Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tell Me Why

Much to my surprise, for the past few days I’ve been carrying on a twitter conversation with The Enemy – someone who doesn’t accept the validity of climate science. A climate change denier. The conversation has been civil, and incredibly informative as I’ve learned that denying climate science is akin to an extreme religion or cult. Arguing with a climate science denier is every bit as frustrating as arguing with a priest about the existence of god. Ironically, science deniers have used the same kind of vocabulary to describe those who oppose them – like me.

Climate Change Alarmists, as we are often called, have one advantage over the deniers. It is science, an endeavour which in its purest form has no purpose other than to explain the world in which we live. Science – good science – has no agenda, no ulterior motive. It exists for its own sake. The denial of science is the opposite: it must be driven by a belief or a cause or a fear. Without a driver, denying science is pointless.

Enter the Galileo Movement, a group so boorishly proud of their climate conspiracy theories, that they alienated their most high profile adviser, arch-denier Andrew Bolt. They retain the patronage of Alan Jones though, and have tried to style themselves as a legitimate organisation with an interest in promoting scientific debate. That image lasts about as long as it takes to glance through their website.

The Galileo Movement's Purpose & Aims, from their website
 The Galileo Movement is nothing more than a far right lobby group that vehemently opposes climate change and the science which proves its existence. In fact, much of their activity on social media is around provoking those who are “climate change apologists” – another name for us. Earlier this week, they took aim at the Sydney Morning Herald’s Environment Editor for posting a mildly humourous image related to climate change.

The Gallileo Movement’s twitter operator shot back with

After repeated requests for @bencubby to produce empirical evidence of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming), this is the best he could come up with!
That’s where I ignored the first law of twitter: Don’t feed the trolls. I engaged. I responded to the tweet above in defence of Ben Cubby. As we know, individuals like Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt, and the organisations they associate with, pretend to encourage meaningful debate, but in reality, they reject all dissenting opinions. My challenge (see below) to explain their theories was not taken well.

In fact, I haven’t heard from @GalileoMovement since their tweet in which they refer to “BS AGW”. Their position on climate change is articulated in those five letters, and my challenge was ignored. Not everyone ignored it though.

Welcome to the debate, @JWSpry, a tweeter with no biography, but a consistent history. Google him – we’ll assume it’s a male as his twitter avatar is of a man –and you’ll find the following quote over and over again:

After spending $50 billion on science research, no one able to point to a single piece of empirical evidence that man-made CO2 has significant effect on climate.

We don’t know of Mr Spry’s relationship with the Gallileo Movement, but it’s obvious that Mr Spry is a devotee of their theories, at the very least. He chose to respond in the middle of the night to the challenge I issued to the Galileo Movement, with the following series of tweets. This is the order in which they were received.
1. #AGW ‘scare’ product of 70/80’s Environment movements pushing ‘sustainability’ to limit pop(ulation) & economic growth

2. Ultimate aim is global control via regs and taxation under guise of enviro scare – easy if people willingly servile

3. “The threat of environmental crisis will be the international disaster key 2 unlock New World Order.” Gorbachev

4. One power grp behind #AGW “The Club of Rome” (Gorbachev member) Book “Limits of Growth”

5. “not hard to imagine climate problem driving political evolution toward global gov ovr long term” IPCC Pachauri

6. No empirical evidence exists proving man’s extra CO2 cause any GW that paused in 1996

7. Article by Larry Bell worth an ‘objective’ read for further insite [sic] into #AGW hysteria

It was all the standard climate change denier waffle, with a couple of references, including one from that pinnacle of accuracy, Wikipedia, and even a graph with no source. Had I been awake when I read these emails at about 6am, I would’ve laughed. I certainly wouldn’t have responded.

But respond I did. I wanted to know more, not necessarily about their conspiracy theories and group paranoia, but about what drives these attitudes. What was the purpose of this massive global conspiracy, who would benefit from it, and what would be the ultimate goal.

All credit to Mr Spry who has taken time to re-educate me by explaining that the conspiracy belongs to the United Nations and the Government elite “who don’t trust stewardship of Earth w. Democratic nations.” Once again, there’s nothing new here. We know that extreme climate change denial involves this incredible conspiracy by the UN to take over the world and redistribute the wealth, turning the planet into a big blue ball of socialist equality and general bliss: a sort of Brave New World, but with sunrises and daisies and burbling streams in place of the bad bits.

