C’mon Phil, show some compassion

Perhaps after the Liberals have been returned to power Ruddock could, as a gesture of goodwill, suddenly discover evidence not available before the election indicating that Shayan’s condition was in fact caused by the traumas of detention. Enter Angry Anderson to find the child, and “its” family, a new home.

A Current Affair’s viewers will be happy to see the kid is no longer a Muslim nut-case, but a dinky-di Aussie. Ruddock’s off the hook for being “courageous” enough to reverse a decision that was nevertheless the correct one at the time in light of all available evidence.

Meanwhile the other asylum-seekers bake in the desert…..

name withheld

CRIKEY: Now wouldn’t that be fitting…

Inside the ABC culture

Dear Crikey,

With the inevitable demise of Jonathan Shier as ABC Managing Director, it might be worth considering how realistic one of his mission goals may have been.

After 19 months and a purge that would have made Stalin proud, Shier came up against and was ultimately defeated by the so-called “ABC culture”. The current
government sees it as inherently biased to the political left, and consequently something that must be changed or destroyed.

What follows is a personal opinion on the “ABC culture”. Agree or disagree, I think it’s worth a bit of debate, so here goes…

To change the ABC’s culture, you’ll have to destroy the ABC as we know it. That is… either shut it down, or turn the ABC fully commercial.

The culture you find at the national broadcaster is probably unique in Australian media organisations, and has driven its success as much as contributed to its

The essence of this, I argue, is the almighty dollar, and its influence on those who work for the ABC.

Nobody really works at the ABC purely for the money. It’s love of the game, and love of the product be it TV, radio, or on-line. Those who do go for the money usually don’t
last long at Aunty. They wind up in public relations, politics, or a private enterprise somewhere.

They’re the ones though with the right wing views the Howard Government would love to see on the airwaves. But they go out the door with them. Those who remain at the
ABC are usually there for the ideal of public broadcasting, a calling they believe (mistakenly or not) ranks above crass and surly commercialism. Accordingly, it’s highly
likely they’ll lean to the political left.

(Some I’ll happily admit are also there because they’re incapable of working in the real world, but performance evaluation is another matter, and believe it or not, they’re
being steadily weeded out.)

In my opinion also, the most positive thing to happen to the ABC in terms of culture, surprisingly, has gone unreported.

Decades ago, commercial media used to pick the eyes out of the ABC, luring its best staff across with better pay and opportunities. But with the contractions in
commercial media over the past decade or so, the opposite has been happening.

Many experienced commercial media staff have been moving to the ABC occupying most strata of the organisation. Most have brought with them the best aspects of their
commercial media culture, and combined it with the best aspects of the ABC’s culture.

It’s not always been a happy marriage. The ABC remains chockful of red tape, sanctimoniousness, and political correctness, which doesn’t sit well with many of the new
arrivals. But bit-by-bit, more of a can-do attitude is pervading in the leaner, meaner ABC created by recent budget cuts. The commercial bods happily ply their trade,
secure in the knowledge that they’re in media nirvana compared with the corporate abbatoirs they’ve left behind.

Whether there really is an inherent left wing bias in the ABC’s output still remains open to debate, but I’ll leave that to the chattering classes vs. the Jones, Akermans,
Bolts, Pearsons et al to sort out.

In terms of getting a job done however… doing what you can with what you’ve got, the ABC culture has adapted surprisingly well thanks to the transfusion of new blood
from the commercial media.

Over to you folks…

ABC staffer

CRIKEY: Okay, let’s have a debate, send in your emails

A couple of problems with Four Corners

Dear Crikey,

Just a few points with Peter McEvoy’s piece on the Government’s assassination of Four Corners.

In his speech Mr McEvoy said:

“Australia’s refugee policy has become one of the worst examples of media restriction and manipulation that we’ve ever seen. It may have started with locking the media
out of reasonable access to detention centres and detainees but the Tampa showed how far it could go. To prevent journalists getting access to the refugees viewpoint the
media were barred from Christmas Island harbour and airstrip. All information about the Tampa was tightly controlled so that normal sources of media information were
simply closed down. Journalists on Christmas Island were reduced to reporting events from the beach while the politicians in Canberra dribbled out only the information
they deemed appropriate.

