Monday, May 19, 2014

The tragedy of unintended consequences ...

The tragedy of unintended consequences.

Oh sure, the tree killers are full today of polls, nattering, negative, nasty polls, but they confirm only what everybody already knew.

That Tony Abbott and his budget and his henchmen are widely despised, feared and loathed.

When Campbell Newman's carrying on like a pork chop and there are substantial marches in the street, you don't need a poll to tell you there's unhappiness in the air.

But what of the forgotten foot soldiers? The lickspittle lackeys, the sows' ears sewers and sellers, the knob polishers and hagiographers?

Let's not get into an argument about the wording, as to whether their columns, or even their tombs, should read "known unto God" or perhaps "they are not one of the people and they are not all of us" ... ('Known Unto God', forced video at end of link).

On the weekend, Annabel Crabb kindly and thoughtfully drew attention to a whole collateral world of pain, with Whatever happened to 'without fear or favour'?

She could have been childish, she could have rubbed salt into raw, open, exposed, ulcerating wounds, but she showed she understood the new world of pain:

...News columnist Andrew Bolt urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to issue a general public apology for even entertaining the idea of breaking his ''no new taxes'' campaign promise. But when the dreadful truth was confirmed, Mr Bolt dashed off a column at 6.30am moodily commending the overall direction of the budget, then spent the rest of the day attacking the ABC, Manus Island refugees, Julia Gillard, Adam Goodes, Kevin Rudd's insulation scheme, and demanding to know exactly where Barack Obama was when the diplomatic compound at Benghazi was attacked. 
Once upon a time, a budget that sprung not only petrol price increases but also a new tax on rich voters would have been an opportunity for Mr Bolt to spend day after day in ceaseless, pleasurable thunderation. The scarifying effects of the budget here are obvious. Piers Akerman, likewise, for whom election-pledge chicanery and petrol-tank thumping has provided an invaluable income stream in recent years, warned Mr Abbott passionately before the budget to abandon any thought of excise increases or new taxes. 
But on budget night Mr Akerman, too, climbed resignedly aboard the tumbril, issuing a blog post so riven with inner conflicts that it struggled, at times, with both syntax and spelling: ''Forget the predictable cries of anguish from the ABC's trained troupe of rent-seekers,'' he gasped bravely. ''There is not that as much suffering (sic) as they might have you believe.'' The petrol tax increase, meanwhile, became an ''additional cent or to (sic)'' and was swiftly abandoned for some uncharacteristically wandering historical points about Ben Chifley and Winston Churchill. 

The only problem the pond has is the usual one with Fairfaxian presentations. There aren't any links, and so a casual reader might not decide to look up the rambling, incoherent delights of Akker Dakker offering an heroic Through the pain barrier with Liberal budget.

Strangely, it seems today that many punters didn't manage to get through the pain barrier.

Perhaps it was because of this sort of logic:

The additional cent or to which will be payable has given rise to possibly the most contentious claim about the Budget, that it breaks a promise not to introduce new taxes. 
This not a new tax but there is no doubt that fuel prices are major concern to Australians. 
Refusing to lift fuel rationing after WWII was as much a factor in the aforementioned Chifley’s loss of the 1949 election to Robert Menzies, as his plan to seize control of people’s savings. 
The plum the government hopes the public will talk about is the new Medical Research Fund bankrolled by the $7 Medicare co-payment, changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and other tinkering in the health budget, until it reaches a base sum of $20 billion, making it the largest research endowment fund in the world.

Yep, the typos and the incoherent reference to Ben Chifley is still there, but no comment on the actual logic, which was given a right old pounding by Lenore Taylor in Tony Abbott's trust deficit: has the PM underestimated the Australian People?:

...the budget pain was not shared. It clearly hit the disadvantaged hardest, and much of the money was not directed at improving the bottom line, but rather at different priorities such as building roads and setting up a new medical research fund to try to find a cure for cancer and other diseases. “What?” you could almost hear from lounge rooms around Australia. “We’ve got a crisis so bad I have to pay more for a whole bunch of things but we can somehow find $20bn to cure cancer?”

