Cate Blanchett, Michael Caton and the Vibe – The Say Yes Campaign

There are many in the community who have been frustrated with the lack of government explanation of policies such as the carbon tax – an inability to “sell” the ideas.  We have seen today just why that task is next to impossible with the way the News Limited media and now Channel 10 have targetted the union and Greenpeace backed “Say Yes” campaign.

It seems that any move to promote action on climate change inspires “community outrage” these days, if the Daily Telegraph can be believed.  However, the only “community” quoted as being “outraged” were a politician – Barnaby Joyce, who believes climate change isn’t happening and Family First, the virtually non-existent party, who apparently consists of battlers who won’t afford the carbon tax – even though a. we don’t know how much it will cost and b. Family First was largely bankrolled by members of megachurches, who can afford plenty of things, including large donations to their churches and Family First.

The article in the Tele contains all the old tricks of manipulation – giving her a catchy name – instead of Hanoi Jane we have Carbon Cate; targetting Blanchett’s income; calling her a “Hollywood” actress, calling it a “slick campaign” and stating that Blanchett “refused to answer” the phone calls from the Telegraph.  I would too – they would distort anything she’d say.  It is pretty ironic to point out the income of Blanchett when their owner is richer than Charles Foster Kane, they have celebrated Aussie Cate whenever her Hollywood success has been celebrated when Oscars are handed out, and the DT are pretty slick with their handouts, magazines, etc.

Notice, though, that they don’t target Michael Caton – simply referring to his role on Packed to the Rafters.  I’m surprised they didn’t target the fact he lives in the Eastern Suburbs.  Perhaps they realise that Caton is an Australian icon, untouchable after his role on The Castle.  That’s the interesting point about the ad, which is a simple, informative, ad that outlines the need for carbon pricing.  And it is Caton, not Blanchett, who is the star – and doing the most explanation.  Just giving us the vibe of carbon pricing.

It was said on Twitter by well known political historian and sage Malcolm Farnsworth that it is patronising of organisations who mount campaigns like these, using movie and TV stars to tell people what to do and think.  I do agree that it is and it should be unnecessary to undertake such actions, but that seems to be the nature of contemporary message delivery.  A known face, a person with high “Q” scores, such as Caton and, to a lesser extent, Blanchett, does have more “cut through” than an anonymous person.  It is a good advertisement as a start of the information delivery that is needed in relation to carbon pricing.

The aggressive, personal attacks from the Daily Telegraph is proof that News Limited and its fellow travellers (we can expect a similar approach from a Channel 10 part owned by Gina Rinehart and James Packer) do feel threatened by the impact of the ad, that it normalises climate change, rather than being the provence of scientists like Tim Flannery, who have been easier targets for the anti-CC media in the past, due to a general public suspicion of scientists and their jargon.  We really do seem to have the beginnings of a polarised media in the American style, with the Daily Telegraph becoming the New York Post and The Australian being the print version of Fox News.  However, I suspect Rinehart and her strategists will find it hard to tinker too much with Channel 10 – the core audience (18 – 29 year olds) would have no interest in the smug Play School warblings of Andrew Bolt.

All in all, we can see what would happen to a government advertisement.  News Limited papers and commercial TV (along with talkback – imagine that well known impoverished man of the people Alan Jones and Ray Hadley tomorrow!) would zero in on any part of it and blacken it.  Just as they have the facts of climate change – which has seen more and more people starting to doubt the facts. Encouraging people to doubt facts, the proud record of our commercial media outlets. No wonder the government really can’t figure a way to sell / promote / disseminate the need for a climate pricing mechanism.  They are defeated before they can start.

Clubs NSW – A Blight on our State

When I was growing up, my father decided to take the risky step of buying his own small business – hiring plants out to businesses wanting to introduce a bit of nature into their environments. It was a good business – he was earning a pay level in just two days of work each week what it took me 6 years of full time teaching to earn.

