Category Archives: Politics and Current Affairs

Posts about politics and current affairs in all forms.

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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A very Australian election result

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Last Saturday I spent the day planting swamp gums and manna gums in the Koala Reserve in Philip Island  to increase their habitat and in an attempt (perhaps futile) to reduce my carbon footprint.

After a hard day of planting our group went to the North Pier pub in Cowes for a meal.  We arrived at ten minutes to six.  The place is huge and was packed.  By the time we got our meals was about ten past six.  We chatted and we waited for dessert.  I was starting to check my phone for early results.  No one else in my group did.  And neither did the 200 patrons or so in that hotel.  The TVs had the Geelong vs Western Bulldogs game on and a Rugby League game I didn’t know who was playing.

Does anyone want to know who was winning?  There were young families, couples on dates, retirees with their parmas and red wine.  It seemed that no one could not care less.  I realised what a politics tragic I was on my twitter, where every poll was eagerly awaited (not anymore probably now) and every raised eyebrow of an ABC journalist invites dozens of comments of anti Labor ABC bias.

I heard the results on the radio on my way home in the car, which made for a depressing car trip.

So now of course there is the usual post election analysis. Labor was too left, the mainstream media was was totally against the ALP, the agenda was too ambitious, no one liked Shorten etc. etc.

So what do I think?

The ALP was good in attack but it left the defence too open

As people here would know I love foottball (aka soccer) and to use a football analogy the players of the ALP team were good, but the tactics were naive.

As an ALP supporter I thought that they had the better team, but they were outnumbered in the sense that they had a very overtly hostile media in the form of News Ltd. and the other media didn’t really challenge this narrative in the fear of looking biased.

So the ALP went to the attack with big policies, thinking that scoring goals were all they had to do. The franking credits, electric cars etc.  This meant that the opposition was able to counterattack easily and they scored the goals instead.

As many said this was similar to 1993 when Hewson went to an election that the Liberals were confident to win so they could put forward a bold agenda and they lost.

Australians haven’t become rabid racist right wingers.

There has been lots of nonsense on twitter that because of the result Australians are some horrible species of people.

This sort of stuff makes me want to disown my side of politics.  I think Australians have a gut feel of who could govern OK for the next three years and the majority thought that this time the status quo was a better options.  Winning government from opposition in Australia is always hard.  Since the Chiefly Labor government in 1946 only three Labor opposition leaders achieved it: Whitlam, Hawke and Rudd.

I know that swinging voters can change quickly, and mostly not because of ideological reasons.  Howard was seen as unassailable, hailed as someone who would govern into the future with his battlers and not only he lost an election but his seat too.

Even in Queensland, this state so maligned by us lefties, in 2012 Campbell Newman won won 78 seats against only seven for Labor. Commentators were thinking that with such massive majority Labor would never see government for decades.  In 2015 Annastacia Palaszczuk formed government.

And lets also stop asserting ‘Australians this…Australians that…’ like every single Australian supported the winning party.  In any elections most voters are split in the middle.  As I write the 2 party preferred vote is 50.92% for the Coalition and 49.08% for Labor. That means that the difference is 1.84%, hardly a figure to state that Australians were enthusiastically behind Scott Morrison and his government.

A very Australian result

Reading twitter I see a lot of ‘I despair of what Australia has become’.  I think that Australia has become nothing.  The result was a very standard typical one.  Where voters were unsure of the ALP financial plans and went for the devil they knew.

This has happened before for both parties.  In 1977 the Liberals ran advertisements with the slogan “fistful of dollars”   And in 1987 the ALP ran the “Whinging Wendy” scare campaign.

So nothing new.  The result was very much based on the hip pocket nerve.  Something both parties have exploited and most likely will continue to do so.

Lesson one.  Don’t rely on auspol twitter, or newspaper polls.

Again twitter is full of speculation and opinions.  I am hesitant to explain my views there.  My frustration with left Twitter (which are the people who are on my side) was that many were in a bubble.  Even if Newspoll constantly had Labor ahead, even a small shift away from the ALP was met with ‘bullshit’ or ‘it’s Murdoch poll’ etc.  The absolute refusal to think that the coalition may win.  I felt irritated by these comments.  Firstly because even if they were from my side I found them arrogant.  But also because (and that may be because of my age) I’ve seen a few ‘dead cert’ elections that were lost. Hewson in 1993 or  Beazley in 2001 (and the trend away from the ALP started before Tampa).  And I fear that the bubble still remains.  Especially regarding the next ALP leader.

What next?

Much soul searching will be done by Labor over the next few months.  Comments say that it has moved too much to the left.  Ans this was echoed by some MPs like Fitzgibbon that should know better.  Last time the ALP had a leader that said things like that was Mark Latham and we have all seen how that has turned out.

Trying to occupy the areas now covered by the Coalition is a sure way to stay in opposition.  Why vote for a copy when they can have the real thing?

Certainly, the ALP needs to go out there and canvas ideas for new policies.  I haven’t been an ALP member for 19 years now, but I remember the ALP had a great network of branches that could organised policy forums open to everyone where ideas could be raised and then recorded to form policy.

Another area that the ALP should do better is in regional areas.  While normally regional voters do not vote ALP this does not mean that they should be disregarded.  I think this is important for three reasons.  Firstly because regional Australia is vital for the country full stop.  Second because even if the ALP may not get votes in the country, looking after regional areas resonate elsewhere, especially in the outer suburban areas. And thirdly becaue being seen to care about regional Australia may (and I stress may) suppress some of the right wing small parties protest vote.

Hawke had a great minister of primary industry in John Kerin. Landcare was a watershed reform where environmental conservation and agricultural sustainability went hand in hand.

