Saturday, 29 September 2007

2004 Federal Election Diary One for the Golden Oldies

29th September, 2004  - Richard Farmer 
Certainly one for the golden oldies. Not just Medicare but Medicare Gold! Labor's policy launch was cleverly designed to stress one of its strengths and blunt one of its negatives. The strength is Medicare itself. If Mark Latham can make this election a referendum about Medicare he will win it hands down.
Health is the one issue that every poll by a margin well out of the range of three standard deviations of error has Labor trusted far more than the Coalition. Every day that Labor can make some aspect of Medicare the issue of the day the greater its chances of victory. The negative is that older Australians seem less impressed by the young Opposition Leader than they are by the pension age Prime Minister. Hence the choice of linking Medicare with Australians 75 and over.
There is a danger, of course, that things will not work out as planned. Promising immediate and free hospital access to those 75 and over raises the fear that those of us without the Gold Medicare card will have to wait longer. Mr Howard was quick to seize on this possibility and Mr Latham will need to spell out how he will create sufficient new hospital beds to cater for the increased demand. Not that he will mind trying to do that. He knows that if the campaign is about health he can defy the odds and win.
Those odds, incidentally, moved marginally towards Labor after the policy launch in Brisbane. There was a marginal increase on the Glug Election Indicator's assessment of Labor's chances of victory up from 30.7% to 31.3%

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Results Confound Pollsters Numbers Meant Little In The End Were People Lying To Them?

Saturday, 24th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
State Opposition Leader Peter Debnam, and anybody else hoping for a Liberal victory in NSW today, should get a copy of the Toronto Star of 28 June 2004 where those headlines appeared above a story describing how the Canadian Liberals won an election. As Stephanie Levitz of the Canadian Press Agency put it, "Canada's electorate appears to have confounded the pollsters. Weeks of speculation, number crunching and supper-hour phone calls to more than 25,000 Canadians over the last five weeks meant little in the end as the Liberals beat projections that they were headed for a sound thrashing in the election..."
That Canadian election was a wonderful reminder of the power of the underdog effect and a lesson in why election watchers should studiously ignore the opinion polls. For weeks the Canadian pollsters and pundits were predicting a massive decline in support for the governing Liberal Party with the opposition Conservative Party said to be in with a real chance of victory. Heading into the vote, two of Canada's leading pollsters had predicted about 32 per cent of Canadians would cast a ballot in favour of the Liberals, followed by 31 per cent voting for the Tories. So there was plenty of egg on lots of faces when the Liberals were returned to office, albeit with a decline in their number of members, having gained 37% of the national vote.
Those of us with experience in Australian elections were not surprised by this Canadian outcome. The underdog effect has had an extraordinary impact in our elections, state and federal, over the last 20 years or so - just ask Paul Keating and his true believers! The last thing a political party should want to be seen as is a winner. Just ask Jeff Kennett and Wayne Goss.
Which is a rather long way of saying that the general expectation that there is no point in waiting for the votes to be counted tomorrow night before anointing Morris Iemma as a Premier elected in his own right might yet prove premature. This election where the Sydney newspapers this morning report a massive indifference by people about who governs them for the next four years is tailor made for a few surprises.
The Glug Election Indicator, based on betting markets, might have Labor a 90% chance of winning and the polls might have Labor 10 or more points in front but the collective wisdom of the entrants in our "NSW Bragging Rights Tipping contest" is erring on the side of treating the opinion polls with caution. The average of their predictions is that Labor will win 49 of the 93 seats – quite a slight overall majority when 47 are needed for a party to govern in its own right.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Sunrise on a Receding False Dawn

Saturday, 14th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Kevin Rudd
Do you doubt Kevin Rudd’s Honesty? That’s the question the Sydney Telegraph posed this morning at the end of its story on Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd having told a porky about neither he nor his staff being involved in plans by Channel 7’s Sunrise program to stage a "fake" dawn service at Long Tan on Anzac Day.
The Tele’s anger is understandable. It broke the story of the Sunrise shenanigans on page one on Sunday under the headline "Rudd's insult to Vietnam vets" and accompanied it with a blistering editorial criticising the Labor Leader for cheapening the Anzac day of remembrance - "a national disgrace" and evidence of "miserably flawed leadership". Vietnam veterans, the paper reported, have been offended by Labor leader Kevin Rudd's request for a "fake" dawn service so he can commemorate Anzac Day live on Channel Seven's breakfast show from Long Tan in Vietnam. The plan for an earlier 4.15am service to coincide with the peak 7.15am morning TV ratings period were hatched by Mr Rudd's office and staff of the Sunrise show several weeks ago.
The paper had barely hit the streets before AAP was reporting that the report Mr Rudd asked Vietnamese authorities to hold an Anzac Day dawn service early so it could be broadcast live on television was fabricated - "absolutely false and without foundation". A chastened Daily Telegraph quickly dropped the story until it obtained evidence in the form of emails showing Mr Rudd’s personal secretary Mary Mawhinney was directly warned two weeks before the story broke that the plan would offend Vietnam veterans. It was with seeming delight that "Rudd’s False Dawn – Labor leader admits office knew of fake Anzac Service" was back on page one of at least the first editions this morning although the version on the paper’s internet site differs slightly.
The opportunity of raising again questions about Mr Rudd’s ability to tell the truth was to much this morning for Federal Health Minister and chief government head kicker Tony Abbott. While Mr Rudd was making another of his weekly appearances on Sunrise, Mr Abbott appeared on Nine’s Today program to join the Tele in raising the question of the Opposition Leader’s truthfulness.
Having failed with earlier attempts to attack Mr Rudd’s character through an association with a former Labor Premier of Western Australia, Brian Bourke, who most eastern states residents have never heard of, the Government had been laying off the personal foibles. Now, with the Tele onside and the Nine Network happy to put the boot in to its rival Seven network, doing some character assassination is back on the agenda.
Mr Rudd has surely given them the ammunition. While he can blame his staff for the Anzac Day affair, he has to take personal responsibility for exposing himself as a politician not prepared to practice what he preaches when it comes to the climate change caused by global warming. In short, Mr Rudd earlier this week showed he is a hypocrite. While outlining plans for the rest of us to change our lifestyle to lessen carbon dioxide emissions he admitted driving himself around in a gas guzzling Ford Territory provided by the Government.
According to the assessment of the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide it would be difficult for some one concerned about environmental damage to make a worse choice than the Territory. It rates but 2.5 stars when CO2 emissions, fuel consumption and air pollution are taken in to consideration. The Toyota Prius, which Mr Rudd incorrectly pretended on radio yesterday that he could not get on the government’s freebie motor car for MPs plan, gets six stars. Even the large Ford Falcon rates better than the Territory.
From Glug

