Arrogant Frog: The Self-Delusion Of Valery Giscard d’Estaing

Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing is spending his dotage the same way he has spent the rest of his life: fantasising about his own importance. This time he wants to build a shrine to himself to preserve his “place in history.” Alas, there are no funds with which to do so.

The Times has reported this week that Giscard, 87, is selling his family’s silver, porcelain, works of art and other heirlooms — including an 18th-century marble statue by Pierre Julien — to raise funds for a museum that he intends to open in his own honour.

The looming sale is also said to include various items of memorabilia from his time in office as President of France.

The fire sale has become necessary on account of Giscard’s failure to sell a stately home he owns — for $3 million — in order to renovate another château he acquired some years ago to turn that, too, into a monument to himself.

It’s sad stuff, really, and it comes near the end of a life, and an ancestry, that seems to have been preoccupied with enhancing the publicly perceived importance of himself and his family.

Giscard’s father — clearly a craven to aristocratic aspiration — convinced government officials in 1922 that his family was in fact descended from nobility, claiming an obscure link to the aristocratic d’Estaing family; his family has been styled Giscard d’Estaing ever since.

Obviously, the aristocratic inclinations of the father were inherited by the son.

VGE — as Giscard is commonly referred to in France — has been nothing if not ambitious over the years.

It is, however, a fair comment that the great shame is that his ambitions and aspirations were pursued with far more vigour than his duties of state — certainly in later years — and that rather than leave behind the legacy of a great presidency, VGE will be remembered at home and abroad as the mediocrity he was as President.

His record of plotting and scheming in elected office dates back to the 1960s, during which he was widely regarded as being responsible for driving French war hero and President Charles de Gaulle from office; de Gaulle’s replacement as President, Georges Pompidou, died suddenly in office in 1974, and Giscard was narrowly elected President.

His term in office started out well enough, but his administration soon became unpopular; mired in scandals often with himself at the centre of them, even his fellow world leaders grew tired of him — Margaret Thatcher, for one, found his constant self-aggrandisement irritating.

And — beaten by a serial loser in Francois Mitterrand in 1981 — VGE earned the dubious distinction of both being the first French President of the modern era to fail to be re-elected, and the first to be ousted by a socialist: a unique double whammy not matched until Nicolas Sarkozy lost to Francois Hollande earlier this year.

What is it with past leaders and their determination to inflate the public record of themselves? Is this a French thing, or is it politicians in general?

The question might seem obvious, until it is remembered that VGE, having failed to sell the family château to bankroll his exercises in self-promotion — a grand stately home that has been in his family for the better part of 100 years — is now busily liquidating all of the assets of value it contains, some of them virtually priceless, to pay for this latest attempted excursion into immortality.

Such is the ridicule VGE has attracted over the years that he is largely regarded as a simple figure of fun by his countryfolk; indeed, a putative attempt to regain the presidency in 1995 died a quiet death when it was realised he was so unpopular he would struggle to attract double-digit support in the first round of France’s two-stage election process.

And these latest activities to build monuments to himself are merely the latest in a long, long line of adventures that have attracted negative publicity; one of the most notorious of these episodes involved the publication in 2009 of a novel entitled The Princess And The President, in which he seemed to suggest he had had an affair with the late Princess Diana.

Stung by the public outcry, VGE was forced to publicly state that the romance contained in the novel was purely fictitious.

Everyone knows that politicians see themselves as a cut above the rest of us; the “rulers and the ruled” mentality, and VGE — with his adopted family history of aristocracy and clear delusions of grandeur — apparently seeks to prove it.

What do readers think? Should former leaders go gently and softly into the night, or is there a case for eulogising them in the way Valery Giscard d’Estaing seeks to do for himself?

Melbourne By-Election: Too Close To Call, But The Messages Are Mixed

With the Victorian Electoral Commission posting final figures for the night — on about 60% of all votes counted — Labor leads Communist Greens candidate Cathy Oke by about 200 votes after preferences. Tomorrow the count will proceed, but the trends are already clear.

Today’s by-election in the state seat of Melbourne — caused by the resignation from Parliament of controversial former Labor minister Bronwyn Pike — has as expected gone down to the wire; it will likely be some days before a definite result is known.

At the close of counting, Dr Oke has a reasonable lead on primary votes over the ALP candidate, Jennifer Kanis, and is ahead by 37.75% of the vote to 32.41% (or about 1300 votes) which gives Ms Kanis a slender 50.4% lead, after preferences, based on the nominal distribution from the votes counted by the Commission this evening.

Twitter colleague (and usually dead-eye accurate source of information) @ghostwhovotes is reporting that when postal votes are added, the Labor vote after preferences increases to 51.38%, so whilst that would put Kanis in a good position, it’s still a trifle early (at 11.30pm) to call the result.

Much has been written about this by-election in recent weeks and days, and a lot of silly interpretations of what its result would mean have been made; interesting, that, given technically there still isn’t a result to interpret.

Still, there are a few observations I would make, and these are generally out of step with some of the wild pronouncements that have been made in the mainstream press.

This is a bad result for Daniel Andrews and the Victorian ALP; 18 months after the state election that ended Labor’s stint in government, its vote has gone backwards quite sharply in an electorate it should have easily retained.

There has been a lot made of the fact the Liberal Party did not contest this by-election; accusations of cowardice have been levelled at that party for not standing a candidate on the basis it had too much to lose on account of the supposed inaction and poor performance of the state government under Premier Ted Baillieu.

This ignores the fact that the Liberals under Ted Baillieu have generally chosen not to contest vacant Labor electorates at by-elections; I think this has been a mistake, especially in Albert Park a few years ago, in Niddrie earlier this year and in Melbourne today.

Even so, looking at the votes cast today and those recorded at the state election in November 2010, it’s easy to see the Liberal vote didn’t “go” anywhere, per se; Labor and the Greens aside, the other 14 candidates pulled in about 30% of the total vote between them, and that figure — in round terms — is what the Liberals got at the last election.

And whilst Labor has suffered a swing against it based on the 2010 result, the primary vote movement has largely been a direct transfer of votes from the ALP to the Greens, and not enough — it seems — to have cost it the seat.

Indeed, the likely result looks very similar to the state election result in Melbourne from 2006, when the Liberals both stood a candidate and directed preferences to the Greens.

