When I took the bait and tried to dismantle some COVID fake news.

I am not a good troller in social media. But when I heard that Craig Kelly’s Facebook sites was one which had the highest ratings I had to go in there and give a big ‘don’t recommend’ and a negative comment.

Didn’t get many negative replies (seen in screenshot above, I could have been a smart arse with Daniel and asked him who the hell miss information was and whether she has met her). But one thing that I did notice in the replies is that what Kelly was doing was putting up peer-reviewed articles, and they were therefore scientifically accurate. As an academic librarian this was a challenge. Is this true? I Craig Kelly after all putting up papers that are ignored because they go against the dominant paradigm?

I always talk to students all the time about evaluating information. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has a very good infographic about identifying fake news

The thing is that when some say ‘peer reviewed’ there needs to be more examination of the documents themselves. So let’s take the latest issue that Craig Kelly has taken on. Invermectin.

He cites opinions from doctors from the MEDICAL ASSOCIATION OF RIO GRANDE do NORTE. Not a peer reviewed study. Just opinion from some doctors. I found that a study did find that this drug ‘could an important role in reducing Covid-19 deaths. This article was published in the Rio Times in January 22 and it specifically states that is not yet Peer reviewed.

Then he cites these studies from an article in infobae, a news website that was created in Argentina in 2002 by businessman Daniel Hada. This article is from ”Alliance for Critical Care of COVID-19 on the Frontline’ I searched for this study on Google Scholar unsuccessfully. But I followed the link and got me here https://www.researchgate.net/…/348230894_Ivermectin…. That is not a peer reviewed article. It’s a report from ‘The evidence-based medicine Consultancy Ltd.’ I searched for the authors on Google Scholar and while they were there, theat article was not part of their list.

When I searched Google Scholar for anything on Invermectin I always came back to a study done by Monash University scientists that found ivermectin inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting – which is not the same as testing the drug on humans or animals.https://www.sciencedirect.com/…/pii/S0166354220302011.(article about it from Monash here https://www.monash.edu/…/Lab-experiments-show-anti…) Ivermectin is a vetenerary drug and here it is stated NOT self-medicate with Ivermectin and do NOT use Ivermectin intended for animals. The article from Monash also states that (a) whilst shown to be effective in the lab environment, Ivermectin cannot be used in humans for COVID-19 until further testing and clinical trials have been completed to establish the effectiveness of the drug at levels safe for human dosing. (b) that the potential use of Ivermectin to combat COVID-19 remains unproven, and depends on pre-clinical testing and clinical trials to progress the work.

And here lies the irresponsibility of Craig Kelly (and others of his ilk). He doesn’t read the small print. He just pick and chooses the bits that fits his ideology. And the irresponsibility is that people may will start buying up ivermectin out of desperation. As an example, despite a majority of evidence showing hydroxychloroquine is not an effective COVID-19 treatment, there was a rush on that drug earlier this year in the USA after President Donald Trump called it a cure. That depleted supply for those who needed the medication to treat lupus and other conditions. In March, an Arizona couple attempted to self-medicate and took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks that is also an ingredient in hydroxychloroquine. The woman became gravely ill and the man died.

So consider the sources, read beyond, check the author and see if there are any supporting sources.

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Deadly disease as twitter war

Cartoon of two towers one with 'team Gladys' and the NSW logo on it, and the other with 'team Dan' and the logo of Victoria

Being on twitter at the moment is somewhat disheartening. Perhaps it is a fitting way to finish the bin fire of a year we have had.

The issue of COVID, instead of being a public health issue that we should all be concerned as Australians, has become a twitter shit fight on state/party lines. we have Gladys Berejiklian supporters on one side and Dan Andrews on the other.

What about Dan?

I am a Victorian and I support a Labor Government. I will vote ALP at the next state elections whoever leads it. However there are some issues that needs to be clarified.

Dan is not the Messiah

I support Dan Andrews. But the way some on twitter on the #IStandWithDan is bordering on the messianic and frankly for a Dan supporter like me quite embarrassing. No doubt he got a rough deal from the media, especially from News Ltd. But Dan Andrews is an experienced politician and he was very able to handle the criticism and the questions at his daily media conferences.

And he’s no angel and can be ruthless. No one who has become the leader of the Victorian ALP is a shrinking violet. You can see how he handled Jenny Mikakos at the Quarantine Inquiry. We all admired how he fronted up to the media for more than 100 days. But that was also a very well devised ploy to be seen as in command and also to control the message. It was brilliant and seems to have worked.

Two things are evident. The government was at fault and it has now corrected its failings

Despite the #IStandWithDan ers trying to somehow skirt around the issue it cannot be denied that the second wave was due to the Victorian government unpreparedness and lack of management.

Dr. Norman Swan irked some in NSW when it said that the state was ‘lucky’. What NSW was lucky is that it never had a premier like Jeff Kennett that slashed public services savagely during his term. While NSW kept its public health regional and close to its population, Victoria’s was highly centralised and poorly resourced.

For me the quarantine failure wasn’t the main issue. The main issue was the lack of quick and efficient tracing. And as a social democrat, that believes in the role of governments in making life better for society and the disadvantaged, it pains me that a centre left progressive government didn’t look after public health which should be a fundamental issue for them, probably because they were fearful of being not seen as ‘responsible’ with money and stay in surplus.

It seems that Victoria has now rapidly upgraded its tracing and seems to be up to speed with other states. Let’s hope this is the case and it will never need to be tested.

Overall I have to say that while the COVID outbreak and subsequent second wave was a big failure, Dan Andrews and his government handled the situation brilliantly managing to bring it totally under control.

Fueling the NSW vs Victoria Gladys vs Dan from people that should know better

The Gladys vs Dan thing shows how the political discourse has become polarised and seeing ‘both sides’ of the story or nuances disappear.