There was one blight on this business as far both of us was concerned – he had plants in a very large, very prosperous club in Sydney’s Hills District since the time he bought the business almost to the time he sold it. It was a tricky location for him, because the staff liked to move plants around when they were in the way – often into cupboards, cigarettes were stubbed into them by careless patrons – causing plants to die fairly regularly. Worse still, Dad would tell stories of people sitting there in the morning he went to the club, sitting there, mindlessly pumping money into the poker machines. Ironically, it was that money that was helping to fund my university education.

I was glad when they finally replaced Dad’s plants with artificial ones. So was Dad, ultimately.

The other early memory I have of poker machines was when Panthers was opened and we went in soon afterwards – after all, they sponsored the Penrith Eisteddfod, with which my family was involved, with free meals for officials and various prizes. When people asked mum about what it was like, she answered “Hell. Everywhere you go, you look down at these people in a pit, pulling their arms down and staring at a screen.” And it’s true – even today.

Poker Machines are one of the biggest blights on the state of NSW, not only for what they tell us about the priorities of the state, but also about the way we sugarcoat the nasty truth of their impact. It amazes my partner, who came from Victoria, to see not only so many pokies in pubs but to see them brazenly on show, as you can see from Hoxton Park Rd in Liverpool – the “outdoor pokies” of the Liverpool Catholic Club. In Victoria, the clubs with poker machines are dingy, small and generally uninviting, Not like ours, with the cheap food and cheap beer, fuelled by the income drained from people’s pockets.

The worst part for me about these pokie palaces is the way they have managed to insinuate themselves into their various communities, making them seem indispensable. They fund local sporting teams, schools and various other community organisations, making the clubs seem generous and friendly, when the fact remains that they are not. They must make a donation to the community and the reality is that the clubs would be nowhere without the massive pokie revenues gained from people from all walks of life, many of whom have mild to serious gambling addictions. Hence, their strident opposition to the idea of setting precommitment limits. in opposing this plan, these clubs are showing that they want local people to lose all sense of reality and plunge their money into machines that don’t pay back money.

It seems from the early days of this proposal that it is doomed to failure. NSW is the main reason why it will fail. Our State Government is addicted to pokie revenues – it is part of Bob Carr’s rotten legacy to this state that we saw a massive increase in poker machines under his watch, as well as Michael Egan’s glee in trying to take more and more money from them – rather than doing the socially responsible thing and cutting the number of machines. Barry O’Farrell, in tweeting on Friday the 27th about the Clubs NSW awards for best clubs, shows his support for the presence of these clubs and their cancer- like presence in our towns and cities. Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott would know all too well that country sporting teams and competitions would collapse if the poker machine revenues dropped – helping to cause a collapse in their support.

One of the most absurd line in all this is the one said “that it won’t work” to cut problem gambling. If this was the case, why are clubs spending so much money and lobbying energy on stopping it? They are because they know problem gamblers keep their revenues flowing – the small time, social gambler would be happy to set a limit and walk away – many currently do that anyway.

I am ashamed of the grip poker machines have on this state – revolted by the sound you hear at most pubs and clubs here. They remind me of a culture where people believe you deserve something for nothing – that gambling will deliver money you didn’t work for. If we are truly to be an enlightened, mature society, they should be gone completely. Or at least, controlled so that not many of us are lured in by their false promises.

Selling Economic Reform – The Vaudeville Continues

I was intrigued during yesterday about a couple of comments made on Twitter between Stephen Spencer of Channel 10 (though, he tweets independently of his employer) and self-styled Twitter Liberal spruiker Tommy Tudehope. Tudehope made the comment that “On current trajectory Swan won’t be Treasurer by the end of the year. Labor need a better salesman”.  Spencer replied “the attack today is going nowhere but yes, Labor’s inability to sell anything economic is killing them”.  That made me think – just what is there to “sell” in things economic and why do our treasurers need to be salesmen.

Keating famously put it as “throwing the switch to vaudeville” – selling complex policies to people becomes cheapening the message, dissolving it down to virtually meaningless sound bites.  Yet, Keating himself was unable to successfully “sell” some of the greatest post-war economic reforms undertaken in his time as treasurer and PM.  In the mid 90s, right until the mid 00s, his time was characterised as “17% Mortgage Rates” and “More Deficits than Surpluses” – when the truth is that we have been left with compulsory super, a floated dollar, well regulated banks and a whole range of goodies.

