How Bligh Could Have Won

I put to Hawker last November two ideas that I thought Bligh could win with, and he refused to pass them on. ‘They wouldn’t buy them,’ he said, perhaps correctly. I put them again in February to Jim Chalmers in Swanny’s office who was in contact with the campaign and he said thanks, with apparent sincerity. And I put them as well, perhaps too briefly, in a one-minute phone call, to John McTernan in Gillard’s office, and I don’t know what happened after that. Andrew Fraser, who hates me, with some justice, may have been the one who rejected them. Or Hawker. Hard to say.

The first idea was to do this. To call a press conference and say, in November, ‘For six weeks after Christmas anyone who is seventy-eight or over can go to the dentist and send the bill to us and we’ll pay it. This is a trial to see what we can afford and what the age limits should be of an Old Age Dental Care Scheme, which we’ll bring in when we do the figures. When we do the figures, after the election.’

My reasoning was that Queensland was full of retirees with bad teeth and they would vote Labor perhaps for the first time if this was enacted, and enacted in parliament, with the LNP abstaining or voting for it, and what could Campbell Newman say against it? ‘I stand for toothache, and I stand for the God-given obligation of octogenarians to suffer toothache till their dying day’? He’d have to support it, and what a fool he would look if he rejected it; or indeed if he supported it. He’d be cactus either way.

The second idea was this. It was to buy eighteen or twenty-two percent of Qantas and use the clout which that purchase would then give the Bligh government, as major shareholders, to offer cheap air fares to storm-smitten and flood-fouled Queensland tourist towns now doing it hard, both to Australians and overseas visitors. ‘Qantas’ means ‘Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service’, and it started up in Chartres Towers, and the slogan could be, ‘Bringing Qantas Home’. They could demand the sacking of Joyce and the return of jobs now overseas, and the re-employment of hard-working Australians Joyce wickedly punished for their long heroic years of building up a company name that was for decades known, and rightly known, as the best in the world.

And whatever it cost, it cost. Swanny, a Queenslander, could organise the money for them to do it with. He could not refuse them.

The argument against it, I suppose, was, ‘We privatised other entities, and you want us to unprivatise Qantas? We’d look fools.’ And we’d look less like fools winning only eight seats, I presume, or was it nine, and losing party privileges, and staying out of power for thirty-two years.

I need to hear of one vote Labor won by privatising all those entities, the rolling stock; whatever. I can imagine three hundred thousand votes lost by doing it. Why do it? Why was it ‘unavoidable’? Why not consult with Swanny and add one percent to the GST for two years and then bring it down again? Why not borrow money? At even the AA rate? Why not borrow money?

I will publish elsewhere my earlier quarrels with Andrew Fraser, one of them a chapter in Goodbye Babylon called ‘Shame, Fraser, Shame.’ He has been the worst news for Labor ever, or the worst since Billy Hughes, and I saw him coming. I really saw him coming.

Shame, Fraser, Shame.

Shame, Rudd, Shame too, while I’m up. He cost Bligh the first twelve days of her campaign and the two-fisted little-battler momentum she might have achieved with early policy announcements and photo opportunities. He may have cost her ten seats. What a self-indulgent, smirking prat.

And so it goes.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Two excellent pork barrelling concepts. It beggars belief that they ignored you, Bob.

  2. Good morning Bob. Valiant ideas. I hope you get some stronger Qld responses than this insipid NSW one, which represents simply 20 or so Queenslanders visiting south, who cared not to discuss their state, and dismissed any attempt with a contempt or disgust by brush of hand. They’d simply had enough. The theory behind this of course is that once a government crystalises in the public mind, at that moment and from then, systemic woes (and perhaps projected personal ones) are sheeted home to that party in power. Punters then have only one recourse, they feel - not feeling empowered to work with a government in so little as even providing feedback - and that is to exercise their ‘power’ at the ballot box, waiting, saving up and scoring those ailments all the while. Do you not imagine these might have over-ridden the effect of the ideas you have placed here? Can six weeks, for instance, allay those built up sentiments? Could an opposition nullify them by trumping it?