And so, this is a bad result for Andrews and the state ALP. Why? Very simply, having run as hard as he has for as long as he has on the theme of what might be termed the general uselessness of the Baillieu government — aided, it must be said, by the commentary and coverage of virtually every media outlet in Melbourne — Andrews and his party have gone backwards in what traditionally is a heartland electorate.

If the germs of a move back to Labor existed, they would have been visible today; as a rule, the heartland always returns to the fold of a beaten party before the marginals do, and as it stands, Labor has suffered a swing of just over 5% against it in Melbourne and will struggle to retain the seat.

And despite Andrews’ exhortations to voters in Melbourne, there is no “message” being sent to Ted Baillieu on this occasion.

It suggests Andrews has a lot of work to do; many of the issues he has been most vocal about — transport, infrastructure, public service levels — are more keenly felt in the Melbourne electorate than elsewhere in the state. Obviously, that message has not resonated. And the Melbourne electorate, today, has dealt Andrews a significant setback.

It’s been a good result, conversely, for the Greens, and whilst Dr Oke may not have won the electorate — this time — it is clear that the Greens continue to encroach into traditional Labor areas, leaching support and votes, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

I don’t think the contest between the Greens and Labor for support and votes has much to do with the federal government, and it certainly has nothing to do with the Liberals not standing today.

Rather, I believe what we are witnessing is the early stages of a fundamental realignment of the mainstream Left in Australian politics, which may well end with the emergence of a new major force representing so-called progressive policies along the lines of the Social Democratic parties in Europe and the Democrats in the USA. Time will tell.

In any case, Oke has done just as well today in receiving preferences as the Greens did in 2006, when Liberal candidates were preferencing them, which is a hint that the whole Libs not running/not directing preferences concept did not cost the Greens seats in 2010.

Clearly, nobody will ever definitively know what the result may have been had the Liberals run a candidate. But as it stands, the flow of preferences has been roughly 60% to the ALP and 40% to the Greens, which is about what might be expected — accounting for the leakage of preferences — had there been a Liberal candidate directing Labor be placed ahead of the Greens on how-to-vote cards.

I am told that Oke is earmarked by the Greens as someone with a bright political future; someone who will be the face of the Greens in Victoria for many years to come. Whilst I disagree with her party and her politics completely — on every level — she has done herself no disservice today, and her performance builds on the general momentum the Greens have been creating in inner Melbourne for several years.

Today’s result is a good one for Julia Gillard, but not for the obvious reasons; clearly, Labor winning the seat means she and her government cannot be made scapegoats for yet another electoral disaster, but by the same token Gillard has studiously avoided campaigning in Melbourne, and Andrews has studiously avoided enlisting her to do so.

Today’s result — warts and all — reflects squarely on Daniel Andrews, and if I were him I’d be looking for ways, urgently, to lift my game — and fast. This result is a loud wake up call to Victorian Labor; whether it listens or not is another matter altogether.

And of Ted Baillieu?

It’s hard to say whether this is good or bad for Baillieu; if Labor wins, his strategy to deny the Greens entry to Parliament at all costs appears vindicated; if the Greens win, the breathing room for the Coalition on the floor of Parliament becomes that little bit clearer. Either way, Baillieu wins, but here’s another reason the Liberals should contest every by-election that occurs on its watch from this point forward.

Had the Greens won today, Baillieu would confront a dilemma at the next state election: preference Labor in a seat like Melbourne and risk handing the ALP the gain of a seat at a tight election; preference the Greens and make a mockery of the “principled” anti-Greens stand made prior to the 2010 election.

If the Greens are to win lower house seats — in Victoria or anywhere else — it’s essential that they do so with a Liberal candidate on the ballot paper, even if the Liberal directs preferences away from the Greens.

To do otherwise would be to risk a repeat of the sort of scare campaign used against the Coalition over preferences and One Nation 15 years ago; it was badly handled then and it hurt the conservatives; this is precisely the type of scenario that could do so again.

The only alternative would be to pick a handful of seats — say, Melbourne, Northcote, Brunswick and Richmond — and never contest them, or to run “Independent Liberals” in these seats. Another possibility would be to run National Party candidates in these seats as “Coalition candidates.”

However, these options would simply disenfranchise voters in these areas wanting to vote Liberal, to say nothing of breeding resentment in local party branches that could intensify into a major internal brawl the Liberal Party didn’t need.

It’s obvious Labor — setting all the problems with its federal wing aside — has its fair share of problems to deal with at present; today’s vote underlines this, although it is not readily clear as to how the ALP can deal with these, let alone resolve them.

Where it goes from here, however — in Victoria at least — is a matter for another post, and another day.


Indefensible: Abbott’s Attack Over Defence Finds Mark; Gillard Flounders

If you’re Julia Gillard — politically moribund, lurching between crises, facing electoral doom — one would think you’d pick your fights carefully. This time she’s started a brawl in the traditional conservative stronghold of defence policy; the resulting smackdown is nothing if not deserved.

As I begin comment tonight, it’s with a disbelieving shake of the head and a cynical laugh: how could such an intelligent woman, by all accounts a clever enough operator despite her government’s record and her poor personal performance as Prime Minister, end up painted into a corner so badly over such a critical issue?

Opposition leader Tony Abbott is in the US this week; meeting key political figures and industry groups in and around the US government, he is looking and sounding every inch the Prime Minister in waiting.

By most accounts, it’s been quite a successful trip thus far — a reality that must surely grate on Gillard, and generate resentment as the images and reports of the genuinely warm reception given to Abbott and the highly favourable impression he is making on his hosts are beamed back home.

One of the more exquisite ironies of Australian politics at the moment is that whilst Gillard (and her government generally) revel in portraying Tony Abbott as “Dr No” and as a master purveyor of negativity, often it’s the government and the Prime Minister who are the most adept at it.

And this time, it may well rebound on Gillard; in resorting to the usual shrill complaints about “Abbott negativity,” she draws focus to a major and dangerous failure of her government, shrouded in too-smart-by-half semantics and betraying an insidious yet predictable reality of its own.

Abbott, in a speech to the Heritage Foundation in Washington — a leading US conservative think tank — has said that he was concerned Australia’s defence spending had fallen to its lowest level, as a percentage of GDP, since 1938.

