The election:

Sean Hosking writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. There was a lot of unexpected things to take out of the election and one of them was just how badly, in attempting to decimate the last vestiges of progressive politics in the Labor Party, the big end of town and their media mouthpieces had screwed up.

The Labor Party, ever since the early 80s, has been largely compliant in regard to the neo-liberal reform agenda at the cost of much of its core historical political mission. Gillard’s brief stint represented the low point of Labor’s descent into political nihilism, reactionary and right wing, not by dint of conviction, but because the dictates of “real politic”, as represented by talk back radio, the editorial of the Australian, corporate lobbyists and “what’s in it for me” outer suburban aspirationals necessitated it.

So harassed and bombarded by the media arms of the ideological right and  infected with the tactical gibberish of Arbib, Bitar and co, the Labor party had lost any real capacity to argue a point on the basis of solid reasoning, principle, conviction and common sense.

Look no further than Rudd’s painful focus group tested apologies for his government’s “screw ups” in the wake of the stimulus spending which broke every fundamental rule of leadership, yet no doubt looked like political gold when drafted up by Arbib, complete with the latest political marketing buzzwords and tactical blather.

Still Labor’s acquiescence has never really been quite enough for the ideological right and in particular the News Limited cable. If only they had known when to stop. Despite Labor’s bankruptcy as a party of the moderate left, by dint of not being the coalition, it still constituted a very effective means of harvesting lazy left wing votes and basically null and voiding them. A party that is nominally “left wing” and yet who are in reality pursuing a stringently right wing agenda is tactically manor from heaven. A Trojan horse for corporate interests.

But ideologues by their very nature are not capable of restraint. They’re not playing a pragmatic tactical game, they’re pursing a total horizon of domination in much the same way that religious zealots are pursuing a homogenous utopia. They want everything, not just almost everything.

In effectively neutering the Labor Party, harassing it to abandon any semblance of principle, vision and conviction (whether it be the ETS or the mining tax) and leaving it in the inept hands of the numbers men, the ideological right thereby made the bankruptcy of Labor clear to even the most tolerant of “progressive” voters.

In doing so they forced a whole raft of moderate left leaning votes that would otherwise have been parked ineffectually with Labor straight into the genuinely left wing hands of the greens.

So for all their denigration of the left, they’ve succeeded in giving Australian a genuine left wing political voice which is going to create real havoc with their “reform” agenda in the senate, and possibly in the house of reps. Well done.

Roger de Robillard writes: On last night’s ABC TV we saw:

  1. Mr Abbott wishing for a “kinder, gentler polity”;
  2. The same Mr Abbott abusively calling Prime Minister Rudd a “windbag”;
  3. Rudd deliberately ignoring the Opposition during Question Time: when the Government is supposed to be accountable to the Australian People;
  4. Behind Rudd sits a smiling Julia Gillard — who eventually “knifed” Rudd in the back and took his place;
  5. Behind the scenes are the Party WHIPS whose task is to make sure that our elected representatives do what they are told by “Faceless Men”; be they from Sussex street or Collins Street or more recently St George Terrace.

Watching the usual Parliamentary raucous are foreign dignitaries there as guests of the Australian people.

Now we have the unique opportunity to ask: “Is there a better way?” Why not: Elect the Prime Minister by secret ballot of the whole Australian Parliament? There are many modern Constitutions which provide for this democratic method of choosing the Nation’s leader. There is no legal impediment for such a method to be adopted here.

Is it not better for the Nation’s leader to be chosen by an assembly of our democratically elected representatives than by Faceless Men plotting overnight ?

What better way to encourage our Parliamentarians to work together for the benefit of the Nation than the knowledge that their ambition to become PM will depend on the way they deal with their fellow Parliamentarians on a daily basis?

Andrew Lewis writes:  Enjoyed your editorial. The business pages have been full of the dire warnings of a hung parliament for business. The CEO’s of the Corporate Unions (ACCI etc) have been wiping their brow and lamenting the terrifying lack of “certainty”. Are they really so bereft?

We are in a situation where any laws that get passed, regardless of who is in government, has to pass by the caucus of the initiating party, a number of independents, then a currently fractured senate and then a differently fractured senate when the greens gain the balance of power. Not a hell of a lot is going to happen, and anything that does will involve extensive consultation across politics and business.