    I won’t harp on, but this could be a positive nationally. If federal Labor can do something similar - aiming at people a real life, here-and-now solution which sends the message it “genuinely wants to speak with you, to connect with you, to represent you”, and build from there? Bit by realistic bit? In any case, there is federal opportunity in this. That’s a good thing.

    • This is a good and thoughtful response, and you may be right, and I thank you.

      What worries me now is those stories and images during the floods which convinced most commentators that Bligh was a much, much better campaigner, and a much, much better leader, than Gillard.

      • This notion that “Queensland is another country” has some bite, while not to be offensive in repeating it, and this notion is itself repeated from state to state. Victoria is the same to NSW, though to less extent. Not to say NSW is -centric of course; I’m sure the reverse holds as well. What matters then is an overall take: bits and pieces from the blurry picture received in other states to which an individual can relate, and agree with or not, like or not.

        The overall take, fwiw for mine, was that Bligh was dearly admired, dearly admired, for her efforts during the floods. And will be remembered this way. And the public gave Queenslanders their sovereign right to own her (and not make it a Gillard thing, other than a general respect for women in power in a time of need, and their particular, welcome manner). The commentators, I believe, have no bite in return should they wish to draw inferences and parallels beyond that. I wouldn’t worry.

        Let’s see how your commentators here can fill out a national response, intelligently, to what has happened. It could be enlightening.

        I’d kick it off by saying Gillard has some clear air, because of this, once the dust settles in the days ahead, due to Abbott’s expected non-policy response, and a necessarily focused public on what national Labor says and does - an excellent opportunity!

        It’s a circuit breaker, of sorts, too.

        • What can I say RJ?
          I am humbled, that’s real humility and not the Rupert version, by the severity of the whacking.
          There were too many reasons for it. Policy, personality, polemics - I’m looking at you here Ellis - and the Grand Lie that Labor are poison. You see RJ, I’m one of those that believe that people are generally stupid. I still hear parents at my kids school talking about “school sheds” whilst standing under the shade of a two storey brick, 6 classroom, air conditioned, smartboard, carpeted building complete with awnings, watertanks, and landscaping!!!!

          Now you tell me why that is and I might change my mind about the intelligence of the community.

  3. ps. I agree. Once a Labor government privatises, it is giving the electorate the big okay to vote LNP.

    • RJ, a sad and accurate assessment.

      I’m still reeling from last night. The numbers before me are beyond fucking comprehension.
      It’s an ominous portend.

  4. Well it’s not all bad. Anna Bligh can now field a netball team!
    Seven should be enough! :eek: That’s all they’re good for anyway.
    Anna will make a good netball captain.

    You mention the word shame Bob. Anna Bligh’s concession speech last night exhibited no sense of shame. She babbled on like an airhead. No shame. No sense of responsibility.No admission or inkling at the enormity of her failure. Her loss. Nothing but babbling…Gillard is the same. A responsibility free zone.

    Here’s how you win the next election Bob:
    T R U S T !
    Nobody trusts Labor anymore. Trust Free Zone. Discuss that.

    • Well, they trust Bob Carr. They trust John Faulkner. They trust Tanya Plibersek. They trust Greg Combet. They trust, I think, Bill Shorten. They trust Peter Beattie and were he to return would vote for him. They trust, as a tactician and policy visionary Mike Rann. They trust Bob Hawke and revere Gough Whitlam.

      And you’re saying, what, they trust Tony Abbott? They trust Christopher Pyne? They trust, on foreign policy, Julie Bishop more than Bob Carr?

      How about this for a slogan? ‘We’re the party of John Howard and Phillip Ruddock. Trust us.’

      • I don’t think they trust Bill Shorten at the moment but unlike many others in the ALP he can win this back. If he continues to work hard and demonstrate his competence he can overcome his “faceless man” tag & his stabbing of Rudd.

