ABC

Apr 29, 2011

When it’s only your opponents who are making noise

The main thing that holds back a chorus of relentless criticism of a government by its opponents in the media from spiraling completely out of control, is the willingness of neut

The main thing that holds back a chorus of relentless criticism of a government by its opponents in the media from spiraling completely out of control, is the willingness of neutral and friendly players to call public attention to the discrepancies between the hyperbole and reality.

Take the Home Insulation Program:

Ultimately, the HIP – as we’ve stated from the beginning, regularly, using publicly available data at the time – was much safer in terms of fire rates than what preceded it. Now, however, we know that it was safer over both the short term (the fire rates over the 12 month period from installation) as well as the longer term (the residual long term fire rates that occur from 12 months after the insulation was installed).

Hardly “Peter Garrett is burning your house down”, but that’s the impression you’d have been left with if you believed what you read in News Ltd, or its completely neutered acolyte the ABC. And even now, you’re unlikely to read from either anything approaching a correction.

Same goes for the Building the Education Revolution Policy. And the carbon price. And many others.

Professional polemicists from the conservative side (particularly in the Opposition Organ, The Australian) have, of course, taken full advantage of these misunderstandings and whipped each other into a frenzy of “this Government is finished! FINISHED!” pronouncements. Feeding each other – the more they say they Government is finished, the more they can use each other’s media articles as evidence that the Government is finished, and so on ad infinitum. The power from such a line comes from the repeating of it, particularly when those who know better decline to contradict it.

And now Laurie Oakes has caught the fever.

I wonder how much of this is Labor’s fault – not just for utterly failing to effectively argue its case, but also for completely burning its potential allies and supporters. The circuit-breaker needed to to defuse the self-fulfilling “Government is Finished” line is opposing polemicists calling bullsh*t on it equally forcefully.

And they haven’t been. I have my own theories as to why – Gillard’s regular expressions of utter contempt for anyone to the left of the Labor Right, for example – but the effect is clear. The impression – regardless of how little it is based on actual fact, let alone actual policy failures – is devastating for the Government.

Obviously Gillard reasoned that she could burn her base without consequence – what were they going to do, vote for the Liberals? But what she forgot, and what the Labor party had better remember very soon, is that modern politics is a lot about impressions. And the impression right now in the national media, because it’s the right-wingers who are making all the noise, while the left-wingers can’t get enthusiastic about a Government that apparently despises them, is that the Liberals are pushing ahead of the ALP, and the Government is beginning to unravel. An impression that even its friends have abandoned it; that it is an unsalvageable loser.

That’s only an impression right now. But impressions, if not countered, have a disturbing habit of becoming political reality.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

37 comments

37 thoughts on “When it’s only your opponents who are making noise

  1. News columnist admits: it’s not a “carbon tax” at all | Pure Poison

    […] right-wing faithful “pink batts”, is called a lethal “disaster”, although it actually improved safety compared with what was before […]

  2. John64

    @Gerry Lamb: The CSIRO aren’t biased. They very specifically calculate the fire rate for the first year: “For the HIP Phase 2 dwellings, the average rate for the HIP dwellings *for the first 12 months* can be calculated at 13.8 per 100,000 per year (see Table 5.2). This implies that the first year has a rate about 13.8/2.5 = 5.5 times that of subsequent years.”

    The story is pretty simple. 156 fires / 1,108,151 installations of insulation = 0.0001408 fires per every insulation. 0.0001408 * 100,000 = 14.08 fires per 100,000 installations of insulation. The reason the CSIRO get 13.8 is because they do the calculation over 12 months (where-as the home insulation program only ran for 9). That is then whittled down to 2.5 because they only focus on the /long-term fire rate/ where they specifically exclude early fires (IE: Those where insulation was installed and the house burned down because of it the next day), again because they’re looking for the long term fire risk. All of this is outlined in the report.

    Possum does much the same nonsense. Jeez I wish people would actually read these things.

    Basically, if you’re home was insulated under the Government’s program /and it hasn’t burned down yet/, then you have about the same long-term fire-risk as if your insulation was installed before the program.

  3. Eponymous

    You guys have all been trolled badly by one uninformed comment.

    Of course the CSIRO is biased and completely in league with the Gillard government, that’s why they’re striking.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/24/3172249.htm

  4. disco

    The fact is they’ve been branch stacked for want of a better term.

    And where would I find this factual information?