The problems are there.The ALP needs to take the initiative

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The ALP used to have ‘Country conferences’. Not sure if they still exist.  But they again would be a really useful resource to hear what people in regional Australia needs and create appropriate policy.

Who’s next?

Talking about auspol left twitter the debate is who should be the next leader.  I am very hesitant to put my views there, because twitter is an awful place to put forward and argument.  So let’s put the cards on the table.  My favourite ALP politician, by far, is Penny Wong, and I believe it would be great for her to be the leader of the opposition.  But I think that she would not be the best leader of the ALP after a loss.  Not because she is gay or an Asian but because we need someone who can come across easily on the media, and I don’t think Wong is there as yet.  The other is Jim Chalmers.  Tick the boxes. Good performer, young, and a Queenslander to boot.  But I really haven’t heard much about him.  And I am sure that if you go to a shopping centre many will say ‘Jim who?’  He is certainly someone for the future.  But not now.

The best is Albanese.  Not because of anything brilliant he has done but he is well known and as far as I know fairly well liked.  He has developed his skills on TV.

I can hear the howls of protest.  “We need a leader with ideas for the country, not someone who is on TV!”.  I bet if we go back to the shopping centre I mentioned before Albo would be the most recognised, and as far as I know well liked.  I know the purist may baulk at this, but we live in this world.

To conclude…

Many Liberals still give Sam Dastyari a hard time, despite he acknowledged that his downfall was totally his fault.  And I think he’s been on the money about the election result:


There isn’t a conspiracy. There just isn’t.

The Labor Party lost the election because the Australian public didn’t like our policies and we ran a poor campaign.

It’s that simple.

So let’s start from that and let’s go forward.

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Violence among fans. Maybe we are not that different after all.

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There was an incident at the Fremantle vs Hawthorn match last Friday.  A man hit a woman in the throat with his right hand.  This violence towards women is bad enough, but amplified that the woman was trying to protect her children from the thuggish behaviour of this man.  And research proves that men who are violent towards women are also violent towards their children.

As I often do I was reading the reaction in social media.  What struck me was a post in the AFL Memes Official Facebook page describing the incident as ‘disappointing’.  This page is not an official AFL one, but nevertheless I thought that the incident was more than disappointing, and while still early days, I was wondering how something like this will be portrayed in the media.



The tweet above was also in the context that NSW Police wants to place quite strict  conditions for Western Sydney Wanderers fans. 

Of course condemnation came. But it was all in the context of ‘those ferals from WA’. Or ‘isolated incident’.  The narrative was that the action was from an individual.  The sport of Australian Rules football was not implicated.

Let’s imagine if this incident occurred at an A League match, the narrative would have been completely different.  The whole game of soccer would be implicated, it would not be just a ‘feral’ or an ‘violent idiot’ but the game of Association Football itself.

Different strokes for different codes

I have written about these themes before here and here so I won’t go over the same ground again.  But the point that I was making was the way the behaviour of the fans in the two codes are viewed differently.  This time I had a prime example of something happening at an AFL match.

In one my tweets I referred to an article by Melbourne City fan,

I didn’t want to involve McKenzie-Murray in the conversation.  From social media discussion I’ve seen he has had with a few A-League fans,  anyone who puts a different view, even one that agrees with him but also points out that there may be other factors at play is slammed as an ‘tribal violence apologist’.  Someone else did include him in the conversation by retweeting me saying that the violence against the woman was the main issue. Which of course I agreed.




The response from eventually came. Completely missing the point and setting up a ‘straw man’. Maybe it was addressed at me or maybe not.

Geographical determinism  – can geography change fan culture?

Maybe McKenzie-Murray may find it beneficial to read an article by Walkley Award Greg Baum, who has been writing about sport, but especially Australian Rules football for decades.

// this article Baum states:

AFL football must realise it is on a dangerous threshold right now. Friday night’s ugliness at Perth’s Domain Stadium was the canary coughing in the coalmine…..On Friday, at a football match, a man punched a woman in the face. There’s something very awry here.

From accounts received by this newspaper, it wasn’t an isolated incident. One woman wrote a long and aggrieved letter as soon as she arrived home, saying she and her children had driven 1400 kilometres to see Fremantle play, but had been badly shaken by a series of fights in the crowd, including another in which a woman was hurt, as well as an off-duty police officer, and had left before the finish. She didn’t even know the final score.  “What happened in the last five minutes I am not going to forget in a hurry,” she said. “The noises that followed were sickening. We thought the AFL was a safe place to take our children to watch a match. We were wrong.”

Then there were two well-publicised incidents in which Hawthorn players were menaced by spectators leaning over the fence. Neither came to harm, but in these moments, suddenly the fence suddenly looked like a flimsy structure.

And then he goes on to make a very interesting point:

The ascendancy of non-Victorian clubs has meant more big matches in which there has been an imbalance of supporters, teasing out a bullying streak….

On Friday, there was a new twist. Fremantle likes to represent Domain Stadium as a cauldron when they play there, and mostly the AFL plays along, for the sake of the theatre……But the staginess depends on the best of human nature. On Friday night, the worst emerged, again. The niggle on the field spilled over into the crowd, and washed back over itself. The crowd became a mob. Real fury replaced mock, real fists replaced theatrical. Infamously and inexcusably, innocents were hurt.

And this brings out that Association Football is not necessarily that different from Australian Rules Football when it comes to fan behaviour.

