Crikey: A line contained in Wednesday’s item “Assange and the Wikileaks fallout”, misrepresented the views of Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt. References to them were offensive and indefensible. Crikey regrets this and apologises.

Correction 2:

Melissa Sweet writes: Re. “Memo independents: some advice on negotiating on rural health” (Tuesday, item 9). Due to a glitch in frenzied editorial production processes, this story in Tuesday’s bulletin, which I wrote, was run under the byline of Gordon Gregory of the National Rural Health Alliance.

The coalition:

Noel Bowman writes: Re. “There’s no spinning this: the Coalition is scared of scrutiny” (yesterday, item 1). Many close observers of politics will heartily agree with Tony Abbott’s decision to deny Independent Members a Treasury verified access to detail. Certainly the plain and simple facts are, “why would any sensible party leader provide an already under investigation Treasury Department with the opportunity to give its opposing Labor Party additional leaked detail”?

Clearly it must be understood this is the same Treasury that masterminded the grossly understated effects of a “Resource Rent Tax”. Then when forced to rework figuring by a Labor/Gillard back down, magically came up with an even larger tax return. Finally adding insult to injury and within an election campaign Treasury obviously acting on instructions from boss “Treasurer Swan”, found a “hollow log” from which came the funding for Labor’s last gasp pork barreling.

Give Abbott a break, on any performance based criteria he would be unwise to hold an unguarded conversation or even buy a used car from this seemingly politicized and observably compromised Government Department.

Mikey Hughes writes: I’m reading Crikey‘s lead story from yesterday and Bernard Keane dropped “ukase” into the mix. I was forced to look it up. Not since “sooled” has a journo increased my vocab. Nice work BK.

Sharon Grey writes: Re. “A real governance problem” “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 10). I wouldn’t have taken Richard Farmer for a credulous man, but stating “I fear the Liberals involved — Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb — do not realise the potential for their tactic [attacking Treasury’s impartiality] to undermine public confidence in the whole system of government” did make me smile.

The Liberals’ tactic of undermining public confidence in the whole system of government is entirely conscious and deliberate — and has been since the polls closed.  Demonising and destabilising Westminster institutions and subsequently asserting credibility as the only ones capable of ensuring stability is straight out of the U.S. Republican and Tea Party playbooks.

Why else would Mr. Abbott have stated during his election night remarks that a minority Gillard government would be illegitimate?  Why else would Senators Brandis and Minchin have mischievously suggested that the primary vote be paramount in considering formation of a government or that the major party with the most party seats should form government? Why would aspersions be cast on the professional reputation of the Governor-General?

What kind of dog-whistle for “adults and patriots” was Mr. Abbott making on Tuesday when he said “The last thing Australia wants is a swift return to the polls or a period of unstable government and I’m confident that adults and patriots are more than capable of giving us a satisfactory outcome”?

And now Mr. Abbott is demeaning the public service and ludicrously asserting that the “Prime Minister [is] trashing the Westminster system”. Calls for a new poll, even prior to the vote being certified, and attempts to form a government pre-emptively declared difficult, if not impossible, are entirely predictable.

It’s not hard to connect the dots. These attacks are categorically different from inter-party mudslinging or policy disagreements.  But what does seem to be hard — especially for the media (even Crikey!) — is to highlight these scurrilous assaults for what they are:  unwarranted attacks deliberately designed to weaken institutional support and foment unrest. Such attacks are deplorable and cannot be countenanced.

What next, calls for the overturn of Mr. Howard’s ban on firearms and the Army to be brought out to ensure law and order?

The Independents and a hung parliament:

Roger Noakes writes: Re. “Forget the love-in stuff — independents could bring a revolution in accountability” (yesterday, item 8). I’m a non conservative voter in Tony Windsor’s seat of New England.

He’s had my vote several times mainly due to the fact that he seeks voters opinion on issues through questionnaires and he then generally supports the electorates majority opinion on each issue. I would have thought that his rural conservative roots would have made him pro WorkChoices but the electorate returned a higher percentage of opposition to WorkChoices and he opposed the Bill in Parliament.

More recently he asked the electorate about the Mining Tax and it was a small majority who were fearful of it (they’re easily seduced by heroic Aussie workingman themes out here). I’ve heard him state that he supports the mining tax so it will be interesting to watch how he goes – if he gets the chance.

It is a conservative electorate and the low ALP vote has to do with Windsor’s popularity, the state ALP government and the poor quality of the local ALP candidate.

However if he could provide the electorate with enough real, long term infrastructure projects such as freight rail, broadband, roads and industry decentralization support then I think the majority of the people in New England wouldn’t mind which political party he formed a minority government with.

Cathy Bannister writes: I’ve got $50 on the “revolution in accountability” lasting only as long as the next election, and a skinny decaf on government not forming for at least six weeks.

