The School of Athens

The School of Athens
The School of Athens by Raphael (click on picture to view short documentary from Columbia University)

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Tony Abbott is in huge trouble.

Fellow citizens,

Former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is in very grave danger of losing the seat of Warringah. One that he has held since 1994.

The challenge from Independent Zali Steggall is very real, very serious and could ultimately prove to be very successful.

There are several pieces of evidence that lead me to draw that conclusion.

1 - Quantitative

The only polling data on Warringah that we have to date was conducted in September 2018 by ReachTEL - before any Independents had nominated to run in the seat for the 2019 election (see below).

It showed that there was a primary vote swing of 12% against Abbott and a two party preferred swing of 7%.

Abbott's two party preferred lead was down to 54% to 46% when he was facing a challenge from the proverbial 'empty chair'.

He was already vulnerable.

This is reminiscent of the challenge to his leadership in February 2015 when Abbott came within 12 votes of losing to no contender - the empty chair - and six months later he was gone.

2 - Electoral History

In the 2016 Federal Election, Independent James Mathison (among others) challenged Abbott for the seat of Warringah.

It was reported by Phil Coorey [AFR 19 April 2017] that Abbott was so worried about losing the seat that he appealed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for assistance in the final week to ensure the seat was held.

"Malcolm Turnbull intervened personally during the final week of last year's election campaign to help 'save' Tony Abbott after internal party polling showed the former prime minister was so unpopular in his own seat of Warringah he risked losing it in a landslide."

3 - Qualitative

I have friends and relatives who live in and near the seat of Warringah.

All of them - ALL.OF.THEM. - tell me that the anger against Abbott is white hot and that the "voters can't wait to get rid of him".

While there's been a growing and significant dissatisfaction with Abbott over several issues - especially his intransigence over effective action on climate change - it was his campaign against Equal Marriage that was the "final straw".

Despite the people of Warringah casting a 75% vote in favour of Equal Marriage - the 10th highest vote by seat in the nation - Abbott abstained from voting in the parliament.

"He doesn't represent us, he represents himself" is the refrain I hear - one that Zali Steggall has already used.

The father of cartoonist Fiona Katauskas - Don Katauskas - is so incensed with Abbott for being a "total wrecker who has selfishly damaged the Liberal Party for nothing", that he took to the streets of Manly with sandwich boards urging voters to get rid of Abbott (see photos below).

Now, Don Katauskas is not your typical "bleeding heart leftie". He has never voted for the ALP. He has always supported the Coalition.

Like many who emigrated from Eastern Europe to escape the clutches of the Soviet regime, he loathes communism and by extension any party to the left of Genghis Khan.

Plus his experience as a small businessman having to deal with some of the more obstinate union leaders and their destructive ways has reinforced his right of centre position.

His enmity to the ALP has been long standing, and while he lives in the electorate of Bradfield, he felt so enraged at Abbott that he was motivated to travel to Warringah to walk the streets of the electorate urging his removal.

He visited three times and his feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Thirty-eight positive comments and only three negative.

One elector sung out to Don, "F*** Abbott!", to which Don replied, "I'd rather not!"

4 - The example of Bennelong in 2007

When Maxine McKew nominated to run against John Howard for the 2007 election, I knew Howard was in deep trouble.

The view from the press at the time was that Howard was a wily campaigner and that he would be very difficult to defeat.

The first polls in the seat showed McKew was going to win and every poll after that showed the same, and on election night the result was the same. Howard lost.

He suffered a 5.5% two party preferred swing and that was on the back of the 3.5% swing he'd already suffered in the 2004 Federal Election as a result of the challenge of Andrew Wilkie (as a Green).

What is often overlooked is that Maxine McKew not only won but came within 150 votes of out polling Howard on first preferences.

What is also often overlooked is that Howard - the 'wily campaigner' - was voted out by Liberal voters. The seat of Bennelong was later reclaimed by John Alexander for the Liberal Party in 2010 and has been held ever since.

The voters who shifted against Howard were Liberal supporters who had had enough of his reactionary ways and were looking for a new way forward; then having removed him, shifted back to normal transmission.

5 - Betting market changes

Prior to the announcement that Zali Steggall was challenging Abbott, the price for Abbott to win was 1.55 and the "Independent" 2.20.

