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Analysis and Comment (91)

Tony Abbott’s smiling now, but if his hold on the leadership weakens some say the Coalition should go back to Malcolm Turnbull. Tony Abbott’s smiling now, but if his hold on the leadership weakens some say the Coalition should go back to Malcolm Turnbull. AAP/Gary Schafer

Why spin trumps policy – until we build a new system of substance

Spin is widely seen as the scourge of contemporary politics. We rail at politicians who seem more intent on appearing to act, rather than coming up with and pushing through important policy decisions…
Some unhappy state Liberals are pointing to an unpopular federal government and its budget as the source of their electoral woes. Some unhappy state Liberals are pointing to an unpopular federal government and its budget as the source of their electoral woes. AAP/Joe Castro

Are voters set to stop giving first-term leaders a second chance?

In today’s politics, few governments are ever safe. Even freshly minted administrations now age at an incredible speed. The most casual observer will know how much trouble the Abbott government finds itself…
The government has manoeuvred itself into a position where its bluster has made it vulnerable to Clive Palmer’s bluster in the Senate. The government has manoeuvred itself into a position where its bluster has made it vulnerable to Clive Palmer’s bluster in the Senate. AAP/Lukas Coch

Early missteps show Abbott needs a plan B to deal with the Senate

Last week, television news presented grabs of former prime minister John Howard arriving in Canberra. It is unknown if Howard was there to share his wisdom with Coalition MPs on how to deal with minor…
Referring long-term issues to ‘depoliticised’ processes such as commissions of audit does not solve the challenges of political management for governments. Referring long-term issues to ‘depoliticised’ processes such as commissions of audit does not solve the challenges of political management for governments. AAP/Lukas Coch

To revive long-term democratic thinking we have to innovate

The 2014 federal budget was informed by the need to think long term and was accompanied by austerity rhetoric. Regardless of where you stand on the merit of austerity policy in affecting economic recovery…
By working collaboratively with the new crossbench senators, the government could expand its thinking and avoid being captured by a narrow worldview. By working collaboratively with the new crossbench senators, the government could expand its thinking and avoid being captured by a narrow worldview. AAP/Lukas Coch

The new Senate could be Abbott’s obstacle – or an opportunity

From today, Australia has a new-look Senate. Twelve new and 64 returning senators will take their seats on the red chamber’s plush leather benches for next week’s sitting. With them comes a major shift…
Not since 1993 has a government managed to arouse such sustained voter antagonism with its budget. Not since 1993 has a government managed to arouse such sustained voter antagonism with its budget. AAP/Alan Porritt

Five weeks on, deal-breaker for voters has shades of ‘93 budget

Five weeks after its release, treasurer Joe Hockey’s first federal budget is proving to be a remarkably durable political and media commodity, and not in ways that portend well for the Abbott government…
Higher-income Americans are much more likely to vote than the poor, which reduces political parties' incentive to tackle inequality. Higher-income Americans are much more likely to vote than the poor, which reduces political parties' incentive to tackle inequality. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Failing union of capitalism and democracy fuels rise in inequality

Recent weeks have been all about elections and broken promises: from early April to mid-May, half-a-billion Indians went to the polls in what many described an astonishing display of democratic prowess…
Joe Hockey’s budget speech forgot the age-old rules of rhetoric, which he needed to observe if he wanted to control ‘the narrative’. Joe Hockey’s budget speech forgot the age-old rules of rhetoric, which he needed to observe if he wanted to control ‘the narrative’. Lukas Coch/AAP

In government, a mantra is not enough to control the narrative

The annual federal budget speech is the one required speech of the Australian political calendar. And it goes all the way back to Federation. It’s Australia’s equivalent of the State of the Union address…
Opposition leader Bill Shorten attacked the government’s budget as ‘ideological’, but his own vision in the battle of ideas is far less clear. Opposition leader Bill Shorten attacked the government’s budget as ‘ideological’, but his own vision in the battle of ideas is far less clear. AAP/Alan Porritt

Shorten’s budget in reply: will it reshape voters' memories?

Opposition leader Bill Shorten was emphatic in his budget in reply that the Abbott government’s first budget was an “attack” on the Australian way of life. In his speech on the floor of parliament last…
Treasurer Joe Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann face a difficult sell for the Abbott government’s tough first budget. Treasurer Joe Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann face a difficult sell for the Abbott government’s tough first budget. AAP/Alan Porritt

Federal budget 2014: political experts react

The Abbott government is hoping an A$11.6 billion infrastructure spending package, combined with a $20 billion medical research fund, will help soften the blow of widespread tightening of health and welfare…
In the lead-up to the budget, Labor and its leader Bill Shorten seem strangely absent from debates about the purpose of government. In the lead-up to the budget, Labor and its leader Bill Shorten seem strangely absent from debates about the purpose of government. AAP/Paul Miller

Shorten, Abbott and the trap of being a negative opposition

Bill Shorten has clearly taken Tony Abbott as his role model as opposition leader. Shorten’s refrain of “broken promises” and “no more taxes” has an eerie ring of familiarity to it, and risks turning the…
The Australian Labor Party is constantly faced with an expectation to be true to traditional ‘Labor values’ but to then adapt them to a changing Australia. The Australian Labor Party is constantly faced with an expectation to be true to traditional ‘Labor values’ but to then adapt them to a changing Australia. AAP/Daniel Munoz

Identity crisis: who does the Australian Labor Party represent?