Yes. Australian Rules fans’ behaviour has been traditionally very well natured.  I do wonder whether the main reason for that is because it is one of the few codes in the world (in fact is the only one I know) where a whole competition developed within a city.  The VFL, the SAFL etc. had competitions where the teams represented suburbs within a city, rather than a city itself.  So it is normal for you workmates, friends, to support other teams.  And it is normal to go and see a footy match with your mates who were following the opposition.  As Baum aptly explains “there was always an “us” and a “them”, but there was always a “we”, a football community.”

But maybe this culture has changed over the years of interstate team rivalries. In this case AFL becomes more like soccer, more like the A-League where mostly of the  fans mix with are not following different teams.

Let’s take the example in my workplace.  I sit in a space with two Richmond supporters, one Geelong, one Melbourne and my boss is a St.Kilda fan.  People are less likely to develop a ‘us and them attitude’ in this context.  But there is no Fremantle , Adelaide or Port Adelaide fan.  Sure there will be people that support interstate teams in Melbourne but they are not many, but I also wonder whether this is even less likely in Adelaide or Perth.

The end of it is that it is not ‘the sport’ that causes the behaviour but a number of factors.  Soccer has organised support that is there to create an intimidating atmosphere for the opposition, and this can create its own sets of issues.  Same as some drunk/violent AFL fan may turn on some other fan, or express their racist feelings by booing Goodes in the safety of numbers.  The ‘code’ itself is irrelevant.

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Could a ‘welcome refugees’ banner happen at an Australian soccer match?

German football fans at Bundesliga matches

German football fans at Bundesliga matches

It has to be said that one of the most heartening things regarding the recent refugee crisis in Europe has been the expression of support by many people in the streets, but especially by football fans in the stands.


The question is. Could something similar happen in the A League or the FFA Cup?  Could we see a ‘Refugees Welcome’ banner at the match between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United on the 22nd of September?

Well the answer is probably no. For a variety of reasons.  Here I discuss what are in my opinion the main ones.

The social context is different

Australians in the main are wary of introducing politics where it is felt does not belong.  I remember when I first came here that one of the rules of going to a BBQ was ‘no religion and no politics’.  This extends to our sport.  You can see this in the continuing booing of Adam Goodes. The message here from the booers is that by introducing the issues of racism, aboriginal dispossession etc. does not belong in footy.  Same the feeling that political expression does not belong in the stands.  This is reflected in the way the clubs were created.  Some fans of the traditional clubs such as South Melbourne or Melbourne Knights that were prevented to join the A-League accuse the A-League teams to be ‘plastic franchises’ and while I don’t agree with that terminology, it is true that they were a creation by the Football Federation Australia (FFA) to provide a ‘clean slate’ free from any cultural ‘baggage’.

There was a discussion on a refugee banner on Facebook among some members of Melbourne Victory’s Northern Terrace. An active fan group. One member said:

I don’t think it would be good for the NT, no. Part of our unity comes from the fact we are not political. This is a fact of life for a team that was founded on the FFA’s initial ‘One club, one city’ model – it inherently encompasses and attracts all walks of life.

The kids who ended up making up the AU’s, Horda’s and Nomadi’s of the terrace didn’t have clubs to choose from based on their politics like you do if you grow up in Hamburg, Berlin, Verona or similar. There’s even a lot of cross-politics within those sub groups…… we (don’t) have to be left wing or right wing. We function as a political body, but with an apolitical stance on issues that don’t relate directly to us/football.

It is interesting that while active groups often refers to overseas practices for inspiration (chants, marching to the ground and -alas- flares) in this case unfurling a political banner doesn’t seem to resonate.

The FFA/clubs may not allow it

Since the advent of the A-League the FFA especially has been paranoid that the fans may express ‘sectarian’ views that could somehow remind people of the old NSL.  This mean that any banner that hasn’t been approved can be removed and the fans holding them up ejected.

This is not banners that say something nasty about some other ethnic group. It could be about anything. Apparently a Melbourne Victory fan was violently ejected for holding up a banner which stated “FOOTBALL IS FREEDOM” so you can see that anything more contentious such as supporting refugees would give the FFA/clubs kittens.  It would be quite a courageous fan to risk eviction, or even worse cancellation of membership and bans for future matches to hold up such a banner.

What would be great to happen would be a clubs encouraging this message themselves. Like St.Pauli and Borussia Dortmund did earlier this month.  But frankly, in the Australian context, I can’t seeing it happening.

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When an Australian PM came to the airport to welcome refugees. The manipulation of refugees for political ends

Kosovo Refugees

Refugees escaping Kosovo in 1998.

Imagine Abbott calling a press conference and saying this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve called this news conference ….to announce to announce a number of decisions that the Government has taken today in response to the appalling human tragedy that is unfolding in Europe … hundreds of thousands …. are now trapped in a most distressing human situation. ……It is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions and one that is likely to get a lot worse.”

That really happened.  It was none other than John Howard in 1999 deciding to take refugees from Kosovo. Before Tampa.  Before TPVs and ‘the pacific solutions’ and Manus Island.

Still it was so long ago that the political strategists thought that Howard welcoming and hugging refugees as they walked  out of the plane was advantageous politically.  Do you imagine Abbott of Shorten doing that now?

The refugee Australian contradiction

The action of Howard when he welcomed the Kososvo refugees outline beautifully the contradiction in Australia when it comes to refugees.  One one hand we see ourselves as generous people wanting to help, but on the other we are afraid of being ‘invaded’.  You can see from the press conference the types of questions journalists were asking.

“Mr Howard, can these people be kept under some form of restraint, I mean, effective captivity so that they don’t just scatter in the community?”

“Do you have any concerns, Prime Minister, that it might lead to racial conflict here in Australia?”

