Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mining Tax Kerfuffle

This week we have seen strong, even vehement, reactions to the Government’s proposed ‘Super Profits Tax’ on mining companies.

You can always tell the level of desperation by the intensity of the marketing campaign. The stronger the campaign, the more likely there is to be misinformation, “statistics”, and outright lying. Political parties will attempt to score cheap political points.

The Mining Council of Australia is running ads. They are marketing – you should therefore be sceptical of any claims. Indeed, they have largely been debunked by respected economics and business journalists Ross Gittins and Ian Verrender. See the following:

Meanwhile the Liberal Party has brought forward its marketing campaign. You will remember the ads – they are certainly annoying  - but they don’t ague on good policy, just on annoyance. take them with a grain of salt – they are only marketing. For its part, the Government has bypasses its protocols on Government advertising, by NOT having its ads checked by the Auditor-General. Political expediency is more important. However, the Opposition has successfully diverted attention from debating the proposed super-tax on mining profits to voter perceptions of the Government. WHY? Well, Tony Abbott doesn’t want to debate the merits of the changes to tax on mining companies, and would very likely change his mind, and keep the tax if elected. (remember, John Howard did the same with the ‘never, ever GST’)

Meanwhile, in Federal Parliament, both sides have done little but try to score cheap political points. Labor Ministers almost queued to make statements alleging that the Liberal & National Parties were simply after mining company donations. Jamie Briggs (Liberal) responded with figures showing “the federal Australian Labor Party has received $80,500 from the mining industry in Australia, and the federal Liberal Party has received nothing.” However, has lied by omission – he forgot to include the personal donations from those who run our mining companies. the ABC has reported:

” Australia's fifth richest man according to the last BRW rich list, Mr Palmer donated a total of $865,000, including $400,000 to the Liberal Party of Australia through his mining company Mineralogy.

Mr Palmer …  also made a personal donation of $280,000 to the Liberal National Party of Queensland.

While most of his generosity was reserved for the conservative side of politics, Mr Palmer also boosted the West Australian Labor Party's coffers by $25,000 via Mineralogy.”

Liberal Jamie Briggs omitted to mention that, and similar, donations.

The intensity of marketing, and the presence of enough spin to bamboozle Shane Warne, ought to make all voters cynical of the ads they are seeing. If asked about it respond - ‘Yes, I saw it. It’s marketing crap’. I suggest simply reading the first two links I’ve provided, to articles by Ross Gittins and Ian Verrender. Ignore everything else.


Friday, May 21, 2010

David Campbell Resigns As Minister

NSW Minister David Campbell has resigned as Minister for Roads & Transport. His resignation follows Channel 7's news story, yesterday, of his visit, outside Parliamentary hours, to a gay men's "club" in Sydney on Tuesday night.

He has taken leave to deal with "family issues" arising from the revelations. Most feel considerable sympathy for his wife and children. His wife has recently battled cancer.

Mr Campbell had previously weathered public and Opposition anger over the bungling of accident & traffic diversion on the F3 Freeway north of Sydney. I believe he should have resigned because,as Minister, he is ultimately responsible for the performance of his Departments.

A number of questions arise from the Channel 7 story:
  1. Was there anything illegal in his actions? It appears not: it is accepted that Ministers can use their government cars for private purposes; and it is not illegal to visit gay sex clubs.
  2. Was any public interest served? This is a more difficult question. 'Public interest' is difficult to define, but many agree it involves common good or general welfare of society. Channel 7 reports indicated he resigned after questions were put to him about his visit to a gay sex club. If so, that would be wrong of Channel 7. No questions appear to have been asked about what effects, if any, Mr Campbell's lifestyle had on his Ministerial performance, until AFTER the news story. He, and others, have since indicated that it had no effect. That statement is untested, but Channel 7 have presented no evidence to support such a claim. Being a public figure doesn't justify scandal-mongering.
I suspect that Channel 7, and the journalist who broke the story, Adam Walters, had little motive other than scandal-mongering for profit. It's not something I'd want to put on my CV. Nor would I want to put "lives a double life" or "unfaithful to family".


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Political Spin & Image

Poor Tony Abbott, he's not only paying for his sins, but the sins of all politicians. His sin: admitting on ABC's 7:30 Report on 17-May-10 that his comments were not always "Gospel truth", and that sometimes "in the heat of discussion you go a little bit further". He was responding to a question about why he vowed to introduce a new tax (to supposedly fund pay for stay-at-home mothers), when he had previously promised "no new taxes".