The process is like this. Some commentator/journalist either tweets or write an article that is very complementary of Berejiklian and either openly or by implication it compares how well she handled the pandemic unlike others (ie Victoria). (examples below)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This pisses off Dan Andrews supporters, but often instead of taking the commentators to task, start attacking Berejiklian or worse almost hoping that NSW experiences a second wave.

Who would wish an increase of a potentially lethal disease that has a high probability of causing lifelong health issues just to score political points? It’s sick.

Of course this pisses off people in NSW who then make disparaging comments about Dan Andrews and Victoria and the vicious circle starts again.

That’s the downside of twitter. Elsworth is an openly supporter of the Liberal Party. So that is her position. Hildebrand is and advocate of the Australian equivalent of Blue Labour and while he states he is in the ALP camp hates anything ‘socialist’ or ‘woke’ and by implication the ‘lefty woke’ Victorian ALP government.

Twitters get sucked in this rabbit hole and tend to lose any equilibrium. We can support Dan Andrews and also say that he stuffed up on quarantine and the tracing. We can say that NSW public health was better equipped in dealing with outbreaks and so far Berejiklian did a good job without supporting her political party and her ideas . Just because a Liberal supporting journalist or a right wing Labor supporter say things doesn’t mean we need to take a black or white position.

As an example, expressing the opinion that Dan Andrews was acting politically in highlighting in his media conferences that the number of deaths in private Aged care facilities was attributable to the Federal Government control of them (and perfectly reasonable as Andrews was really under the pump then) my ‘Dan Andrews’ supporting credentials were questioned and I was even called and LNP supporter!

Don’t treat twitter as a reflection of what’s out there

As the second wave in Victoria hit I needed to get off Twitter. But I could not stay away too long as Twitter has lots of positive stuff. I get latest news, opinions from interesting people, and of course it gives me information about soccer that I never get from the mainstream media. But I have learned that it can be a pit of anger, frustration and blind bias.

The mistake is that many (and some like reputable journalists that should know better) see it as a reflection of real life, but it’s not. Hardly anyone from my friends or family is on it. I bet that if I go to a supermarket and asked how many use twitter assiduously I would get very few positive answers.

So don’t worry about the Hildebrands or the Elsworths out there. They are expressing an opinion and are probably negative to elicit responses, it’s after all their jobs.

There is a world out there.

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Why the ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Victoria’ should have followed the Socialist Republic of Vietnam example

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There is a joke among some here in Melbourne about the initials DPRV which stand for ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Victoria’. This is because in the last few years, the state got a reputation of being the most ‘lefty woke’ state in Australia (look at the #DPRV hashtag on twitter). Personally I don’t think so. Victorians are able to vote in conservative governments like anyone else. Although I do think they would like more someone like Malcolm Turnbull than Eric Abetz.

And the State Government, that it’s currently under enormous pressure because of the COVID-19 outbreak, is no beacon of Democratic Socialism. In fact it is precisely because it is not, and has followed the practice of all governments in Australia whether Labor or Liberal to save money by using private contractors, rather than doing the job themselves that got them in this predicament.


The role of government

I have limited my exposure to social media. But I go to Facebook to interact with my relatives overseas and the book club I belong to. So inevitably I see posts of people who are talking about the Victoria COVID crisis and came to this one by Gerry Beaton:

“So all the anti worker, right wing shock jocks and Murdoch journos are pointing their collective fingers in every direction proportioning blame for the Covid spread in Melbourne. They all miss the the mark by miles. It wouldn’t matter who was in power in Spring St. O’Brien and his mob (name any of the galahs if you can) are blaming Andrews and rightly so as the determination to use as cheap as possible quarantine security companies is the real issue. the Liberal Party would have done the same. The real culprit is the neoliberal agenda of both parties that has caused so much damage to the world’s population and climate. The need to get rid of the capitalist system that has developed this economic system that enriches a tiny number of bourgeois and leave millions in poverty is imperative.”

I think eliminating the capitalist system in Victoria is a bit of a far stretch. But the point here is that the Victorian government to save money trusted private enterprise to do a vital job. And we have found that these companies’ practices where sloppy to put it mildly.

Since the late 70’s the predominant narrative has been that surplus=good and deficit=bad. The concept of debt being a bad thing is easy for politicians to convey because in household budgets we try to limit debt as much as possible and this is an easy transferable concept to voters.

I have read that equating households to governments is nonsense, but being seen as bad economic managers is poison for Labor considering polling consistently shows people believe that the Liberal Party to be a better economic manager than Labor, despite evidence to the contrary.

Reclaiming the role

The issue here is that we don’t need to overthrow capitalism or being a revolutionary socialist to reclaim a role of government that looks after its people and looks at society and not just at the economy.

The paradigm has shifted so much to the neoliberal area that now governments doing things like solely building roads, distributing resources like electricity and water or running public transport is seen like some extreme socialist practice.

But this is bread and butter Social Democracy. Something that helped resurrect Europe after the Second World War.

So, what’s this thing about Vietnam?

I wouldn’t consider Vietnam a Social Democracy by any stretch of the imagination. For instance out of 180 it ranks 175 in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, which is pretty awful. In the latest Amnesty International Report Vietnam also fares badly. Amnesty saw a surge in the number of prisoners of conscience. A crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

But its COVID-19 management is a worldwide success. Vietnam has reported no community transmission cases for 3 months

Apart from going early, hundreds of thousands of people, including international travelers and those who had close contact with people who tested positive, were placed in quarantine centers run by the government, which greatly reduced transmission at both the household and community levels. [source].

