Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Death of a Narrative: Part 3

A narrative-less election

We heard all about how badly Gillard/Labor mismanaged the election. And, if the Libs are honest, they botched it too.

The Libs would have everyone believe that they were happy just to see Abbott almost topple a first term government, but to follow their argument to a logical conclusion, realistically Abbott should have won easily. Given Gillard's tarnished name, and the problems associated with her trying to take any claim for the goals Rudd had kicked, he should have been a shoe in.
Gillard, for her part, was so bound in her minders' tape she couldn't have sold beer at a pub (or a shandy to Abbott). This was a battle of two opposition leaders without a coherent new policy between them.

Neither side had a cohesive political narrative.

The best Abbott could muster was a bit of "you think Rudd was Howard-lite? Look at these policies!" accompanied with a healthy serve of apolitical "tough man" antics including his aim to not sleep in the last days of the election. Given Rudd was criticised for sleeping less than 4 hours a night and working pretty much consistently, not involving his colleagues in his processes, in hindsight it seems his goal may have been to out-Rudd Gillard.

If you want a clearer picture that this was an election where neither of the major parties had a narrative, look at the swing to the Greens. Whether you agree with their policies or not, the Greens are a narrative party - consistently. While I struggle with people who suggest that never having had power immediately equals policy weakness (hello everyone at The Australian), there' s some truth to this in the fact that the Greens have not had to be pragmatic - their policies are bold, and follow a clear direction because they can. Realistically, prior to the "rainbow coalition" any chance of any of their policies being passed was a pipe dream.

And the result? What happens when you tell a story but there's no actual narrative?

Well it's a mess; no one knows what's going on. An election is not an exercise in experimental prose.

Narrative found

Ironically, it may be Gillard has found her strength, and her narrative, in minority government. She is, to borrow Annabel Crabb's term, a fixer. She is presented now with a magnificent opportunity to play school teacher to a rag-tag bunch of new parliamentarians, or at least parliamentarians who are new to actual power.

If she plays her cards right, she can take the credit for their innovation as she remains the masthead for the activity of the government. In turn, she can also blame the failings of her government on the close numbers.

The knife-edge may provide a comfortable seat to a fence-sitter like Gillard.

The new paradigm, as it's been called, is actually a little bit more like the old paradigm of politics. Policy and its implementation should be at the forefront of political reporting. The personalities are important, as are the tactics, but it's the policies that should make or break a government, not foibles of its leaders - with the exception of actual ministerial culpability.

The media should be reporting when either party "plays the man" rather than the ball, not following suit for an easy story.

There's a new narrative, people, and a new paradigm; they're both more complex. Long live complexity.


Alright... now all that's done. I'm returning to the day to day. I hated that post by the end, but I feel like I had to get it off my chest.

Let's commence.

The Death of the Narrative: Part 2

The death of the narrative

Initially, the wins came hard and fast. Rudd started by pretty much immediately setting the ball rolling to end the Pacific Solution, ratifying the Kyoto Protocol as his first official act as PM and formally apologised to the Stolen Generations in his capacity as the first course of order in the opening of Parliament after the election. Work Choices was virtually completely reversed, with some elements retained. A deadline was set for the removal of operational forces within Iraq (and followed).

But it was maybe a case of too hard and too fast. As time went on, it started to seem like Rudd had run the horse upside down. We got giddy on change.

And the easy change was all upfront, the hard wins were still to come.

The carbon-emissions trading scheme was already promised, and the Garnaut Report (a bed he'd made, or commissioned at least, before even becoming PM) fell in line with it, suggesting targets that would be achievable, but not without some stress.

Rudd had made the mistake of saying that climate change was "the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time" while in opposition. In some respects, unless you don't believe in it (in which case feel free to put your hands back over your ears and scream "not listening") he is right, but in hindsight it was a foolish thing to say. How many times have these words been parroted by the opposition to tar and feather Rudd?

The ETS/CPRS became an essential part of the Rudd narrative. It didn't get through parliament.

The Henry Tax Review fell out of the well-meaning but mostly useless 2020 summit. It was necessary, but it set another issue in the Rudd narrative. The Rudd government sat on the delivered report for almost 6 months before addressing essentially none of the items and delivering the RSPT. I should note, I don't disagree with the RSPT, but for a government that came into power telling a story, they couldn't sell this one to a nation that the polls suggested already agreed with it. It didn't get through parliament.