        Combet association with Carbon tax damages him.

        The problem is they don’t trust Swan, Conroy and most of all Gillard, these are the most active of the ALP “faces” at this time. Gillards satisfaction ratings show Abbot is still viewed more positively than her.

        I bet you would be shocked at the numbers who still trust Rudd.

  5. “Swanny?”
    I’ve never heard anyone in Queensland refer affectionately, or otherwise, to Wayne Swan as “Swanny.” He is held in universal contempt and loathing.
    It’s a bit like people who go to Festivals referring to David Hicks as “Hicksie.” It just doesn’t happen out in the real world.

    • Well, not by me, or any young Labor worker who knows him, or anyone in Parliament House. Or any of the committee who elected him the best Treasurer in the world.

      Why do you have loathing and contempt for him?

      Could you enlighten me?

        • Probably because he is one of the most visible entities in the gang of fools who have dominated Australian politics for five years. He was one of Kevin Rudd’s Kitchen Cabinet which sidelined the real Cabinet; but he still participated in the coup of 2010 which turned out to be an act of epic political idiocy. His class hatred belongs to another era.
          I have heard him referred to “Goose,” but never “Swanny.”
          And thanks for replying.

          • So in the era of the Arab Spring there is no room for class hatred? And in the era of Margin Call? And Inside Story? And Alan Joyce? And Gina Rinehart? And Lehman’s? And Enron?

            What are you talking about?

            • Bob, the issue is hatred for Gillard and Swan by people who would normally vote ALP. Seriously, Palmer is an object of mirth it’s hard to hate him. The stupidity of FWA tempers the hate for Joyce, why was this the only mechanism to get to arbitration for QANTAS. Lots have shares in mining companies or their super schemes do. Does anyone believe that the proposed budget surplus put together by Swan is anything other than a magicians trick putting politics above what the ALP should be focused on. He has no credibility and therefor his attacks are piss and wind to all but the most wedged on ALP voter.

              • Another Lapsed Adventist

                You should take more if an active interest in your super account. Anyone who still has it in shares needs their head read. Mine’s been in cash for over 2 years and no plans to change.

      • Bob, speaking of loathing & contempt and of your assessment of Fraser, not Swan, and in relation to Anna Bligh’s post-election endorsement of him as a trusted, intelligent and capable lieutenant, it does seem that her rosy-eyed assessment is at great odds, not only to your opinion but that of the Qld punters at large. Why is it that politicians are so out of touch with the reality of community opinion? Why is it that Bligh & Fraser and others endorsed the sale of state assets despite universal disapproval, thus effectively lighting the wick that would lead to the conflagration that was this weekend’s result, the annihilation of the Qld ALP? Why do politicians of all ilk persist in making decisions and taking action which is clearly at odds with the electorate’s desires? Are they stupid? Pig-headed? Ill-informed or ill-advised? It’s a kind of a riddle to me. Many of them are described as intelligent, but I suspect that they lack wisdom. Many of the decisions seem to have a short-term pay-off and the air of expediency about them, as contrasted with, say, a decision based on a longer-term view such as that oft-quoted decision tree adopted by North American Natives, whereby they would reflect on how their forebears and descendants would act before making major decisions. Is this one of the symptoms of the illness of these times?

    • David Black, you’re right. That “Swanny” nearly broke my screen. Pure fakery.

      Wayne Swan is walking distance, and never, never has anyone referred to him, here, as “Swanny”.


      • I’ve known Swanny for fifteen years, worked with him in Beazley’s office, stayed at his house in Brisbane, written lines for him and chapters of books about him and he’s always been ‘Swanny’ to me.

        ‘Pure fakery’, you say. Why would I do that?

        When have I ever done that?

  6. Two good suggestions they were too, Bob.

    Anything that might get rid of Alan Joyce would suit me.

    Commiserations Comrade.

  7. Both very good policy ideas and ones that should have been considered. Well said.

    But would you vote for Tony Abbott if he promised the dental and Qantas policies? I think the problems in QLD ran deeper and longer and as you rightly point out, the privatisation policy hurt them badly.

