Marcia Langton and the miners

Peter Robb writes: Re. “Marcia Langton defends non-disclosure on mining cash before Boyers” (Friday). The last sentence of your item by Andrew Crook on Marcia Langton is wrong. She and I met on the footpath in Collins Street. After our first talk in her office in the Melbourne University Medical School, our conversations for the purpose of my article in The Monthly of April 2011 took place variously on the road, in the bush, in restaurants and private homes and by telephone and email. Never on the premises of any organisation.

Crikey says: The Monthly stated:

“I’d already glimpsed Langton’s dealings with the global mining corporation Rio Tinto. Some weeks earlier, our first meeting in years had been moved at the last moment from Langton’s office in the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine to a place in Collins Street, which turned out to be Rio Tinto’s Australian head office.”

You can understand our confusion. It’s unclear if meetings in the immediate precinct of Rio HQ were coincidental or not; we’ve asked Peter Robb to clarify.

Finding the political narrative

Jenny Norvick writes: Re. “Does the Labor narrative narrative stand up?” (Friday). Tony Abbott has been extremely effective in framing the political debate. Over the past two years, he has been very successful in getting most Australians to think that Labor is a high-taxing, high-spending, high debt, incompetent and “bad” government.

One of the reasons Labor is struggling so much is that they constantly respond within his political frames rather than reframing the conversation according to their values. He has learnt this technique from the Tea Party and other US conservatives (See George Lakoff, Don’t Think of an Elephan, 2005, Scribe – google him on framing, there is a lot online) about how they used values (i.e. “family values”) and framing to keep the Democrats off-balance.

So, for example, we have the silly promise by Labor to always have a surplus — a response to the high debt, high spending frame of Abbott’s and one which is causing them no end of trouble in further undermining their ‘economic manager’ credibility.

Now it is time in the strategy to show Abbott, the future Prime Minister, the man you can trust to lead a wholesome, safe and prosperous Australia where everyone has a good job and a nice house and a nice family. We see a happy, healthy, wholesome, good-looking group of women with their man. A stable, functioning family = a stable, reliable, decent man to head the country, a man you can trust because his family obviously does.

Then he is going to restore John Howard’s Australia and when he gets elected, the population is going to rise up in joy and get jobs and become safe and prosperous. You can trust Tony. That is the frame that is being developed. It doesn’t matter that all his policies contradict that picture, it’s the values and feelings that will sway people in the way they vote. Any bets on how often we see “attack dog” Tony this year?

I am just wondering when Labor is going to wake up and realise how comprehensively their “narrative” has been a reaction to and manipulated by the Libs.

James Burke writes: Of course the Labor government has a narrative. It’s the narrative of Game of Thrones (massive spoiler alert):

Ned Stark enters federal politics out of a tradition of public duty, enshrined in his family motto, “Winter is Coming”. He finds himself enmeshed in unsavoury doings, and forced to carry out cruel and capricious policies. Naively assuming that others share his loyalty to the Realm, he is beset by wicked, scheming courtiers who care only for their own interests and perverted appetites.

Rather than fighting back with the same ruthless cunning, Ned attempts to negotiate. This proves his undoing, and he learns the brutal truth: “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die”. He is betrayed by people he had foolishly trusted, and ends by sacrificing his honour to no purpose, before his beheading in front of a jeering mob.

One by one, his friends and family are forced into hiding or killed — often by their own bannermen, who owe their prosperity to the valour of House Stark, but whose greed, rapaciousness and sadism thrived in private while Ned looked the other way. Now they are unleashed in a war that devastates the Seven Kingdoms and leaves few of the original protagonists alive.

While all this silliness is going on, Winter really is coming. An apocalyptic threat is looming in the polar regions, while politicians either make feeble, token contributions to fight it, or laugh it off as an old wives’ tale.

Prostitutes also feature.

“Lord” Christopher Monckton 

Matt Saxon writes: If Malcolm Cameron (comments, Friday) wants to descend to an infantile level I’m sure we can do better: Lord in his (Monkton’s) case would be a form of address, not his title.

I would write about, and directly address, Mr Cameron as “Mr”. If I was to meet Lord Monkton I would address him as “Lord” if I was following etiquette (it’s unlikely that I will. I once met Ian Pilmer at a book signing for his “scientific” work: Heaven and Earth. I wanted to be rude to him but my girlfriend wouldn’t let me, but I digress) but if I were to write his full name it would be Viscount Christopher Monckton, not Lord. If someone wants to allude to his current public and erroneous claim on the house of Lords with the use of quotation marks that seems legitimate to me. Why anyone would feel the need to report on any of that attention-seeking looney activities is another question.

Swingeing watch

Kim Lockwood writes: Re. “Fairfax is a basketcase … and an old media success” (Friday). Good to see “swingeing” back again. We were getting sick of obscure words such as forcible, strong, great, large.

Now all we need is a rerun of redact, ukase and the like and we can, as we did last year, redact a swingeing ukase.

Peter Fray

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