A psychologically conservative country will move even more cautiously. Things don’t get much more certain, unless you are worried about whose name to put on the rent-seeking letter to the Prime Minister, and that’ll get sorted out in time.

Is this the great uncertainty of which they speak? Pathetic!

Noel McFarlane writes: When an election is anticipated to be extremely close, the fact that there is compulsory voting plus the fact that at least 20% of voting-age Australians are uninterested in politics (rather like me and football/cricket) combine to cause a “neutering” of policy positions from the major parties.

The best explanation for the mediocre and boring campaign may lie in this dynamic. Things were pitched to a person that does not really care.

Whilst it is hard to imagine the compulsory voting law will ever be repealed, it is a good time to pause and reflect on the ramifications of the law.

Robyn Deane writes: Two points I agree with Debora Campbell (yesterday, comments) on are that the media have a lot to account for and that the high informal vote wasn’t due to Mark Latham though I am sure his ego would love to think so.

While scrutineering last Saturday, I watched the informal vote trend, there were some blanks, not unusual; some obvious errors, that is not writing the numerical order correctly or completely; rude drawings, obscenities, etc, etc.

I believe the high informal was more because people were just turned off the whole political process due to the political party shenanigans, appalling candidates in some seats such as the LNP’s Fisher candidate and the media’s reporting of the campaign and politics generally.

Denis Goodwin  writes: Re. “Rundle: willing the Coalition to win” (yesterday, item 2). Guy Rundle refers to the coalition as a single party, however, all arguments about primary votes in the election are specious when you consider that  the “Coalition” is in fact a coalition of a large number of parties including the Liberal Party of Australia, Nationals, Liberal Nation Party, Country Liberal Party and the semi autonomous  WA Branch of the Nationals which may or may not be in the “Coalition”.

Labourites worry not, ex-National party members (now independent ), Greens and possibly former Greens (now independent) will decide who is and isn’t in the coalition of parties that form Government.

Stephen Woods writes: Re. “Mungo: ‘Australia’ rejects the system, and Labor is to blame” (Monday, item 12). Mungo MacCallum, you say the Labor Party is to blame for this mess they and we are in. I would also lay the blame fair and square at the feet of the Lib’s.

Since they lost the previous election, they have been nothing if not a totally negative party. They have totally rejected in the Senate and House anything Labor or other parties have put up.

I can bring to mind the messes over the alcohol tax, the mining tax, any attempt to get a bit of transparency or accountability into campaign funding, the broadband policy and, of course the much flawed nut necessary CPRS.

Then, of course, Liberal reject any form of gay “marriage” that most of the population believe in and they are patently stirring a racist agenda with their “boat” policy.

Of course there is much more, but I am so angry at both major parties for failing to lead this once wonderful country that I can’t think of them. I need a holiday from it all!

Greg Williams writes: Re. “Pearse: Greens should let this government fall and learn” (yesterday, item 3). Guy Pearse wrote: “Both sides still characterise the Greens as left-wing…”

Well I never, Guy:  just imagine anybody classifying the Greens as left-wing.

After all, obviously policies such as the reintroduction of Death Duties; increasing Company Tax; effectively reducing the tax payable by those on welfare, and of course, land rights for gay whales — all obviously policies of the far right of politics.


Katherine Stuart, in Stockholm, writes:  Re. “Multiparty democracy not a hung parliament” (yesterday, item 11). I really just want to shout “Hear, Hear” to Warren Boyle’s article.

I’m thrilled with the election result — it gives me faith enough in my fellow Australians to stick it out here for at least another few years, and great hope for the future of a potentially great country.

The dinosaur of adversarial politics may finally be dead. May it happily devour the likes of Wilson Tuckey and others of his political generation before it draws its final breath.

Charles Livingstone writes: I was thinking that the Chilean mining rescue, which is estimated at taking about four months, would provide an ideal gig for Bill Shorten.

Having saved the Tasmanian miners by his heroic and self-sacrificing media presence, perhaps he could do the same for the Chileans as a gesture of international solidarity.

I’m sure he could pick up Spanish quickly enough. He would, of course, need to stay in situ for over the entire period of the rescue so as to be on hand the early morning live crosses.