    Jim Charmers = joke. No wonder he didn’t listen to you.

  8. A friend of mine told me today that Queenslanders will ‘hate you half as much, and fuck you twice as hard.’

    Seems hard to argue with his reasoning.

    What a forgettable day.

  9. Queenslanders hate?
    No, that’s a southern-Left specialty.

    In defeat, Anna Bligh told us she had known “what was best” for us, For Our Own Good …… where are you, Doug Q?… someone’s famous quote?
    Wrong, Ms Bligh. Wrong.

    Didn’t Beattie let himself off lightly?

    A triumph - for Keating’s “ordinary little guy”.
    A triumph - for short, bald men.


    • Which quote would you like, Maryellen? I think “Shit Happens” might be appropriate.

      Congratulations to Campbell Newman and the LNP.

      • Was it C.S. Lewis? - something about the intentions of others?
        You know these quotes.

        Nutgrass, you hero!
        ‘Congratulations’, he says, all you sorry arses.

        What is the point of all the philosophical waffle, after a man has been repeatedly described as “lizard-like, bald and greasy”? What is that?

        I feel better already.
        You took Latin, didn’t you? Admit it! Let’s go to the bottom of a column,
        and converse, one day, where no one can see us showing off.

        • Maryellen, you seem like an intelligent woman. Why all the acrimony?

          I don’t know about you, but I come here to read Bob’s articles, to react to them as honestly as possible and to put forward my views as cogently as is consistent with brevity and the consideration of not boring the pants off everyone.

          BTW, what is this reference to nutgrass?

  10. It’s a grass that pops up all over the place. It’s a Queensland thing, maybe. You seemed to appear suddenly, like nutgrass. An affectionate nickname, Doug Q., that I won’t use again.

    I came here looking for the Tinker Tailor…. review, (Alan Bennett, was how I imagined Smiley) and got caught up. A few of us watched the J.G.Cole/DQ “acrimony” that night. Fascinating. Was he was a Rumpole?

    I thought Mr. Ellis was fair at first - I said it somewhere. But he isn’t.
    If you disagree on a film, you get some ‘off’ response.
    Then an apology is offered to the Pompous One, after a 10-point sermon, for crying out loud!, and does she admit to “a royal flush/that was a good flushing”? No way. Sook.
    I’m staying around till Reader 1 reports on her dear dog.
    She’s smarter than all the rest. “tartuffery” - how does she do it?
    It’s been fun, lots of it.
    But soon I’ll be too busy for blogging.
    All quiet here.

    (Yes, A’s even for Latin) :razz:

    • Ars longa, vita brevis.

      Stick around, a discussion needs different views. Bob loves a good argument. It seems to me his dismissal of disagreement is designed to make you think, rethink and improve your arguments.

      As regards Cole, we were friendly until I supported an enemy of his in an attack on religion; the rest followed on from there. I now wish it had never happened, byt one gets caught up in the adversarial thing all too easily. We pushed each other’s buttons, as the saying goes.

  11. Very ALP Of you. treating the symptoms, not the underlying problems…

  12. Bob during all the years you worked for politicians, did any of them ever take your advice on policy?
    Because my guess is that if this advice was passed on it went with “you won’t believe what Bob has come up with now”

    • You could be right about that. There were some theatre companies I got funding for in the Carr years, and the Chifley Scholarships from Rees. Much of what I did was commemorative speeches (Chekhov, Sir Henry Parkes, Hanan Asrawi) and letters of commiseration to dead heroes’ widows (police, firefighters) and one-liners for question time.

      It was aways part-time work, and I was always writing plays or making films with other collaborators most of the week. Influencing policy I attempted with two books on economics, to no avail.

  13. re. “Qantas’ means ‘Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service’, and it started up in Chartres Towers…”, I’m guessing there’re no readers / responders from Winton, Longreach, or Cloncurry. :roll:

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