Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Note To Barrie Cassidy

Cassidy, you cannot go on pretending these one-seat Reachtel, Newspoll and Lonergan polls have any validity. One had Rudd on 48 in Griffith a week ago and another, today, has him on 57.2. How can this be?

Ninety calls are made for every one completed. No-one under sixty-five takes them. Some of them sample only a hundred and seventy voters, a statistical nonsense. See Inside Newspoll (2) in my blog.

You are behaving shamefully in taking, on faith, Murdoch’s fabrications, while questioning Bowen’s Budget figures.

Please do not behave like a bought man.


A Passing Thought

The Liberals may not have calculated on the four million people who will vote this year before they get, on Friday night, their figures out.

Will they resent them for their devious, contemptuous concealment of what we all, in a democracy, should know?

It’s a possibility.

If only a hundred and thirty thousand hitherto Undecided think like this, that’s one percent, and the ball game.


Classic Ellis: Getting It Right, 2009

“I now predict Bligh will lose eight seats”, I texted Graeme Wedderburn, Chief of Staff of Nathan Rees, over breakfast on Queensland’s election day, getting it right as I sometimes do, channelling the voters’ telepathy or whatever the process is.

My basic figuring actually came, in fact, from all the confident Newspoll and Galaxy headlines asserting Springborg would win or come close with, respectively, 51, 51, 51, 51 and 50.1 per cent of the vote and “a 2.7 per cent margin of error”.

This, despite the conservative coalition never getting more than 50 per cent of the vote (the vote, that is, two-party preferred) since December 1974 and Springborg being derided, or sometimes derided, as a yokel in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Another Murdoch hope of conservative resurrection dashed, it seems, despite all those chest-thumping headlines. It’s hard to imagine Newspoll didn’t strive to give him those rainbow bursts of hope (he does like conservative victories and he is very old) with predictions that got no less than 53,000 voters’ intentions wrong.

How did all that occur, I wonder?

Well, I have my theories; the Murdoch pollsters have to earn a living, I guess, like everybody else. I wrote the following on Thursday, 12th March, 2009:

We’re told by Newspoll that 53 per cent of all Australians want Peter Costello to lead the Liberal Party and only 40 per cent of all Australians want Malcolm Turnbull in that position. This means, I guess, that Costello would get more votes if he was Leader in a general election.

Well, no it doesn’t meant that, actually. Because 56 per cent of the voters polled said they wanted Labor to win. This then means, or it might well mean, you could say it means, that half of those who were polled want Costello as Liberal Leader because he’s more likely to lose. And it might well mean five million Labor-voting Australians fear Turnbull’s amiable brilliance more than Costello’s acerbic nastiness, and so want Turnbull out of the picture, quick smart.

So Newspoll, not for the first time, seems (or seems to me) to be implying the opposite of what it should know to be true. Had it asked only Liberal voters, or only Coalition voters, or only Undecided voters what Liberal leader they wanted it would have got a true, uncynical result, probably favouring Turnbull, or Joe Hockey. As it is, it’s revealed, yes, that Labor voters would like not Turnbull but Costello to oppose them. And so would I. Put me down for Costello. Every time.

There are many ways a poll, if manipulated, can get you a false, convenient result. You can take the poll on a holiday weekend when many younger, and therefore Labor-leaning voters, or Green-leaning voters, aren’t at home. You can take the poll in early January when (as always) the Labor vote and the Green vote will go dramatically down for this reason, when many, many voters are in a caravan park or a holiday motel, or overseas. You can ring up on Friday night when only the old, the ill, the poor, the loveless and the mad are at home, these being more likely Liberal voters or National voters or One Nation voters or Independents. You can ring on Saturday morning when the prosperous are out shopping. You get more Liberal voters at home that way, saying Lawrence Springborg for me.

This is the way, I suggest, that Newspoll gives its principal client Rupert Murdoch what he wants and why Newspoll is widely known as “the Bill O’Reilly of statistics”.

Newspoll is very careful to go where the ambiguity is, and show no-one its raw figures. Why otherwise its raw figures should be secret is hard to say. These figures are “adjusted”, we are told,”to reflect population distribution”. I’ll bet they are.

Newspoll, moreover, rings no mobile phones, just those people who happen to be home on Friday nights and not, say, at the pub. Just those people who possess home phones (many young people don’t any more) and don’t mind giving up half an hour of their evening when they might be cooking dinner. Those who do mind are listed as “refused”. Only those who speak English, and speak English well, are persisted with, I am told; otherwise, I am told, Newspoll hangs up, and lists them as “refused”.

If this is not so I ask any former employees of Newspoll to deny it.

A greater proportion of non-English-speaking migrants vote Labor, I am told. Of course they do. And leaving them out of the sample, if this occurs, puts the Liberal vote up. Of course it does.

And it’s by these methods Newspoll came to the conclusion that Bligh Labor was losing in Queensland, and Bligh herself lost round 96,000 voters between Friday 6th and Sunday 8th of March. Have you met any of these people? Anyone who said “I’ve really gone off Anna Bligh” on Saturday 7th March? You should, if it’s true.

We live in a world where numbers are manipulated (by Enron, by Lehman Brothers, by Bernard Madoff, by Robert Mugabe) so commonly, so routinely, that economic meltdowns result from their manipulation.

Yet it’s thought that pollsters do not manipulate numbers, even when their clients would like them to. Clients who, for instance, need headlines.

It’s usually thought they don’t manipulate numbers because it’s not wise of them to do so, that a wrong prediction of an election result would do them eventual harm. But this rule applies to only one poll, the one that comes out on election day. Before that they can print whatever they like and so confect headlines - Labor In Crisis, Shock Swing To Coalition - that influence early voting patterns (and early voters) and cause panic in the Caucus, destabilise Kim Beazley, undermine Malcolm Turnbull, influence Labor to support the imprisonment of boat people, and wavering Liberals to support the Iraq war, and so on.

They can put out seventy-five false counts of the figures in three years, and only one true count, and still keep their reputation. They have to be right, or close, only once.

All this is only my opinion, a hypothesis raised in the public interest that no doubt those more informed can shoot down by releasing raw figures or the rules of engagement explaining why they won’t release them, although they used to; why they won’t release them any more. Or reminiscing about their happy years at Newspoll, and what, in those days, the ground rules were. And why they changed, if they did.

And explaining why Newspoll has a CEO.

What is there for him to decide?

Just asking.

In Fifteen Words

Will Abbott now say why he admires both Howard and Thatcher, who wanted Mandela hanged.

