I’d back Bernie


There’s a lot to unpack with all the things going on around the world at the moment. COVID-19 is the headline act, and that’s a situation that’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better, even if there’re elements of the absurd in the case. Then there’s the significant drop in the oil price, and what potentially means across the world. Then there’s the good news story from the ‘G last night where over 86,000 attended the final of the Women’s World T20 comp – and saw Oz smash India. Finally, there are the Democratic primaries, which is what I want to touch on today.

Last time I wrote on this I was hoping for a Warren/Klobuchar one-two. I was distrustful of Buttigieg, sympathetic towards Sanders, and thought Joe Biden wasn’t up to it. Since then it’s come down to a two-horse race – Sanders versus Biden.

All but Warren of the failed candidates have come out in support of Biden, and on the back of that a lurching campaign got back on track, and he took the lead on Super Tuesday.

Joe is seen as the safe option, unlikely to spook the voters. He’s a nice seeming bloke who was Barack’s 2IC and has a moderate agenda – shifting the status quo, rather than drastically altering it.

I have general, and more specific reservations about him as the Democratic nominee. For a start, I think he’s past his best. Even in his prime, I don’t know if he was ever foreman material. Joe wouldn’t like me saying this, but I think he was born to be the amiable and reliable sidekick than leading man.

He’s not as sharp as he used to be and stumbles very obviously on occasion. You might think against an opponent like Trump – basically, an idiot – that something like that wouldn’t be so damaging. The problem is that Trump has the blithe confidence of the truly stupid, combined with an utter lack of moral rectitude. You can bet he’d launch some blistering attacks on Biden, and I don’t know that Joe has the tools anymore to retaliate.

So much of politics these days is perception. About 40% of the American people think Trump is a genius, and most of the rest think he’s a moron. Those opinions are pretty well set, now. In between perhaps, there’s about 15% who’ll make up their mind along the way. Right or wrong, many of them will be persuaded by the more forceful personality. It’s a ruthless game, but any sign of weakness or defensiveness or uncertainty will be punished at the ballot box. You have to be full-on to win.

No two ways Biden is the much better man than Trump and would be a better leader because of it, but he has to win the contest to get there. Trump is a pig; Biden is courtly. Trump will throw the kitchen sink, but I’m not sure Joe has the wherewithal to combat that. Once maybe, but I think there’s doubt in him now, and he hasn’t the same wit and agility he had when Obama named him as running mate. In the face of withering attacks on his competence by Trump, who we know has no shame, how will he react?

I’m looking in from the outside, desperately hoping that the Democrats put up someone who can knock Trump off. Push comes to shove, I’m not sure Joe Biden is up to it.

I’m not sure if he’s the candidate America needs, either. The country is damaged and hurting, the political system is near broken. I think it needs more than an amiable but doddery leader playing nice taking them forward. It needs healing. And the many broken parts of it broken need to be fixed.

Sanders is the outsider even within the Democratic party. He scares them. They think he’s too much of a wildcard. He’s too progressive, and they’re too careful trying not to scare the voters by keeping to the middle of the road, but it’s this kind of thinking that led to Trump being elected in the first place.

Voters flocked to Trump because he was different and because he wasn’t a part of the system. They were sick of being played for mugs by the political establishment trying to set an agenda without any regard for what the people want. The election of Trump was a vote of no confidence in the system. You might think 4 years of Trump would have cured voters of that, but support for him has been surprisingly resilient. Now the ‘system’ is trying to shoehorn in another candidate to battle Trump – someone moderate and inoffensive.

The big part of Sanders’ problem is that his policies are deemed too radical by American standards and, of course because he is constantly branded as Socialist (he’s not), in a country where socialism equates to communism (which it shouldn’t).

In many parts of the world, the seemingly radical policies of Sanders are the norm. I don’t think there’s a civilised nation that doesn’t have universal health care. Once, in Oz, we had free university tuition, but it’s free still in the Scandinavian countries. And his ideas around tax are human-centric, rather than big business focussed. That’s long overdue.

I actually think that Sanders might be what America needs – someone who changes the conversation utterly. I think it’s beyond the point of patching things up, it needs to be re-made. It needs a dynamic and egalitarian mindset, which I think is at the heart of social democracy (which is where Sanders really belongs). There’s a lot that ails America, and much of it that trails the world in policy and philosophy.

