subjective, it has no place in law.

          I have been involved with CSIRO in various fields for a fair part of my life and they are getting less scientific, more ideological and less rational with time. As with the ABC, they are failing the farmer they were originally set up to serve and no longer have a conservative bone in their collective bodies.

          I doubt that you can be so scientifically illiterate that you can’t see that their agreed upon global warming of 1c total over nearly 3 centuries [statistically none this c] that has been measured over that period, at sites that have had huge development over that same period as per the link above and provide a huge urban heat island effect [often shown to be multiple degrees warmer than surrounding countryside] that could arguably indicate that ACO2 provides cooling as likely as warming.

          Any open, sceptical, rational mind has to recognise the dedicated ideology in their insistence that the “science is settled”.

        • spangled drongo says:

          Could it be the “Loss of Structure” that is doing it?:


          • PeterD says:

            Hullo spangled drongo,

            On Ludwig: I can’t be sure that his intention was to deliberately drive cattle owners into penury but at best he was a bull in a china shop so I am not quibbling about your assessment of him.

            The person at QUT, Ms Pryor, insisted on being offended, it seems to me: but she is now facing legal bills of $200,000 plus. Even the HR Commissioner urged that this case be resolved by mediation and thought that it might be. If someone insists on being offended, as you state it, it will be played out in the legal arena where there are rules of evidence. I don’t know much about Amber Harrison but she is in a similar predicament, I believe. Alan Jones and the Cronulla riots, Don Aitkin and a person who took offence at what were perceived to be racist remarks: these cases, if they come before the law, are stripped of their subjectivity and there is a process, discipline and court process that determines the outcomes.

            With the ABC, the CSIRO, with universities, with the national institutions, such as the NLA, Archives, in Canberra, there is a common theme: in the days when you worked there, their budgets were, I presume, publicly funded and assured; there was a clearer mission statement and focus; but nowadays their income is more precarious and unpredictable. They have to be more attuned to generating income and those who resent funding of our public institutions applaud this. I am a supported of institutions that serve our community but recognise that mutation is occurring in terms of their modus operandi.

            Thomas Friedman is a person who made sense to me on climate change and who has written about what he sees as the planet’s three largest challenges – Moore’s law (exponential rising impact of technology), the market (globalization, winners and losers) and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss). All are accelerating at once, transforming the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics and community, he argues. Under the banner of Mother Nature he included huge increases in population in Africa etc, shrinking biodiversity, climate concerns, and other issues.

            I tend to be very basic about these matters. I was in Singapore last year and the river that runs through its centre was polluted for decades but over a ten year period was brought back to health; in Beijing, being able to see four hundred yards on some days is a challenge; when as a child I saw more than a thousand rabbits in the same paddock – then along comes the CSIRO; I don’t want to see the Great Barrier reef turn to clay or whatever.

            I talked to a fried of mine recently about climate change who has a PhD in Physics and asked him to explain climate change to me as if I was a small child or a golden retriever. He said: “Imagine there is an old rickety bridge and you have your family in an old panel van and 19 engineering guys out of 20 say it’s too risky to go across but one engineer says it’s safe to go across. That’s a climate change dilemma.”

            I know that’s a crude analogy and would be certainly rejected by most contributors to this site but in my experience humans have a great capacity to contaminate the nests they live in and the idea of sustainable, eco-sensitive practice is not universal.

          • spangled drongo says:

            PeterD, yes, climate change to these institutions is absolutely everything they want it to be so they can control the narrative.

            But the fact is, the climate change discussion is simply: 1/ has the earth warmed [a] due to human caused CO2 emissions or [b] due to natural climate variability or [c] a combination of both, 2/ can the combination be quantified and 3/ is it likely to be [a] an advantage or [b] a non-problem or [c] a big problem or [d] a catastrophe.

            It has nothing to do with pollution which is another debate altogether. And while world population is related to the outcome, that is also a separate debate.

            It’s pretty simple really and while there is a lot of uncertainty, the risks are not hard to assess based on hard historical data.

          • PeterD says:

            Hullo spangled drongo

            You wrote: “Climate change to these institutions is absolutely everything they want it to be so they can control the narrative.”

            When you use the term ‘control the narrative’ do you mean control the cash flow, or set agendas around renewable energies, or eradicate coal producers etc. ‘Control the agenda’ sounds so lofty: generally the dynamics and drivers are much more palpable.

            “But the fact is, the climate change discussion is simply: 1/ has the earth warmed [a] due to human caused CO2 emissions or [b] due to natural climate variability or [c] a combination of both, 2/ can the combination be quantified and 3/ is it likely to be [a] an advantage or [b] a non-problem or [c] a big problem or [d] a catastrophe.”

            The paragraph above is an excellent and makes clear sense to me.