In the wake of the ALP’s poor result in the recent Western Australia Senate election, The Conversation is publishing a series of articles looking at the party’s brand, organisation and future prospects…
Clive Palmer was criticised by Tony Abbott for ‘trying to buy seats’ in federal parliament through a huge advertising spend at the recent WA Senate election. Clive Palmer was criticised by Tony Abbott for ‘trying to buy seats’ in federal parliament through a huge advertising spend at the recent WA Senate election. AAP/Dave Hunt

The WA Senate election and the rise of money in Australian politics

The issue of political party spending featured prominently during the Western Australian Senate re-election in a manner that we are rarely, if at all, accustomed to in Australian politics. This time, it…
Bob Carr ‘obviously revelled being back in the middle of the action’ in his 18 months as foreign minister, says former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans. Bob Carr ‘obviously revelled being back in the middle of the action’ in his 18 months as foreign minister, says former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans. AAP/Alan Porritt

Gareth Evans: ‘Bob learned early self-deprecation is for dummies’

Bob Carr took on the job of Australian foreign minister believing, as he doesn’t hesitate to tell us in his Diary of a Foreign Minister, that it was highly unlikely that he would be there for very long…
Bob Carr, pictured at the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, has set off a debate with his criticism of the pro-Israel lobby’s influence. Bob Carr, pictured at the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, has set off a debate with his criticism of the pro-Israel lobby’s influence. EPA/Abir Sultan

Pro-Israel lobby stronger than it admits, weaker than Carr claims

Former foreign minister Bob Carr’s stunning claims about the pro-Israel lobby influence raise timely questions about its advocacy in Australian politics. What is the lobby Carr refers to? And how significant…
Arthur Sinodinos stepped aside as a minister in the Abbott government in the lead-up to his appearance today at the ICAC inquiry. Arthur Sinodinos stepped aside as a minister in the Abbott government in the lead-up to his appearance today at the ICAC inquiry. AAP/Daniel Munoz

Parties, money and their masters: who do office holders serve?

It’s hard not to be disturbed by the allegations emerging from the inquiry into Australian Water Holdings (AWH) by New South Wales' Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The proceedings have…
Speaker Bronwyn Bishop faces an uphill battle to gain the respect of political observers and opposition MPs. Speaker Bronwyn Bishop faces an uphill battle to gain the respect of political observers and opposition MPs. AAP/Alan Porritt

Bronwyn Bishop and the history of speaker independence

Seven Speakers of the British House of Commons were executed by beheading between 1394 and 1535. While Bronwyn Bishop, the current Speaker of Australia’s House of Representatives, is unlikely to face this…
Issues around ‘who gets what’ in Australia may soon become much more central to political debate than under previous governments. Issues around ‘who gets what’ in Australia may soon become much more central to political debate than under previous governments. AAP/Alan Porritt

Denial to celebration: political responses to class in Australia

The Conversation is running a series, Class in Australia, to identify, illuminate and debate its many manifestations. Here, Geoffrey Robinson traces the history of Australian political debate on class…
Top of the pops: Peter Costello led the chorus of “Labor’s debt and deficit” long before and throughout the Coalition’s dozen years in office. Top of the pops: Peter Costello led the chorus of “Labor’s debt and deficit” long before and throughout the Coalition’s dozen years in office. AAP/Alan Porritt

When will Labor get its own ‘infinite bottles of pop’ song?

Have you heard this song? Infinite bottles of pop on the wall, Infinite bottles of pop, Take one down, Share it around, Infinite bottles of pop on the wall. It’s the 21st-century version of “ten green…
After federal and state tensions between Labor and Greens, it’s unlikely that we’ll again see a formal alliance between the two parties any time soon. After federal and state tensions between Labor and Greens, it’s unlikely that we’ll again see a formal alliance between the two parties any time soon. AAP/Alan Porritt

Labor and the Greens: on again, off again, never again?

When sitting down to dinner late last month, Tasmanian voters were given the clearest insight yet into the shape of their island’s Labor-Greens relations. In a remarkably blunt piece of campaigning ahead…
Former prime minister Paul Keating argued governments need to use their political capital to drive reform. But this is becoming increasingly difficult in a poll-driven political climate. Former prime minister Paul Keating argued governments need to use their political capital to drive reform. But this is becoming increasingly difficult in a poll-driven political climate. AAP/Paul Miller

Keating, reform and the difficult notion of ‘political capital’

Throughout Keating, a series of interviews that finished airing on the ABC earlier this month, the former prime minister makes reference to the notion of political capital in relation to the Labor government…
Are fixed term elections the answer to the AEC’s problems, as identified in the report into the handling of the ballot papers in Western Australia? Are fixed term elections the answer to the AEC’s problems, as identified in the report into the handling of the ballot papers in Western Australia? AAP/Lukas Coch

WA Senate ballot farce: fix the date, fix the problems

The release of Mick Keelty’s report on the missing Western Australian Senate ballot papers from the 2013 federal election gives us an unusually in-depth look at how the Australian Electoral Commission…
Tony Abbott’s government has lacked the assured certainty the Coalition showed in winning office. Tony Abbott’s government has lacked the assured certainty the Coalition showed in winning office. AAP/Stefan Postles

What’s going on with the Abbott government?

