Archive for August, 2013

World opinion and the new cultural cringe

August 28th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

2013-04-24 04.49.50 am

from The Australian, August 27, 2011


HOW will Tony Abbott perform on the world stage?

It is a question that has been exercising the minds of The Age’s readers of late as they wait, calculators at the ready, to run through Joe Hockey’s costings.

One correspondent wrote recently: “Do we really want the rest of the world seeing Tony Abbott as representative of the ‘ordinary’ Australian? I don’t. Urgh!”

The Australian intelligentsia’s apprehension of what others might think of them is as strong today as it was in the late 1950s when Arthur Angel Phillips identified the cultural cringe. He described a type of intellectual who was “forever sidling up to the cultivated Englishman, insinuating ‘I, of course, am not like these other crude Australians’ “.

These days, it is not English eyes that trouble denaturalised sophisticates but “the eyes of the world”. Human rights lawyer Greg Barns, for instance, wrote in Hobart’s The Mercury recently that the tragedy of our tough border protection policy “is that we are diminishing ourselves in the eyes of the world for no purpose”.

One suspects that the eyes Barns and his chums would like to appease are those that turn to The Guardian or The New York Times for moral guidance. Their monotonous outlook is sometimes referred to as “world opinion”, and the penalties for offending it can be severe. [continues]


Rocky versus the Finger Crusher

August 28th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

The character of the two leaders was shaping up to be one of the decisive issues of the 2013 Election campaign when I filed for The Sunday Times two weeks ago:

A HIGH-FIVE from the prime minister gave five-year-old Joseph Kim his brief moment of fame last Wednesday as the travelling election circus stopped briefly in the Sydney suburb of North Ryde.

Kevin Rudd, with an eye to evening bulletins, gripped the boy’s fingers until he was satisfied the shot was in the can.

The scene was captured from another angle by an amateur and posted online, showing Kim’s grimace as Rudd released his grip. “Ouch!” the boy said, nursing his sore hand.

Six years after he led Labor back into government, Rudd remains an enigma to the nation he aspires to represent.

Is he a good-hearted Uncle Kevin who poses for happy snaps with children or a self-obsessed political creep who, in a former life as a senior public servant in Queensland, was nicknamed “Dr Death”? [FULL STORY]

Monday’s edition of the ABC’s Media Watch persisted with the delusion that Rudd’s eccentric personality is the construction of his enemies. Today’s editorial in The Australian offers an explanation for the ABC’s pusillanimous stance:

The ABC and its staff have a vested interest in returning a Labor government that has been a generous benefactor. Mr Rudd’s warning of cuts, cuts, cuts under an Abbott government would resonate strongly in the corridors at Ultimo and Southbank, particularly after Joe Hockey’s ominous question to Tony Jones last week: “Is there any waste in the ABC at all, Tony?” ABC staff will know that the Coalition has form; the previous two incoming Coalition governments under Malcolm Fraser and John Howard cut ABC funding, and after the treatment the corporation has given to the opposition for the past six years the temptation to do so again would be great. Last night two Labor frontbenchers, Bill Shorten and Bob Carr, were given a free run on ABC television to peddle conspiracy theories that News Corp Australia editors were slanting their editorial coverage in pursuit of unspecified commercial interests. Yet ABC broadcasters prosecute Labor’s cause as if their mortgage payments depend on it, which in a sense they do. [READ THE EDITORIAL HERE]


August 13th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Judging by the 20 seats my colleague Troy Bramston says are in play, the same-sex marriage debate is likely to be net negative for Labor.

I discuss the electoral implications in my column in The Australian today and rank all seats on the Rainbow Index from Sydney (one gay couple in 11) to McMahon (1:614), two Labor held seats just 35km apart.

The ratio of same-sex to mixed-sex couples is below the national average (one in 138) in 16 of the seats. Good luck in Aston, (1:539) the second straightest seat in the country or Flynn, (1:416) the 10th straightest.

In so far as religious affiliation is an indicator of sentiments on same-sex marriage, the 12 seats are looking more positive for Labor. Eleven are more religious than the national average (68.3%).

The other factor to be taken into consideration is the level of families from non-Western cultural communities. This matters, because there is likely to be stronger loyalty to family and tradition.

On MP in the western Sydney told me yesterday that same-sex marriage is a genuine stumbling block for Asian migrants and Muslim migrants.

Labor-held seats

Couples ratio































Coalition-held seats




























Gay or straight, men do less housework

August 13th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments


Straight or gay, men spend less time on housework than women. The 2011 Census found that men in same sex couples were a little more likely to spend five hours or more on unpaid domestic work than men in same sex couples (54% to 49%), the latest Australian Social Index has found.

