Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Querying Julia Gillard’s Political Identity


Well over a year on from the election that saw Julia Gillard installed as Prime Minister some remain puzzled about her political identity, her policy substances, her true ideological convictions, values and beliefs. Many elected leaders across the world subvert effective policy creation to opportunism and pragmatism, but the degree to which our Julia has done so both during her rise and, as Prime Minister defies logic and lends itself to questions of a paradoxical nature. We distinctively knew what Hawke, Keating and Howard stood for by the time they became leaders and mostly this was reflected in their policymaking during their tenure as Prime Minister. Conversely, Julia Gillard presents as a fluid, unconstructed persona, driven only by political opportunism, pragmatism and a misleading appeal to romantic sentimentalities.

Looking back, Julia Gillard was an active member, leader and editorial representative of the socialist forum. As a notable contributor, she espoused calls for totalitarian control via environmental activism, calls for re-regulating the exchange rate, a return to tariffs, reducing imports and duties on luxury goods and energy imports. Such social and economic prescriptions may appear ridiculous when appraised from a capitalist viewpoint but to the socialist who believes that the production and distribution of goods be substantially controlled by Government’s, and that private wealth generation and individual profit are dirty deeds, they are entirely proper.

Fast forward to 2012 and Julia is Prime Minister of one of the world’s top 10 capitalist economies alongside the U.S., Hong Kong and Singapore. I am willing to bet that at a sub-conscious level Julia Gillard is troubled about her political identity within a very capitalist market based economy, one defined by business, trade, monetary, fiscal, investment, financial and labour freedoms – common criteria deemed as principles of capitalism.

The PM’s uneasiness may partly explain her rhetorical genuflecting of the past few years. When for example, she addressed the U.S. Congress in early March 2011 she suddenly sounded like a Capitol Hill Hawk, a term ascribed to those who have a political stance toward aggression, by diplomatic and ultimately military means, against others to improve the standing of their own government, country, or organization. Whereas just a few years earlier she was akin to a peacenik dove which alludes to the more peaceful dove or Pacifism.

“You have an ally in Australia … An ally for war, peace, our values are shared, and our people are friends …” she told Congress.

While recalling her opposition to John Howard when he chose to support the U.S. in its response to 9/11 and, the war on terror, consider if you will, a few more lines from her address.

Your darkest days since Pearl Harbour were 10 years ago in Washington and New York.

And we were with you.

My predecessor John Howard was quite literally with you and he came to this Capitol when you met on September 12 to show you that Australians would be with you again.

And after 50 years, under a new prime minister and a new president, the ANZUS Treaty was invoked.

Within Australia's democracy, John Howard and I had our differences. But he was and is an Australian patriot and an American friend, a man who was moved by what he saw here in that terrible September.

When John Howard addressed you in 2002 we were already with you in Afghanistan.

And we are there with you today.

I want you to know what I have told Australia's Parliament in Canberra - what I told General Petraeus in Kabul - what I told President Obama in the Oval Office this week.

Australia will stand firm with our ally the United States.

Did I mention that Ms Gillard as a paid member of the Socialist Forum also played a role in drafting its constitution and amongst the proposals was a suggestion that the ANZUS treaty be scrapped.

During her address to Congress, the PM added that America – champion of capitalism – was indispensable to maintaining world order now and in future. As impressive and true as this is, how does it measure up with her socialist past?

Other inconsistencies leave us shaking our heads, like the moment she painted herself as a social conservative who defended the Bible even though she remains atheist. When interviewed on Sky News earlier in the year she baffled some by referring to herself as a “cultural traditionalist” who respects family values and, like Tony Abbott sees a place for the bible and its teachings within the national curriculum. This is interesting because during her time as Education Minister in the Rudd Government, the ALP influenced History and English curriculum fails to mention the bible. Once again, we ponder about whether she is being honest with the electorate about her views.

We continue to muse at her evolving self because our culturally traditional PM also described herself as a “socialist and feminist” in 1985.