  5. Gerry Lamb

    It is not a matter of shutting down the CSIRO or the Treasury because they perform important functions in the Australian economy.

    The fact is they’ve been branch stacked for want of a better term.

    Ken Henry displayed his true colours unfortunately before the 2007 election.

    A mass restructure and cull would be healthy for both organisations but would generate riots in the streets of Canberra.

    Can’t you imagine these pasty white labor folk being removed from their cushy M-F 9-5 jobs and forced to perform. Work for the Dole would be fairer.

    The CSIRO in this Pink Batts report is merely following instructions and the funding.

    The green research movement has been hyped up to such an extraordinary degree that if your snout is not in the trough you will just miss out on the cash. As a researcher that is the main objective – to secure more funding for more research projects. A bit of a merry go round – but that is the Australian research and development sector. Why wouldn’t they just spruik another positive report about the great work the Government is doing if it will cover the next year’s paychecks and pension schemes? The R&D sector in Australia has never been taken seriously. Australia throws a token amount of money in private and public terms at R&D but it is nothing substantial. We end up with cheesy lightweights like Tim Flannery who is supposed to be one of our biggest heroes. He hasn’t convinced anybody.

    We are witnessing the biggest Federal Government failure since Gough Whitlam.

    It is like somebody else said – a slow moving train wreck being derailed – and careering into Sydney Central Station. It is a horror show. So shocking that you can’t scream but just watch as each frightful event unfolds.

    It is Hollingsworth-ish – seeing the Media jackals tearing the Government apart as they sense weakness. Heckling and harranguing until Gillard gets assassinated and we end up with Bill Shorten or Greg Combet. But neither are impressive.

    That is why Federal Labor are dead men walking.

    Australia deserves better.

  6. Phil M

    [email protected]

    Incredible isn’t it, how the CSIRO and Treasury became so partisan and lost all their credibility at THE EXACT MOMENT RUDD BECAME PM!!1!

    I suspect that JWH incredibly powerful aura of authority had previously contained the totalitarian instincts of these pinko government scientists and Stalinist Treasury workers.

    I was thinking the same thing. Obviously logic escapes people like Gerry. Why didn’t JWH just close the CSIRO while he was in power? Did Costello appoint Ken Henry in 2001 as a future Labor insider knowing that Rudd would continue his appointment in 2007?

  7. Matthew of Canberra

    “CSIRO are a Government organisation, commissioned by the Government to prepare a favourable report about the pink batts scandal in a shoddy attempt to rewrite history.”

    Actually, CSIRO people are surprisingly resistant to being told what to say or do.

    But you can make them all look very silly just by doing one thing – show their numbers are wrong. Easy peasy. Call them corrupt stooges all you like, but until you actually show that their numbers are wrong, you’re just blowing smoke.

    Surely the Institute of Probabilistic Accountancy has somebody who can work a calculator? Why not just ask THEM to do it?

  8. Duncan

    “CSIRO like the Treasury have been partisan for a while”

    Incredible isn’t it, how the CSIRO and Treasury became so partisan and lost all their credibility at THE EXACT MOMENT RUDD BECAME PM!!1!

    I suspect that JWH incredibly powerful aura of authority had previously contained the totalitarian instincts of these pinko government scientists and Stalinist Treasury workers.

  9. ShaunHC

    Radpipper:

    “And you wonder why the Gillard government is failing while hurtling towards a historic electoral loss?”

    Really? There’s an election due? Gee I’m dumb. I thought that wasn’t till 2013. Silly me.

  10. Jack Sparraaggghhh

    CSIRO are a Government organisation

    Duh!!

    commissioned by the Government to prepare a favourable report about the pink batts scandal in a shoddy attempt to rewrite history

    Evidence…???

    Kind of like something Terry McCrann would write.

  11. confessions

    CSIRO denial is a new strand of denialism around these parts.

    Curious.

  12. Gerry Lamb

    CSIRO are a Government organisation, commissioned by the Government to prepare a favourable report about the pink batts scandal in a shoddy attempt to rewrite history.

    Give me a million bucks or however much they squandered and I’ll get to the bottom of it. In fact, they should have commissioned an independent inquiry and then locked somebody up.

    The clock is ticking. The incompetence keeps compounding. Soon this Government will crumble into a heap of it’s own doing.

  13. Matthew of Canberra

    “CSIRO like the Treasury have been partisan for a while. Labor cronies are so deeply embedded inside these departments because they are unemployable in the private sector.”