This for a grand total of 4000 people.  And of course the Howard government had a bob each way.   The government  decided to fly the refugees to Australia only after a request from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  They were sent to military barracks around the country, with limited access to the community granted temporary entry visas for three months only, and had no legal right to apply for permanent asylum.

We wanted to look ‘generous’ but the fear underlying those journalist’s questions remained.  Our generosity could go only so far.

Out of sight, out of mind

With Tampa Howard made a decision that being tough on refugees was more politically advantageous than looking generous.  From Howard with Tampa onward there has been a deliberate strategy of ensuring that asylum seekers were not seen.  Media was restricted.  The idea was not to allow Australians to see them, and therefore humanise them.  The fact that they remained faceless made the job of governments to label them as ‘undeserving queue jumpers’ or ‘a threat’ much easier.  Images were released when refugees could be portrayed in a bad light such as the children overboard lies.

Australian navy rescue asylum-seekers from a sinking boat off Christmas Island in October 2001. The government concoted a story that children were thrown overboard by refugees in an effort to stay in Australia

Australian navy rescue asylum-seekers from a sinking boat off Christmas Island in October 2001. The government concocted a story that children were thrown overboard by refugees in an effort to stay in Australia.

This spiral continues currently with the Australian Border Force Act 2015 where those working in Australia’s detention centres are now forbidden under threat of jail time from revealing information to anyone about anything they come across while doing their jobs.

Australian governments know the danger of seeing the real human images of asylum seekers.  And that is why they stop it at all costs.

We saw the power of images this week with the tragic drowning of Aylan Kurdi.  Whatever it was right or wrong to publish the photo of his body on the beach it had a huge impact on the world’s attitudes towards Syrian refugees.  This is the sort of thing the government and the ALP doesn’t want Australians to see.  They want us to see asylum seekers as a threat, as queue jumpers, as greedy people that risk their lives and those of their children to reach the ‘best country in the world – Australia’.

After all Australia already had its own ‘Ayan Kurdi’.  Three hundred and fifty-three of them.  On October 19, 2001 when SIEV X foundered. Most were women and children.

Of course both the Coalition and the ALP will say that their current policy aptly described by Waleed Aly, built on the sole rationality of deterrence – to create horror ‘saves drownings’.  But I don’t really believe it.  Is a spiral to create xenophobia and fear for political advantage.  And we are all poorer for it.

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No more Royal Commission show trials – We need the politics of positiveness.

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I haven’t written much about politics in my blog. Basically because there so much of it about and I really haven’t anything original that can contribute to the debate. Especially if it comes form professional political analysts.

However there is one thing that I feel compelled to say. This refers to the Royal Commission into Trade Unions. There is no question that it is politically motivated Royal Commission created by this government to inflict political damage to the Labor Party and the labour movement as a whole. Many commentators have said so, even though they can’t resist amplifying the damage nevertheless in their approach to the story.

Overall I am in agreement with what Kristina Keneally has said on the whole matter.

But I also have to say that I am not a big fan of Shorten either. There is a great article by Jeff Sparrow that explains much better that I could my opinions about the opposition leader.

The royal commission’s an obvious political stunt, a manoeuvre designed to generate footage of yet another Labor leader grilled by lawyers in a courtroom setting. Will it damage Shorten’s political standing? Who knows.

He certainly came across as an uninspiring and slightly shifty bureaucrat, concerned more about his ambitions than anything else – but, then again, that’s pretty much the persona with which we’re familiar from his parliamentary career.

I think many of us hope for a Shorten’s win just to get rid of Abbott. But it is an uninspiring choice.  And the current ‘me too’ positions on things such as asylum seekers, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill, and even voting against protecting the Liverpool Plains doesn’t give much sense of a different vision.

The ALP is now for same sex marriage but that position has arrived when they realised that many in the government were of the same opinion and I suspect are now using this to maximise the discomfort of the Government.

And this is where the political discourse has got to.  There’s no need for me to write a about the disenchantment in the electorate feels at the moment.  Waleed Ali has written about it a couple of days ago and he explains it much better than I could.

What I want to say is that when the ALP returns to government (may not be next election though) it should resist the temptation to set up its own ‘Royal Commission’ as a revenge act.  Kim Carr has already flagged that this may be the case.

This came from a statement  on the ABC’s PM program.

KIM CARR: One can only wonder where it leads Australia? We are turning a very dark corner here when it comes to the use of state power in an attempt to silence political opponents.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Senator Kim Carr indicated Labor may seek payback.

KIM CARR: The Labor Party, when it returns to office, will be under incredible pressure to respond to this precedent. It is the sort of issue that would make a very good royal commission, such as inquiries into how the Liberal Party funds its operations. Its fundraising arm has of course been subject to considerable attention in recent times, particularly with its links with the mafia, and I can see a circumstance where a Labor government would be under pressure to respond to the precedent that Mr Abbott has set with his royal commission.

Under pressure?  From whom?  I am sure that Labor supporters would love to see high level officials squirm and be under pressure as they have done to Rudd, Gillard and Shorten.  But I would urge the ALP to resist this tit for tat.

Mahatma Ghandi is attributed to have said “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”.  It is time to raise the politics away from the negativity that it find itself into.

The politics is so negative, so imbued with the narrative of threat of fear that it casts a pall over the whole Australian society.

Instead of looking at challenges with an outlook that we can deal with them, intelligently and capably and positively we are all stuck in this negative swamp.

It’s time to get out of the swamp.  Forget getting back to the Liberals about their Trade Union Royal Commission.  It’s time to see ourselves as a successful positive society that thrives of knowledge, ability and compassion rather than being cajoled into fear and inaction and anger by a narrative wanting us to be there for their political advantage.