Cohabiting lesbians were less likely to spend five hours or more on housework than women in mixed relationships (65% to 85%), but women in both categories tended to work harder than men. 

In The Australian today I look at the electoral consequences of Kevin Rudd’s commitment to change the Marriage Act. It’s bad news for Labor. The Rainbow Index compiled from 2011 Census data ranks Commonwealth electorates according to the ratio of mixed to same-sex couples.

People in couples who did five or more hours of unpaid domestic work by sex – 2011.

2013-08-13 07.14.11 amSource: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Outing himself on gay marriage makes Rudd’s task harder

August 13th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2013-04-24 04.49.50 amEvery western Sydney MP bar one voted against changing the Marriage Act last September, for good reason. Western Sydney is one of the most socially conservative parts of the country. Religious affiliation remains strong and migrants, particularly those from non-European counties, have strong attachments to family and tradition.

In my column in The Australian today, I say that the Prime Minister’s commitment to bring a same-sex marriage bill before Parliament in the first term of a new government won’t help Labor in seats it must win. The Rainbow Index, showing the ratio of same-sex to mixed-sex cohabiting partnerships in each seat tells the story. Here’s a clue to why same-sex marriage is such a hot topic: Journalists live in rainbow seats.

Illustration: Sturt Krygsman

Illustration: Sturt Krygsman

From The Australian:

MAN hugs are acceptable in north Queensland, apparently, provided you keep your hat on. But some men have been leaving their Akubras on the table, if you get the drift, even in the seat of Kennedy, which means that if Bob Katter is a man of his word, he will have to walk backwards from Bourke as he promised.

Katter told John Laws once that were no gays in his electorate, and yet we know from the 2011 census that there are 82 homosexual men and 100 lesbians lurking between Boulia and the Palmer River. And these are only the ones we know about, because the census does not pry into gaiety in general, just couples who cohabit in a gay kind of way.

A number of columnists in the Fairfax camp have taken Katter to task for his homo-scepticism but, as Katter might say, these are city folk who would not have a bloody clue. Ninety-one same-sex couples may sound a lot if you’re rubbing up against them at a rave party in Sydney’s Newtown, but in Kennedy that a represents a pair of cohabiting homosexuals for every 6250sq km.

It comes as no surprise to learn that same-sex couples are unequally distributed in Australia.  Yet insofar as we can take same-sex relationships as an indicator of broader social attitudes, the geographical divides are stark. Chris Bowen’s electoral office in Fairfield is about 35km to the west of Tanya Plibersek’s in Sydney. Bowen’s consitituency is the straightest in the country, with 614 mixed couples to each same-sex one; in Plibersek’s seat the ratio is 10 to one. [FULL ARTICLE]



Where do journalists live? And why can they never find a plumber?

August 6th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

In The Australian today, I mine the 2011 Census data to identify the geo-cultural divide in Australia. To do so, I use a modified version of the Kenny Index, examining the ratio of journalists to plumbers in federal electorates:

IN the Labor-held electorate of Sydney there are seven journalists to every plumber. In the Liberal-held seat of McMillan in Victoria there are 17 plumbers to every journalist, which is why the good people of Paddington will probably have to wait until Thursday week to get a tap fixed, but the denizens of Pakenham may not.

About 10 per cent of Australia’s 20,000 journalists live in central Sydney or its eastern and inner-western suburbs in the seats represented by Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and the Liberals’ Malcolm Turnbull. One in five journalists lives in just five seats: Sydney, Wentworth, Melbourne Ports, Melbourne and Grayndler. Three are held by Labor, one by the Coalition and one by the Greens. The divide, however, is not political but cultural. [FULL ARTICLE]

The electorates where journalists are thickest on the ground are:











North Sydney


Melbourne Ports









Of the 10 electorates where journalists are least likely to reside, three are in Sydney’s western suburbs:

Blaxland, NSW


Brand, WA


Scullin, Vic


Parkes, NSW


Mcmillan, Vic


Chifley, NSW


Lyons, Tas


Riverina, NSW


Port Adelaide, SA


Throsby, NSW


Click here to see the number of plumbers and journalists in 149 electorates. (There is no data for the seat of Bonner.)

Rudd poised for victory in Media Land

August 6th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

2013-04-24 04.49.50 amNICK CATER

From The Australian today:

IN the Labor-held electorate of Sydney there are seven journalists to every plumber. In the Liberal-held seat of McMillan in Victoria there are 17 plumbers to every journalist, which is why the good people of Paddington will probably have to wait until Thursday week to get a tap fixed, but the denizens of Pakenham may not.

