Thursday 17th of April 2014

outside the rooty hill detention centre .....

outside rooty hill park .....

You can feel an election coming on when Pauline Hanson sticks her addled head above the parapet. There she was in The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday, warmly endorsing the Prime Minister's sudden and impulsive war on the hordes of wicked foreigners on 457 work visas who are snatching the bread from the tables of modern Aussie families.

Please explain? With friends like that it's enough to give xenophobia a bad name, but Gillard is not for turning. ''We will support your job and put Aussie workers first,'' she assured an audience of the Labor faithful on her western Sydney odyssey this week.

It was Joe Hockey who unkindly pointed out that the government's chief spin doctor, John ''Flower of Scotland'' McTernan, is here on a 457. That aroused some angst in the Prime Minister's office. ''Not f---ing relevant,'' McTernan barked to an ABC reporter who rang him to check.

It is relevant, actually. The revolution in the newspaper business has tipped hundreds, even thousands, of Australian journalists out of their jobs. Many of them have high political and media skills, and rather more of a stake in the future of this country than some abrasive Scottish blow-in. Gillard's boast that she will ''stop foreign workers being put at the front of the queue with Australian workers at the back'' therefore reeks of hypocrisy.

Braveheart, though, thinks we are lucky to have him. There are ''many other people as brilliant as me, just not as many as confident at saying it,'' he told a Fairfax reporter who interviewed him last year. This brilliance is not readily apparent. McTernan was a flack at No.10 Downing Street at the fag end of the Blair government. He was an apologist for Britain's disastrous part in the Iraq War and for Blair's sleazy brown-nosing of Libya's Colonel Gaddafi in the infamous 2007 ''Deal in the Desert'' that eventually had the convicted Lockerbie terrorist bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi returned home to a rapturous welcome in Tripoli. More recently, he was Labour's director of communications when it lost to the Scottish National Party at the 2007 election for the parliament in Edinburgh.

What he achieves for the Gillard government is hard to discern. Not since the fall of Billy McMahon in 1972 has there been a mob so hopelessly bad at talking to the governed. Labor has some mighty achievements to its credit, not least its management of the economy through the global financial crisis, but - as Paul Keating said a while ago - there is no grand narrative that brings the show together. The government lurches from ''announcement'' to ''announcement,'' all delivered in the plonking cliches of CorporateSpeak.

If I hear just one more minister wittering on ''in terms of the challenges facing modern Aussie families,'' I think I'll scream. Yes, I'm looking at you, David Bradbury. But it can't all be McTernan's fault. This lot would turn Ben Chifley's light on the hill into an illuminated facility visible on an elevated topographical feature.

A curious thing happened on the ABC's 7pm news last Tuesday. There was a brief sequence of Tony Abbott and assorted hangers-on plodding into someone's lounge room in suburban Melbourne.

Whenever I see Abbott on his hind legs I find myself wondering if the nation really wants a prime minister who walks like a chimpanzee. But that's not the point here. What puzzled me was that neither the newsreader nor the reporter offered any explanation for this odd interlude. It was not news, not in a fit, but there it was. Abbott plonked himself on to a couch, arranged his features into what he presumably imagined was a beguiling grin, and attempted to strike up a conversation with a small boy.

''You're almost at the age of going to pre-school I presume, are you mate?'' he blathered. Possibly aware of the dangers of speaking to strange men who accost you out of the blue, the tot ignored him and stared resolutely ahead. Stunt over, the story then cut to Abbott launching into a blast of hypocrisy all his own, the gist of it being that foreigners were and are a wonderful thing.

It was outrageous. Just days before, his immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, had been demanding ''special protocols'' for asylum seekers released into the community. What those protocols might be was never explained. Tattooing numbers on their foreheads, perhaps.

There is no better way of putting this: Morrison is a grub. Time and again he plays on racism and bigotry to score political points. His leader is evidently happy with this, for there is never a rebuke from him, no backtracking.