            “It has nothing to do with pollution which is another debate altogether. And while world population is related to the outcome, that is also a separate debate.” On the idea of conflating climate change, pollution, weather extremes, sea change, heating etc: I am blurry about these issues and to some extent I am representative of many Australians. When it comes to predictive models, their fallibility, CO2 levels, making sense of scientific reports and data: this is where some sophistication in science is required. It is also, dare I say it, where a lot of heat and emotion is generated because the distinctions that seem obvious to those who are well informed about the science, are not so self-evident to many.

        • PeterD says:

          Hullo spangled drongo,

          On the Bolt case: 9 applicants who sought grants etc by identifying as Aboriginal. It’s been pointed out in this site, many times, about abused around peer review, grants etc. Don who has held key positions on research funding bodies, including the ARC from memory, is well aware of this. Grant applicants will do amazing things to attract funding. Whether they identify as Aboriginals, use key buzz words in their applications, doctor their findings to attract further funding, use networks etc the challenge is to conduct investigations based on evidence. I don’t think the problems are principally around race but about ruses to obtain grants; if it is a racist strategy then call it for what it is.

          “18c is in defiance of Western Principles of the absolute need for freedom of speech.” It is interesting that even Gillian, the HR Commissioner, was arguing for some change in the wording of 18c but essentially there is not too much political traction or votes in it for wobbly politicians. When you refer to Western Principles and ‘absolute need’ I look around and say where is this world – in the US, UK, Europe? It’s more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

    • margaret says:

      “Often in these discussions there is a loathing and disgust with the ABC. At times I share some of these criticisms – obvious left-wing bias etc but never, for a moment do I want to see it muted, privatised or starved financially.”

      Hear, hear.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Why don’t govts do something about their hypocrite institutions.

        After monstering George Pell over a long period in spite of him doing possibly more than anyone to stop paedophilia in the church:


        “The ABC has not reported that, in late June 2017, former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty in Gosford Local Court to a case of historic child sexual abuse. The crime took place near Gosford in 1981. The victim was a 14 year old male ABC casual employee and the assault took place on an official ABC assignment.”

        Muting doesn’t seem to be the problem with this bunch of hypocrites, marg.

        • spangled drongo says:

          If the ABC were even slightly honest and balanced, following their concentrated criticism of paedophilia in certain selected Christian church institutions they would then look at Islam which, as we know, has encompassed paedophilia as a pillar of its philosophy since the days of the Prophet and is detailed even in the Koran.

          But the silence is deafening.

          Then it could move on to paedophilia among Aboriginals where it is common practice for old men to “break in” young girls.

          But the silence is deafening.

          One can only conclude that their left/green persuasion with not one conservative broadcaster voice only allows a very biased story to ever emerge.

          They do not represent a balanced opinion. They would happily destroy one half of the culture that is generously supporting them.

          Why should that half pay them handsomely to do that?

          Let them make their own arrangements for survival in the commercial world like all other media has to.

          SBS is a similar problem.

          And if our so called right wing govt can’t see this, there is not much hope for them.

  • margaret says:

    I bought a copy of George Orwell’s essays in a second hand bookshop yesterday. I had thought I was an Engelsian Marxist but now I think maybe more Orwellian Socialist. I don’t vote from habit but from whatever abilities I possess to make sense of politics and from values both formed and open to revision and adaptation.

    • PeterD says:

      Hi Margaret: On Orwell

      Four legs good; two legs better.

      On pigs sleeping in bed: not sure whether this is corruption at the top levels or egalitarianism which is extended to animals.

      • margaret says:

        “There are at least two Orwells…”

        “…Yet communities can also be sources of dogma; leviathans that swallow individuality. So much of Orwell’s work is a struggle with the implications of this.

        For instance, in Animal Farm Sugarcandy Mountain represents the religious believer’s hopeless yearning for an eternal, never-changing community (heaven). But a simple rejection of that dream is not enough if doing so only resurrects religion’s worst features – submission and the submergence of individuality – in other forms, i.e. Communism.

        Catholics in particular are repeatedly accused by Orwell of accepting prevailing injustices because ‘that’s just the way the world is’.Communists are accused of recreating the world before the animals’ revolution – witness Animal Farm’s famous ending. In their various ways, all have little time for the integrity of individuals struggling to understand how to live together while improving the world around them. Socialism is nothing, Orwell thought, unless it makes room for the ‘bourgeois’ qualities of decency, respect and civility.

        Orwell appreciated the difficulty of being both an individual and a member of a community because he so often argued against positions that he himself had occupied. There are at least two Orwells.”


        “Socialism is nothing, Orwell thought, unless it makes room for the ‘bourgeois’ qualities of decency, respect and civility.”