For every opposition, the prospect of taking office – attaining politics’ ultimate prize, often after years of hard grind – can be relied upon to drown out the little noises of self-doubt and self-criticism…
The full story of the Keating years – and their aftermath – is both far more complex and contentious than the man himself would have us believe in his ABC interviews. The full story of the Keating years – and their aftermath – is both far more complex and contentious than the man himself would have us believe in his ABC interviews. AAP/David Crosling

Keating: interviews for the true believers

The ABC’s four-part series of interviews with Paul Keating, which has just finished airing, displayed the former prime minister and treasurer in all his complexity, both at his best and at his worst. This…
Kevin Rudd leaves parliament with his future as uncertain as his legacy. Kevin Rudd leaves parliament with his future as uncertain as his legacy. AAP/Daniel Munoz

The Rudd legacy: we need to talk about Kevin … or do we?

Should we care about Kevin Rudd’s legacy? Will anyone care? Australian political historians gaze with envy at the United States, where past presidents are revered and books about the “founding fathers…
Voters in Griffith will soon be forced back to the polls – only this time, there’ll be no Kevin Rudd. Who will win the south Brisbane seat? Voters in Griffith will soon be forced back to the polls – only this time, there’ll be no Kevin Rudd. Who will win the south Brisbane seat? Liz Minchin

Rudd’s poor timing will likely cost ALP in Griffith

Kevin Rudd’s final speech in parliament last night was delivered in his customary egocentric fashion. There will be many think pieces on Rudd’s career and his legacy, but perhaps the more interesting immediate…
Tony Abbott was a formidable opposition leader but how effective will the Abbott-led Coalition be in government? Tony Abbott was a formidable opposition leader but how effective will the Abbott-led Coalition be in government? AAP Image/Joe Castro

Ready, aim, fire! Australia’s new parliament begins

Just over two months ago Tony Abbott led the Coalition to victory and became Australia’s 28th prime minister. When the new parliament begins today, his side will sit on the government benches for the first…
There is no better example of the debasement of Australian political discourse and process than that which has surrounded action on climate change. There is no better example of the debasement of Australian political discourse and process than that which has surrounded action on climate change. AAP/Alan Porritt

A values deficit, toxic politics, and the climate change debacle

We live in an age of unprecedented prosperity, in which the major influences have been secularism, materialism, utilitarianism, urbanisation, remoteness from nature, institutional failure (especially in…
The business community may try to get as much out of Tony Abbott as possible, but do they recognise the clear differences between a CEO and a prime minister? The business community may try to get as much out of Tony Abbott as possible, but do they recognise the clear differences between a CEO and a prime minister? AAP/Bianca De Marchi

Beware PM, CEOs don’t get politics

The recent demands of business leaders for prime minister Tony Abbott to immediately reform the industrial relations system, rather than wait three years, should serve as yet another reminder of why corporate…
What do we know so far of the policy positions of new opposition leader Bill Shorten? What do we know so far of the policy positions of new opposition leader Bill Shorten? AAP/Lukas Coch

Shorten’s ‘New Labor’: policy and the challenges of leadership

In his pitch to Labor’s rank and file for the right to lead the federal parliamentary party, Bill Shorten declared that his aim - should he become prime minister - would be to serve on behalf of: … the…
All about me: but how does the level of personality in Australian politics stack up globally? All about me: but how does the level of personality in Australian politics stack up globally? AAP/Lukas Coch

Here’s a thought: the election could be more about personality

Up until Sunday’s debate, we heard grumbles that this election is too personality-focused. The beef was that the last few months in political news had been consumed by conflict and drama. “MPs” are “Media…
The last few years in Australian politics have seen the rise of a new definition of ‘lying’. The last few years in Australian politics have seen the rise of a new definition of ‘lying’. AAP/Lukas Coch

Redefining the lie: politics and porkies

Lie (v.) (1) To make a politically unpopular statement; (2) [retrospectively applied] To make a statement which appears inconsistent with a more recent statement, indicating that its maker has changed…
Prime minister Kevin Rudd has already expressed his disgust at ICAC’s findings, but will its stench affect the upcoming federal campaign? Prime minister Kevin Rudd has already expressed his disgust at ICAC’s findings, but will its stench affect the upcoming federal campaign? AAP/Dean Lewins

‘Sugar Ray’ Rudd won’t be stopped by ICAC

“ICAC, SHMY-CAC. My name is Kevin, I’m from Queensland and I’m here to help.” I know it’s not quite what the prime minister would say: I have taken a little licence with his words from 2007. But I think…
Caricatures of today’s politicians can be found anywhere from rallies to mainstream newspapers. Caricatures of today’s politicians can be found anywhere from rallies to mainstream newspapers. AAP/Miles Godfrey

A true reflection? How caricatures can help or hinder politicians

In the current vicious political climate, caricatures in our daily press have become more savage. Perhaps no politician has experienced this more in recent times than former prime minister Julia Gillard…
Kevin Rudd has been working hard to neutralise key policy issues - such as asylum seekers - before announcing the date for the federal election. Kevin Rudd has been working hard to neutralise key policy issues - such as asylum seekers - before announcing the date for the federal election. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Tick, tick, tick … is Kevin Rudd setting the election timer?