It's a classic trick from the Liberal Party playbook. Abbott himself used to be sent out to shovel the muck so that John Howard could keep his hands clean. Now that he's leader he's got Morrison and the likes of Christopher Pyne, Cory Bernardi and Eric Abetz to get down and dirty for him. They will make an ugly government.

Speaking of John Howard, there is said to be a push for Abbott to make him our next governor-general. It got a run in The Australian the other day, a piece written by a hack from the paper's ever-expanding stable of right-wing nutters.

''He would make an excellent governor-general. It's his if he wants it,'' one Liberal heavy was quoted as saying. ''But the big question is: does he want it?''

I would have thought the big question is: do the Australian people want it? The answer would be a resounding no. Howard was a supremely successful politician, no doubt about that, but he wore out his welcome, losing not only his last election but his seat with it.

The Tories would probably try to justify installing him at Yarralumla by pointing out that Bob Hawke gave Bill Hayden the gig. But the circumstances are very different. There was public sympathy for the way Hayden was rolled from the Labor leadership before the drover's dog election in 1983, a feeling that he deserved a fair go.

Howard, on the other hand, remains a divisive figure. He would split the country in a way we have not seen since Sir John Kerr was poncing around in his silk top hat. But someone should bowl the question up to Abbott between now and the election.

Mike Carlton

 

messages .....

from Crikey …..

Essential: Gillard falls further, and voters hate privatisation

BERNARD KEANE

The Prime Minister's approval rating with voters has worsened, but the collapse in Labor's vote appears to have stabilised, according to today's Essential Report.

Julia Gillard's net approval rating, which peaked in mid-January at net minus 8 points, is at its worst since August last year, with 36% of voters approving of her performance and 56% disapproving, up a point from net minus 19 points in February. Tony Abbott's approval rating has lifted by a point and his disapproval rating has fallen by two points, giving him a net approval rating of minus 14 points. Abbott and Gillard are now equal on preferred Prime Minister, on 39% each, a fall of two points for the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader's best outcome since August.

However, Labor's primary vote has lifted two points to 34% after plunging to 32% last week, with the Coalition (48%) and the Greens (9%) coming off a point. The 2PP outcome is 55-45% to the Coalition, a shift of one point in Labor's favour.

Asylum seekers rated well ahead of 457 visas as an issues of concern - 38% of voters said they were most concerned about asylum seekers, 20% about the use of 457 visas, and 18% said they were most concerned about the overall increase in Australia's population.

But that outcome changed significantly when more detail was provided: when voters were asked whether they were most concerned about 15,000 asylum seekers arriving by boat or 150,000 foreign workers using 457 visas or a population increase of 300,000 a year, the number most concerned about asylum seekers fell to 33%, the number concerned about 457 visas rose to 31% and the number concerned about population increase was about the same (down 1 point to 17%). That suggests Labor's effort to exploit the issue might yet bear fruit if it is able to get voters to focus more on the issue.

And just over a week after the Queensland government announced a new privatisation-heavy health policy, Essential asked about attitudes to privatisation, which have traditionally been highly negative in the electorate. Just over half - 58% - of voters say privatisation is a bad idea, and only 22% say it's a good idea. Curiously, the dislike of privatisation is also unmarked by the usual partisanship: 64% of Labor voters think privatisation is a bad idea, but 54% of Liberal voters agree, as do 70% of Greens voters.

messages ..... 

Voters also overwhelmingly prefer key infrastructure services run by government, in attitudes little changed since similar questions were asked in 2011. Sixty two per cent of voters think electricity is better run by government; 69% water, 64% public transport, 66% motorways, 61% universities, 69% schools. Only telecommunications and broadband is viewed differently - 45% think telecommunications is better run by the private sector compared to 44% who think government should run it.

trust ....

from Crikey …..

