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, 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:


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

For News Ltd's Herald-Sun; sorry seems to be the hardest word

Fellow citizens,

You will have no doubt heard about the Mark Knight cartoon in the Herald-Sun regarding Serena Williams.

If you haven't seen it, here it is:

I don't know what Mark Knight's intent was when he drew this, but there's no doubt the effect is a grotesque caricature of Serena Williams as being 'samboed' up in the style of Jim Crow racism.

It's clearly offensive to African Americans.

A simple apology from the cartoonist citing ignorance of the history and that there was no intent to offend should have seen an end to the matter.

Instead, News Ltd's Herald-Sun has chosen to remain ignorant of the history and insensitive to the hurt and rather than apologise has decided to go on the attack, engaging in another salvo in the tiresome culture wars and the battle against 'political correctness' and the illusion of limiting free expression.

Misunderstanding and a lack of knowledge of another culture's sensitivities is not an indictment. It is part of being human in a diverse world.

Yet, when we offend, however inadvertently the offence is caused, it is an indictment on the perpetrator to refuse to acknowledge the hurt...especially when it is racially charged.

On that point, I'd like to remind everyone of an incident that occurred live on air nearly 40 years ago at TV's Logies Awards in 1979.

Host, Bert Newton, was interviewing the guest, Muhammad Ali.

The conversation ensued as follows:

Ali was speaking about who might win the Gold Logie and said, "When you all out there find out who wins this, it'll be a shock!"

Bert Newton, with impeccable timing as always, waited for the laughter to die down, lent into the microphone and with every sign of affection said: "I like the boy!"

As offensive a term as one could say to an African American man. A condescending term that goes back to slavery days and the believed superiority of whites over blacks.

There was an immediate gasp from the American guests in the audience.

Bert later said that for a few seconds there was fire in the eyes of the heavyweight champ. Something like this, I suspect.

 Ali then asked, "Did you say Roy or boy?"

Bert replied, wary and confused, "I like the boy!"

Starting to be quite concerned Bert then looked down at the audience, quite likely not wanting to make eye contact with the 6' 3" 220 pound world champion and asked the front table of American guests "Is there something wrong with saying that?"

Sitting at the front table was Lauren Tewes, the star of the TV series The Love Boat, who was screaming out "No! No! You said Roy! You said Roy!"

Bert then understood something was terribly wrong and backed away from Ali, placed his hands in the air and, trying to return levity to the situation, said, "Hey, hang on! Hang on! I'll change religion, I'll do anything for you. I don't care."

Ali realised Bert was completely unaware of the meaning of the deeply racial slur that he had uttered and started to smile.

Bert, still totally confused, asked the front row guests again, "What's wrong with that? I like the boy? I mean, I like the man. I'll face in the right direction, I don't care."

And then after all of that, Bert said, "I'm sorry, Muhammad" and returned to the microphone with hands shaking violently, showing his fear in a humorous manner.

You can watch an excerpt of that segment here:

Bert later explained that he had starred in a TV advertisement for KFC several years before and as Colonel Sanders he used that phrase in the ad "I like the boy!" and that's where it came from.

This was clearly a situation of cultural and historical difference.

It was only for a few seconds that Ali took offence and became incensed but when he realised that there was no intent from Bert, only ignorance, he returned to his jovial self.

Bert, once he realised what he had done, immediately apologised. He said "sorry".

A simple apology. It's not that hard.

I was taught as a child that it takes a big man to admit he was wrong and apologise.

The Herald-Sun's refusal to do so in this instance speaks volumes.

Blog Archive

Our home

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

The pale blue dot

The pale blue dot
Earth viewed from Saturn (click on picture to view film clip)

Our neighbourhood

Our neighbourhood
The Solar System (click on picture to view film)

Our Home Galaxy

Our Home Galaxy
The Milky Way (click on picture to view film)

A sister galaxy

A sister galaxy
Andromeda (click on picture to view film)

Another sister galaxy

Another sister galaxy
Triangulum (click on picture to view short film clip)

The Local Group of Galaxies

The Local Group of Galaxies
Our Galactic Neighbourhood (click on picture to view film clip).

Our farthest view of the Universe

Our farthest view of the Universe
Hubble's farthest view (click on picture to view film clip)

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)

Galaxies within 1 billion light years

Galaxies within 1 billion light years