The Credlin Stick – Easy to Use

One of the objects in current society that is getting a lot of bad press is the selfie stick.  We’ve heard the comments:

“It’s a symbol of our vain society”

“It’s proof that narcissism is alive and well”

“Shows the power that the Self has over our ability to represent our place in the world”.

Etc. I’m fairly sure Foucault would have a view on the Selfie Stick – I know Walter Benjamin definitely would have.  But I won’t bore you with a discussion of either of them – you can read this precis on Benjamin if you want and draw your own conclusions, comparisons and the like.

But it’s easy to criticise the Selfie Stick because it’s an easy way to Judge the Young People – hating them and their idea that society have gone from wanting to take passive photos of things to wanting to include themselves in the picture of said thing.  The selfie stick allows a person to take a photo of themselves and the thing they are standing near. No longer do people need to ask for the help of a passing stranger to take photos.  In addition, the selfie stick allows for a much greater number of friends to be included in a shot – it allows for more inclusivity rather than necessarily more narcissism, such as with this picture from the Huffington Post.

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To judge the selfie stick harshly is so easy to do and involves not a lot of work.  It is with this same alacrity and ease that a range of people are using what I call the Credlin Stick.  This means that they are doing a hatchet job on Peta Credlin, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.  The great thing about Credlin is that a whole heap of people, from backbenchers, Government whips, thinkpiece writers, press gallery people and bloggers can take the Credlin Stick and use it to take a snapshot of themselves making Pronouncements about How Bad She Is, hence showing exactly How Intelligent and Insightful they are.  These are the essential arguments used by those using the Credlin Stick:

– She’s Too Powerful – as an unelected official, she needs to have Less Power

– She’s Too Inflexible – she’s a Micromanager, just like Rudd

– She a tough, powerful woman who is the Reason Abbott is doing so badly

– Backbenchers don’t like her

– The Government Whip has complained about the Abbott defence of her!

And then there’s much assertion that she’s a terrible, no good chief of staff who MUST GO. (which is relayed in this piece at length)

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This is as close to a selfie as I can get of Peta Credlin

With the Selfie Stick, I think it’s fine for people to use one if they want. They serve a purpose and really, who I am to judge others for wanting to take photos in the way they want to. But the use of the Credlin stick is narcissistic and pointless. I am tired of the multiple attempts to have her removed from the position as COS for Abbott.   That’s because of these reasons:

– It’s a frivolous distraction from the calamities that have befallen the Abbott Government.  In order to stop us from seeing the fault in the Government’s “stars”, these pieces want us to see the fault in Credlin.

– If the baying for blood that is currently occurring has its desired result, what exactly does it actually change? What evidence has anyone provided that Credlin isn’t capable of doing her job?  I am no great fan of the tactics that come from the Government, which could well be coming from Credlin and her team – the tactics were intellectually insulting before the election and continue to be. (I, unlike some, cannot pretend to know which tactics / plans / actions are actually hers). But say she does go, what would that actually achieve, other than provide breathing space for the Government and a sacrificial Peta?

– The criticism of Credlin has been, from my perspective, overwhelmingly sexist and often revolting – with not just the comments from a variety of sexist Twitter  mutterings about her dress sense and looks, even down to this sexist description of a supposed fight between Julie Bishop and Credlin:

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Fighting fish? Really?

These discussions have overwhelmed a reasonable question about Credlin through all of this – what is the extent of her power and what precisely has been mistakes from her office and what are mistakes from the Government. Were the mistakes a result of ministers going off-script?  That seems to be lost in all this focus on Credlin. She’s a staffer. A Malcolm Tucker of Canberra.  And really, people should stop trying to get a bit of clickbait fame by grabbing the Credlin Stick and shaking it all about.

Sharia Bushfire and Flood – Penrith Council Meeting No.2 about the Community Centre

Two weeks ago, Penrith Council approved the Development Application for a Community Centre for the Muhammadi Cultural Association. Councillor Marcus Cornish, however, called a rescission motion to reverse the decision and hence an extraordinary meeting had to be called for Monday, December 8.

Cornish has been on the media about this issue – such as on Sydney radio station 2UE – where he made suggestions like that Muslims are behind Ice dealing and pedophile rings.  Sensibly, the hosts squashed him pretty hard.