Damien MacRae writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: could your marriage be annulled?” (yesterday, item 14).  It has been fascinating to watch the panic induced by the story in the Sydney Morning Herald, “Illegal vows put many marriages in doubt“. This article followed one written by myself and my partner published in the Sydney Morning Herald, “Marriage should not be so exclusive“.

In that article we drew people’s attention to the Orwellian requirement in section 46 of the Marriage Act that celebrants must state in civil wedding ceremonies that “marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others”.

If they don’t state these 21 politically-loaded words in your ceremony the celebrant is legally prohibited from registering the marriage. My partner and I refused to have this line included in our ceremony because we support same-sex marriage. So even though our ceremony included every other feature of a traditional legal ceremony, our marriage cannot be legally registered in this country.

Crazy stuff.

So we jumped on a plane to NZ to get married there, since they allow same-sex civil unions. We thought it was one way that we, as a straight couple, could show support for our same-sex friends and family.

Interesting then to see the collective freak-out in straights-world when they discovered that the Marriage Act insists on this wording. It’s funny how people get worked up when bad legislation impacts them and their lives.

I would hope that the same people who are currently checking their wedding videos to make sure their ceremonies included the lines required by our fearless leaders, take time out to think about how the Marriage Act impacts their family and friends who happen to be gay or lesbian.

And for the couples who may now want to renew their vows and to those couples considering getting married soon, I would ask: how comfortable are you joining a straights-only club and having the prejudices of a few inserted into your special day?


Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Guy Rundle (yesterday, comments) again trawls the depth of his apparent revolutionary despair to continue smearing the Australia Defence Association as somehow an National Civic Council “front” group, but only by quoting one alleged second-hand source from 30 years ago (and even then without actually citing the publication concerned so his claims could be verified at source).

He agrees that the ADA was formed in Perth in 1975 (and not by the NCC) but omits that it did not become a federal body with branches in all states until 1981. Yet he offers only alleged guilt-by-association incidents and possible motivations within one state branch from before that date, some three decades ago.

Now the part-time secretary of one ADA state branch (Victoria) from 1977, Mike O’Connor, had been an NCC official but this has always been publicly known. But Mike (a Navy reservist) had left the NCC in 1977 to work in the credit union movement, not least due to a dispute with Bob Santamaria over defence and other defence-related national strategic issues. Moreover, he was only able to later accept the position of part-time national secretary of the ADA in 1981 because he had left the NCC and broken all contact with it.

Other ADA members of that era, and now, are also members of the ALP and the Liberals (both organisations not being hotbeds of NCC types).

When tempers from the Vietnam War era cooled some opponents of that war noticed that Vietnam had not become the multi-party democratic paradise after1975 that they had been led to believe by the CPA front organisations that ran the so-called “Moratorium Movement”. Many of them later joined the ADA to help stop the political polarisation of public debate on defence issues that had so invalidated objective discussion of defence matters throughout the latter 1960s and much of the 1970s.

The simple point is that in a non-partisan and broadly community-based national organisation such as the ADA there will be at least some members who belong or have belonged to other organisations, including across the political spectrum. But our membership and organisational transparency processes require members to declare such political party memberships so conflicts of interest can be prevented. Such processes are also embedded in our publicly available and fully transparent constitution, which may be read here.

To illustrate the stupidity of Rundle’s claims that the NCC somehow “controls”, “funds” or otherwise is involved with the ADA, anyone only has to check who leading ADA members are. Our membership includes, for example, three recent former federal presidents of the ALP and our current Board of Directors includes a recent former Secretary of the NSW Labor Council — both types of organisation not known for their NCC affiliations and indeed well-known for the opposite.

None of our Board of Directors is or ever was an NCC member, but one of the seven remains a member of the ALP, two are former members and one is a member of the Liberals.

As a former army officer I have, appropriately, never been a member of any political party or movement. I have never belonged to the NCC, do not know anyone in the NCC (if it still exists), and have never had any contact with the NCC before or after joining the ADA. Furthermore I am a well-known Anglican not a Roman Catholic — and the two bishops among the ADA’s members are both Anglicans too (and not even of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion) — so no NCC or related cultural influence there either.

Finally, in the interests of reciprocal transparency and intellectual honesty, perhaps Guy could enlighten us on his history of political party membership – and membership of front organisations for the various communist parties – so we can judge the objectivity of his “reporting” and “commentary” accordingly.