In the previous post I stated that Victoria should re-open the quarantine station at Queenscliff. , while I was not serious about Queenscliff, as it is now an historic site, it shows that if the government took the responsibility of quarantine, rather than giving it to private enterprise it is likely it wouldn’t be in the predicament it found itself in. We do it for animals and plants. Why not people?

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Re-open Queenscliff!

Quarantine Quarantine Station – General View. [Portsea.] [picture]. (1909).

Probably one of the most fascinating websites you could read now (at least for me) is from the Napean Historical Society titled: Spanish Flu 1918-19 – Deja Vu?

The parallels to what happened then and it’s happening now is uncannily scary.  Implementation of strict measures.  The belief that Australia beat the disease but flare up in new cases (in Melbourne) and closure of the borders with Victoria.

But that page also shows something that didn’t happen this time.  The use of a quarantine station.

Early European settlers knew that Australia was free from diseases and pathogens that occurred overseas (the fact that they introduced disease that killed Aboriginal populations probably escaped them or didn’t want to know).  So the different colonies on the Australian continent established quarantine stations.

In the early 1850s the peninsula of Point Nepean was inspected and subsequently found to be acceptable as the location for a permanent quarantine station.  By the 1870s this grew to be quite a big establishment with cookhouses, large lodgings and a hospital. In the early 1900s even a bathhouse was constructed.

Returning servicemen were considered to be particularly at risk during the H1N1 influenza A virus pandemic, and on April 16th  1919 contracts were issued to build twelve wooden huts of 32 bunks each, based on the drawing below. The first hut was to be delivered within 10 working days with the completion of all within 5 weeks.

from NAA B3712 Dwr 124 Folder 6  taken from https://nepeanhistoricalsociety.asn.au/2020/04/21/spanish-flu-1918-19-deja-vu/

And these huts are still there today.

From https://nepeanhistoricalsociety.asn.au/2020/04/21/spanish-flu-1918-19-deja-vu/

As the need to quarantine people decreased with the advent of medical advances and vaccines, the station was given to the Federal Government that used it as an army based.

In 1998-99, the buildings were used to house several hundred refugees from Kosovo, offered asylum on compassionate grounds as a result of the Balkan conflict arising from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

In 2004 ownership went back to the State of Victoria that has incorporated it into the Point Napean National Park.

Re-opening the station for quarantine not feasible but the principle still valid.

Poor Dan Andrews is copping it from all sides at the moment.  I am a big Dan Andrews fan, but the decision of the Victorian government to employ private security firms to look after the people in hotel quarantine was a mistake.

True.  The government is not responsible for security guards being lax with distancing and other precautions, or even….having sex with the people being quarantined, but as the Conversation article states:

“it should come as no surprise to anyone with a passing interest in labour standards in the private security industry or an understanding of governance issues in supply chains.

To put it plainly, the Victorian government used an industry with a long history of non-compliance with minimum standards for a critical public safety job.”

While we are thinking of contamination, the neoliberal practice of ditching government doing things, and contracting private companies to perform tasks that governments used to do has contaminated governments, including those of the centre left.  My observation that this has been especially true in English speaking countries.  

In the 1980s a belief that private enterprise was better and more efficient in running things than governments became the norm.  Of course started by centre right governments but then it became the dominant paradigm in the media and everywhere and centre left governments were too scared to go against the trend.

In my opinion there are things that governments should not run, airlines for example, but provision of services like electricity, water and gas should be.  But one that is on top of that list is health.

Some will argue that the fact that the Victorian government didn’t manage the hotel quarantine properly by choosing security guards it is proof that governments still are unable to run things properly.  But I would say that the process of giving tasks to private companies, which are not under the control of government is vulnerable for exactly the type of things that have happened.  Especially in an emergency situation. 

So while the idea of government running a quarantine station with properly trained health workers may seem a bit of a quaint idea, if the Victorian government has a ‘Queenscliff’  Victoria most likely would not have been facing this outbreak, or at least not of this magnitude.


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Why I need to have a Twitter break


Mongia, A., 2017. Woman Draws Curtain On Twitter. [image] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/sunday-review/maggie-haberman-twitter-donald-trump.html?auth=linked-google1tap&gt [Accessed 1 July 2020]. andreamongia@gmail.com

I have been feeling a bit low lately and with mild general anxiety.  It was a general malaise, but I couldn’t put my hand on it.

I had similar feelings before.  Worse than this but generally there was a direct cause (usually connected to my health anxieties),  I put it down to the general sentiment we are all experiencing, you know the ‘We are living in strange times’ because of the Coronavirus.

But I had no reason why I should feel this way.  OK, there is a general concern about my job, being employed by a university, but this will be something I may need to worry about next year.

Touch wood all my close relatives are healthy.  I am healthy (although since working at home, not riding to work and back every day I think I did put on a couple of kilos).

So, what was happening?

My twitter addiction

I started to think that this was connected to my twitter use. I have had signs of addictive behaviours for some time.  Keeping refreshing the twitter page every second for new tweets, lying to my family about how much I was spending on it, and most dangerous of all it has interfered with my work and family life.

But the COVID-19 provided a perfect storm.  Working at home my temptation to check twitter increased.  Adding to this was news about the virus itself and other things like the Black Lives Matter protests etc.  Irresistible for a news junkie like me.

I found myself having to give up things like going outside for a walk or exercise because I spent most of my free time on twitter.  This was having an effect both on my mental but also physical health.

Twitter is a pit of negativity

One thing that twitter seems to have become is a vortex of negativity that to me at least has dragged me down.  Not sure whether people are like that or whether twitter attracts a particular type of people.  Looking at both sides of an argument is not common.  Everything is commented upon through partisan eyes.

