Thursday, June 23, 2011

On the QT: The element of predictability

And so it reached 3:15pm. There was a sense of nervousness in the air. The House was restless; the gallery confused; the people on Twitter techy dishevelled and at a loss.

Surely on this the anniversary of the rolling of Rudd there would be a censure motion? Usually Abbott needs a pretty good reason to launch a censure motion – you know, like the day ending in a Y – so it was pretty clear there would be a censure motion today. But time was slipping by. It was now 3:20 and Jenny Macklin was responding to a question. Would Tony rise to his feet and move the motion? Everyone in the censure motion sweep sat on the edge of their chairs waiting, wondering. Could this be a fantastic day that would see a Thursday Question Time go all the way through uninterrupted.

Such a thing is so rare, so beyond the ken of the current political system, that one only hoped the galleries were full of young children. Of whom one could say – “Go find the youngest child in the gallery, because that's the only person here who will have a chance of seeing this happen again in their lifetime."

But alas. At 3:21 Tony did stand and sought leave to move a motion of censure against the PM. Why? Did this follow repeated questions that had Julia Gillard cowering and lost? Well no. Given all the questions from the Liberal Party were variants of the theme of what have you done in the last 12 months, she was able to talk about anything she wanted. And so Abbott moved this:

That this House censures the Prime Minister for her failure to achieve anything of substance in 12 months of government after supplanting her predecessor on the basis that the government had lost its way when it is clear on any assessment that things have just gone from bad to worse.

Used to be a time you censored PM’s because of serious things – you know misleading the house or allegations of corruption. Now it’s just “things have gone from bad to worse” (you know if you ignore the economic data which shows that things actually haven’t).

Censure motions used to be something to get the journos rushing back into the gallery. A hold the presses type moment. Now, under Abbott, they are jokes. The ALP MPs call out “I move! I move” When Abbott stands up. They know it’s coming. They don’t care. Gillard leaves, and Abbott makes a big deal about how John Howard would never have left during a censure motion, ignoring of course that under the ALP the censure motion was not reduced to the absurdity it has become under Abbott.

No one cares. The TV doesn’t even bother reporting it anymore.

The rest of QT? It too was hardly worth the bother. Oh yeah I guess you could say Gillard was “attacked”, if the Libs asking the same type of questions is an “attack”. The ALP had two main thrusts – the NBN deal announced today by the PM and Stephen Conroy with Telstra and Optus – a pretty key moment that will basically mean the NBN is going to be here regardless of who wins the next election – and Tony Abbott attending a conference at which climate denier fruit-loop Christopher Monckton will be speaking.

The issue with Monckton (aside from the obvious thing that everyone already knew) is that he recently compared Ross Garnaut to Hitler. And not in a subtle nudge nudge way, But with a bloody Swastika! Abbott still intends to speak – though he did condemn Monckton for his statements.

But in the end it was all a bit sideshowy.

In other real news the House and Senate sat later than expected because of this:


Messages from the Senate, 23 June 2011, were reported returning the following bills without amendments or requests:

No. 151—Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment 2011.

No. 152—Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 5) 2011.

No. 154—Appropriation (No. 1) 2011-2012 (without requests).

No. 155—Appropriation (No. 2) 2011-2012.

No. 153—Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) (No. 1) 2011-2012, 9:41:34 PM.

   29  MESSAGE FROM THE SENATE—Remuneration and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Message No. 156, 23 June 2011, from the Senate was reported returning the Remuneration and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 with amendments, 9:41:46 PM.

Mr Albanese, 9:42:13 PM, moved—That the amendments be considered immediately.

Question—put and passed, 9:42:22 PM.

Mr Albanese, 9:42:33 PM, moved—That the amendments be agreed to.

Question—put and passed, 9:42:46 PM.

That there was the Budget being passed. So much for the House being unworkable. So much for the Govt losing control of the house. So much for Abbott and Hockey amending and improving the Budget.

What was Joe Hockey doing today? Well he didn’t ask a question during QT – probably because he had been too busy this morning carrying on like a primary school kid getting his advisors to take a cardboard cut out of Kevin Rudd around to various embassies and places in Canberra. He then proceeded to tweet them :

  • After a long day of travel @KRuddMP decides it is time for a rest at Aussie's in Parliament House about 3 hours ago via TweetDeck
  • Then @KRuddMP pops up to Red Hill to look over the land he once controlled. "It should all be mine!" he excla… (cont) about 5 hours ago via TweetDeck

  • Then @KRuddMP decided to drop in to say hi to his friends at the Indonesian embassy. about 6 hours ago via TweetDeck

  • This morning @KRuddMP visited China.

  • It was utterly juvenile, and only funny on a pull my finger kind of humour level. But what made Joe’s efforts so lacking in comedic timing and class was that he decided to string out the tweets over the whole day  and ended by tweeting a few of them at the same time that most political watchers on Twitter were absorbed in the SBS documentary series Go Back Where You Came From. Having Hockey tweet his “jokes” while the rest of the Twit stream was filled with people expressing horror at women in such appalling conditions that they would sing a joyful song about no longer being raped, showed a decided lack of political nous.

    Though he was only slightly less foolish than Scott Morrison who also tweeted during a program that forced people to confront the hell that asylum seekers have to endure each day:

    What a champ.


    An announcement

    And that my friends ends my regular blog posts on Question Time for a while. In fact it also ends my regular blog posts during the week on any topic.