It’s Peter Costello that people apparently remember as a “great salesman” – Spencer again – “Costello was a fantastic salesman of the economy, just not of himself”.  This is not how I and many people remember Peter Costello.  He was the smug man, reminiscent of a used car salesman in a Toorak car yard who managed merely to convince people that deficits are bad and got a little creepy when he encouraged a baby boom.  Clearly, though, he managed to hoodwink at least some of the Canberra Press Gallery.  Hence, he is remembered as a great “salesman”, rather than as the frontman for several of the most irresponsible middle class giveaways in the modern era.  But he is not known for wide ranging, profound economic reform.

Truth be told,  instead of a good “salesman”, give us a competent treasurer who is able to reduce the growth in Government spending to 1% – unlike Costello, who managed to get to 3% – without leaving much evidence as to where that money went.  Or give us a treasurer not bound to having to “sell” the nitty gritty of economic reform to people who want simplistic reports – that is, a treasurer that won’t disappoint George Megalogenis. After all, it is Megalogenis who has the habit of being the one journalist at The Australian prepared to say something positive about the government, as well as criticism.  In other words, what journalists should be doing, rather than making flippant comments about how “badly” they sell complex ideas.

But on the issue of “selling”, I’m still not convinced that the government is being given the space and ability to sell anything difficult and complex to do.  They are being turned more and more into desperate auctioneers, attempting to shoe horn big ideas into something that could be said to Kochie over at brekkie central.

On this, let’s get back to something else that is significant from my Twitter observations. I was mildly surprised that Tudehope, in the same day, was celebrating an “interview” where “Ray Hadley serve[d] it up to Rob Oakeshott”. Tudehope, like anyone with a reasonable education, would perceive that Ray Hadley – the former auctioneer – doesn’t seem to conduct proper interviews with anyone with whom he disagrees.  Instead, he seems to shouts, cajoles and bullies them into rhetorical corners and doesn’t let them represent or “sell” their own side with any space or depth.  He then asks his listeners to rain down insults on the interviewee, unchecked, after they leave.  Hadley frequently indulges in what I consider to be cowardly behaviour – I remember vividly such mendacious treatment of Chris Bowen. It is Hadley too who frequently repeats the fallacy that the BER was a massive waste of money – without solid evidence beyond the odd school here and there and anecdotal evidence. It’s a sad turn of events when Liberal Party supporters happily adopt such people to their cause.  It also helps to explain why the government have trouble “selling” anything to anyone.

QandA is the Political Thunderdome – all it needs is Mel Gibson

I didn’t watch much of Q and A last night, simply because I could predict its contents. Sydney Writers Festival = Earnestness and outrageous comments from people whose lives are lived outside the pragmatic paradigms of our day. And the largely earnest baby boomer + “White” audience lap it up and as soon as they are done, are ready to part with the oodles of cash down at the Gleebooks stall. I’m quite sure Gleebooks would be insolvent these days if it wasn’t for the Writers’ Festival. I have been part of that scene, though one of my favourite memories was meeting Jodi Picoult, who is a totally charming, self effacing and lovely person.  And Bob Ellis, who isn’t.

But the bits I did see of Q and A confirmed the pattern the program has fallen into. It is now reminiscent of the Thunderdome, that awesome creation from Mad Max 3 – especially with the seats behind the panel.

In the centre is the white haired master of ceremonies, Tony “Tina Turner” Jones, making sure the crowds are entertained with intellectual fights, trolling, biting, snarling.  The producers help with a rolling schedule of such figures that are guaranteed to provide such provocation – Deveny, Devine, Albrechtsen, Pilger, Minchin, Joyce, Mirabella, et al.   The tweets add to the Thunderdome feel. It all adds very little to the “National Conversation” except repetition of the party line barking we already see played out on our narrow, provincial media playing field.

The addition of international guests either reveal just how narrow our media representation of issues has become; or reveal that other places have similarly polarised, stultified ideas about our world and how we are living in it. Or there’s writers, who live outside a place where decisions have to be made, compromises done.