So, how do you tell the "truth" from spin?? Brisbane-based ABC journalist Madonna King wrote, on 11-May-10 a list to help. It includes:
the mea culpa; the diversionary tactic ; it's all in the language;
the greed card; the missing transcript; pick your day syndrome;
it's not personal, it's just me; tell the partial truth;
blame the public servant; the drip feed; saved by the review;
the picture opportunity; the human touch; the social media blitz;
the phony sacking
You can read the full descriptions by Madonna King at:

I'll add the following:
the pre-prepared statement, with no questions allowed. Often used after a forced resignation (to avoid being sacked) - remember Peter Garrett.
the send a junior minion to explain: Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey's quick exit from the National Press Club today, after explaining how the Opposition would make savings. (Cut programs) gave journalists the printed paper just as he was leaving, and leaving junior Andrew Robb to bluster through questions)
the we'll send a battery of MP's/Ministers to all deliver the same message, using the same key words. You just had it from the government, spinning Tony Abbott's admission as a sometime liar.
the 'friendly' interviews to multiple TV/Radio/Media. There's an election soon, isn't there? Oh and add the friendly/highly critical journalist's story (there's a hidden agenda to support a particular politician/party - Miranda Devine & Glenn Milne spring to mind.)
the repetition of message. This has been adopted from the advertising industry. It is still used in many ads, including those from politicians.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jessica Watson Home

16-year-old Jessica Watson has completed her solo round-the-world sailing adventure.

She is the youngest person to complete this, but the world sailing organization will not officially recognize it, because she is under 18 y.o. they don’t want to encourage very young people to undertake a task that must be extremely arduous, physically, mentally & emotionally.

By any measure, Jessica has completed a remarkable feat, and deserves the feting & accolades currently being bestowed upon her.

You can read her blog at

To finish in a uniquely Australian way:


Federal Budget & Reply

This week we had Wayne Swan deliver the Federal Budget. By any measure, it was not a traditional “election-year budget”. Make no mistake, though, this budget was driven as much by the politics of re-election as any. 

It had no new tax cuts from 2011; no massive spending programs; no new taxes on “mums & dads” or “ordinary working families” (phrased beloved by politicians). It does offer future increases in superannuation guarantee contributions – something that will please middle and low-income earners. It will begin to wind back the extraordinary government spending used to avoid a recession in Australia; it does aim to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13. The proposed surplus, some increases in health spending and superannuation have been included partly by delaying environmental ETS programs; and by relying on a “super tax” on very large profits from mining and resource companies.

The earlier-than-expected surplus in 2012-13 was designed to silence the Opposition’s claim that only they can manage an economy and have a surplus. The superannuation is something the Coalition will likely oppose in the Party room, but be forced to accept so as not be seen to deny the “mums & dads” or “ordinary working families”.

Tony Abbott’s Budget Reply in Parliament was reasonably well-spoken. He will oppose the tax on extremely high profits by mining & resource companies. But there was definitely a sting in the tail. He was apparently rolled by his own (Liberal) party on payments for stay-at-home mothers; and he promised a return to the core of WorkChoices. Now Tony Abbott has previously said the phrase ‘WorkChoices’ is dead. True, he did not use the term in his reply, but he has promised a return to core elements of WorkChoices: more individual contracts,and removal or dilution of unfair dismissal laws.

Opinion polls indicated that Prime Minister Rudd’s approval had dropped since the budget, and Opposition Leader Abbott’s increased. I suspect that indicates respondents’ focus on image created by,and in, the media, rather than any voter thought about the issues.

Don’t be fooled. Remember, politicians use the media for marketing and image enhancements. Only rarely do they slip-up.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Politicians & Political Parties

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks for politicians, Federal & State.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has dropped the ETS from his legislative agenda. It was supposed to be the greatest environmental challenge of our time. Political considerations have derailed it. The Opposition Coalition parties have chosen a political position that denies climate change, and entrenched a NO vote. The Greens did not think the legislation went far enough, and voted No.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has used his blog to voice the right wing opinion that the burqa should be forthwith banned in Australia. his basis is that one criminal has used it in a robbery, so it has now become “the preferred disguise of bandits and n'er do wells”. While Tony Abbott has distanced himself from Bernardi’s opinion, it is, I think, symptomatic of the rise, and persistence of the hard right of the Liberal Party. The proposed policy seeks to be both alarmist and populist, and by doing so, avoid significant argument towards good policy.

In NSW, Labor MP Karyn Paluzzano has been suspended from the NSW Labor Party, and has today resigned from the NSW Parliament as the Member for Penrith and Lower Blue Mountains. She has admitted to an ICAC corruption inquiry that she lied to ICAC investigators, and that she falsified pay slips to defraud the NSW Parliament.

There are at least 3 messages for our politicians:

  1. If you believe you have good public policy, run with it, irrespective of opponents. Voters will appreciate the commitment to good policy. If it’s not good policy, work on it! Good Policy does not equate to political ideology. (WorkChoices springs to mind)
  2. As a society, we need to be aware of extreme/extremist political agendas. Cory Bernardi’s blog is a reflection of greater influence of , and agenda-pushing by, the hard right of the Liberal Party. Liberal Party founder Sir Robert Menzies would find it abhorrent.
  3. It would behove all politicians to check how they are using allowances (taxpayer funds) and Federal funding to electorates. The Federal Auditor-general has previously been critical of the rules, and the apparent use of taxpayer funds for essentially personal and party political purposes. (see reports on Distribution of Funding for Community Grant Programmes and Administration of Parliamentarians' Entitlements by the Department of Finance and Deregulation at

Work hard, and pester your politicians.