I stayed away from commenting on what right wing tweeters wrote (what’s the point) but the same can be said for lefties like me.  The litany of complaints every Sunday morning about Insiders for example.  Some twitterers seem to watch this program solely because they would search for any bias against the ALP or the Greens.  This journalist was really easy on the Liberal politician but tough on the ALP one!  Why do they have right leaning journalists on it? I can’t understand why people would deliberately spoil their Sunday that way.

And the way some of these twitters would be so HATEFUL against these journalists.  The angriest tweets I received were when I stated that Joe Hildebrand was actually on the left.  A very moderate left, what he writes was stuff I heard a lot from Centre Unity ALP members in my day.  But no, he has to be slain, hated.  Same with Annabel Crabb and her Kitchen Cabinet episode on Scott Morrison.  She is blamed by some that single-handedly made him win the election.  Forgetting that Crabb did heaps of programs on ALP and Green MPs as well.  The one with Penny Wong was particularly moving.  The accusation was that that program ‘humanised’ Morrison.  and that’s very telling about twitter.  Politicians have to be hated or loved no shades in between.  In my opinion, Morrison has crap policies bit I still would invite him to a BBQ if he was my neighbour.

This is also reflected in the tweets about my other interest, soccer.   To be truthful soccer fans have a tendency to be negative, but twitter gives this negativity a fertile ground.  It seems that everything is gloom and doom.  This may have been warranted as the Coronavirus hit all sports, and soccer the hardest.  But to prove a point just weeks after soccer got the best news with being given the Women’s World Cup,  some journalists left their jobs and it felt like they departed for the big commentary box in the sky.  Some even stated that this would jeopardise the future of the code!  It seems that ANYTHING does that for some soccer twitters.

Over the edge

In pre-COVID times my addiction was checked my other things. Going to my workplace, going to a soccer match, doing a bushwalk with my club.  But now as I work at home my world has shrunk.  I work in front of a computer and twitter is always present, luring me like sirens to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.

The combination of outbreaks, negativity (the anti Victorian sentiment is particularly bad – ‘sing with one voice I am, you are, we are Australian’  – what a load of croc.) and my addiction is dragging me down and doesn’t need to be.  I got lots of things to be grateful for.

It’s not forever

I am not going to give up twitter forever.  When I will come back?  Who knows?  It could be a week, a month a year.  I don’t know.  I think it will be when I feel I have re-established some equilibrium and my mood has lifted.

In the meantime go on as usual.  If someone wants to contact me they can do so on guidolib@gmail.com.

Catch you later and stay well.




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Bushfires: missing the woods for the burned-out trees.



Embed from Getty Images

A catastrophe, Armageddon. This has been a disastrous fire season. Not over one day but over weeks.

Is it the fault of Scott Morrison? Is it the fault of the Greens? Accusations go back and forth about ‘who is to blame’.

As I live in the inner city I have been fortunate not to experience the devastation of bushfires directly. But there were two episodes,  the Ash Wednesday 1983 and the Black Saturday fires in 2009 since I lived in Australia, and neither had this level of blaming.

The difference this time is that climate change is firmly on the agenda.  And some (I repeat some) on both sides of the political spectrum are using the fires to affirm their positions.  Either that the major parties are criminals in not doing enough to reverse global warming, and in fact adding to it (ie Adani) or that the criminals are the Greenies that have prevented fuel reduction and have therefore created the conditions for these fires to occur.

When I encountered the interaction of emotions and information about environmental management

The environment can be quite an emotional issue for a lot of people.  My first experience of that was when I did my Masters of Environmental Science at Monash back in the early ’80s.  That course had both people who were into ‘Deep Ecology‘ and others such as environmental engineers with hard-nosed beliefs of how to manage the environment.  This was reflected among students who were grouped into two factions.  Those who came straight from a science background and those who came from other disciplines who saw the environment more as a wholistic construct rather than an ecosystem with trophic levels and quantifiable energy flows that had to be managed.

I still remember a heated discussion when we had to present a management proposal as part of a subject.  One of the teams, which had a background of wildlife management and zoology proposed kangaroo culling in an area where the kangaroo population expanded rapidly after a few good seasons but they were constrained by water and farmland.  Now in drought, kangaroos were dying of thirst and hunger.  But some were appalled that any native animals should be shot and killed as a principle.

The reason why I am mentioning this is that the divide between an emotional response to the environment and a more dispassionate approach is not new.  It has been happening since the environment has been developed as an integrated scientific discipline since the 1970s.

What I see now is within this divide I see people, most who are not scientists, who pick and choose evidence to fit their own agenda.

I express openly here is that the evidence of anthropogenic climate change and global warming is overwhelming, and now beyond dispute.

What I am talking about is this discussion about forest management.

Forest management.  Who is right?

Controlled burn of grasslands - 2 - Barton - ACT - Australia - 20180428 @ 10:50

When discussing the fires, I tweeted this in response to a Bernie Sanders tweet.

Then a John Keily responded to my tweet.  Apart from the unnecessary nastiness of it (happens a lot on twitter unfortunately) I was actually grateful for the link he provided of an article written back in 2015 quoting David Packham, a former CSIRO bushfire scientist which warned forest fuel levels have worsened over the past 30 years because of “misguided green ideology”, vested interests, political failure and mismanagement, creating a massive bushfire threat.

That is a worthwhile article to read.  So where that leave me?

Both Scott Morrison and Richard Di Natale are right.  We need a Royal Commission.

Scott Morrison has stated that a Royal Commission is a possibility

Which is what Richard DiNatale has also advocated.

So this would be a great example of bipartisanship (I am sure the ALP would be on board as well.

Some as seen this as a waste of money and a lawyer enriching exercise.  But a major inquiry that has shaped how Australia has managed fire risk was the Stretton’s Royal Commission after the Black Friday bushfires in 1939.  This Royal Commission has been described as one of the most significant inquiries in the history of Victorian public administration.

