All posts by Mark Buckley

I am a native of Melbourne, now based in regional Victoria. My interests include politics, history, ethics and literature.

Groundhog Day – The Usual Suspects.

Scott Morrison has had two jobs this year. One was to govern the country, the second was to win an election. He has managed one, out of two. Like all marketing guys he has a short memory, and he believes that the election victory has washed away all his government’s sins, and there is a new day. He is emboldened, and somehow believes that the personnel he took into the election will perform better this time around, like a mythical Scomo.2.

But as we look out into the future, it is possible to discern the return of a similar band of know-nothings, the same old rabble, with nothing new to offer. They are merely re-heating the nasty stew they served up before the election.

Consider the personnel, and the noises they are making. Like zombies they are doing what they do, singing from the same old song-book, and re-fighting the same old battles.

Already we have Matt from Queensland wanting new power stations powered by coal, even if the taxpayers have to subsidise them.

Hilariously we have Barnaby from Armidale, wanting to enshrine Israel Folau’s right to condemn his fellow citizens to hell, for behaving within the law. Barnaby so lacks self-awareness that he fails to notice that he is indeed one of those on a fast train to hell. I won’t speculate on how many of the sins on Folau’s list that Barnaby qualifies for, but I can personally claim five or so.

Then there is Angus from Goulburn. He thinks electric cars are very bad, because everyone will need to install 3 phase power in their houses to charge them, rather than going to the petrol station. He is the energy minister, by the way. And let’s not talk about water buybacks, because he had absolutely nothing to do with it, it was arm’s length, all the way.

Tony from Manly is no longer with us, but he could easily become an ambassador, I guess. Maybe we could send him to Moscow, where he could threaten Mr Putin with an onion.

You get the picture. These are the leaders of the country, and their mates, all getting ready to bore our socks off for another three years. Enjoy!

That Was Awkward – For Labor

So Labor lost. It was not a landslide, but it certainly ruined the party. Of course there were many reasons for the result, but they are only interesting after the central fact is acknowledged: The Conservative Party won, and Labor lost. So we need to celebrate the win for democracy, and respect the decision of our fellow citizens.

It is worth speculating on the reasons for the loss. There was an excellent article in The Conversation during the week, which explained that most people, if given a choice between a small ‘win’ in the near future, and a larger ‘win’ at a time in the distant future, will mainly choose the smaller benefit because it is nearer, and surer. This is short-sighted, but if our fellow citizens are prone to short-sightedness, then perhaps the Labor Party should consider behavioural economics next time it produces a range of policies.

Another reason was that people care about survival this winter more than they care about existential threats to our future twenty years out. This is why climate change is not yet ready to outweigh jobs and electricity prices, until climate change is so advanced that it is ‘in our faces and inescapable’. It actually replicates the theory of the economic behaviourists, cited above.

The third reason as to why Labour lost is that Scott Morrison, sneered at as a ‘marketing man’, did exactly that. He marketed his message, and he cut through. People heard him. It was simple, sloganised, often misleading, but when is marketing not? The old time lawyers called it “mere puffery”, but it works.

Please consider the final reason: Bill Shorten. I kept searching for the spark which had taken him so far in political life. He was leader of the opposition for six years, he was trained in the law, worked as a barrister, led unions and unionists, so he must have it, that ability to lead, to inspire, that indefinable aura known as charisma, or why would anyone follow him?

As I said, I searched for it. Every time he spoke I strained to hear a natural sentence, spoken with commitment, convincing me of why Labor should form the next government. I was driven to form strange theories, the most bizarre being that he had studied Josh Frydenburg’s almost hypnotic ability to stay on message, without inflection or reflection. But Josh manages to at least utter sentences where there is sometimes emphasis, or a change of tone.

Bill Shorten is the worst public speaker I have ever heard, or seen. My family has voted Labor since Federation, so I willed him to be interesting, every day. I cannot hold it against him, because you have it, or you don’t. Every time he spoke I imagined him, sitting in a back room, making deals, laughing and confident, the consummate networker. But this secret gift, if he possesses it, never won anyone an election.

