Gillard’s Ministry:

David Hardie writes: Re. “Keane: the good and very bad of the Gillard line-up” (yesterday, item 1). It is equally inexplicable that Education has been sidelined. This is after we went from Kevin Rudd declaring the need for an “Education Revolution” (with Julia Gillard as the then education Shadow-Minister) to where “Education” no longer exists as a portfolio and we have instead “Schools Early Childhood and Youth” (Peter Garret) and “Jobs, Skills and Workplace Relations”. A move that must have the universities wondering where they fit in and schools wondering what they did to deserve this treatment.

After having been recruited as a politician with rock star-status (no need for quotes as he does actually have rock-star status), Peter Garret will probably be most remembered as having overseen the home insulation program and now has responsibility for the “Building the Education Revolution” program which should have been nothing but good news for schools that were in desperate need for renewal of the buildings that they were being forced to work out of.

Even Peter Garret who came to the Labor Cabinet with a long history of environmental activism seems to have been forced to work in an area away from the area that (and Bernard Keane rightly points out) should have been vote winner for the ALP but has become a lost opportunity. Any wonder that the ALP lost more votes to the Greens and they lost to the conservatives?

Jenny Ejlak writes: Re. “Cox: whatever happened to the women’s ministry?” (yesterday, item 12). I’m glad someone is questioning the ongoing changes to advising cabinet on how policies affect women.

While I am pleased to see that the ALP appears mature enough to have a female leader and PM this in no way changes the status of the other 11 million or so women and girls in Australia.

The PM’s response to a question by Barrie Cassidy on Insiders on Sunday morning disturbed me. She implied that now that there is a female PM that the role of advisor on women would be “different”.

I hope she doesn’t think that just because she is PM that suddenly Australian men will stop beating their partners, r-ping girlfriends, strangers and children, or s-xually harassing and discriminating against women in the workplace. They will not. Nor will industries start paying female employees the same as they pay men, nor will advertisers stop s-xualising children in advertising to make money. I could go on and on.

When her parliamentary colleagues refer to a woman’s greatest gift not as her intellect, her capabilities, her contribution to society or her role as child bearer, but the state of her hymen, how can she possibly think that parliamentary decisions are going to be gender neutral? Especially when the independents who are going to have such sway over decisions are all men.

Given the hostility to an ALP government by News Ltd any policy that so much as mentions gender will incite accusations of a feminazi taking over the country. More than ever, she needs an experienced and knowledgeable minister able to not just advise, but provide the research, evidence base and rational argument that will be needed if we are to truly address gender inequality in this country.

Gerard R. McEwen writes: All of the ponderous doomsaying prognostications about the perilous path ahead for the current commonwealth government fail to recognise one important factor: the ALP is itself a coalition and a far more vigorous (tumultuous?) one than the Lib/Nat one. anyone who has achieved anything within the ALP has done so by knowing how to negotiate the compacting interests and beliefs of the groups that make up the organisation.

Adding a few more ingredients to the mix may make it a bit more complex, but that very complexity may spice things up a bit. One thing is for sure, the independents will get a far better hearing from a government lead by people who have always had to rely on reconciling competing interests for survival.

The one thing that all persons that make up the majority on the House floor have in common, however, is their belief in the critical role of the community (as represented by the government) in protecting the rights and needs of the individual.

The Australian‘s election coverage:

Michael R. James writes: Re. “Mungo: hey innumerates, look at the scoreboard” (yesterday, item 14). Mungo MacCallum, regarding the Coalition losing the election, wrote: “just look at the scoreboard, read about it in the newspapers”. The problem is that 70% of the print media is News Ltd and political editor Dennis Shanahan wrote that Labor “failed to win the popular vote, the primary vote or more seats than the Coalition”.

Though this result is still not final it was predicted last week by Peter Brent on his Mumble blog at News Ltd:

Primary Votes: AEC DATA 13 September
2010 1:46:46pm
ALP 4,711,406 37.8%
ALP + Greens 6,170,553 49.8%
ALP+Greens+3xInd 6,280,724 50.6%
LP 3,777,317 30.5%
Lib + LNQ + NP 5,370,228 43.3%
Lib+LNQ+NP+2xInd 5,431,944 43.8%

So, whichever way one cuts it, the ruling government alliance represents a majority of voters; 50.1% of 2PP or 50.6% of primary votes, compared to the potential alliance that could have put Abbott into power: 49.92% 2PP or only 43.8% of primary vote. According to Abbott, Pyne, Brandis and their media proxies, especially Shanahan, this 43.8% of the primary vote would have had legitimacy but the governing alliance’s 50.6% would be illegitimate.

Depending on how your count it, the governing alliance has 910,000 more primary votes than the Coalition or 848,000 more votes than the LNP potential (now defunct) alliance with two independents.

With both Tony Crook* and Bob Katter* now on the “unaligned” cross benches, the seat count is Labor and Coalition dead heat on 72 seats each; on votes of no confidence and money bills it is Labor alliance 76 or 77 (incl. Katter*) and Coalition 72; and one unaligned (Crook). (*Michelle Grattan wrote “Despite his support for the Coalition, Mr Katter indicated he would be reluctant to use his vote to bring down the government. ‘I most certainly would see a moral responsibility to look at the issue of stability’ he said.” Phil Coorey in The Sydney Morning Herald wrote “Tony Crook, who on Monday pledged to help Mr Abbott form a minority government, withdrew that pledge after the result was known yesterday and will sit on the crossbench, unaligned.”)