In Fourteen Words

Scott Morrison’s new policy would have sent back Joe Ramos Horta to Indonesia and execution.

Scaly Numbers

The John Scales poll in the afr looks very dodgy indeed. We are not told how many people voted in each seat, or when; after the Debate, or before it. If it was taken in Bowen’s seat before it was known his opponent took money from Roger Rogerson, or after it was known he did. How many were voting Katter, Palmer, Green, DLP, Independent or Undecided. If the whole ‘focus group’ was there voting, or out late-night shopping. How this ‘focus group’ was chosen. What they were voting six weeks ago. How old they were, on average. How many were working, how many retired. How many were women. How many were under thirty. How many under twenty. How many preferred Abbott as Prime Minister; and so on.

Most puzzling was how Rudd has gained nine percent, that is, seven thousand votes, in his seat in a week. If this figure, 57, is right, then Lonergan is nonsense. If Lonergan is nonsense, then Beattie is winning too. And Queensland swinging to Labor and Palmer and Katter, and no Coalition seat safe.

I ask John Scales to answer all these questions or face, after Rudd wins, criminal prosecution.

Covering Up

Tony Abbott just said he found the burqa ‘confronting’.

So too, I imagine, would a woman in a burqa find his red wet underpants, hairy belly and genial, grinning shoulder-rubs with netball-playing teenage girls.

In Eleven Words

I ask Troy Bramston how much he was paid for his soul.

Lines For Albo (53)

All these polls ring nobody under sixty-five. And you believe them, do you?

Inside Newspoll (2)

I’m putting up the ‘Inside Newspoll’ piece again. I ask the Newspoll CEO, Martin O’Shannessy, to contradict it. If he does not, I will take it as an admission of the unstatistical practices he is persisting with. It is hard to see how they are not crimes. I address, with a sigh, this evidence to the Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, evidence of a fraud not unlike Enron, where false figures were plucked out of the air, or drugs in sport, where ill-gotten victories were predicted, and achieved, and millions won or lost by those betting on the outcome.

Here is the piece. I will add to it when I know more.

I’ve just had a conversation with an employee of Newspoll. He was put on the phone by a friend of mine and he did not tell me his name.

The average respondent, he said, was sixty-five years of age, or older. The best time to ring was on Saturday after lunch. The calls lasted eleven minutes or so, and dealt not just with voting intention but with products and issues other than politics.

Ninety percent of the calls were unsuccessful. Eleven thousand aborted calls would be made, and twelve hundred successful ones. ‘A good score,’ he said, ‘is two successful calls in an hour.’

They were specific to a region, which meant they could be biased towards a demographic, Wahroonga, say, rather than Woy Woy. They were asked to ring ‘every house in the street’.

He was paid twenty dollars an hour. He hoped to get that up to twenty-four dollars an hour when he was ‘promoted’.

The figures were ‘adjusted’, that is, changed, to reflect – or imagine – the younger demographic. The younger demographic, however, was based on the few young people they actually talked to, the ones that had a landline, or were using their parents’ landline. Which pointed to a more conservative demographic.

The conclusions from this are, of course, explosive. It means Newspoll has been underestimating the Labor vote, and the Labor preferred vote, for years now, from when mobiles started taking over the market. And Newspoll could have been underestimating it, if required by its owner Murdoch, even more; as it did last year when it had Romney always ahead, or competitive.

And all the panic in the Labor backroom for two years has been unfounded.

And so it goes.

This Morning’s Newspoll

It is indeed extraordinary how crooked poor, doomed O’Shannessy is getting. Polling 213 voters, a negligible sample, in each of five seats (Dobell, Robertson, Kingsford Smith, Page and Eden-Monaro), on landlines, which nobody much uses, and not asking, but imagining, what their preferences are, and using a methodology I am told by a Newspoll employee gets nobody under 65, he manages — just — to get a 53-47 vote for the Liberals. One of the seats is the litmus one, Eden-Monaro, but he does not, dare not, say what the vote is there.

In Parramatta, Reid, Banks, Lindsay and Greenway, ringing only 173 voters, he does rather better. There it is 57-43, but, for some reason, it is taken over five days, the first such poll in world history.

In La Trobe, Deakin and Coorangamite, ringing 241 in each, on Cheap Movie, Late Shopping and Debate Night, he gets, from his usual octogenarians, 53-47.

In most of them, very few were rung after the Debate. In all of them, some were rung during the Debate. This meant people not interested in seeing Rudd were emphasised.

Why was a different methodology used in each of them? Eight days, five days, two days? Could it be to do with ‘tweaking’? Heaven forbid.

To me these figures show Labor seriously ahead on Thursday. But these headlines, of course, and the Revolt of the Humphreys, may alter that. It is the Bandwaggon Effect versus the Underdog Effect. Morgan suggests the former, Essential the latter. Essential is still 50-50.

It is wonderful to see O’Shannessy tying himself in knots. In Reid, where the Liberal candidate proves to be in the pay of Roger Rogerson, there is a swing to, not from, the Liberals of 9 percent. I’ll bet there is,

There is also, even among octogenarians, 4 percent ‘uncommitted’ and 1 percent ‘refused’. This, across Australia, is three quarters of a million people, still to make up their minds, on Saturday, after Abbott puts out, at last, his figures on Friday at 5 pm.

I may be wrong, because advertising works, and this is advertising, but I stand by my prediction of 56.8 pecent two party preferred to Labor, five seats to Katter and Palmer, MacGowan to win Indi, Bandt Melbourne, Wilkie Denison, Labor to pick up Brisbane, Forde, Longman, Dobell, Bennelong and Macquarie, lose Robertson and Coorangamite, pick up Hasluck and Solomon, and win handily a couple of others while losing two in Tasmania.

I can be wrong, but I have been right within three seats thirty-five times, and it looks, with caveats, okay from here.

The Only Question That Matters

If you have twenty friends under thirty-five years of age, how many are going to vote for Tony Abbott?

If the number is seven or under, Labor wins.

Sixteen Ways Labor Can Win From Here

(1) Declare we unlike the UK will support the US in any action in Syria and ask why Tony Abbott is so fond of Bashr al-Assad, and why he sought Obama’s overthrow last year.

(2) Order the arrest of O’Shannessy and Briggs for having, according to Clive Palmer, corruptly rejiggered the findings of Galaxy and Newspoll and ask why they ring only landlines and why, and how, their figures are ‘adjusted’.

(3) Swear in the Arabic-speaking war hero Mike Kelly as Defence Minister and send him, on Sunday, to Syria.