He also has a habit of looking away when people approach him closely. He might be shy, or reserved, but he does not publicly engage with others. The recent death of Bob Hawke reminded us all of why human warmth is so valued. I have never met Bill Shorten, and he may be the most engaging of companions in private, but for the life of me I do not understand why Labor entrusted him with leadership, when he was so ill-equipped to connect with the Australian people.

Anthony Albanese has it. Perhaps he can re-invigorate us all, and stop that feeling of Nooooo, not again.

Who Do You Want To Wake Up With?

Changing governments changes the country. But it doesn’t necessarily change peoples’ lives, most of the time. This time it will.

Years ago we were all of the belief that Tony Abbott was unelectable. He was supposedly too crazy for the mainstream. He was too right-wing. He let us see what he really thought, and it was scary stuff! Knowing how he thought would be enough – we would recoil. Wrong! He unleashed the crazy people, and we have been stuck with them ever since.

Continue reading Who Do You Want To Wake Up With?

A Fair Go For Those Who Have A Go

For Scott Morrison to even utter these words is remarkable, because he has essentially cast aside the cloak of hypocrisy, and admitted that our home-grown brand of Conservatives are entirely without compassion, and that if you are a ‘loser’ in the game of life you deserve what you get, because the ‘fair go’ is reserved for those ‘having a go’.

This is a belief system called ‘prosperity theology’. If you have ever had the surreal experience of watching a televangelist performing, this will be a part of his spiel. Simply, it espouses the theory that wealth is a blessing from God, and that poverty, or a lack of wealth, well, that is a sign of God’s displeasure. Of course it is! Why else are the common people poor, if not for a lack of moral fibre?

So do not expect fairness, or compassion from our mis-named Liberals. They have long ago cast aside Robert Menzies’ care for the ‘forgotten people’. Here you see, in all its nakedness, contempt for those who are not necessarily winning, and perhaps never will. And for those among us who do care, and consider a safety net central to our idea of a society; we are on the wrong side of the divide.

Balance is over-rated

The Australian press and media is stricken with a terrible misunderstanding about its role, and responsibilities. It thinks that each and every view, no matter how stupid or misled, or just plain muddle-headed, needs to receive equal time.

This is wrong, because, in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, there are certain things, which are known, while some are unknown, and some are just unknowable. It is up to the media, as gatekeepers, to make a call, and ignore the unbearably silly offerings of the wrong ones.

Most of what passes for conservatism, and conservative thought in this country, is just wrong. The right wing of the Coalition seem to have trouble grasping certain facets of modern life which are ‘known knowns’.

Global warming is happening, because we all watch weather reports, and we know the difference between climate and weather. Similarly, there is no connection between paedophilia and homosexuality. There is no credible threat to religious freedom in Australia, because most people don’t care about religion. And if they did, I do not know anyone who wants to impose Christianity on Buddhists, or Islam on the St Brigid’s schoolkids. Letting a transgender kid use a particular toilet will not lead to indiscriminate gender-swapping at the next toilet break. And we must remember that marriage equality will not lead to a craze for bestiality.

The massacre at Port Arthur really happened, and so did the moon landing, and vaccines really are beneficial, for you and your children. Most of the politicians and community leaders who think otherwise should be shunned, not necessarily because their opinions are wrong, but because they have the resources to better educate themselves, and yet they wilfully continue to believe in some sort of primitive voodooism, where all change is evil.

So let’s stop letting them onto television and radio. So let us stop presenting the counter-view as if it carried equivalent weight. It does not. Let’s stop electing idiots to Parliament. It is embarrassing. At some point a discerning public has to draw a line in the sand, especially when the stupid and the misled continue to spout rubbish.

There is also a sub-group of canny contrarians who actually take the controversial, road – less -travelled, type of journey. They don’t believe their particular rubbish, but they have spotted a gap in the market, and capitalise on the media’s penchant for ‘balance’, in order to obtain a platform.

An even better argument for not giving too much credence to obviously wrong – headed tripe.

Ask Santo Santoro – he can arrange it

It is often great to catch up with folk we have forgotten about. One such individual is Santo Santoro, a man with an interesting background, and clearly a big future.