That translated to a win chance probability for Abbott of 59% and the "Independent" 41%.

Already not very convincing for a "safe seat".

Following Zali Steggall's announcement, the market shifted quickly.

Abbott blew out to 2.15 and the "Independent" shortened to 1.70.

That translated to a win chance probability for Abbott of only 44% and the "Independent" 56%.

Even less convincing for a "safe seat".

The challenge ahead

In the 2016 Federal Election, Abbott won the two candidate preferred vote over the Green candidate 53,346 votes to 33,320.

Zali Steggall will need to shift over to her side about 10,000 voters who gave their voting preference to Abbott at the last election.

In other words, about 1 in 5 of those voters.

Think that's too onerous?

In the 2018 Wentworth by-election, Dr Kerryn Phelps shifted about twice that number (around 20,000) to her side, or about 1 in 3.5 voters who supported the Coalition in the 2016 election

The 20,000 voters that Kerryn Phelps shifted in Wentworth were Liberal voters, the voters who despatched John Howard in Bennelong were Liberal voters, and the voters who will support Zali Steggall in Warringah and send Tony Abbott off to political oblivion will be Liberal voters.

We shall watch with great interest.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

A simple history of the last 46 years of Australian federal politics

Fellow citizens,

On the weekend, Sunday December 2, passed the 46th anniversary of the election of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1972.

Like the Moon landing in 1969, those of us who witnessed it will never forget the event or its impact.

It got me to thinking about the last 46 years and the number of elections that were held, the predictions that were made, the outcomes that occurred and the explanations that were given at the time.

So here's the list and my view of why results fell the way they did.

1972 - ALP elected. Three reasons: It was time to change after 23 years of Coalition rule, Gough Whitlam was the leader of the ALP and Billy McMahon was the leader of the Liberal Party.

1974 - ALP re-elected. After having just elected a new government the public wanted to give the ALP a chance to perform and was not ready to change back to the Coalition under Billy Snedden.

1975 - Coalition elected. After witnessing the implosion of the Whitlam Government, the public was very ready to elect the Coalition under Malcolm Fraser, despite the public's misgivings over the manner of the Dismissal.

1977- Coalition re-elected. The public was happy with the Coalition government and was not prepared to change back to the ALP so soon after having turfed them out.

1980 - Coalition re-elected. The public had become disappointed in the Coalition and had warmed to the ALP under Bill Hayden, but not quite enough to elect a new government.

1983 - ALP elected. After enduring a recession, the public was deeply disappointed in the Coalition's economic management and was very ready to turn to the alternative, especially when its leader came to be Bob Hawke.

1984 - ALP re-elected. Public was happy with the ALP Government, but pissed off over its dopey decision to call an eight week election campaign and to go so early in its term of office, and so the voters re-elected Labor with a significantly reduced majority.

1987 - ALP re-elected. Public was still happy with the ALP Government and was not going to change to the Coalition under John Howard, especially as it was so divided.

1990 - ALP re-elected. Despite very high interest rates leading the public to be mightily annoyed with the ALP government, they were prepared to re-elect the incumbent not least because the alternative under Andrew Peacock was unacceptable.

1993 - ALP re-elected. The public was very ready to punish the ALP for having been asked to endure a decade of reform only for those efforts to have ended in a recession. However, the alternative proposed by the Coalition, "Fightback", was even more reform and was rejected. The GST proposal was merely a symptom of what the public perceived to be the disease.

1996 - Coalition elected. The public was waiting to boot out the ALP government and when the "comfortable and relaxed" John Howard was elected to the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1995, a change of government was never in doubt.

1998 - Coalition re-elected. The public was deeply disappointed in the Howard Government and was quite prepared to make it the first one term government since the Great Depression. The two party preferred vote attracted by the Coalition was only 49%, but because enough of those votes fell in the right seats, the Coalition managed to hang on.

2001 - Coalition re-elected. The public continued to be disappointed in the Coalition government describing it as "mean and tricky" and was looking to vote them out. However, following the terrorist attack on Sept 11, they were never going to change governments at that time. There's a belief that the Tampa incident was a major factor in the Coalition's re-election, however, this is only partly correct. Tampa showed Howard to be ruthless and after Sept 11, a scared public preferred such a leader than the avuncular Kim Beazley.