His scathing 35 page report led to sweeping changes including stringent regulation of burning and fire safety measures for sawmills, grazing licensees and the general public, the compulsory construction of dugouts at forest sawmills, increasing the forest roads network and firebreaks, construction of forest dams, fire towers and RAAF aerial patrols linked by the Forests Commissions radio network. [1]

This was 80 years ago.  Much has changed since then.  Population, the pattern of settlement and certainly the climate.  We need a new ‘Stretton’s Royal Commission’ which is totally scientific and objective, and not created to justify one side or the other.  If it is true that fuel reduction has been mismanaged we need to know that.  If fuel reduction burns cannot occur as much because the climate is dryer and hotter we need to know that and find out how forest management can adapt.

It is said that war is too important to be left to the generals.  Fire management is too important to be left to the politicians.



[1] Leonard Edward Bishop (Len) Stretton

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Trump, Brexit, Morrison,Johnson…what’s happening?

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Yesterday I saw a tweet…

I guess that was the feeling among left people yesterday. Again an electoral defeat for our side of politics.  But not only that.  Against a candidate (in the case of Johnson and Trump, I think Morrison is not in that category) that on the scheme of things many – including on their side- would have thought it very improbable to ever being a suitable candidate to lead a country.  And the other factor is that in the USA, Australia and Brexit many didn’t expected the right to win, and not just win, but increase their majorities or win convincingly.  In the UK polls predicted a Conservative win.  That was surprising enough considering the bin fire that the Conservatives have been for the past few years, but they actually increased their majority. and here is the clincher: They won seats which were traditionally Labour, where people are socioeconomically disadvantaged, where a Conservative Party has really not much concern for their day to day well being.

Brexit was certainly a factor in the UK.  But in Australia low-income workers swung against Labor too.  And in the USA the white working class helped Trump to the white house.

Media plays a factor. But they are not the main reason

As Sally McManus the influence of the media is not the main reason why socioeconomically disadvantaged people would vote for a centre right party.  I am not saying that it is a factor, but not the main factor.  I see tweets blaming the Murdoch media for this happening, and while the bias there is a factor is not the main reason.  The murdoch media (and other tabloid type media) do not create opinions, but very ably re-enforce any bias readers may have.  And the most powerful one, which seems to have run through all the elections in the UK, USA and Australia is the ‘elites’ vs ‘the honest working person’.

Pitting the ‘elites’ vs the rest

The Murdoch media has very ably created the narrative that the left doesn’t represent the traditional working class anymore but the ‘inner suburban lefty’ who is more interested in things such as transgender issues, identity politics and the environment rather than bread and butter issues.

This argument could be challenged in the case of the UK elections as Corbyn had a very clear socialist democratic agenda which was very much bread and butter, but I think what swamped that was Brexit.  I have a hunch (can’t prove it) that many of the working class people that voted Conservative did so because they felt weren’t listened by the Labour Party on this.  And I would speculate that the Brexit issue in itself wasn’t the main issue, was that they felt dismissed – and here is the clincher.

People may be socioeconomically disadvantaged – but they want to feel respected.

So, instead of taking my reference to right wing media. what really took my attention was something that can be described more on the ‘left’ the 7AM podcast that is part of the The Monthly and Saturday Paper stable.  The 11/11/19 podcast had Lech Blaine who grew up in country Queensland. After the 2019 federal election, he spent several weeks driving around the state, trying to understand what makes it different. He found people with a strong desire to be treated with respect.

What struck me was when he interviewed a miner called Steve who did work as a diesel fitter in a coalmine in Nebo QLD.  Steve didn’t like mining, he didn’t like to stare at 20ks of scarred earth every day.  He knew that it wasn’t good for the environment but he couldn’t see many other alternatives for steady work in the area.  He was especially affected as he was in logging and that was scaled down, then in cattle that were affected by live export bans, and now he’s in coal mining he feels again his job is under attack by concerns down south from people that seem not to care about his predicament. Blaine says that the feeling of being abandoned started much earlier than Adani.

Steve in Nebo continues that “I know that a lot of people think we are just dumb coal miners, bogans and the rest of it which is how some portrayed us when Labor lost, but a lot of people I work with hate coal mining, we are trying to set ourselves up so when we have kids we can send them to Uni in Brisbane so they don’t have to work in sitty coal mining jobs”. So Blaine here makes the point that these people working in coal, want their kids to have the same opportunities they resent in others. Ultimately what motivates these people is their children’s future, to have a way out. And further he states that they didn’t believe Scott Morrison was going to deliver much, as they realise he didn’t have policies, just they felt he didn’t look down on them.

True? It does not matter, perception is the key.


Now I can hear retorts that most people on the left didn’t ‘look down on them’, but perception is the key. But some did and they were those that the right wing media concentrated on. And here I come back to the issue I said before. Right wing media may not change opinions by themselves, but they are very able to take a perception (inner suburban lefties looking down on regional workers) and embellish it with commentary that these people are out of touch and want to close down their places of employment and the game is done. This is after all a mantra of News Ltd. and Sky News.

The issue here is that we can complain that the perception is wrong, but if that is what is believed this changes voting patterns. Perhaps this is what Albanese and others have felt in their post elections Queensland tours.  That is why Albanese has not advocated for a stop to coal exports.  Joel Fitzgibbon has gone to town with advocating the inner suburban lefty vs coal miners argument. I guess a 20% swing against you towards One Nation does that to you.

But lets go back again to our coal miner from Nebo. If people in these areas don’t want their children not to be miners,want a government that gives them options, especially for their children (yes aspirational) That is equality of opportunities. That is what a social democratic party should be all about.

