All posts by Tim Dunlop


Just about the stupidest thing about our electoral system is that the date of any given federal election is not fixed. Instead, it’s run like some big bloody surprise party where only the prime minister knows the date and rest of us get to walk around in ignorance until he decides to jump out from behind the lounge and spring it on us. Real democratic.


The worst of it is that it encourages the media to play these endless cat-and-mouse games, second-guessing the PM, staking out Government House, filling up column-inches with various theories about why it would be better to go at the end of August rather than the beginning of September. Meanwhile the opposition, of whatever political persuasion, has to be all coy about its policies, refusing to offer any details for fear that either the government will steal them or that they will announce them too early and thus allow us to, you know, investigate them.

Anyway, it was kinda with this in mind, the sense of debate in abeyance, that I thought I’d ask readers at my blog for their opinion on whom they would vote for (and why), and in particular, whether Mark Latham had convinced them that he is a viable prime minister. The response has been fantastic, and is a real credit to all those who left comments. Thoughtful, intelligent responses which, on the whole I think, show Mark Latham still has some work to do. Go read, and feel free to leave your own remarks.


A bunch of other bloggers also picked up on the theme and ran with it. Check outTubagoobaLiving in AustraliaTroppo ArmadilloJohn AbercrombieJohn QuigginBilby’s Blog and last but not least, Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony, who says, “It’s not Mark Latham’s virtues that might cause me to vote Labor in the coming election. It’s definitely ABH (anyone but Howard).”

Since I’m plugging the wise readers of my blog, I should also mention the great responses to this post about the Australia-US alliance and what it means for both countries. Again, read what others have said and leave your own comments too.

There was the sudden outburst of bad Midnight Oil puns inspired by the news that Mark Latham had let it be known that he’d like to parachute Peter Garrett into the safe Labor seat vacated by the retiring (and demure) Laurie Brereton. Chief amongst the cheer squadders, and first amongst equals in the punning department, was Christoper Sheil, who does a lot of updating here and here. Be sure to read the long comments thread too.

On the same topic, Guido sent Peter Garrett an open letter, and Dan used the story as way to talk about proportional representationGraham Young calls it “Mark Latham�s biggest mistake to date.”

And then there was the righterwing reaction. Tim Blair went into convulsions of confected “battler” outrage, objecting strenuously to the concept of a self-made millionaire with something like a conscience and no hair having any role whatsoever in our democracy. Yes, heaven help us. We only want cynical millionaires running for parliament. Alan Anderson suggests the “ALP’s attempt to recruit Peter Garrett is as misguided as it is opportunistic,” and really doesn’t like Garrett’s dancing. Good point!

Meanwhile, Steve Edwards is “terrified” that Garrett might get the gig, saying it “would amount to the Margo Kingstonisation of the Labor Party”. James Russell, meanwhile, takes it more personally than most.

Two mummies are as good as one at Play School and Jason Soon buys into “the lesbian Play School brouhaha”. Apparently there’s more than a bear in there. His fellow blogger, Andrew Norton, finds some interesting results in the first gay marriage poll. And if you’re not reading William Burroughs’ Baboon, there’s a very good chance you haven’t read this.

“Every critic and blamer, every detractor and accuser, who continues to make the case (in whatever form, be it as a critic of foreign policy, or Australia’s participation in the war on terror, or be it arselicking the Yanks) that our status as a target of terrorists is the fault of the Australian government must read this judgement.” So says Gareth Parker. Meanwhile, Alexander Downer is “tactily permitting what most people would consider to be torture,” according to Gary Sauer-Thompson.

Speaking of torture, a hot topic since George W. Bush became president, Southerly Busterconsiders the involvement of Australia.

Meg Lees also asks some very good questionsDevika Hovell tries to provide some answers. And Billmon says, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Thumbscrews,” and proceeds with the gentle art of exposition by juxtaposition.

Ronald Reagan died and I would’ve liked former Czech citizen, Jozef Imrich, to say a bit more about his opinion of the former US president. You kind of get a sense of his feelings from this brief post. But give us some more, Jozef. Another former Mitteleuropean also comments.

At the excellent gateway site, Australian Policy Online, they excerpt a section from a new book about the rise of independents in Australian politics, and link to a whole bunch of other good stuff.