2004 - Coalition re-elected. The public was looking to this election to change governments, but one thing stopped them: Mark Latham.

2007 - ALP elected. After 11 years and three failed attempts to vote out the Coalition government, the public was very ready to make a change and, like in 1983 with Bob Hawke, the election of Kevin Rudd to the ALP leadership made that change a certainty.

2010 - ALP re-elected. Despite misgivings about some of the ALP's behaviour, the public was very prepared to re-elect it notwithstanding their bemusement with the leadership change to Julia Gillard. However, ALP infighting during the campaign and more perceived instability led the public to be inclined to toss out the incumbent but baulked at electing Tony Abbott. In the end the public's combined decision was indecision.

2013 - Coalition elected. Tired of ALP infighting and anger over the unpopular "carbon tax" the public decided to elect the Coalition despite deep concerns about Tony Abbott.

2016 - Coalition re-elected. The public was disappointed in the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull (not as disappointed as they were under Tony Abbott) but was not yet ready to elect the ALP so soon after having tossed them out.

In the last 46 years, millions of column inches and thousands of hours of TV and radio reporting have been employed in analysing the minutia of politics. Without question, an important factor in keeping our democracy a healthy one.

Yet, in the end, it all seems so simple. Doesn't it? 

Monday, 26 November 2018

The current Liberal Party is not remotely's a reactionary, incompetent rabble.

Fellow citizens,

The current Federal Liberal Party is not a shadow of the party that Robert Menzies, Harold Holt and John Gorton led...I am, of course, not including Billy McMahon. I mean, who would?

These governments were responsible for the planning and implementation of three far reaching policy decisions.

1. The introduction of decimal currency.


2. The conversion from imperial measures to metric.

On 12 June 1970, the Australian Metric Conversion Act passed by the Australian Parliament was given assent. This Act created the Metric Conversion Board to facilitate the conversion of measurements from imperial to metric, the implementation of which occurred over the next few years.  


3. The 1967 referendum to determine whether two references in the Australian Constitution, which discriminated against Aboriginal people, should be removed. A referendum that was passed emphatically.  

Under the current manifestation of what remains of the Liberal Party, what chance do you think such policy decisions would be considered, let alone implemented?

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Time to stop indulging Donald Trump's petulance

Fellow citizens,

You will no doubt have seen the petulant display from the current President of the United States - Donald Trump - towards a member of the White House Press Corps - Jim Acosta of CNN - when he asked Trump, in effect, why he called a group of a few thousand desperate people, who were hundreds of miles from the US border, an "invasion."

Trump responded like a spoilt, bad tempered child who was always used to getting his own way and for once discovering that he'd been caught out and that his self-absorbed behaviour wasn't going to be accepted.

He threw a tantrum.

If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here:

My question is this: Why didn't every reporter who asked a question after Jim Acosta was accosted by Donald Trump, ask the following question:

"Mr President, why don't you answer Jim's question?"

And then one after one, keep asking him to answer the original question asked until he did answer it or stormed off.

Contrast Trump's petulance with the class of President John F. Kennedy when taking questions from the press. 

A little known fact is that Kennedy held 64 fully broadcasted press conferences in the less than three years he was in power. About one every three weeks.

And it wasn't that Kennedy was given an easy time by the press or the Republican Party either, as these questions from one of his press conferences testify, though his answers illustrate how he would easily deal with them and with good humour.

Journalist: "Mr. President, I am sure you are aware, sir, of the tremendous mail response that your news conferences on television and radio has produced.  There are many Americans who believe that in our manner of questioning or seeking to gain your attention that we are subjecting you to some amount of abuse or a lack of respect."

President Kennedy: "Well, you are subjecting me to some abuse but not to any lack of respect, I don't think."

Journalist: "Mr. President, in the 1960 campaign you used to say that it was time for America to get moving again.  The reason I ask you the question, Mr. President, is that the Republican National Committee recently adopted a resolution saying you were pretty much of a failure."

President Kennedy: "I am sure it was passed unanimously."