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Do as I Say Not as I Do

Thursday, 12th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Kevin Rudd should be hoping this morning that members of the Government really have become reluctant to attack him on personal grounds. For yesterday the Opposition Leader exposed himself as a politician not prepared to practice what he preaches when it comes to the climate change caused by global warming. In short, Mr Rudd showed he is a hypocrite. While outlining plans for the rest of us to change our lifestyle to lessen carbon dioxide emissions he drives himself around in a gas guzzling Ford Territory.
According to the assessment of the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide it would be difficult for some one concerned about environmental damage to make a worse choice than the Territory. It rates but 2.5 stars when CO2 emissions, fuel consumption and air pollution are taken in to consideration. The Toyota Prius, which Mr Rudd incorrectly pretended on radio yesterday that he could not get on the government’s freebie motor car for MPs plan, gets six stars. Even the large Ford Falcon rates better than the Territory.
This is the kind of incident that really can begin to ruin an image.
click to enlarge...

A Jolly Chinese Aid Party

Thursday, 12th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Annmaree O'Keeffe
In Beijing at the end of last month a group of Australian government officials got together with some counterparts from the Chinese Department of Commerce for a celebration to mark 25 years of co-operation. Annmaree O'Keeffe, AusAID's deputy director general and Yu Jianhua, director of the Ministry’s Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs toasted the $1 billion given in foreign aid to China since the first Aussie dollar was spent in 1981.
With China now having some trillion dollars in currency reserves and having become the largest lender to Africa, reportedly loaning at least $8 billion to the continent, it might have been an appropriate occasion to mark the end of this aid relationship but it was not so.
On the future direction of Australia's programs Ms O'Keeffe told the happy gathering "our partnership will be focused on supporting equity in China's development and addressing the factors that underpin poverty and less on direct poverty alleviation... The strategy is aligned with China's economic reforms and supports China's own agenda of balanced development", Ms O'Keeffe said.
The AusAID website shows that in 2007-07 Australia is spending $41.8 million on foreign aid to China. A new China-Australia Country Program Strategy agreed on 23 November 2005, provides what AusAID describes as "a framework for development cooperation from 2006 through to 2010."
At least we now know one place where a razor gang of a new government could begin its work.

Dysfunctional Defence

Thursday, 12th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
The black tie the Prime Minister wore yesterday to announce that Australia will be sending troops to actually shoot their guns in Afghanistan may well reflect a sense of foreboding about giving an increased task to a military when a government report released last week claimed "the current range and nature of military operations is causing stress in Defence, and excessive pressures on senior people."
The damning report released late on the eve of the Easter holidays, and thus barely reported so far in the press, certainly warned John Howard that all is far from well in the Department of Defence which was described as an organisation which "has confused its accountabilities."
The Labor Shadow Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was not exaggerating in describing the report of the Defence Management Review as highlighting "the dysfunctional relations between the Minister, his staff and defence planners and managers."
Behind the restrained language to be expected in a report to government, commissioned by government, is a story of a department with so much money to spend "there is now less concern about efficiency than in the past. Management information is inadequate, and many of the processes we would have expected to find to support such a large, complex organisation (information technology and human resources) are also deficient and in some cases not aligned with the desired future direction of Defence."
The report reveals the breakdown of relations between the Defence ministers and the public servants and military officers supposed to be serving them. It said:
The perception is that Defence performance in quality, reliability and timeliness of advice remains poor despite having many of the better practice processes in place. In examining the issue, we concluded that the factors behind this were:
• The lack of common understanding between ministers’ offices and Defence can mean that expectations are not always met.
• The size, complexity and hierarchical nature of Defence can delay responses.
• A culture in Defence which emphasises due process over timely responses.
• Lines of communication to the Minister and his office are limited to very few people (the Secretary and CDF, for example) and not many others.
The Review committee gave some examples of the evidence it received to illustrate these points.
"Defence management will continue to be a problem for successive Defence Ministers until they develop a climate of partnership founded on trust and mutual respect."
"I believe that at times Defence sees the Government as an ‘obstacle’."
"The information flow can be frustrating. The Minister’s saying "I am informed that…" but other things tend to turn up later. Abu Ghraib was one instance of this."
"Only a change of culture will prevent problems recurring."
"There is a significant lack of responsibility and accountability in Defence. I have observed over a long period of time that people in Defence insist on having processes set out for them so as to escape accountability—this is a systemic problem."
"There is evidence of corporate fragmentation— groups doing their own thing and getting away with it; behaving as owners rather than tenants; looking after their own interests with no regard to cost or the difficulties they cause other Defence stakeholders or the portfolio as a whole."
"As a general problem across the organisation, people just don’t take accountability."