    I have recently moved to part-time (Thursday and Fridays off) and am writing a book for the good folk at Scribe Publications on (rather coincidentally given the last parts of this post) on Social Media: Politics, Policy and Journalism.

    As it usually takes about 3 hours each night to write these posts I have decided I will for the next 6 months need to use that time to research and write the book instead.

    I will try to write a couple posts a week – but they will more likely be on a Thursday or Friday night and the weekends, and be more weekly summations than a review of the day’s proceedings.

    This is all a bit of an ‘I plan not to write so much”, but given this has been my addiction for the last 3 years (3rd anniversary 15th of next month) I probably will make a liar out of myself and bang out some words more regularly than once or twice a week – though the On the QT posts will probably take a back seat as they can be buggers to write – especially if I want to quote things said.

    So I will still be here (and as ever on Twitter), but I hope you will excuse my drop in regularity.

    I’ll keep you posted on the book progress. I have already lined up some very interesting people to interview, and hope to talk to many more as well.

    This blog and more importantly your readership and support has opened this door for me, so I thank you for that.

    Oh and by the way, by reading this post, you have just agreed to buy the damn book when it comes out!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    On the QT: Like a Broken Pencil

    Everything you need to know about Question time can be summed up in the supplementary asked today by Julie Bishop to Kevin Rudd

    "Will the Foreign Minister advise the House when he intends to return to Bougainville?"

    Some background. Firstly Bishop had sought to ask Rudd a long question about why he hadn’t visited Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia or PNG to repair the relations that have supposedly been destroyed recently (I guess she is discounting the possibility of Scott Morrison’s little jaunt to Malaysia this weekend helping things).

    Rudd pretty much took her to school. Malcolm Farr watching in the press gallery tweeted:

    Julie B might not quite be in her weight division

    That is – she was a light weight battling a foreign policy heavyweight.

    But the question we soon discovered was not a real question anyway. It was just a set up for her supplementary:

    "Will the Foreign Minister advise the House when he intends to return to Bougainville?"

    Ok. Let me walk you though it… Apparently Kevin Rudd now calls the lodge “Boganville” because there are so many coups in Bougainville and because he probably thinks Gillard is a bogan. So she was really saying when do intend to return to the Lodge.

    Get it? image

    *taps microphone* Is this thing on?

    The only reason we know Rudd thinks this is because Senator Brandis mentioned it in Senate Estimate and Niki Savva also mentioned it in her most recent op-ed piece in The Oz.

    So that includes about as large a percentage of the population as Alan Jones thinks a carbon tax will reduce world temperatures by.

    The Liberal side of the House laughed. Rudd had a bit of a smirk. And the rest of Australia thought, who are these children?

    On the ABC, Jeremy Thompson thought it pure gold, writing:

    Like a good fast bowler, Ms Bishop had "softened up" Mr Rudd earlier with a series of bouncers about why he had not visited Jakarta, Dili, Port Moresby and Kuala Lumpur, before she unleashed the yorker.

    And she hit middle stump.

    Which is I guess a good analogy if you ignore that Rudd put the first delivery over the fence.

    Personally I agree more with Farr’s assessment on his rolling blog:

    The Opposition has engaged in an elaborate set-up for a joke most members of the public did not get.

    Yep. It was a indulgent in-joke. Audiences just love those.

    First rule of comedy – you better not need to explain your joke in order for people to get it.

    But it got a run in the media because, well it’s a sideshow.

    Yesterday in the Senate, in giving his valedictory speech Senator Alan Ferguson had a bit to say about Question Time:

    Firstly, if it were up to me, I would abolish question time as it is currently structured. It is a total waste of time and, dare I say it, not much better in the other place, if not worse.

    We have in the Australian parliament the worst question time of any parliament throughout the world that uses the Westminster system. I recently went to hear Prime Minister David Cameron answering questions in Prime Minister's question time in the House of Commons. He answered 25 questions in half an hour, and answered every question. In Canada ministers get 35 seconds. In New Zealand they have up to 61 questions in the day, and each one is answered.

    There is one difference, and I have talked this over with Senator Faulkner on occasion at the procedure committee: every question is a question on notice, followed by supplementaries. I think the only way that we can ever get some order into this place or into question time is if questions are placed on notice and anybody in the chamber is allowed to ask a supplementary question. It means that there is no such thing as a dorothy dixer, a chance for a minister to then explain at length an answer to that question, because someone on this side of the chamber can add a supplementary and make it a more interesting debate.

    I think there has never been a greater waste of time in the Public Service and in ministers' offices than question time as it is currently structured. Ministers, staff and departmental officials spend many, many hours—I do not know just how long, because I have never been in there—preparing for answers to questions in the Senate and in the House of Representatives—questions that may never be asked, because they are not on the Notice Paper and nobody knows exactly what the topic of the question is going to be on the day or whether a certain minister is going to be questioned.

    So can I say that I think that in its current form question time in both chambers does us a disservice. Name me one person in the community who is not frustrated by watching question time and seeing questions asked that are never answered. It is a generally known standard: the opposition ask questions they hope the government cannot answer, and the government ask questions where they have already prepared the answer. I have never seen a more farcical waste of time in my life, and I think it is something that ought to be changed as soon as is practically possible, but it will take goodwill on both sides because both parties have been guilty of encouraging and maintaining the current system.