These novelists live a world in which a lot of us – a majority of Q and A viewers especially – would like to live. Just reading the tweets shows us just how many active tweeters would like us to live in that utopia where we don’t have bogans demanding more tax cuts and less refugees and no commercial media that pins political parties to policies that has scant respect for “others”.  It’s a world where idealists like Malcolm Turnbull is the opposition leader and the ALP doesn’t have mealy mouthed machine men like Arbib and Shorten.  It’s a world where the Greens can get a level playing field and respect from a media organisation.

In other words, Q and A is just a show.  The Intellectual Thunderdome.  One which hasn’t had Angry Anderson or Mel Gibson, ironically enough.  Maybe the producers can use either of them next. Though, there is a case to be made that the Q and A warm-up man, Tommy Dean, is the equivalent of Anderson.

But go on – just watch this section and tell me that the similarities between Q and A and the Thunderdome aren’t uncanny.  Just think of the following video as Deveny v Devine or Pilger v Henderson.

Preston Radio Episode 2 – Haydn

Hello all,

Welcome to the sequel of my least popular blog post ever – Preston Radio.  My blog last week was so unpopular I even lost a follower on Twitter after she basically dismissed virtually the entire musical world of classical music as an ear bleeding waste of time, when compared to hip hop, et al – and took the time to tell me that.  So, back to the ear bleeding.

This week, it’s the music of Haydn that I am injecting into the recovery from another Manic Monday.  I really adore the music of many of the superstar composers, such as Beethoven, Mahler, Brahms, Rachmaninov and the like – but I keep returning to the music of Haydn because it appeals to my personality – part serious, part cheeky, part uproarious, part forlock tugging.

I’ll start with a work I had to learn for my 8th Grade AMEB exam – and still is one of my favourite pieces of music.  Here is the beautiful, moving 2nd Movement – the Adagio, followed by the very cheeky and jokey 3rd Movement.

The second is a classic case of shop floor union activism – the Farewell Symphony. Haydn wrote most of his music whilst being the inhouse composer for the Esterházy family and that family also had a court orchestra – pretty cool, really.  There was an occasion, however, when Haydn and his players had been stuck at the Summer Palace a bit too long, so Haydn wrote the last movement of his 45th Symphony as a subtle message – let the players go home.  So, in the symphony, he had the players leave the stage one by one until it was just two violinists at the end.   And it worked.   These days, if the musicians did something like that, you could just picture the anger of someone like Andrew Bolt.

And the final piece for today is another hot female musician playing an instrument we don’t normally associate with women – the trumpet.  For some reason, I always think of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and its members when I think trumpet.  But here is Tine Thing Helseth playing Haydn’s pretty famous trumpet concerto.

Thank you for listening to Preston Radio – though I suspect the numbers will dwindle every week, just like the players in the Farewell Symphony.

Malcolm Turnbull on the Bolt Report – A Speculation

THE BOLT REPORT 22nd May, 2011 – A Speculative Script

Bolt: Good morning,  Mr. Turnbull and welcome to the Bolt Report.

Turnbull:  You are most welcome, Andrew.

Bolt:  First of all to that wasteful money pit, the NBN.  Do you believe it demonstrates the utter incompetence of this government?

Turnbull:  Yes it does.

Bolt:  I have written frequently in my blog and editorials, as well as spoken on the radio about the dimensions of the absolute calamitous spending impact this project will have, as well as outlining the shortcomings of Stephen Conroy on this matter, but can you add to that picture?

Turnbull:  Yes, I can, Andrew – we believe that this aim of connectivity can be achieved at a much lower cost through private enterprise involvement as well as a fibre to the node approach to constructing the network.

Bolt:  And where have you seen this work?  I believe you saw examples overseas of this approach working.

Turnbull:  I recently went to Korea and saw it work there, as well as Singapore.  We do not need the government to be involved with digging ditches and this other physical work.

Bolt:  Work that can openly exploited by dodgy installers, like the failed pink batts and BER money pits.