Someone already faced an incumbent leader who was using fear and war to win power.  He won by offering positiveness and hope.  It can be done.


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FIFA scandal and Australia. Ethics and politics

The unraveling of FIFA is something that certainly is intriguing many of us on many levels. It is becoming a reality TV show that mixes Nordic Noir with Italian Mafia intrigue series.  The dawn raid.  The re-election of Blatter – only to ‘resign’ a few hours later, and the inevitable revelations of corrupt officials is something that it will be certainly compelling.

This is going to be good

Something for everyone

But the reactions have been certainly different.  For most football fans it was a rejoicing that finally something may act as a circuit breaker for an organisation that it was a rule in itself.  Because FIFA wasn’t behold to any government that had a sense of propriety or democratic processes, it could do what it wanted.  Until FIFA overstretched and US individuals and a USA company conspired to commit crimes with foreign co-conspirators using USA financial institutions, in order to exploit USA and foreign markets.  We may feel fuzzy warm when we hear Loretta Lynch talk about ‘cleaning the most popular game in the world’  But the real reason is that corrupt FIFA officials were corrupting using USA capital organisations .  And this is unacceptable in the most important capitalist country in the world.

So the reactions was from football people being really happy.

To people who hate football using the opportunity to shit stirring.

But it was strange to read tweets and comments from people who normally I think couldn’t care less about Association Football, immediately becoming experts in football administration.  One of this was Senator Xenophon who became immediately an advocate for FIFA reform.  He certainly got quite a bit of media attention, which he lapped up with much glee.

Australia’s role

All bound into this was the discussion about our bid for the 2022 World Cup.  Firstly I have to say that this is something that has to be investigated.  Any spending of taxpayers’ money has to be examined if there is any suspicion that it may have been misappropriated . However this topic has brought up quite a intricate number of arguments.  One is the fact that Australia should go it alone and ‘take a lead’ in FIFA reform.  This is echoed by the investigative journalist Andrew Jennings

Lots of credit must undoubtedly go to Jennings about his relentless work in exposing FIFA for years.  Something that he has been proven right.  Despite this I think he comes across as a know it all and as this has become his personal crusade his interviews lack that sense of detachment that I think journalists should have. I also think he swaps and turns his arguments to suit his agenda at a particular time.  I wrote some years ago that he is no friend of football in Australia, being very dismissive of it. But recently exhorting Australia to leave FIFA

Which is a curious suggestion considering four years ago he stated that football in Australia was a minority sport and we are not a ‘football nation’.  If that is the case then us getting out of FIFA would be of no consequence.

But interestingly even if I don’t agree with his dismissal of football as a sport in Australia he should have stuck with this statement if he wanted to be accurate about how realistically Australia has influence in the politics of world football…very little.

The high moral ground

Apart from Andrew Jennings telling us to get out of FIFA, there also have been others who have proclaimed that Australia should boycott the 2022 World Cup.

There are two different issues here (which are albeit connected).  One is FIFA and how that organisation has used graft and corruption for the personal benefits of officials.  The second one (and much more important) is the exploitation of foreign workers in Qatar and their appalling conditions.

On the first question I believe that Australia is a relative minnow in world football terms and any gesture such as leaving FIFA would not make one iota of difference.  It may make some feel like we ‘took the moral ground’ but in the end it would basically destroy viable football in Australia, and FIFA would still carry on happily and our absence won’t be noticed.  Same about boycotting a World Cup, which to be honest it seems to me comes from someone who know little about football in Australia and its history and struggles.  Coulter’s call to boycott the Qatar World Cup ignores the fact that a World Cup is not like the Olympics where you just turn up. A nation has to go through a qualification process.  So if anything Australia would have to withdraw from the qualification round.  Again our absence will be largely unnoticed and perhaps it may make some dictatorship in the Middle East very happy that a World Cup spot would be free once we were out of the way.  And do you think that our absence would make the Qatari think “shit, Australia is going to boycott our Word Cup we better treat our workers fairly” ?

Of course the argument is also that it doesn’t matter whether we make a difference or not.  Making a stand is the ethical thing to do.  But in that case we shouldn’t have gone to the Beijing Olympics where workers were also exploited. And let’s forget about Rio de Janeiro as well considering the forced eviction of poor people from the city.  The fact is that these big sport events involve massive amounts of money and when we talk about profit is the poor and the workers getting abused.

I am not saying that this is right. Not at all.  What I am questioning is whether Australian soccer should be the sacrificial lamb to uphold our morality, while other sports escape scot free.

That doesn’t mean that Australia should do nothing.  Australia should so what it had done in successfully in diplomatic circles for years. Support and work within a group of more powerful football nations for change.

What about the FFA? 

“Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence”. Robert J. Hanlon

Parallel to that we also have questions about the conduct of the FFA, Frank Lowy and the role of some media figures such as Les Murray.  Claims and counterclaims have swirled around social media since the FIFA arrests.

I got lots of information second hand.  As I was not part of the inner workings of the bid I have no authority of what really went on.  All I have to form an opinion is what people have reported.

One of the persons I believe the most is Bonita Mersiades.  Bonita lost her job after querying the tactics of consultants working on Australian bid for the 2022 World Cup, and now actively involved in advocating for a total reform of FIFA.

People like Bonita and Jesse Fink questioned the bid both at the FFA and at SBS and obviously became persona non grata.

There is no doubt that Mersiades and Fink were treated badly for holding an ethical line.  I was irritated by Fink’s questioning of FIFA and the bid process because I thought that Australia having the World Cup was the best thing ever.  I imagine that if I was part of the ‘bid team’ I would have kept quiet, thinking that the prize of a World Cup would be worth not raising too many issues.