Can Sanders win the presidency? You can bet that Trump would come out against him and paint him as a communist. That’ll work with some, but mostly rusted on Trump supporters, I would think. What Sanders has is the passion and fire that Biden so clearly lacks. He is motivated by belief. I’ve no doubt that he has it in him to bite back at Trump much more vigorously than Biden.

I like Joe Biden, but in my view, I think just about any of the other candidates would be a better match-up against Trump than he is. I’d have backed Warren – clever, industrious, progressive, but in her absence, it should be Sanders.

Steam-rolled by history


History moves pretty fast these days. I reckon that’s been the case for much of the last 150 years, but never as quick as it is now. I don’t know if we yet realise it, but I think maybe we’re living through watershed days. Things may never be the same again.

A month into 2020 and it’s like the news has been on fast-forward. Here in Australia, that’s been very much the case. I’ve said my piece on the bushfire crisis, but beyond that, there’s been systemic corruption revealed, and now the coronavirus. The coronavirus is something the whole world has to deal with, and I suspect it’s worse than being reported. China’s a secretive society and had they been able to keep this on the lowdown then they would have. The scale of the infection meant that they couldn’t, leading to a ripple effect across the world.

I just making a joke the other day how handy it might have been to invest in shares of companies making protective face masks. It’s their golden era right now. Until recently you’d see the odd person in the street wearing a mask, generally Asian, but that was it. I never really thought about them much, but then the smoke from the bushfires began choking the cities and they seemed a good idea. Now, with the coronavirus, they may well become a necessary protective measure. You see a lot more people in masks these days.

In the last few days, the Australian government have announced plans to quarantine the country from the threat of infection. Without all the facts, it’s hard to know what to think of it. I think some of the measures announced are necessary but delivered in the typical hamfisted style. It’s good to evacuate Australians from the epicentre in Wuhan, but then to announce evacuees would be charged for the privilege (since rescinded), and that they would be deposited on Christmas Island is deplorable. Now they’re banning non-citizens and non-residents from flying into Australia from China. Maybe this is necessary, but I don’t know if they’ve thought it through adequately. Seems to be a lot of loopholes, and I’m not sure the thousands of Chinese students due to return for study have been taken into consideration. It’s true, I’m a sceptic when it comes to this government – seems everything they do is rushed in conception and then sloppily executed.

For all that, I’m wary of the coronavirus. It’s my guess that the number of infected (and dead) has been under-reported by the Chinese government, and the rate of infection, and death from infection, quite possibly downplayed. It’s a very 21st-century condition, like SARS and the bird flu, evolved from animals and originating in China. In a country so heavily populated these conditions are more likely to erupt and to spread much quicker. It highlights that we can’t take chances anymore because viruses continue to evolve, and in a country like China where co-mingling of livestock in markets with people is commonplace then this will continue to happen. It seems the Chinese authorities have now woken up to that.

As I write this, Brexit is now official. I was watching the news as thousands of motley types gathered at midnight in London like it was new years eve, waiting for the clock to tick over and to be free of the EU. You have to wonder what they really think will happen now. I’m less optimistic than them. I think it’s a ruinous thing they’ve done to themselves, but that’s democracy. I met a Pom over Christmas who was all in favour of it. He seemed intelligent enough, an engineer who was impatient for the people’s vote to be enacted. I didn’t bother to debate the merits of the case because I didn’t want to get caught up in an argument. It’s his country. This, though, is history being made.

Speaking of history, cross the Atlantic and you have well-warranted impeachment proceedings against Trump go nowhere because democracy has failed. Like it is everywhere, there are few politicians of any ilk who put the interests of the people, and abstractions like justice, before their narrow political interests. To put it bluntly, most are in it for themselves. Trump epitomises that, and that’s why he was impeached – and he survives because the American congress is like that to. It’s stacked with Republicans more concerned with their own political future than they are of what’s right and wrong. America’s gone to the dogs.