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Ditch the ALP? Viewpoint from an ex-member


Photographer: Mark Graham/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Boy…the ALP is copping plenty of flack on twitter because it decided ultimately to vote for the Coalition tax package.  “I’ll never vote for the ALP again!” “They just handed Morrison the next election!”

When I read these tweets I find myself in a common predicament.  On one hand I agree with the sentiment that the ALP could have at least abstain by not attending the division.  On the other hand I also see the realpolitik facing the ALP.  The government killed two stones with a bird (that is my animal-friendly version of that saying)  it got the whole package through and caused damaged to the ALP and Albanese.

I have been an ALP member from 1983 to 2001.  The Tampa thing made me decide not to renew my membership.  But I wasn’t just disillusioned with Labor.  I was disillusioned with Australia as a whole, who I thought left xenophobia behind.  But with that it also came a reality about politics, and that what we would like is often not how a party can win an election.  As I was trying to explain this on twitter I realised that putting forward such a view on Twitter can be fraught with danger as it can be misinterpreted. So for what is worth this is my view.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t

The ALP faced this dilemma after it was clear that the legislation would have passed with crossbench support. Waive it through and get the anger from left voters.  Vote against it and risk (in their view) to give the government a big stick they could have used for the next few years – this aided and abetted by the Murdoch media and as a consequence other media as well.  It is an unfortunate fact that despite I believe that the ABC is not anti Labor (despite some on Twitter that are absolutely convinced on this, but that’s another story) I can envisage Leigh Sales in a couple of years saying ‘…but you did vote against low income earners getting a tax cut’.  Which brings me to the next point.

ALP should explain it better…really?

Some tweeps have stated that the ALP could have voted against it and then explain why to the voters.  Really? What have these people been during the last elections?  The reality is that there is a substantial portion of the Australian media that are hostile to the ALP no matter what.  Not only the Murdoch media.  This channel 9 example labelling Albanese ‘unedifying’ for what it was a mild rebuke shows how difficult selling a message can be.  Especially from opposition.  Add the blatant lies such as the death tax then I can see why the ALP got cold feed at the first hurdle.

Why all this anger now?  The ALP has been ‘disappointing’ lefties for ages.

One thing I was surprised was why of all a sudden this ‘I am done with the ALP’ comment as the ALP was this progressive socialist party.  Lenin himself said in 1913 that “The Australian Labour Party does not even call itself a socialist party. Actually it is a liberal-bourgeois party”.

In the 1980s, when the Hawke government was enjoying its popularity the cartoonist Kaz Cooke did a cartoon with her character ‘Hermoine the Modern Girl’ wearing a T-Shirt stating ‘Join the ALP and develop your sense of irony’.

The ‘three mines policy’ in 1984 which allowed three uranium mines in Australia was a compromise that caused a huge disquiet among the rank and file (and probably was one of the issues that sparked the creation of the Greens federally).  Here in Victoria I was a member of the ALP Conservation Policy Committee and there were furious battles between the left and the government on allowing logging in native forests.

And even with Julia Gillard that has been hailed as a lefty saint.  What was one of the first things she did when she became PM after deposing Rudd? She went up to Darwin with western Sydney MP David Bradbury in tow on a naval patrol boat on a training exercise clearly pitching to voters in outer metropolitan electorates such as Mr Bradbury’s Lindsay, who were perceived to be concerned about rising boat arrivals.


Personally, I was surprised that there were so many people outraged about a tax,  and not about the policy that still allows TPVs which don’t allow for family reunification and mandatory detention and offshore processing.  These policies were there at the last elections.

The ALP will not carry all our hopes of a progressive Australia – because it needs votes of those who aren’t.

There seems to be still a number of left voters that hope that the ALP will execute all their wishes for a progressive Australia.  But the ALP won’t do this.  This is especially the case after the ALP brought forward a mildly progressive redistributive program at the elections that almost everyone thought they would win and didn’t.  I cannot blame the ALP for thinking that doing so it will condemn them to more years in opposition.

There are some that think the opposite,  That not having an ‘alternative’ by not giving a ‘choice’ this will ensure that the ALP won’t win the next elections.  But how so?  All the talk last election campaign was about Labor policies and how they would affect retirees.  We can blame the ALP for not being able to explain it, but the blame is not all to them.  Stories of retirees who were crying poor on TV, and yes, even on the ABC didn’t give much scope for informative and nuanced debate.  We political tweeps that love politics may get that but many voters don’t.  Their priorities are somewhere else and with good reasons.  How would a continual message that ‘The ALP didn’t want you to get tax cuts’ would play?  Would they  think “Oh in 2029-2030, someone currently earning around $138,000 a year will see the biggest fall in the average tax rate they pay (2.1 per cent), while someone on just less than the full-time minimum wage earning around $37,000 a year will see their average tax rate rise by 5 per cent?” I don’t think so. People are busy with their children, their parents, their work.  Many don’t have the time or energy to get into the nitty-gritty of tax policies.  What’s important is what it is in their pay packet and what bills they need to pay.  Many may decide how to vote in the last few weeks of an electoral campaign.  Any so call ‘unedifying’ behaviour by Albanese won’t really register much three years form an election.  A message in the next three years that ‘Labor voted against your tax cuts’ might.

Labor apologist? No. Just reality.

What I wrote may sound like I am a Labor apologist.  I don’t think I am.  I still think the ALP should have abstained from the vote in the Senate.  What I wrote above that voters may not care what happens three years from an election may also have applied here, but I can also see how the ALP may think at the moment after losing an election they were expected to win.

And the reality is that we may vote for the Greens (as I did in the Senate) which have great lefty policies and may vote mostly with their conscience.  But while we may huff and puff about ‘never voting ALP anymore’ the reality is also that next election the only party that can remove Morrison is the ALP.  Some may think who cares they are the same, which is patently not true  – there are differences. But only the ALP can form an alternative government which on balance is better than a conservative Morrison one.  That’s the reality.