A Contract to Say Farewell With

Thursday, 12th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Andrew Peacock, AC
Andrew Peacock, the former Liberal Party Parliamentary Leader, Foreign Minister and Australian Ambassador to Washington, retired back in February from his position as President of Boeing Australia. In early March the Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson, made the surprise announcement of a decision to spend $6 billion with Boeing on a batch of Super Hornet fighter aircraft for the Australian air force.
That Boeing should win a major contract is not surprising. The American company, after all, is the world’s leading aeroplane manufacture and a substantial supplier of defence equipment to countries around the world. What has made this acquisition different, and the recent connection of Mr Peacock to Boeing potentially embarrassing for the government, is the direct involvement of Dr Nelson in making it. For the purchase of the Super Hornets is not the result of some orthodox procurement policy where teams of military and public service officers spend months, or even years, weighing up the alternative options. This purchase was very much the minister’s own decision.
Dr Nelson made it to avoid the risk of the air force being caught short between the phasing out of the F111s planned for 2010 and the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft which Australia is all but committed to buying from the United States when it is finally built. Since the announcement that 24 Super Hornets will be the insurance policy against JSF delays, air force experts have been bobbing up everywhere criticising the purchase on the grounds that it is not capable of doing the required job.
Dr Nelson would be wise to quickly make it known that he had absolutely no discussions with Mr Peacock about the purchase.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The PM’s Younger Look

Wednesday, 11th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
He might be a New South Welshman but Prime Minister John Howard made sure he was captured by the television cameras on Sunday night in the winning ACT Brumbies’ dressing room with the great George Gregan and not next door with the pathetic losers from Sydney.
There was a little light hearted banter about the rugby union world cup to come later in the year and the PM having something else to do around that time but the significance of this rare weekend visit to Canberra by Howard was his dress not his words. For on this night at the football John Howard abandoned his tie.
What the gentlemen of the Australian Rugby Union thought of a tie-less guest in their hospitality box is unknown but the casual look is not the normal one for officialdom at this code where even the long haired Canberra coach and his staff wear suits while supervising the pre-match warm up.
No one would be aware of the protocol better than Mr Howard who has a long history as a cheerer in chief at sporting events. The decision to go open-necked was unlikely to have been a deliberate attempt to upset his hosts which puts a desire to present a relaxed and youthful image as the most likely explanation.
Sunday night, in fact, was the second time in a week that the Prime Minister has appeared on television sans tie. He had a similar casual look when he toured Roxby Downs although viewers of the nightly television news would not have known that because the clips used from that day’s "doorstop" were not about mining and uranium.
Clearly the image makers are at work again on the man who famously had his front teeth capped and his eyebrows trimmed in an earlier pre-election period. Stand by for further appearances of our PM in the leather jacket he wore on his recent visit to Iraq. The Liberals are out to show that a man does not have to be as young as Kevin Rudd to be a youthful leader.

A $300 Million Pre-Election Advertising Spree?

Wednesday, 11th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
** From budget estimates
Based on the experience of the last two years there is a good chance that next month’s budget will see $300 million allocated for spending on advertising by the Federal Government in the coming financial year with most of it concentrated in the period before this year’s election is officially called.
From the $46 million paid to media organisations in the first year of the Howard Government, the current budget provides nearly $251 million for putting messages on television and radio and in print.
The startling growth in the efforts of Government to manage public opinion through paid advertising is shown in the following table kindly sent to me by a Labor staffer who has updated the figures prepared by the Parliamentary Library I referred to earlier this month.
Spending of this kind certainly gives a great advantage to an incumbent government but the published figures understate the actual advertising spend by not including the cost of pre or post campaign expenditure, such as: advertising agencies, public relations, market research, printing, direct mail, call centres or even fridge magnets. These costs are hidden away in the budget estimates of the departments carrying the campaigns. In the example of the Worchoices advertising campaign these "extras" added $23 million to the $32 million spent on the media to make a total of $55 million.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Murray Darling Agreement Still Leaking

Thursday, 5th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
The spur of the moment decision by Prime Minister John Howard to try and take over management of the Murray Darling River system is looking more and more like one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. At the moment the Victorian Government is still refusing to agree to the Howard plan that was developed without even going to Cabinet and the Secretary of the Treasury, Ken Henry, according to this morning’s Australian Financial Review, has given a scathing assessment of the Howard government's recent water and climate-change policies.
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull is the man with the difficult task of rescuing what his leader planned as a key plank in his efforts to establish the environmental credentials of his Coalition Government. Yesterday Mr Turnbull was down by the river in Victoria trying to persuade irrigation farmers to back the $10 billion Commonwealth plan but, as the Age reported, he was having some difficulty. The Victorian Farmers Federation told him it wanted a written guarantee that Victorian irrigators would maintain their existing water entitlements and property rights and a written guarantee that bulk water entitlements — legal agreements that divide the water in the Murray-Darling Basin between environmental, agricultural and urban users — would not be reviewed until 2020, as enshrined in state law.
Until the VFF is satisfied, the Victorian Premier Steve Bracks is not inclined to join his fellow Labor Premiers from NSW, Queensland and South Australia and give the Commonwealth the powers it is asking for. Federation president Simon Ramsay is in no hurry saying that "the view by industry is that there is some urgency for the Prime Minister to get all the states signed up. I've said to Malcolm (Turnbull) we won't be pushed into trying to meet their election deadline merely to satisfy the PM."
Nor will the Treasury Secretary be as acquiescent as Mr Turnbull might like. Ken Henry was reported as telling an internal department forum back on 14 March that there is a "greater than usual risk of the development of policy proposals that are, frankly bad" ahead of the federal poll with the Murray Darling proposal being an example. Mr Turnbull this morning tried to defend the lack of Treasury involvement in the plan by saying information had to be gathered from people on the ground. "The Treasury does not know how much it costs to pipe a channel, how much it costs to replace a Dethridge wheel with a computerised flume gate, and how much it costs to line 10 kilometres of leaky pipe along the Murrumbidgee River," he told ABC radio.
Unfortunately for Mr Turnbull and Mr Howard, what the Treasury does know is nonsense when they read about it after a decision has been made. The Ken Henry assessment will just make the Victorian Government more determined than ever to hold out for a sensible solution.

A Reminder of Catch 22

Thursday, 5th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Yossarian, as portrayed by Alan Arkin
I am grateful to Brian Miller, one of my esteemed readers, for the following extract from Catch 22 where Yossarian was told he could go back home, released from the army, on one condition:
Colonel Cathcart: All you have to do is ... like us.
Lt Col. Korn: All you have to do is be our pal.
Colonel Cathcart: Say nice things about us.
Lt Col. Korn: Tell the folks at home what a good job we're doing. Take our offer Yossarian.
Colonel Cathcart: Either that or a court-martial for desertion.