Consequently much of that information was misleading. For days we were told that when the Tampa picked up the refugees from Palapa and they were closer to Indonesia
than Australia: now we learn they were 75 nautical miles from Christmas Island and 246 nautical miles from the Java port of Merak.”

While most of the piece was excellent and a fair portrayal of the Government manipulation of the media over refugee issues, I found these two paragraphs strange coming
from an organisation which holds itself up to be the best of the best as far as journalism is concerned.

As far as the second paragraph goes, The West Australian reported on the front page of its August 28 edition (the day after the Tampa crisis flared): The freighter Tampa
had rescued the group from their stricken vessel 75 nautical miles north-west of Christmas Island after it responded to a distress call put out by Australian sea rescue

The “Australian sea rescue authorities” referred to could quite easily have provided the information … and did to The West. Perhaps those reporters who believed the line
that the group was much closer to Merak than Christmas Island should have done the simple checks that every cadet journalist is taught to do.

Secondly, in relation to the first paragraph, those on Christmas Island should not have been there simply to “report events from the beach”. During the Tampa crisis there
were no less than five separate satellite phone lines and one fax line available on the Tampa. Captain Arne Rinnan was quoted on every day of the crisis over here in WA.
Not only was Capt Rinnan available to the media (despite orders from his company telling him to make no more comment) but his crew also spoke. At different times radio
operators and other crew members gave reporters interviews about what was happening on the Tampa. At one stage the asylum seekers even put forward a spokesman to
speak to reporters on the satellite phone. Of course, this was in addition to daily press conferences held by the Tampa’s shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

Also, it was not only journalists who were barred from the Christmas Island Harbour. Locals were forced out of the water as well. The port itself is small and poses many
problems for big ships and with a Captain who – on several occasions – threatened to simply sail in, it wouldn’t be safe to have anyone out there.

At Christmas Island there was a resident who spoke the same language as the crew of the Tampa. He was happy to pass on everything he heard over shipping radio
channels … and did. Christmas Islanders themselves were required to provide so many services to those dealing with the Tampa issue – and were not afraid to tell everyone
what they had done. Gossip on the island was rife – and, in 99% of cases, on the money.

To me, Mr McEvoy’s complaint that all normal sources of media information were simply shut down reveals a lack of imagination on behalf of reporters who feel that way.
Perhaps those who claim they couldn’t get the information should have tried sources other than the Immigration Department, the Minister or Parliamentary Question Time.

CRIKEY: It is true that journalists need to be industrious but it is dangerous when the government uses all its resources and power to mislead and hide.

Don’t abandon us Liberals Crikey

Comrade Mayne Man

Thankyou 4 your honesty in sharing your voting intentions with we
subscribers. Well in line with the Crikey policy of full disclosure.

What has me puzzled is how you can go from a wholehearted supporter of a
government attempting to roll back debt, restructure IR and tax and show a
little vision.

To a voter for one that is attempting to roll all this back and then some.

This form of negative politics is the ultimate in destructive escapism.

Do you really want a front bench containing every living pensioned off ACTU

I for one consider this outcome apocalyptic for the future wellbeing of
Australia as a vibrant, healthy quasi capitalist democracy

Regards, Batman

CRIKEY: I agree that Labor’s IR agenda is a worry but the economic policies are pretty similar and as a rule third term governments are to be avoided. On top of that, I can’t forgive Howard for his incredibly cynical use of the Tampa and the Republic still grates.

Singapore not so bad

Dear Crikey,

In relation to the Singapore elections, as reported on Crikey last night,
I’d like to add the following observations, having recently spend a short
time in that country:

– the ‘walkover’ is due to either no opposition or opposition candidates not
completing the paperwork correctly (!) in the majority of seats being

– in the seat in which I was staying, I saw sufficient promotional material
around to suggest that all was fair and above board. However, it should
be said that this is the first time, apparently, that the Government has had
an opposition candidate in that seat.

Look, here’s what I took away with me after a week or so over there. The
Government brought down what we here call a Mini-Budget. MP’s had a
salary-cut, as did senior public servants. In addition, the population got
assistance to encourage them to go out and spend to boost the local economy.