Turnbull:  Not necessarily, but work that can be done in conjunction with existing cabling.

Bolt:  Owned by Telstra and Optus.

Turnbull:  Yes.

Bolt:  To other important matters, you have been quoted recently as supporting a market mechanism centred carbon price.  However, do you not accept that the science is flawed, corrupted and part of a wider plan to attack the profits of energy companies and our coal industry?

Turnbull:  No, I do not accept that, neither do a wide variety of peer reviewed scientists…

Bolt:  Reviewed by each other…

Turnbull:  Reviewed by respected, qualified climate scientists, Andrew.

Bolt:  Are you a climate scientist, Malcolm?

Turnbull:  No, I’m not.

Bolt:  Then how can we trust that these scientists have our economic wellbeing at heart?

Turnbull:  Scientists don’t have economic wellbeing at their heart, they are scientists.

Bolt:  So, you agree that these climate scientists are actually working against our economic wellbeing.

Turnbull:  That is not the point, Andrew.

Bolt:  It is the point, because there is no credible evidence left of climate change occurring, especially in the light of the IPCC fraud.

Turnbull:  One set of mistakes does not detract from the overall picture, the facts…

Bolt:  Facts discredited by eminent scientists like Dr. Ian Plimer

Turnbull:  Who is not a climate scientist

Bolt:  Like you.

Turnbull:  And like you.  Like most of us.  We can see from the evidence gathered that climate change is happening – and that conservative governments such as that in Britain have accepted this and are putting a price on carbon.

Bolt:  And conservative governments like that in Canada have seen the truth behind the lies and have turned their back on carbon taxes.

Turnbull:  Which is a pity, especially in a nation such as Canada, which faces an enormous environmental calamity if temperatures rise more.

Bolt:  But temperatures have dropped.  As I have shown the many graphs I present on my blog.

Turnbull:  I have seen those graphs, Andrew.

Bolt:  And can see you the logic behind them.

Turnbull:  Yes, I can Andrew.

Bolt:  And you can see yourself agreeing with those conclusions?

Turnbull:  I have seen the graphs, Andrew.  I see the logic behind them.

Bolt:  And yet you still support a price on carbon, even if it will have no impact on temperatures or the environment.

Turnbull:  I have seen your graphs, as I have seen the graphs and projections of peer review climate scientists, including those produced by our CSIRO.

Bolt:  Which is filled with warming alarmists who fudge figures.

Turnbull:  The world renowned and highly respected CSIRO – I believe we as Australians need to have pride and respect for our institutions such as the CSIRO.

Bolt:  Even if they are wrong?

Turnbull:  Every academic institution needs to be tested and shown to have a strong case behind their statements and conclusions.  The CSIRO has had a long history of having the principle of scrupulous attention to detail and producing solid, evidence based, logical conclusions.

Bolt:  But to use their work to wreck the economy?

Turnbull:  There is evidence that in Europe that a move to a carbon price has not had an overly negative impact on economies…

Bolt:  Greece?  Ireland?  Portugal?

Turnbull:  Those problems had nothing to do with moving to a carbon price.  Stronger economies are moving that way successfully, as will Britain’s.

Bolt:  But haven’t we moved more and more away from Britain and depend on China and the USA, who aren’t putting a price on carbon?

Turnbull:  That is true, but it is not my point on this matter.  We need to have a principled approach, in order to reduce carbon on such an important landmass like Australia.

Bolt:  And your point is to go against your leader on this issue – and then announce that you want to take his chair.  Won’t that completely destabilise your party?

Turnbull:  When I was replaced as leader, I made clear my continuing support for a market based mechanism for a price on carbon and stay with that – a policy, I might add, which was promulgated by John Howard.

Bolt:  Who was suckered in before these corrupt IPCC emails and the other discredited eivdence.

Turnbull:  Who saw the overwhelming evidence and could see the need for a movement towards the market, rather than spending billions of dollars on industry, as we can see with the direct action model.

Bolt:  I agree, direct action is also a poor idea, because climate change is not happening. But, let’s be honest, neither is your ascension back to the leadership.  Tony Abbott is doing very well.