Bad News for Unions Not Bad for Labor

Thursday, 5th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Confirmation by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that the trade union membership decline is continuing apace was bad news for union leaders but not necessarily for Labor Leader Kevin Rudd.
For a start the union movement knows that the coming election will be a last chance to stop sliding to virtual irrelevance. The return of a Coalition Government would increase the trend which has seen the proportion of Australian workers in a union fall from 35% to 20% since 1994 so there is no point in keeping money in reserve. Every available dollar must be spent by the unions in an effort to get Labor in to office. This should see Kevin Rudd in charge of a record advertising war chest.
With the figures on declining trade union power so stark, the Opposition Leader has the opportunity to tailor the Labor Party message on industrial relations law changes to the broader community. He himself looks a lot different from the traditional labour type of Labor leader and he can use the coming party conference to manufacture some issues where he boldly defeats the union delegates. Knowing that a Rudd victory against John Howard is their only hope of maintaining at least some of their power, the union bosses will gracefully cop hearing that the new modern Labor Party is no longer the political wing of the labour movement.
Mr Rudd can, however, gain an advantage from talking about how the changes that have seen a decline in the past conflicts between capital and labour, and a decline in trade union membership, have increased, rather than decreased, the need for government to adopt the role of ensuring fairness in the labour market. His new way can be guaranteeing that those least capable of negotiating on their own behalf still receive decent rates of pay and conditions.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Waiting for the Positive Ads

Wednesday, 4th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
The biggest electoral advantage of the Liberal-National Party Government is about to unfold and the television industry is looking forward to it with an eager anticipation. The pre-election Government campaigns are now in the final stages of preparation and the spending is about to begin.
Advertising managers for the commercial networks expect that the next six months will see a new expenditure record reached and there is no reason to doubt their prediction. Every pre-election period seems to bring a greater need for the public to be informed of government projects than in the pre-election period that preceded it.
Accurate figures on government advertising expenditure are difficult to establish but the Parliamentary Library produced the following summary:
The Parliamentary Library research found that the 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2001 federal elections were preceded by sharp increases in government advertising outlays:
• the bulk of the Keating Government’s $3 million advertising campaign on Medicare Hospital Entitlements was spent the month before the 1993 poll
• the Keating Government spent $9 million in the three months prior to the 1996 Federal election campaign
• the Howard Government spent $29.5 million in the three months before the 1998 election campaign. Half this expenditure ($14.9 million) was on the GST campaign. Still, pre-election spending on GST advertising accounted for only 13 per cent of total expenditure on the GST campaign, and
• in the four months before the 2001 election, the government spent roughly $78 million.
The advantage for the incumbent in such massive spending is enormous. In the guise of providing public information is allows the government parties to conduct the positive part of their campaigning – explaining all the good things in their record. Their own political party funds can thus be predominantly used for the negative aspects of pointing out the failings and shortcomings of their opponents. Those opponents, without the benefit of the public purse, must use their own resources for both the positive and negative aspects of their campaigning.

Listen Out for Healthy Forests While Fanaticism Spreads

Wednesday, 4th April, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
The influence of that little worm Australians were introduced to when the Nine Network started televising political leadership debates is growing. Measuring the immediate public reaction to words is now beginning to dominate the public debate as our leaders embark on their triennial effort to confuse and obfuscate. We can gauge the findings by listening to the daily grabs on television and for the Liberals the latest in word is fanaticism.
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull started using it during television interviews on Sunday as in this description of climate change: "Labor is verging on becoming fanatical about this issue in the sense that they do not care how poor we have to become as long as we become pure. I think religion is a very poor guide to public policy." Mr Turnbull was repeating it again this morning on ABC Radio National: "The problem with labor is that they have locked themselves into essentially an ideological exercise… Now Kevin Rudd is so determined, he and …Peter Garrett are bordering on fanaticism now. Because they are blind and a fanatic is someone who is obsessed with a particular goal and pays no regard to any of the facts or any other distracting things like reality."
We can expect to hear a lot more about the fanatical Messrs Rudd and Garrett in the weeks ahead as the American Republican Party guru famous for stressing the importance of emotional words is a great believer in the power of repetition. Frank Luntz is the pollster credited with getting the Bush administration to stop talking about global warming, because the term is frightening to people, and speak instead of climate change which is far less threatening. He described his technique in an interview on PBS television:
I've got a certain rule that I always teach my staff: It's not what you say; it's what people hear that matters. I may respond to you effectively, but if you edit it in such a way that they only hear the negativity of what I do, then that's all they're going to know. And so they're going to conclude that my profession isn't an honorable profession. And that's why how I say it has as much of an impact on what people think of me as what I say.[Regarding consistency,] there's a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you're absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time. And it is so hard, but you've just got to keep repeating, because we hear so many different things -- the noises from outside, the sounds, all the things that are coming into our head, the 200 cable channels and the satellite versus cable, and what we hear from our friends. We as Americans and as humans have very selective hearing and very selective memory. We only hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest.
Kevin Rudd has not quite got the Luntzian message though. There was nothing simple this morning when he spoke of climate change being the first post partisan political issue. Most people would not have a clue what he was talking about with that expression and for a party trying to scare people in to believing that new policies are needed, global warming should be the description of choice. Climate change is for those who want us to believe that things are not really all that serious.
What Mr Rudd might like to appropriate is the phrase Healthy Forests that Mr Luntz tested as being a wonderful way of describing a policy that allows the clear felling of native forests. Labor will surely need something clever if it is to appease the workers of Tasmania while attracting the environmentalists of the cities.