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Italy and the EU – a ‘tragedia annunciata’


Photo: Luis Diaz Devesa

Overall it was a good European election for pro-Europe parties.  The populist bloc in the European Parliament can count on no more than a quarter of its 751 seats, a goal that the head of the Italian Lega, Mateo Salvini himself set for the grouping that is still in the process of being formed – and now counts less than 60 deputies.

Apart from France (and Hungary that is not a major European power), Italy was the only country to elect a majority of a populist party (the UK Brexit Party is a different case).  The Lega does not necessarily want to get out of the EU, no ‘Italexit’ at this stage, but certainly wants an Europe where national interests override a European one as a whole.

There is now a possibility that Italy will be excluded and isolated from the EU’s top jobs.  And consequently will lose even more influence.  How a foundation European Community euro enthusiastic nation was turned into an euroskeptic one and on the outer could be described in Italian as a ‘tragedia annunciata’ that is an announced tragedy.

As an Australian citizen (who does not have double citizenship) I observe European and Italian politics from a distance.  But I always believed that the European project was a good idea.  But looking at how Italy has been treated I can understand why Italians started to be wary of the EU.

The Euro

One reason is the Euro. There was no popular referendum or plebiscite. It was all planned in Bruxelles especially from the then French and German governments.  Italy sort of followed and many Italians suffered from its introduction and perceive it, right or wrongly, as a  Deutsche Mark in disguise.  While many will attribute the blame to Italy’s poor economic planning, this doesn’t mean that Italians who have lost wealth or jobs may not be angry at how the introduction of the euro has disadvantaged them by taking away measures that helped Italy’s economy when it had its own currency.

2011 military intervention in Libya

While the 2011 military intervention in Lybia was a NATO initiative, many Italians believe that it was initiated by France after consulting with the UK and the USA. Not with Italy who shares a maritime border with it.  This decision is perceived to be one that the French initiated because they saw gains in getting its oil when Italy six months before the raids signed had already contracts worth billions with Lybia. But after the French started bombing, Italy had to follow because of its NATO commitments but felt undermined.

This was the start of Italy turning against Europe.  It understood that a founding EU member could be hit in its interests by a fellow EU member and the rest of the EU standing by.

Subsequent migration crisis

But worse was to come.  The war in Lybia created a power vacuum and political instability that allowed an uncontrolled migration stream to Italy.  The distance between the Libyan coast and the Italian island of Lampedusa is only 300Km.

While Italy had to deal with waves of migrants from Italy, the other EU members did little to help. In fact, in certain cases, they closed their borders with Italy.  In 2017 Austria closed its borders with Italy (which is not in the EU Schengen Agreement) to stop migrants and refugees from entering.  While France in 2018 entered Italian territory to return migrants that entered Europe from Italy.

Embed from Getty Images

Basically Italians felt that re rest of EU washed its hands and left the problem solely to Italy to solve.  Adding to this there have been volunteers ships from other European countries travelling the Mediterranean between Italy and Africa searching for migrants, picking them up and taking them to the closest Italian port.

Merkel welcomed one million Syrian refugees, and she deserved all the credit she got. But many Italians were not enthused by the fact that while Merkel was getting accolades, she was also able to stop migrants coming from the Balkan region by paying Erdogan in Turkey 6 billion Euros to keep its Syrian and other Middle East refugees.  This was Germany money, but also European money.  Italians saw this as the EU favouring its strongest member while leaving countries such as Italy and Greece to fend for themselves.

Italexit? No it won’t happen

Many anti EU proponents would be delighted if Italy was to exit from the European Union. Even if Italy’s economy is in the doldrums it is still the fourth largest in the EU (and will go to third when the UK leaves).  The exit of a foundation member would be a very hard blow to the EU.  But it won’t happen,

Even if Italy is now on the outer,  getting out from the Union would be disastrous for a faltering economy.  Despite everything the damage which would be caused by an Italexit would be much greater than the issues faced by Italy by staying.

Even in his press conference after the European Elections Matteo Salvini talked about reforming the EU from a body looking after the banks to one looking after the people.  Whether that will be achieved is to be seen, but there was no mention of leaving.

So Italians will do what they have done for eons.  Will complain and go on with their lives the best they can.  But ironically the more Italians get angry with the EU and vote for populist parties, the more Italy will be distanced from the EU.

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How did the A-League vote?


Prime Minister Scott Morrison heads a soccer ball at Manson Park in Bellevue Heights near Adelaide, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

So the election has been run and won.  Some football fans either will feel gutted that their team, which was the favourite, made the opportunity to win slip away, while others will be elated that their team won despite all the pundits were predicting otherwise.

But if we look at the A-League how the electoral pattern looks?  Here is a totally unscientific analysis.  I am a card carrying lefty and yes, my biases will show in this post (What the heck, this is my blog, I am no journalist and I am not getting paid for this.)

I will be going from north to south following the coast.

Brisbane Roar

Brisbane Roar represents the whole metropolitan area of Brisbane.  Let’s start with Suncorp Stadium which is in the seat of Brisbane.  This must be the only seat representing a city centre which is not left, being held by Trevor Evans by the Liberals.  The ALP which got a small swing of less than 1%.

Lilley was a disaster for the ALP with a primary swing against it of -7.73%.  Not sure whether this seat, which was held by the now retired Wayne Swan will be retained by Labor.  Despite GetUp Dutton held Dickson easily (in fact got a sizeable swing towards him)

Fortunately one of my favourite MPs, Terri Butler held Griffith comfortably. If I had to move to Brisbane I want to live in Bulimba.

Ryan was also retained by the ALP comfortably.  While Moreton has a 2% swing against the ALP, but it was retained by Labor.