Can you imagine a salary cut for Aussie MP’s getting off the ground??

Add to this a range of tax cuts, a HUGE cut in the petrol excise and many
other stimulations to the economy and you have a ‘mini-budget’ designed to
get the country moving again – from WITHIN!

Yes, there a large number of things that I’m not comfortable about regarding
the way things are run over there. Being a middle-aged leftie, it took me a
while to chew over what I saw in Singapore. But I have to say that the
Government is trying to get things going. And the majority of the people
there seem to believe that the Government is doing what is best for them,
especially regarding education for their kids – an investment in the
country’s future.

Overall, not as bad as some might think and nowhere as bad as I expected.



CRIKEY: You can’t argue with the outcomes in Singapore but what would happen if some baddies took control. Just look at Suharto, Burma etc etc.

Attacks on Four Corners just appalling

Dear Crikey

I was appalled by the article Refugees, Terrorism, and the Inside Story. No, not because it was inaccurate or biased, rather that it highlighted the appalling
performance of our elected representatives on the refugee issue in recent times. It is easy to say that politicians are useless, overpaid, etc but I vehemently disagree
with that standard argument. However, in this case, the Minister for Immigration Philip Ruddock has acted in a manner that is a disgrace to the organisation he
proudly supports, Amnesty International, and his mischievous distortion of the truth is something that even the legal profession he is trained in would be embarrassed
by. To make matters worse, the Federal Opposition has been duplicitous in this whole sorry episode. For a party that claims it has higher morals and supports the
“battler”, the Labor Party’s blatant pitch to poll-driven populism is shameful.

As a journalist, Piers Akerman is supposed to abide by standards of honesty and some balance. In this case, he has been shown to have failed miserably and has
fallen to the level of hysteria of “broadcasters” who get away with untruths by saying they are entertainers. Anyone who has read more than the rantings of rednecks
(“push ’em off the boats!”) starts to see the tragedy of the human beings involved but is immediately labelled a “bleeding heart”. If this is the case, I am proudly one
who has a heart.

Australia likes to say it is built on the notion of a “fair go”, but this election year, neither major political party has given asylum seekers a fair go. Dare I use that
overworked cliche, “they are un-Australian”.

Regards, Robert

CRIKEY: That article was one of the most compelling I’ve ever read about the evils of spin and manipulation and it really is appalling that people like Akerman have compromised themselves so badly in trying to tear it down. I’d be interested in seeing Andrew Bolt’s response to McEvoy’s article too.

Labor will slug unions and Coalition will hurt business

A good start to assessing the hole that the winner of the election is going to find herself in (remember that it will be Natasha who holds the balance of power).

Seriously, in the lower house the government leader will have made pre-election commitments that simply can’t be kept. In particular, all the spending and tax cut promises
– unless the allegedly precious budget surpluses are to be turned to deficit. But everyone knows that and nobody surely takes any of this pre-election posturing as reality.

The old cliche is a true as ever – beware being a supporter of the party in power. Labor will sock it to the unions, just as they did under Hawke/Keating, and the Coalition
will smack small business again, as it did with the GST.

No wonder the blue-collar electorates will vote with Johnny and the chardonnay-set with the republicans.

Cheers, Henry Thornton

CRIKEY: That’s a very interesting analogy Henry and certainly rings true.

Kroger’s many Morflow millions

I read with some interest your piece on Michael Kroger last Tuesday. I had the pleasure of attending the AVCAL (Australian Venture Capital Association) conference on
the Gold Coast last weekend. One of the speakers was Mark Delude, CEO of Moldflow Inc, a NASDAQ listed CAD company specialising in plastics modelling. He went
on to explain that Moldflow was purchased by J.T. Campbell Private Equity in an MBO deal valuing the company at $8 million. Second-round investment came from

Moldflow is now capitalised at approximately AU$240 million, down from a pre-tech wreck high of around AU$500 million. As the largest shareholder post-MBO, Kroger
himself is rumoured to have personally made out with some $20 -$30 million. Not bad for somebody who you describe as a talentless merchant banker. I wish I was so

Name Withheld

CRIKEY: We take our hat off to him. Clearly Michael is a better MBO man than he has been a political fixer or door opener for the past 5 years.