So we arrived again at a council meeting, which was covered in detail through my Storify here (Thanks to Anne O’Grady and James Ryan for helping with that). The same group of local racists (the type who like to say – “we’re not racists, but we hate Islam”) were there with their amateur signs painted on beer advertising.  I went inside the library with Greens councillor for Penrith, Michelle Tormey, who had just talked to the gathered locals against the “Mosque”, despite former local One Nation candidate, Rick Putra, saying to the gathered people “it was a waste of time” talking to her. One person suggested that he would “stab her in the stomach” and another “prayed that (Michelle’s) 5 year old daughter wouldn’t marry a Muslim and be forced to have a circumcision”.   It was little wonder Tormey wanted some respite in a library.

But eventually, we re-emerged, to see some bussed in racists from a newish outfit, The “Party for Freedom“.  Not sure this is quite the same kind of freedom being asked for by Tim Wilson and the Institute of Public Affairs.  This party’s signs had a swastika in the word “Islam”. Not racists, of course.  They also didn’t seem to like Antifa, the anti-fascist association who had turned up to support the community centre (who were excellent at keeping the racists at bay – and props to the likes of Andy Fleming, aka Slackbastard, for helping to rally support).

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There was also the addition this time of the extra angle of an Israeli flag (held by a bloke wearing an Australian Rugby League shirt).

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And also fascists from the Australian Defence League taking video footage of protestors from Antifa.

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The colour and movement outside was certainly entertaining in a strange kind of way – though this time, there were no fights, possibly helped by the presence of the NSW Police Anti-Riot squad.

Once inside, it was locals and supporters of the community centre that were neatly divided down the middle of the chamber, while the community outsiders – both Antifa and the various bussed in fascists from Australia First and the rest – chanted and argued outside.

Once inside, we were treated to a similar show to the one we saw two weeks ago.  There were locals of various sorts supporting Cornish’s motion.  The first, a baby boomer who used to live in Lidcombe making these claims:

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And another from a suburb some distance away from the proposed community centre who objected to being called a “bigot” after the last meeting, making comments such as these:

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Then the last speaker, a Mr. Manou, was a resident in the same street as the proposed centre – Clifford Rd, Kemps Creek, who was treading the line between concerned resident about traffic and racist. His line of attack was to quote an unnamed Liverpool Council worker who said the following:

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This was a line of attack that was picked up later in the meeting from opponents to the community centre, both from the council and the crowd.  This last speaker was good at whipping up cheers and howls from the gathered crowd – the first and last speakers were playing more to the crowd than speaking to the council.  The Mayor, Ross Fowler, had to ask these speakers to not speak to the crowd but to council a couple of times. As the speaker went on, he got a mite excited later on – which was captured by these tweets:

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To which the Mayor, Ross Fowler, responded,

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Then it was time for the three speakers against the rescission motion to speak. Father David Smith, the Parish Priest from the Dulwich Hill Anglican Church was first up. He spoke at length about the peaceful nature of the Muhammadi association and its members, speaking of long experience of working with people from many faiths. He also spoke about the way extremist groups like ISIS pose a threat to Shia groups like the Muhammadi, revealing a gap in the understanding of the people in Penrith who make crude comments about Muslims and terrorism.

Marcus Cornish seemed to be put out by seeing a Christian supporter of the centre, accusing him of being “naive” to the evils of Islam, to which Fr. Smith replied by citing his 25 year association with people of many faiths in Dulwich Hill, as well as going to Islamic countries and seeing the problems of Islamic extremism first hand.

The next speaker, professional planning expert, Ian Rufus, pretty much silenced the councillors because he reiterated the fact that council had put the DA through its paces and it all checked out. This didn’t stop one local resident saying “bullshit”, then “do your homework”.  Instant planning expertise with that one.

The last speaker was, as last time, Abbas Alvi, the main spokesperson for the association.  He countered many of the arguments from the opponents, even the ones that claimed that Muslims = Crime.

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But for all the talk of Alvi wanting to reach out to the community, as last time, this didn’t stop someone calling this question out from the crowd, to make public applause and acclaim:

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To which Mayor Fowler, in one of his highlights, responded with this:

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Despite the moronic and irrelevant nature of the question, that didn’t stop Cornish from being inspired by the comment and he asked the same question.  Completely irrelevant to a DA.  Alvi shouldn’t have had to answer, but he started in this way:

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Alvi then showed a desire to educate the baying crowd as to what Sharia Law actually was – he even asked “do you want to know what it means?” to which the mob answer was – “No”, then “give a yes or no answer”.

Fowler, however, was clearly sick of the direction in which this was headed and ruled that Cornish’s question was out of order and that Alvi didn’t need to answer it. This brought the loudest hollering from the crowd as well as an angry Cornish rising to his feet, hands on hips, staring at Fowler in the same pose as two weeks ago, Again, Fowler responded in kind, which had Cornish backing down again.