Like many of our candidates for the “He’ll Never be Prime Minister Award” Santoro was never elected to his position in the Senate. That is correct – he was appointed by the Queensland Government, to replace a retiring senator, without receiving a single vote to become a Senator.

To be entirely truthful he was not overly stellar in his performance, although he did accuse the ABC of being “disloyal” to Australian soldiers serving in Iraq, because the staff were advised to not refer to them as “our troops”. Presumably this was in response to many in the Australian electorate (with whom Senator Santoro had had limited prior contact, due to his not having been actually elected) who considered the war in Iraq to be wrong, and not “our war”.

Be that as it may, he then had a slight stumble over some shares, and was found to be in breach of the Senate’s rules concerning declaring his interests. He resigned from the Senate. Apart from the fact that he was confused about the difference between a charity and a political lobby group, he left with apparently no stain on his character, as he next became a Liberal Party Vice-President.

He then became a full-time lobbyist, or as he seems to suggest in his marketing materials, he provides “introductory services” to politicians. He has apparently got Peter Dutton on speed-dial, and he will arrange a meeting with the Minister, for a figure of $20,000. Does this make him a sort of ‘matchmaker’? For a fee?

This is a disgraceful situation for our democracy. The Minister asserts that he gained nothing from his meeting with Huang Xiangmo, a man who is barred from visiting Australia, because he is suspected of being a Chinese agent. And yet a Minister of the Crown is spoken of as someone who can be somehow wrangled into a meeting, just by the lobbyist picking up the phone. This lobbyist is obviously a man with considerable pull to achieve such a meeting.

If nothing else, Peter Dutton has brought the Ministry into disrepute, again. Remember when Andrew Burnes from Helloworld stated that Joe Hockey ‘owed’ him? This seems to be eerily similar, in that past or present Ministers of the current Liberal Government, appear powerless to resist the blandishments of those who call upon them for favours. No wonder even Malcolm Turnbull is appalled! Never a better time for a federal ICAC.

Politicians Behaving Badly

As if no-one has noticed, the good people of Australia are heading to an election soon. This has given both sides the chance to present themselves in the best light possible, should they wish to, but there has been much pompous posturing going on, and a couple of gratuitous phrases have recently slithered their way into various politicians’ vocabularies.

They are “I make no apology”, or “I do not resile from …”, phrases so obnoxious as to almost defy our notions of mercy and tolerance. They are said as if it is self-evident that their actions are brave and bold, and were taken, perhaps at a personal cost to the speaker, in the nation’s interest. They are always said because they are being questioned about matters of honesty, or probity, or in matters where the very appropriateness of the question is being doubted; surprisingly these phrases are never trotted out when they are proud of actually doing something for us, which is almost never, anyway.

When an outgoing government attempts to sign contracts for major infrastructure projects, just days or weeks prior to an election, we are asked to accept their unseemly haste as if it indicates busy – busy, whereas really they are attempting to push through dodgy deals while there is still time. This is like the ploy practised by real estate shills, where if you do not buy/sell within the next twenty four hours, your opportunity will be forever lost. But we all know where rushed decisions usually land us.

We need to not only have conventions in place. We need clear, transparent rules for these people, because we all know how useless self-regulation is! Crack the whip on these people. There is nothing more depressing than hearing of some form of outrageous behaviour, when we rub our hands together, expecting the miscreant to be shamed and humiliated, only to hear the line “Yes, I did it, but so did someone from the other side, and so if we all do it, it must be acceptable. The rules need to be changed.

This is the reason why politics, and politicians, are so disrespected. The practitioners are generally liars and cheats, and that is depressing and disappointing. And there seem to be no good guys in this scenario. They are all equally guilty. That’s why a friend of mine refuses to vote – he believes it just encourages them!

The View from Yesterday

Sometimes we come across a piece of writing which just ‘nails it’! Many readers may not have heard of H.L. Mencken before, but he is worth a read. Following is the strangely prescient quote: “As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Apply this, as you will, to America, or substitute a couple of the situational phrases, and can we, the voters of this great South land, hold our heads up high? We voted for them!

Three Rich White Guys From Sydney – 1. Tony Abbott

I contend that this country has been cheapened, degraded and trivialised by the three individuals who have occupied the Big Chair over the last 8 years.