It has been almost one month since Kevin Rudd returned to The Lodge. Rudd was charged with the responsibility of making Labor competitive in the upcoming election. But what do his actions since taking…
Treasurer Chris Bowen needs voters to put a 1 next to his party on the ballot in the upcoming election. Will his new book help win the political argument? Treasurer Chris Bowen needs voters to put a 1 next to his party on the ballot in the upcoming election. Will his new book help win the political argument? AAP/Dean Lewins

Chris Bowen’s plan to win hearts and minds and save Labor

Treasurer Chris Bowen’s new blueprint for Labor party reform Hearts and Minds gives us the easy listening version of Paul Keating, just as Tony Abbott offers us the same for John Howard. The book provides…
The Democratic Labor Party may have had its heyday decades ago, but Senator John Madigan may soon hold the balance of power and have enormous influence over Australian life. The Democratic Labor Party may have had its heyday decades ago, but Senator John Madigan may soon hold the balance of power and have enormous influence over Australian life. AAP/Julian Smith

“I don’t want to see the ALP decimated” - In Conversation with Senator John Madigan

When the Democratic Labor Party’s John Madigan won the sixth Victorian Senate seat at the 2010 election, it appeared a tear in the time space continuum had somehow briefly transported politics back to…
DLP senator John Madigan believes we need to have a ‘public interest test’ when determining levels of foreign investment in Australia. DLP senator John Madigan believes we need to have a ‘public interest test’ when determining levels of foreign investment in Australia. AAP/Alan Porritt

Senator John Madigan In Conversation - full transcript

Geoffrey Robinson: John, you’re the first DLP [Democratic Labor Party] senator elected for a long time from Victoria. In your first speech you talked about being elected to parliament as surreal. Three…
What is life like inside the office of MPs who hold the balance of power, such as retiring independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor? What is life like inside the office of MPs who hold the balance of power, such as retiring independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor? AAP/Alan Porritt

The retiring independents: looking inside the ‘balance of power’

With the end of each parliament there inevitably comes a series of announcements that particular parliamentarians will not be contesting the next election. Usually, these decisions are justified by the…
This election is a serious choice about the type of society we want to become. This election is a serious choice about the type of society we want to become. AAP

Creating space for the leadership Australia needs

In a recent lecture, Ross Garnaut argued that after decades of prosperity, Australians must now choose between two radically different approaches to our problems. The choice is between a “business as usual…
Is the decision to re-install Kevin Rudd as leader of the ALP and of the country an affront to Australian democracy? Is the decision to re-install Kevin Rudd as leader of the ALP and of the country an affront to Australian democracy? AAP/Alan Porritt

Once bitten, twice shy: Labor again betrays the Australian people

The decision by the Labor caucus to minimise the electoral damage in September and return Kevin Rudd to the party leadership was short-sighted and ultimately self-destructive. More importantly, it operated…
Ultimately, it was Julia Gillard’s failure to find a ‘narrative’ to weave her policies together that cost her the Labor leadership to a more opportunistic Kevin Rudd. Ultimately, it was Julia Gillard’s failure to find a ‘narrative’ to weave her policies together that cost her the Labor leadership to a more opportunistic Kevin Rudd. AAP/Alan Porritt

Rudd’s return marks the victory of opportunist politics

The morning Julia Gillard was deposed as Australia’s prime minister many of the British newspapers carried a picture of her knitting a present for the future heir to the British (and presumably) Australian…
Now that he’s deposed Julia Gillard, what lies ahead for Kevin Rudd in the election campaign? Now that he’s deposed Julia Gillard, what lies ahead for Kevin Rudd in the election campaign? Alan Porritt / AAP

Rudd brings Labor disaster relief, hopes of better

The federal Labor caucus has decided to put aside its disdain for former leader Kevin Rudd and return him to the Labor leadership. The reason for this is simple: with Julia Gillard as leader, Labor was…
Kevin Rudd returns to be Prime Minister, but where did the Gillard government go wrong? Kevin Rudd returns to be Prime Minister, but where did the Gillard government go wrong? Lukas Coch / AAP

Rudd returns, but where did it go so wrong for Gillard?