It gets even more perplexing when we consider the PM’s address to the Sydney Institute in 2003. During her speech, she attacked John Howard in no uncertain terms, portraying him as a neoconservative whose social opinions were fuelled by “bile and venom”. Then a few short years later John Howard was again vilified for promoting social norms that were, according to Gillard premised on “unfairness, division and exclusion”. Here she was referring to his stance on gay marriage and euthanasia but forward to 2011 and she too, argues that marriage must be between a man and woman and that euthanasia is wrong. Thus when it suits, she embraces the very same views she attacked her Liberal Party predecessor for.

Julia Gillard can only blame herself for any electoral confusion about the “real Julia” Think about it, she came to the fore from the hard left and then exceeded Menzies, Hawke and Howard in her praise of America before the U.S. House of Representatives as only one of four Australian Prime Ministers to address the Congress. Moreover, how we chuckled when during that address she heaped praise on John Howard.

One wonders how an experienced HR recruiter would view a curriculum vitae that indicated a general disposition for American exceptionalism and all that this stands for in “war and peace”, the virtues of capitalism and elements of conservatism coupled with an active and professional history of embracing Socialism and Progressive values. Such unconcealed inconsistencies cannot and should not, go unnoticed.

For the Prime Minister, the window of opportunity has firmly closed. Julia Gillard remains an unknown quantity with Australian voters, and political pundits alike however, and as I alluded to earlier, I remain convinced she is one of the left at core. Therefore, she was in the least, insincere to the U.S. Congress and our voting public. More significantly and sadly, she appears to continue publically betraying herself.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Australian Politics 2012: A Sad State of Affairs

Newspoll, Neilson, Galaxy, Essential and the Morgan Gallop polls keep humming and each will show further erosion of the ALP vote until such time that Rudd is roused, indeed called upon …


Image courtesy of http://www.theage.com.au/

I was at the local shops this afternoon and overheard a couple of older women discussing Rudd and Gillard and, what they referred to as, “the sad state of Australian politics”. They said much, however it was two lines in particular that caught my attention, “Australian politics has never been here” and “even if Julia wins tomorrow Kevin will not leave her at peace”.

They hit the nail on the head as contrary to anything defenders within the Labor camp might say about the Peacock/Howard rivalries of the eighties and before them, Gorton / McMahon in the seventies nothing compares to the slinging match being played out in Canberra this week.

Australian politics is in new territory with the behaviour, antics of many of the most senior members of the federal Labor caucus having all but ratified the sick state of affairs permeating the party, and not a thing will change when Julia Gillard wins the caucus ballot on Monday.

Moreover, on the question of peace post the ballot, it is not going to happen. Julia will win and Rudd will go to the backbench and the issues will keep bubbling along. Newspoll, Neilson, Galaxy, Essential and the Morgan Gallop polls keep humming and each will show further erosion of the ALP vote until such time that Rudd is roused, indeed called upon, to challenge again and so the soap opera within Labor continues.

A sad state of affairs for what once was a progressive political force in this country even though it is far removed from my own ideals.

My concern is that it leads to vanity and other unhealthy forms of arrogance amongst Liberal party ranks thus, I say to members of the Party of which I am a proud member and especially Tony Abbott and his senior team beware the hubris bug. Labor is imploding but the Australian electorate is fickle and polls can do a 180-degree turn in the blink of an eye.

On tomorrow’s Labor caucus my prediction is: 

Rudd 37, Gillard 66

Worst case for Rudd: 27 – 76
Best case for Rudd: 45 – 58

Either result he loses or does he?

Update

Rudd strategist doesn't rule out another challenge down the track   

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thoughts on Progressives and Conservatives … Socialism and Capitalism …

... the virtue of capitalism awaits its new advocates ...

A Progressive or those who champion collectivism the see a loafer, bum, panhandler or simply an incompetent family or individual leading a dissolute life and says/thinks:

“This is not your fault, society has done this to you, let me take you to the shelter and get you clothing, feed you, try to get you detoxed from whatever chemical dependency you may have. Afterwards, we’ll visit the local Centrelink office to ensure your getting all that you are entitled to and I will extending a hand for there is no limit to my compassion and caring" ....

