Monday, September 06, 2010

Paul Sheehan, and why we'd be better off with a poll a day than a political pundit a week ...

(Above: a stick of gelignite, of the kind Gelignite Jack once favoured, and we could sort out the current impasse in a trice).

There's nothing like a dollop, a dose of Paul Sheehan, a swig and a draught, to start off the working week.

In Animosity may contort electors' will, he delivers a hearty whack of animus:

The federal election had not even concluded when commentariat columnists were already informing us what the voters believed should happen to break the deadlock. First came commentariat columnists saying the three rural independents who hold the balance of power should help the opposition form a new government. Now come dissident columnists saying they should allow the Labor government to hold power.

This incessant, intrusive, compulsive meddling by the news media, via their commentariat columnists, and their obsession with leadership struggles, has helped create eight federal leadership failures in eight years, during a period of sustained economic prosperity - mostly with no input from voters. This is gratuitous instability.

I keed, I keed. He is, in the usual way, in his original text, talking about opinion polls seeking to plumb the depths of the beehive mind of the electorate, and blaming them and the news media for the current situation. Substitute the evil word 'poll' for 'columnist' and you're back to the original.

You see, Sheehan has no need of such fancy techniques, of such clever fancy pants devices as polling, not when there's statistics and election results to massage and manipulate.

But credit where credit is due. He's a one person poll who knows what it all means:

... when it comes to expressing the will of the people, the only poll that matters is the election itself. In the electorates of the three rural independents, voters gave an unambiguous, emphatic message: Labor must go.

Funny, when I look at the runes, I see one unambiguous emphatic message: Independents yeaay, Tony Abbott who?

But then Sheehan loves to drift off into a world of his own commentariat making.

One of the problems the hapless independents face is the way their ostensibly fellow travelling conservative colleagues have treated them over the years, as traitors, irritations, rumps, mosquitoes, gnats, to be swatted in the hope that they'll go away.

While Bob Katter has been left to his own eccentric devices once it became clear he was an immoveable object, the treatment of Windsor has been particularly egregious. Back in 2004, there was the matter of John Anderson, Sandy Macdonald and Greg McGuire, which you can find dealt with in his wiki here.

Funnily enough, back in those days, Sheehan - in Kingmaker Windsor falls on his sword - was busy explaining how Windsor had compromised himself and parliamentary privilege and parliament, and how it was all his fault:

On Thursday, Windsor was back on his feet in Parliament trying to reposition himself from Judas to Jesus: "I would like to place on record my support for Greg Maguire ... in my view he has committed no sin. I think it would be a great travesty of justice if the real villains in this case - the ones who are the architects of the message - were allowed to flutter off into the sunset, rather than the messenger."

The only thing that has fluttered into the sunset is the standing of parliamentary privilege, and Tony Windsor's once grand vision of himself as a federal kingmaker.

Indeed. Some fluttering, some sunset, some prophet that Sheehan.

Irony, irony, irony, thy name is Katter, Windsor and Oakeshott.

And Sheehan.

Reading his abuse of Windsor back then produces a keen irony as Sheehan berates the independents' suddenly ruling the roost in their new ironical situation.

Hang on, Katter, Windsor, Oakeshott and Sheehan. That's not a half bad branding for a bunch of indie legal eagles, wild cats, regals, sharp shots, and coming up the rear fast, a spinmeister ever ready to buff up reality to a fine sheen so that Tony Abbott can also hang out his shingle.

Here's how it's done - the Mr. Sheen bit:

Now the three rural independents are saying they want a commitment to clean up the way Parliament conducts itself before making their decision. Their focus is on the abuse of question time. This column has raged no fewer than three times this year against the way question time has been debased. And who were the people who prostituted the process? Those of the Rudd-Gillard government.

What? And not the Howard Costello regime? They had nothing to do with it? In much the same way that the Liberals are entirely innocent in their invention of the charter of budget honesty, now used by Labor to give them a right royal pummelling? And Tony Abbott's relentlessly negative attitude in parliament, a relentless kind of attack dog assault that made the environment toxic, and entirely irrelevant as a way of genuinely discussing issues. So that instead we get such coherent policy responses as "climate change is crap"?

Since Labor came to power in 2007, question time has blown out by 50 per cent while the time given to answering real questions has shrunk to less than 30 per cent of the time allotted. Arrogant ministers have set new lows in dissembling, diverting and droning. The debasement process has been abetted by the opposition's Christopher Pyne, one of the most irritating MPs ever to utter the words ''point of order''.

Yes indeed. Let's just cut that a little shorter, shall we, and note that Christopher Pyne is one of the most irritating MPs ever.

Poor Sheehan. It's hard to buff some recalcitrant things to a good gloss:

If Tony Abbott cannot see that he has to delete Pyne for the good working of the Parliament, and delete the liability known as Joe Hockey from the key role of shadow treasurer, he does not deserve to be prime minister.

Oh indeed. And Abbott could offer the Treasury gig to Malcolm Turnbull, and he could banish Pyne to the back benches, and pigs might fly, and so suddenly, Sheehan, having announced that Labor must go, suddenly becomes independent and puts an outrageous demand - more outrageous than the independents - on Abbott if he's to stay.