Kevin Rudd has made a Lazarus-like return to the prime ministership after winning a party room ballot this evening by a vote of 57-45. Rudd, who led the party to success at the 2007 election, replaces…
Will history judge Julia Gillard favourably on her legislative record as prime minister? Will history judge Julia Gillard favourably on her legislative record as prime minister? AAP/Alan Porritt

Will history remember Gillard’s three years favourably?

Julia Gillard has been a reasonably effective politician, but the political paradigm within which she has worked is approaching the end of its life. She has been aware of this but has struggled to develop…
In the three years since she took office, has Julia Gillard been able to reconcile her gender and position as prime minister? In the three years since she took office, has Julia Gillard been able to reconcile her gender and position as prime minister? AAP/Mick Tsikas

Is Australia still not ready for a female prime minister?

On June 24, 2010, Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, was sworn into office by Australia’s first female governor-general, Quentin Bryce. The iconic photographs of that day spoke of…
New legislation, if passed next week, will be an important step towards better protection for whistelblowers. New legislation, if passed next week, will be an important step towards better protection for whistelblowers. Whistle image from www.shutterstock.com

Whistleblowing law now an acid test for federal politicians

After six different parliamentary committees over 20 years, and commitments from all sides of politics, the test is now on for the final week of the current federal parliament. Federal leaders have certainly…
The federal government has suspended debate on a number of bills in the final parliamentary sitting week before the election. The federal government has suspended debate on a number of bills in the final parliamentary sitting week before the election. AAP/Lukas Coch

Is the government gagging the referendum debate?

The federal government has announced that it will gag debate on 53 bills in the Senate next week. One of them, the proposed constitutional amendment on the recognition of local government, is to be limited…
If Kevin Rudd replaces Julia Gillard as Labor leader next week, constitutional conventions dictate that he may not necessarily become prime minister again. If Kevin Rudd replaces Julia Gillard as Labor leader next week, constitutional conventions dictate that he may not necessarily become prime minister again. AAP/Julian Smith

An end to the Rudd-Gillard battle?

If some reports are to be believed, Kevin Rudd will replace Julia Gillard as leader of the ALP and become prime minister again by the end of next week. This raises questions about the political and constitutional…
The impending disaster for Julia Gillard’s government at the federal election could also spell trouble for the hopes of the Greens in the Senate. The impending disaster for Julia Gillard’s government at the federal election could also spell trouble for the hopes of the Greens in the Senate. AAP/Alan Porritt

Labor’s unpopularity could be a disaster for the Greens in the Senate too

The publicly available opinion polls are in agreement about the fate of the Labor government. A landslide defeat in the House of Representatives is looming, the magnitude of which might place Julia Gillard…
How central should Julia Gillard’s identity as a woman be in political discourse? How central should Julia Gillard’s identity as a woman be in political discourse? AAP/Lukas Coch

Gillard, identity and the limits of political discourse

Politics and identity have collided with unusual force in Australian politics over the past year, reaching a crescendo in the last week. Beginning with Julia Gillard’s “misogyny speech” to parliament…
Backlash over the seemingly omnipresence of bookmakers advertising during sport - such as Tom Waterhouse - prompted a government ban on ads in certain situations. Backlash over the seemingly omnipresence of bookmakers advertising during sport - such as Tom Waterhouse - prompted a government ban on ads in certain situations. AAP/Paul Miller

Live sports odds ban: does the government’s plan go far enough?

What are the odds? In the face of public pressure, prime minister Julia Gillard has given bookmakers an ultimatum regarding sporting events. If the bookies do not agree to a ban on gambling promotion during…
Will the push for constitutional recognition of local government actually improve Australia’s system of government? Will the push for constitutional recognition of local government actually improve Australia’s system of government? AAP/Alan Porritt

The perils of constitutional recognition of local government

Is this the referendum we don’t need to hold? And how many Australians truly understand the potential impact of their actions when they vote in referendum of the constitutional recognition of local government…
Opposition leader Tony Abbott plans to move a motion of no confidence in the government - but he faces constitutional and conventional hurdles in his attempts to hold an early election. Opposition leader Tony Abbott plans to move a motion of no confidence in the government - but he faces constitutional and conventional hurdles in his attempts to hold an early election. AAP/Lukas Coch

Would a no confidence vote in Julia Gillard create even more confusion in Canberra?

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has confirmed he plans to move a motion of no confidence against Julia Gillard’s government in the next two parliamentary sitting weeks. But in the event a no confidence motion…
Defence minister Stephen Smith, prime minister Julia Gillard and Commander of Defence Forces David Hurley at the launch of the Defence White Paper. Defence minister Stephen Smith, prime minister Julia Gillard and Commander of Defence Forces David Hurley at the launch of the Defence White Paper. AAP/Lukas Coch

Defence White Paper: super-sizing Australia’s strategic geography for the Asian Century

Australia’s new Defence White Paper reflects a revolution in the way in which Australia thinks about its strategic geography. The “Indo-Pacific” has now decisively displaced the “Asia-Pacific” as defence…
Soon after revealing his plans to build a replica Titanic, Clive Palmer has set his sights on becoming Australian Prime Minister. Soon after revealing his plans to build a replica Titanic, Clive Palmer has set his sights on becoming Australian Prime Minister. EPA/Jason Szenes