Progressives really live this; they have a natural propensity to give bread and fish instead of teaching one how to fish for themselves, they value a socialistic ethos of living and will never see nor understand the conservative way of responding.

A Conservative or those that champion individualism sees same and says/thinks:

“There is not doubt life has given you a bad cast of luck right now. Well, I am going to help you help yourself. I am not going to coddle you and feel sorry for you rather, I am going to impel you through tough love and show you how to get some self-esteem so that you can become a wealth earner and a resource to society instead of being a wealth-waster and a consumer of society's resources. I am going to give you this gut string and show you how to fish, cook the fish and never have to depend on anybody again for as long as you live".....

Conservatives are wired to be independent, isolationists, and fend for themselves. They value a capitalistic ethos and accordingly will never see nor understand the progressive way of responding. There are winners and losers in capitalism. If you want to win, you are likely to be honest, industrious, thoughtful, prudent, frugal, responsible, disciplined, efficient and a value a conservative ethos. Losers are lazy, imprudent, ignorant, extravagant, negligent, impractical, inefficient, and almost certainly value a socialist ethos.

Capitalism is the social system that rewards virtue and punishes vice; something that applies across all sectors and occupations whether it be doctors, business executives, or plumbers.

In the twentieth-century, collectivism has been thrust upon us in various guises: socialism, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism to name a few. The only social system corresponding with individualism is laissez-faire capitalism.

The great advances of the past 150 years in addition to, the astonishing level of material prosperity realized owes itself to the capitalist system. In view of this, I find it perplexing that our educational institutions, professors, many politicians, and those in journalism deride the principles of free enterprise while holding the moral high ground arguing that it is exploitative, dehumanizing, alienating, and ultimately enchaining. The manner in which elements of John Howard’s years in office have been criticized illustrate that it’s almost fashionable to adopt the collectivist method, the intellectuals’ argument suggests that socialism is the morally superior system. That even though their records of failure suggest otherwise, capitalism is a morally bankrupt system regardless of the prosperity it continues to create, thus capitalism can only be defended on matter of fact grounds.

We must revive and teach our young the virtues associated with being free and independent citizens and notwithstanding the intellectuals’ foolish hatred of capitalism, it is the moral and just social system. The system that unleashes the potential of the entrepreneur, the very individuals that gave us penicillin, the internal combustion engine, the airplane, radio, the incandescent light globe, air conditioning, computers, and medical vaccines. What the capitalist values most, is individual freedom, minimal government intervention, taxation and regulation. To great a reliance on welfare, and tariffs, and collective based IR conditions are immoral because they are coercive, inhibit individual pursuits, and contradict our right to exist as, not merely autonomous moral agents, but as a self-contained individual enterprises.

As we enter the twenty-first century, the virtue of capitalism awaits its new advocates - those prepared to endorse the principle of individual rights as the basis for a free society.

See also: IR's Rearward Drive and At Core Rudd is No Conservative

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

But one reflection on Tony Abbott's Press Club Speech

Tax cuts by the end of a first term, dental care within the Medicare safety net and closer government ties with the aboriginal community were just some of the highlights of Tony Abbott’s speech to the Canberra press gallery today.

Not surprisingly, Government frontbencher Bill Shorten labelled the speech a “diatribe of negativity” and “This is like groundhog day for Dr No”. But while it’s all too easy to suggest that Abbott is obstructionist and/or negative we need to understand that the job of the opposition and it’s leader is to hold the government of the day to account. I also feel compelled to address the hordes that suggest the speech lacked the required minutiae to warrant serious deliberation. Recall, Abbott and his senior staff have repeatedly said that they do NOT intend to reveal the full Coalition policy package and associated cost accounting ahead of the next federal election. Now if this hasn't sunk yet, read the last sentence again.

Central to his economic vision is getting government spending under control, lifting productivity to moderate borrowing and take indirect pressure off rates resulting in a reduced tax burden.