And to summarise: partially in reference to some $6 billion being cut in May from Australia’s defence budget over the next four years, the likes of former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage have echoed Abbott’s sentiments, saying in effect that our resulting spend of 1.6% of GDP is inadequate, and should be at least 2%.

Mr Armitage also observed — pointedly — that a spend of 2% of GDP was an “entry price” to NATO, and that Australia could be construed as enjoying a free ride at the US’ expense on matters of defence.

There was an even a warning, more pointedly, that Australia risked its “credibility” as an ally; this from hard men not given to frivolous intrigues or to the petty vagaries of the internal polity of other countries, be they friend or foe.

Enter Gillard.

“Mr Abbott has reached a new low in negativity by going overseas and criticising this nation’s national security credentials in front of an overseas audience. That is a new low in negativity even for Mr Abbott.”

Well…for starters, I’d be asking who could blame Abbott for doing so? Defence isn’t the sexiest subject, electorally speaking; and to the extent federal issues get media coverage, it’s the carbon tax, the mining tax, Craig Thomson, Kevin Rudd’s leadership ambitions and Julia Gillard’s abominable performance as Prime Minister that soak up the available airtime.

And quite aside from that, Abbott and the Liberal Party are entering a phase in which they are preparing for a transfer to government; plain speaking to this country’s most important ally and defence partner is entirely appropriate, given the context.

Gillard goes on to accuse Abbott of now attempting to trash a defence budget he voted for at the time it was presented to Parliament as part of the federal budget in May.

This is disingenuous: courtesy of the arrangements Gillard has in place with key Independents and Communists Greens, the numbers simply do not exist for Abbott and his colleagues to attempt to amend these bills; and more to the point, no Liberal leader is ever going to vote against the allocation of money to the defence budget!

Gillard goes on, starting to ruin her argument by saying that defence spending exceeded $100 billion over the four-year forward estimates period for the first time ever under Labor, and remained at that level.

There is no denial, of course, of the cuts to the defence budget the government made in May; we will come back to those.

But looking at her figure of $100 million, this is highly misleading; the amounts are not indexed, meaning their real value will decline by some 3-4% per annum, accounting for inflation, over the very period Gillard trumpets that they will be maintained.

The figures nominated by Gillard do not account for economic growth over the forward estimates period either, which means that as the economy expands by some 3% per annum on average (assuming the government’s figures are correct — which, normally, they are not) the real proportion of defence spending as a percentage of GDP will correspondingly decline over the estimates period.

That decline in proportionate spending is in addition to the fall in its real value on account of the fact it is not indexed.

So who’s hitting which “new low” here, Prime Minister?

It’s an article of faith that Australia’s armed services, by and large, are supportive of conservative governments because conservative governments are supportive of them;  the ALP is a ruthlessly vindictive creature and has been for decades, but defence and national security are areas in which the type of petty payback typically indulged in by Labor is a dangerous game to play — literally.

Gillard tried to assert the superiority of the Labor case, pointing to the recent announcement of American troops to be deployed on Australian soil, starting with the marines in Darwin.

Yet this simply serves to underline the case of Abbott and to validate the arguments of hawks in the US that Australia is taking a free ride at US expense: the enhanced defence arrangements are based squarely on an imported troop presence and hardly amount to anything of substance on the part of the ALP.

But in the wild orgy of hysteria built around the portrayal of Tony Abbott as a carping whinger, Gillard and her cohorts have missed one rather salient point.

All the cuts that were instituted in the May budget this year — of which those inflicted on defence were a mere part — were redirected to the realisation of two objectives, and two objectives only.

The first, of course, was the “paper surplus” — the mad and manic requirement to deliver a surplus budget, after years of promises and non-delivery, even though there is already anecdotal evidence that the $1.2 billion surplus is already on track to come in as a $15 billion deficit.

It was a typically empty gesture at the hand of the incompetent occupant of the Treasurer’s office.

The second was to take every cent of money left over after that exercise has been completed, package it up with a bow, and to fling it at carefully targeted sections of the electorate as bribes, sweeteners and other forms of payoff in a cack-brained attempt to restore the Labor Party’s terminal electoral position.

The fact the bribe didn’t work, and that reputable polling sees the Labor vote drift even further downward, makes the episode even more offensive.

You see, folks, all the money Gillard cut out of defence — and from other areas, to be fair — was all to buy you off, and to buy votes.

It didn’t work, and in the meantime the country’s defence forces, always in need of additional resources, will be stretched that much further over the next few years.

And Australia will be that much more vulnerable if the global political climate goes pear-shaped — with or without the support of Uncle Sam.

With that in mind, if Abbott wants to share a little candour on the subject with his hosts in Washington, I say then so be it.


Pious Sanctimony: Milne Rant Proves Greens’ Unfitness For Office

In an article published in The Australian on Friday, Communist Party Greens leader Christine Milne poses the question, “Politics with integrity or compromising people’s lives?” What follows is essentially a discourse of evidence as to why the Greens are totally unfit for office. 

It’s no surprise, but Senator Milne has written a dishonest, misleading and self-serving piece on behalf of her ghastly party; one which serves to distort the reality and public expectations of various issues, whilst attempting to make mileage from the very things she claims her “caring” party is above the politics of when — in fact — it is as guilty as sin in terms of its attempts to push a narrow and ideologically driven agenda.

You can read the Senator’s article here; we are however going to pick it apart, paragraph by paragraph, and so this could be a lengthy post.

And the politicking starts with the very first sentence: an accusation of ALP disloyalty being a gift to the Liberals, because Sam Dastyari had the temerity to publicly question Labor’s snug relationship with the Greens, followed by moralising waffle about this being typical of the reasons people generally are disaffected with politics in this country.

Well, I’m sorry, Christine — Dastyari and most of his colleagues weren’t even consulted when his leadership foisted its alliance with the Greens on them; it seems only fair that he, and others with more brains than some, should have their say.

Especially as Green policies are killing Labor’s political prospects, Christine. Especially as the Greens killed the prospects in Tasmania of Labor in 1992 and the Liberals in 1998, as state governments that had allied with you went to elections and were slaughtered.

And especially, Christine, since we live in a democracy — something you, yourself, proclaim we should remember how lucky we are to do so.

I think Greens see democracy as a relative concept: appropriate when they get what they want, and an outrage against everything and anything when they don’t.

