Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Archive for April, 2008

Possums Getting Married

Posted by Possum Comitatus on April 8, 2008

My childhood sweetheart of 15 years has decided that the time is right for her to sign my ownership papers even though I keep telling her that a semi-vintage model like myself doesn’t come with much of a warranty these days – too old to be considered fashionable, but not old enough to be considered vintage chic. Yet despite my many flaws – some rough paint work, zero fashion sense and a predilection for inappropriate metaphors to name but a few of the kinder ones, she’s still keen, god bless her.

So this weekend, vows will be said, rings exchanged, embarrassing family anecdotes inevitably retold and exaggerated, and much merriment will be had by all – and from this grand ritual, apparently I will metamorphosise into an honest marsupial. Well, not too honest… some things are probably well beyond the reach of any ritual.

As you would imagine, weddings bring a special type of holiday that generally takes ones attention away from the world around them and as a result, the Pollytics site will be going a little slower for the next 3 or 4 weeks. However, I’m fairly certain that our honeymoon won’t be as long as, say, a certain political leader’s, and I will be back before that mythical slayer of honeymoons everywhere – The Budget – gets delivered.

We are actually heading to Tasmania for our honeymoon – avoiding the usual tourist traps and spending a few weeks leisurely roaming around the State hunting down the best food and wine that the Apple Isle locally produces.

So maybe some of you folks could answer a question if you’d be kind enough – know any well hidden Tasmanian food and wine secrets?


Posted in Uncategorized | 81 Comments »

Is he Australia’s most useless Editor?

Posted by Possum Comitatus on April 7, 2008

This was me in Crikey earlier today.

Image via Crikey.

It’s the question that has been asked over the weekend, or at least asked far more often than the question The Daily Telegraph posed on Saturday. David Penberthy, the Editor of the rag responsible for publishing the most outrageous piece of trash printed in an Australian newspaper for the last decade, now seems to be flailing around like some silly child caught throwing rocks at houses – desperately reaching for any excuse, however implausible, however pathetic, that could remotely justify the disgraceful behaviour of The Telegraph on Saturday.

After getting deservedly slapped around all weekend for one of the larger acts of stupidity undertaken by a major daily in recent history, one would think the Tele would have cut its losses, basked in its sensationalism and enjoyed the few extra eyeballs the exercise generated for their advertisers – but the collective slapping by the deep end of the economic and political gene pool apparently stung a little more than was expected, bringing the Telegraph not only the eyeballs it was after, but a large hit on the credibility of the paper itself – and that definitely wasn’t in the plan.

This morning’s sordid attempt by Penberthy to vindicate the odious cocktail of personal attack and economic fantasy that was thrown at the Governor of the RBA would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. Putting on his “everymans” face – the writing style that’s supposed to relate to the “common man” as if it somehow exonerates the piffle that will inevitably follow, Penberthy argues:

Stevens’ public relations problems started on March 27.

Channelling the unlamented Malcolm Fraser, he decided to give mortgagees a bit of tough love, mounting what has served as a defence of the (many) banks which have opted to (significantly) overshoot the bank’s current official cash rate of 7.25 per cent.

“The presumption that their lending rates should only move with the official rate isn’t really realistic in this period, and we’ve indeed seen bank lending rates moving independently of the cash rate,” he said.

“I think that’s just life in this environment.”

Maybe it is. But it was about as helpful as saying – shit happens.

Good grief – “shit happens”? We certainly know where. When the Governor of the RBA answers to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, his role is to answer any questions posed honestly, in his capacity as the head of the most powerful economic institution in the country. It’s one of, if not the most important presentations the Governor makes. To demand, as Penberthy seemingly does, that the Governor should put his answers to this Committee through a public relations meat grinder shows either a profound ignorance of the underlying importance of the Governors appearances before this Committee, or the depths of desperation that Penberthy is willing plumb to try and recover some of the major losses in credibility that this outburst has inflicted on the paper.

Just when we thought that these miserable excuses couldn’t get anymore obnoxious, Penberthy then has the audacity to start arguing that there’s serious policy consequences that legitimise the papers grubby attacks – he states:

More important is its effect in policy terms. That is, will it have the innocent effect of giving a context to the banks’ decision to raise rates above the official cash rate? Or will it have the much more alarming effect of giving the big banks a collective sense of legitimacy, where they can hide behind the skirts of the bank and hold up ANY additional rates increase as defensible in light of events overseas?

There is no doubt as to what the readers of The Daily Telegraph believe.”

Well there’s probably not much doubt now after the Telegraph went out of its way to pile this rubbish four foot deep through the minds of their readership on Saturday. And what great evidence does Penberthy produce to back this spurious nonsense up? Well, he continues;

…Whether he likes it or not, Stevens’ comments have clearly given the banks that sense of legitimacy. Within three hours of his appearance at the House of Representatives committee last Friday, where he amplified his defence of over-the-odds increases, the Commonwealth Bank jacked up its rates again, by 0.12 per cent, adding another $25 a month to the average mortgage.”