Mr Spry goes on to cite the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June last year as a rallying cry for one planet (global governance) where the United Nations represented the voice of humanity against the voices of sovereign states, big polluters, and other world powers. Mr Spry is afraid that the one world government will give the United Nations – a body of people unelected individuals representing separate countries – the power to determine the distribution of consumables.

Aaaaahhhhh, now I get it.

Climate Change will ultimately change the balance of power away from the wealthy, towards…something else. Probably socialism.

There’s been another stream of tweets from Mr Spry, emphasising the intrinsic good will of humanity, and introducing me to something called Agenda 21 – there’s a 20 minute Youtube video about Agenda 21, posted by…The John Birch Society.

But before we get there, consider this: it’s all about money and power. Only money and power. Of course, if climate science is right, and the deniers are wrong, there won’t be much left to spend their money on, and that New World Order that they’re so afraid of will still be achieved, but through revolution rather than global control.

The Climate Science Deniers' Continuum

Follow me on Twitter (@SalPiracha). We still have to look at the John Birch Society. I'll tweet a link to the next blog post as soon as its available.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Caaanbra: Voter Intent

If you believe the polls of the past few weeks, Prime Minister Gillard’s new semi-hipster specs will be undermined and overthrown by the smoother, newly oranged Tony Abbott and his team of non-communicators. The major Polls – Neilsen, Newspoll, Galaxy, Essential – are all indicating that last year’s steady ascent of Julia Gillard is just so 2012, and that this is the year of the Abbott. Snake. Abbottsnake.

Of course, none of that will happen if the wildcard entry, Mr Kevin “I’m still from Queensland, still trying to help” Rudd ascends to the top of the ALP tree once more. The would be a game-changer. Professional pundits are drooling in anticipation of an ALP Leadership spill, which they seem to believe Kevin Rudd will win. They’re not talking out of their fedoras either: they are reporting the fears of senior ALP ministers, who have stated that the latest polling numbers make it impossible for the ALP to win in September. Many seem to believe that they have to make some changes.
Labor MPs were rocked by recent polls, which showed the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, ahead of Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister, jumping nine points to 49 per cent with her support slipping by five points to 45 per cent.

It followed a poor start to the election year for Labor, which was marred by policy and political errors, the failure of the mining tax, and the prominent emergence of Mr Rudd even as he called on people to ''take a cold shower'' over the leadership.
I really don’t want to discuss polls – there are people far more qualified to talk about them than I am. What fascinates me is what on earth could’ve happened in the past few weeks to turn what was looking like a very close election into a Coalition sure thing, Rudd notwithstanding. It’s not Ms Gillard’s specs, and it’s not Mr Abbott’s fake tan. I doubt it’s the arrest of Craig Thomson, or the whole Peter Slipper/Mal Brough brou-ha-ha. Ha-ha.

Is it policy? Has someone announced something, other than the date of the election, that would edge voters one way or the other? Are Australians more willing to risk a future with Tony Abbott and a sketchy policy than a government without Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans?

Is it absence of policy? Has the Liberal “leak” of Mr Abbott’s plan to build a hundred damns to drought-proof Australia been a winner? Perhaps just a glimmer of a suggestion of the hope of a policy is enough to convince voters that it’s time for change.

Is it the separation of the “other” Coalition, when Greens leader Christine Milne virtually told the government to shove off? I honestly doubt that has much to do with anything, but I thought I should mention the Greens, in case we’re watching the end of their obituary right now. Still, it will be interesting to see how many voters are genuine greenies, and how many were voting green as a way of ensuring a government that was slightly to the left of the other guys, without actually voting for Labor.

Because I am a lefty, I very much doubt that many conservatives read this blog, but for the one or two of you who do, this question is for the conservatives: Can you honestly say that you understand what the lefties are on about? Do you "get" leftie-speak, or is it just JuLiar and nasally accent going "blah blah carbon tax, blah blah misogyny, blah blah Gonski, blah blah blah."

And now, the same sort of questions for my leftie readers: Do you understand the conservative side of politics and the people who support conservative politics? How about conservative priorities, their thought processes, their leadership? When you think of Tony Abbott’s recent public appearances, are you aware of anything other than him turning orange and avoiding any and all serious media interviews?