(4) Ask Tony Abbott to front the Attorney-General and say why he covered up acts of homosexual rape — according to the uncontested Duffy biography — in St Barnabus’s in the late 1980s.

(5) Ask Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson — and their wives — to sue Tony Abbott, Christopher Pyne, Laurie Oakes and Kate McClymont for malicious libel.

(6) Ask Tony Abbott why he did not go to the funeral of the woman he ruined, Kathy Donnelly, by deserting her when she was pregnant, and shaming her twenty-six years later with the news of his cuckolding.

(7) Announce on Sunday that Rudd if re-elected will seek the constitutional means, by referendum if necessary, to reduce rents for everyone by a third.

(8) Announce in Sunday a thirty-five cent lottery whose prize, this fiscal year, is ten thousand free tickets to Tasmania and back on the car ferry.

(9) Pass legislation that allows Coles and Woolworths only five outlets each in any capital city.

(10) Reveal the rumours, already published in Fairfax, of Christopher Pyne, sexual harasser.

(11) Ask Abbott straightforwardly if his sister will go to hell.

(12) Ask Brian Loughnane is he is divorcing his wife, Peta Credlin.

(13) Ask Margie Abbott when she and her husband are separating.

(13) Ask the GG to threaten Abbott with a fresh election if he does not, by noon Monday, reveal all his costings.

(15) Put a temporary four percent tariff on everything.

(16) Announce that the next Governor-General will be Bob Brown.

Any three of these would ensure success next week but the Leadership Group seems besotted by the dream of defeat, and I not understand why.

Lines For Kevin Rudd (18)

Though Britain will not support America in its plans for Syria, we will; and I will.

In this I differ from Tony Abbott, who sought last year to overthrow Barack Obama, the American President then and now, and wishes him ill.

I invite him to explain himself, and say why he is, in contrast with myself, so fond of Bashr al-Assad.

Sir Humphrey Strikes Back

Though it was not great when Treasury and Finance said those were not Opposition policy figures, old man, it was not fatal. It drew attention to what the figures actually were, and Abbott’s vow to bring them out ‘late last week’, after three million Australians had already voted. This assault on our democracy may be resented, or not, by those voting this weekend, as well as next weekend.

Why not show the figures with which a ‘Budget emergency’ will be addressed? If it’a ‘all about trust’, why not give evidence of good policy, and a leader’s trustworthiness?

Abbott scores low on trustworthiness a lot of the time. He fabricated lewd charges that put Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge in gaol. He falsely accused Cheryl Kernot of pederasty, Peter Slipper of sexual harassment, Craig Thomson of thieving half a mi,lion dolars, Julia Gillard of union corruption, and Wayne Swan of economic incompetence. He did not turn up at his own wedding, or the funeral of the girl he thereby ruined, or visit her deathbed, though he praised her on Forced Adoption Day posthumously. He swore a vow of celibacy and broke it. He may have had sex with women, or girls, while dressed as a priest. He defended in court an already convicted pederast, and in parliament a friend of pederasts, Peter Hollingworth. He implied falsely when suing my publishers he had gone virgin to his marriage bed, as he wanted his daughters to do. He said he believed in global warming and then that it was ‘crap’. He said Gonski was Connski than that he was on a ‘unity ticket’ with it. He said he favoured, in 1997, the ABC’s privatisation, then, lately said he would ‘never, never’ do this. He idolised Howard when Howard wanted Mandela hanged, then called, lately, Mandela a hero.

He is not a nice man, but this would not matter if he stuck to his guns. He does not. He caves in on everything, even the morning-after Pill. He believes his sister will burn in hell for something he does not, any more, think an ‘abomination’.

It would be okay if he was constant on something but he is not. He is about six people and five of those are liars.

Otherwise, elect him if you will. But do not think him trustworthy, on anything.

An Apology

I was wrong about the Christian School, Penrith. It is not, as I thought, Catholic. It is Pentecostal.

It speaks in tongues and yesterday de-abominated buggery.

And Abbott is giving it loads of money.

A Note To Bruce Hawker (3)

Dear Bruce,

It is not good strategy to hand your enemy a bucket of hand grenades and say, ‘Be gentle with me.’

Yet this is what we have done day by day by not mentioning, day by day, that our enemy’s chief weaponry, robocalling, is based on a fraudulent methodology, one that rings octogenarians in commuter suburbs on Late Shopping Nights while breadwinners are still at work or driving home on landlines, which nobody under thirty-five much uses, and misunderestimates — as George Bush might say — the Labor vote by three to seven percent.

Clive Palmer said on Tuesday night that Newspoll, Galaxy and ReachTEL were corrupt, and he knew this because he had himself, he confessed, paid big bribes for voter numbers he desired. It is to your advantage, your massive advantage, to mention this, and ask police to investigate.

I beseech you to do this now.

Do not cop sweet any more hand grenades.



Lines For Quentin Bryce (2)

I wouldn’t normally do this, but people are already voting, and we are on the brink of war. I ask Mr Abbott to release all his costings now, immediately, forthwith.

Or I will come crashing down on him.

This Morning’s Newspoll

My interview with the Newspoll employee will be up on IA in an hour or two. It shows that only one in ninety phone calls is completed, and the respondents are, on average, over sixty-five.

This is supported by this  morning’s Newspoll, which took six days to get through to 800 respondents in Parramatta, Reid, Banks, Lindsay and Greenway. This means 160 voters in each electorate, a statistically worthless sample (it should be 800 in each), many in their eighties, had once voted for Menzies, or eight times voted for Menzies, and were still of the same cast of mind.

This is not valuable information. No mobiles were rung, and perhaps no more than twenty people under thirty-five interviewed. The figures were then ‘adjusted’. I’ll bet they were.

Our current polling, exclusively on mobiles, of, yes, only 210 people thus far, has Labor on 58, Coalition 42, and Rudd as PM outscoring Abbott by 66 to 44.

I ask O’Shannessy how many of his calls were refused? Was it 34,000? 40,000? And how old his respondents were. Was it 72, on average? Or 76?

Please let us have done with these forgeries, and put him, Briggs and Lonergan in gaol.

The Crabb Wars Resumed

It is worth asking why Annabel Crabb, a justly famous comic author, correspondent and thinker, and, in my experience, a superlative cook, should be so deliriously and mistily and girlishly parrotting the vile Murdochist phrase ‘thought bubble’.