Friday, 30 March 2007

The New Motherhood Statement

Friday, 30th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
When in doubt, relate it to jobs. Maintaining jobs. Creating jobs. That is the current Prime Ministerial message. John Howard is speaking about jobs everywhere. Yesterday protecting Australian jobs was the reason for not endorsing the views of the visiting British climate change guru Sir Nicholas Stern. The Stern views are clearly too stern for Mr Howard. Some of them "if implemented would do great damage to the economy" and his government was not going to agree to prescriptions "that are going to cost the jobs of Australian miners."
Earlier in the week in was Work Choices where Mr Howard brought out jobs as his defensive weapon. At a Kirribilli doorstop he rejected criticism of his industrial relations policies in this way: "We're not going to be making any changes of substance to WorkChoices because we believe WorkChoices is a very good policy and we also believe on the first anniversary of WorkChoices, which will be next week, looking back it's very hard to accept that WorkChoices has been unfair when we have a 32 year low in unemployment, …"
Not that this emphasis on jobs is some new development. It has been a constant during the Howard years. The PM’s comments on global warming back in November 1997 were not so much different from his reaction to the Stern report: "Since its election the Government has addressed the critical issue of global warming in a way that effectively promotes Australia’s national interests. … We have also made it plain that we are not prepared to see Australian jobs sacrificed and efficient Australian industries, particularly in the resources sector, robbed of their hard-earned, competitive advantage."
And while many Australians might have forgotten what a negotiating triumph Australia had at the Kyoto Conference back then in 1997, John Howard saw it as "a marvellous day for jobs in Australia" with "an outcome that will protect tens of thousands of Australian jobs…"
With views like that it was no surprise in August 2001 that he told 2JJJ listeners that the forestry agreements struck in Tasmania "were an attempt to strike a balance between preserving the environment and also preserving jobs. …" The theme was the same in a radio interviewnearly four years later: "Well I am not going to become Tasmanian political pundit Tim, I won't do that because I think the obligation I have as Prime Minister is to do the right thing by the workers of Australia and I have always put protecting the workers of Australia at the very top of my agenda whether it comes to employment, family tax benefits, family tax cuts, or anything else. Workers always come first as far as I am concerned."
No surprise either to see jobs on the list of achievements in the press statement headed Coalition Government: Eleven Years of Achievementat the beginning of the month: "Australians are reaping the benefits of the Coalition's economic management, with official figures revealing since 1996 Australians: … enjoy far greater opportunities to find a job, with more than two million jobs created."

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Sending a Chinese Back Home

Wednesday, 28th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
In March last year, according to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the United States State Department, the United Nations Special Rapporteur Nowak reported that Falun Gong practitioners accounted for 66 percent of victims of alleged torture while in Chinese government custody.
In its Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the US Bureau gave no judgment as to the truth or otherwise of that allegation but it did have this to say about the way adherents to this rather strange organisation are treated in China:
Falun Gong members identified by the government as "core leaders" have been singled out for particularly harsh treatment. More than a dozen Falun Gong members have been sentenced to prison for the crime of "endangering state security," but the great majority of Falun Gong members convicted by the courts since 1999 have been sentenced to prison for "organizing or using a sect to undermine the implementation of the law," a less serious offense. Most practitioners, however, were punished administratively. Some practitioners were sentenced to reeducation through labor. Among them, Yuan Yuju and Liang Jinhui, relatives of a Hong Kong journalist working for a television station supportive of Falun Gong, were sentenced to reeducation through labor for distributing Falun Gong materials. Apart from reeducation through labor, some Falun Gong members were sent to "legal education" centers specifically established to "rehabilitate" practitioners who refused to recant their belief voluntarily after release from reeducation-through-labor camps. Government officials denied the existence of such "legal education" centers. In addition, hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners have been confined to mental hospitals, according to overseas groups.Allegations of abuse of Falun Gong practitioners by the police and other security personnel continued during the year. In addition, multiple allegations of government-sanctioned organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners surfaced. In April overseas Falun Gong groups claimed that a hospital in Sujiatun, Shenyang, had been the site of a "concentration camp" and of mass organ harvesting, including from live prisoners . The government opened the facility to diplomatic observers and foreign journalists, who found nothing inconsistent with the operation of a hospital.Police continued to detain current and former Falun Gong practitioners and place them in reeducation camps. Police reportedly had quotas for Falun Gong arrests and targeted former practitioners, even if they were no longer practicing. The government continued its use of high-pressure tactics and mandatory anti-Falun Gong study sessions to force practitioners to renounce Falun Gong. Even practitioners who had not protested or made other public demonstrations of belief reportedly were forced to attend anti-Falun Gong classes or were sent directly to reeducation-through-labor camps. These tactics reportedly resulted in large numbers of practitioners signing pledges to renounce the movement.
In Australia this week, as a Falun Gong adherent in the country illegally was prepared for deportation, a spokesperson for the Department of Immigration was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald saying: "We do not return anyone where it will be a breach of our international obligations."

Finding Kevin Rudd's Patsy

Wednesday, 28th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Doug Cameron - prepared to be Kevin Rudd's patsy.
Every Labor Party leader needs a patsy when it comes Federal Conference time. At some stage of the managed debates, the script will call on the top dog to assert himself. An opponent will be allowed to bark out an objection or two before being crushed by a decisive vote in the leader’s favour. For next month’s conference, Doug Cameron, the federal secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, is being prepared for this essential and ritualistic defeat.
As a self proclaimed spokesman for the left, Mr Cameron will be allowed, even encouraged, to argue for Labor to return to its past support of protection for manufacturing industry. Delegates will hear him urge the banning of free trade deals and public private partnerships. There will be a call for the removal of tax on superannuation payouts because it weakens the traditional pension safety net for retired workers. In the cause of old-fashioned equity the first-home owner's grant should not be available to the wealthy. Evil rich speculators should not benefit from negative gearing tax incentives.
Mr Cameron is sure to play the villain’s role with panache and, as a trade union leader with ambitions to enter federal parliament himself and then advance his way to the ministry, will keep the rhetoric within the acceptable limits which Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd told his Caucus colleagues about yesterday. "Internal party democracy is important," a caucus spokesman quoted Mr Rudd as saying. The spokesman added, according to the AAP report, that the leader was "relaxed about the debate – what was important was the tone of the debate."
What will make it even more important for Mr Rudd is that the opposition debaters will come essentially from the ranks of trade union delegates to the Conference. The Parliamentary Party knows it is locked in to committing itself to reversing much of Prime Minister John Howard’s industrial relations legislation but it wants to do all it can to pretend that a Labor Government would not be a trade union puppet. Mr Rudd crushing powerful union bosses on the conference floor will be a powerful and necessary symbol of his independence.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

He Wants to be But Will He?