Remember, this is the party that cooked up the plan to refuse to allow an Abbott government to implement its policies, irrespective of the Liberals’ winning margin next year; I wonder if the likes of Christine Milne — with her stout declaration on democracy — have ever heard the words “popular mandate.”

But I digress. Milne continues:

“Most of us can’t imagine what would make someone so desperate that they would leave everything behind, fleeing persecution or the threat of death, and board a dangerous, overcrowded boat in the hope of a future worth living. But, if we put ourselves in their shoes, we will realise that sending them ‘anywhere else but here’ will not save their lives.”

I’ll tell you what would make people that desperate, Christine: people smugglers. That’s right, the scum of humanity that take the final ducats of the desperate and send them adrift in search of mostly empty promises that can never be delivered.

A bleeding heart and a lot of long-winded babble might be a suitable prerequisite for Greens membership, Christine, but they don’t equate to knowing everything.

And specifically, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if those desperate people know that there is guaranteed asylum onshore in Australia — as per your naive and ill-informed policies, Christine — it will simply drive more and more people to take the risk. The only winners will be among the human filth who profit from trafficking them.

And on she goes…

“As Indonesian human rights lawyer Febi Yonesta said, people who have no hope and no rights will keep trying to get on boats. The best way to stop people risking their lives is to give them hope of a safer pathway to a better life. That means massively increasing the number of refugees we resettle and the funding we give the UN High Commission for Refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia, working to combat corruption in Indonesian ports, and prioritising safety of life at sea.”

Your mate Febi might be right, Christine, but you certainly aren’t. Where is the causal link between desperate people resorting to desperate measures, and your immediate segue to a purported obligation on Australia to hike the refugee intake, to throw money at Indonesia and Malaysia via the United Nations, and to interfere in domestic governance within Indonesia?

This country already undertakes and maintains a generous refugee resettlement program; we know your party wants Australia’s borders thrown open to all comers, Christine, but remember that democracy we’re all so lucky to live in? Where everyone, just like Sam Dastyari, is allowed to have their opinion?

Well, the bad news for you, Christine, is that the overwhelming majority of your countryfolk do not want the borders thrown open; nor do they want the refugee program exponentially expanded.

Like any good little hardcore Leftie, you like to hide behind the United Nations, don’t you, Christine? The UN might do a lot of good in many ways, but it is not the cornerstone of this country’s immigration policies, and should never become so.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Christine, your beloved Malaysia has agreed to be a party to an arrangement with the ALP that effectively makes Australia the dumping ground for its own unwanted arrivals. Would you like to elaborate further on how Malaysia figures in your plans, Christine?

Alternatively, perhaps you could outline the Greens’ policy on corruption in Indonesian ports and how you propose to combat it, Christine. I could do with an after-dinner laugh. Needless to say, you haven’t even contemplated the possibility that wars start over the sort of actions that you appear to advocate, Christine.

And she goes on further…

“In the renewed discussion about the choices the Greens make in the parliament, it is disturbing that so much has focused not on whether “compromising” would save lives but on how our choice would affect Labor’s political fortunes. One of the most difficult choices that cross-bench MPs have to make is how far to compromise to deliver outcomes that may bring change for the better for people, as against when to say that the offer on the table will only compromise people’s lives.”

You think you’re clever, don’t you, Christine; that your semantic games will hoodwink just enough people. Of course what the Greens do in parliament is going to be viewed through the prism of Labor’s political fortunes; after all, everything else your party has foisted on the ALP has been political poison. Like the carbon tax.

And I love the little two-step pirouette, Christine; suddenly, you speak merely of “cross-bench MPs” rather than “Greens” in reflecting how far an appropriate compromise might go as opposed to what clearly is your intended message that the Greens are beyond compromise.

For someone who’s been around as long as you have, Christine, I’m surprised you haven’t learnt that politics demands compromise. Not all the time, and not on every issue, but often, it’s the cost of doing business: to get some of what you want, imperfect as it may seem, Christine, as opposed to getting 100% of nothing.

But then again, Christine — speaking philosophically, of course — I’m sure you’d agree that looking back over history, from Soviet Russia and its evil empire to the China of Deng Xiaoping, and to countless other less-prominent but equally hardline regimes across the years and around the world, that socialism really is an inflexible beast, isn’t it, Christine?

It’s much easier to pack your bat and ball and go home; to be obstructive rather than contribute anything meaningful just because — like a spoilt brat wired on red cordial — you can’t get what you want.

Isn’t it, Christine?

Well, perhaps not, because Senator Milne continues with a justification:

“This is a balancing act the Greens take very seriously, cross-examining policy detail, talking to experts and people who will be affected by our decision. We ask: will our choice deliver a better quality of life for people now and into the future, or will it jeopardise it, now or across time?”

This sounds very noble, Christine; in fact, I’d almost be inclined to believe you were it not for the fact that every one of your policies lifts straight out of the hardcore ideology of the hard Left.

Talk the Greens might, Christine, and call the process as balanced as you like, but there’s nothing in your policies for anyone to the right of a social democrat, is there, Christine? There’s 60% of the population gone, at a stroke!

Seriously though, readers, I’m so moved by the Senator’s stated concern to consult, to inform her party of all shades of opinion and of all outcomes, and to be a force for good, that I’m just going to get the Kleenex.

What poppycock…and again, bleeding heart and senseless compassion might be well and noble, but in the real world, utopia doesn’t exist, and the rest of us with feet planted firmly on the ground don’t need the likes of Senator Milne and her band of communists trying to level us out.

On we go again…

“But it is remarkable how many commentators opine that the Greens should have ditched policy evidence and our principles on tackling global warming and protecting refugees, not because we were wrong but because these controversial issues needed to be taken off the political agenda as they damage the ALP.”

Methinks thou doth protest too much, Christine; here you go again, referencing the political damage your policies are inflicting on the Labor Party. Someone has to take responsibility for them, right? Your party held a gun to the ALP’s throat to get a lot of this stuff legislated, Christine. Yet the Greens skip off quietly and let Labor take the rap.

That’s not very sporting is it, Christine?

(And interestingly enough, it’s at this point in her article that Milne skips away from boat arrivals and refugees, and onto global warming).