Chinese block Crikey Falun Gong story

Hello Stephen

My name is Brendon Ely and I’m a subscriber in Tianjin
China. I want to read the FLG story but the Chinese
firewall is blocking the link.

I think you are wrong about Falun Gong. I think FLG
represents a great leap backward for China. The group
has been criticized by Human Rights in China. FLG has
been a Buddha send for the CCP. The CCP has been able
to crack down on FLG but more importantly pissed off
workers who are complaining about the rate of economic

I agree with Crikey’s criticism of Rupurt for dealing
with the Chinese government but don’t be so soft on

Thanks, Brendon

CRIKEY: That is just amazing that the Chinese authorities can block a story – presumably they have a general ban on anything mentioning the Falun Gong – on Crikey from readers in China. We’ve emailed it to a couple of people over there.

Fairfax pulls out of India

G’day Crikey,

Did you hear that Gill’s Fairfax Business Media just closed their Indian
operations? The three offices, located in Delhi, Mumbai and
Bangalore, were part of the acquisition of Strategic Publishing back in
December 1999 for $16.5m. At the time of the acquisition, the Indian
operation was profitable and produced the business magazines MIS South Asia
and BusinessOnline South Asia. Less than two years on, Gill and his brains
trust have destroyed it.

And did you happen to notice the relaunch of CFO magazine? When it was owned
by Strategic Publishing, CFO used to be read by more chief financial
officers than any other magazine including BRW. With monthly ad revenues
between $80k and $120k per month, CFO was profitable with a modest 10% EBIT
margin. And then Gill bought it and turned it into a capital markets
magazine. Want to know what ad revenue CFO got last month? $18k. That’s
right, $18k.

Good one, Mike, just keep adding value, OK?

CRIKEY: Crikey and Gilly have not got along ever since he wouldn’t take me back on the Fin Review after the Kennett seat tilt of 1999 fell at the first hurdle. I know none of this detail and can only say that Gilly has a vehement critic on the inside because the information is good and damning.

Suggesting US provocation is bollocks

Thanks for your balanced discussion of the September 11 massacre.

The harping by the left that the US “provoked” these outrages by
supporting Israel and sanctioning Iraq is a bit like saying Jews
provoked Hitler because “they stabbed Germany in the back”. It is
morally irrelevant, takes the aggressor’s propaganda as truth and
represents the shallowest kind of historical analysis.

The UN, not just the US, imposed sanctions on Iraq because Saddam
failed to give up weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as agreed at the
end of the Gulf War. In general it was the left and the Arab League who
advocated sanctions as a more humane alternative than military action.
They probably got it wrong. The sanctions may be a humanitarian
disaster, but Hussein could end them by giving up his Scuds. As Saddam
has used WMDs against Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and his own people,
these sanctions are not just heartless Yankee Imperialism.

Support for Israel? Yes, the US supports Israel. But do the Islamicists
really support Palestine or repressed Muslims as they claim? In the
Arab world rhetorical support for Palestine increases with distance
from the front line. Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran all are heavy on
pro-Palestine words, but have done surprisingly little for them. The
Saudi rulers even signed the deal back in the 1920s that allowed a
Zionist homeland in British Palestine. Muslims under Israeli rule have
more rights than non-Christians in Islamic states. Compared to the
methods Iraq and Syria have used against dissident minorities, Israel’s
tough minded practices seem weak.

The search for historical causes is bit myopic as well. So far it has
only taken the historical focus back only one step. Why not dig deeper?
Why not ‘blame’ Hitler or Arab intransigence for Israel’s hard as nails
policies? The Middle East has been an ethnic and religious mess since
the Allies overthrew the Ottoman Empire in World War 1. It’ll probably
take a new Ottoman Empire to clean it up.

The harping of the right is unfortunately just as bad. American
patriotism is to be expected and is understandable. This is the
greatest death of civilians due to act of war, foreign or deomestic,
the US has ever experienced since 1776. But there is no substitute for
vigorous debate and the airing of diverse opinions.The democratic
decision process requires that. Past and present foreign policies are
not written in stone and are not beyond debate or criticism. George
Bush’s performance has been woeful under the circumstances. There have
been real lapses in aviation, security, intelligence, skyscraper
evacuation policy and even in New York’s rescue response plan. These
failures will not get fixed without debate. Wrapping everything up in
red, white and blue won’t do either.