    He makes some excellent points. Whenever people praise the glory of the UK system, however, they often forget to mention the PM only needs to front up once a week. I like that the PM is here everyday – though I also understood what Keating was trying to do when he tried to have a day off each week so that Ministers were in the forefront.

    But he is right about Dorothy Dixers.

    Get rid of them. Wayne Swan today struggled to keep directly relevant to his own Dorothy Dixer, and even ran out of time!

    I like Ferguson’s idea that if Government MPs are allowed to ask questions that anyone can then ask a supplementary. That would make things rather interesting.

    But to be honest it is not so much the rules in place at the moment, but the attitude. The Libs don’t give a damn about order. Chris Pyne loves being the a pest and thinks disrupting the House with endless quorum calls is all jolly good japes. I guess when you don’t have any policies, you are only left with stunts to pass the time.

    Clowns the lot of them.

    One thing did happen in Parliament today of note. Here it is:

    Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

    The order of the day having been read for the resumption of the debate on the question—That the bill be now read a second time, 9:24:11 AM—
    Mr Bandt dissenting—Bill agreed to, 11:01:05 AM.

    Consideration in detail concluded.

    That was the Bill that Abbott and Hockey attacked with vigour and venom after the budget because it would “strip” benefits from needy middleclass families. Remember how the Government wasn’t making the real tough cuts? Remember how it was turning its back on good, honest, families. 

    Here was Joe Hockey the day after the budget:

    JOE HOCKEY: You have to make hard decisions and this Government instead is penalising nearly 2 million Australian families. It is penalising over 2 million Australian small businesses. Michael, the Government is claiming to deliver a surplus in two years time but the Budget deficit this year is at a record level, the Budget deficit next year was meant to be $12 billion, it is now $22 billion. The Government is spending $18 million a day on interest alone for the next four years on their debt.

    Here was Joe at the Press club:

    The Coalition in the last twelve months has announced over $52 billion of savings in detail.

    So why did the Liberals let his Bill pass without even a vote? Here’s Sue Dunlevy of The Oz quoting Opposition families spokesman Kevin Andrews:

    the Coalition did not oppose the measures that will save the government $2 billion over four years because “we couldn't find equivalent savings measures”'.

    Wow. From $52 billion to zero in one month. That takes skill.


    Oh and for those wondering about the title:

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Democracy as a stunt

    It’s not everyday a political leader tries to redefine democracy, but today Tony Abbott gave it a shot.  He came out (after some nice leaking to every tabloid) and said he was going to move in parliament for there to be a plebiscite on the carbon tax – a vote on the question: “‘Are you in favour of a law to impose a carbon tax?’

    The media reacted the way you would expect the media to react (especially those who had been given the leak) – they lapped it up like little puppies. Some of the more serious journalists tried to point out that they really knew what was going on:

    Yes, it's a stunt. But it's a good one. image

    A good stunt? Wow. Talk about the harsh eye of the fourth estate holding our politicians to account. We know it’s a stunt, but hey, why should we hold that against him? Hell we want stunts – good ones mind, take your bad stunts elsewhere – give us stunts that we can run with and make our own – to whit The Daily Telegraph editorial pretty much campaigning for the plebiscite like it was its own idea:

    Words are cheap.

    At an estimated $80 million, the plebiscite would be anything but - but that may be the cost we bear to make federal parliament answerable to the people.

    Actually no, what makes a parliament answerable to the people is regular, freely-held elections. There will be one in later 2013, until then you need to put up with the one that was voted in at the last freely-held election. Don’t like it? Well vote it out next time. It’s a system that has worked well in this country for around 110 years. I think we can say it has passed the test.

    Now I know some of you will say, yeah we know all that, but it really is a good stunt – I mean it sounds great – it sounds democratic, who in their right mind would not agree to it?

    And I would almost be with you – after all if the Independents voted against it Abbott could say they were against democracy. He would almost have a case (well not really, but he at least would sound like he almost had a case if you didn’t examine it too closely) except this morning Malcolm Farr of was reporting this:

    10.10am Tony Abbott says the Opposition won't adopt the Government's carbon pricing scheme if it was put to a plebiscite and passed.

    The Opposition Leader indicated today only the Government would be bound by the result.

    When asked his position should a carbon price be accepted at a plebiscite, he told

    "I would still think a carbon tax was bad."

    The Opposition argues it is up to the Government to get a mandate for its plan to reduce carbon emissions by penalising polluters.

    So Abbott wants the people to have a say, but he doesn't want to have to listen to them?


    Wait on – wasn’t this Abbott’s idea in the first place? Isn’t he the one who actually wants the people to have a say? I’ll have to go look in my little book of political phrases, but I am pretty sure being able to call for a vote but not being obliged to have to abide by that vote is not within the confines of the English meaning of “democracy”.

    Here was Abbott trying out his strategy on radio station 2UE:

    JASON MORRISON: The obvious question to ask, if it comes back that in fact more people support the tax than don’t – which would go against all the polls – but if it comes back that way, would you change your party’s position on it?

    TONY ABBOTT: Well, obviously, that would be a very powerful message but I don’t want to speculate on what might happen.

    Really? What’s there to speculate about? The people vote one way, you agree with them? No? Really? I mean… really?

    How about this on 3AW:

    NICK MCCALLUM: But you won’t be able to convince the independents though, surely?

    TONY ABBOTT: Well, what could be more democratic than having a vote of the people?