How, may I ask, does this coinage differ from ‘thought’? It is well known that Isaac Newton in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, thought of gravity; Fleming of penicillin; Stoppard of a play about Rosencrantz and Guilderstern. It is known that Sondheim wrote, words and music, ‘Send In The Clowns’ in fifteen minutes, Gershwin ‘Our Love Is Here To Stay’ in seven minutes when he had a week to live. It is known Martin Luther King improvised, on the spot, ‘I Have A Dream’ in three.

Why then should Kevin Rudd, who is quick on his feet in debate and rapid in speech and creative in tendency, be disdained or cursed or derided for conceiving a protected North, and a nourished Ord, if he did, in less than three hours? Or a navy harboured in Townsville in less than two?

Surely this is what leadership means. On a battlefield, a great general improvises a strategy, like Monash, and wins a World War. On a film set, a great director, like Kubrick, re-imagines a moment in Roman history. On the floor of the House of Commons, a great politician, like Churchill, thinks up the phrase ‘our finest hour’. Or a great President, like Lincoln, writes the Gettysburg Address in ten minutes in a notebook on his knee on a train.

This is what leadership means. It is dealing in an instant with an emergency. Coming up with a phrase, a plan, a roadmap, a vision, that changes lives, guides nations.

And Annabel, a once good woman, calls it a ‘thought bubble’.

The word ‘bubble’ is redundant.

And she should be ashamed of herself.

Lines For Julie Bishop (2)

How will I sort Syria? By baring my arse at Bashr.

Lines For Tony Abbott (9)

How will I sort Syria? With a seventy-second stare.

In Eleven Words

‘In good time’ is not eight days after voting has begun.

Inside Newspoll (1): A Very Important Question Of Numbers Counted

I’ve just had a conversation with an employee of Newspoll. He was put on the phone by a friend of mine and he did not tell me his name.

The average respondent, he said, was sixty-five years of age, or older. The best time to ring was on Saturday after lunch. The calls lasted eleven minutes or so, and dealt not just with voting intention but with products and issues other than politics.

Ninety percent of the calls were unsuccessful. Eleven thousand aborted calls would be made, and twelve hundred successful ones. ‘A good score,’ he said, ‘is two successful calls in an hour.’

They were specific to a region, which meant they could be biased towards a demographic, Wahroonga, say, rather than Woy Woy. They were asked to ring ‘every house in the street’.

He was paid twenty dollars an hour. He hoped to get that up to twenty-four dollars an hour when he was ‘promoted’.

The figures were ‘adjusted’, that is, changed, to reflect – or imagine – the younger demographic. The younger demographic, however, was based on the few young people they actually talked to, the ones that had a landline, or were using their parents’ landline. Which pointed to a more conservative demographic.

The conclusions from this are, of course, explosive. It means Newspoll has been underestimating the Labor vote, and the Labor preferred vote, for years now, from when mobiles started taking over the market. And Newspoll could have been underestimating it, if required by its owner Murdoch, even more; as it did last year when it had Romney always ahead, or competitive.

And all the panic in the Labor backroom for two years has been unfounded.

And so it goes.

In Twenty Words

What is the difference between a ‘thought’ and a ‘thought bubble’?

We used to call it a ‘Eureka moment’.

Abbott Comes Out

Abbott, O’Farrell and Pyne, all Catholics, gave more money today to a Catholic school that thinks homosexuality ‘an abomination’. Abbott, aghast, swore blind he did not share this view.

He did so with good reason. He spoke up for a convicted pederast, Father John Nestor, in 2002, and got him out of prison. He covered up for thirty years, according to his uncontradicted biographer Duffy, instances of Catholic seduction and rape of ‘younger seminarians’ at St Barnabus’s in Manly, a famously louche institution where, he said on ABC radio, he was ‘not as celibate as I should have been’ in the three years before he abandoned the priesthood and denounced it in The Bulletin for its corrupt, Laodicean modernity.

It is good he has ‘come out’ on this issue.

It is puzzling he is giving pious homophobes in black frocks waving incense so much money.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (81)

Like his role model L. Ron Hubbard, Murdoch invents new rules every day.

One is that if a Prime Minister is asked a question, he must answer it in ten words or less, or else The Daily Telegraph, in huge headlines, will call him MISTER CHATTERBOX. Another is that if, in an election campaign, he does not praise his opponent’s policies, he is MISTER NEGATIVE, and only fit for the classic, sighed, head-shaking Reagan response, ‘There he goes again.’

‘A whopping 6 minutes 9 seconds,’ Col Allan, amazed and sorrowing, yells of Rudd’s detailed answers on the mere planet’s future, which won him 56 percent to Abbott’s 23 percent in the Morgan audience approval response. If he had talked for 3 minutes 5 seconds less, it would have been, I guess, all right. And the planet none the worse for it.

Secreted beneath a smaller page-one headline however, a tiny one in fact, is the real news: ‘Labor’s cutbacks message hits home’, disclosing UMR’s fraught finding that ‘between 49 and 55 percent’ were ‘worried’ about Abbott cutting jobs, and as many as 15 percent in marginal seats ‘extremely worried’; enough, one might think, to ensure a Labor landslide. But no, it is merely ‘the party’s main hope to stem the loss of seats’. What seats are those, precisely? If not the marginals?

Worst on that broad page is the sombre Murdoch-manacled Quisling Paul Kelly, who calls Abbott’s grey and shifty performance ‘confident, on message, punchy’, and gamely asserts, pork-pie hat on heart, ‘the Prime Minister is faltering under pressure.’

Much use is made, as always, of ugly photographs, always of Rudd, never Abbott, and of the fresh new Murdoch iniquity the ‘thought-bubble’. Although the discovery of Penicillin, Gravity and Archimedes’ Principle were thought-bubbles also, this new doctrine provides that moving ships north to where they are needed, or developing, at last, the fertile Ord, or bringing broadband to those who need it, are worthless as ideas if they took less than a year to think up (and risible as ideas if they took any longer).

The determination to reshape the human brain has worked, of course, in England, where Murdoch raised the dead and interviewing through a spirit medium Winston Churchill, found him voting for Thatcher, and Joseph Stalin for Neil Kinnock.

Are West Sydney people as gullible as Poms? I doubt it. They will note, with interest, that sixteen hundred a year less in schoolkids’ money is sixteen hundred a year less, not more, and shovelling money into the vaginas of Pymble matrons helps working-class women past childbearing, and on aged pensions, and super payouts, and stay-at-home Muslim, Catholic and Hillsong mothers and grandmothers, not a whit.

And we will see what we shall see.

Dirty Tricks At Rooty Hill

It is worth noting, now that Clive Palmer has declared that Galaxy is corrupt, how that company cheated, probably, the debate at Rooty Hill.