Indeed. But back to Akker Dakker and that rousing finale, that stentorian Churchillian defiance:

Abbott and Hockey will face the biggest challenge the Coalition has yet met. 
It will be tough. 
But that’s what politicians are paid for. 
To make the tough decisions that are necessary to take this nation through dire economic times. 
Sir Winston Churchill fought perhaps the greatest battle any democratic leader has confronted in the last 100 years. 
After he was eventually rejected by his own party, having led Britain to victory and inspired the free world, one of loyal supporters, Harold Nicolson, wrote in his diary: “Once the open sea is reached, we forget how we clung to the pilot in the storm.” 
Australia is in those stormy seas now and we must stay the course.

Now there's a sow's ear sewer at work, stitching away as best he can.

Is there an irony in this? Is it wrong to draw attention to what a good sewer Akker Dakker is?

The pond was heartened to see that someone else cared about these lonely, tortured souls, these sewers of sows' ears ...

''A tally of promises kept and those supposedly broken is a hopeless measure of a government's worth,'' decided The Australian's Nick Cater, on balance. Janet Albrechtsen gently mourned the ''debate about broken promises'' that ''infects politics worldwide''. She also told readers the Danish word meaning ''debate about broken promises''. It's ''loftebrudsdebatten'', just in case you get asked at pub trivia.

Or Ms Crabb, if you wanted a handy word to use to google up Dame Slap's poignant cry of pain, which can be found in Truth makes broken vows much easier to stomach (behind the paywall but now you know the word to google):

The Danes call it Loftebrudsdebatten — the debate about broken promises. It infects politics worldwide because, before elections, politicians of all stripes have an unfortunate tendency to make commitments they cannot keep and, after elections, the media and voters will always focus on the promises that have been broken. 
There’s no point in the Abbott government playing word games over broken promises. Nothing will annoy voters more than sophistry about whether a temporary new tax is a tax and a tax hike is a new tax. Voters aren’t mugs. If it feels like the government is putting its hand in your pocket to grab more of your money, then that’s a new tax. If the government is asking you to pay more for yourself, that’s a cut to government spending. 
Voters get this. They won’t like either scenario, but they may understand the need for both. The mugs will be the government if it doesn’t trust voters enough by fessing up to the truth and making the case for the need to repair a budget left in ruins by the Rudd and Gillard governments. 
Here’s why voters may accept and grow to respect Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s first budget, handed down last night. 
Not all broken promises are equal...

Yes there core broken promises and then there are non-core broken promises, and the entire premise of Animal Farm can be swept away in a single line by assiduous sewer of sow's ears ... (and while the pond has already looked at the Caterist, you can find this sewer of words scribbling Broken vows no gauge of a party's worth behind the paywall, because Caterists don't sew sows' ears for free).

Well the pond is pleased that Ms Crabb has drawn attention to the suffering of these tortured souls, but just as Winston Churchill battled those ferocious seas, the sewers of a sow's ear must press on.

The valiant anonymous editorialist - known only to god and god's deputy Chris Mitchell - knew where to apportion the blame.

It was a conspiracy, m'uh lud, a genuine conspiracy:

Unfortunately for Australians’ economic interests, debate about the budget remained stuck in a narrow, repetitive groove at the weekend. Rather than concentrating on what’s good for the nation, most commentators on ABC1’s Insiders program, in Fairfax publications and commercial electronic media remain obsessed about the government’s broken promises, real and illusory. (here)

Oh indeed, indeed, those wicked Insiders and Fairfaxians.