    Gee I don’t know Tony, what could be more democratic? Oh yes, I know – abiding by the decision of the people! You see holding the votes is easy. Lots of countries hold votes. You seem them reported quite a lot in the foreign news section of the papers. But the democratic ones are those that both sides abide by the result of the vote. Those systems where only one side has to abide by the decision of a vote struggle with the use of the word “democratic” in their system of Government (they generally put it in the title of the country to try and make up for the lack of it in reality). But kudos to you Tony, keep trying to broaden the definition. In time democracy may come to mean what you think it does.

    But if you really look at the proposal you know immediately that democracy is not what Abbott is after. You only need to look at the timing. This is the last week in which the Senate will consist of the numbers from the 2007 election. After this the Senate will be made up of those since the 2010 election – and the Greens will hold the balance of power. After this week Abbott loses a lot of power. He no longer can seriously hope to block legislation in the Senate. And he certainly can’t do it by cajoling Steve Fielding (who will be gone) and Nick Xenophon (who will be somewhat redundant).

    Abbott wants a vote this week because he does not want to have to accept the views of the people from the last election.

    Little wonder that the only independent that matters currently considering Abbott’s proposal is Xenophon, but even his support is not going to do much for Abbott:

    `As a general principle, you should (ask the people),'' he told reporters.``But the question can't be loaded, it should be about the specifics, not slogans.''

    Hmm. specifics, not slogans? Oh dear. That ain’t Abbott’s strong suit.

    It was also ``a bit simplistic'' having a plebiscite asking: ``Do you support a carbon tax, yes or no?''
    Senator Xenophon believes the people should be asked to vote specifically on the government's proposed legislation on a carbon tax.

    But Abbott wants and needs it simplistic! And waiting for the proposed legislation? That’s no good, because that sure as heck won’t happen by the end of the week.

    But in any event, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakschott won’t vote for it, so that kills it.

    But thanks Tony, nice try. 


    I noted earlier this year that Abbott never utters a word without a political intent. Even when the occasion is bipartisan and calls for statesmen like words, Abbott can’t help himself. Last year when Indonesian President Bambang Yudhoyono addressed Parliament last, Abbott decided to use the bipartisan moment to say in his introductory remarks: IMG_0395

    We have worked to end people smuggling before. It worked when we worked together before. People smuggling has started again and we can stop it again, provided it is done cooperatively and with a clear understanding of our mutual interests and with the right policies in place here in Australia.

    So when today, the New Zealand Prime Minister was present to address the joint parliament, the odds of Abbott demeaning himself and using his welcoming address to raise a political point were pretty short. And so he did:

    I also congratulate you Prime Minister for dramatically watering down the Emission Trading Scheme that you inherited. In this country, your sister party will go further and do better. Should we inherited any carbon tax we won’t just reduce it, we will rescind it.

    How classy.

    At least while Abbott was laughing to himself while he said these words, and behind him Luke Hartsuyker and Chris Pyne dutifully grinned like idiots as well, Joe Hockey sat stony faced and non-plussed. Good to see, Joe.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Quiet please…. play.

    And so tomorrow night begins in my house the annual, we’re not going to get as much sleep as we planned fortnight, for Wimbledon is here again.

    My memories of Wimbledon growing up are stronger than those of the Australian Open. I can remember being allowed at the age of 9 to stay up and watch Borg play McEnroe in the 1981 final. I wouldn’t be able to tell you who won the Australian Open that year without first having a squiz at Wikipedia (it was Johan Kreik).

    This is due to the fact that even from a young age I had a deep sense of embarrassment about the Australian Open when it was held at Kooyong. I wrote about this a while ago so I won’t revisit again suffice to say that the 1981 men Wimbledon’s Final is an all time classic, and the Australian men’s final was between Johan Kreik and Steve Denton. free-live-streaming-2011-wimbledon

    The thing about Wimbledon is that much like the US Masters Golf at Augusta National it somewhat irks my egalitarian sensibilities – the Royal box, the wearing of white, the bloody Kipling poem above the door (please John Newcombe, don’t read it out to us again, we get it – you’re inspired by it). But all that doesn’t matter – it’s Wimbledon. Sure it’s so full of snobbery that you fancy that if you spent too many days there you’d walk out of the ground with a new surname that ends with hyphen Smyth and a wife suddenly calling herself Lady Felicity, but somehow you don’t care – mostly because there is just something special about it – and maybe it is the snobbery.

    There must be something about Wimbledon, because why else would European player like Becker, Lendl, Federer who would have grown up on clay and hard court have this insane devotion to the tournament? Poor Lendl drove himself to such distraction over the event that a guy with an amazing serve and forehand tried to volley in order to win it (note – he was born 20 years too early – Lendl would have won a heap of Wimbledons if he played in this era).

    There must be something about Wimbledon to have people staying up past midnight watching each year. Thankfully this year the tournament is being telecast by Channel 7 who are making use of their digital channels to have coverage starting when play starts each day. No longer will we have to put up with Channel Nine treating viewers like scum and not showing the tennis until after some re-run of CSI Miami. 

    Is the special thing about Wimbledon the lawn? For me it is. Growing up in the country I was fortunate enough to have a lawn tennis court in our backyard. I think I was a 30 per cent better player on lawn than I was on hard-court. I loved diving for volleys, loved how a backspin backhand could just skid through, loved the smell of the freshly cut lawn (which had been freshly cut by me – it was one of my chores). And now as a pretty avid watcher of tennis on Foxtel the love of grass remains. It is the visceral sense you get when you switch on the TV and instead of them running around on the blue hard courts or the red clay, you see that wonderful green surface. It feels like real tennis.