It chose a blonde young woman, from nowhere near Rooty Hill, obsessed with Rudd’s treachery to Gillard, as an ‘undecided’. It chose no questioners interested in boat people, as issue Rudd would have won applause on. It chose no Vietnamese, Torres Strait Islanders, Maoris, Cambodians, from a district thronged with them. It chose few people under fifty-nine. Its demographic was twenty-three years older than the average.

It dared to pretend three hostile questioners it chose were ‘undecided’. It cheated, as Cult Murdoch people do. It cheated an election. Like Mugabe.

Clive Palmer said he himself had paid Galaxy millions for particular results. It is hard to see why Briggs (and Clive) should not be arrested. I ask some Labor figure to pursue this.

If they don’t, I will do it myself.

Classic Ellis: Martin and Barack, 2009

No one complained much when Martin Luther King got his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Though he was only thirty-five and he’d affected no country but his own, and his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech was barely a year old, and America was in racial turmoil for many more years, it was not thought premature. He was such a good speaker and had with his oratory changed many minds and his cause was good. And J. Edgar Hoover thought the award was ‘contemptible’ but few agreed with him.

Jose Ramos Horta got his Peace Prize while his country was still in turmoil and many deaths lay ahead. Likewise Henry Kissinger, acclaimed for achieving peace in Vietnam though the war came back and hundreds of thousands more died in it, and Woodrow Wilson, whose League of Nations, humiliated by America’s failure to join it, lumbered into organisational impotence and World War 2. The Dalai Lama achieved no significant improvements for his country, nor did Aung San Suu Kyi. Ralph Bunche of the UN got his Peace Prize four months into the Korean War; Kofi Annan got his four weeks after 9/11.

Barack Obama, by contrast, has already affected his own country mightily, stopping torture in its military prisons, inspiring its black minority, energising Hispanics with a female Supreme Court judge, and allowing Cuban Americans to make contact, once more, with their relatives. His oratory is thought to be greater than Martin Luther King’s and he has given hope to Black America as no other leader since Lincoln.

He has given hope to Africans too, and health aid without religious caveats. His book Dreams from My Father has inspired an African generation and could one day get him a Nobel Prize for Literature.

In Europe he has prevented a new Cold War by taking the rockets out of Poland and inviting Russia back into the conversation. He has taken steps that stopped the global money crisis from paralysing many small western nations. He has dealt wisely and effectively with the threat of North Korea, and some Somalian pirates. He has called for an end to all nuclear weapons, and ensured Iran’s would be found if they had any. He has signed Kyoto, and sped scientific processes that might still help combat global warming.

He made a speech, moreover, that pacified a billion Muslims, and won a good many back from jihad and militant confrontation. It was thought by some to be the best speech ever made. It was only a speech, but so was the Sermon on the Mount. It actually changed the world in attitude, at least for a time, from one of suspicious intertribal belligerence to one of hopeful negotiation.

It is hard to think of a recent world figure who has done more for peace. George W. Bush started two catastrophic wars. Tony Blair went along with them. Condoleezza Rice parroted their founding lies. Bill Clinton stood by while 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered in a fortnight. Ronald Reagan bombed Gaddafi’s palace and killed his daughter. George H.W. Bush won a desert war but left Saddam in power. Reagan backed Saddam in his war with Iran. Jimmy Carter brokered a partial peace in the Middle East, but began with his crashing helicopters a confrontation with Iran that continues.

Margaret Thatcher invaded the Falklands and violently opposed the reunification of Germany. Olmert flattened Gaza. Sharon supervised massacres in Lebanon and provoked the Intifada. Netanyahu cancelled all Rabin had gained. Arafat (a Nobel Peace Prize winner) refused an honourable Clinton-brokered peace when offered it. Mushareff organised two coups and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. King Gyanendra assassinated his own entire family. Idi Amin fed some of his colleagues to the palace crocodile and ate his Minister for the Interior.

It is hard to see what world figure has done more for peace than Obama. John F. Kennedy, certainly, prevented a nuclear war. But that was forty-six years ago. Nelson Mandela achieved the vote for black South Africans. But his country, night by night in the cities, is now the most violent on earth. Fred Hollows did a lot for peace, and Princess Di, and Mohamed ElBaradei, and Medicins Sans Frontieres, and Red Cross, and Muhammad Yunus with his small loans to peasant women. But no such vivid candidate was up for it this year. Certainly not John Howard, or Alexander Downer. Or, to be absolutely ludicrous, Condoleezza Rice.

The Nobel Peace Prize, to put it bluntly, is a contest, and is almost always intertwined with public profile and public esteem. Obama is the most esteemed American since John F. Kennedy and like him is famed for great speeches and peaceful intentions. Kennedy had only a thousand days of true fame, and Obama about six hundred once you include the excitement attendant on his oratory and the first days of his campaign.

Given that Kennedy, who in his lifetime got no major legislation through, would certainly have got the Peace Prize had he lived another year or so, and seeing how Obama has done a fair bit thus far more than Kennedy, it is hard to see how the judges, this year, got it wrong.

If you can think of an alternative, a person who has changed the way the world thinks more lastingly, more eloquently, more memorably, can you say who it is?

The Madness Of Peter Van Onselen (11)

The intellectual deterioration of Peter Van Onselen is approaching the magnitude of a national calamity, like, say, the facelift of Paul Hogan, or the sex change of Christopher Pyne. Once a reputable historian, he is now a drooling oaf. He gave the debate to Abbott though an ‘undecided’ audience of 105 people, 75 of them Anglo-Celtic whitetrash tories over 59, opted 45 to 38 for the better debater and sleeker thinker, Kevin Rudd.

What is the cause of this beaming Murdoch urger’s mental shrivelling? It may be his infamous botched vasectomy, or a throat tumour brought on by promiscuous cunnilingus which has tiptoed into his brain, or an early brush with myxamatosis, common in his native state, which gives some sufferers, like him, the appearance of a jugged hare, that has latterly so diminished his capacity for connective thought. Whatever the cause, he is not well in his mind. He even alleged David Bradbury was ‘gone for all money’ and seemed genuinely shocked when Ed Husic bet him five hundred dollars on it.

As in all cults, the certitude grows as the evidence for the cleansing Armageddon dwindles. And so it is throughout Skynews. But PVO is more diseased than that. He may have Early Alzeimer’s, which is mortal.

It will be oddly gratifying, I think, to come in my mid-seventies to the Jehovah’s Witness section of Carracatta cemetery on a night of the full moon and piss on his grave.