Some of the reforms will help shift voters’ thinking away from the culture of entitlement towards a sustainable “user pays’’ approach. The $7 Medicare co-payment, for example, dubbed a “heinous ... full-frontal assault’’ on “the poorest families’’ by Fairfax Media’s Mike Carlton, is a small contribution to effect a price signal. Most taxpayers, including families on low to medium incomes, already pay far more. The co-payment is fair and will curb over attendance at doctors’ surgeries. The notion that doctor visits, pathology, scans and medicines should or could be free defies reason. Over four years, the co-payment will raise $3.5bn and the $5 charge on subsidised medicines will raise $1.3bn, with scope for further increases. Far from signalling the demise of Medicare, the co-payment will make the system sustainable — a point Bob Hawke recognised when he imposed a $3.50 co-payment in 1991.

Hmm, it's not a point the current head of the AMA recognised right at the moment. Bulk-billing poorer patients will cost us $11 a time, doctors warn ... Medicare changes are a 'nightmare, says AMA president, who says the new system is 'complex and obtuse'.

These pesky doctors must only watch the ABC.

And a GP up Cessnock way hit the Newcastle Herald to call the co-payment "absolute madness" (here). They must only watch the ABC up Cessnock way ...

A nightmare! Absolute madness! Damn you ABC, damn you to hell for making life so hard for the knob polishers.

But still the lonely sewers must press on, polishing the most convenient knobs that are to hand:

Deregulating university fees is another important step that will improve quality in our top institutions. Fairness demands that graduates, once they are earning, contribute a fair share to their tuition, which will remain heavily subsidised by lower paid workers. As Henry Ergas writes, authorities also need to prevent price gouging in sought-after courses. While far from perfect, the budget looks beyond short-term political angst and takes structural reform seriously. Too many couch-sitting scribblers, however, are incapable of looking beyond broken promises and doing the same.

Isn't that grand? A couch-sitting scribbler denouncing couch-sitting scribblers for couch-sitting and scribbling, while doing it by sitting on a couch and scribbling and explaining how students should be happy for a life of in penury hock ... while even the wretched Bruce Chapman - he came from Adelaide and devised the scheme, to his eternal shame - thought maybe enough was already more than enough, in HECS architect Bruce Chapman warms that poorer students will be hardest hit (may be behind the Oz paywall, which might explain why the anonymous editorialist didn't bother to read it).

Is there any surer guide to a sewer stuck right up his or her fundament than scribbling about scribblers?

But stay, for while things are tough at Fairfax - those damned Fairfaxians, peddling this sort of ill-mannered uncouth tosh ...

... there is also a sewer of sows' ears at Fairfax.

Come on down Magic Water man, sock it to the cynics in Joe Hockey's budget brings out the cynic in us all:

We live in the age of cynicism. It is a bipartisan gift from our major political parties. Moral outrage is used to hide moral cowardice, with the assumption that voters are too ignorant or self-interested to notice. 
When Opposition Leader Bill Shorten spoke in response to the federal budget on Thursday night, he delivered a trenchant message: ''I rise to speak on behalf of millions of Australians who feel shocked and angry. Shocked by the brutality of this government's attack on their way of life ... a budget turning Australia into a place that most of us will not recognise – colder, meaner, narrower.'' 
His speech was couched in moral rather than political terms. 
He used ''lies'' three times, along with ''betrayed'', ''brutal'', ''phoney'', ''capricious'', ''unconscionable'', ''incompetent'', ''cowardly'', ''blackmailing'', ''cruel'', ''destructive'' and ''heartless''. Rising to a crescendo like an evangelical preacher, he even invoked the terms ''wicked'' and ''wanton''.

Oh it was wicked and wanton stuff, no doubt about it, and truly shameful to call a liar a liar ...

So how Churchillian is Paul Sheehan?