I do wonder whether this mindset (if this was what was happening at the FFA – only speculating) derived from the belilef that there have been some greasing of palms in previous bids and we had to go along with it if we had any chance to be competitive.  But more importantly from the sense of inferiority that we football as the football community developed over the years as being derided as the ‘Wogs, sheilas and poofter’ sport.

Here is a chance to get the biggest sport event in the world that would have dwarfed all other codes…all other sports in the country.  We would have all the attention.  Soccer would reign supreme.  And perhaps this may have clouded some judgments.  ‘Whatever it takes’ is a motto that has put sport in trouble before.  Just ask the Essendon Football Club.

Who knows whether this is what happened to people like Les Murray.  Another ‘Murray’, Martin McKenzie Murray has written a devastating expose of the role of Les Murray (and Frank Lowy) in the bidding process. Especially in engaging Peter Hargitay to consult on the bid which Martin McKenzie Murray describes as ‘unctuous’.

And what about Frank Lowy?  Again a few in the media (and social media) are clamoring for his resignation.  Andrew Jennings amongst them who have stated in an interview that ‘ He’s led Australian football into disaster’ which really is hyperbole.

Lowy is no saint.  He’s a wealthy capitalist, and as all wealthy capitalists would have exploited opportunities and cut corners.  Back in 2008 his family’s finances were audited by the Taxation Office when a US Senate report alleged he hid assets to avoid Australian tax.  Lowy stated that he did anything wrong but the mentality of an entrepreneur is that you search and use any possible advantage.  And when Australia bid for the World Cup Lowy did just that.  He decided to ‘play the game’ as he believed others bidding nations were doing and did before.


Sepp Blatter giving Johnny Warren FIFA’s Centennial Medal of Honour.

There were two problems with that.  One was that it got Australia involved in some corrupt schemes and shady deals and second that while the FFA tried to ‘play the game’ it was outplayed by others who played the game much better or had more influence.

There is considerable hatred for Lowy amongst some in the Australian football community.  Most of this seem to come from ex NSL fans that see Lowy as instrumental in establishing the FFA and the A-League that excluded the traditional clubs such as South Melbourne and Sydney Olympic to be part of the top competition of football in Australia.  Lowy himself was part of the traditional NSL family being involved with Hakoah a Jewish team that then became Sydney City.  But as the crowds dwindled (in 1984 Sydney City average crowd was 1019) and Soccer Australia became dysfunctional Lowy tried to take hold of the game by unsuccessfully standing for the presidency of the ASF against Sir Arthur George.  Believing that the ASF and NSL leaders did not share his vision for the game he withdrew from both football and the presidency of Hakoah at the end of 1988.  Some claim that the demise of Hakoah started when Lowy initiated the Sydney City Slickers experiment, thus removing any ‘ethnic’ connection with the team.  And some believe that he has done that with the A-League and with teams participating in the FFA Cup.   Some also believe that His and Andrew Lederer’s long standing determination not to allow any sort of involvement by anyone else in the running and administration of Hakoah is repeating itself again in how he’s been running the FFA.  The way he ran the World Cup bid being one example and the other when John O’Neil contract was not renewed because of ‘creative tensions’ with Lowy.

While many will disagree with me, I believe that overall Frank Lowy influence on the game has been positive.  Since he became chairman of the FFA we qualified for World Cups, and despite inevitable hiccups the A-League is still with us, and getting more mainstream exposure than the NSL ever did.  Of course the World Cup bid is a big black mark.  A Sydney Morning Herald editorial on June 4 stated:

 For the good of the game he has done so much to develop in this country, Mr Lowy should step aside from FFA immediately until all questions can be resolved. There is no suggestion the shopping centre mogul has done anything illegal. He has a proud legacy to protect. But he must realise that if he stays during the inquiries, FFA will be sorely conflicted, doubts will linger and his hopes for a smooth changeover in five months’ time to his chosen successor, his youngest son Steven, will be jeopardised.

I don’t think Lowy should step down.  I think it would serve no purpose unless it is shown he was directly involved in anything dodgy.  However I do believe that it would be very wrong for his son Steven to take over without proper consideration.  The FFA is not Westfield where Lowy can put whoever he wants in charge.  It is not Lowy’s plaything.  As Simon Hill rightly puts it “having the son take over the family business is accepted practice, in football (where there are many more stakeholders), it is not.”  The FFA is not a dictatorship like North Korea where the leadership gets handed over from father to son.

At least the FFA has done a couple of right moves recently.  It hasn’t voted for Blatter in the election for president, and has decided not to bid for any further FIFA events until it gets a “overhaul”.

The way the bid has to be conducted has to be investigated. Lowy succession has to be open and fair, and Australia must be part of a movement to reform FIFA with other nations, rather than going on its own in a futile blaze of glory.  This processes will strengthen Association Football this country and potentially position it to be an influential member of the football world community.

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Australia’s football belongs in Asia.

Imagine this scenario.
The Kazakhstani football team becomes good. Really good. So good that it goes to the World Cup and Euro Cup regularly. Their clubs start to take places in the Champions League and the Europa League. This starts to get countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Norway really pissed off. Why should we have a country such that borders with China and is next door to Mongolia be part of UEFA? It should belong to the Asian Confederation.
In fact Kazakhstan situation is very similar to Australia, but in reverse. It was part of the Asian Confederation. But the Football Association of Kazakhstan, requested admission to UEFA after leaving the ACF in 2001, was eventually admitted as a UEFA member by the UEFA Congress upon the recommendation of the UEFA Executive Committee in April 2002. In the same way Australia left Oceania and the AFC Executive Committee admitted it in 2006. And it is on the edge of Europe. Only the far western part in the Urals can be considered in Europe, a bit like our own Christmas Island can be considered in Asia. But Kazakhstan national team and its Premier League do not seem to worry the powerhouses of Europe. If Kazakhstan won the European Cup and its teams European Club competitions who knows whether they would face the same rumblings of kicking them out of Europe and we have heard about Australia and Asia.
This issue has been raised recently in the wake of Australia winning the Asian Cup. Most tweeters congratulated the team, but we also had a few that questioned our right to be there in the first place.