Regards, Tim Gillin

CRIKEY: Some interesting historical perspectives here in what is clearly a pro-Israel position but a well-argued one at that.

Packer a long-time union-basher

Dear Stephen

I understand and accept some aspects of what you say about unions and
Ansett. One my gripes with you is that you said it to Channel Nine, who love
to bash unions, and always support the Liberal party (since Keating got up
Kerry’s nose). If you have ever watched anyone on Channel Nine
“interviewing” a Liberal Party person (especially the Prime Minister!!!) you
would know that they are not the sattion to watch if you want information…
Why do you think Howard wants the debate on Nine, hosted by Ray Martin??


CRIKEY: Fair point indeed David but this does not mean that union feather-bedding at places like Ansett should not be
discussed anywhere in the media.

More people equals more government services

Dear Crikey,

Re Refo Myth #8 – Refugees and migrants create a demand for goods and
sevices – Very True

But why didn’t they mention that refugees and migrants also create
demand for government services. Gaols, courthouses, aged care beds,
public hospitals, schools, kindergartens, universities, welfare etc?

What the immigration lobby want most is more demand for multicultural
groups, immigration lawyers and others who suckle on the public teat.

I would have thought the success of Luxemberg and Switzerland would be
enough to end the more people = more wealth charade.

yours, dale

CRIKEY: This is true. Huge numbers of refugees would probably cost more than they benefit initially, but if a few of them become the
next Frank Lowy or Dick Pratt it is a different question altogether.

Who can Barns call a self-promoter?

I notice in the Australian today that Republican and media chatter box,
Greg Barns has been having a go at Monarchist, Sophie Panopoulos who is
running for a Victorian rural seat in Federal parliament. Mr B is hopping
from foot to foot ranting that she is a ” opportunist and total self
promoter and has gone up there for one reason, so she can get to Canberra”.

Excuse me? Did I hear that right? While I don’t support the Monarchist
argument and personally find Panopoulos severely irritating I do find
myself choking on my cornflakes this morning at what appears to be a two
faced tantrum from foghorn, Barns.

I understand that this confessed self promoter and media junkie has just put
his hand up for pre selection in Tasmania. I gather his motivation in moving
“down there ” is to make Denison and Tasmania a better community. Another
view of his motivation could be that he is planning a fast track to
Canberra on the left liberal banner so that he can bathe in his reflected
image in the Aus media and ultimately do Paul Keating impersonations from
the Lodge.


CRIKEY: Hmmm, that would be bit like Crikey accusing someone of being a self-promoter. Barns and I often joke about how we
are media tarts so it’s a bit rich him attacking someone else for it. Barns really took the Republican defeat hard and still
gets stuck into anyone who was a visible Monarchist. Anyway, Barns has not sent in this response:


Unlike ms Panopoulos, i have no interest in going to Canberra. I beleive that State government is a very effective form of government that is increasingly relevant to people’s lives in a globalised world. And futhermore, I have never said ‘don’t trust politicians’ the way Ms Panopolous and her cronies did two years ago.

Secondly, because i happen to have an interest in contributing to public policy debates I am suddenly a self-promoter. I assume that this criticism applys to any comenators who have been involved in politics. What a boring world it would be if one feared putting one’s head up on issues just because people like you want to snipe!

Greg Barns

Let’s name and shame the dud directors

Good Day

I’ve had an idea and thought i would run it by you. Here goes…

Last nite i watched John Singleton on the sbs business show state
that the majority of directors had no idea what they were doing and
were merely on the earn waiting to die. This seemed to me to be a
truthfull statement borne out by plenty of recent corporate failures
in what appeared to be solid companies – pasminco, one tell,-
i could go on.

How do we make them more accountable, prevent the old boy network
sucking more corporate loafers into the system and lastly evict
those no hopers presently on boards?

Perhaps a start would be some kind of Corporate grave yard or
knackery where directors of failed companies could be sent to
account for their sins and recieve the recognition that their
failures deserve.