Sadly not very. He turns to all the ratbag independents to help save Tony Abbott's bacon and end up with a few pearls of wisdom:

The government needs the votes of six of the eight protest-vote senators to defeat the Voldemort scorched earth alliance – the alliance that dare not speak its name – between Labor and the Greens. These protest senators look set to remove the most indefensible element of an austerity budget, Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme, and the deeply unpopular, regressive, counter-productive $7 medical service fee. They are also likely to knock out the diesel tax rise. 
Here is the irony: these measures would salve some of the self-inflicted political wounds in the budget. It is thus possible that a more politically survivable budget comes out of the Senate than the one that goes in, bypassing Labor and the Greens. Such is the effect of protest votes in the age of cynicism.

And then, the stern old patriarch said, slamming the book of fairy tales shut, and glaring at the trembling, tear-stained child in front of him, the princess married the prince, and she lived happily ever after in a world of uncynical bliss, sipping on health-giving magic water, and devouring sourdough bread every magical morning ...

Or you could forget the fairy tales, and instead alienate the states, the Australian people, doctors, students, old people, the poor, the disadvantaged and anyone else you can drag into the ring ...

And so make times really tough for the hapless knob polishers ...

Oh sure, you might shed a tear or two for pensioners or the poor, but the pond is most moved by the pitiful sight of those couch-bound scribblers, those sewers of words as they pour out their suffering ...

(Below: will it ever get stale? More David Rowe here)


  1. Lovely Clockwork Orange reference...
    To repay in a small way the gruelling task you perform each day reviewing the knob polishers, I'd like to offer a couple of gems from the conservative rabble rousers at Sky News. Since it's physically impossible to actually watch a Chris Kenny or Paul Murray show, I switch to the multiview screen the morning after and have little look here and a little listen there. There's always a gem or two... Such as this morning after Kenny interviewed Andrew Leigh he turned and told me if I came back after the break I'd be treated to some "non-partisan" budget discussion between himself and Miranda Devine...
    Flick across to Paul Murray who was sticking it to me personally - a ratbag who'd marched in March and had taken to the streets again in May, in fact here in Melbourne at rather short notice. Fortunately police had told Murray that the numbers of ratbags in Sydney had fallen a smidge. Murray, or one of his guests, was also comforted by the fact that cunning Tony had told so many lies it'd be hard for his enemies to tie him down on one, and all these ratbag enemies would get bogged down in a sort of general morass of deceit.
    He's a clever fellow, that Tony.
    Time now to go out for a walk in the park.

    1. Bravely done but after that walk in the park, maintain the rage.

  2. An excellent summary of the knob polishers. On the subject of Ackers' typos, there may be another in his final rallying cry to "..stay the course." Surely he meant, "curse".

    Such were their acrobatics that you didn't get on to the rout of the polls, more's the pity. For there, even Shanas had had to put up the white flag on the Newspoll, leaving Hudson to take up the slack while a call has been issued to hospital emergency wards.

    Why does a Stan Freberg satire on advertising keep going through my mind? It supposed that grass had been converted to a breakfast cereal under the label of "Puffed Grass". A jingle was devised,
    "Puffed Grass, eat Puffed Grass!
    It's chock full of vitamins and nourishment, too.
    What's good for Bossy, Moo-oo-oo
    Is good for me and you.
    Puffed Grass!"
    The talking part included the line, "30 million moo-cows can't be wrong!"

    Today, I feel we're going through a similar process with the budget, "What's good for Bossy, is good for me and you!"

    There was a finale line to the jingle, "There goes a man with a green mouth. He's a Puffed Grass eater!"
    We are being sold Puffed Grass.

    1. I managed to track down one (of many) Puffed Grass commercials.

  3. I had great difficulty reading this. Every time you used the word "sewer" I was aware that, as well as referring to needlework, a sewer transports sewage.

    1. The pond is mortified that you would have made such an unintended connection, a kind of U-bend in your thinking, as it were ... we were, of course, only intending to evoke all those lovely old paintings of sewers sewing ...

  4. I too read "sewer" in its sewage sense, knowing that DP *obviously* didn't mean it that way. And laughed and laughed all the way through.


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