American’s have the chance later in the year to put that right in the federal election. It’s interesting to watch how the Democratic primaries will play out after months and months of campaigning and jostling for position. If I was to vote I’d probably cast it for Elizabeth Warren, with Amy Klobuchar second – two women. I certainly wouldn’t back Biden, who I think is a nice bloke, but archaic as well as being old, and not quite having the right stuff. Ditto Buttigieg, who irritates me more than I can explain. He feels a bit plastic to me. He mouths platitudes and voices well-rounded phrases, none of which amount to much. I suspect he’s an opportunist without any firm beliefs unwilling to commit himself until he knows which way the winds blowing. Then there’s Bernie.

According to a lot of the polls, Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner. I like him, but I feel as if I’ve gone off him a bit lately. Maybe it’s his supporters, some of whom are pretty feral and fanatical – a very bad look. And I think he took a bit of the gloss off going after some of the other candidates, especially Warren. I think it undermines his persona of integrity. I believe in a lot of what he believes in, but think he should have been the candidate last time around. I wonder if he’s too old now and if he might not be a little too radical an option.

Needless to say, any of them are better than Trump. History indeed!

The hollow man exposed


It’s raining today. It’s only light rain, but it’s been falling on and off for the last few hours. It’s been a dry year and rain is always welcome in Melbourne, but it’s really needed to the east of here, and in heavier doses.

After the horrors of yesterday, any weather relief is welcome for the firefighters. There are still many communities under threat, and loss of property is widespread. I heard it was raining in Canberra today (after their hottest day on record yesterday), and it seems the more moderate weather conditions will prevail over the fires in the east of the state, and over the border. It will come as some relief, but it’s a long way from what is needed.

It’s a strange time. There was heavy smoke from the fires on Thursday, and since to varying degrees. We’ve been subjected to the eerie lighting that often comes with bushfires, and fiery sunsets. There have been fires on the outskirts of Melbourne, but we’ve been largely untouched. Life might almost be normal except there’s not a soul here that isn’t caught up in the unfolding catastrophes.

I find it difficult. I watched the cricket yesterday, but I was continually checking the news on the fires, either on the ABC or twitter. I reckon I’d have done that every five minutes. The pleasure of the game was much diluted because of that. Regardless of what Morrison says, it’s times like these you get a true perspective.

It seems incomprehensible that I could be sitting there safe and sound while at every moment the fires consume the land and property. In Victoria alone, there’ve been a thousand firies fighting the blazes. There’ve given up their time, and many of them have lost their properties and there on day and night and I’m sitting there watching the cricket.

Every day I have tears in my eyes, and not just once but 10-12 times a day – with every news report I read or see, every development.

I’m inspired by the resilience of the people on the ground. It’s a terrible time but – with notable exceptions – this has brought out the best in our community. It breaks me up every time, and it has restored much of the faith I’ve bled in the last nine months. People are good when they’re allowed to be. They’re strong and generous and decent. It’s such a cliche, but it’s true – this is the best of us.

We’ve had thousands of people displaced by these fires, many of them stranded and requiring rescue. No complaints anywhere. Everyone looking out for each other. It’s a terrible experience but there’s no time for self-pity. We’re all in it together.

The community response, in general, has been incredible and heartwarming. Stories of Sikh and Muslim communities travelling to affected areas to cook and provide food for firies and refugees. Homes being thrown open to take in those who have lost their own home. Shops giving away food and supplies to those who need it. And hundreds – if not thousands – who have donated food and supplies to the effort. To top it all off has been the donations made to the relief effort not just here in Oz, but across the world.

Then there are the firefighters. Most of them are volunteers. Many of them have been fighting fires for months now. These are people you work with and see in the street. They’re normal folk with a strong sense of duty. They fight on, getting little rest, facing horrendous conditions against an implacable foe. Their lives are at threat. As I said, there’s many who have lost their own homes in the fight. And yet they go on. I’m humbled by them.

I don’t know if they’re fighting a losing battle, but they won’t give in. These are terrible fires though, and that adds to the drama and the emotion of it. We’ve had terrible fires before, but generally they’ve been contained and extinguished within a few days. Even Black Saturday, when 173 people died, all the damage was within a devastating period of time. These fires haven’t stopped though, and listening to one of the CFA commanders yesterday he reckons we’ve got another eight weeks of this. Remember – we’ve yet to hit the peak of summer.

It almost feels as if we’re doing battle with a malevolent spirit. It feels – to me at least – like a battle between virtue and cruel indifference.

For all the good, there is also a woeful tale to tell – the Australian government.