If the introduction of the proportional MMP voting system in New Zealand didn’t deliver the consensus politics it was supposed to, then nor will this hung parliament, any more than the first Menzies government (also after a hung parliament result).

Peter Burns writes: By convention the Governor-General will ask the party with the most seats in the House of Reps if they can form government. This is always going to be the ALP, for no matter how the media and some pollies spin it (saying for example that Labor and the Coalition are neck and neck on 72 seats each) it remains the fact that Labor has the most seats, by a long, long shot == 72 to their nearest rival’s 44 (held by the Liberals), with the Liberal National Party Queensland on 21 and the Nats on 7.

Before we get too shrill, we should remember that the Libs and the Nats have always disavowed coalition when in Opposition – hence we see Julie Bishop as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, not Warren Truss.

If Julia Gillard can’t produce a working majority in the Reps, then the G-G will ask the next in line, the Libs, if they can. But of course it suits them now to claim they are in coalition, but we know that they’re not really.

Not yet anyway.

Farmer’s Election Indicator:

Steven McKiernan writes: Re. “Bringing back the Crikey Indicator” “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 10). Tap, tap, tap. This thing on? Richard I think it’s now broken. Or did it ever work?

The ABC and bias:

Val Yule writes: Re. “Bias allegation rumblings still a constant at your ABC” (yesterday, item 17). It’s not so much the ABC we should be asking and checking about media bias, but the rest of the media.


Justin Templer writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. So Keating is at it again, spitting bile and venom — this time at his former speechwriter Don Watson for claiming authorship of the then PM’s famous Redfern Speech.

It seems to me that Keating has left his run too late, or maybe never bothered to read Watson’s biography (A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, 2002). In his book Watson wrote of the Redfern speech that, while the speech conveyed resolution, confidence and hope, it also said that shameful things had been done.

There might have been reservations about this latter admission, he wrote, but “The office did not see it, and the Prime Minister expressed no such reservations.  He read it with his breakfast and went to Redfern Park with every word intact…”.  And “He said nothing before the speech to indicate he had any doubts…”.

There are pages of the book devoted to the speech, all lending support to the view that the speech was written entirely by Watson for Keating.

Thou protesteth too late, Paul.

A tech luddite tip:

Blogger Gabe McGrath writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). Crikey published:

“Try a Google query for: buy <insert well known performance enhancing product starting with ‘v’ here>. I get 3,110 results from compromised Victorian school websites. It seems that there is a remarkable lack of security within the Victorian school system.”

Your Tips and rumours editor needs to attend Google 201, the slightly advanced class.

If you want to find out how many Victorian schools websites are compromised to be offering “blue pills for male baby boomers” you need to search for “ buy vvvvvv” (of course, putting that brand name instead of “vvvvvv”) You see, they’d forgotten to insert the word ‘site’ before the colon. That’s vital. That gives you the correct result … not 3110 sites as suggested, but 130.

Still pretty bad though. Mind you, if you search for “ buy vvvvvv” for all Australian government sites, you get 9790 results! Hmm, here’s a challenge for a Crikey reader with more spare time than myself. Create a table comparing all our state domains … (, etc) … so we can all see which state government is least competent at securing their sites and stopping spam comments.

Australia Defence Association:

Guy Rundle writes: Re. Neil James (Wednesday, comments). Four days ago, Neil James responded to my reminder of the close relationship between the National Civic Council and the Australia Defence Association (ADA), by claiming that: “… the ADA is not and never has been formally or informally affiliated with the NCC …Like many Australian public  organisations we also probably have reformed members who belonged to the various communist parties or the NCC in their misspent or misguided youth…”

Three days ago I quoted a letter exchange in Quadrant in 1981, in which Michael O’Connor pointed out that he had been both an NCC and ADA office bearer between 1977 and 1980, and a follow-up letter in which Paul Ormonde quoted from an options paper for the future of ADA by O’Connor, in which O’Connor spoke of the NCC’s ‘subsidy’ of the ADA, and what might replace if it were withdrawn or refused.

Two days ago, James suddenly remembered that he knew that there were ADA members other than ‘misguided youths’ who had been in the NCC: “But Mike [O’Connor] (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.”

This is wrong in every respect. O’Connor was a former naval officer, not merely a naval reservist, when he joined the ADA. As he notes in his Quadrant letter (which I have excerpted in full, together with Ormonde’s letter, on The Stump), he was a paid NCC office-bearer when approached by the ADA, he left the NCC in 1980, not 1977, and his ‘meagre’ salary ($10,000 in 1980 money), subsidised the ADA. When Santamaria ordered NCC members to quit the ADA following O’Connor’s departure from the NCC, O’Connor notes that “much of the [ADA’s] structure collapsed…”

The early NCC-ADA links are a matter of public record  – in the country’s leading conservative magazine, by one of the ADA’s longest serving senior members! James’s dissembling performance is farcical. I don’t know what the ADA is paying him, but I reckon Santa got a lot better value out of O’Connor.