Essential: government strikes a nerve on 457 visas

BERNARD KEANE

After a fortnight of debate on immigration following the Prime Minister's western Sydney campaign, there is strong support for a crackdown on 457 visas, polling from Essential Research finds.

More than half - 58% -- of voters support moves to reduce the number of foreign workers coming to Australia on 457 visas, Essential found, with 24% opposed. There was only minimal difference across voters: 64% of Labor voters support cutting back on 457 visas, and 58% of Liberal voters and 49% of Greens voters agree - despite the fact that the Greens are the strongest opponents of 457 visas.

While the government struggled to prosecute its case for curbing 457 visas, clearly there is strong community sentiment on the issue that Labor tacticians are seeking to tap into.

Labor's primary vote has lifted a point to 35%, following its rise of two points last week, taking it back to 35%; the Coalition's vote fell a point to 47%; the Greens remained steady on 9%, for a 2PP outcome of 54-46% in the Coalition's favour.

Support for the NBN has also increased, despite publicity about roll-out delays. Seventy three per cent of voters support the NBN, up from 69% in November last year. However, support for the mining tax (the MRRT) has fallen in the wake of controversy over the level of revenue it is generating, with support down to 57% from 63%.

And there is once again more opposition than support for the government's carbon pricing scheme, although the result (44% support it and 46% oppose it) is an exact reversal of the outcome in November.

But voters' view that the Liberals will return to WorkChoices appears to have diminished a little since September, with 48% of voters believing it is likely the Coalition will restore WorkChoices compared to 28% who think it's unlikely, down from September's result of 51%-25%.

Essential also asked its semi-regular question on trust in major Australian institutions. The High Court, the ABC, the Reserve Bank and Federal Parliament all recorded substantial rises in trust, with the High Court trusted by 74% of voters, the ABC by 70% and the Reserve Bank trusted by 64%. The least trusted organisations are political parties (12%), trade unions (25%), business groups (26%), online news media (27%) and newspapers, TV news and state parliaments (30%).

 

trust .....

 

big red ....

Federal government moves to crack down on the 457 temporary skilled migration program could be brought to the Federal Parliament within months, raising the prospect of a heated parliamentary debate on migration in the lead up to the September election.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor has revealed he wants to drive the changes through Parliament rather than merely use regulations to tighten the scheme.

''Yes we may because the opposition has said that they want to open it up and remove all protections,'' Mr O'Connor said.

''This is in the context of the opposition making it very clear that they're going to not support the reforms but also remove the current protections in place.''

Prime Minister Julia Gillard opened a new front on the skilled migration program earlier this month, claiming it was being used by employers to bring in foreign workers and was thus pushing ''Aussies'' to the back of the jobs queue.

The precise nature of any changes is yet to be revealed but the government has steadily wound up the rhetoric in the face of resistance from employer groups and the opposition, both of whom have defended the 457 program as a vital tool in meeting skilled labour shortages.

In Perth on Wednesday, Ms Gillard continued to talk tough despite claims from some that her 457 focus was part of a ''dog whistle'' designed to woo the xenophobic vote.

That criticism gained further traction when Pauline Hanson backed the initial Gillard comments.

The government cites declining applications in the labour-hungry resources sector and greater use by sectors such as retail, information technology and hospitality as proof that the scheme is being ''rorted''.

Election Migration Debate Looming

 

So, Prime Minister, Calamity Jane, has decided to saddle-up & ride to the rescue of little aussie battlers, heroically saving their jobs from the evil predations of the wicked conservative 457 visa claim jumping gang?

Emboldened by the success of her rodeo appearance in Rooty Hill & having foiled the latest attempt by the gang who still can’t shoot straight to rustle her leadership, Labor’s favourite cowgirl has galloped straight into her latest range war with all guns blazing.

Whilst the growing number of aspiring local chicken sexers & charity fundraisers can now sleep safe in the knowledge that “Big Red” has their back, sadly the same can’t be said for the fast disappearing breed of local ministerial advisors.