    It even sounds like real tennis. There is no squeaking of shoes like on hard court. There’s no thwacking of racquets on the bottom of shoes to get rid of clay stuck in the soles. All there is is that pure sound of the tennis ball hitting the racquet (oh yeah, and the grunting…)

    And even though it is only 3-4 weeks each year that grass rules, that has not caused Wimbledon to decline in anyway. It is not a tournament won by lucky players who only thrive on grass – here’s the list of those who have won the title this century:

    Pete Sampras
    Goran Ivanisevic
    Lleyton Hewitt
    Roger Federer (x6)
    Rafael Nadal (x2)

    Venus Williams (x5)
    Serena Williams (x4)
    Amelia Mauresmo
    Maria Sharapova

    No stragglers in either list. You win here, you can discount luck.

    Even more so can luck be discounted now that the racquets and string technology is such that you don’t really need to be a grass court specialist to win here – though that helps (to whit Venus William’s 5 wins – I would hesitate to call Federer a grass court specialist given he’s won 5 US Opens and 4 Aussie Opens).

    In the women’s game this is even more exacerbated where you don’t even need to be a great server (because well, holding your serve in women’s tennis seems to be an achievement in itself).

    To pick the winner this year from the women’s draw is nigh on impossible. Serena and Venus Williams are back from long lay-offs with injuries (a year in the case of Serena). Had Serena been playing regularly you would have her as the favourite, but she is very rusty – she got knocked out in the second round of the Eastbourne tournament last week (admittedly by Vera Zonerava). The other issue is that Venus is now 31 and Serena is 30 in September, and well, time waits for no one. Sure 2-3 years ago they could swan around the tour each year and just get excited for the Grand Slams, but the days are tougher now.

    I think any of the top 10 seeds can win it. I am not a huge watcher of Women’s tennis, so my tip is much more speculative, but given her strong performance at the French Open, I’m going to tip Maria Sharapova here. This is not good for Sam Stosur who is scheduled to meet her in the 4th round. Stosur, with her great serve, should love Wimbledon. The only problem is when it really gets down to the nitty gritty, her serve is not always so great.

    The men’s event? Forget anyone not in the top 4. It is Nadal, Djokovic, Federer or Murray. The rest are playing to hopefully get to a semi final, but in all likelihood to make up the number in the quarter finals.

    Of the Top 4, Nadal is due to meet Thomas Berdych in the quarters. Berdych lost to Nadal in last year’s final in straight sets. I would expect the same here. Djokovic looks likely to meet Soderling. That is a tough ask, and in any other year I would give Soderling a big chance. But this year Djokovic is at another level, and it is not a level Soderling can reach. Federer is set to meet Djokovic in the semi, but before then he will probably meet David Ferrer of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga looks like a guy who should play grass well but he has only made the Quarter Finals once. And the last of the top four, Andy Murray is due to meet Andy Roddick or Gail Monfils in the Quarter Finals. Based on how he dealt with Roddick at Queens last week, he should get though to meet Nadal in the semi.

    But this year’s tournament has an added aspect. Since 2 February 2004 either Federer or Nadal have been Number 1 – that’s 387 weeks. How long is that? The next longest streak by two players Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg who from 29 July 1974 to 2 March 1980 held the number one spot for 292 weeks – or 95 weeks shorter than the Fed-Nadal streak.

    How long have these two players been at the top? Here’s the Top 10 prior to Federer taking over in February 2004:

      Name Country Now
    1 Andy Roddick   USA  10
    2 Roger Federer   SUI  3
    3 Juan Carlos Ferrero   ESP  82
    4 Andre Agassi   USA  Retired
    5 Guillermo Coria   ARG  Retired
    6 Rainer Schüttler   GER  84
    7 Carlos Moyà   ESP  Retired
    8 David Nalbandián   ARG  22
    9 Mark Philippoussis   AUS  Retired
    10 Sébastien Grosjean   FRA  Retired
    11 Paradorn Srichaphan   THA  Retired
    12 Nicolas Massú   CHI  444
    13 Jiří Novák   CZE  Retired
    14 Younes El Aynaoui   MAR  Retired
    15 Tim Henman GBR Retired

    Yep the tennis world has changed a bit since then.

    But this tournament is a big chance to see a change, and Novak Djokovic could become the 25th Number One male tennis player of the Open era.

    Given the way the tennis rankings work where points last for 12 months, currently Nadal is on 12,070 points to Djokovic’s 12,005. But as they lose the points they won at last year’s Wimbledon once this event finishes, the more accurate way to see where things are at is to take away the points they won last year. 

    Last year Nadal won and so he loses the 2,000 points he won for that taking him back to 10,070 points. Djokovic on the other hand only reached the semi-final and so he only loses 720 points, meaning he is sitting on 11,285.

    That means he starts the tournament effectively 1,215 points ahead of Nadal. Given that the runner-up only gets 1,200 points, Nadal must win the tournament to retain number one. Even if Djokovic loses in the first round, Nadal must win the tournament to stay number one.

    If Djokovic gets to the final he will be number one even if Nadal beats him.

    Below is the breakdown of points for the top 4 players – with the score they will be on if they reach certain rounds.