I’ve complained about them before today. I’ve been complaining about them for years really, and much of their response hasn’t surprised me all that much. It’s a terrible government led by a shallow and opportunistic mediocrity. There’s more, though, and the latest even surprised me.

At long last yesterday, the government announced that the ADF would be drafted in to take an active role in the fight and that firefighting aircraft would be brought in from abroad (finally). It was very late – a month ago, and much of the damage inflicted might have been prevented – but at least it was happening. Morrison attempted to portray himself as the man in control, and in doing so had no shame in throwing the NSW government under the bus by suggesting they hadn’t sought the assistance he was providing. I’m not a fan of Gladys, but unlike Smoko at least she’s turned up every day and tirelessly did all she could in the effort – but she was expendable.

Then it became very clear that the government’s motivation wasn’t the welfare of the people or even doing the right thing. No, this was all about damage repair and saving some political skin, and maybe even gaining some advantage out of a horrendous situation.

Within minutes of the announcement, they’d released an ad onto social media extolling their efforts, as if it was they who had taken control of the situation. To compound it the music chosen for the ad was upbeat and cheery at a time when large swathes of the country were on fire, people were homeless, and some perished. But wait, this wasn’t an announcement but a paid political ad for the Liberal party complete – I kid you not – with a link to donate money to the party.

It was obscene, and goes to show how absolutely out of touch the PMO is with the sentiment of the nation – and how morally bankrupt Morrison is. I’ve always believed that his first priority as PM was to seek political advantage, and everything, including the Australian people, came second to that (at best). This stripped it bare, though. This, transparently, was all about him. He’d recognised he was in deep shit and tried to extricate himself in the most clumsy and tone-deaf fashion imaginable. Not surprisingly, the world came down on him, including vicious words from measured and moderate commentators. I can’t bear the sight of him. As a human being, he’s a disgrace. As prime minister, he’s a coward and a traitor.

I think my views are shared by many. In the last 24 hours more bitter and violent reactions to Morrison have made it to air. I find this unusual. TV news is generally conservative in this regard, but I guess they’re read the tea leaves and assessed the mood of the nation, even if the PMO hasn’t. To make it worse, it’s the firies now spouting vitriol, calling him fucking useless, and worse, and another – a seemingly mild-mannered middle-aged woman in the RFS – urging him to stand out. This was his fault. That’s what half the country thinks.

I don’t think he can recover from this. His only chance would be a mea culpa, pleading some forgiveness. That’s not in his nature though, and with so much of the country afire I don’t the nation is in a forgiving mood. (Don’t rule out a spread in a Woman’s magazine in the next few months looking to humanise him and explain his inner/secret torment/pain).

The Australian public have finally seen Morrison for what he is – a weak, ineffectual human being without scruple or humility. Basically, a scumbag.

In the meantime, the fires continue.

Brimstone


There’ve been continuous bushfires in NSW since October. A vast swathe of land has been consumed by it. Over 600 homes have been destroyed so far, and three people dead, as well as countless numbers of wildlife. And, in Sydney, a pall of orange smoke hangs over the city. Ashes wash up on shore and birds are dying. The air quality is at levels seen in Delhi and Beijing, and people are struggling to breathe. There are no signs of the fires abating despite the heroic efforts of the fire crews, and it may get worse as the weather gets warmer and the winds blow – a day forecast for today.

This is a national emergency, but there’s hardly a peep out of the federal government about it. They do a bit of glad-handing, but fuck all of practical value. The army hasn’t been called in. The poor sods cast out of their home have been promised nothing. The fire services – mostly volunteer – go unsupported, to the point that they must crowd fund supplies to sustain the effort.

Why this isn’t front-page news is both astounding and appalling. I can understand the government seeking to downplay it. They fear any formal comment will be taken as a tacit admission that climate change is a cause of these fires. By downplaying it, they hope it will go away as an issue. It’s right out of Morrison’s playbook. Unfortunately, much of the media is compliant with these shenanigans, though I sense some outlets are becoming restless.

The other issue they wish to play down is the NSW government’s complicity in the bushfires. In a time where Berejiklian is tearing down stadiums and building new ones she’s also defunded the RFS, and budget cuts have led to a fall in the number of park rangers employed. This in an age of extreme weather events and unprecedented drought, though they’re not the sole cause of these firestorms.