Tuesday, 27th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Greg Combet - Determined to show he was more than a trade union official.
Any doubts I had about Greg Combet wanting to be a member of parliament disappeared last November in the Adelaide Town Hall when I heard him deliver the 9th annual Hawke Lecture for the University of South Australia's Hawke Centre.
The words were those of a man determined to show he was more than a trade union official with the one track mind dedicated to defeating John Howard's new industrial relations laws. This ACTU boss portraying himself as the man to return Australia to the "shared aspiration for economic prosperity, security from external threat, and the attainment of a fair and just society" that John Howard had undermined.
"Our enduring historic consensus", Mr Combet told his audience, "has been overwhelmed by policies that must invite our deepest attention and questioning. Are we truly convinced that economic prosperity can only be achieved at the expense of social fairness and equality, that democratic rights must be traded for security and that ballooning fiscal surpluses have the principal purpose of providing short-term political advantage?"
The former Prime Minister who thanked Mr Combet for his thoughtful address was positively beaming at the prospect of another ACTU heavyweight staking out a claim for political leadership. As I wrote in Crikey at the time Bob mentioned to me that the Combet style went down well with women too which would prove an electoral asset some time in the future! When that future time would be was not something that Bob Hawke would speculate about. The immediate task of rallying the people against the work place relations laws must not be interfered with.
A transition to the House of Representatives, I concluded, would have to be announced a short time before polling day so that Mr Combet could not be accused of undermining the ACTU campaign but rather of taking the fight against unjust laws to the next level.
With the election still six months off I was surprised to see Jason Koutsoukis in the Sunday Age so definite that the deal to find the Combet seat was done and dusted and that Charlton in the Hunter Valley of NSW was it. A bit too soon for such a revelation which makes me think not that the story is untrue but that a little bit of malice might be involved on the part of someone not keen on Mr Combet becoming a politician. There is no better way of stopping something happening in politics than by premature disclosure.
The sitting member for Charlton, backbencher Kelly Hoare, now certainly has time to prepare her defences. Ms Hoare is determined to stay put and promises to fight any move to replace her with what she describes as "a celebrity candidate."

Big Brother is Getting Closer

Tuesday, 27th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
The ability to discover which street a person walked down five years previously, which pub they stopped at and what they drank is closer than we think. The Royal Academy of Engineering yesterday released its report "Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance - Challenges of Technological Change" noting that digital surveillance means that there is no barrier to storing all CCTV footage indefinitely.
Ever-improving means of image-searching, in tandem with developments in face and gait-recognition technologies, allows footage to be searched, said the Academy, for individual people. "This will one day make it possible to 'Google spacetime', to find the location of a specified individual at some particular time and date."
As if to reinforce the point that Big Brother is getting closer, Britain’s police chiefs reacted to the report by revealing they wanted to be able to easily download picture data from privately installed cameras to aid criminal investigations. They found in an 18-month study with the Home Office that new digital systems came in too many formats. "We want a generic technology that allows us to download images easily and quickly," Deputy Chief Constable of Cheshire Graeme Gerrard told the Daily Telegraph. "All those who don't conform would have to change", added Gerrard, who is the CCTV spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The Royal Academy of Engineering's report calls for greater control over the proliferation of camera surveillance and for more research into how public spaces can be monitored while minimising the impact on privacy. Citizens should be able to access information from local CCTV cameras, if only to find out who had been studying the pictures. "If we are being watched, then we need to be able to watch the watchers," said Ian Forbes, one of the report's authors told Reuters. "I may have nothing to hide, but it is still my business. We want technologies which allow us to be both secure and private."
The RAE report argues methods of surveillance need to be explored which can offer the benefits of surveillance whilst being publicly acceptable. This will involve frank discussion of the effectiveness of surveillance. There should also be investigation of the possibility of designing surveillance systems that are successful in reducing crimes whilst reducing collateral intrusion into the lives of law-abiding citizens.
The Home Affairs Select Committee of the British House of Commons will soon begin an examination of the growing surveillance society. Britain is said to be the most watched country in the world, with more than four million CCTV cameras, or one for every 14 people.
In Australia the Australian Law Reform Commission is currently reviewing privacy laws. In its submission to that inquiry the Federal Privacy Commissioner acknowledges that current principles under the Privacy Act are based on the OECD data protection guidelines that were developed almost 30 years ago At that time: • personal computers were scarce, and the internet did not exist
• there was little of biometric technology beyond ink fingerprints
• international counter-terrorism initiatives were not the focus they are today
• surveillance systems like closed circuit television and global positioning systems were not as widespread and
• mobile phones and camera phones were a distant prospect

Time for a Little Treemail

Tuesday, 27th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
If Kevin Rudd does become Prime Minister at the end of this year it is a fair bet that from 1 July 2008 he will find himself having to deal with a Senate in which the Greens hold the balance of power. The likelihood of that Senate outcome, in fact, has increased considerably with the decision by the Opposition Leader to back away from the pro-trees policy of his predecessor Mark Latham.
Whereas Mr Latham opted to lock up substantial areas of old-growth forests in Tasmania, Mr Rudd, according to this morning’s Australian, supports the existing Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement, announced in May 2005 by John Howard. Mr Rudd, writes Steve Lewis, has committed to consulting with unions, industry and the state Government on a "sustainable" forestry plan.
Which translated means that the Greens alone will be campaigning this year as the protector of old growth forests. That should enable them to maximise their own Senate vote and put them in the position where they can do a bit of trading if and when there is ever a Labor Government. So while Labor’s policy might change, the Latham proposal might end up being the political reality.

Political Delusions

Tuesday, 27th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Peter Debnam
The capacity for self delusion among politicians has no limits. That was shown by the reaction of NSW Liberal Leader Peter Debnam on Saturday night when his concession speech sounded like a man who had achieved a great victory.
What in fact happened was a Liberal Party disaster. A very modest increase in the Liberal vote was not enough to win even one seat from Labor. How Debnam can even contemplate continuing as Opposition Leader is beyond me.
Premier Morris Iemma, by contrast, on Saturday night was admirably restrained. He looks to me like a man who actually believes what he says about having heard the criticisms of a people disillusioned with the way they are governed. He will be a more formidable opponent in four years time and that's another reason why any decision to keep Debnam would be completely foolish.