    Player Current points Minus last year 4th Round Quarter Semi Final Win
    Rafa Nadal 12,070 10,070 10,250 10,430 10,790 11,270 12,070
    Novak Djokovic 12,005 11,285 11,465 11,645 12,005 12,485 13,285
    Roger Federer 9,230 8,870 9,050 9,230 9,590 10,070 10,870
    Andy Murray 6,855 6,135 6,315 6,495 6,855 7,335 8,135

    As you can see Federer is small chance to move up to Number 2 and no chance to fall to Number 4. Even if he loses in the first round and Murray wins the whole thing, Murray will still be 735 points behind Federer. If Federer wins the thing, he would need Nadal to lose in the Semi (or worse) for him to go above Nadal (ie Federer would be the new number 2 and Nadal number 3).

    So if you are a Djokovic or Federer fan you’ll be cheering for Murray to take out Nadal in the semis.

    If you are just a tennis/sports fan, it won’t matter too much, because if these four get to the semi-finals, you know you’re going to see three amazing games of tennis (the two semis and the final). And also by that stage, you’ll be sleep deprived.

    But hey, it’s Wimbledon. It’s worth it.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    On the QT: No majority; no policy worthy of it

    The ending of the nice, short three day week of Parliament began with the Green’s MP Adam Bandt moving this motion:

    That this House:

    (1) condemns the Gillard Government’s deal with Malaysia that would see 800 asylum seekers intercepted in Australian waters and sent to Malaysia; and

    (2) calls on the Government to immediately abandon this proposal,

    The motion passed 72-70 with the Libs voting with the Greens and of the independents MPs, Katter and Wilkie voted for and Oakeshott and Windsor voted against.

    The motion of course has no legal weight, and was little more than a symbolic statement from the Greens (the Government has yet to lose a vote on a legislative matter in this hung parliament). It was embarrassing for the Government to lose this vote, but given the Government is pursuing the Malaysian policy in the first place, I don’t think embarrassment is something they are worried about. The bigger issue will be when the Green’s Bill which would require Parliament to approve to any deal involving the expulsion of asylum seekers to a third country comes up for a vote (the Libs however might ponder the consequences of that Bill on their own Nauru plans and vote against it).

    But when we arrived at Question Time, lo did the heavens open and what we discovered is that this very day in Australia, democracy was destroyed and we had in fact become a Third World dictatorship.image

    Question Time consisted of a mere five questions. Now in Question Time quantity often can have a strong inverse correlation with quality, but this lack of number did not sadly result in much that was of much worth.

    There was some mirth though, so it had that going for it.

    Abbott opened with this delivery:

    My question is to the Prime Minister and it follows up on my previous question. Can the Prime Minister confirm that never before in Australia's parliamentary history have both houses of this parliament condemned a government policy, and can she confirm that the government now intends to defy the express will of both houses of this parliament?

    Well yeah, I guess it is a first, but I guess as well it has been a while since there was a minority Government…

    After a supplementary, another question from Abbott and one from Julie Bishop, Abbott rose and took everyone by surprise and moved a motion to suspend standing orders. The surprise being not that he moved this, but that he did it at 2:25pm and not 2:52 (which I had in the suspension of standing orders sweep).

    If nothing else this motion showed that Tony Abbott was not suffering a hangover from the Press Gallery Mid-Winter Ball held the night before, because he turned up the volume and shouted hither and thither in a manner that would have had many a tender headed MP or journo reaching for the aspirin:

    Now I have no problems with those arguing the Malaysian deal is a dud policy, but the problem for Abbott is that when he (or others such as Scott Morrison) rise to attack it, they find themselves in the same swimming pool of hypocrisy in which they accuse the the ALP of floating – maybe at different ends, but the same pool nonetheless.

    For we see Tony Abbott say this:

    The parliament and the people of Australia are sending a very clear message to this government and to this Prime Minister: this Malaysian people swap is just not on. It is just not on because it is cruel, it is costly and it will be ineffective.

    Now I always thought the point of the Liberal’s Pacific Solution was to be cruel to be kind? Isn’t the whole point that the result is a deterrent? It seems not. For hear now as Tony Abbott talks about Nauru:

    I have seen where boat people will be accommodated—and well accommodated. I have seen where boat people's children will be educated—and well educated. I have seen the police headquarters which will deal with security issues involving boat people in Nauru. And I can tell you this, Mr Speaker: there are no rattans in Nauru and there are no whipping posts in Nauru.

    Well accommodated? Well educated? A new police station? How will that deter anyone who has been living through hell, persecuted, starving and desperate for a new life? Here was Tony Abbott last year when the Government opened the Inverbrackie army barracks as a detention centre:

    "Bringing asylum seekers to a place like this is hardly sending the right message to the tens of thousands of potential boat people in our region," he said. "[It] is basically saying to the people smugglers and their customers that the welcome mat is out, that the red-carpet treatment is available.

    "You do not send idyllic picture postcards from Australia to the people smugglers and their customers."

    No I guess what you do is say they’ll be going to a place where they will be well accommodated, their kids well educated and where the police will be responsible… you know, like Australia.

    This is always the big logical fail aspect of this debate. We go from wanting to be cruel (you know – to be kind), but when one side (bizarrely in this case, the ALP) is too cruel, the other side starts talking about being kind. Well then why are we bothering with being kind in Nauru when we can be kinder and do it for less cost here in Australia?

    Nauru won’t work as a deterrent anymore because everyone knows that if you are a genuine refugee, Nauru does not severely limit your chances of ending up on Australia (or New Zealand), and Abbott is now going to such lengths to say how great the place is that it may actually seem pretty great to asylum seekers!