After The Debate

8.15 pm

Rudd wiped the floor with his grey-faced havering querulous opponent, and an audience, picked by Galaxy whom Clive calls routinely corrupt, which favoured the Liberals 78-22, might just vote Labor, or nearly.

3.05 am

45 to 38. This is a remarkable outcome given the bias of Galaxy who managed to find in the west of Sydney no Tongans, Indians, Cambodians, Maoris or Vietnamese and few humans under fifty-nine for the ‘representative’ audience, which featured one ferocious young Turramurra blonde so keen to expose Kevin having plotted against Julia that she forgot to adjust her private school accent. It must mean Rudd won the argument, and did so impressively that fifteen rusted-on Howard Battlers were swayed.

This would normally mean easy victory next Saturday; but, of course, Murdoch’s further purpose, that of hiding the debate from those million Undecideds by putting it up on channels nobody much had access to, was also achieved. The headlines will emphasise not Rudd’s smashing triumph, but his half-conversion to protectionist thinking, and Abbott’s new zeal for not closing Medicare locals, and so on. And the Politics of Punishment (throw them out for what they did, not what we will do, punish them, punish them) will click in again.

6.20 am

Abbott had his lines rehearsed, and did not deviate from the Big Lie that Rudd spoke all night of only Abbott in a nasty, negative way (he was positive and sunny eighty-eight percent of the time), having adopted the Karl Rove trick of say-what-they-correctly-of-us-incorrectly-of-them for the rest of the campaign. Rudd is negative. He has no vision. He doesn’t care about you. Why would he? He’s mad. He thinks only of himself.

It may work. But something is happening out there. It is possible, just possible, no west-of-Sydney seat will change hands (Ed Husic’s confidence of Lindsay was very convincing), Robertson be lost and Bennelong and Macquarie gained, and three Queensland seats assured but three Tasmanian ones gone.

I note, in my usual way, that eighteen of my zingers were not used but I suppose their thinking (nothing combative, nothing dirty, keep it clean, stay with the argument) was researched, and thoughtful, and strategic, and sound.

6.50 am

And it well may work. We are at the tipping-point now anyway, and one more thing is needed (a Syrian war; a rumoured Abbott divorce; a sudden arrest of Col Allan for cheated polls; a policy that will save Tasmania) to push us over into triumph. And it may not come. And we may lose by one seat.

But I do not think so. Abbott’s brandishing of both Howard and Newman last Sunday, and Bishop’s bare-arse cabaret act, will deliver, surely, seats to us in Queensland, and, more startlingly, seats to Bob and Clive. Solomon will come with Rudd’s northern dream. Hasluck will come because of Abbott’s refusal to fund trains. And one seat, no more, will be lost in Victoria because Abbott thinks rich mothers’ milk more worthy of support — by billions — than the car-building industry …

We will see … We will see.

Lines For Kevin Rudd (17)

You wish to see the future of Australia? Look to the ruins of the Monorail.

Lines For Tony Abbott (10)

This is the worst government in our history.

And we agree with ninety-eight percent of what they’re doing.

The Low Swinish Character Of Jon Faine

Why not ask Clive Palmer about policy? Cunt?

Scott got your tongue?

The Economic Consequences of Clive

I note that Newspoll is not suing Clive Palmer for saying their polls are always rigged.

We can take that as an admission, and proceed with O’Shannessy’s arrest.

Election Advice From Henry IV, A Work Of Historical Drama By Edward De Vere

Purpose now
To lead out many to the Holy Land,
Lest rest and lying still might make them look
Into my state. Therefore, my Harry,
Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,
May waste the memory of the former days.
More would I, but my lungs are wasted so,
That strength of speech is utterly denied me.
How I came by the Crown, O God forgive;
And grant it may with thee in true peace live!

Willy Wanker And The Chocolate Factory

Tony Abbott’s foray into Stalinist Planning in Hobart, where tourists will be strongarmed through a pilgrimage that results in Caramello, will dismay a goodly number of his sado-Thatcherist colleagues. If Cadbury’s, they will grumble, why not Holden? What is going on here? Have you lost your MIND?

Comrade, he will say, if it worked for Castro and sugar cane on an island of similar size, it will work for chocolate here, trust me, trust me. Why have you called me COMRADE? they will shout. Mate, I meant, mate, he will whimper, or do I mean digger? I stand for diggership (continued p94)

How Labor Can Win Easily (9)

Run a lottery whose tickets are fifty cents and whose prizes are free car ferry tickets, five thousand of them, to and from Tasmania.

After a year make that twenty thousand.

Lines For Chris Bowen Today (2)

How can you say no woman will be worse off when nine million will? They won’t have their schoolkids’ money. They’ll pay more at Coles. They’ll get less from their super. They’ll get less from their shares.

There’ll be, sure, fifty thousand better off but nine million, count them, nine million punished for it.

How Labor Can Win Easily (8)

Work out — before Sunday — a way to make housing more affordable. It could go like this.

Build some inner-city flats and, choosing by lottery the co-buyers, sell a half-equity in each of them, the other half being government-owned. Buy up Deceased Estates and do the same thing. Pass a law that in two cities, Melbourne and Sydney, reduces rents for two years by thirty percent, and see how it goes.

The half-equity the government owns is capital. When the other half-owner sells and moves on, or dies, the government gets half of what it sells for.

Even if the new dwellings thus acquired number only ten thousand in the first two years, and the net money spent only two billion (costing each taxpayer 1.70 a week), the vivid intention will win a million votes.


Lines For Chris Bowen Today

In what decade will you be in surplus?

Will Joe rule out starving the ABC, then merging it with SBS and renaming it, and selling the SABS to Lachlan Murdoch or John Singleton? Will he say what ‘waste’ in the ABC means?

Is it 7.30? Is it AM? Is it Tony Jones?

Useful Acronyms (6)

JSPM, a title for David Speers -  the Junior Senator from Planet Murdoch.

The Clive And Bob Show (2)

I just played back the Palmer-Alberici for my wife. Palmer not only said ReachTEL, Galaxy and Newspoll were ‘rigged’, but he had himself in the past paid, in millions, for their rigging.

I ask the Attorney-General to investigate.

And (ho ho) the Queensland police.