Perhaps you're one of those progressive types who likes to watch Fox News so you can feel superior to Bill O'Reilly and his Low-Fact Friends in the All-Spin Cycle. Perhaps, like the IPA's James Paterson, you only enjoy QandA for the obscenities that the irrelevant ponces on the ABC trot out week after week. Fine – I’m in favour of mocking, providing some degree of intelligence and awareness of the issues is involved. Without understanding what you’re mocking, it’s not mocking; it’s trolling.

I'm not asking if you agree with the other side; that would be weird, unless you're Malcolm Turnbull. I'm just fascinated to know if you understand what drives the conservative, as opposed to what drives the lefty. At some level, it must come down to "what's in it for me", but that can't be all, particularly when both sides are promising more than they can pay for.

As the disparate sides of Australian politics awkwardly two-step together towards the right, there's not much between the core party platforms. The action, the fun stuff, is at the extremes, with the extremists. Out there, a party’s values still drive policy. It's great television, but not relevant to most average voters. Most Coalition supporters probably don’t support the platforms of the Australian Christian Lobby or the Galileo Movement, just as most Labor supporters aren’t gay Marxist baby-killing tree-huggers. Most of us are here, in the middle, staring at eachother over a wet cigarette paper.

I despair at the level of political debate I hear around me, sometimes on media, sometimes at the water cooler. But what have we done to improve it? What has anyone done? Who has accountability for ensuring that the people in this country who are required by law to turn up at a polling place know what they’re voting for and why?

I support compulsory voting, where everyone has a single, equal vote...and yet, if I vote Liberal in my seat because I don't like Julia Gillard's glasses is it a valid choice? It's definitely a valid vote, but was it made by someone in possession of the facts?

That's one of those horrible questions that keep me awake at night.

Now it's your turn. You can thank me later. 

BTW, there's a silly little poll on this very subject in the right hand column of this very blog. What drives your voting decisions?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Take it as a Comment

What is the purpose of a public debate if it is not to expose the audience to different perspectives on the same issue, and to encourage them to consider their own opinion from different angles? The ABC’s QandA exists for that purpose, and a noble purpose it is.

The added layer that supports the success of QandA is Twitter. Broadcast live, QandA includes tweets from television audience members, displayed on screen, allowing QandA to boast of it’s panel of experts, politicians and celebrities, the studio audience, and the television audience, all with the ability to influence the show in real time. In fact, tweeters who have a tweet displayed on screen during the show are heroes for considerably longer than the 15 seconds or so that the tweet is on the screen. They can even advertise their success with a range of QandA T-Shirts. Not just a television show for political wonks, QandA is a multi-platform cultural landmark.

What about the panellists who appear on programmes like QandA? Are they there to help viewers to expand their minds and raise the level of debate around the water cooler in the office tomorrow? Of course not. With the exception of a few pop stars and comedians who should never have been anywhere closer to the QandA panel than the audience seats, QandA panellists have political and social agendas. They are there to discuss their subjects, represent their cause and neutralise any opposing views, regardless of the carefully selected and worded questions asked by the audience members.

In a live television environment where instant feedback is encouraged and rewarded, it’s inevitable that a range of responses will be received. Some personalities are always going to attract an audience and polarise it; others are less sensational.

Why is anyone surprised then, when a guest from the conservative group, href="">The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) displays conservative views, as James Paterson did on this week’s QandA, and receives a barrage of negative response?

Writing for right wing magazine The Spectator, James Paterson isn't surprised. He revels in it, responding with glee at the number of “abusive tweets from engaged lefties” he receives. For James, it’s a matter of pride that he’s been able to stir up a certain level of consternation, annoy specific tweeters into responding, and provoke groans of despair from the studio audience. He writes:

We move on to the mining tax, and a self-described lifetime Labor voter complains to Chris Evans that the Gillard government hasn't hit the mining industry hard enough, to the delight of the studio audience. In his answer, Evans suggests that the applause is a good indication of changing community sentiment and perhaps the government should look at reforming the tax to collect more revenue. I can't resist the opportunity, and point out that if the ALP really thinks a QandA audience is a representative sample of the Australian community, no wonder they are in such bad shape. It wins me no friends in the audience, who loudly groan. But at least Sinclair Davidson at the excellent blog Catallaxy Files appreciates it - he writes that it was my best comment all night, and Andrew Bolt agrees on his blog.
Note Mr Paterson’s mocking tone when considering that the QandA audience might be representative of the Australian community. I’m pretty sure that it would be impossible for the Australian community to be represented accurately by an audience of a couple of hundred people, but I do know that the political self-identification of the audience members for this week’s QandA programme was ALP 36%, Coalition 41% and Greens 14% - with 9% in the Undecided/Secretive/Confused bucket. To my amateur eye, that does look a bit skewed towards the left, yet it’s not a whitewash.