    Sorry, but that’s actually ridiculous. I’ve worked at CSIRO. There were very few people I came across there who would be “unemployable in the private sector”. Quite a few probably believe that’s true – being largely nerds, they don’t necessarily list “people skills” or “confidence in business” at the top of their resume. Did I come across some dropkicks? Absolutely. But not many – and don’t be kidding yourself that dropkicks are confined to the public sector. Dropkicks inhabit all strata of business and society.

    While I was there, I watched a steady stream of people leaving out of frustration at the lack of direction and starting companies, becoming technology consultants and doing rather well for themselves. When I decided I was jack of it, I drove a couple of miles to a consulting company, the offer was waiting for me on the phone when I got back to my office, and I doubled my salary overnight (well, after the requisite 2 weeks’ notice)

    People work at places like CSIRO because of the sort of work they get to do. They don’t get paid particularly well, but they stay because they want to do research and tinker with things. In our current job market, I doubt that many couldn’t increase their take-home just by walking out the door. Whether or not they do that has a lot more to do with their own level of confidence and whether they happen to like their work.

    I haven’t worked at treasury, but that’s one of the plumb departments. That, and foreign affairs. They get to pick and choose their applicants.

  14. Barry 09

    Just what fran Barlow said. They have to learn to sell themselves in a Rupert market.

  15. matter

    “CSIRO like the Treasury have been partisan for a while”

    If an organisation with a long history of excellence and no history of bias like the CSIRO says something that you disagree with, why do you make completely unsubstantiated claims that they are essentially involved in fraudulent behaviour?

    Just because one of the main scientific organisations in Australia, and indeed the vast majority of scientists around the world say something that you don’t agree with, it doesn’t mean that they are engaged in fraudulent behaviour. When the vast majority of experts on a particularly complex issue do a whole load of scientific research that confirms a theory, most people would think that’s good evidence that they are right. It’s strange that some people’s reaction is to run around wildly shouting it’s a conspiracy, it’s a conspiracy.

  16. Fran Barlow

    Of all the many substantive things for which the Rudd government can be faulted — its utterly craven attitude towards the right and its failure to stand behind the good things that it did is perhaps the most perplexing. It’s almost as if Rudd and Gillard had a political death wish.

    They utterly cocked up getting a price on Co2 of course, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by making it into a political game rather than an attempt to achieve a sound policy objective. Having done so they dumped on HIP and BER — both of which were on balance, very positive acheivements, if set into a proper context. Instead rudd declared that he expected the government to “get a whacking in the polls” and unsurprisingly, there was a blip. Even if the “whacking” had been deserved, it would have been poor politicking to say this. The correct answer to polls is “we never comment on polls — the government is concerned only with getting good policy delivered”.

    At the time of this “whacking” the government had seen off the worst of the GFC, implemented a largely successful program to retool schools with refurbished classrooms and had rolled out laptops. They had insulated about 1 million homes. They had underpinned regional employment. Yet interest rates, debt service, inflation, unemployment put Australia amongst the best performing economies. Unlike Britain and the US, housing prices had not crashed, banks were not falling over, businesses were not declaring bankruptcy and the mining price boom continued. Rudd was entitled to tour the country shaking the hands of people who still had jobs, looking at flash new classrooms lambasting the opposition for opposing the stimulus. While the opposition is complaining about growth, he could have said, we are getting on with rebuilding the infrastructure that the Howard government left to stagnate and positioning Australia to take advantage of the world recovery when it comes. The opposition can whinge about people keeping their jobs if it wants, but we never will. Let’s be clear — our focus is on growth and jobs, and there’s is on fear and doubt.

    Negativity is the easiest thing to write about and it is not the government’s job to encourage this. The media will do this all on their own. The government’s job is to look positive and get stuff done. The first half of its term, the opposition line was the government was all talk and no action — and this could have been reclalled with advantage since the results were coming in. They were moving towards paid maternity leave. They were reforming superannuation. Henry had come out. And of course the one negative — the failure to get the CPRS though — Rudd could have blamed the opposition for — saying that he would seek a new mandate for action on in the year since the opposition, mired in fear and self-doubt, had lost its way.

    Really, the Rudd-Gillard regimes have been utterly lacking in political acumen and this has made their policies — the good, the poor and the indifferent all seem a lot worse than they actually were.

  17. Lee Harvey Oddworld

    The biggest problem is actually of the government’s making by failing to persuasively argue its own achievements. The first most people heard about how the govt kept the country out of recession during the GFC wasn’t in the lead up to, or when the GFC was actually happening, but in the 2010 election campaign.