The Three Way Split in NSW

Tuesday, 27th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
That Australia is moving away from a two party system was displayed in the weekend’s New South Wales election. There is clearly a third force to challenge Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition: the "Anybody but Labor and the Coalition" grouping is supported by almost a third of the electorate.
In polling for the lower house the third force received 23.9% of the votes and really showed its strength in the upper house election by reaching 32.7%. No wonder the operatives of the major parties spend so much time trying to make preference deals with the minnows. More than ever before it is the number two on the ballot paper that determines which of Labor or Coalition becomes the government.
These days Labor gets a big start in that department because of the emergence of the Greens as the biggest contributor to the third party vote. On Saturday the Greens gained 8.8% in the lower house (up half a percentage point on their 2003 showing) and 8.1% in the upper house which, despite being down half a point, was enough to increase their numbers in the 42 seat Legislative Council from three to four. The way things look at this stage of counting Labor will have 18 seats meaning that Green support will give the government of Morris Iemma an upper house majority.
If the Greens are winners the Democrats are losers. Despite the substantial overall support for third parties, the Democrats have crashed out of the NSW Parliament after gaining fewer votes than the Reverend Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats and the Shooters Party. This failure to win an upper house seat, following on a similar disappointing result last year in South Australia, does not augur well for the party still being in the Senate following this year’s Federal election. Senator Natasha Stott Despoja might not be a rat but she is clearly leaving a sinking party.
John Howard on Saturday night at least went to his Party’s party where the defeated Peter Debnam was pretending that the Liberal failure to win a seat from Labor was somehow still a victory. Whether the PM was right in his judgment that the state Liberal loss was all its own work and nothing to do with him will be tested soon enough. Labor certainly campaigned by linking Mr Debnam to the Federal industrial relations laws and clearly thinks the issue will be a federal winner later this year.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Better Future Plays the Better Now

Friday, 23rd March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
It is no accident that there is an unfunded liability for superannuation payments to be made in the future to public servants. The liability was accumulated as the result of deliberate decisions by past governments. Those decisions reflected two beliefs: that while future generations might be inheriting this government debt they also inherited assets paid for by the taxes of previous generations; ignoring future payments made life easier for a Treasurer.
Peter Costello was the Treasurer who decided to break the unfunded tradition and there was some sense to it. He, after all, presided over the sale of the assets that previous governments had notionally counted on as being the other side of the balance sheet. The so-called Future Fund, even though it contains only a small proportion of total asset sales by this Liberal-National Government, stops a fair dinkum unfunded superannuation liability eventuating or at least minimises it.
While it is now up and accumulating, the whole concept of the Future Fund has never really been explained to the Australian people. What is destined to be a major influence on the investment market would not even have entered the consciousness of most people. Nor would there be any wide spread appreciation of future superannuation obligations.
That the Labor Party thinks there is nothing sacred about the concept of the Commonwealth Government having an instrumentality which independently invests billions of dollars was shown yesterday when Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd unveiled his plan to divert some of the proceeds of future sales of Telstra shares away from the Fund and in to an investment in broad band internet infrastructure. Treasurer Costello, however, thinks he can convince voters that Labor’s is an absolutely outrageous proposal.
So at last we have another difference of opinion between the Coalition and Labor which conforms with the historical philosophical foundations of the parties. Labor believes government needs to intervene to ensure what is becoming a new basic utility is provided quickly. The Liberals believe the market will eventually provide what is necessary. (No doubt the Nationals are, as always, caught between their belief in privatising profits and socialising losses so I’ll leave them out of the argument.)
The big advantage Labor has in this argument is the support of the major media barons who all see the internet as their future profit maker. Mr Costello and Prime Minister John Howard have the difficult task of explaining to people how it is that re-investing some Telstra proceeds in infrastructure really does mean that the Labor bear has its paw in the honey pot. Human nature being what it is, the idea of receiving a benefit now will be more appealing than making things better for someone else in many year’s time.

Creeping Away with Privacy

Friday, 23rd March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
NSW Senator Kerry Nettle -"ASIS has been mired in controversy in the past about alleged spying on Australians. It now seems the government is formalising ASIS's ability to do so."
The Senate yesterday morning was considering what the Government describes as a little technical matter - the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Amendment Bill 2007 which, among other things, will allow the Australian Security and Intelligence Service (ASIS) to secretly access information held by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre. Which is another way of saying that the spooks whose job is meant to be spying for their country in other countries can have a little peak at the financial records here at home of any and all Australians.
Why ASIS needs the new power has not been explained during the debate and the Opposition is not objecting. Just mention the words national security these days and Labor runs away in fear of being wedged. Only the Greens, through NSW Senator Kerry Nettle, have had the temerity to question why this Bill has not even had a pro-forma investigation by a Senate committee. "ASIS is Australia's most secret spy agency like the CIA or MI6," says Senator Nettle. "Its job is to spy on overseas governments and organisations, not Australians. ASIS has been mired in controversy in the past about alleged spying on Australians. It now seems the government is formalising ASIS's ability to do so."
The government response that this is only a minor extension of the range of organisations able to access AUSTRAC data will surely serve as a warning to opponents of the Human Services Access Card which the government is introducing. The Access card is being sold as merely a replacement for a number of existing cards, including the Medicare card and various benefit cards issued by Centrelink and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The fear is that once an anti-privacy measure is in place there will be a series of minor but incremental uses for the card until Australia has crept to a de facto ID card.
With ASIS and the AUSTRAC creep the government line this morning was that the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was in place to prevent any misuse of information. Exactly how the Inspector-General with a staff of six would achieve this was, of course, kept secret.