Even if all of the Greens support Labor, and the entire noncommittal 9% favoured the right, that would put the audience at even-stevens. So those groans that Mr Paterson heard from time to time during the programme were probably less than half the audience. Whether he likes it or not, the IPA, the Coalition, the right in general is rarely a minority. Playing underdog at the mercy of the Big Bad ABC simply doesn’t make sense.

Another groan was heard when host Tony Jones announced that next week’s programme will include a guest from the Centre for Public Christianity.

“It's as if having a Christian on the ABC is something to be outraged about.” A groan does not signify outrage, Mr Paterson. Even a loud groan by half the people in a room cannot be considered a sign of horror or indignation. It’s a groan, an involuntary noise that expresses derision, disdain, or disappointment. For a communications director, the choice of words veers towards hyperbole...and yes, I can pronounce it too.
Pedantry aside, it’s absurd to think that the ABC or its audience has an issue with putting Christians on air. Songs of Praise has been on air since Adam was a boy, and Compass, with Geraldine Doogue is as old as Methuselah. Moreover, the ABC has been responsible for such brilliant television as Brides of Christ and The Abbey.

Mr Paterson seens particularly unhappy – apparently on behalf of the regular QandA audience – at QandA’s regular coverage of political process stories rather than issues. This surprised me, yet  it illuminates part of the reason why Mr Paterson and his IPA are so far away from reality: the QandA audience is genuinely interested in process stories, particularly when they are related to how the Leader of the Opposition may act if he is elected Prime Minister in September. I believe Tony Abbott's inability to handle the media is a major election issue all by itself. Mr Paterson disagrees:

“I can't think of a less important topic to discuss than the Opposition Leader's media appearance schedule and the panellists' theories of what sort of media management tactics his team are running, so I say so. Of course, Corrine Grant believes this is a deadly serious matter of national concern. And nobody mentions the failure of every Gillard government minister bar Anthony Albanese to appear on The Bolt Report on Ten.”
Anyway, what else is there to discuss? The only Coalition policies we know about are the ones that are leaked.
Corrine Grant understands a helluva lot more about media than Mr Paterson does. Australians – even those on the right – might have a problem with a Prime Minister who goes out of his way to avoid talking to the media. That Tony Abbott has not appeared on QandA in a while is entirely Tony Abbott’s decision – just as choosing to not appear on The Bolt Report is the choice of many ALP figures.

It should probably be noted here that except for a couple of episodes, The Bolt Report rates last in its timeslots: in order to maintain an audience in the mid 200,000s, Channel Ten screens the programme twice on Sundays.

QandA is watched by around three times as many people as The Bolt Report, and frankly, Mr Bolt has such a tainted reputation that I’d hesitate to recommend that any politican of any side appear on his show.

The biggest question of all for Mr Paterson is this: Did he kick any goals for his team? Did he change any minds, win any votes for the coalition or attract any new members for the IPA? He speaks of having personal key performance indicators for his QandA appearances. He isn’t satisfied unless he’s getting hostile tweets, particularly from Marieke Hardy, although I’m sure there are others whose antagonism he values as much.

And that’s pretty damned childish. James Paterson is on QandA to do a job for his employer, to promote his organisation and their values. Pissing off your opponents is no reason to be proud - unless you’re trying to cause a riot at nap time by stirring up the other three year olds into making a noise.

I’m pleased for him that he finds satisfaction and fun in such a pointless activity. We all need to enjoy our work.

Meanwhile, if Mr Paterson is tempted to respond to this post, he's welcome to do that. My interest has never been in provoking a response from the right.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Caaanbra: Julie & Julia

When I sat down today to write, it was not with the intention to write about Julie Bishop. Imagine my surprise to look up and find 1200 words on the wonder that is the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia. If you're looking for me to sing "Isn't She Lovely" as she sashays through the corridors of Parliament House, you will be disappointed. If you're up for a quick read on the hairdo behind the Death Stare, pour yourself a drink and relax.