Penberthy would have us believe that the Commonwealth Bank, out of the blue and purely as a result of what Stevens said in the Committee, jacked up their rates faster than the Tele would splash a snatch shot of Lara Bingle across their front page should they ever get their hands on one?

Fair dinkum, what a load of dogs cobblers. The idea of the Commonwealth Bank being able to do anything within three hours is amusing in itself – initiating the not insubstantial process involved to raise their own rates in that time frame?

Pull the other one – it plays serious journalism.

The Telegraph goes in hard over “personal responsibility”, it’s a staple of their tabloid diet – parents should be responsible for their tearaway rugrats, criminals should be responsible for their crimes, politicians should be responsible for their policies.

David Penberthy needs to shoulder some responsibility of his own for the outrageous rubbish that the Telegraph engaged in – by taking a very long walk off a short plank and resigning.


Also: Mark over at LP covers the bases and does a bit of poison dwarf tossing to boot.

Stephen Kirchner over at IE lays the boot into Milne.

And that’s possibly the first and only time in history you’ll ever see those two sites linked near each other, anywhere :mrgreen:

If anyone knows who wrote the piece in the Saturday version of the Tele, could they let me know? The online version was conveniently missing a byline.

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Posted in Crikey, General Economics | 39 Comments »

A Brief History of Morgan

Posted by Possum Comitatus on April 4, 2008

Fridays Morgan Poll, a phone poll of 2,231 respondents taken over the weekends of March 26/27 and April 2/3 has just been released showing the ALP leading on primaries 51/34 for a TPP lead of 60.5/39.5

UPDATE: I better add that the minimum MoE on this beast is about 2%.

Getting back to our old habit of charting these little buggers now that we are starting to get enough of them to warrant it, this is what all Morgan polls taken since the last election look like.


If we split them up into their respective Face-To-Face and Phone Poll segments, we get:

morgpollftfapril.jpg morganpollsphapril.jpg

That’s all pretty stable business.

Over at the Roy Morgan site, these polls always come released with a little “Gary Says” wisdom – it’s cute and always worth a squiz, but this time I think they made a typo.

Gary Morgan says:

Although the Coalition continues to trail the ALP by more than 20% on a two-party preferred basis, the result of this Morgan Poll is its best result since late January.”

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s current overseas journeys hasn’t helped Labor support, particularly as the media has been focused on the current economic and financial problems in Australia and the US.”

Liberal leader Brendan Nelson and his colleagues will be hoping they can continue this momentum in the lead up to the release of Labor’s first Federal Budget in more than a decade.

I think that last bit should have read “Liberal Leader in waiting Malcolm Turnbull and his aligned colleagues will be hoping they can continue this momentum in the lead up to the release of Labor’s first Federal Budget in more than a decade.”

Call me strange, but I reckon the Coalition having their polling wandering around between 35 and 40% TPP probably isn’t the kind of momentum they’d be after at the moment.

Posted in morgan, Polling | 11 Comments »

A quick addition to housing affordability

Posted by Possum Comitatus on April 2, 2008

Continuing on from our last round of debate, Anthony Richards, the Head of the Economic Analysis Department at the RBA has just conveniently published a spiel on housing affordability that he gave to the Melbourne Institutes 2008 Economic and Social Outlook Conference.

Some Observations on the Cost of Housing in Australia

It not only addresses a lot of the issues we’ve looked at here, but conveniently provides a fair whack of data that people have been asking about. For anyone really interested in the policy side of this, have a close squiz at the footnotes and the References where there’s a good list of further reading.


For those of you that either dont know or, like me, dont particularly care, the Senate Select Committee on Housing Affordability in Australia has started going through the motions. I’ve never had much faith from the outset in this particular committee doing anything remotely usefull about housing affordability – but it wasnt until this morning that I actually came across its terms of reference via Tug Boat Potemkin via Club Troppos daily missing link.

The terms of reference for this exercise in intellectual horsepower are:
1. That a select committee, to be known as the Select Committee on Housing Affordability in Australia be established to inquire into and report upon:
The barriers to home ownership in Australia, including:

a. the taxes and levies imposed by state and territory governments;
b. the rate of release of new land by state and territory governments;
c. proposed assistance for first home owners by state, territory and the Commonwealth governments and their effectiveness in the absence of increased supply;
d. the role of all levels of government in facilitating affordable home ownership;
e. the effect on the market of government intervention in the housing sector including planning and industrial relations laws;
f. the role of financial institutions in home lending; and
g. the contribution of home ownership to retirement incomes.

Is there anyone else that reads this drivel and goes WTF?

The only tax regime mentioned is that of “States and Territories” – Oh how very convenient. I’m sure the usual special interest pleaders will have a field day with this one.