After all, it’s not smart to stay in the one spot for too long — someone might have time to tear your arguments to shreds if you don’t change the subject. Right, Christine?

And down the new path she skips…

“The idea that the Greens voted down Kevin Rudd’s fatally flawed carbon pollution reduction scheme, or Julia Gillard and Abbott’s proposals, for political reasons, to push away desperate people seeking refuge shows how far away from integrity and reality the old parties have gone.”

Come on, Christine! I’ll slip you the wink and you can give me the nudge, but we both know the Greens voted down all those bills precisely for political reasons.

Then again, part of the Green ruse is to play the “non-politician,” isn’t it Christine? Greens couldn’t possibly be politicians, even if they raise campaign funds, stand at elections, get MPs into Parliament, have their own policies and agendas…

Oooh, wait, the Greens aren’t like the “old parties” are they, Christine? I’ll tell you one thing: they can plagiarise ideas just as well as anyone else.

Perhaps you don’t remember, Christine, but in the British general election debates of 2010, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg coined the phrase “the two old parties;” does this ring any bells, Christine?

Clegg — the leader of a party which is the remnant of the British Liberal Party, dating back to Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount of Palmerston, who was Britain’s first Liberal Prime Minister from 1859 to 1865 — enunciated the pretence that his party was new, when it was nothing of the kind.

Pray tell, Christine, what are the historical roots of your party? It’s not an account of recent history at all, is it, Christine? But plagiarising speeches can be a new skill every day; it’s just a matter of perspective. Wouldn’t you agree, Christine?

And on she runs…

“On climate change, our action has already been vindicated, with the introduction of a price on pollution that is far more ambitious and gives industry far greater certainty than Rudd’s. The $10 billion renewable energy fund and an independent expert body to recommend how fast and deep to cut pollution are benefits the Greens brought to the policy.”

So what are you squawking about, Christine? You got your way on “a price on pollution,” yet you don’t like the scrutiny being focused on Labor’s political prospects? You don’t like the consideration being given to the damage this and other lunatic policies, straight from the Greens’ communist, socialist handbook is doing to your “allies” over at the ALP?

How smug of you to accuse Sam Dastyari of this and that, just because he can see exactly what the lay of the land is. Could it be, Christine, that you lead a party of hypocrisy?

But you are right in your own way, Christine: your carbon tax does give industry far more certainty than the earlier policy of Rudd’s did — it makes the economic damage generally, and the impact on businesses specifically, that much more severe than Rudd’s policy would have done.

That policy was flawed too, Christine, but yours takes all the worst bits of it and makes  them worse again.

Did I mention the notion of heads wedged up rectums, Christine?

I only mention it now, Christine, because you go on to mention an “independent expert body” being a “benefit” of your policy. You and I know, Christine, that the “experts” you allude to are only “experts” if they go along with the “science.”

Anyone else is “a denier,” “a sceptic,” or just plain stupid.

Aren’t they, Christine?

And whilst we’re on it, perhaps you could explain why anyone should believe that the $10 billion renewable energy fund will be anything other than the rest of the so-called green initiatives that have been no more than a massive rort of taxpayer funds, and misspent money to boot: Green Loans, Cash for Clunkers, Pink Batts…just to name a few, Christine.

And then, for a bit of fancy footwork:

“On refugees, the community is recognising that the practical, compassionate and legal plan the Greens have put forward is the one that will save lives, and we are working hard to build the political will to implement it. More and more Australians remember that, despite mythology, after John Howard introduced mandatory indefinite detention, temporary protection visas and deportation to Nauru, 353 people drowned when SIEV X sank. Howard could claim he “stopped the boats” only because he excluded from our immigration zone the parts of our nation refugees came to, “redefining” 1600 asylum-seekers out of existence.”

Hate to contradict you, Christine, but they’re not recognising that at all; the wider public — as has been recorded in countless reputable opinion surveys — blame the government for the problem, they hold the Left generally responsible for the dismantling of Howard’s Pacific Solution, and they are opposed to onshore processing of unauthorised boat arrivals.

Since you raise it — and at the risk of sounding hard of heart to someone as compassionate as yourself — the incident involving the SIEV X illustrated precisely why something had to be done to stop people arriving by boat in this fashion. As I said earlier, to adopt your approach, Christine — to guarantee asylum and processing onshore — will simply ensure many thousand more people will risk their lives to access something you want to offer as standard.

Work to build the political will to implement whatever you like, Christine, but the day the ALP is no longer dependent on you to form a government, your party won’t have the political means with which to implement anything.

Which is probably just as well, given she goes on to say

“The Greens bring integrity to legislative negotiations. From the stimulus package to workplace relations to private health insurance and much more, we have improved and then passed hundreds of bills that made life better for people. Look at the down-payment on our goal of getting dental care into Medicare. See the recent carve-out for green buildings from the increase to overseas investment withholding tax, which has injected $2bn into the construction industry.”

So…from helping rack up billions in foreign debt, turning the clock back 30 years on industrial relations, helping to engineer rising costs of living for Australians in terms of healthcare and from presumably others among the “hundreds of bills” you refer to, Christine, the Greens have made life better for people?

What integrity is there in the deliberate and systematic railroading of the 89% of Australians who didn’t vote Green, Christine? The people who didn’t want, don’t want, and will never want the socialist nirvana your party seeks to inflict on them?

Milne’s remarks conclude thus:

“Despite the attacks, millions of Australians recognise that only the Greens have the integrity to face up to today’s challenges with practical, responsible action.”

Really? As we speak, millions of Australians are lining up to gift the biggest election win in Australian political history to the conservative parties; and based on reputable research, the Green vote is stagnant from the last federal election — and that’s an indictment, given that in ordinary circumstances the Greens would benefit from some of the movement away from Labor, but on this occasion, they aren’t.

People, can I just say that politics is politics; there are good and bad ideas and people and political practitioners, and it doesn’t matter what cloak the bad ones try to don: a bad idea is a bad idea, and the Greens are full of them.

Senator Milne’s article does not lend one shred of credibility to her party, its policies and its actions; but in seeking to put the spotlight on the ALP for daring to consider breaking ranks, she has instead attracted its glare onto her own party.

The Greens may well win the Melbourne by-election in Victoria next weekend; I believe they will do so, but only because there is no Liberal candidate to direct the preferences of 30% of voters somewhere other than to the Green candidate.