Volunteer fire services around the country are true Aussie heroes, cliché that that is. Volunteers from interstate have flown or driven in to assist their NSW counterparts. Firies from overseas have flown in to help out, returning the favour from when our firies have helped out there. This is a selfless effort by a community of people who care enough to battle blaze and exhaustion, putting their lives on the line.

Our leaders, in the meantime, fail to provide the funding or the tools to do their work properly and jump on their jet to fly from Canberra to Sydney (cost: $80,000) to attend plush Christmas parties held by the Murdoch’s. This is while firefighters work day and night, and can’t even get a decent feed out of the government. The priorities are despicable, as are so many of these people.

We live in ruinous times. It’s heartbreaking. This isn’t just a national emergency; it’s a disaster – and summer has only just begun.

Thoughts from the outside


I wrote this during the week to a Labor shadow minister. It’s been on my mind for a while, and I just had to say it. I got a polite response to it, but expect that’s where it will stop.

Anyway, here it is, just for the record:

Hello xxx,

As it was for many, as I’m sure it was for you, the election defeat in May came as a devastating blow to me. An optimist by nature, I became bitter and angry afterwards. For a while I gave up hope and vowed to care no more. I cursed the voters I felt had sold us down the river for the illusory promise of trinkets. I was an angry man.

I am an optimist though, and it’s not easy to stop caring, let alone look away. The point is, I understand the angst and soul-searching after the election result, and discussion about where Labor is at and where it should position itself is natural. I’ve heard your comments on this subject, which is why I’m addressing this to you. I can’t give up hope, and as a proud Australian I feel compelled to share my perspective with you.

I’m a discerning, independent voter. My allegiances don’t hold with any particular party, though my inclinations – liberal and progressive – tend me towards the left. Back in the day, I was a devotee of Paul Keating, which probably brands me as a type. I believed in many of the things he espoused quite naturally – an open-minded, more adventurous society, progressive and confident. At the same time, he delivered economic reform that set us up for the future. He had what few do these days – a view of the big picture and a vision of how things could be better.

The reality is that I don’t remember the last time I didn’t vote for Labor, though sometimes for want of a better option.

It may surprise you to hear that when I cast my vote back in May, I did so feeling more hopeful than I had for many years. Indeed, while the prospect of ridding ourselves of the diabolical Liberal governments we’ve suffered was very alluring, I was also very definitely voting for something, and for the first time in ages.

I consider myself a well informed person. I’m a committed Australian, and I believe there is something better in us if only we can tap it. By nature, I’ll read deeply and seek different points of view. I’ll come to my opinions independently. And independently, I came to the realisation that the policies Labor took into the election were sensible at the very least, and potentially nation-changing. Dare I say it, Keating-esque in ways.

In the wash-up of the election, it appears that Labor is suffering an identity crisis, and the defeat is blamed in large part upon those very same policies. In retrospect, they’re considered too bold. I disagree.

Not every voter is going to be as discerning as I am, and that’s a fact of life. Unfortunately, much of the electorate is swayed by base considerations and broad stroke commentary and advertising, but that’s what you have to deal with.

Looking from my perspective as a voter, the election was lost for several reasons:

  • Policies were so poorly communicated that most didn’t understand (e.g. the implications of franking credits), let alone did they take root in the public mind. These were worthy policies, but they needed to be sold better. The electorate needs to understand what it means for them. These were good stories, but outside Kristina Keneally, no-one seemed able to tell the story.
  • The flood of negative advertising in the last fortnight, particularly from the Palmer camp. This might have been nullified if the fear-mongering had been met with more precise communication.
  • I’m not a fan of negative advertising, but for the life of me I cannot understand why when the Libs continually brand themselves the better economic managers that it isn’t countered with facts – like how the Liberal government has actually doubled the deficit (contrary to the vibe they give), or how they’re bigger taxers than Labor (again, contrary to the vibe).
  • And, sad but true, the Australian public never warmed to Bill Shorten.

They say we get the politicians we deserve, and perhaps that’s true. I’ve been around for a while and never has our polity become so dispiriting. I’m typical of most Australians, disenchanted with the politicking and self-serving nature of the government and opposition, and sceptical it might ever improve. Politics in Australia and much of the world have trust and credibility issues.