Clive Palmer and Warren Truss were at it again on ABC’s Q&A last night, irresponsibly implying that the government is illegitimate. LNP Senator George Brandis is a QC and so he should either bring a court challenge or shut up.

Marcus Vernon writes: Re. “Gillard thanked us for being fair and balanced: The Oz editor” (Friday, item 2). Listen up, and I will say this in very simple terms — if you don’t like the Murdoch newspapers, don’t bloody well buy them! It really is as easy as that.  No-one is forcing you to buy what is a commercial product in a highly competitive industry, so don’t do it. That is what will hurt Murdoch most of all, if that is your intention. Don’t buy them now, and don’t subscribe to them when they go behind the online paywall.

Strewth, after reading the reaction to Friday’s piece in Crikey, I now understand the meaning of feeding frenzy. It’s easy to imagine all the Murdoch haters frothing at the mouth as they re-visit their Tampa and John Howard fantasies, slip in irrelevant mentions of Palin and Fox and the News of the World, and even (to your shame) refer to the Holocaust.

Your recurring paranoia is that Murdoch corrupts politics in Australia — and yet there was no uniform political view among News Ltd papers; some backed Gillard in their final pre-election editorials, and others supported Abbott (just like the Fairfax papers split in their message to readers). And there was no change of government. So where is the corrupting effect?

It’s clear that correspondents to Crikey on this subject regard themselves as intelligent, well-informed voters; I know that because you all keep telling one another that as you reach higher in the Murdoch-hating stakes. Yet, for intelligent people, you have all missed the obvious — don’t buy his papers! Don’t give him your coin.

It must really play with your heads that millions of your fellow Australians do actually buy News Ltd papers, as they are entitled to. Many of them even vote the same way as you do. Their vote is worth the same as yours, however they use it, and you have no right to tell them what they can and can’t buy/read/burn on the barbie/put in the compost bin/line the budgie cage with.

Presumably none of the Murdoch haters allowed the News view to influence your vote, so why won’t you accept that your fellow Australians are likewise not that easily influenced?
I could also point out that News is one of the biggest media employers in Australia, and across the world; that some of Australia’s best journos currently work for News, or have done in their careers; or that columnists favoured by the Left, like Phillip Adams, Mike Steketee and even Mega George, are long-time Murdoch employees.

It was actually the Hawke Labor government which allowed Murdoch to massively increase his dominance of the Australian newspaper market to nearly 70% when it allowed the News Ltd takeover of the Herald and Weekly Times (Herald Sun, Courier Mail, etc) in 1987. That is still a bitter memory for the Left.

It might also be worth considering that Laura Tingle’s one-person campaign against News Ltd papers might just be a Financial Review attempt to distract attention from its own falling circulation, wounded business model and unwillingness to put its content online free to readers, as News Ltd does. Or are such conspiracy theories fit only for the anti-News narrative?

Reform and productivity:

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Kohler: reform is the loser under Gillard ministry” (yesterday, item 21). I think Alan Kohler takes a far too narrow view of reform and productivity.  The Rudd government and the Gillard government have recognized that real productivity increases do not come from using industrial laws to squeeze more output for less dollars from the least powerful people in our community, but rather through a more productive workforce working with better tools.

Improved education has been a major Labor project in all governments going back at least as far as Whitlam, and is a major policy feature of this government.

Our country has only two options in the long run.  Either we try and compete on price with India and China by driving down wages or we do things better by skilling our people and providing better tools and infrastructure, such as fast broadband.  The US appears to be committed to the former, and things are not looking so good there.

Neither of these options were part of the Howard government philosophy which wasted billions on a school choice agenda which did nothing to improve educational attainment, and they do not appear to be part of the Abbott agenda.

If the Gillard government manages to push both of these reforms it will have made a huge difference to our country.

The Greens and the ABC:

Leigh Simpkin writes: Re. “Greens: flick go the shares when it comes to ABC coverage” (yesterday, item 4). Here in the West ABC 24 screened live Bob Brown’s gig at the Press Club — speech and questions — in prime time the Thursday before the election.

I don’t know if they were trying to make up for previous absence of voice time but it was a pretty impressive commitment of time.

The Greens did surprisingly well in the West. If you believe labour that the mining tax was the issue here they should have done badly and I concluded at the time it was partly the CPRS and partly the mining tax, but also the Greens vote might have had a boost from pink voters because of the unexpectedly fulsome coverage of that part of the debate in prime time the dying stages of the campaign.

The Gruen Transfer:

Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “Hamilton: Gruen’s gift to the advertisers” (yesterday, item 17). Clive Hamilton finds no good in The Gruen Transfer whatsoever. Now I agree with Clive’s sentiments on many things, and while I will usually see the many shades of grey rather than black and white, I can confidently say that Clive is wrong, wrong, wrong.

The show is entertaining. Clive makes the point as though anything educational can’t be entertaining. My kids are early teen and pre-teen and this is exactly the sort of show we would like them to watch to be aware of what is going on in advertising. It informs us about how the advertising industry works, and how it works on us, which is exactly its purpose.

I just think Clive may have seen one too many conspiracies in this one. And he gives very little credit to the average viewer in being able to work this out for themselves.


Matthew Auger writes: Andrew Lewis (yesterday, comments) attempts to lay the blame of Telstra’s monopoly position on John Howard. He is dead wrong.

The blame for this reality lies with Kim Beazley who as Communications Minister in 1991 oversaw the merger of Telecom and OTC and failed to use the opportunity to split the wholesale and retail businesses.

This was a rare instance of the Hawke government squibbing on economic reform.  Australia has been paying the price ever since.