This could be a web site or even a book or magazine publication,
say once a year that names them, their backgrounds and all their
other Board positions. Anything that links them with their failures.

It appears the majority seem to regard investors with contempt.
Here is an example: This is in a letter from pasminco chairman Mark Rainer dated
23-11-00 after the agm:

“The board is confident of a return to dividend payment in
the current year as the benefits of our investments in Century
and Savage resources are realised”” What a load of crap.

They seem to have the attitude that if their incompetence
results in failure and loss of billions of dollars in shareholders
funds thay can simply wash their hands of it and move on.
They need to be made to understand that their incompetence
will be recorded and their reputations held accountable.

Just a few thoughts….

Regards, anon

CRIKEY: All in all a very interesting suggestion. I’ve long backed a form of skeleton watching and just don’t have the time to do
it separately from Crikey.

How TWU bosses sold out to Virgin Blue

I enjoyed Stephen Maynes television spot about the benefits available to
former Ansett Airlines employees secured n their behalf by their respective

There is a piece of trivia that has not received an airing in this complex
debate which should come out of its closet.

The same Transport Workers Union (TWU) which has been beating its collective
chest over securing workers entitlements, is the same TWU which signed an
agreement with Virgin Blue which allowed that company to start up with wage
rates and benefits far less that those being paid to Ansett or Qantas

The deal the TWU struck allows Virgin to operate at more than $100 per
person per week cheaper than its rivals !

An enquiring mind would have to ask why a Virgin is worker worth so much less
the his or her counter-parts at Ansett and Qantas? This is a little bit hard
to reconcile particularly since all three airlines operate the same aircraft
(737’s) and operate next to each other at the airport.

Perhaps it is because the TWU covers the Virgin operation exclusively
whereas Ansett and Qantas has multi union coverage particularly in the
clerical areas so membership fees have to be shared with the ASU?
Or perhaps it is that all the Virgin Superannuation funds are paid into a
fund managed by the TWU?

It galls me to hear the rhetoric from the TWU about workers entitlements
when they have been party to an agreement which may well have been one nail
in the Ansett coffin which was being assembled by Air New Zealand!
Maybe we don’t need economic rationalism but some sections of the TWU
certainly needs to cultivate some economic reality.

These facts are easily checked and are matter of pulic record. Both the
Qantas and Virgin Enterprise agreements are available throught the AIRC

I apologize for using the anonymity of a hotmail address, but I work in the
industry and wish to do so for a few more years! Keep up the good work.


CRIKEY: Very interesting letter indeed. We’re looking forward to hearing from the TWU bruvvas to explain themselves
over this one.

Government knew about Ansett problems

At Easter, I had an ‘animated discussion’ with a senior Federal Government
staffer (who shall remain nameless) when I expressed my opinion that I
thought Ansett would go broke within 18 months.

Why? Any airline that can’t get its planes in working order is not taking
care of core business.

Any person who is crying foul over the demise of Ansett has been turning a
blind eye to the problems which have been evident for months. That includes
the unions who will no doubt use this as leverage for Beazley in the Federal

From my point of view, Beazley (former finance minister) and Labor are
responsible for Ansett’s problems. They poured millions into Qantas during
the 1980s and early 1990s before the privatised it. This funding created a
huge and unfair advantage for Qantas, which was released from the shelter of
the government with a newly upgraded, government-funded fleet.

I wonder what’s stopping the govenrment from owning an airline again? It
sounds like a contradiction in dry economics, but if government ownership of
Ansett preserves competition in the airline industry, then such a concept
could sit well with the economic dries.

They can build it up and sell it off.

Before they do that, however, they ought to clean out CASA. I don’t like
Dick Smith, but he’s probably right that CASA is a culturally corrupt

And yes, yes, yes to what you said about that Clark woman and the directors
of Air New Zealand.

Scumbags the lot of them.

Tom Payne

CRIKEY: Good letter Tom. You have to wonder if CASA would have thrown the book at Ansett if Rupert had still been a
50 per cent shareholder.