Helen Irving believes that Peter Costello’s comments about Australia and Christianity “are not only offensive to the many decent and honourable Australians who are either non-religious or follow another faith,” but that they also “distort our history and disturb our carefully-wrought constitutional settlement.” Hear bloody hear.

Over at Argus online, Bill O’Loughlin has an encounter with fundamentalism.

Finally, The Living Room has a piece up on the spirituality of food, while elsewhere, Yobbo has some advice for parents of children who are getting unhealthy eating too much McDonald’s. (Yobbo obviously doesn’t have any kids, judging by his advice.) But Gianna does and always writeswonderful pieces about being a new mum.


Blogjam creator Tim Dunlop is back! Thanks to David Tiley and Terry Sedgwick for filling in.



There’s a lot of election stuff out there in blogland at the moment, which is how it will probably go for the rest of the year. Good thing too because it gives us some insight into how ordinary citizens are thinking about the upcoming choice. My impression is that people on the sensible left can smell Coalition blood, even though they are not particularly thrilled about the prospect of a prime minister Latham. Those on the right are keeping their fingers crossed and no doubt scanning the political horizon looking for another Tampa to sail into view, or counting on John Howard to build one out of gay marriage and whatever other wedge scraps he can find lying around on the floor at Kirribilli and paddle it to shore himself.



Having said that, no-one is willing to declare victory or defeat this far out from an election that hasn’t even officially been announced. (Remember, the election isn’t on until the prime minister notifies the Governor General, and it’s starting to look like the PM has forgotten which cupboard he locked Major General Jeffery in.)



So off we go.



Taking time out from giving decidedly dodgy footy tips, Virulent Memes backs into the pack this week to provide his view of the upcoming Federal election, suggesting that “it might well come down to the stench of the Howard government playing against the untried economic credentials of Latham and Co”. Which sounds about right to me, though there is obviously more to it than that, much of which is covered in the rest of the post. As we say in the blogosphere, read the whole thing.



Over at Public Opinion, Gary surveys recent politicking and concludes, “The ALP reckon that with the Howard Government in freefall they can win the election, if they just hang on, stay together and talk in unison from the same script,” though Gary begs to differ. He’s also concerned about the lack of coverage being given to key issues in the mainstream media.



Recent polls get a working over at Back Pages, who tells the ALP, “Don’t Panic” about the latest Newspoll, “a gobsmacker, presenting a 6 point election winning 2pp lead for the Coalition (53/47), which also has a 10 point lead on the primary count (47/37)”. Christopher and his kind commenters reckon it is probably a rogue poll, though conservative Andrew Norton can’t help but get a little light-headed that it might represent a change in fortune for his team. He nonetheless concludes, “I will be very surprised – though pleasantly surprised – if the Coalition sees 53% 2-party preferred again until well into a Latham government.”



Another rightie, Scott Wickstein, also thinks it’s a rogue while the Gnu Hunter compares recent newspaper accounts, takes them as proof of leftwing bias, and ends by quoting and agreeing with John Howard.



One of the election-related topics to light up the blogs and their comments boxes in the last day or two has been the revelation that the stuff Mr Howard and his government told us about what and when Australian officials knew of the torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib prisonSteve Wadeconfides that he’d like to see the Howard government returned but is more than a little concerned: “Perhaps this government of ours will learn the hard way that trying to put it over the people isn’t appreciated.” Well, Steve, that’s entirely up to people like you. Remember, even Hitler got the trains to run on time.



“My take on it is simply to point out the obvious, that John Howard has finally turned into Paul Keating. Having come to power on a promise to be more “in touch” with “ordinary Australians”, this is just the latest example of the the Howard Government being caught out misleading them. Once is a mistake. Twice is clumsy. To make it a defining feature of your reign is just plain contemptuous.

John Quiggin believes Mr Howard’s explanation that he was simply given incorrect information, but pointedly points out, “In the light of the ‘children overboard’ business and the more recent humiliation of Mick Keelty, what officer would be foolish enough to pass bad news of this kind on to his or her superiors?” Indeedydodahday.

Elsewhere, Southerly Buster provides a handy-dandy guide to the government’s SOP: “1. Deny everything. 2. Admit it when it becomes unavoidable. 3. Insist you never got the papers. 4. Blame everything on the troops.”

On the other handy-dandy, some bloggers think it is all a media beat up. At Chrenkoff, Arthur is upset that the Greens are concerned about issues other than the environment (why, he doesn’t say) and wonders in regard to the Abu Ghraib story mentioned above, “How low can the media go in their attempt to get the Government on this issue? My guess is, very low.” Well guessing is one thing, Arthur: how about some evidence? And please try and keep in mind that the prime minister has admitted the error.

And could we go a week without the right having conniptions about the latest Media Watch story or the ABC in general? No we could not. Tim Blair gets the ball rolling, though Rob Corr thinks Tim has misunderstood the claim that was made. And as usual, Uncle is not happy with how the ABC is doing its job – which is why he started blogging in the first place I presume. Rob Corr runs the blue pencil over Uncle’s jottings.

Speaking of the ABC, rightwingers Paul and Carl find something to praise about an ABC program, presumably because it catered to their biases.

That other favourite target of rightwing spleen, the Oscar and Canne Film Festival award-winning film-maker Michael Moore (who I believe is also in line for a Nobel Peace Prize, a sainthood and a lovely motherhood award)also gets a good working over this week. Mike Jericho takes delight in a story that Moore wasn’t invited to a film festival in his hometown, while Evil Pundit has some fun with Moore via his photoshop bag of tricks.

Bargarz also asserts his membership of the reflexively anti-Moore crowd by noting that a Brisbane cinema “rushed to get their message (of congratulations) on the marquee”. He seems to take this as self-evidently beyond the pale.

I doubt there’s a political blogger in the world who isn’t in it at least partly because of their dissatisfaction with the way the mainstream media do their job. Ken Parish takes them task over a non-political issue, coverage of the Falconio trial in the Northern Territory:


“Joanne Lees will be hunted down like Osama bin Laden and �Nick� subjected to torture by media. Why? Because Ms Lees refused to play the media game � a game by the way where all goal posts are placed by the media. Her crime? The Yorkshire lass who set off for the trip of a lifetime had the misfortune to become a victim of crime, then a victim of media speculation. What�s worse, she didn�t take a media handling course before she was catapaulted into this extraordinary nightmare.”


Remember, Ken is a genius, as is evidenced in posts like this.

Elsewhere, the Evil Pundit ventures into the realm of political philosophy, and although I disagree heartily with his conclusion and with the logic he uses to get there, it’s good to see such topics being broached. The issue at hand is “Free speech and its enemies” and it has generated a lengthy discussion thread which you might want to join.

It was also good to see the prime minister’s attempts to ban gay marriage being given some serious attention by the right of the blogosphere. Well, one blog anyway. Alan Andersondiscusses both the definitional issues and the matter of adoption as presented within the legislation and says that “Regardless of your views on these issues, the legislation doesn’t make sense.” I hope someone does him the courtesy of taking up his arguments. Alan is also unhappy about the government having an environmental policy, calling the prime minister’s latest announcement a “pointless Liberal capitulation to the Green movement.” Come on, Alan, do you really think the prime minister considers it pointless?

Finally, a get-well-soon message to long-time blogger and Geelong journo, Bernard Slattery, who has had some difficulties with his eyes of late.


Randy Paul runs a great blog that specialises in Latin America, but he has dug up a quote from American founding father James Madison that might be (or should be) the guiding motto of political blogging:


“A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Yes, despite the fact that it sometimes looks more like a contact sport than knowledge governing ignorance, there is much in the blogosphere to enlighten us.

Jason Soon talks plainly on a number of topics including the economics of open source software and the pros and cons of a flat tax.

Indonesia had elections this week and Alan at Southerly Buster covered it in a number of posts, including this analysis of the results. Keep scrolling down the page for more. Also on Indonesia watch was The Swanker, who gives the latest counting here, and discusses some of the background issues here.

Before Iraq there was Afghanistan and after Iraq there will still be Afghanistan, as Martial reminds us in this series of posts that are a diary account of his recent visit there:

“It is my impression that the Taliban, at long last and two years late, are on their last legs. It is crucial to not let them off the hook this time. But, as good as that news is, it is important to be prepared for the violence which is likely to break out once the Taliban are known to be broken.”

This sort of firsthand account is priceless, and Martial headed back to Afghanistan on Monday so there will no doubt be more blogging on the topic.

Seeing we have a bit of theme going here about blogs as sources of political knowledge, it is definitely worth mentioning Simon’s post about the Chinese government trying to ban blogs.

In local politics, Chris Sheil wondered if there was trouble in paradise for Mark Latham and continued his invaluable series, the Shorter Gerard Henderson. Steve Edwards had a close look at Latham’s recent foreign policy speech and concludes, amongst other things, that “it is mostly a rehashing of old Keating era slogans based on some outdated premises about how global and regional ‘institutions’ ought to work.”

Rob Corr pointed out the idiocies in the voting system used in the recent NSW local elections and also caught Peter Costello out in another case of phoney GST scaremongering.

Gary Sauer-Thompson, who often covers environmental issues in detail, tells us that Wilson Tuckey is “placing barriers to the public policy shift to a sustainable Australia.” And speaking of “sustainability” Keith Suterexpands the concept.

Internationally, it was all Iraq all of the time as violence surged. The growing unrest prompted John Quiggin to argue that “that the most plausible option for a stable allocation of power in Iraq is a de facto two-state solution in which the Kurds get effective autonomy and a share of the oil and the rest of Iraq gets a government which will be dominated by the Shiites.”

I had some follow up thoughts on John’s comments at my place.

But really, the most informed comment about Iraq comes from a Juan Cole who says:

It seems inevitable to me that the US military will pursue a war to the death with the Army of the Mahdi, the Sadrist movement, and Muqtada al-Sadr himself. They will of course win this struggle on the surface and in the short term, because of their massive firepower. But the Sadrists will simply go underground and mount a longterm guerrilla insurgency similar to that in the Sunni areas.”

As the blogs of the right will probably seek to portray all this as nay-saying and gloommungering, let me point out that the Iraqi Olympic team has a new logo. Yay!

On a gentler note, Boynton continues her endless search for meaning and introduces us to this handy engine for discovering what ails you. James Russell reproduces a comment that explains the internet and alsofarewells David and Margaret from SBS.

Barista is briefly interested in Robert Mitchum’s bum and also recommends Realtime, while the Living Room continues its series of blogtips, which are becoming an invaluable resource for new bloggers.

Finally, Meg Lees is continues to lead the way for bloggin politicians. But she should get serious and add a comments facility.


It seems to me that the mainstream media are largely in denial about the blogosphere, often taking opportunities to run it down and dismiss it as a place where only crazies hang out. They do this while reading it religiously and, I’ll warrant, using it as a way of keeping tabs on how various stories are playing, especially at the grass-roots level. Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of crazies out there in blogland, but you’recrazy if you think that’s all there is to it.


So it was interesting to see two major newspapers dealing with the role of blogs over the last few weeks, first in an article by Trevor Cook in the Fin Review payment required) and also in a piece by Julia Baird in theSMH.

The Cook piece sought to deal with the issue of quality in the blogosphere by comparing the approaches of two bloggers, John Quiggin and Tim Blair, saying:

Blair and Quiggin represent two strands of commentary blogging. Blair is tabloid and provocative, something more akin to a blogging shock jock, while Quiggin, though not dull, tends to stick more strictly to his academic and policy orientations.”

Elsewhere, Rob Schaap has been contemplating the lifeworld, while Geelong journalist Bernard Slattery is saying I told you so about the Spanish elections and also about some recent anti-war demonstrations. Steve Edwards loves coups, and Zem is disturbed by the new terrorist laws.

Rob Corr is is your one-stop shop for Labor logos, and Yobbo is not going to be applying for a job at ASIO. Gary Sauer-Thompson notes that his blog is “becoming the site of conflicting opinion about international affairs” but I think he means it in a good way. Tony the Teacher is showing his age. Oh yeah, go check out John Abercrombie’s new Powerup site and see what you make of it.

The Catallaxy blog has a new home, but they still think markets rule. William Burrough’s Baboon is having an unusually busy period and I notice Wogblog is asking to be nominated for Blogjam. Hasn’t happened, but here’s a link anyway to what she thinks of Mark Latham. James on L’affaire Thorpe.

Three quickies from overseas: Randy on the other hemisphereyou’ve-got-mail syndrome; and you’re hit-pick of the week.

Over here in the capital city of the hegemon du jour, all the political talk has been about former counterterrorism supremo Richard Clarke, his new book and his testimony at the 9/11 Commission. Kerryn Higgs’ piece isa good summary, while Bargarz collects links and offers opinions about why Clarke is not to be trusted. If you want to read some extracts from the book, as well as some comments, I’ve been doing a rolling review at my place. More next week, including bias in the blogosphere.