After this, there were questions from Cnr. Tormey to Alvi as to where the money was coming from for the centre, in order to demonstrate that the centre was being built for western Sydney residents, and not the “Muslims from Auburn and Lakemba”, which had been Cornish’s continuous claim.  The answer predictably attracted some comments from the opponents about Muslims and dirty money.

After Alvi returned to his seat, then the rescission motion was put – not by Cornish, but by Liberal Independent Councillor Mark Davies – the husband of Mulgoa MP, Tanya Davies.

This was, for me, one of the more troubling parts of the night, because Davies purports to be of the sensible middle ground, yet here he was, supporting the mad views and positions of Marcus Cornish. He cited nebulous concerns such as bushfires, while stating that he knew the areas well :

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And then this classic piece of veiled racism:

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So, people shouldn’t be free to build a community centre as it may change the “character of the area”, but people can be free to be bigots, presumably.

In citing his support for “community concerns”, Davies was deliberately playing the populist card rather than staring down the racists and accepting the fact that the DA was compliant. Rather, he was suggesting that this fact be placed to one side and that the “community concerns” of a loud, rabid minority be allowed to stop mature, considered community progress.   It was a pretty rank, craven act from someone who could see that there may be an electoral backlash to the Liberal Independent councillors who voted to support the centre.

Talking of rank, Councillor Kevin “Shitspert” Crameri also didn’t disappoint, citing (again) how his knowledge of sewerage was superior to anyone who either worked for council or went to university, and how his septic system is second to none. He also decided to branch out to the possibility of flooding.  The main surprise was that he didn’t cite bushfires too.

After we had speakers for the rescission motion, there were none against it. That was because most of the councillors were well bored with this issue and wanted to move on. So the actual vote was very quick. It went as follows:

Supporting the Motion (ie. Opposing the Community Centre)

Liberal Independent: Cornish, Mark Davies

Independents: Crameri, Girotto

Opposing the Motion (ie. Supporting the Community Centre)

Liberal Independents: Goldfinch (a change in vote from last time), Hitchen, Fowler, Bratusa

Labor: Car, McKeon, G Davies, Thain

Green: Tormey

Independent: Greenow

The evening’s proceedings have also been written up by the Penrith Press’ excellent Ian Paterson here.   In the end, it needs to be noted that Mayor Ross Fowler was excellent in guiding the meeting away from the kind of rabid crowd hollering being whipped up by Marcus Cornish and the speakers – based on the evidence of the evening, that kind of mature discussion might not have happened if Mark Davies was Mayor, as he was in 2012-13.  It was also good to see Cnr. Ben Goldfinch change his mind from the last meeting and vote to support the centre.

So, again, common sense, acceptance and maturity ruled the night and the community centre can finally have no barriers to its construction.  This would have enraged the Australia First fascists who had gathered outside by the time we emerged.   However, this pleased the type of people that the City of Penrith should be thinking about with such decisions – that is, the community and the children within that community who will be enjoying this centre into the future.  And it is a photo of said children taken by Cnr. Tormey that will end this report of what was a win for the good people of Penrith and a poke in the eye for ignorant mob rule, who seem to think some kind of Sharia Bushfire Flood is coming to make all white folks wear burqas and kill their children. Er, no.

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Back in the Gossip Game – Laurie Oakes and Backgrounding Against Hockey

During the Rudd / Gillard years, many members of the Canberra Press Gallery was fuelled by the endless backgrounders, hints, leaks and so forth that emanated from the ALP.  Gossip. The first year of Abbott hasn’t been as fertile for the press gallery. It appears that for the gossip columnists, though, Abbott’s government is finally producing the material. Today’s piece by Laurie Oakes is a classic example of a gossip column dressed up as political commentary. And we get the “woo hoo!” factor from the headline:

Liberal leaks hint at eroded trust

IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison had a big win late on Thursday night, gaining enough crossbench support to ensure the Senate passed changes to asylum seeker laws, including measures to bolster the Government’s power to turn back boats.