In closing, however, I simply say that anybody who believes the type of pap being spouted by Milne and her cronies — not least, the sort of stuff that found its way into The Australian last week — should think again.

And frankly, anyone seriously considering voting for the Greens needs their head examined.


Excellent Horse-Like Lady: A North Korean Joke

Readers will know North Korea and its loathsome junta have periodically elicited a thumping from The Red And The Blue, and not least on the occasion of “Dear” Leader Kim Jong-Il’s death; North Korea is again in our sights, but this time merely to encourage others to laugh at it.

An article in The Age today appears to profile what seems to be North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s girlfriend, Hyon Song-wol; the pair have frequently been seen together  of recent times, and are widely reported as having resumed their relationship.

Ms Hyon, it seems, was the girlfriend of Kim when the pair were adolescents; more recently, she is apparently the singer in pop outfit Bochonbo Electronic Music Band, a North Korean group charting hits based on patriotic fervour.

It speaks volumes that an insular, paranoid and rigidly Stalinist society like North Korea could produce a pop band achieving wild popularity with hits of such calibre as I Love Pyongyang and She Is A Discharged Soldier; my own personal favourite — coincidentally, the band’s and Ms Hyon’s biggest hit — is the delightfully named Excellent Horse-Like Lady.

You can view the official music video for Excellent Horse-Like Lady here. It’s special.

Never mind that the lyrics are unintelligible to all beyond Korea, and never mind that this looks like the video prompt at a suburban karaoke bar.

The fact remains that all the key DPRK themes are there: women working in factories, workers happy and joyous in their servitude, images of Pyongyang so photoshopped as to almost look inviting, and lots of flowers — there always has to be lots of flowers in video propaganda made by totalitarian dictatorships.

If only fame and stardom were so simple, and such elementary ditties the ticket to Easy Street; were it so, Australia would be a nation of Popstars, and I use the term with some relish and a little glee.

Worthy of less mirth and more concern is the glimpse these developments, and the history behind them, give of the operational methods of the ruling junta in North Korea and the tactics they appear to suggest.

Kim’s relationship with Ms Hyon apparently met with an involuntary end several years ago, as Jong-Un became the obvious heir-designate to his father, Kim Jong-Il; in the intervening period Hyon married and had a child with another man. The present whereabouts and status of her husband and child are unknown.

It tends so suggest a lot about what represents acceptable and accepted social standards in North Korea, or at least where the ruling elite is concerned; that the leadership may exercise that degree of control and interference in the personal lives of its citizens despite the rhetoric about socialist utopia, and that its citizens may simply “disappear” for no better reason than the romantic whims of its “Brilliant Leader.”

Even so, whilst North Korea is in many ways an international laughing-stock, seldom does such an opportunity as Excellent Horse-Like Lady come along to provide the opportunity to simply laugh at North Korea and the fatuous, ridiculous, disingenuous popular and social culture its evil communist masters have propagated.

And I’m certain that no horses, real or imagined, were involved in the conception or the production of this peculiar piece of entertainment.

For mine, I think I’ll head down to JB Hi-Fi on the weekend and see if I can buy a copy on CD. I know my wife will kill me if I find it; she doesn’t see the funny side of these little impulse purchases.

And if that doesn’t work, there are plenty of friendly Korean karaoke bars in Melbourne…but then again, these are run by Koreans from the South, where the sun rises in the east and the Earth is round, so maybe the YouTube clip I found for it will just have to suffice.

Excellent Horse-Like Lady indeed…good Lord…

Questionable Preferences: Putting Greens Last A No-Brainer For Labor

Much has been made this week of  whether the ALP should, in future, place the Communist Party Greens last on future how-to-vote cards; I say this is not simply a no-brainer, but that it goes nowhere near far enough. The Greens must be removed from Australian Parliaments.

It may surprise many readers to find me not only agreeing with an ALP apparatchik and henchman, but advocating a position that goes much further down the same path as the one that was initially proposed.

The NSW state secretary of the Labor Party, Sam Dastyari, has said the party should consider preferencing the Greens last at the looming federal election, describing them as “extremists not unlike One Nation,” saying that Labor must “stop treating them like they are part of (our) family.”

Dastyari will move a motion at next weekend’s NSW ALP Conference calling for the automatic allocation of preferences to Greens candidates to be discontinued; the motion apparently comes with a declaration that “extreme elements” of the Greens’ agenda “are at odds with the values…of many Labor voters.”

His declaration, if followed through upon and moved in those terms, is correct.

But more to the point, elements of the Greens’ agenda — extreme or otherwise — are at odds with the values and needs of almost all voters, not just those of Labor stripe.

Ted Baillieu — a Liberal — pulled off a surprise victory at the 2010 state election in Victoria; in part, this was generally attributed to a refusal by the Liberal Party to allocate preferences to the Greens ahead of the ALP across the state.

The Greens had refused to preference Coalition candidates in Victoria; in return, Baillieu’s campaign returned the favour by refusing to place the Greens ahead of Labor on how-to-vote cards.

And significantly, Baillieu stated publicly that preferencing the Greens was a one way street; for years, Greens candidates had been only too willing to accept preferences from the Coalition parties, but had mostly refused to allocate preferences to the Coalition and — in the vast majority of the historically small number of instances in which the Greens did not preference Labor — instead issued open preference tickets.

In other words, whichever way you look at it, the Liberals got nothing.

Which is why Dastyari is clearly onto something. In venting his apparent frustration toward the Greens, he says — and I quote him here from The Weekend Australian

“The Greens…take the Labor Party for granted…they have put us in a position where sometimes anywhere else would be better with our preferences, and that includes even the Coalition.” (My bolding added).

The Greens took the Liberals and the Nationals for granted for years, too, over the allocation of preferences until a stop was put to it in Victoria; now it seems some in the ALP are awake to the game as well.

On one level, they certainly should be; the Greens aren’t so much a parasite as a creeping fungus, cloaking and choking the life out of its host. But on another, this is the Labor Party we are talking about, and there is ample evidence that many in the ALP simply do not recognise the problem and refuse to see the danger, let alone address it.

To kill two birds with the one stone, it is of course necessary to look no further than the present government in Canberra to see the damage the Greens are capable of inflicting and the inability and/or unwillingness of the federal ALP to do anything about it.