Turnbull:  Yes he is and I am not signalling a push for the leadership in the short term.  I believe, however, that it is dishonest not to admit that you would like to be the leader of the party of which you are a proud member.  If that does not happen again, though, that is what I will accept – hoping, of course, to serve at least as a minister.  In my case, Minister for Communication and the Digital Economy.

Bolt:  Yes.  And not the environment and climate change.

Turnbull:  Yes, that would be Greg Hunt’s role in a new government.

Bolt:  Yes, indeed.  Thank you, Mr Turnbull.

Turnbull:  Thank you, Andrew.  Pleasure to be here.

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Is Twitter Blinding Political Junkies from the Bigger Game?

In the past week, I have been taking a step back from Twitter and its daily news cycle, with its constant churning of ideas, reactions, responses.  Or, as Lachlan Harris put it, the Opinion Cycle.  This hasn’t been a particularly conscious decision – it’s more a result of purchasing a house and a very busy time in my day to day work life.  What has occurred to me in that time is just how much I am not missing the washing machine that is Australian political reporting.

Instead, I have been listening to ABC Local Radio – Adam Spencer, Richard Glover, AM and every so often PM as well as having a flick through Daily Telegraphs bought by work colleagues.  What has struck me is just how small minded Australian politics really is. More concerning is the completely biased out and out blatant lies perpetrated on a daily basis, showing just how hard it is for the current government to communicate anything of substance.

It’s fascinating to see how The Daily Telegraph acts to cast every single action of the Government in a negative light.  This included the set top boxes for pensioners scheme, which would actually be of benefit for a significant percentage of its readership. Instead of reporting the news, it screams of imagined “rorts”.  In addition, when it mentioned these imagined rorts, has taken to always attaching the adjective “failed” to the insulation program and makes reference to the BER as a major cost blowout disaster.  These are just blatant lies, as the insulation scheme was not failed – it supplied insulation successfully to all but a few homes and the BER projects are being opened in public and independent schools in various electorates to much acclaim by a variety of local members.  And yet the impression that is continually made is of “failed” and “cost blowouts” – even though that judgement is not based on a reasonable level.

Then there is the carbon tax.  The Telegraph is joining its Canberra brother in the rubbishing of any moves towards a price on carbon and will not be changing this approach any time soon, I would imagine.  As we hear about the British Conservatives heading towards significant carbon emissions by 2027, it is depressing to see such a narrow minded campaign against our more modest proposals.

More seriously, this makes it very hard to discuss things like the carbon tax in workplaces, because there are significant numbers of professionals who gained their news from the Telegraph and shows like Sunrise.  They are dark about the carbon tax, buying the absurdity that we need an election about it.  It is nearly impossible to explain, for example, that John Howard wanted an ETS, that Kevin Rudd received a mandate for the ETS in 2007 – one that was not honoured by Tony Abbott.  They just respond “the Greens run the ALP, Carbon Tax will ruin the economy”.  They buy the lies.

On Twitter, there is the daily fights, disagreements and variations thereof between bloggers and News Limited journalists.  While these are fascinating to the tiny number of politically informed who populate the Twitter Opinion Cycle, they take those people’s eyes away from the bigger game.  That is, the near impossibility for this Government to gain fair and balanced coverage from the commercial media outlets.

I don’t know if the Government is necessarily as bad as delivering messages and explaining ideas as many are led to believe.  After all, listening to Chris Bowen, Greg Combet and others, they seem as good at delivering messages as any were from the Liberal Government before 2007. Indeed, Bowen is superior to Scott Morrison in the outlining of policies.  I am beginning to suspect, however, that they just don’t get a fair go and will never get that fair go.  The News Limited journos on Twitter aren’t the ones driving this, they are part of a greater machine that is delivering this drive of News to hand government back to the Liberal Party and the goal of “destroying” the Greens.

To argue on Twitter, the daily opinion cycle, I suspect, is a bit of a waste of time.  It certainly is having little to no impact on the world outside it.  The people out there have been whipped up into a false outrage by a media that sits back and enjoys its work.

Anyway, back to the busy stuff.