But first of all we had Tony Abbott. That sentence is almost enough, because we all roll our eyes, and we have visions of the guy in his tiny bathing costumes, the rictus of his smile, him eating an onion like an apple. But these are relatively benign matters, of taste rather than substance.

His transgressions against the body politic are beyond mere actions which can be reversed one day – they are of the soul, of the health of our collective psyches, of our belief in decency and truth. They are the sickness of seeing someone who cannot possibly believe what he says, and yet he says it. Even if he is contradicting himself. Even if he is arguing that he never said it, when we have definitive proof.

“No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions,no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.” Jan 30, 2014.

That seems to be fairly clear. But his successor (Malcolm Turnbull) claimed that he did not say it, of if he did, he didn’t mean it. I am paraphrasing, but to quote Malcolm Turnbull is a tedious process, because after he has covered any and all possible contingencies in the statement, one is in danger of expiring due to old age, or boredom, or possibly both.

Tony Abbott led the least successful government since the 1960s, if we judge governments by their ONE JOB, passing legislation. He also forced his successor to take the issue of same sex marriage to an expensive plebiscite, thus again forcing the government to avoid their ONE AND ONLY JOB!

Tony Abbott’s failures are so numerous that we forget how terrible he was, and embarrassing. Remember his comment where he confused “suppositories” with “depository”; why did he make that mistake? He is a Rhodes Scholar, with degrees in Economics and Law, and a Master of Arts from Oxford. One can only ask who was on that selection panel.

And don’t forget Prince Philip as an Australian knight. As I said in an earlier post, Abbott is the gift who keeps on giving.

Fraser Anning – Aiming high

Former Senator Fraser Anning is famous, because 1.2 million Australians wanted him removed from Parliament, after a succession of ridiculous and dangerous statements. He also physically attacked a 19 year old boy, who had ‘egged’ him at a press conference.

This is quite an achievement, because a grand total of nineteen, yes, 19 people voted for him originally. So he is way better at getting people to detest him than he is at getting people to like him. You could call it a gift.

How did Anning become a senator?

He is the real Bradbury candidate, as he replaced Malcolm Roberts in the Senate, after he was tossed out for being a dual citizen. Remember Malcolm Roberts, and sigh. Fraser Anning makes Malcolm Roberts look like a Rhodes Scholar, and a renaissance man, in comparison.

Anyway, although he had been one of Pauline Hanson’s candidates in the election, he immediately resigned from her party as soon as he was installed in the Senate. He was ‘vouched for’ by Cory Bernardi and David Leyonhjelm. (Talk about buyer’s remorse). His next move was to join Bob Katter’s party, but even Bob seems to have seen enough, and he expelled Anning from his party two months later. Bob Katter expelled him for extreme views. Don’t laugh – this is serious.

At the time of Anning’s elevation to our House of Review he was also facing bankruptcy legal action from a bank. The action was subsequently withdrawn, opening the way for Fraser’s stellar parliamentary career. I do not know why the proceedings were withdrawn. (On March 16, 2019 he was declared bankrupt, so the bank must have re-commenced proceedings.)

So to recap, he has been voted for by nineteen people, he is then vouched for by Cory Bernardi and David Leyonhjelm, then he is expelled from Pauline Hanson’s party, and then from Bob Katter’s party, and then, to finish off a great year, he blames the victims of the Christchurch massacre for their own murders. He actually said that the murders were the result of “the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate”. He went on, “while Muslims may have been victims today, usually they are the perpetrators”.

These comments drew immediate international condemnation. At the next election in 2019, he was not re-elected.

In November 2020, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) brought legal action against Anning, seeking a penalty of up to $26,640 for allegedly failing to lodge required financial returns for the 2018-19 financial year. On 16 February 2021, the AEC dropped the case because they were unable to locate Mr Anning in Australia despite several attempts to contact him, with the AEC believing him to be overseas. (Wikipedia)

He is now believed to be living in the United States of America.

We need the major parties to reform the Senate. Immediately. And we need a system where we can respect our elected representatives. So that means actually passing legislation; you know, the one job they are elected for.

This post has been updated to reflect recent developments in Mr Anning’s life.