But the idea of Australia in Asia was not only questioned by people who came from an Asian country, I’ve read plenty of Italian tweets being baffled why a country in Oceania was playing in an Asian competition. And even in a major UK newspaper they advocated the exclusion of Australia.

The bottom line? It shouldn’t have been allowed. (admitting Australia in the Asian Football Confederation) Had FIFA treated the Oceania confederation with more respect and guaranteed one place at the World Cup, Australia might not have felt the need to break away; and, when they did, FIFA should have stepped in and outlawed the move. Countries cannot choose their continent as if from a catalogue. Yet FIFA, and Asia, are already complicit in a convenient illusion, highlighted on the AFC’s website as their tournament progressed.

I personally find the concept of an ‘Asia’ ranging outdated and anachronistic. It is and Eurocentric concept, and it is surprising that it is used by some living in ‘Asian’ countries to exclude Australia. Do Lebanon and Japan have more things in common that Australia and Japan? Would a Korean see a Syrian as a ‘fellow Asian?’

Furthermore FIFA’s confederations do not strictly follow geographical imperatives. Guyana and Suriname are geographically located in the South American continent but because they are considered “culturally” Caribbean, they play with the other Caribbean nations in the CONCACAF. Not only Kazakhstan is an ‘Asian’ country in UEFA. Azerbaijan is in UEFA although it is primarily situated in Asian Transcaucasia. Pacific island territory of Guam should be in Oceania but is in the AFC. And of course we have Israel, which won the Asian Cup in 1964, expelled for political reasons in 1974, and it is now in UEFA.

It is also true that the Asian Confederation is huge, spanning half the globe. Many have supported the idea of creating a ‘West Asia’ confederation and a ‘Asian-Pacific’ confederation which would include East Asian and Oceania countries. That concept is much more in tune with the real geopolitical situation in the world, rather some antiquated Western idea of geography on the 19th century. However logic and FIFA haven’t really being together. I think many in Asia would not want to endanger any power they have in FIFA or risking having less World Cup spot.

But while the idea that Australia doesn’t belong to the Asian Confederation is ludicrous, we do have a responsibility to be an involved and valuable member.

Australia has to take its membership seriously

One of the reasons why Australia was admitted to the ACF it was because it was felt it would improve the level of football in the confederation. But apart for providing more competition and winning championships it has taken this responsibility as much as it should have? Janek Speight has mentioned about the lack of players from the ACF and reiterates an idea that has been discussed for some time, and that should be implemented in the A-League.

Most Asian countries employ the 3+1 rule, which states the club can have three visa spots from any nation in the world, with an extra spot open for a player from a neighbouring Asian nation. The same rule applies for participants in the Asian Champions League, which means Australian clubs can only use three of their five visa players when competing in the prestigious tournament.

Changing A-League visa rules to a 4+1, and slowly moving towards a 3+1 (if FFA is determined to reduce the total number to four) would be a smart move, and could open up a lot more doors for clubs wanting to cash in on the fastest-growing region in the world. With current foreign imports signed to multi-year contracts, it’s certainly not a short-term option, so planning needs to start now to give clubs a chance to prepare.

The idea has been floated around FFA before, and David Gallop has admitted the advantages of the move. He realises that our links with Asia need to strengthen.

The other issue that Australia needs to address to remain a good ‘AFC member’ is promotion and relegation. I’ve discussed the problems and merits of promotion and relegation in the A-League in a previous post. Michael Lynch also outlines the dangers. But the AFC apparently wants all domestic competitions in its confederations to have this system. There are problems in having relegation in a league where teams can be financially unstable and where being relegated may mean their demise. However if that’s what our confederation requires, we can’t put out fingers in our ears and sing lah lah lah. But we should be intelligent to be creative. We can’t be part of an organisation and ignore its requirements. We are not ‘special’. If there are difficulties I am sure we could come up with some creative solution.  As it happens politically we want to be part of the region but often we turn our patronising noses up by feeling somewhat ‘better’.  This is beautifully explained in a great article by Scott McIntyre.


There will be always members in the AFC that don’t want Australia, but we have every right to be there. However we have to be actively a participant and be an equal amongst many.

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Should Socialists sell their souls to the Preference Whisperer?

(picture from

So another election and another upper house where ‘micro parties’ have the balance of power.  The Victorian Legislative Council seems will be controlled by representatives of parties such as the Shooters and Fishers Party, the Australian Country Alliance, Family First, and the Sex Party.

This replicates the situation in the Senate.  Where someone like Ricky Muir, of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, was elected with half of 1 per cent of first preferences; a record low primary vote.  Muir was a vital vote for passing the Temporary Protection Visa legislation.

The reason why these parties with tiny votes get elected is because of wheeling and dealing on preference swaps.  Calls are being made to reform the system that vote the upper houses.

On election night in Victoria, ABC analyst Antony Green stated that  any government moved to another election under the current electoral system, they deserved “to be taken outside and flogged”  The Victorian Legislative Council result, he said, was last year’s Senate election “writ large”. It was “a national joke” that elections were still run in this manner.