Classic Ellis: The Right’s Most Secret Weapon, 2008

The current confidence crisis of the Australian Right has seen two leadership changes in a week, in Western Australia and Queensland, a mass meeting of Opposition Leaders in Melbourne to which Brendan Nelson was not invited, a rumour that their most talented parliamentarian Peter Costello might go to Macquarie Bank and their most shamed and shrunken ex-role model John Howard, unable to find work here, would be on the American lecture circuit soon, blithering about his success to the uninformed, and a poll showing the Queensland Nationals, once rulers of that State in their own right, on only 9 per cent.

Oblivion beckons, it seems.

The Right is not good at Opposition, and only ever cheats its way back into power when a prefabricated scandal (the Whitlam sacking, the Lang sacking, the SA Bank debacle, the Ralph Willis forged letter) momentarily loses Labor the voters’ esteem, and they stay there by gerrymander (Joh, Askin, Playford, Howard in ’98) and by campaigns that suggest Labor are weak, sexually deviant, economically incompetent or in the pay of criminal thugs: Kim Beazley ‘had no ticker’, Cheryl Kernot ‘seduced schoolboys’, Paul Keating loved high interest rates and recessions and Rudd owed everything to ‘union bosses’ and would pay them back in full by obediently ruining the economy.

They also when in government do something that has not yet, as far as I know, been much remarked upon. This is to pretend their political adversaries do not exist. Saddam was reported killed on the first day of Shock and Awe. Osama was on a dialysis machine in his cave (really?) and would not survive 2002. Fidel Castro had a ‘fatal disease’ in 1961, and was known to have died, or be on the brink of death, five times since 2004. Kim Beazley’s occasional memory loss (he got two people called McFarlane mixed up, and two people called Rove) was indicative of a possibly fatal brain condition. Kevin Rudd’s heart valve operation showed he would not long survive election to office. The WMD whistle-blower Andrew Wilkie was known to have had a ‘nervous collapse’. Boat-people who attempted suicide in Woomera were mere ‘troublemakers’ who were ‘behaving inappropriately’, ‘mentally unstable’, unfit to live in Australia; and so on.

Another way of doing this is to assert with confidence that the adversary is intellectually negligible and has no right therefore to be heard. Bob Brown is a ‘ratbag’ or an ‘eccentric’ or an ‘extremist’, though he’s never been wrong, to the best of my knowledge, about anything. David Marr, Robert Manne, Terry Lane and Phillip Adams are ‘bleeding hearts’ or ‘unreconstructed sixties lefties’ who, it is rumoured, drink cafe latte and do not understand any more the big picture or live in the real world. Bob Ellis is ‘the false prophet of Palm Beach’ because I foolishly predicted John Howard would lose his seat in 2001.

The Right’s best brain Gerard Henderson is particularly good at this. A lofty tone, a weary dismissal of this or that low foolish grub, let’s move on to serious matters please Fran, my time is valuable.

It’s a game the Right plays well. Bill Clinton’s first weeks in the White House were ‘organisationally chaotic’, they said, implying that after twelve years as Governor of Arkansas he couldn’t run an office and was therefore unready for power. John Kerry was not a war hero, he was a war criminal, and he contradicted himself all the time. Al Gore was ‘wooden’ in his lecturing style, and therefore unfit to be President.

Worst of all, though, of what they do is more subtle. They deny the Left a microphone. Letters more intelligent than Gerard’s columns, a few from me, are not printed. Miranda Devine is paid a quarter of a million dollars a year for her virginal Catholic vapidities, and Guy Rundle not invited to contribute. Because they know they can’t win any argument any more (there are no WMD, the globe is warming, Sol is paid too much, the IR laws are detested, John Howard has lost his seat) they refuse to engage, they turn off the microphone, they buy up the papers and fill them with Paddy McGuinness, Christopher Pearson, George Pell, and the airwaves with Jones and Price and Mitchell.

‘We must deny the terrorists,’ Margaret Thatcher said, ‘the oxygen of publicity.’ It was her most brilliant utterance, and after that, it became the Right’s first instinct, their first line of defence; seize the airwaves, and cleanse them of all heresy. Hire Bill O’Reilly. Call him ‘the no-spin zone’.

Unleashed is a demonstration of how much dissident opinion, gracefully expressed, has been spiked in the past by editors fearful of the sack by the Right’s gauleiters. It’s a measure too of the Howard gang’s worst and stupidest misjudgement. They could have sold off the ABC to an Alan Jones consortium in early 1998 when they were talking about it, and they didn’t.

They could have cut off the microphone, turned off the lights, turned up the sirens, got out the handcuffs and ruled in their preferred fascist way, harassing and sacking the ‘politically correct’ because of their ‘mental instability’ and locking them up without trial and throwing away the key. And they missed their moment. And it passed.

And now they are powerless, smashed and scrambling to retrieve the smallest crumb of comfort from any editorial. And history has moved on. And it’s they who seem intellectually negligible now. And not a little deranged.

Perhaps they always were.

The State Of Play (4)

Chris Palmer’s clash with Alberici and his confident calm assertion that he’d win fifteen seats raised, for me, the question of Two Party Preferred and why we still use it as a measure of anything.

For the Coalition is not one party but five, Liberal, National, LNP, NLP and Independent National; and ten parties sat in the last parliament, House and Senate — DLP, Green, Windsor-Oakeshott, Wilkieite, Crookite, Labor, Liberal, LNP, NLP, National — and the final electoral shakedown was not 50.1 to 49.9 at all. If Palmer and Katter between them win, say, five seats in Queensland and one in Western Australia, and Wilkie and Bandt and MacGowan win theirs, a two-party-preferred of 52 for the Coalition and 48 for Labor is worthless as a measure of who will govern and who will not.

A fairer calculation would be Three Party Preferred 45-12-43. The Liberal bluewash of a week ago seems less likely now. Abbott’s fracturing marriage, his cover-up (according to his biographer) of seminarian rape, his stout defence in court of a convicted pederast, and in parliament of a friend of pederasts, Hollingworth, his desertion of his pregnant bride and seventy-second stare, plus what may be henceforth called the War of Bishop’s Arse will work against him in the coming days.

And we will see what we shall see.

Anna And The King

Anyone keen on great television should watch Alberici with Clive Palmer on last night’s Lateline. She buzzed him like a wasp and strafed him like a Spitfire and he swatted her away, proving her wrong, dead wrong, about forty-three times. He is a politician as good as Nye Bevan and as assured of his facts as Bill Clinton and talks only a little faster than James Cagney. He should not be underrated. If he says he is going to win ten seats it may be so.