I can’t do much about the government but hope they get voted out. Very clearly they govern on principles of self-interest and political advantage rather than – as once it was – for the good of the country. They’re a terrible government full of terrible people, prepared to sacrifice the future for their political advantage now. I’m old school perhaps, but they appear without either ethics or honour and beyond redemption.

I’m writing to you now because the Labor party has the opportunity to differentiate themselves from what we have now, if only to define yourselves as the party that represents the best interests of the nation.

It confounds me why Labor should seek to become more centrist when the centre has moved so far to the right. It smacks of populist pragmatism when most of us would be thrilled to have an alternative based on core-values and integrity. There’s more talent in your party than there is the Libs, what’s lacking is belief. That can only come from the inside, not from opinion polls and focus groups.

What I’m saying is to stay true to your principles, and that means being consistent. If the policies you took to the election were good, then stay with them. You won’t be rewarded by ditching them now because the electorate will see that as inconstant, and as if you never really believed in them – or anything.

Stand for something. Be something. Stay true, and the trust that has been eroded from Australian politics might start returning to the party that believes in something. These are momentous times that call for brave and committed leadership. Stand for that.

By now you’ve probably got me pegged as a pure idealist, great in theory, no good in practice. I’d counter with the assertion that no party has practised this in years. And that the Australian electorate has become so cynical in recent times that they may actually respond to something authentic. That’s the pub test really – are you fair dinkum?

(To that end one of your best assets is Albo, but only as the irascible, earthy Albo, and not Albo lite doing the numbers in his head.)

Of course, I don’t believe this email will make any difference – but it’s the spirit that urges me to write it that is the spirit you should be engaging with. Let’s all be better together.

On a final note, I’ve despised the Greens for many years, ever since the ETS. The way it stands, I may vote for them next time, especially if Labor becomes Lib-lite, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one. It needn’t come to that, especially since I reckon this government will be exposed soon for the mediocre and corrupt rabble they are.

Never before have the stakes been so high. It’s no time to play it safe. Be brave. Stand for something other than mediocrity and compromise. The people want something better. We want to believe in something, too. We’re aching for it.

Regards,

H

Time to endure


In Sandringham, on Saturday I walked past a bottleshop with a chalked sign outside proclaiming that if the LNP won the election the full purchase price of anything bought today would be refunded. At first, I took it as a rusted on Lib supporter, but as I reflected further I figured it was just a commercially savvy owner trying to spur sales. That’s how confident he was the Libs would be out of government. Well, he was wrong, as was just about everyone else, including me.

It was a horror show watching the count unfold. Right from the start the pundits were bewildered. For years Labor had been in front in the polls. Leading into election day they were ahead 51-49, and even the exit polls conducted on the day were showing a 52-48 advantage. But as the numbers came through they were different from that.

There’s going to be a lot written about this, and already has been. In the wash-up Queensland pretty well cost Labor the election – it was a disaster. Not only did they fail to pick up seats there, but they also lost seats they’d held. A couple more seats lost in Tassie were unexpected, and while Victoria swung to the ALP it was smaller than expected and didn’t have the cut through it might have.

Right now the coalition is poised to just get a majority, maybe. As a passionate advocate for change, this has been a killer for me, the only positive being that finally Tony Abbott is out of the parliament.

It’s hard to explain how devastating this was for me on Saturday night. It was like having served a prison sentence on the day I was finally to be released they said, no, sorry, you’ve got to serve another three years. I had serious concerns about my mental health. I didn’t want to get out of bed yesterday. I didn’t want to come to work today. I didn’t want to face the world.

I was disappointed in the result, naturally, but it went beyond that. I’d proclaimed this the most important election for many years because it was a contest between ideas and no ideas – and no ideas won. In itself that was depressing, but the message from that was clear – if you want to win an election its best to present a small target and go negative, as the LNP did. They gt elected on a platform of no policies and lies. It worked, and it shouldn’t, and the probability is that it will condemn us to mean spirited election campaigns for years to come.

On top of that, it hit me thinking about all the good things that won’t happen now. All the good policies that were killed off. I’d have thought climate policy would have been enough to swing the election, but inexplicably wasn’t. We won’t get the federal ICAC now either, not with any teeth.