Also noteworthy was Tony Abbott's commitment to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Here Shadow Minister for Disabilites, Carers and the Voluntary Sector, Senator Mitch Fifield has a few words to add.

Today Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott delivered a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, in which he reiterated that a National Disability Insurance Scheme will be a priority for a Coalition Government.

I have attached his speech for your information, with the relevant section highlighted. He said in his speech:

“After all, the measure of a decent society is how it looks after its most vulnerable members".

Once the budget is strongly back in surplus, our aim is to provide the additional services that Australians yearn for but know can’t be built on debt. To be sustainable they have to be the social dividend of a strong economy.

The coalition strongly supports the Productivity Commission’s recommendation for a disability insurance scheme but, with an estimated price tag of $6 billion a year (roughly equal to the Commonwealth’s current interest bill) this important and necessary reform can’t fully be implemented until the budget returns to strong surplus.

It’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to return to surplus quickly. And it’s not the only important social initiative that would become deliverable once the budget is back in the black.”

Tony also responded to a question from a journalist regarding the NDIS, saying:

“There is a process which the current government has announced, and which the Coalition supports. There’s a scoping study currently underway. There are various studies and work being undertaken by the Council of Australian Governments, because this does have to involve both the states and the commonwealth, and let’s wait and see what comes out of that process. I think this is an important and necessary reform. I think it really is a test of our quality as a society - what we can do more and better for people with disabilities. But we do have to accept that in the end, everything has got to be paid for, and it would be so much easier to pay for important and necessary reforms like disability insurance if we didn’t have the waste and extravagance which we’ve seen almost every day from the current government.”

It should be noted that the current Government have not allocated a single new dollar to an NDIS over the forward estimates.

Regards

Senator Mitch Fifield

SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISABILITIES, CARERS AND THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR
MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS IN THE SENATE
Senator for Victoria
Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 Tel 02 6277 3666 Fax 02 6277 5758
42 Florence Street Mentone VIC 3194 Tel 03 9584 2455 Fax 03 9584 8347
www.mitchfifield.com| www.youtube.com/senatorfifield
Once again, today’s speech was designed only to communicate a broad vision, this was no secret.

As a final point it was no surprise that Channel 7's Mark Reilly put the hard question to Abbott:
Mark Riley, Seven Network. Mr Abbott, thanks very much for your address. I just want to take to your part of it… take you to a part of it where you talk about the Medicare-funded dentistry at $4 billion a year being an aspiration and not a commitment. People, I think, at the moment are finding it hard to believe government commitments. How can they believe in aspiration of $4 billion a year? It doesn’t just mean it’s unaffordable or is this a new way of ensuring that you can’t be held accountable for breaking a promise, you just don’t make it in the first place? But one promise that you have held there is the paid parental leave scheme in saying that you’re going to lower taxes and that business is doing it so tough. Why is it the right time for business to be hit with a $2.7 billion new tax?
Let's compare this to his question to Julia at her last Press Club address:
I think a few of us have been reflecting on this in the last few weeks and certainly in the last couple of days, very sharply, on our responsibilities. When we see a gentleman in Gladstone trying to encourage people to take up arms against the government, a woman in Melbourne being shoved out of a public meeting and harassed down the street to tears, you confronted in a shopping centre by people screaming and Liberal Party members calling you liar and then a radio station coming here and broadcasting all day on the first day back of Parliament to whip climate change opposers into a frenzy. How do you see our responsibility and the way that we should be reporting this matter?
It's clear it wasn't so much a question as an attempt by a Canberra journalist to prop up Gillard.

Pleasing it was to see Abbott's response to Reilly draw some laughter today.

Tony Abbott:

Thank you Mark for that question and it is good to see that the tough questions are being asked here at the Press Club, particularly by you ...

Unlike some 12 months ago, when Reilly literally ambushed the Opposition leader this time around Abbott did not come close to punching a journo in the gob. Recall my views on Seven's shame and Mark Reilly here ...

For those wishing to read Tony Abbotts entire speech to the press gallery click here.