This was the problem with the mid-term big tickets for Rudd - they needed to get through parliament. When they didn't get through, they needed compromise. The problem with compromise in terms of something like the CPRS, is that if you compromise on the policy, you... well... compromise it. The CPRS was about as paper thin as it could possibly be to start with - it was hardly stringent, and if anything it read like a token gesture, at best a step (baby step) in the right direction (or this was how the pragmatists in the Labor party tried to sell it). To compromise further, unlike with a lot of policies, opened the door to criticism of its token nature.

The Liberal leadership spill happened. Support for the CPRS from Turnbull's Liberals dissolved into pig-headed "it's either too expensive to tackle or it doesn't exist at all so let's call the whole thing off" arguments from Abbott's Liberals.

The stimulus package was almost universally declared by economists as the reason Australia staved off a recession during the GFC. But Rudd was unable to sell the benefits of the short-term debt because the Australian public are averse to debt; for many it reconfirmed their concept of the Coalition saving money and the ALP spending it - and the opposition cynically pursued this angle for the politics, rather than taking a bipartisan approach when the economics stood up.

The Rudd narrative died a slow, prolonged death. The polls turned, dramatically in the context of a narrative where we had the longest honeymoon period for a PM ever, scoring into the 70s in approval records, but not so dramatically if we compared it to more realistic numbers experienced by governments in, say, any period of modern politics. Ever.

We can talk about what happened on the night of June 23rd, and the reasons for the spill, etc etc. But the thing that killed Rudd, in the end, was the fact that a narrative had been built that couldn't ever be followed to its happy conclusion in a parliamentary democracy, or, realistically, had no planned end. The tide was always going to turn; it was only a matter of when.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Death of the Narrative: Part 1

Given that I've been away for pretty much the entire period from the Labor leadership spill through the election, the hung parliament and independent deciding of minority government, I feel like I've got a bit of space to wax lyrical about what I think happened in the past 6 months.

Though I don't know if my point of view will be entirely different to everyone else's. I have a slightly different take on what happened, and why, though, so allow me a little break from form to waffle a bit.

A narrative

Kevin Rudd's ascension in the Kevin '07 campaign was largely the product of a narrative of change and hope. I'm talking "Change" and "Hope" in that sense that Obama would later run with in his own campaign in the following year, the words capitalised, the personality of Rudd embiggened (sic) to an almost revolutionary size.

Rudd's image (and slogan "KEVIN 07") on everything was as important to the campaign as the words he spoke. Here was a leader who spoke Chinese, who had a diplomatic background, who was a Christian, but who spoke broadly to the electorate and went on Rove (man, was it really only that long ago that Rove McManus was a TV personality?). Shit the man used Twitter as a platform, before it was even de rigueur for public discourse.

It's hard to remember now, because once in the job for more than a year, Rudd started to revert to Ruddbot mode, but he was an affable, approachable, generally unflappable guy.


Sure, but in many respects he signified to people a significant break from the years of "same shit, different day" politicking that Howard played. The ETS, Murray-Darling basin, ratifying the Kyoto protocol, formal indigenous reconciliation, tax reform, overturning of Work Choices, means-testing the Private Health rebate, the end of the Pacific Solution - all of these things were big differences between the parties at the time of the election.

It was a cult of personality, in the traditional sense, and just like the communist leaders we associate with this term, there wasn't really a personality there, as such, so much as a construct that appealed in a narrative sense to every possible basis. The man was a prism of qualities designed to appeal to voters.

Realistically, it's a voter's fault if they believe that the personality of the leader really matters. The best you can hope for is someone who looks like they are actually the personality of the party at the time, thus giving an accurate indication of what you're in for. As Gillard's ascension reminded us, we don't vote for a PM in Australia, we vote for a rep who is part of a party, and we trust them in their vote for a leader that best represents their interests; which in turn should, ideally, represent our interests. Whether it's the "faceless men of the ALP" or Nick Minchin's "broad church" skull crushers, this is what you're really voting for.

Perhaps it's our fault, perhaps it's the media, perhaps it's the cynical nature or modern politics, but for better or worse, a modern political party needs a narrative. As I said, earlier, you need look no further than Obama (and his own imminent demise in the mid-terms) to see another narrative that won a leadership. We talk about pragmatism, but we want a story. We want a hero.

Howard was not a hero. I have never liked him, and I think I would have wept had he won another election, but he, and the Liberal party's "broad church", are about a pragmatic and ruthless surge for leadership.

"Stay the course", "battlers and bludgers" (this still means nothing, and either term can be applied to anyone) etc etc etc... hell, look to the fact that a supposedly "small government" party spent 11 years handing out middle-class welfare to stay in power and you'll see shameless pragmatic vote grubbing at work. Howard's narrative was "little Australia" and "I'm alright, Jack!" - you've earned the right to have a little more, as long as you're making money and don't need any infrastructure. As an example - we'll subsidise you having Private Health if you don't expect a working Medicare system, propping up a system that should be a luxury, not the standard, while simultaneously driving up medical costs across the board.

Sure, Howard was a "conviction politician". His conviction? Stay the fuck in power.

Rudd's narrative was change. Quiet, concerted, hard working change. We'll do the reports (like good public servants) and then we'll action them.

You want an ETS? You want a review of the tax system? You want means-testing on the PHI rebate? You want reconciliation? You want Work Choices gone? You want Kyoto? You want the Pacific Solution done away with?

Leave it to us.

Let the wild frenzy recommence...

Well hello, Dickheads.

Long time no see. I've missed updating here, and I've tried to find a way to get enough time to keep updating.

The format of Dickhead Frenzy will change a little bit. I will still try and post comics as often as I can, but I will also post text comments a couple of times a week.

It will allow me to keep posting, and make the comments I've been wanting to make without having to guarantee a comic every time. It will also mean I can post comics that are complimentary to the text post, or a post in their own right.

You may also notice I have a new header, in keeping with the change of climate!

Sooo... let's get this show on the road. First stop? A summary of the last 6 months, in three parts.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just a quick'un.

I'll hopefully put up a colour version of this later tonight (it will also be bigger).

If you haven't read it yet, here's Turnbull's great farewell to Rudd.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

#Spilled Milk

Could tomorrow see a brand new vag-tastic voyage for Dickhead Frenzy?
Will it be a Non-Gender Specific Genitalia Frenzy from now on? Only time will tell!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The difference of a week

bishop 2
Apologies for the delay this week. I have had a very busy week at work, and have been flopping once I get home.

Sad to see Petro Georgiou leave Parliament today. It seems that the Liberal Party's conscience is up and leaving in disgrace; first Fraser's largely symbolic (and long-time coming) exit, now Georgiou's pointed resignation.

Will it make a difference? Well, probably not.

I mean, hopefully it draws attention to the fact that the Rudd government is slowly devolving into a Howard-esque mess in its treatment of asylum seekers. Additionally, I hope it reminds voters that some of the Libs' own members could not accept Howard's callous treatment of asylum seekers, and that Abbott has promised to ostensibly return to the obtuse, hands-length, needlessly expensive (some $500,000 per asylum seeker processed), xenophobic Pacific Solution.

All that aside, it'll probably be a flash in the pan for voters. Political journos, columnists and political punters will remember this moment, and take note of what the Liberal party lost today.

But the voters? The people who kept Howard in power through the Pacific Solution years will probably register the name coming up on the News, forget it by the ad break and lament the days when all the people in their neighbourhood had names like Dave-o and Steve ("and no one was a POOF!").

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Privacy in a glass house

Privacy in a glass house

Seriously, does he think he's doing himself any favours trying to draw a comparison between the Facebook and Google privacy breaches and the state-sanctioned internet-wide filter he intends to introduce?

Beyond the fact that Facebook is participatory (even the extent of the details you disclose, with a few exceptions where there have been actual breaches), while the 'clean-feed' is mandatory... and, what? Wait a second.. isn't the clean-feed about restricting what you can view?

What the hell does it have to do with privacy breaches by Google and Facebook?

I mean, beyond the fact the black-list will be kept private from the public, and the fact you won't have the right to look at material you would be allowed to own in book, film or picture form in the privacy of your own home?

When is this guy losing his job, again?

Incidentally, if you're wondering about the a-cup thing, it pays to know what the classification board now thinks constitutes paedophilia.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Would you believe my dog ate it?


The past week has been an exercise in "how to destroy a burgeoning lead" for the Coalition.

Abbott's admission that he'll happily say whatever it takes to win an argument (just don't expect him to actually act on it) whilst on a difficult holiday in 7:30-Report-Land and Hockey's massive media management screw up when launching the Opposition's budget response have pretty much made it a sure bet that the polls will not be anywhere as favourable for Abbott next week.

But I could be wrong. There seems to be some crazy, clearly apolitical thing going on where the more critical the media gets of Abbott, the more the polls love him. Shine a light, and we'll happily vote for the shadow.

In the stretch coming up to the election, however, surely the Hockey bungle cannot bode well. It's probably not a good idea to try and play the media (ie. by not providing them with figures, therefor dodging the hard questions in front of the cameras) so obviously. If that wasn't what he was doing, then that's an even worse omen. It's either media manipulation for dummies or just plain dumb... and it's pretty much symptomatic of the Opposition at the moment.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I yams not what I yams

* Uploaded with ImageShack.us. Because Photobucket is being a pile of shit.

Re: This magnificent 7:30 Report interview. Seriously, what were you thinking, Abbott?
Don't trust me when I say something that sounds crazy. That's just me being crazy!
So we should let you tell us when to to listen and when not to?

But seriously, if you think Abbott's fair enough to mouth off whenever he feels and then fob it off as "the heat of the moment" or today, as his being "fair dinkum", here's something for you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blistering Barnacles! Rogering Gerbils!

Blistering Barnacles!

So, has anyone been else been a little stunned by the complete lack of response from Fairfax re: Miranda Devine's homophobic twitter insult, given Deveny's sacking last week?

I don't think Devine should be fired (at least not for this), but I think it's a little bit rich to not touch her at all after the Deveny debacle.

I think this blog post at An Onymous Lefty sums up my own views quite well. I do find it oddly worrying that most people think implying Gays = "sex obsessed perverts who get it however they can" is better than pointing out the sexualisation of Bindi Irwin as a child star (albeit haphazardly) or making poor taste joke about someone's dead wife.

But then again, the Deveny bashing and eventual sacking was a dickhead frenzy of escalating outrage of the highest order. The outrage machine churneth.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mr Kettle

Mr Kettle

But seriously, are we having this debate again? Has Howard been pulling some marionette strings so that Abbott and his cohorts race bait and play the asylum seeker/queue jumper word shuffle to win votes on fear?

This is poor politics. "There is understandable concern in the community about what former prime minister John Howard called a confronting form of attire,'' says Abbott, ie. "I'm basically saying I agree with the xenophobes in the audience, but I'll only imply it so that I can't get in trouble." Quoting Howard also beckons to the same voters who long for the days of the "Pacific Solution" - ie. the "don't let those people near my suburb regardless of their risk of death where they came from" brigade.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Everybody Loves Rudd

Everybody Loves Rudd

Sorry for the delay. As you know, I'm in New York. I'm in a tiny room doing this on the side of the bed, as there's no chair in this room and Lily (my wife) is asleep on the other side of the aforementioned bed.

I considered doing today's comic re: this, but there's nothing funny about Abbott's comments; he's a dick.

I think we've all gone over the fact that it's not unlawful to enter a country to seek asylum. If someone is processed and found not to be a refugee (as around only 10% of asylum seeker are), then (and only then) you get to make the decision about whether to send them home or not. No heading them off at the pass, drawing lines about country of origin, mode of entry etc... it's international law.

If you haven't got that yet, well maybe you should be granted temporary residency. If you have got it, and you're milking public ignorance for votes - like Abbott - then your boat should be towed far, far away.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Here's a lazy one before New York...

Yep, just a lazy 'un.

Black Jesus

See you on the other side.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Going to New York!

Alright people, there'll be a couple of day hiatus as I pack today and fly to NY tomorrow!

Ideally we'll have around three or so new comics next week, live from NY.

Have a good weekend, Dickheads.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Knee-deep in Politik


Re: Emissions put on Back Burner, The Age 27/04/2010

Tea Cup Storm

Tea Cup Storm

Okay, this one was actually done on Sunday, but not coloured, as I had a scanner screw-up. Hopefully will get a more current one done today or tomorrow

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Super Jesus Plane

1: Super Jesus Plane