The map below shows the swings.  Red towards the ALP and Blue towards the Coalition.

From Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000

Newcastle Jets

The seat of Newcastle remained rock solid ALP where 64% 2PP went to Labor.  Paterson had a strong swing against the ALP of more than 5% (I suspect on UAP preferences) but was able to retain it.  Big swing against the ALP in Shortland as well (again here UAP polled about 4% that would have helped the Coalition, but retained by the ALP.

The unmitigated disaster for the Labor Party was Hunter, the seat held by Joel Fitzgibbon. The ALP had a 2PP -9.71% swing against it and the One Nation had a whopping +21.66 swing towards it with the candidate, Stuart Bond, looking like an MMA fighter.r0_0_2223_1381_w1200_h678_fmax

Central Coast Mariners

Gosford is in the seat of Robertson.  The Liberals retained this seat comfortably with a swing towards it of 3.35%

Sydney FC

Again Sydney is a big place.  So we can start where the Sydney FC offices and Allianz Stadium are in Moore Park which is in the seat of Wentworth.   This of course was Malcolm Turnbull’s seat that was won by the independent Kerryn Phelphs in a by-election but now won back by the Liberals with Dave Sharma.

Apart from that inner Sydney has remained ALP as expected. Sydney, Grayndler (Albo’s seat) stayed with the ALP.  While North Sydney stayed Liberal.  The big shock was Warringah where Tony Abbott lost to the independent Zali Steggall.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Western Sydney has been seen for some time as the place where the elections get won and lost.  Where the battlers are (now called quiet Australians apparently).

In the seat where the stadium is, Parramatta, The ALP retained the seat albeit with a 2PP swing against it of -4.22%.

Then I get into trouble to identify where  ‘Western Sydney; starts or finish.  Mitchell was retained by the Liberals easily. Blaxland stayed Labor.  McMahon held by Chris Bowen stayed Labor but had a substantial swing away of -5.51%.  Disconcertingly One Nation got a swing towards it of 8.22%

Macarthur FC

It is difficult to pinpoint the catchment area of these new teams.  When I hear its proponents it seems to be a bit of a moveable feast.  The new A League team of Macarthur FC is based in Campbelltown which is in the seat of …surprise! Macarthur which was retained by Labor.  Werriwa to the north was also retained by the ALP, while Hume and Hughes by the Liberals. Cunningham stayed with Labor.

Cook, well, of course, is our Prime Minister’s seat.


The story of this election, especially in Sydney is even the wealthy north Sydney suburb swung to the ALP, while the west and the far south to the Coalition.

Sydney2019From Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000

Melbourne Victory

Again Melbourne is a big place.  But if we take AAMI Park and Marvel Stadium as a base it is the City of Melbourne which is in the seat of Melbourne which was easily retained by Adam Bandt of the Greens.

Melbourne City

Melbourne City is based in the northern suburb of Bundoora which is split into three seats, Cooper, Jagajaga and Scullin. All three comfortably retained by the ALP.

Western United

This new team in the A-League has been dubbed ‘Tarneit United’ because of its plans to build a new stadium in what is now an empty paddock in Tarneit west of Melbourne.

Tarneit is in Lalor, a safe Labor seat.  Although this time it got a 2PP -1.89% against it, probably because Clive Palmer’s UAP got +4.71.

Western United sees its footprint all alongside the west of Melbourne, from the sea to the mountains.  It’s a pretty big area.


Gorton is another safe Labor seat but also got a swing against it of 2PP -3.13% But the primaries for the sitting member Brendan O’Connor crashed to a -11.25% again probably because votes went to Clive again (+7.72%) and the independent Jarrod Bingham who got a big swing of +9.47 who is a catcher and relocator of local snakes.  Corio is also a safe seat and got a small swing towards it. Similar for Ballarat.  Corangamite was one of the most marginal seats in Australia and was one of the few (if any?) Labor gains, although it will remain extremely marginal.

One feature of safe ALP seats like Lalor, Gorton and Corio is that Clive Palmer’s UAP party got substantial swings between 4 to 5%, what’s happening there!

In any case, Melbourne has remained fairly Labor which at least was a bit of a consolation for me after the elections’ result.

MelbourneElections2019From Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000

Adelaide United

Cooper Stadium is commonly known as Hindmarsh Stadium because of its location and is located in the seat of Adelaide which was easily retained by Labor, but the Greens got a significant primary swing of more than 5%.

Hindmarsh stayed with the ALP. Sturt remained Liberal, Making stayed ALP.  Boothby stayed Liberal but with its redistribution which gained Glenelg probably got more left votes as it swung to the ALP and Greens.

Overall it seems that Adelaide maintained pretty much the status quo.  There swings to the ALP in seats it already held.

From Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000

Perth Glory

HBF Park is situated in the seat of Perth which is a safe ALP seat.  But overall Perth again shows some traditional Liberal strongholds swinging towards Labor, but not enough to make a difference.

Curtin got a big 2PP swing to the ALP of +5.51% but it remains a safe Liberal seat.  This could be because the Julie Bishop wasn’t running and the voters for the independent Louise Stewart must have given their preferences mainly to Labor.

Stirling remains Liberal, as did Swan (pity that Beazley’s daughter, where her father used to hold this seat hardly made any shift) I am personally pleased that Anne Aly retained Cowan for the ALP, considering all the crap islamophobes threw at her in the past three years.  But is a bit of a bittersweet result as while her 2PP went down by only -0.14%  the islamophobic One Nation primary vote went up by not an insignificant +5.54%


From Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000


Not all areas are represented in this football democracy

One thing that comes out of this analysis is that big important area like Wollongong, Northern Queensland, Tasmania, and of course where our parliament is located, Canberra are not represented. But that is another story.


Canberra United logo by Michael Taylor


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