    Gillard started her appalling “Moving Forward” campaign determined to talk about everything but the economic achievements of the Rudd Government, much as John Brumby failed to spruik his own admirable economic record — both governments seemingly in the thrall of bumbling advisers alarmingly content to concede the economy to the Libs.

    In 2002, midway through Howard’s reign, the Australian dollar was worth USD$0.54. It’s now woth USD$1.09. Now I know many factors go toward making an exchange rate, but if Howard were still in power Costello would be purring smugly and his News Ltd shills would be telling us what an exceptional job he was doing in tough times.

  18. ConnorJ

    radpipper – Accusing the peak science body in this country of being involved in a partisan conspiracy is NOT “genuine criticism”, it is the very embodiment of idiotic blithering.

  19. Holden Back

    See, quantize it’s all your fault!

  20. ConnorJ

    I guess that someone who believes that CSIRO and every other peak science body on the planet is engaged in a conspiracy to “prop up their payrolls” is really capable of believing absolutely anything, so assuming that they are involved in a pink batts conspiracy isn’t a huge leap of logic, or whateever it is that passes for logic in the fevered mind of a denier.

  21. radpipper

    yes the blithering of an idiot

    And you wonder why the Gillard government is failing while hurtling towards a historic electoral loss? It is comments from labor supporters like this in relation to genuine criticism is the reason why the Gillard government is a train wreck in motion.

  22. quantize

    “CSIRO like the Treasury have been partisan for a while.”

    yes the blithering of an idiot

  23. quantize

    ‘At the expense of 4 lives, numerous houses being burnt down, over a $billion wasted, the insulation industry in turmoil. ‘

    Ok surely you’re not THAT insane that you think that was INTENTIONAL

    so what PRECISELY IS YOUR POINT?

    I noted that the execution was poor and incompetent.

    I bet your hero Tony Abbott would be working hard to save energy (insert irony tag)

  24. Jeremy Sear

    “CSIRO like the Treasury have been partisan for a while.”

    LOL. I don’t have any basis for disputing the figures so I’ll just claim that reality is “biased”!

    Pathetic. But not unprecedented.

  25. Gerry Lamb

    CSIRO like the Treasury have been partisan for a while. Labor cronies are so deeply embedded inside these departments because they are unemployable in the private sector.

    This insidious cronyism leads to bloated Public Service payroll costs, and of course a large constituency that needs their bread butters and their big fat undeserved pension plans.

    That is why we have the CSIRO writing self-serving crap and the Treasury supporting self-serving crap policies and both trumpeting up this crap CO2 scam tax so they can continue to prop up their respective payrolls, taxpayer funded pension plans and over priced mortgages down in that stinking hole Canberra.

    The pink batts fiasco was a complete joke. A complete waste of money. Desperate to spend and porkbarrel – the government has been left completely humiliated by its incompetence and wasteful management of taxpayers money.

    Between the Federal and State Labor Governments they have racked up public debt currently slated to hit in excess of $273 billion by 30th of June 2012, the country’s biggest debt in history, with some experts predicting it closer to $400 billion…

    And you wonder why the punters are ropable.

    The Gen Y voters who jumped on the Kevin ’07 bandwagon have jumped off. The rusted on unions don’t know where to go – and if Abbott keeps on doing Labor’s job representing them then the members may just jump ship despite workchoices scare campaigns.

  26. surlysimon

    Mobius
    Don’t bother, the sky is a different colour where Rad is.

  27. radpipper

    #1 Saving on energy

    HELLOOOOOOOOOO, are you completely incompetent?

    At the expense of 4 lives, numerous houses being burnt down, over a $billion wasted, the insulation industry in turmoil.

    Maybe you should say that to all the legitimate insulation companies in the industry that have gone out of business because of the HIP.

    I think you all prove the point of why the Gillard government is a wreck and failing. Like the Gillard government, you are in denial about all the incompetence, waste and failed policies. The truth is that Gillard and her government are finished and as time goes on, more and more Australian voters are turning against them. The federal election in 2013 will be a repeat for federal labor of what happened to NSW labor in the NSW state election.

  28. The Magical Liopleurodon

    The default response of this government to criticism from the right seems to be to move further to the right, or as some would say, appeasement. I guess it figures that if it does then the Coalition won’t have anything to criticize it with. It should know that appeasement of bullies never works, it only encourages them. It could adopt every policy position of the LNP word for word and they would still be attacked for something else, or attacked as though they were still advocating their old policies. An example is obviously the ditching of the ETS, perceived as a political liability, which had absolutely no impact on Abbott’s line of a ‘big new tax’.