Finally, and most devastatingly, I felt betrayed by the Australian people. For years I’ve thought and believed the best of them. When they’ve been called racist or disinterested I’ve said no, that’s just a few bad apples spoiling it for the rest of us. This election was lost because of self-interest and ignorance. People were either selfish or uninterested or ignorant. This was like a gut punch to me. I wanted to think Australians’ were better than that, but I was wrong. I don’t know if I will ever really recover from that. I know that half of Australia basically voted for the ALP, and most people I know, but I can’t get over this sense of vast disappointment. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed.

Gradually you adjust. In the short term, I’m avoiding politics. I can’t face that smug, shit-eating grin of the buffoon we’ve got for PM. I need to look after myself for a while. Then I have to choose but expect despite the shame I’ll end up doubling down. I can’t give up the fight.

In the meantime, Labor must pick itself up and learn from its mistakes. Shorten has announced he will step down and the leadership seems a choice between Albanese and Plibersek. I think Albo should have been made leader when Shorten was. Had he I expect we’d have a Labor government today (antipathy towards Shorten a big factor in the election). I like Albo, he’s passionate and authentic and smart. But I think his moment has passed. Plibersek is smart and tough, I’d be voting for her. If Wong was in the house of reps I think she would be the best choice, but that’s not an option. A smoky for the future is Jim Chalmers. Maybe it’s time to give him a run – perhaps as deputy.

The other lessons come from the election campaign. I hope Labor aren’t scared off and will stick by their guns. Be bold. Don’t go down the narrow road the Libs have taken. Just do it better.

Better means properly articulating policies better, as Keating and Hawke once did. Bring the electorate with you. Take them on the journey.

The one policy that killed Labor was the franking credits, which the Coalition called a retirement tax. Many people voted against a policy that would have no impact whatsoever on them. They were scared into making a rash decision. Explain it better – it affects only a minority, and then those who are independently wealthy. Sell the benefits – we get $6 billion back into the coffers for schools and roads and hospitals and – hey! – guess what, it’ll pay for your dental care as a senior. But nope.

The other thing that’s riled me is the refusal by Labor to defend themselves against the lies of the Coalition. This has been going on for years, the most egregious being that Labor are bad economic managers which is repeated every campaign. This is a myth that needs to be killed off for the good of the party going forward. The evidence is that Labor are better economic managers, and you only have to point to Hawke/Keating to see excellent economic management. More relevantly perhaps, all the ALP had to do when the Coalition pointed to the deficit Labor created (on the back of the economic stimulus during the GFC) was that since coming into government that the Coalition has doubled it. Go hard, don’t stand for it.

Now I’ll go quiet for a while and lick my wounds.

A beautiful day for an election


It’s a beautiful day to change the government.

It was bloody cold first thing this morning, as it has been for the last couple of weeks, but the sky was clear and blue and the sun bright and quickly it warmed up.

I had an early appointment to get my hair cut in Sandringham. I chatted with the hairdresser as he snipped away. I’ve been going to the same place for 5-6 years now and we know each other well, but today I discovered he was a Liberal voter. Like many, he confessed he didn’t follow politics and didn’t know much about it, but as “a small business owner” he always voted Liberal.

I drove back to Hampton after and, parking the car, walked up the road to the nearest primary school. Even from a distance, I could smell the democracy sausages being cooked with onions on the side. I was there for that, and no other reason. I waved my hand at the how to vote cards presented to me as I walked the gauntlet. At the sausage stall, I was exuberantly told there was a plethora of choice, I could have anything I wanted for $3. “Democracy in action,” I responded, similarly exuberant.

It’s been a wearying and occasionally dispiriting election campaign, but there’s something about how elections days are done in Australia that is splendid. It’s a tiresome act in many ways, but the democracy sausage has become iconic. Add in the stalls manned by volunteers selling cakes and the like for the local school fund, the banter along the way, and there’s a light-hearted, almost celebratory fizz to the day.

I had an invite out tonight, but tonight is one night I never go out. Any time there’s an election I’m there in front of my TV watching every development. I’m all in. This time around that’s especially true. This is a watershed election. This is the chance to remake Australia – or slide back into the mire. I’m confident we’ll see a change of government.

There’s always the footy on the other channel, just in case.