Fortified by Labor preferences and armed with a hung Parliament, the Greens emerged from the 2010 federal election with the balance of power in the Senate and a critical vote in the House of Representatives obtained by winning the traditionally safe Labor electorate of Melbourne (incidentally, on Liberal Party preferences).

Desperate to hold onto power at virtually any cost — and this is an old story now — Julia Gillard cobbled together a hotchpotch alliance to enable her to form a government; whilst the key to that deal was securing the votes of Independent MHRs, its bedrock was the coalition agreement she entered into with the Greens.

The deal effectively secured a Senate majority and put Labor within reach of the lower house once key Independents signed on. Thus, Gillard and her government are beholden to the Greens.

To recognise the damage the Greens have since inflicted on the ALP, it is first necessary to look beyond the damage the ALP has inflicted upon itself; the professionalism that characterised the Labor Party of the Hawke-Keating era is long gone, replaced with a return to the mediocrity and ineptitude that symbolised Labor for decades.

The Greens might be “at odds” with the values of the Labor Party, but the Labor Party itself doesn’t exactly do a great deal to advance those values itself these days — whatever those values actually are.

Even so, virtually every major policy debacle afflicting the Gillard government has been, at best, exacerbated by the Greens.

At worst, these fiascos have been directly engineered by the Greens in ruthless exercise of their power over an abject government desperate to cling to office: firstly in the name of doing “whatever it takes,” and now to stave off the approaching electoral annihilation Labor faces for as long as possible.

For example, the carbon tax. A broken Gillard promise, yes, but this was a condition upon which Greens’ support for the government was predicated; no carbon tax, no coalition agreement.

And whilst inconceivable that the Greens would ever support a Liberal government, or Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, the ALP capitulated on this condition in return for a guarantee of support on matters of confidence and supply.

To make this worse, the level at which the carbon tax was set — $23 per tonne — is recognised (by those who support such mechanisms as an emissions reduction measure) as being well above an appropriate level based on “world standards,” which would suggest a price of $10 per tonne would be more appropriate. Yet the high starting price was largely dictated by the Greens.

And to compound this folly even further, senior figures in the government are now examining the prospect of modifying the carbon tax by reducing the price per tonne as a possible means of salving the political fury it has caused; whilst these discussions proceed — possibly as part of a wider move to change the Labor leadership again — the Greens are using the opportunity to attempt to raise the tonnage price even further.

Whilst such endeavours are unlikely to succeed, the scope for even greater political damage to be inflicted on the ALP is obvious.

To use another example, look no further than the mess which currently exists around the issues of unauthorised boat arrivals, asylum seekers, and people smuggling.

In its obsession with abandoning Howard government policies and its stubborn refusal to admit error in doing so, Labor under Kevin Rudd foolishly and ill-advisedly dismantled the so-called Pacific Solution; fast-forward four years from that event, and we now see boats arriving at will carrying thousands of asylum seekers each year.

The abolition of the Howard policy was cheered on (and waved through the Senate) by the Greens; now they have rendered Gillard incapable of achieving any meaningful resolution to the problems this caused by refusing to support any approach that includes the processing offshore of asylum seekers.

It is not unreasonable for the opposition — armed with a policy that was clearly effective for several years — to refuse to support Gillard’s half-baked schemes on this issue, especially those involving countries that were never told of arrangements supposedly made in their name (East Timor) or making five-for-one swaps that serve the interests of those countries far more than they do Australia’s (Malaysia).

But it is entirely reasonable for the Greens, as a formal coalition partner to the ALP, to be expected to reach agreement with its government ally in formulating, presenting and legislating a solution — even if such a package were to prove a failure, or be repealed by a future conservative government.

The simple fact is that on this issue, as with so many others, the Greens simply cherry-pick what is of interest to them, and dump the remaining crises in the Labor Party’s lap along with the political rancour that goes with them.

And Labor — under Julia Gillard, at least — cannot or will not deal with those issues, the Greens in particular, or the consequent political damage generally.

Having regard to all I have thus far said, Dastyari is dead right — his party must not only throw off the shackles of its alliance with the Greens, but go the next step and refuse to allocate preferences to them.

It has already done so, in the forthcoming by-election for the state seat of Melbourne, vacated by former Bracks/Brumby government minister Bronwyn Pike; the Liberal Party is not standing a candidate, and Labor is directing preferences to Family First over the Greens’ candidate, Melbourne City Councillor Cathy Oke.

The reactions from the Greens range between moral indignation and outrage, and with the very clear suggestion that in placing a Family First candidate ahead of Oke on their preference ticket, Labor has somehow breached the absolute limits of decent and ethically permissible political conduct; that not preferencing Oke is tantamount to a criminal offence, or something to be burnt at the stake for in days gone by.

The decision was described by Greens MHR Adam Bandt as “a dirty deal;” the rhetoric around Green preferences is one thing, but the reality is something else altogether.

Says Dastyari:

“The Greens are to the Left what Pauline Hanson and One Nation are to the Right, and they share ridiculous, albeit different, economic agendas. With Bob Brown’s departure, I can’t see how the Greens have any chance of keeping extremism in check…If I had to share a caucus room with the likes of Lee Rhiannon (Senator elected in 2010 and a former propaganda writer for the USSR), I would have walked out too.”

Here we get very near the mark; Dastyari is bang on the money, and it speaks volumes that not only is his call for distancing the Greens made with no collaboration from his federal counterparts, but that those same federal colleagues appear incapable of recognising exactly what their so-called friends at the Greens really are.

They are not a party of the mainstream, but rather of the lunatic fringe; their left-wing agenda, similarly, sits not within the mainstream Left but on the hard Left.

They are not a party of democracy; look no further than the scheme proposed by Bob Brown to deny a future Liberal government the right to implement its election promises as the simple proof of that.

And they are not a party of the environment, but a party preoccupied with rolling back personal responsibility and freedom of choice, of rolling back national security and defence policy and replacing them with open and unrestricted borders, and of social issues such as gay marriage and multiculturalism that have nothing to do with the environment in any way, shape or form.

To me, it’s a no-brainer to put the Greens last on preference tickets, be they Labor, Liberal, or those of any other candidate.

I agree with Dastyari’s assessment that the Greens represent for the Left the same type of major and potentially existential problem that One Nation posed to the Right.