Letter of the week: Howard’s game plan

Dear Crikey

It’s nice to see some passion in a journo, ie the Tampa refugees, but it is
a complicated issue which requires cooler thought and will not be resolved
by ranting (as it was late at night, you hadn’t been having a merlot or two
by any chance?). I don’t have the solution and whatever the outcome, both
short and long-term, will be complicated and not universally acceptable.
Such is life. My own inclination is to let them in, but the underlying
issues are perhaps more interesting and this is where I think Crikey could
have done better.

While it is good for your subscribers to know your editorial policy, you do
not need to overstate it, or make it the centrepiece of the product. You
need to play to your strengths, and Crikey’s is getting some inside goss,
spelling out what the papers won’t say, and providing incisive analysis.

After some temporary discomfort, the refugees will ultimately be looked
after one way or another. They have received enough global publicity for it
not to be otherwise. The real story for Crikey behind the issue is John
Howard’s determination to deliver a third victory to the Coalition, whatever
it takes. It informs everything he says and does. In spite of attempts by
the media and party apparatchats to make the impending election sound like a
contest, until last week the govt can have been in no doubt it was on the
electoral nose, holding too many marginal seats and spurned in the bush.

As ever, Qld remained a problem. And as if One Nation was not enough, the
Qld libs were fighting amongst themselves (as regularly updated by Crikey
and today’s Fairfax press) while the ALP sprung the Macfarlane/GST/Groom
ambush. A very unlovely set of numbers. Then along came the Tampa.

John Howard has always been a three dimensional pollie – and his dimensions
are industrial relations, tax cuts, and immigration/race. His actions over
the past year illustrate it. Abbott the zealot was brought in to kick union
heads, Costello and Howard have played the tax cuts card, and now the
trifecta is complete with immigration (read xenophobia and religious
bigotry), dressed up as national sovereignty. They’ll love it in the bush.
(Wonder if Howard will award SAS diggers with campaign medals for this one.)

CHOGM has now become a nuisance. There isn’t enough time for an election
before HM QE2 comes (don’t forget Hyacinth is so looking forward to hosting
tea and scones) and it would be unseemly to be actively campaigning during
CHOGM, so the earliest they can go to the polls will be 17 November. Let’s
see how they spin the reffos out until then.

Was it Keating or Hawke who said “Always back self-interest, it’s the only
horse with an honest jockey”. Traditionally, the pundits reckon the
hip-pocket nerve is the touchiest one in the electorate, but really it is
only a symptom. The underlying condition is self-interest (aka “wedge
politics”) and, in a conservative electorate exhausted by change and afraid
of the future, self-interest will be nurtured with all available fertiliser.

The stakes are high, the egos rampant, and electoral memories short. I
can already hear the approaching cacophony of non-core soundbites. Howard
is going to play very hard ball for the next 3 months – Beazley (as Peacock
was unable to do) is going to have to ask himself how much he really wants
the job. Paul Kelly was on the money on the “Insiders” last week – Beazley
has to stay focussed and disciplined.

So how does he counter the “Muslims under the bed” campaign? Tough call,
but he has to remember self-interest is the key. He was on-message with
health and services, he has to stay there and remind the electorate not to
let the last week wipe out the memory of the last six years. He has to make
Howard and Costello scarier than Muslims.

Meanwhile, I hope the professed Christians in the Coalition, especially
Kevin Andrews and his mates in the Lyons Group, pray very hard for goodwill
to all men this December. If he is still Prime Minister come December, it
will be Merry Christmas Island, Mr Howard.

signed, Anonymous Subscriber.

PS This was drafted before the Saturday papers, which cover much of the
analysis in similar fashion, and also before the announcement about Nauru.
Talk about a win-win on that one. Honest Howard keeps the Muslims from
under the beds in the bush and Qld, and Nauru, which is broke, gets
Australian dollars pouring in once again. Wait till the taxpayer finds out
how much it is going to cost. And from where will the money come –
Immigration, AusAID, the Govt advertising budget, Sneaky Pete’s surplus?
The charter of Budget honesty, or whatever it is called, that must be
released at the start of the election campaign, is going to be a must-read.

CRIKEY: Very incisive analysis here and fair criticism of Crikey as well. The three dimensional stuff on Howard is very
interesting and rings true. The comments on Asian immigration in the 80s were from the heart it would seem now.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey