A very odd couple for an alliance

Successive Australian Governments have revelled in having a close relationship with their US counterparts. At times it is has been pandering; at others it has resulted in engaging in illegal or unwinnable wars; and, it has all been cloaked in mutual admiration for being democratic in spirit and practice. read more

What does the Eden-Monaro result mean?

The Eden-Monaro by-election status quo ante result raises two interesting questions: why isn’t the Prime Minister’s high approval rating translating into an improved rating for the government; and, why oh why do the media keep up the same old tired approaches to covering political events?

The Morrison Government was very successful in initially framing the vote in terms of the 100 years since a government had won an opposition seat in a by-election. That set them up for another miracle claim if they won but also protected them against needing to explain away failure. read more

The legal-communication crisis tightrope

In 2010 the BP Deepwater Horizon huge and disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrated just about every possible lesson on how not to handle a crisis.

A CEO, Tony Hayward, who said dumb things which demonstrated a lack of empathy; technical people thrashing around in vain attempts to stop the flow; oil and gas lobbyists frantically working the corridors in Washington and Florida to prevent any tightening of the already loose controls on off-shore drilling; and, a post spill compensation plan which rewarded many of the unaffected and failed to compensate the affected – just as happened after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. read more

Three views on post COVID recovery options

Two reports on social and economic options for post-COVID-19 recovery, one from the Grattan Institute and one from Phil Ruthven, have recently been published. We can also assume there is a third, not yet public, in the form of a snap back and marketing plan lurking in the Prime Minister’s mind.

But the two which are already public largely focus on different priorities, except in some places in the Ruthven case, from any Morrison plan of returning to the policies which have given Australia a decade of slow growth, record debt levels even before COVID-19 and wage stagnation. read more

US belief in national exceptionalism collapses

Donald Trump promised he would make America great again. Instead he has presided over a significant collapse in belief in American exceptionalism.

While the rest of the western world (other than fellow travellers like Morrison and Howard) has always been conscious of what really makes the US exceptional – racism and limited democracy; constant waging of war; appalling health care for poorer citizens; worker exploitation; religious extremism; massive inequality; organising coups and assassinations in nations around the world; torture of prisoners; and the ignorance, hypocrisy and myopia which allows many citizens to deny it all. …and to add to that list of the exceptional, The Economist (20 June 2020) reported that the US is one of only 13 countries (along with Venezuela and Syria) where the maternal mortality rate increased between 2000 and 2017. read more

Google is not always the best answer

Google has become the default casual research tool for most people if a sometimes dangerous one for students now that AI plagiarism software is widely used in universities. Yet publishers are still issuing print editions of various reference texts and some of them are still of greater value and utility than online searches. read more

Why and how political parties are corrupted

Modern Australian political parties are more likely to be corrupted by ideological or religious fanatics and power seekers than by disputes about policy and how to get into government.

One of the ongoing problems with talking about what political parties do or don’t do is that it is easy to overlook problems seated deep in parties’ DNA and the contemporary political culture. read more

Who cares?

Recently the New Daily ran two Michael Pascoe pieces exposing a $2.5 billion regional grants program rort 25 times bigger than the sports rorts. Forwarding it on to someone elicited the surprising response: “Who cares?”

The person wasn’t being dismissive but rather making a comment on how the succession of scandals, incompetence and corruption in seven years of Liberal National Party Governments had caused only limited outrage and didn’t impact on their re-elections beyond narrowing their winning margin. read more

An insider’s view of how public relations really works