The big difference — insidiously — is that the slick Greens outfit is possessed of the political smarts and strategies that Hanson and her acolytes so obviously lacked, with the result that hundreds of thousands of people cast Green votes at every election in the belief they are voting for the environment, or strategically as a check on the major parties, or similar, when in fact they are simply perpetuating a massive and highly dangerous ruse.

I don’t just think the Greens should be preferenced last by all other comers; I also think it’s time to reform the electoral process to make it far harder for fringe groups like the Greens to establish a foothold in this country’s Parliaments at all.

Specifically, the establishment of thresholds (especially in the Senate and state upper houses) as exist in many countries abroad, by which parties not achieving, say, 7.5% of primary vote are excluded from eligibility to be elected on preferences; the abolition of compulsory preferential voting across Australia; tying the availability of public election funding for minor parties directly to the achievement of the primary vote thresholds I mentioned earlier; and legislating to force any registered political party with at least one sitting member of Parliament to face the same degree of scrutiny in terms of fiscal auditing and probity of conduct as is required of the major parties at present.

In short, to remove the advantage the Greens hold of being able to say whatever they like, to promise whatever they like, free from any accountability apart from the broad provisions of the current applicable electoral acts, whilst riding into Parliament on a fraction of the vote to hold the country to ransom with the resultant balance of power.

So I say to Sam Dastyari: good luck! For once, a Labor backroom boy has it dead right.

And I say to all readers who may be Greens voters — and, indeed, to any Australian contemplating voting for them — to do their research on the likes of Lee Rhiannon and other dubious figures in the “Green” movement; get hold of their platform, read it thoroughly, and don’t believe for a minute any promise by any Greens politician that what you read in their platform will never be implemented.

Policy platforms are not published as coffee table items; the Greens’ platform is no different in that respect. Given the chance, everything in the Greens’ manifesto would be implemented, and that is a very, very scary prospect.

And that’s the point. We are not talking here about an organisation that is harmless, or possessed of high and worthy ideals, a “safe spot” to park a protest vote or — God forbid — a movement preoccupied with the advancement of environmental issues.

Simply stated, the Greens are mad, bad, and dangerous.

And that is one reality which really does transcend the cross-political divide.


The Horror Of Craig Emerson: Idiot Of The Week!

One of the most bizarre — and ridiculous — press conferences of recent times took place in Canberra today; this cretinous, toe-curling, blood-curdling horror movie makes Craig Emerson The Red And The Blue‘s Idiot Of The Week. And it’s only Monday!

Readers will, I’m sure, excuse this indulgence; as most of you know I am too time-challenged at present to post as regularly or as comprehensively as I would like.

Nonetheless, there is still time to dish it out to morons like the Minister for Trade and “Competitiveness.”

Watch this, with thanks to Brisbane’s Courier-Mail (it’s better than any YouTube clip I could have chosen).

There’s nothing spontaneous about a stage-managed stunt; by the same token, there’s nothing effective or hard-hitting about something as contrived as this.

The music doesn’t cue for several excruciating seconds; and when it does, Emerson contorts into one of the most ridiculous “dance” routines seen this side of a prepubescent disco — imbecilic grin at the lips — and proceeds to “sing,” out of sync and out of key, an abominable bastardisation of the lyrics from “Horror Movie” by 1970s group Skyhooks.

“This is the mood in Whyalla,” Emerson states as he waits for his carefully rehearsed (and painstakingly mangled) little choreography act to kick off to the music.

There might not be a “Whyalla wipeout right there on the TV” but the temptation — for the poor suffering journalist — to wipe the smirk off Emerson’s face must have been almost irresistible.

Politics is politics, and both sides in Canberra are playing theirs pretty hard at present; it’s obvious who is more effective at it, judged by the huge lead the Liberals currently hold in the polls.

And is it any wonder, when this is the sort of thing the ALP serves up as a serious contribution to debate.

Whatever linguistic atrocities may be served up in political debate at present — and an asseveration that Whyalla might be “wiped off the map” if a carbon tax is implemented certainly qualifies (sorry Tony) — these pale into insignificance beside juvenile and puerile japes such as that performed for national TV by Dr Emerson.

As a senior cabinet minister, he should know better; as a member of the Prime Minister’s inner circle, he should have had more brains. And as an MP defending a marginal seat likely to be lost to the LNP in next year’s landslide, he should have thought twice before making himself a laughing-stock so publicly.

If I lived in Whyalla — even if I thought Tony Abbott was full of the proverbial and that the present government was the best thing since The Wombles — I’d be at least moderately disgusted by this performance.

And not least, to put it bluntly, because Emerson has now forever tarred the fine town of Whyalla with the mentally retarded stupidity of his antics.

No, Craig, it’s not funny. It isn’t a joke. But you certainly are.

Dr Craig Emerson, folks: Idiot Of The Week!

What a dickhead…

AND ANOTHER THING: This all comes in the same breath as reports that former New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally feels “hurt and distress” at being compared with reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian due to Kardashian’s “negative reputation.”

Such was the substance of a complaint made by Keneally’s husband to the Australian Press Council (which dismissed the complaint), citing among other things the sex tape Kardashian once notoriously made with her boyfriend which catapulted her to international stardom.

Kristina Keneally is a highly capable and — by all reports — exceedingly charming woman. She is reputed to be a very tough operator. Coincidentally, she is also very attractive.

For all that shrewd toughness, something rings hollow — especially when the targets of the Keneally complaint just happen to be a former Liberal Party staffer and, indirectly, the Liberal Premier of NSW.

Blessed with her renowned resilience and astute mien, perhaps the pretty lady could have deployed a more subtle weapon: feminine guile.

After all, she has been compared to arguably one of the most beautiful women on the planet in Kardashian, the apparent lack of brains on the part of the latter notwithstanding; how much more effective (and so very deflating for her opponents) to smile, laugh, and accept “a well-earned compliment.”

A generation ago, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used a mix of female charm and dominance to steamroll the most implacable of male opponents; there was nothing gratuitous, demeaning or tokenistic about it — after all, it was Thatcher who was the perpetrator.

She showed women in public life the world over how to beat men at their game; and in this case, it may have been far more effective for Kristina Keneally to channel the spirit of a Thatcher than the letter of an ambit complaint.