Titanic ambitions: Palmer’s federal push shouldn’t be lightly dismissed

Queensland has a habit of raising the eyebrows of our southern cousins when it comes to politics “our way”. Visits to friends and family down south always have required explanations about Joh Bjelke-Petersen…
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the real world current Prime Minister of Denmark, has said that TV drama Borgen has been good for Danish politics. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the real world current Prime Minister of Denmark, has said that TV drama Borgen has been good for Danish politics. EPA/Rungroj Yongrit

Politics is about compromise: a guide to the SBS drama Borgen

Anyone in Australia who has struggled with the political repercussions of a federal minority government should spare a thought for the Danes: they operate in a parliamentary system where minority government…
Will free-marketeers like the IPA be disappointed by an Abbott government? Will free-marketeers like the IPA be disappointed by an Abbott government? AAP/Lukas Coch

A big fat yes? Or will Tony Abbott leave the IPA crying at the altar?

In August 2012 the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which bills itself as “Australia’s leading free market think tank,” urged opposition leader Tony Abbott to “be like Gough” in the IPA Review, proposing…
Labor has traditionally had a strong support among female voters, but this could be set to change in 2013. Labor has traditionally had a strong support among female voters, but this could be set to change in 2013. AAP/Lukas Coch

Male and female voters: will there be a ‘gender gap’ in 2013?

A “gender dimension” now envelopes national politics unlike anything we have observed in the past. Julia Gillard’s popular but arguably unfair accusation that opposition leader Tony Abbott is a misogynist…
Mark Dreyfus has put forward a new bill to protect whistlerblowers, but it falls short in several areas. Mark Dreyfus has put forward a new bill to protect whistlerblowers, but it falls short in several areas. AAP/Alan Porritt

Keeping us honest: protecting whistleblowers

Australia has been fortunate enough to see mostly honest governments. We’ve experienced neither the corruption of 1950s Italy nor the tyranny of 1970s Brazil. We are not, however, without our issues: give…
The sensible thing for Tony Abbott to do would be make himself as small a target as possible as the election draws near - but sooner or later he will need to put forward some detailed policies. The sensible thing for Tony Abbott to do would be make himself as small a target as possible as the election draws near - but sooner or later he will need to put forward some detailed policies. AAP/Lukas Coch

Never mind the leadership, what about the Opposition?

When Tony Abbott became leader of the Liberal Party by just one vote in December 2009 he saved the Liberal Party and non-Labor cause nationally from annihilation. Kevin Rudd as prime minister was riding…
After Conroy’s media reforms failed to find any standing, where does media regulation go from here? After Conroy’s media reforms failed to find any standing, where does media regulation go from here? AAP/Alan Porritt

Media reforms a historic opportunity missed

To get an idea of how big an opportunity the federal government missed with its shambolic attempt at media reform, consider this: the last federal minister to achieve any substantive reform of media self-regulation…
Are leadership battles in Australian politics a sign of party difference or unity? Or is it something altogether different? Are leadership battles in Australian politics a sign of party difference or unity? Or is it something altogether different? AAP/Lukas Coch

Weightless politics and the Australian tendency to leadercide

In a scene in the famous 90s sitcom Seinfeld, George describes to Jerry an idea for a show about nothing. After the events of the last days and weeks in federal and state politics, we can ask whether Australian…
Julia Gillard emerges triumphant after challenging Kevin Rudd for the leadership in 2010. She has survived two subsequent threats to her leadership since. Is this the new normal for Australian politics? Julia Gillard emerges triumphant after challenging Kevin Rudd for the leadership in 2010. She has survived two subsequent threats to her leadership since. Is this the new normal for Australian politics? AAP/Alan Porritt

Julia Gillard may have won the vote, but the ALP remains desperately dysfunctional

Julia Gillard lives to fight another day, having being reelected unopposed at this afternoon’s caucus meeting. While Rudd declared he would not nominate for the leadership this time, the destablisation…
The election is Tony Abbott’s to lose. But will weakness with many female voters cost him and will his record come to haunt him on issues like abortion? The election is Tony Abbott’s to lose. But will weakness with many female voters cost him and will his record come to haunt him on issues like abortion? AAP/Lukas Coch

Re-inventing Tony: why Abbott’s attempt to woo women doesn’t bear scrutiny

Tony Abbott is trying to improve his image with many women. But as I found out when I met him recently, no makeover can erase his track record of public statements and actions, especially on issues of…
The ongoing leadership tensions inside the Labor government are only damaging the party’s long term health. The ongoing leadership tensions inside the Labor government are only damaging the party’s long term health. AAP/Julian Smith

In order to win the war, Labor must be prepared to lose the battle

There’s something a little thrilling about a bit of leadership biffo. However, when such talk shows little sign of abatement, as it has in respect to Gillard’s leadership of the ALP, then the thrill factor…
Has Ted Baillieu joined Kevin Rudd in the list of Australian political leaders defenestrated by their own side? Has Ted Baillieu joined Kevin Rudd in the list of Australian political leaders defenestrated by their own side? AAP/Alan Porritt

Loathing democracy: knifing the Australian electorate’s wishes

The current wars being waged in Australian electoral politics tend to be over what rights are left to Australian voters regarding their leaders. The ambush of Kevin Rudd by supporters of the current Prime…
Julia Gillard should make her diary of appointments and visits public according to the Information Commissioner. Julia Gillard should make her diary of appointments and visits public according to the Information Commissioner. AAP/Dave Hunt

Gillard’s diaries are a matter of public interest

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been encouraged to be more open and accountable to the Australian public by releasing her official meeting diary. Although Gillard is not legally required to, Freedom of…
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek during Question Time at Parliament House in 2012. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek during Question Time at Parliament House in 2012. Penny Bradfield/AAP

Health reform: turning a deaf ear to the High Court and a blind eye to the Constitution

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek have announced they will return health payments to Victoria that had previously been cut from its allocation under the National Health Reform…
Australian Greens leader Senator Christine Milne called for an end to the ALP and Greens alliance during a National Press Club speech. Australian Greens leader Senator Christine Milne called for an end to the ALP and Greens alliance during a National Press Club speech. Alan Porritt/AAP

The end of the ALP/Green alliance is all sound and fury

The termination of the ALP/Green alliance has been characterised by some sections of the media and the commentariat as a “divorce”. The language is interesting because it implies that there was genuine…
We need to reduce waste and inefficiency in the health system. We need to reduce waste and inefficiency in the health system. Image from shutterstock.com

Forget the blame game, let’s focus on making health dollars go further

The latest round of the health blame game is in full swing, with service cuts to Victorian hospitals, and neither the state nor federal government taking responsibility. Commonwealth and Victorian health…
Nicola Roxon, Julia Gillard and Chris Evans leave the stage after the press conference announcing the departure of the two former senior ministers. Nicola Roxon, Julia Gillard and Chris Evans leave the stage after the press conference announcing the departure of the two former senior ministers. AAP/Alan Porritt

Would Roxon and Evans have resigned if Labor had greater purpose?

Much of the commentary surrounding the resignations of Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans has interpreted the departures as yet another episode in the neverending disaster that is the Rudd-Gillard government…
Former Higher Education Minister Chris Evans announces his resignation in Canberra. Former Higher Education Minister Chris Evans announces his resignation in Canberra. AAP/Alan Porrit

Roxon and Evans resign - much ado about nothing

The Gillard government has lost two important figures that contributed much to the Labor administration. Chris Evans, leader of the party in the Senate, and Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, both announced…
The Commonwealth and Victorian governments blame each other for hospital budget cuts. The Commonwealth and Victorian governments blame each other for hospital budget cuts. Image from shutterstock.com

Blame game: cutting through the spin on Victoria’s hospital funding cuts

As Victorian hospitals have announced bed closures, job losses and elective surgery delays over the past six weeks, cuts to health service budgets look set to significantly affect patient care in the state…
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange wants to establish a political party and run for the Senate, but his success will depend on preference deals. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange wants to establish a political party and run for the Senate, but his success will depend on preference deals. AAP

Vote 1 Wikileaks: Senator Julian Assange … or maybe not

Julian Assange has confirmed he intends to have a more “hands-on” influence in the political realm by forming a new WikiLeaks party. The WikiLeaks founder flagged his desire to stand for the Senate earlier…
Federal member for Fremantle Melissa Parke has attracted a national profile with her left wing views in recent years. Federal member for Fremantle Melissa Parke has attracted a national profile with her left wing views in recent years. Office of Melissa Parke MP

In Conversation: Greens are not our enemy, says Labor’s Melissa Parke

Labor’s Melissa Parke probably won’t be too popular with rightwing powerbrokers like Paul Howes with her view that the Greens are a fellow progressive party rather than an insidious enemy to be confronted…
Has the time come for Paul Keating to put the geo-political cue in the rack? Has the time come for Paul Keating to put the geo-political cue in the rack? AAP Image/Guy Wilmot

Doing us slowly: why Paul Keating’s legacy is killing the current government

In charting how Australia has influence in its foreign policy, the figure of Paul John Keating rightly looms large. Yet his recent speech is less effective as a call for greater independence from the USA…
Julia Gillard meets the govenor general after winning the 2010 election. Can she repeat the trick next year? Julia Gillard meets the govenor general after winning the 2010 election. Can she repeat the trick next year? AAP/David Foote

Sweetest of them all: how Julia Gillard won the 2013 election

From the time the carbon tax policy was unveiled in February 2011 until its implementation on July 1, the unchallenged consensus of the Canberra press gallery was that a Tony Abbott prime ministership…
Maxine McKew arrives to vote in the 2010 federal election. Maxine McKew arrives to vote in the 2010 federal election. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Rudd as ‘swift and bold in his vision as Whitlam’ says McKew

The Rudd government came to power in 2007 with the reforming zeal of Gough Whitlam’s team more than three decades before, but was ultimately betrayed by a self-serving and brutal ALP machine according…
Prime Minister Julia Gillard in parliament - has the Slipper resignation cost her political momentum? Prime Minister Julia Gillard in parliament - has the Slipper resignation cost her political momentum? AAP/Alan Porritt