Before Oakes gets into gossip territory, however, he starts with the sporting commentary style so beloved of many.  “Big win”. This is a continuation of the idea that politics is somehow a sport with two sides. “Big win”, as if putting in draconian new laws that gives Scott Morrison unchecked power over the lives of asylum seekers is somehow akin to Cronulla winning a rugby league game (Morrison has had far many more such “wins” in that case). It’s not a win for asylum seekers, their families or those who think following UN resolutions and treating human beings with kindness, compassion and respect is something we should be doing. This method of sport reporting gives the whiff of a downside of being an embedded press gallery report – of being an insider with little care for the ramifications of the events being discussed. And it goes on…

He had been working flat-out for more than a week to get the numbers, at one stage even pursuing Clive Palmer to a function at the US embassy to continue the arm-twisting that eventually got Palmer United Party senators on side.

Wow, Scott Morrison twists arms! He negotiates! That is something to be celebrated, clearly.  As is this method of “negotiation”?

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But, as we can see from Oakes, he thinks this is all good, because…

That Senate success was a rare high point for the Abbott Government in what was a shambolic end to a shambolic parliamentary year.

“Success”!  Yay, ScoMo. While the rest of the Government is a shambles, ScoMo can use children in detention as a bargaining chip for a slew of a mind bogglingly inhuman changes to Immigration law and procedures.  It’s quite insensitive and superficial way to address such an issue – and frankly, no surprise. Neither is the rest, which is where we get into gossip column territory.

Yet just hours later, when yesterday’s edition of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph hit the streets with a front-page report on suggestions Joe Hockey could be dumped as Treasurer, some of his Liberal colleagues were pointing the finger at Morrison as a likely source.

“For God’s sake, Scott’s been virtually living with crossbenchers all week,” said a Morrison defender. “He had a merciless focus on getting this legislation through. When would he have had the time to dump on Joe?”

News Corp journo discussing impact of News Corp front page talking to unnamed sources. Gossip.  Finger pointing. Defending.

Other Liberals had different suspicions about the exclusive by journalist Simon Benson.

Benson is well connected and one of his most important connections is in the Prime Minister’s office. Because of that, according to a senior Liberal MP, “people will not assume it has been written lightly”. Another source says: “Directing attention at Joe could be an attempt to give some cover to the PM. He’s the one who’s been stuffing up lately.”

“Benson is well connected” is one of the more amusing lines in this piece – that could well be because Benson has been talking up the Liberal Party for as long as anyone can remember – he, along with Gemma Jones (remember her?) were their boosters in chief while they were in opposition. So it’s little wonder he’s “well connected”.   And so it goes, we have “sources say” (but not senior sources, where are the senior sources?) this and other “sources say” that.  Tony’s friends said that, Joe’s friends said something else.  I’m not sure whether at this stage I’m reading a political analysis or a teacher’s account of a dispute between two former friends.

No matter who spoke to Benson or what was their motivation, the importance of the incident lies in the disunity and paranoia it exposes and the lack of trust at the highest levels of the Government.

This from the journalist who confronted Julia Gillard during the 2010 election with leaks from cabinet meetings dropped to him to damage her election campaign – which they did. Journalists like Oakes knows exactly why these leaks happen and they are the bread and butter of his work and the work of others in the press gallery. They despair when they lack leaks.  When has there been a government that doesn’t have disunity and paranoia?  But now for more gossip…

There had been more evidence a day earlier when The Financial Review ran a story about a confrontation between Tony Abbott and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop. The paper claimed the minister had “gone bananas” at a meeting with Abbott over reports she was to be “chaperoned” at a climate change conference in Peru by Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

Bishop was offended, according to the paper, because it was said the Prime Minister’s Office wanted the more sceptical Robb keeping an eye on her to ensure she did not overcommit Australia on climate change policy.

Something is clearly amiss when details of a row between the PM and his deputy leader are leaked like this. Given that Bishop is popular among Coalition backbenchers and regarded as the Government’s best performer, it could only be damaging to Abbott.

So many questions to be asked after this. Why would the bananas story be damaging to Abbott?  Aren’t people allowed to be miffed at things? Did senior sources say that this was damaging?  And Bishop is popular? Why wouldn’t a Liberal minister be “popular”?  The superficiality of the pronouncements of this paragraph highlight the facile nature of such insider gossip stuff. All hints, all assertions and all in a tone of “I know all this because I’m an insider, so trust me, I know what I am talking about”.

But for many of us, it’s Who Cares.  But the Sydney branch of News Corp thinks that we should care – and wants to push the idea that Julie Bishop is worth liking and should be considered popular in this breathless puff piece that claims that Bishop “should double as Fashion Minister”. But back to Oakes…

Keep in mind that these days “the Prime Minister’s Office” is almost always code for Abbott’s protective and controlling chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

Credlin, like Hockey, is regarded by a growing number of Liberals as a problem that will have to be dealt with. Speculation about a possible Senate berth to get her out of her current role, though almost certainly groundless, indicates the concern.