You can watch him answer those questions and many more in this clip from YouTube:

Kennedy also spoke of the importance of an active press in a free society in this interview in 1962:

"I think it's invaluable, even though it may cause you some (pause) it's never pleasant to be reading things frequently that are not agreeable news, but I would say that it's an invaluable arm of the Presidency as a check really on what's going on in administration, and more things come to my attention that cause me the concern or give me information, so (pause)"

"I would think that Mr. Krushchev [The Soviet Union's Premier], operating a totalitarian system which has many advantages as far as being able to move in secret and all the rest, there's a terrific disadvantage not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily, to an Administration."

"Even though we never like it and even though we wish they didn't write it and even though we disapprove, there still is (pause) there isn't any doubt that we couldn't do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press."

"Now, on the other hand, the press has the responsibility not to distort things for political purposes, not to just take some news in order to prove a political point."

"It seems to me their obligation is to be as tough as they can on an Administration, but do it in such a way which is directed towards getting as close to the truth as they can get, and not merely because of some political motivation."

You can see his answer at this YouTube link:

The class difference between Kennedy and Trump is as far apart as the poles.

Surely, it's well past time for the White House Press Corps to bring Trump into line and treat him just like any other spoilt brat would be:


Monday, 5 November 2018

War is Hell: 100 years since the death of Wilfred Owen

Fellow citizens,

Yesterday, November 4, 2018, marked 100 years since the brilliant World War 1 poet Wilfred Owen was killed in battle - seven days before the Armistice - he was 25 years old.

While Owen died 100 years ago, his immortal poetry lives on for this time, and for all time.

You've heard it said that "War is Hell", as this US soldier serving in Vietnam in 1965 had noted on his helmet.

The phrase was first coined by US Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman:

“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is Hell.”

"You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!"

But this is not entirely true, as this exchange in the Television series M*A*S*H explains:

In addition to a few of the brass, in fact, ahead of all the brass; I'd place the scheming, manipulative, ambitious politicians who have always poisoned our politics - and still do today.

Lest we ever bloody well forget that.

Monday, 15 October 2018

The lost love of millions: Malcolm Turnbull's honeymoon vs Scott Morrison's

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

How does the elevation of Scott Morrison to Prime Minister compare to when Malcolm Turnbull assumed the Liberal leadership?

In short: very poorly.

At the end of October 2015, six weeks following the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull, the Coalition's primary vote stood at 45.4%.

Seven week's after the elevation of Scott Morrison, the Coalition's primary vote stands at 36.7%

A difference of 8.7%, or about 1.25 million voters.

At the end of October 2015, six weeks following the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull, the ALP's primary vote stood at 31.8%.

Seven week's after the elevation of Scott Morrison, the ALP's primary vote stands at 36.8%.

A difference of 5%, or about 700,000 voters.

In Two Party Preferred terms, at the end of October 2015, six weeks following the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull, the Coalition's two party preferred vote stood at 53%.

Seven week's after the elevation of Scott Morrison, the Coalition's two party preferred vote stands at 46.7%.

A difference of 6.3% or about 900,000 voters.

Comparison Primary Votes: Turnbull October 2015 vs Morrison October 2018 %


Comparison Two Party Preferred: Turnbull October 2015 vs Morrison October 2018 %


There's not much love for Scott Morrison, certainly compared to Malcolm Turnbull.

And look who's none too unhappy about it.

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Alan Jones myth

Fellow citizens,

The much vaunted influence of Alan Jones over the people of Sydney is a myth.

Only in the feeble minds of NSW (and Federal) politicians is this fact not the case. Who the Hell knows why?

Jones's 2GB breakfast program attracts on average 15% of the Sydney audience.


That means 85% is not listening to him.


Politicians are supposed to be good at counting the numbers. It's curious that these numbers don't seem to register with them.

Here's a thought: Rather than genuflecting in the presence of this bullying thug, how about ignoring him and his infantile tantrums.

Better still, how about just telling him to:


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Our home

Our home
Earthrise over the moon (click on picture to view film)

The pale blue dot

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Our neighbourhood

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Our Home Galaxy

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A sister galaxy

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Another sister galaxy

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Triangulum (click on picture to view short film clip)

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Our farthest view of the Universe

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The virgo super cluster of galaxies

The virgo super cluster of galaxies
Galaxies within 100 million light years (click on picture to view film clip)

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Galaxies within 1 billion light years