    Oh mother, how did we get here?

    I think the ALP’s regional solution is worth chasing, but there are so many factors that need to fall into place for it to work that it is something you don’t want to do on the fly – which this policy smacks of.

    My concern is that the Malaysian solution might just work – which means that any hope of decency on this issue will be gone for good (OK it’s probably gone already and has been for a while now).

    imageJulie Bishop also rose to speak on the suspension motion. She decided not to bother the thesaurus too much and instead referred to Julia Gillard as “this arrogant Prime Minister” three time before she drew a breath (she used arrogant 10 times in her 5 minute speech – it was a bit of a theme). She then got slightly carried away:

    This is the type of behaviour we see in Third World dictatorships. This is the kind of behaviour, overriding the majority of both houses of parliament, overriding the will of the parliament, overriding the views of the majority of the elected members to this place.

    Third World dictators generally don’t allow members of the opposition to stand in Parliament, while broadcast on free TV, and criticise and abuse them. But hey, maybe Third World dictatorships, like conditions on Nauru, have recently become kinder and gentler.

    When Anthony Albanese rose to speak against the motion he revealed not only the core problem with the whole farce of a debate about the Government defying the parliament, but also the core problem with the asylum seeker debate itself. For not only did the Parliament vote against the ALP’s Malaysian policy it voted last year against the LNP’s Nauru policy. Back on 28 October 2010 Scott Morrison moved a plethora of motions relating to the Liberal’s asylum seeker policy. Among them was:

    That this house:
    (3) calls for the introduction of proven policies proposed by the Coalition to address unprecedented irregular maritime arrivals to Australia, including:

    (a) the application of temporary visas for all persons who have arrived illegally in Australia;
    (b) the reopening of a third country processing centre in Nauru for irregular maritime arrivals to Australia;

    The vote on that motion was lost 72-73 – Katter voted for it. Oakeshott, Windsor, Bandt and Wilkie voted against.

    So we have a wonderful situation where neither side, if it had to, would be able to pass legislation  to introduce its asylum seeker policies.

    Which to me, given the two policies on offer, feels like a correct result.


    The other news today was that Greg Combet announced there would be a $15 million advertising/information campaign on the carbon tax. That this would happen eventually is not a shock given it was in the budget. But to announce it before an agreement has been reached and without bothering to get the independents and the Greens to sign off on it (as members of the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change) is, to put it mildly, dopey.

    David Speers on Sky News revealed that the story of the advertising campaign was going to be revealed tomorrow and so Combet announced it today to beat the story. Why they are even bothering to tender at this point for a firm to do the marketing is yet to be explained. 

    Little wonder Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor were criticising the decision. And yes I know the $12m is squillions less than what the Howard Govt spent on advertising for Work Choices and for the Private Health Policy and on the GST. The point, however, is that once again the ALP finds itself looking like it has moved ahead without ensuring all the i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed.

    The basics, guys. Geez, get the basics right.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    On the QT: No smoke, no fire

    The day’s events in politics started with the massive scandal that Nicola Roxon back in 2005 wrote a letter to cigarette company Philip Morris seeking their attendance at a $1,500 a table fundraising dinner. This was of course after the period when Mark Latham had banned tobacco donations. The big scandal of course is that Philip Morris executives didn’t attend, and didn’t give her campaign any money. Which means… errr well err something.

    Oh yeah, apparently as well back in 1999 she also attended a tennis match as a guest of Philip Morris.


    That’s it?

    That’s the smoking gun?

    That’s all they got?


    It reminds me (as so much does) of Yes Prime Minister and the episode The Smoke Stack. The PM, Jim Hacker gets behind (on the surface at least) a push to destroy the tobacco industry. Humphrey Appleby in an attempt to scare Hacker off brings up tobacco hospitality:

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: All the hospitality that we've enjoyed at BTG's [British Tobacco Group’s] expense. Champagne receptions, buffet lunches, the best seats at sporting and cultural events.
    Jim Hacker: What's the problem?
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: The tobacco companies may release this embarrassing information to the press.
    Jim Hacker: It's not embarrassing. I've had drinks at the Soviet embassy. That doesn't make me a Russian spy.

    Now sure Roxon has been raging about the Lib’s donations from tobacco group – but while she did send out a letter in 2005 (back when she wasn’t even Shadow Health Spokesperson!) she hasn’t received any money from them, and she certainly hasn’t had anything to do with them since she’s taken on the Health portfolio.

    If that’s all they got, then they’ve got nothing.

    Abbott in his doorstop this morning said “she’s got a lot of explaining to do”. A lot? Really? OK, let’s see how she does:

    "Our party does not take tobacco donations. It has not since 2004. I've asked for my records to be checked. No representatives attended and no donations were made to this event, but clearly those letters should not have been sent."

    So Tony, need anything else?

    The problem for the Libs is by attacking her for this inevitably it leads to these types of questions:

    QUESTION: Isn’t it hypocritical though, considering you’re still receiving donations from big tobacco, to be going on about this?

    If the Libs go this way they have to go all the way and ban their own receiving of tobacco donations. They’re not in a great hurry to do that, which is why this morning in Parliament they moved a motion to get Roxon to come in to the House and explain herself, but when the cameras were on during Question Time they did not ask one question about it.