Julia Gillard did a masterful job of ripping the carpet out from under Tony Abbott when she named the election date just days after the newly tanned, de-wrinkled, combed-over Leader of the Opposition launched his mini-campaign. The Libs had no choice but to follow the ALP agenda, and that does not sit well with an opposition that was expecting another six months of game-playing and Election Date Bingo with the media.

But never underestimate the power of Julie Bishop. Outwardly, little has changed from he LA LAW-vintage boxy suits, frosted, flippety hairstyle and laser-powered death stare. Perhaps nothing has changed but the calendar, yet I suspect That there is more than a hint of desperation. What else could have prompted the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party to appear on Radio National last week to make the case that Australia should revert to a “caretaker government” status until Election Day in mid-September?

I will restate it here, for the benefit of all who may be in doubt: the government is not in caretaker mode, and will not enter caretaker mode until all of the Governor-General-seeing and writ-issuing and church-hall-booking has been done in mid August.

If this was a caretaker situation, what would that mean? It would require that the ALP Government wouldn’t make any major policy decisions without agreement from the Opposition. The same restriction would apply to making significant appointments of public officials, and would need to refrain from being involved in any international actions, from diplomatic visits to acting on the UN Security Council. In summary, the government would cease to do everything other than keep the country ticking over in neutral for over seven months. Politically, that would deliver a chocolate coated election campaign to the opposition – just keep pointing at the Government’s impotence and try not to do anything dumb. 

And yet, there she was. Ms Bishop’s appearance on RN was reported in the Australian:

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said the opposition was seeking legal advice on whether Julia Gillard's nomination of September 14 as the election date should force the normal business of government to cease.

“We believe that the government has made the call. We are in virtual caretaker mode,” she told ABC radio.

But Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said it was clear that caretaker mode began with the issuing of election writs, which would occur on August 14.

“Why should a government stop just because Julie Bishop says so?” he said.

“This is an attempt to disrupt the government of our country.”

It did not take long for the media, the Twitterverse, the government and potentially a few low-flying seagulls to point out to Ms Bishop that she was wrong: legally, factually wrong. Of course, she knew that – she must have known. The purpose of her short caretaker offensive would’ve been to put the concept and phrase into the hearts and minds of conservative voters and commentators, thereby making the ALP Government look illegitimate. It almost worked too, except that the electorate isn’t quite that stupid.
And then last week, the poor woman admitted that she and the Prime Minister don’t get on all that well together. In fact, Ms Bishop stated that she’s tried to make friends with the PM, but that Ms Gillard won’t talk to her. This, according to Ms Bishop, is extraordinary.

Y’know what? Diddums. It’d be nice if everyone could just work together, and be polite and courteous and helpful to those irksome co-workers who share our working environment. Julie Bishop’s reality is the PM is the leader of the Government, and Ms Bishop is 2nd in charge of half the the team that came in second. Julie and Julia may be the two most powerful women in the Australian government (although that is debatable) but they are not equals, nor on the same side. The deputy leader of the opposition’s job description probably includes a requirement to do all she can to destroy the government’s credibility.
In the world’s softest interview, Ms Bishop admits that she decided to hound Prime Minister Gillard only after Ms Gillard’s famous misogyny speech in parliament last year.

"Tony had always given Gillard the benefit of the doubt, he'd always thought there was a line she would never cross,'' says Bishop. "She crossed the line that day, and as far as he was concerned, all bets were off. So it ultimately backfired on her, because I would never have raised the AWU matter had she not done that. It hurt his family so much. His daughters were stung by it.''

The Prime Minister’s misogyny speech has been viewed by millions of people around the world, and praised by most. It was a singular event in our history which was, at the time, entirely misread by the media, and apparently, by Ms Bishop as well. Meanwhile, the Opposition keep raising the Gillard – AWU connection, but have failed to find a anything that can be pinned on Ms Gillard. 

Now this is just a observation, but if I was in Ms Bishop’s position, and I thought that the PM had a geniuine case to answer on the AWU matter, I would be gunning for her because I believed her to be in the wrong, not because she attacked my boss and upset his daughters. Similarly, if there is no case for the PM to answer, constantly attacking her out of revenge is like an episode of Glee without the music, isn’t it? Time to grow up and find priorities appropriate to a senior politican.

Julie Bishop just hasn’t had a good run in Opposition. She’s been deputy to three leaders, and while she is deputy, she won’t be Acting PM, as that role goes to the leader of the Lib’s Coalition partner, the Nationals. If the Coalition wins the election, and the Prime Minister is out of the country or unavailable, Ms Bishop may be acting Leader of the Liberal Party, but she'll be watching Warren Truss as Acting Prime Minister. 