    Ultimatly what people look for in the government is for it to inspire competence, and what they respect is strength/power, as it has always been in human history with leadership. The most recent essential report is very telling on why it’s polling fortunes are so bad, the government has suffered on every good perception rating, the biggest fall being among the ‘united/divided’ question. I suspect most people couldn’t give a shit if Labor is in coalition with the Greens or not, if it talks tough on welfare bludgers or asylum seekers, what they want is strong leadership they can look up to, and you don’t inspire strong leadership by being reactionary to every criticism leveled at you hoping to make people stop saying nasty things about you. You lead, not follow.

  29. Mobius Ecko

    Here’s a link to Possum’s stats on the fire risk, not that they will mean anything to rad, real data, facts and figures are an anathema to be ignored in the mindless bashing of anything not of the far right.

    Insulation Fire Risk – The data is in

  30. Mobius Ecko

    Then you spat your coffee for nothing rad because the stats show the HIP was a very successful program no matter how you attempt to spin it otherwise. This program has saved lives and it was found that 43% of the houses that were inspected were below building standards, not that they were unsafely insulated. That means that nearly half the homes inspected now know they have below standard residences.

    As to educating you as you obviously are so unread and up to date on things, probably drooling over the royal wedding and nothing else:

    From the CSIRO: http://www.climatechange.gov.au/government/programs-and-rebates/hisp/reports/csiro-report.aspx

    As at 31 March 2011, the level of risk for households with insulation installed under the HIP is now effectively no different to the level of fire incident risk that existed before the program was implemented.

    Possum has also released stats on the HIP showing why your coffee spraying was nothing more than a waste of good tasting caffeine or the reaction of outrage of a conservative who has been suckered and finds that yet again they have been duped by their own side.

  31. John Reidy

    thanks for the contribution Rad.. you prove Jeremy’s thesis all by yourself.

  32. quantize

    ‘If you believe there were achievements in this train wreck of a policy, please educate us on them.’

    #1 Saving on energy

    HELLOOOOOOOOOO, are you completely incompetent?

  33. quantize

    ‘OMG I nearly spat my coffee all over the computer when I read that. ‘

    Well you would, anything vaguely sane has you spitting.

  34. both kinds of politics

    […] Posted by Chris, on April 29th, 2011 Contrary to News Ltd propaganda, pretty much all of Labor’s stimulus programs were not only no… […]

  35. radpipper

    Rudd apologising for the HIP, and labelling it a disaster simply vindicated the hysterical beat ups about the program, and meant the program’s substantial achievements are now lost to the public.

    OMG I nearly spat my coffee all over the computer when I read that. You have to be joking. The Home Insulation Program was a complete disaster in every way shape and form. The deaths, the houses that burnt down and the discovery that 25% of all homes were unsafely insulated and will need to have the insulation removed. Oh and don’t forget the industry rorting and the destruction of those in the industry that were legitimate.

    If you believe there were achievements in this train wreck of a policy, please educate us on them.

  36. confessions

    The biggest problem is actually of the government’s making by failing to persuasively argue its own achievements. The first most people heard about how the govt kept the country out of recession during the GFC wasn’t in the lead up to, or when the GFC was actually happening, but in the 2010 election campaign. Far too late once the claims of Waste! had taken hold.

    Rudd apologising for the HIP, and labelling it a disaster simply vindicated the hysterical beat ups about the program, and meant the program’s substantial achievements are now lost to the public.

    Winning the policy arguments isn’t about a shouting match between opposing sides, but persuading the public about the merits of your agenda, bringing them into your confidence early, and keeping them there by continuing to remind them why you are doing what you are doing, and how it will impact upon them.

  37. quantize

    Nothing will change the tragedy of the deaths related to the insulation scheme. Without any doubt – extremely well-intentioned but poorly conceived (which is precisely what happens when everyone tries to save money by relegating oversight to the market – HELLO republicants/coalitionists)…

    The Coalition have made great sport out of the tragedy, but anyone who has a memory would be a fraud to deny the Howard government set the low benchmark for public accountability…to hear their whining now beggars belief…unless of course you’re Capt Coal, Haines or any of the other dribbling fools who get their information from Liberal party central aka News Ltd

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details

Sending...