About 10 per cent of Australia’s 20,000 journalists live in central Sydney or its eastern and inner-western suburbs in the seats represented by Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and the Liberals’ Malcolm Turnbull. One in five journalists lives in just five seats: Sydney, Wentworth, Melbourne Ports, Melbourne and Grayndler. Three are held by Labor, one by the Coalition and one by the Greens. The divide, however, is not political but cultural.

There are 13 federal electorates in what we might call the Chatter Zone: the seats where there are more journalists than plumbers. Here the Coalition has a clear majority, with nine seats; Labor and the Greens hold four between them.

A common cultural thread runs through them, however, that sets them apart from the rest of the county. One in five voters in the Chatter Zone casts their first vote for the Greens, almost twice the national average. A vote for the Greens is rarely cast in the expectation of changing the government. It is more a state of mind. The Chatter Zone is clearly a very progressive place.[FULL ARTICLE…]

UK Labour’s anti-progressive backlash

August 4th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

2013-04-24 04.50.02 amIn The Weekend Australian this weekend, I speak to Maurice Glasman, the UK Labour peer and founder of the Blue Labour movement, about the tension between liberal progressives and socially-conservative working class in the UK Labour Party.

PASSING legislation designed to make cigarette packets look hideous is not what the Labor Party was put on earth to do, says Maurice Glasman, one of British Labour’s leading thinkers.

“These are the sort of things that happen in politics when you withdraw completely from the economy and you fuss around with the state and legislation,” he says. “I don’t think people having a cigarette after work is really the end of the world and it can be a sociable activity.”

Glasman is one of the founding thinkers of Blue Labour, a grouping within the Labour Party that wants to reunite the party with its working-class base. T

“We’ve lost about seven million votes since 1997,” says Glasman. “We developed an almost casual contempt for everyday values. There’s been a blindness to people, a blindness to what they cared about and an absolute embrace of the state and the market.” [CONTINUES]

Smoking costs: Stuff spent minus stuff saved plus some other stuff equals $31.5 billion

August 2nd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Australians who die prematurely from tobacco-related illness are saving the health services $1.5 billion a year, according to a report cited by the Prime Minister.

And households are saving $7.6 billion a year by not having to buy stuff that would otherwise have been consumed by prematurely-departed smokers.

These incredible figures were used by academics David Collins and Helen Lapsley to calculate the supposed annual cost of smoking to the community for a report published by the CSIRO.

The report shows that smoking would be costing Australia around $40 billion a year, rather than $31.5 billion as claimed by Kevin Rudd, if smokers had selfishly stayed alive.

Smokers who have been buried, cremated or otherwise dispatched are apparently saving the community $25.9 million a year by not calling ambulances.  Medical services not called upon by those who save a further 303.7 million. Unoccupied hospital beds save $446.2 million and untaken drugs save $127.9 million.

The national nursing home bill is $613.9 million lighter thanks to those who have gone to another place.

Discounts for the departed bring the cost of health care due to smoking down from $1.8 billion to $318 million a year, which amounts to a mere 5 per cent of the money the government takes from smokers.

So how do the authors arrive at the incredible total of $31.5 billion? Here’s how:

Tangible costs $million
Labour in the workforce
Reduction in workforce






Labour in the Household
Premature death






Total paid and unpaid labour


Less consumption resources saved


Total net labour costs






Nursing homes






Total Healthcare




Resources used in abusive consumption




Loss of Life




Grand Total


Mr Rudd is not the only politician to make use of this extraordinary report. When Jillian Skinner quoted the figure in January to justify smoke free zones around children’s playgrounds, I wrote:

IF smoking was really costing the nation $31.5 billion a year, and that wasn’t just a cooked-up figure, then a responsible government would have no hesitation in banning tobacco.

That sort of money would easily give Wayne Swan his surplus. Indignant readers would be writing letters to the editor; why get worked up about the small change we sling Barrie Cassidy and his chums when taxpayers are spending 30 times as much to bankroll Marlboro Man?

It is not real money, of course; it is slippery economics, a number inserted into a report in some swanky glass-fronted building in Woden where not even the electric cables are allowed to smoke. [CONTINUES]

Illustration by Eric Lobbecke

Illustration by Eric Lobbecke

Creighton on the anti-smoking nazis

August 2nd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

In The Australian today, Adam Creighton traces the origins of anti-smoking campaigning to pre-war Germany:

German doctors were the first to discover a link between tobacco smoking and cancer in the 1930s. National Socialism declared cancer “the number one enemy”. Along with a passion for the natural environment, the Fuhrer hated smoking — a relic of the sort of decadent liberal lifestyle that undermined the health of the “volk”. [FULL STORY]

The Australian editorialises:

Kevin Rudd should spare us the sanctimonious excuses and admit that raising the price of cigarettes has little to do with reducing smoking and everything to do with his government’s inability to control its $1 billion-a-day spending habit.