Ah, Peta Credlin. The scapegoat for the calamities of the most awkward Prime Minister since Billy McMahon.  The Daily Tele and the like have been airing all sorts of stuff about Abbott’s Chief of Staff.  The various rabid Labor Twitter shouters have also targetted her with various hypocritical sexist comments about her clothing choices and the like.  The campaign against her has been whipped up so effectively that now the Tele has felt inclined to run a piece defending her. Such pieces are often seen as actually having the opposite effect and are the beginning of the end for people in politics.  But Credlin should not be the focus on any of this stuff.  A PM’s COS should be invisible, like Malcolm Tucker or Sir Humphrey Appleby.  That she isn’t speaks volumes for media outlets and a government not wanting to admit that they have a dud performer in the PM’s chair.  If Credlin left, nothing would improve. Indeed, there’s been precious little evidence provided in this commentary that Credlin isn’t actually very good and efficient at her job, no matter what people might think of the politics of the Liberal Government.  Oakes’ sources however, aren’t really targetting Credlin this time. It’s Hockey.

But Hockey is the subject of most of the talk. There is much to be said for getting rid of ministerial dead wood but, replacing the likes of Kevin Andrews and David Johnston may not be enough.

Hockey’s performance is undoubtedly central to the Government’s difficulties. A very prominent Liberal told me after the Coalition’s Victorian election loss: “A reshuffle won’t really change anything if it doesn’t change Joe.”

“Very prominent” is the new “senior source”?  And quoting someone who doesn’t like Hockey without knowing that person’s context and reasoning is pointless. The “very prominent” person may be someone who has never liked Hockey / is in a different faction / wants a better job. We don’t know because Oakes is just saying what he said.  And the words being said do do damage to Hockey, because it hints at a wider view of Hockey.  And that leads to an open discussion of gossip of what could happen in the future.

And changing Joe is probably too hard — not only because the most obvious replacement, Malcolm Turnbull, would immediately be portrayed as a leadership threat to Abbott.

To begin with, friends say, Hockey would not go quietly. It would be ugly. Also, giving a Treasurer the shove would be a big deal, effectively an admission that the Government’s economic policy has been on the wrong track from the start. On top of that, if Hockey has failed to produce the right Budget or to sell it properly, then the PM shares the blame.

Gossip, gossip, gossip. This is all very well for Twitter, this kind of talk, but it’s not analysis nor any kind of serious political coverage.  “Hockey would not go quietly”. Really? Thanks for that.

Abbott chaired the Expenditure Review Committee. Abbott’s office, under Credlin’s command and control structure, is at the heart of every decision. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer are joined at the hip. Or perhaps, the hip-pocket nerve. If Joe’s on the nose, the PM by definition is just as pongy.

Here, finally, we are getting some analysis and we have an admission that Abbott has issues – but inserted into this is another veiled dig at Credlin and her “command and control structure” – which has been the central charge from her detractors. “She’s too controlling!” If I was Abbott’s COS, I’d be controlling too, considering what happens when they say what they actually think. This David Pope cartoon sums up the Credlin situation perfectly.

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Oakes at this point does continue down a fruitful path, pointing towards the problems with Abbott:

And there is the added element that Hockey’s Budget proved toxic primarily because Abbott lacked the ticker to tell voters the truth before last year’s election. Abbott made promises he obviously knew could not be kept. Hapless Hockey can hardly be held responsible for his leader’s political cowardice.

This is less gossip and more political analysis.  And then we get this analysis, featuring a range of insider assertions:

Whether Hockey will stay as Treasurer is undoubtedly a matter of interest. The question asked much more often, though, is whether Abbott can survive as PM. He answered that himself on Thursday when he remarked that “governments that change their leaders haven’t done very well lately”. Julia Gillard’s unhappy prime ministership, plus the Coalition’s defeat in Victoria after replacing a premier midterm, provide Abbott with insurance.

This may well be true – and as an insider, Laurie would know such things for certain, we can glean.  To end with Abbott as being the core problem is fair enough.  But what is interesting is that along the way, we have seen Morrison, Bishop and Hockey mentioned. There’s a code here that I suspect is designed to spark discussion of leadership and the like amongst Liberal Government people, just as we saw with the ALP.   In terms of these press gallery gossip columnists causing a stir within a government, they are back in the game. And they are relishing the possibilities of that all over again.