Sacrificing Tasmania

Friday, 23rd March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
For the Bob Hawke of 1983, writing off Tasmania was easy enough because there was no state Labor Government to worry about, the prospects of picking up House of Representative seats was negligible and opposing the damming of the Franklin River was a wonderful way of gaining support from the environmentally concerned on the mainland. The strategy worked like a charm and throughout the 1980s Federal Labor courted votes by defending the trees of the island state. Difficulties only started arising when, from the mid 1990s, State Labor was safely back in office.
Mark Latham was a victim of the tension between the chop-the-trees down policies of a development minded State party and the protect-the-trees policy which best suited Federal vote getting. Latham dithered around for months and when he finally stuck with what was most likely to win the greatest number of votes outside Tasmania it was too late to gain any benefit from doing so. Now Kevin Rudd is faced with the same choices as his predecessor and it will be interesting to see if he has the nerve to tell a small time Labor Premier that he does not agree with the way he is approving the Gunns Limited pulp mill.
It would be in the best interests of Mr Rudd and his Federal election chances to do so and to do so quickly. Premier Paul Lennon is rapidly becoming an embarrassment in Hobart with his blustering defence of the decision by Gunns to withdraw from the process agreed to by both the state and federal governments to ensure that the planned mill on the Tamar meets environmental guidelines. Even Tasmanians who are in favour of development are becoming uneasy about a Government allowing itself to be blackmailed by a developer. There are certainly no votes in Tasmania for Mr Rudd being seen as an ally of Mr Lennon.
Yet there are still votes elsewhere in Australia by being on the side of the trees. Certainly the new Liberal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull appreciates that there are votes to be lost by being seen as anti-tree. He now has the unenviable task of having to be involved in the environmental assessments of the Gunns project.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Have the People Stopped Listening?

Thursday, 22nd March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
John Howard gave his underlings a history lesson yesterday – a run down in the party room on when Australian governments changed and why. From the defeat of Chifley Labor in 1949 through to his own magnificent victory over Paul Keating in 1996, via McMahon’s exit in 1972, Whitlam’s loss of 1975 and the Fraser departure of 1983, the PM drew two conclusions: the governments thrown out of power "were not seen as competent or people had stopped listening to them."
Now one part of this tale of the failure of governments, Mr Howard explained, did not apply to his team at the moment despite what the opinion polls might be showing. In the history according to Howard "this Government is seen as a competent government." Which leaves the unanswered question: have the people stopped listening?
Mr Howard must be hoping they haven’t but his whole thesis is open to questioning. Ben Chifley’s lot became unpopular with continued rationing and a policy of bank nationalisation but they were hardly incompetent. And was R.G.Menzies competent or not listened to in 1954 and 1961 when he was returned at elections with less than half the vote? How should we explain 1969, 1990 and 1998 when the party with a majority of the two party preferred vote also lost?
I can understand how Mr Howard would put the incompetent tag on the William McMahon defeat of 1972. The incompetence there was witnessed first hand by the young Sydney solicitor given his campaign experience travelling on the VIP aircraft of the only Prime Minister I have known who suffered from what Jim Killen used to say was von Munchausen ’s syndrome – he actually believing that something was true simply because he said it.
The Gough Whitlam government of 1975 also deserves the incompetent tag but it is a bit harsh on the Treasurer of 1983 to put Malcolm Fraser in the same category as the other two. Perhaps Big Mal just made the people deaf.
And as for Paul Keating, if incompetence or not listening are the real reasons for defeat, how did John Hewson manage to lose? By the time the Liberals under John Howard actually won, Labor was not nearly as bad a government as it had been three years before.
Perhaps another history summit is called for to discuss this important question.
From Glug

Handling the Poisoned Chips

Thursday, 22nd March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
The environmental bureaucrats in Canberra, and their minister, would have been very pleased with themselves back in 2004 when they concluded an agreement with the Tasmanian Government that would see a Tasmanian enquiry cover the Commonwealth requirements to ensure that a planned pulp mill in the Tamar Valley was environmentally sound.
Anything to do with trees and Tasmania is a political horror for federal politicians and fobbing things off to a Resource Planning and Development Commission headed by a respected retired judge was a wonderful way of side stepping problems until the Tasmanian Government decided to get rid of the Commission’s enquiry.
The problem is now right back in the lap of the new Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull and dealing with it will be a major test of his political skills as well as those of Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd. Both men will face the very same pressures that were on John Howard and Mark Latham at the last election in trying to develop policies the allow development in Tasmania without alienating the votes of environmentally concerned people in other parts of Australia.
Complicating things for Messrs Howard and Turnbull this time are the statutory requirements imposed by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Whatever the outcome of the public investigations the Act requires, it is hard to see how they can be completed within the time frame of the end of July set by Gunns Limited, the would-be developers of the Tamar pulp mill. If the chairman of the Tasmanian Commission which has been considering the issues for some time thought this deadline was impossible to meet, how will a Commonwealth body starting from scratch be able to do so? Mr Turnbull will need to find a plausible answer if his environmental credentials are not be destroyed before he can ever get around to solving the problems of the Murray Darling River system.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Commonwealth Government needs to be involved in the Tasmanian process given the extraordinary developments which have seen the Labor Premier Paul Lennon accused of "leaning on" the chairman of the pulp mill assessment process Mr Christopher Wright and when unsuccessful proceeding to introduce legislation to take the assessment out of his hands.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

What, Me Worry?

Tuesday, 20th March, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Alfred E. Neuman
John Howard has become the Alfred E. Neuman of Australian politics. He bounded down the steps of his VIP jet with a cheeky grin as if he did not have a care in the world. The old fellow even carried his own bag and kept the minders out of sight. The image was a Prime Minister capable of doing things on his own; a PM keen to get on with the job of running the country.
The fit and sprightly picture was not a new one. Every day we are reminded that age has not wearied him. Australians have got used to their track suited leader striding out every morning. But on this visit to the war zones of the world Mr Howard did give us a new look. A brown leather bomber jacket replaced the sports coat as he mingled with the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not exactly the style of a modern youth but at least an advance to a look of the 70s.
Off the plane and in to a television studio with Kerry O’Brien where the smiles continued as Mr Howard feigned a little anger with Santo Santoro and gave us a dash of self deprecating humour with a reference to needing him like a hold in the head. An entry in our cliché collection for sure but at least an appropriate one.
There was no sign of the twitching shoulder which marks John Howard under pressure. Try as he might, red (haired) Kerry could not ruffle his good natured composure. All in all a fine day’s performance.