    I guess the problem for the Libs aside from the donations is that when you get down to it CIGARETTES WILL KILL YOU. And whatever the politics, whatever the “hypocrisy” the Libs have to decide whether or not to support a policy that will reduce the take up of smoking (and the only proof you need that it will work is the reaction by the cigarette companies – unless you think all their advertising against the policy is because they don’t want to sell more cigarettes).

    Roxon sending a letter in 2005 or going along to the tennis in 1999 ain’t changing the fact that CIGARETTES WILL KILL YOU.

    It’s nice to know that some issues are black and white.

    Incidentally I want to award my special Press Gallery Mid-Winter’s Ball prize of the “Lisa Simpson Runaway Freight Train Soft Question of the Week” to whoever was the gun reporter who asked Abbott this question today:

    QUESTION: Mr Abbott, the Labor caucus were called into line yesterday. The Prime Minister told them not to go out and voice their opinions out in the media. Is that a direct response to you calling on Labor MPs to stand up for their electorates, particularly mining electorates?

    Wow. You really had him on the back foot there. What a cutting cross examination. Be proud.


    The other issue of the morning was the Newspoll. It was horrible for Labor and worse for Gillard. 45-55 on 2 party preferred and Gillard with a awful minus 20 satisfaction rating. The Oz of course hid the results under a bushel (that’s a joke for you first time readers).

    The last Newspoll showed the ALP vote going up by 2, this one showed its vote going down by 3. Let’s do our fortnightly compare and contrast. See if you can pick the Newspoll that showed the increase in support for Labor and the one which showed a decline:

      image   image

    Subtle ain’t it?

    The polls are horrible, but they don’t mean too much yet. I can’t see them improving greatly until the carbon tax and MRRT are in place and we all see that Abbott has been talking horsesh*t.  But that is no comfort for any ALP member – especially if the polls stay at this 45-55 level then by the time the tax comes in it may just be too late to change – the electorate will be set. The Govt needs to get back to at least within shouting distance, or by this time next year (ie after the carbon tax legislation has gone through, the ALP might think anyway that it is time to make changes – because yes, they are that silly)

    They could start by doing better at Question Time (and press conferences) and heeding some advice from The Oz’s excellent blogger, Jack the Insider who quite rightly points out they should stop talking about Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party. When getting questions from Abbott and the Libs on carbon tax etc, sure throw his own quotes back in his face, but how about using Dorothy Dixers to trumpet your own policies?

    Aside from the Malaysian asylum-seeker policy (which is still in flux and I am somewhat content to see what the UNHCR says about it when it finally gets signed) this Govt has a fair bit to talk up – especially on the economy. It is not like the NSW ALP which was just a shemozzle of dodgy approvals and idiotic decisions on electricity generation and infrastructure.

    Personally I think the Govt should ignore the opposition and so far from “stifling” the left winger Doug Cameron, he should become the ALP’s Barnaby Joyce. Back under Howard, Joyce was in effect the opposition within Government. He was there offering a supposed alternative and threatening to cross the floor (always to not do so when it really mattered). Senator Cameron would fill that role perfectly. He could be there arguing for gay marriage, talking up asylum seekers and any other lefty issues. Will he ever win any of these fights? Probably not, but much better for the ALP to be seen to be having a discussion.

    Sure The Oz will run with dopey headlines like:

    PM struggles with backbench dissent

    But if properly managed such “dissent” can be a winner for the party. Cameron already is being described as “outspoken”, he has a quirky sort of persona – given his heavy Scottish brogue . So give him a bit of a head – let him say his bit on certain issues. The Govt should not worry about what The Oz writes about it – let Dooog get a national profile that has people in the suburbs thinking at least the ALP is interested in the social issues people assume the ALP should care about.

    For all the laughs Barnaby brings when he talks about economics, there are people in the electorate who like what he has to say and like that he is in the coalition saying what he says. The ALP could do with an official “rogue Senator”.

    Make people at least feel like there are those in the ALP  who are fighting for issues that make it seem to have a social heart.

    Don’t stifle the dissent – use it.


    The Governor of the RBA Glenn Stevens gave a speech. As ever his words were analysed like there are the economic Talmud. It didn't change the market’s expectations of a rate rise next month, but it did contain some interesting titbits:

    … macroeconomic policies must be configured in the expectation that there will need to be some degree of restraint. Monetary policy has already been exerting some restraint for a while. Looking ahead, our most recent analysis (as published in early May) concluded that the underlying rate of inflation is more likely to rise than fall over the next couple of years. This central expectation – subject to all the usual uncertainties inherent in forecasting – suggests, as we said at the time, that ‘further tightening of monetary policy is likely to be required at some point for inflation to remain consistent with the 2–3 per cent medium-term target’.

    This isn’t much different from what has been said in the last few statements after decisions made on the cash rate. But then he had a very quick look at fiscal policy (ie the budget).

    Fiscal policy is also playing a significant role. The ‘fiscal impact’, calculated as the shift in the Federal budget position from one year to the next, is forecast to be minus 2 per cent of GDP in the 2011/12 fiscal year. A further, though slightly smaller, effect is forecast by the Treasury in the following year.

    That is all those wanting to argue the Budget is putting pressure on inflation need to look elsewhere.

    As I say – the Government has a good story to tell on the economy: it needs to keep telling it and forget about Abbott while they’re doing it. He doesn’t have any policies anyway, so just ignore him until he does.

    Let’s face it – they’re at 45-55; there isn’t much point keeping with the strategy they have now.