At which point the pure froth and bubble of instant Monday meaningless rant really begins to race through the veins and kick start the old noggin.

Because Sheehan, having worked himself into a lather and a corner, then has to deliver up an entirely specious argument:

But who does? When it comes to forming the next government, the only vote that matters is the majority in the House of Representatives, however it is cobbled together. But

Each of them won a very strong personal vote, giving them the right to behave independently and, as it turned out, the luck of the draw as kingmakers. The average primary vote for Labor in these three electorates was 13.9 per cent, a failure reinforced by the Senate voting in these electorates.

Uh huh. So the country should swing on the breakdown of the vote in three wildcat conservative electorates. But in New England the Nats only attracted 25.2% of the vote. And in Kennedy they only managed 26.6% on a combined ticket. That's hardly a strong result, a basis for forming government. That's more like the kind of vote that Wilkie achieved in Tasmania or the Greens in Melbourne. Next thing you know minorities will be using that kind of logic to argue for a ... Greens coalition government with agrarian socialist qualities.

The very thought of it made my head spin. I needed a good swift draught of Sheehan:

No amount of spin, bluster, wishful thinking and logical headstanding can explain away the following numbers.

Thank heavens, and thank the absent lord that Sheehan then spends a substantial amount of his time to spin, bluster, wishful thinking, and logical headstanding to explain why Pyne should rule parliament, and Hockey should be in charge of the Treasury.

It's all dedicated to the notion that Labor failed miserably and that Abbott somehow did spiffingly well, and it's all the fault of the independents, and remember that not all members of parliament are equal. Some are dangerous watermelons, and now it's time for us all to sing from the Tony Abbott song sheet:

... it is these three electorates that are on the brink of handing power back to the Labor government, which has forged an alliance with the Greens. And the most important priorities for the Greens, especially for Adam Bandt, the new member of the House of Representatives, are to impose a higher price on carbon, abolish mandatory detention of asylum seekers, and gain recognition for same-sex marriage.

In the end, Sheehan is just a wannabe Akker Dakker, and all the spin and gloss come down to the same hoary old bits of scare mongering, about climate change, refugees and gays.

Pathetic really, if it weren't so tragic, not a word about black holes and budgets, so that in the end the Herald would have just as well off giving Tony Abbott's Why I'm the one to govern if they'd wanted to fill a little black hole in their columns page.

What about the important priorities for the country, not to mention the actual countryside? What about policies? Is that all there is? The gays will ruin the country?

Is there anything else to offer than the standard Chicken Little routine, running around clucking about how the sky will fall down if same sex marriage comes to pass - when it patently hasn't, didn't and won't in a Catholic country like Spain ....

In the end, Sheehan is reduced to spluttering about personalities and animosities, seemingly unaware that Abbott himself, the master of nattering negativity, is one of the key animosities at work in the current negotiations:

If they do hand power to Labor, the only thing that will account for this bizarre contortion of electoral intentions into parliamentary outcomes is the depth of animosities within the political civil war in rural Australia...

Yep, it's the usual Paddington Woollahra eastern suburbs routine about the squabbling hicks in the sticks, and how it's all their fault ...

Rural and regional Australia is represented by a three-ring circus of Nationals, rural Liberals, and independents who are all at one another's throats.

Since the end of the Country Party, rural Australia has been unable to form a single bloc able to exercise the balance of power ruthlessly.

Bring back Black Jack McEwen? Is that the idea? What a gormless idea ... and what's so attractive about the ruthless exercise of the balance of power, like some kind of DLP senator, as opposed to a more inclusive approach? Sorry, start to sound like some wet do gooder, and all you cop is contempt.

The animosities within these three rings are encapsulated on Bob Katter's website where, with typical colour, he singles out his former party for contempt: ''The National Party rolled over and accepted the deregulation of the wool industry, the egg, the maize, the dairy, the sugar … Having supinely succumbed to the dismemberment of their own heartland policies, their only choice was to tell us, a la Monty Python, 'that the parrot was not dead'.''

Such animosities within rural politics could turn Abbott's improbable run for the prime ministership into a dead parrot.

Not to mention the contempt that city commentariat columnists have for rural politics and rural politicians.

Not to mention such negativities as a refusal to acknowledge climate change, relentless attacks on asylum seekers, routine demonising of gay marriage, and a refusal to contemplate decent infrastructure of a kind represented by the NBN.

Not to mention Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey and budget black holes, which might well see Abbott's improbable run for PM turn into a dead parrot.

He's been at his worst since the actual election, when the prospect of government was within reach, and all he had to do was embark on skilled negotations rather than boofhead head kicking of the kind favoured by commentariat columnists.

But who knows. Maybe he'll get up. And then the fun will really start ...

Still I've emerged this morning with a surprising result. Compared to reading Sheehan, thank the lord for newspaper polling so that we have some kind of guide to the thinking going down in the electorate.

When the washing machine columns of Australia are set to conservative, all we get is suds and spin of the most confused and confusing kind ....

1 comment:

  1. And not a word from these columnists about the lack of judgement Abbott showed in appointing Barnaby to the Shadow Finance ministry and when that fell apart then making him the Shadow Minister for Water!! Phrases involving Dracula and bloodbank come to mind.


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