Garbage in – garbage out.

Posted in General Economics | 29 Comments »

Political Advice By The Column Inch

Posted by Possum Comitatus on April 1, 2008

crikeylogo.jpg This was me earlier today in Crikey.

In a headline that rivals “Strange Man on Public Transport!” for its sheer obviousness, Opposition is a Tough Business. With new governments come new oppositions which generally struggle to cope with the large decrease in relevance associated with the opposition benches. But after eighteen weeks, most Federal oppositions have at least developed some veneer of political strategy, some understanding of the job required in opposition which the polling starts to reflect. The day to day demand of having a 5 second grab on the great suite of topics that make up the news cycle starts getting complimented with more strategic approaches to the long term business of opposition.

What seems to separate the current opposition from their forebears is that the political strategy in its entirety appears to have been outsourced by the column inch to a set of News Limited journos that give Hawker Britton a run for their money in terms of pure spin. We’ve had the carers payment “crisis” which was little more than journalistic speculation gone feral, we’ve had the Aurukun/Macklin nonsense, we’ve currently got the Australia/Japan relationship “crisis” where the list goes on and on and on. The problem is that these stories sit somewhere between manufactured outrage and mocumentraries on the quality spectrum, allowing the government to easily adapt to whatever crisis they’re apparently facing this week by throwing some small bone to kill the story – an early budget clarification on the one hand, organise a quick Japan meet and greet on the other.

While it’s to be expected that oppositions follow the news cycle, and its to be expected that this type of sensationalist tabloid journalism that drives eyeballs to advertisers will make up a large part of that news cycle, regardless of the size of the paper the stories are printed on – the problem for the opposition is that it’s mostly vacuous fluff that that the public either sees through, doesn’t care about, or worse – they do believe it was an issue and then watch as that nice man Mr Rudd far from caving in to pressure, simply does what’s right and ends up looking in touch with the voters.

If we create a rolling two pollster average using Newspoll and Morgan and compare the first eighteen weeks of the Rudd and Howard governments, something stands out:


By this time in the term of the Howard government, the Beazley opposition had started to move on from the easy pickings of the news cycle and began to compliment that by applying greater strategic pressure about the new government’s policy program, which resulted in Howard’s polling honeymoon being slowly eroded. Yet the current opposition with its scatter gun style and lazy strategic approach is, if anything, falling further behind the ALP as time goes on.

If we want to place it in an even starker context, we can compare the vote gap that existed between the government and opposition of the day in 1996 and 2008 – again using this rolling two pollster average.


Whether this is the result of Rudd being a better political manager than Howard, Beazley being a better opposition leader than Nelson, the nature of political circumstance at the time or some mix of any and all of these things – what is inescapable is that Nelson is failing and that’s not good for the quality of governance.

What might be worth a shot is for the opposition to spend a little more time focusing on real policy issues that the public actually gives a hoot about and a little less time following the droning choir of News Ltd spruikers that are taking tabloid politics to whole new shallows of gravitas.

Unless of course the Libs really like turning the previously unheard of 20 point vote gap into a regular theme of federal politics. They should look north and see how that’s played out in Qld to disabuse themselves of any notion that such a thing would be impossible.


In other news – Steve Dickson, one of the 8 State Parliamentary members of the Qld Liberal party has threatened to quit over the proposed party merger not being taken to the vote in the party membership. The good news is that such a move would break the 4 all deadlock over the regular Lib leadership tussles, avoiding the need for future coin tossing to solve this most difficult of issues.

Still on Qld matters, Lawrence Springborg has threatened to take his pineapple and go home if the Libs and the Nats continue to refuse to take his proposed new party seriously. Meanwhile Mal Brough has decided to storm the barricades of the Liberal organisation in QLD and put a sword to the evil forces of Count Santo Santoro and his dark army of mediocrity.

Not to be out done in the loony-tunes stakes, NSW Liberal State MP Ray Williams has been accused of getting all hairy chested and challenging a branch president (as well as anyone said president could muster for help) to an old fashioned round of fisticuffs. And just in case you thought that this outbreak of the sillyseason was limited to State politics, the NSW Libs at the local council level have started recruiting One Nation hacks to help them run their local government campaign in the Baulkham Hills area.

Meanwhile, away from Tory central and over at the comrades in Victoria, Andrew Landeryou has uncovered some nuttery going on in Higgins at the local ALP branch level that pretty much explains why most people couldn’t be buggered to join political parties.

And finally, Andrew Bolt plays an April fools day prank on his readership, demonstrating via the comments section what most of us have known about his particular audience for a long time.

On something completely different – this is why they made Youtube.

Ooops – sorry. That was just Nightwatchman threatening to get “in and out of everyday Australians”. If you’re heading to a servo or shopping center over the next week or two, try not to get violated.

This is why they made Youtube!

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Posted in Crikey, Polling | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »