LAST GASP: Turn back the votes

It's all a matter of trust in the race to the throne.

Last Gasp is a wry take on the week's events, every week.

A matter of distrust

“I believe in the fundamental unity of mankind, I believe that the things that unite us truly are more than the anything that divides us.”

That was Opposition Leader Tony Abbott speaking at a city council event in Western Sydney earlier this week, merely 24 hours after declaring there was no way he would preside over a hung parliament.

"We will never see a strong and stable government from a hung parliament,” he said earlier that day.

As an authority on the virtues of a hung parliament Abbott makes for a credible critic. Despite the fact it was the execution of the hung parliament under Julia Gillard and not the institution itself that was chaotic, Abbott’s relentless campaign rewrote the history of minority government as inherently toxic.

Both parties have bloody hands on the noose that hung the parliament, and yet both insist on campaigning on trust.

“This election will be about who the Australian people trust…” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in launching the campaign.

Abbott quickly followed suit in his reply. “Well it’s really about, who is more fair dinkum? Who can you rely on to build a better future?”

In reality, with both Abbott and Rudd effectively campaigning as opposition leaders with little in the way of record, the ballot isn’t so much about who do you trust, as who do you distrust least.

Is it the party that sees only conspiracy theories, unannounced cuts and all around wickedness in their opponents’ plans to include the goods and services tax in – wait for it – a tax review?

Or is it the party that cries wolf over the deputy prime minister and a current federal parliamentarian sharing a beer, turning a post-work beverage into a Machiavellian strategy meeting to keep the nation locked in the dungeon of minority government?

Please, please. Be civilised as you form an orderly queue to be inspired by these denizens of positive politics.

In asking people to give them their vote, Kevin Rudd has found a ‘new way’ to stay relevant, while Tony Abbott is eyeballing a ‘real solution’ to his long-held problem of not being prime minister.

And isn’t that what this is all about?

Strings attached

Has nobody bothered to tell Labor that in politics shooting the messenger is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot?

The chutzpah with which the government responded to The Daily Telegraph’s front page this week only served to highlight the artificiality of their so-called humour, as well as their inherent narcissism.

It’s one thing not to win government, but to be disliked, and for that to be splashed on the front pages of newspapers, as if it was some kind of – what’s the word? – news, is apparently unthinkable.

No politician who uses free social media to circumvent the traditional news channels and whore their own agendas directly to the people, can chastise a besieged media for trying to stay relevant.

The public are well within their rights to be outraged, politicians are not.

More than that, after the three years it has endured, surely the Labor party would not begrudge an institution grappling with the twin masters of the integrity of the establishment and the currency that comes with popularity.

The paranoia of perceived unpopularity has everyone seeing strings.

Labor thinks Rupert Murdoch is pulling the strings behind the mainstream media, the Liberals insist the faceless men are pulling the strings of the government, and Clive Palmer is willing to have anyone pull his strings if it reminds even just one person that he is still a part of this unholy campaign.

What can we take from all of this? Little more than the knowledge we all have strings.

In politics, as in casual sex, there is no such thing as no strings attached. Not that the two would ever overlap.

Turn back the votes

The whole News Limited debacle proved to be too much for two of Labor’s perpetually solid performers – David Bradbury and Doug Cameron.

The usually collected Bradbury unleashed his misguided anger at the host of easy listening station Smooth FM, within earshot of plenty of silver-haired listeners – or in political speak – the grey vote.

Interjecting the usual stream of Michael Buble and Jason Mraz with a surprisingly – and welcome – forceful line of questioning over Bradbury’s perceived distortion of Joe Hockey’s comments on interest rates, host Glenn Daniel clearly rattled the assistant treasurer.

"Sorry Glenn are you, are you a Liberal party member here or what's going on?" he inquired, clearly directing some of his party’s Murdoch rage at the first person to put a single toe out of line.

Over on the ABC, there was no such transference with Labor Senator Doug Cameron alarmingly critical of the so-called Murdoch influence.

 “Anything you read in News Limited publications is based on making sure that Tony Abbott becomes the Prime Minister of this country and that is not a good thing for democracy,” he said.

What else threatens our democracy I hear you ask?

In 2007, Rudd said political advertising was a cancer on democracy. When mining magnates Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer vocally opposed the MRRT, the Treasurer Wayne Swan labelled the billionaire collective a threat to democracy. And in March this year, Bob Hawke said public contempt of parliamentary process threatened the ‘democratic fabric’.

Personally, I’m of the view that baseless rhetoric designed only to advance a political agenda through fear-mongering is the biggest threat to our democracy.

If only they could turn back the boats, as fast as they are turning back the votes, the September 7 ballot might actually be a real contest.

Pirates eye Time Warner throne

Remember when Internet pirates were treated with the same self-righteous contempt as insider traders or sex offenders? I’m sure you do, it was, well, yesterday.

Well fear not, our days as pirating social pariahs may be coming to an end.

While most senior executives at media companies view those who partake in the piracy pilgrimage with the same disdain with which we view King Joffrey, Time Warner chief executive officer Jeff Bewkes displayed the kind of compassion seldom seen in the seven kingdoms during a conference call following the group’s second-quarter earnings.

Noting that Game of Thrones was the most pirated show in the world, Bewkes said, “Now that’s better than an Emmy”.

Compassion may not be the right word, given Time Warner’s network business, including HBO and Turner Broadcasting posted solid lifts in both advertising and subscription revenues in the second quarter (4 per cent and 11 per cent respectively), but the comment is a noted change of direction.

But will his shareholders feel the same way when piracy and profit do inevitably find themselves on a cold and dreary battlefield?

Game of Thrones was by far the most pirated show of 2012, according to a widely reported survey by Torrent Freak.

Downloads totalled 4.2 million, more than the estimated 4 million viewers who watched the program in the US.

In terms of a business model, the demand for Game of Thrones is undeniable and Bewkes’ comments might suggest the group is seriously considering a move toward a new online distribution model, however the strong performance of HBO in the second quarter will likely provide more justification for holding off.

It’s a prudential move, but if Time Warner squanders the good will of Thrones fans, I would highly recommend avoiding its next AGM, lest it end up like the red wedding.

Tweet of the week

Graph for LAST GASP: Turn back the votes

One-line wonders

“But, honestly, he is the fake tan of political world,” Greg Hunt on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“We recently purchased a house in Richmond and I have adopted St Kilda as my AFL team. Richmond, anyway, has proved to be a terrific choice,” BHP Billiton chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie during his first Australian speech as the mining giant’s el supremo.

 “I am the sworn enemy of anyone who seeks to divide Australia from Australia,” Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

The last, last gasp

When cynicism is given currency the way it has been in the hung parliament, the deterioration of the political debate is inevitable. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, the poor behaviour of the parliament bred distrust in the public, who are now subsequently being courted not by policy but by the degradation of ‘the other mob’. It’s clear the promise of positive politics from both sides has not yet been reconciled with the reality of what that entails for an election campaign. 

What made you gasp this week? Let us know below or via @BusinessSpec and @mitchneems

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