      • margaret says:

        Hi Peter,
        I’m already familiar with many of Orwell’s essays and they can be read online but it’s nice to have a hard copy (despite a smaller print than I’d like). 1984 sits on my bookshelves – too frightened to read it after seeing the film some years ago and Animal Farm I’m only familiar with its underpinning message and seeing it studied for English at a school I worked in but there was a beautiful folio edition in that bookshop, with illustrations and I’m thinking that for $15 I might go back and get it. I read ‘Aspidistra’ a long time ago and I think ‘Down and out’ but aeons have passed.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Pleased to see you’ve forsaken Engels, marg.

      “Marxism is somehow judged as a textbook theory, unrelated to its real-world outcomes”:


      • PeterD says:

        Hi Margaret

        1984 is a brilliant and profound novel but also heartbreakingly devastating in the sense of personal betrayal. I read somewhere that George Orwell was deeply depressed and ill when he wrote this book.

        • margaret says:

          That’s interesting but being deeply depressed and ill is a legitimate state of human experience and doesn’t necessarily detract from one’s intelligent creative output.
          Someone said ‘sanity is the playground of the unimaginative’.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Along with our pollies, the GBRMPA, instead of constant bed-wetting, could look out the window occasionally, too.

    “Scientists are stunned by corals as big as cars and thriving marine life at Bikini Atoll site where 23 atomic bombs were dropped”


    • PeterD says:

      Hi Margaret:

      On sanity etc: that’s why novels such as ‘Crime and Punishment’, ‘Anna Karenina’, Patrick White’s ‘Voss’, are such powerful novels: they go right to the edge, frightful, sheer, unfathomed. Even a little sleeper, ‘Too late the phalarope’ by Alan Paton, looks at insane decision making from a South African Lion in the affairs of love/lust.

  • spangled drongo says:

    “Intersectional Inquiries and Collaborative Action: Gender and Race.”

    Conservatives don’t know what they’re up against.

    So many enemies, so little time:


  • spangled drongo says:

    I wonder what doctrine a country espouses that won’t allow one of its finest citizens to receive a Nobel Prize?


    • PeterD says:

      Hi spangled drongo

      You pose the question re the doctrine a country espouses that won’t allow one of its finest citizens to receive a Nobel Prize?

      To answer that question you need go further than George Orwell’s 1984’s totalitarian big brother.

  • Neville says:

    This is O/T but proves that Craig Kelly is correct about winter deaths.
    How dumb are our stupid pollies and media?


  • margaret says:

    I do enjoy Poldark. Ever since the first BBC production in the seventies. I’m sure Winston Graham’s books would be good reads but once you’ve watched a good visual adaptation it’s too late. George Warleggen is no hero and this is a good article about the parallels to modern politics.

    “The reason there is discontent with capitalism is that, in its current form, it has failed. Not in a cyclical way, but in the form of a permanent cul-de-sac: where failure produces only oligarchic rule, attacks on democracy, higher inequality and rocketing asset prices alongside stagnating productivity.

    Instead of a beguiled and illiterate mass, the 21st-century Warleggans face the opposite: a young generation armed with information tools and human rights of which they cannot be deprived without depleting economic dynamism. The great illusion of Toryism for 200 years has been, essentially, that all revolts end up like the ones in Poldark. As long as you can deliver economic growth and social mobility, Jacobinism can be suppressed.”


    • spangled drongo says:

      Yes, marg, once you’ve imbibed in a neomarxist interpretation of the greatest period in civilisation you sure don’t want to go back to the facts.

      I was lucky enough to read all the Poldarks years before they became televised and that was not WG’s message at all.

      But you should read the books. They will even give you a real-world, rational outlook on climate change.

      • margaret says:

        Spangled Drongo I’m impressed by your reading of Winston Graham’s Poldark series spanning the era of industrial revolution in Britain. The article is interesting and, despite its bodice-ripping, which in part is what keeps us watching :

        “One of the huge achievements of Debbie Horsfield’s adaptation of the Poldark novels is its determination to dramatise, alongside the bodice ripping, the core social conflicts experienced by the first industrial generation. These were not simply about class and economics, but also what it means to be human in a society driven by market forces and private ownership.”
        Don misses so much by not watching television 🙂

      • margaret says:

        Nice try SD, I doubt whether the books would have anything to say about climate change!
        I’m glad I haven’t read them – television adaptations are so much better in so many instances of sweeping sagas that involve reading 12 books that I have no time to read.

        • spangled drongo says:

          “Nice try SD, I doubt whether the books would have anything to say about climate change!”

          No mention of “climate change”, marg, but they will acquaint you with the horrendous weather conditions that occurred in the west of England in those days that you never hear of now.

          Lots of great background to the period that TV cannot provide.

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