Sinking the Slipper: Labor is its own worst enemy

The Gillard government could have been forgiven for believing an electoral renaissance was underway. But just as it appeared the prime minister was going to cruise to the end of the year, the government…
Tony Abbott greets Liberal MP Kelly O'Dwyer before an event in Melbourne. Does the Opposition Leader have an issue with women? Tony Abbott greets Liberal MP Kelly O'Dwyer before an event in Melbourne. Does the Opposition Leader have an issue with women? AAP/David Crosling

Tony Abbott and women: how both sides have played the gender card

In a discussion with ABC journalist Emma Alberici on Lateline last week, Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer defended Tony Abbott from attacks by Labor ministers who criticised his attitudes towards women. In the…
Broadcaster Alan Jones has been embroiled in a controversy over remarks he made on Julia Gillard’s late father. Broadcaster Alan Jones has been embroiled in a controversy over remarks he made on Julia Gillard’s late father. AAP/Warren Clarke

Gillard takes a calculated risk in leaving Alan Jones adrift

The interesting part about this weekend’s kerfuffle over Alan Jones’ comments about the late John Gillard is not what Jones said. After all, we’ve known about his combative - some would say offensive…
Is Tony Abbott’s blokey personality at risk of costing him votes among women? Is Tony Abbott’s blokey personality at risk of costing him votes among women? AAP

Does Tony Abbott have a problem with women? Labor certainly hopes to give him one

The Labor government appears to have a spring in its step. After months of poor polls and difficulty passing legislation, things now seem to be going Labor’s way. In recent weeks, the government has been…
Crossbenchers Tony Windsor and Rob Oakleshott arrive at a press conference on asylum seekers. Crossbenchers Tony Windsor and Rob Oakleshott arrive at a press conference on asylum seekers. AAP/Alan Porrit

Integrity for all: who is keeping the crossbenchers honest?

It is fair to say that, in the eyes of the Australian public at least, the view of our politicians is currently at a very low ebb. The tone of the Australian Parliament is at its most toxic for a generation…
Craig Emerson may be well regarded as Trade Minister, but he can’t sing. Craig Emerson may be well regarded as Trade Minister, but he can’t sing. AAP/Lukas Coch

Singing, dancing politicians: don’t do it, unless you can

It is a clear and incontrovertible case for the Deparment of Community Services and the public must immediately demand intervention. We cannot allow the suffering of the children to continue. I am of course…
Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella has been criticised for her failure to respond when GetUp director Simon Sheikh collapsed on Q+A. Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella has been criticised for her failure to respond when GetUp director Simon Sheikh collapsed on Q+A. ABC Television

Sophie Mirabella shouldn’t be attacked for failing to emote

By 9AM yesterday I’d been called a Sophie Mirabella apologist. Of all the very many slurs I’ve ever been subjected to, that one came as one hell of a surprise. And I just thought I was defending every…
Promises are easy to make, but will Abbott be able to deliver? Promises are easy to make, but will Abbott be able to deliver? AAP

Abbott has pledged to repeal the carbon tax – but could it be done?

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has given Australians a “blood oath” promise that if the Coalition wins power at the next election, he will repeal the carbon tax within his first month in office. But is…
Julia Gillard faces the media after Craig Thomson’s suspension from the government benches. Julia Gillard faces the media after Craig Thomson’s suspension from the government benches. AAP/Lukas Coch

Going, going … have Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson finished the Gillard government?

Since forming government in 2010, the Gillard government has faced an uphill battle to assert its authority on the policy agenda. Initially, this was partly due to the fact that it relied on the Greens…
Does Labor have a future after Julia Gillard? Does Labor have a future after Julia Gillard? AAP/Alan Porrit

Ghosts in the party room: the past, present and future of the ALP

Every day seems to be the worst day for the Gillard government. With an opposition that has refined negativity into a stilleto, it seems that nearly everything the government attempts backfires, leaving…
Campbell Newman, Barry O'Farrell and Julia Gillard enjoy a laugh at last week’s COAG meeting. Campbell Newman, Barry O'Farrell and Julia Gillard enjoy a laugh at last week’s COAG meeting. AAP/Lukas Coch

COAG: the theatre and the reality

The rituals before a Council of Australian Governments meeting tend to outweigh the substance and outcomes from the meeting. By playing the parochial card before the meeting, state premiers sell themselves…
Former Health Services Union head Craig Thomson represents a vital vote for the Gillard government. Former Health Services Union head Craig Thomson represents a vital vote for the Gillard government. AAP Image/Penny Bradfield

Health Services Union: why union members deserve better

The ACTU yesterday voted to suspend the Health Servives Union from affiliation until they can prove that issues of governance have been dealt with appropriately. Although it does seem to have been a slow…

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New poll hit for Abbott

The Abbott government has slumped back to its post-budget low, trailing Labor 45-55% on a two-party basis, in today’s Newspoll…