These preference deals can be quite complicated.  However it seems that the way micro parties are able to do this is by seeking the help of  people such as Glenn Druery dubbed the “preference whisperer” who advised the micro parties on how to make best use of their preferences through “preference harvesting”.

The problem for me with this is not only that it is inherently undemocratic, but that it seems to elect right wing people.  Have a look at the Shooters and Fishers Party which is an political party based on gun rights, global warming skepticism and nationalism. Or The Country Alliance, anti Greens at heart, that wants to ‘restore the timber industry’ including thinning in catchment areas and mandatory sentencing.  The views of Family First and the DLP on issues such as same sex marriage and abortion are well known (they are against it).  At least the Sex Party seems to have progressive social policies.  Although some have questioned its origin as as an exercise in political entrepreneurship by members of the adult industry lobby group the Eros Foundation and as such they are businesspeople whose interests are not necessarily those of their employees and in the past it has championed small business and has been critical of Green taxation policies.

So if we can get fringe groups parties, who are mostly conservative and right wing, elected with a miniscule vote – why can’t a real left wing party like a Socialist one do the same?  Not that I necessarily agree with all the policies of a Socialist party, but if we have people in parliaments that have what can be described as off centre right wing views, then we should have also parliamentarians with off centre left wing ones.  Such as overthrowing the capitalist system and replacing it with one where elements of the economy are socially owned.

The question is whether a Socialist party would be prepared to do preference deals with parties that may be an anathema to them to get a quota. We have seen the bickering back and forward between the Greens and the ALP about preferences.

As Socialist parties, such as Socialist Alliance, have been very critical of the ALP and even The Greens in the past, they would be open to accusations of hypocrisy if they were to engage someone such as the preference whisperer and do preference deals with parties such as Family First or the Shooters and Fishers Party.  But also it seems that these right wing type micro parties are quite happy to exchange deals with each other.  Whether the ALP or the Greens would be happy to be seen to exchange preferences to a Socialist party, considering the reaction of a fairly conservative media is also another consideration.

Unfortunately this is the system that we are dealing with.  Small parties have to do deals with the devil to get a chance to do get a quota and get elected.  So I guess we are stuck with the right wing loonies.


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Victoria is Labor again

So Victoria is Labor again.  I must admit it feels good.  It may be true or not but to me it feels good to live in a state where most people are more concerned about the conditions of Ambulance workers and Firefighters rather than a hugely expensive and disruptive freeway that would benefit people that want to live in the outer suburbs because they don’t like the city.

A lot of conjecture has been done why a government has been tossed out just after a term.  I remember commenting with a Labor person that I believed that the Liberals would repeat what Bracks did when he barely won unexpectedly. Be competent, consolidate and win at least two terms.

What we have instead is one term government, which is extremely rare in Australian politics.

There have been plenty of explanation why this has occurred.  But to me they miss one major point.

Deep inside Victorians is the sense of being ‘the second state’ or ‘the second city’ and I think they hate that.  We bang on at nauseaum about being ‘the world’s most liveable city’ (even when on occasions we don’t make the top of the list) and the ‘cultural/sporting/fashion capital of Australia.  We don’t like being second and falling behind in anything is a major sin.

The fact is that despite everything I felt that as Liberal Governments go, the Baillieu/Naphtine government was relatively mild compared with what we got federally and in Queensland.

It is said that Victoria is the most left state in Australia. Gay Alcorn wrote about this back in 2013.

It seems that if you are a conservative in Victoria, you’re probably more a small-l liberal than a turn-back-the-boats sort. When he became premier, Ted Baillieu was under pressure to scrap the Human Rights Charter – loathed by the far right as the epitome of legislative evil – but he decided to keep it.

Jeff Kennett, for all his bluster, condemned the racial policies of Pauline Hanson in the late-1990s with more force than any other politician, and now spends some of his days campaigning against discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Victoria may have been once dubbed the jewel in the Liberal Party crown, but the last prime minister we produced – Malcolm Fraser – quit the party in dismay over what he saw was its shift to the right.

But one thing that the Liberals failed was to at least give the perception that Victoria was ahead of the game.  Kennett knew this very well.  That is why he got the Grand Prix from Adelaide and built the Casino.  Things that his Labor successors ensured were kept in Melbourne despite their dubious economic benefits overall.  Rightly or wrongly first with Kennett and later with Bracks and Brumby there was the feeling that things were progressing.  But with Baillieu it seemed this momentum stopped.  While Baillieu was not doing anything wrong, he was also not doing anything.  His government was dubbed the ‘do nothing government’ and the sense was that Victoria was being overtaken by other parts of Australia, and of course Sydney and NSW.  Once Baillieu was ousted there was a polling boost for the Liberals, but again Naphtine fell back in the same sense of inertia and perhaps his big freeway announcement came too late.

The Abbott factor

My fellow lefties are now gloating about how this is bad for Abbott.  But in my opinion the “Abbott factor’ has been overstated.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think Abbott is disliked in Victoria overall.  Probably much more than other parts of Australia, but I believe that it wasn’t a major factor for the Liberal’s loss.

If anything it was that there could have been a belief that Abbott didn’t particularly like Victoria and seems to be more interested in appeasing parts of NSW and Queensland that listen to Alan Jones.  In this case the Abbott factor is not that people voted against the GP copayment, or petrol taxes etc. but perhaps the fact that Napthine was perceived of not being strong enough to represent Victoria with the Abbott government.

So my advice to the new Labor government is not only being competent.  But also that it will ensure that Victorians feel that being second in Australia doesn’t mean being second rate.  

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