He interestingly said ReachTEL was corrupt and Newspoll and Galaxy were too. This has always been my contention. I hope somebody now — Dreyfus, Hawker, Beatty, Bradbury, Jason Li — will take this up and ask why only one in ninety do not hang up on robocalls, and why no-one under sixty-eight accepts them and only Anglo-Saxons do, and clap the untried Chris Lonergan, for one, in gaol.

He is suing Brough of course for calling him a liar, after providing certain evidence of that lofty scumbag’s criminality. His most devastating statistic — that Aboriginal infant mortality once you added in the ‘spontaneous’ foetal-alcohol miscarriages was the worst in the world — flummoxed Alberici who kept yelping and wittering and buzzing and strafing but he crushed her under his mighty statistical fist. If Aesop ever writes about the two of them he should call his new fable The Labybird And The Rhino.

This is a man to be reckoned with, and he and Katter may hold the balance of power in the House in ten days’ time.

Bill Peach

I worked with Bill Peach for perhaps a year and did not know him well. But I knew him. He was very much an Albury boy — a fine American film, The Last Picture Show, could have been shot, he once told me, with script unchanged, in his home town — and never ceased to be surprised by the national stature he so swiftly achieved by merely reading lines on television, and occasionally interviewing somebody.

He looked like a Kennedy; and his ordinary chirpy Australian voice, the first such accent brandished by an authoritave commentator — all the others were very BBC, like Michael Charlton, or, like John Laws, half-American — assured and embellished his boy-next-door popularity, and prefigured other iconic judgmental broadcasters with ordinary voices, like Chris Masters, George Negus, Mike Willesee, Fran Kelly. He wore his ordinariness lightly, and with, as it were, regal ease. He was good-looking but not vain about it, like the sleek and gorgeous Richard Carleton. He seemed both suburban and country town, never metropolitan. If ever there was a Middle Australia, he was it.

Yet he had eclectic tastes, in painting, music, poetry, and he was a keen Outback explorer, like Tony Windsor, whom he in part resembles. I lent him a Collected Ogden Nash, and it took twenty-five years for him to give it back. He travelled Australia over and over with his bus tours, much as Whitlam travelled the relics of Europe. He knew he who was, and where he came from. He was both comfortable in his skin, and shy of company, and played, as such men do, an adequate banjo.

The roll-call of dead famous friends I half-knew — Barrett, Hughes, Vidal, Enright, Hargreaves, Ian Richardson, Hayes Gordon; and others I knew better — Clayton, Hardy, Kaye, Ashbolt, Porteous, Hackforth-Jones, Margaret Whitlam — bank up in my mind and I am sorry, always sorry, for the conversations I did not seek or continue when I was in the rooms in which I will see them now no more. Of the Four Corners I worked in, Bob Moore, Frank Bennett, Bill Peach and Paul Gardiner are dead, three of them in their forties, Oxenburgh, Penlington and Patti Warne live, and should I suppose be drunk with at Bill’s obsequies.

And so it goes.

A Minor Matter

I am told Abbott’s marriage is breaking up, but Margie will stay with him till after the election. This accords with what I heard last year, that his affair with Peta Credlin, chattered of by every female in Parliament House, had broken his spouse’s spirit, and he had been sleeping on other people’s couches round Manly for six or seven weeks.

It accords with the absence of one of his daughters from his launch. It accords with his failure to sue me (again) for my many nasty revelations — of the pregnant girl he deserted and publicly shamed but did not visit when she was dying, of the homosexual rapes by priests he knew of but did not disclose for thirty years.

If anyone knows anything more of this — and it may be false; I myself was once so placed and my marriage endured — would they write in please, with firm evidence.

A Meeting At Wayne’s

Strange how things happen accidentally. At Wayne’s this morning I drank hot chocolate, ate an egg sandwich and read the papers. And, for the second time in two days, I conversed with Damian, a fifty-six-year-old former actor and stonemason. And, as it turned out, trainee priest.

He had been, he said, at St Barnabus’s, the Manly seminary, for three years just after Tony Abbott left, and he himself left just before Tony came back. I asked if there was any homosexual rape of minors there, as attested by Michael Duffy, Abbott’s biographer, in his uncontradicted book, on page 68. ‘Only seduction, as far as I knew,’ he said. ‘Only seduction.’

‘How old were the youngest … seducees?’

‘Eighteen. Never under eighteen.’

Damian went on to tell of two ‘good mates’, trainee priests there, who went on bush camping trips together. It became a joke how ‘close’ they were. One is a priest still, in a big country city. The other is a florist in Balmain, living with a gay actor.

We talked about religion, about Tony Blair’s conversion to Catholicism whie he was Prime Minister, and Damian, still a Catholic, understood that. ‘It’s cultural,’ he said. ‘Like coming home.’

When I ventured that Tony Abbott had been covering up acts of homosexual seduction — and, maybe worse — these thirty years, he did not doubt it. ‘We all are, mate,’ he said. ‘We all are.’

And so it goes.

Abbott’s Aristocracy Of Death

(First published by Independent Australia)

Abbott’s new idea of money for the Bali bombers’ victims and the families of the dead is a very Liberal one. Like the pregnancy money, it asserts an aristocracy: to an aristocracy of fecundity he now adds an aristocracy of atrocity.

No such money will come to the families shipwrecked off Christmas Island. None to the family of the boy shot dead in Oklahoma. None will come to the families of those killed, like my sister, in culpable road accidents. None will come to the families of those, like Bernie Banton, killed by asbestos, or the Kinglake and Marysville and Ash Wednesday fires.

The sufferings of these relatives and loved ones were no less. As indeed were the sufferings of those killed by Big Tobacco, Abbott’s longtime sponsor, and the tobacco magnate Rupert Murdoch, Abbott’s Lord Protector.

No, it will go instead to the happy, weeping winners of the Lottery of Atrocity, the ones that got a bigger headline. In this way he might now give money to the families of men killed and eaten in Snowtown, or the drug-running young men hanged or shot in Indonesia.

It is wrong to say Abbott does not understand the enormity of suffering attendant on every death, however unspectacular. He goes to funerals, he knows about that. He knows his parents will die soon. But it is true as well I think to say that he also knows, like John Howard, the political value of wrapping oneself in the flag and blowing bugles and orating by the graves of the glorious dead.

But of course, of course, being Abbott, as in the case of the Toorak-Turramurra Baby Binge, he has failed to see how unequal it is, and how unfair, in this the land of the Fair Go.

Take care how you die young, it tells you, for if you die young in the wrong circumstance you will get no money. We will decide in what circumstance you will more profitably die young. We are the makers of aristocracy. We are the Liberal Party.

We decide who are the winners, even in death.