She can’t even say in all honesty that she’s the most powerful woman in the Liberal Party, because I’m pretty sure that Mr Abbott's Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin would outrank almost everyone.

But here's a claim to fame: Ms Bishop was the first woman to be Treasurer or Shadow Treasurer until she was forced to resign over concerns that she wasn’t up to the job. Those concerns may have been based on the fact that she wasn’t any better at it than Barnaby Joyce would have been. That’s a hard truth.

In 2010, as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, she suggested that Australian intelligence organisations forge passports for use in covert operations. Even if that did occur, we sure as hell shouldn’t be talking about it – but I suspect she knows that now. It seems that her ambition is to be Australia’s first female Minister for Foreign Affairs is achieveable; it’s also a frightening ambition, given her inability to keep possible intelligence activities secret.

Still, Julie Bishop has stickability; loyalty to her position, if not to the leaders she’s served. She’s seen off two Liberal leaders in Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull, and she’s survived as Tony Abbott’s 2IC for longer than most would care to comtemplate.

In the past week or so, Ms Bishop has made headlines by suggesting that women “can’t have it all”. Apparently we can’t have a career and a family, that we must sacrifice something. That’s an extraordinary statement coming from a career woman whose role in supporting Tony Abbott is at least in part to add a little feminine balance to the blokey-blokedness of the Opposition Leader, and possibly to help lighten his image with women. There are plenty of women around Julie Bishop’s age, who are childless and in de facto relationships – there’s Julia Gillard and me, and that’s just for starters. There are far more women in their 40s and 50s who have achieved great things in their career, and have had children as well. Ms Bishop is just flat out wrong, as she was on the caretaker government issue, forged passports and her motivation for pursuing Julia Gillard.
I am not being disingenuous when I say that Julie Bishop has already achieved much more than most will in their entire lives. Being Deputy Leader of a mainstream political party is one helluva line to put in your resume. I can’t mock that, and I wouldn’t want to.

Having said that, Ms Bishop has been in Government and in Opposition, and she's a high profile politician. What has she achieved?

…and as I type that, twitter tells me that Ms Bishop’s arch nemesis Julia Gillard is handing out a master class in budgetary variances, primarily for the benefit of Ms Julie Bishop.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Orange Crush

Some blokes are blokey blokes. They like blokey stuff, and they like other blokes, but only in a blokey way. Other blokes are ladies’ men. Ladies men prefer to be seen in the company of women, and see other blokes as competition. Most blokes are somewhere in between, enjoying the company of both men and women, as appropriate to the circumstances.

At one end of the Spectrum of Blokeness is the archetypal Ladies Man, Mr James Bond. At the other end? It’s Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. He is a blokety blokety bloke’s bloke. That’s not to suggest that Mr Abbott doesn’t like women, or doesn’t get on with women, or doesn’t respect women. My care factor on Mr Abbott’s personal feelings about women in general and ‘his’ women in particular is non-existent in so much as it doesn’t matter a jot.

What does matter to Tony, and to me, is how women feel about him. Most of us don’t like him much. For a politician, that’s extremely bad because we are about half of the population, and in order to get elected, at least some of the women have to like you enough to vote for you.

Yes, you may now give me a lecture about the fact that he only has to win his seat and remain Opposition Leader for a crack at The Lodge. I know that, but we need to remember that plenty of people equate a vote for their local candidate as a vote for who they want to be PM. Opinion polls which track “Preferred Prime Minister” don’t help by making it seem as though we are voting for the PM.

As I was explaining, a lot of women don’t like Tony Abbott, and that is a problem in an election year. His whizz-bang team of media spinners and image makers have been grappling with the women-problem since Mr Abbott narrowly beat Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal Leadership. It’s been really easy to tell when the team is terrified: out comes Mrs Margie Abbott and their three lovely daughters. The subtext is the impossibility of Mr Abbott disliking women when he spends his life surrounded by them.

Hogwash. There is no doubt that Mr Abbott loves his family, but how does that translate into female voters liking Mr Abbott enough to vote Liberal? It doesn’t. Strike one.

Peta Credlin is Mr Abbott’s Chief of Staff, a position which comes brings with it an extraordinary amount of stress and expectation. From all reports, Ms Credlin is doing a top job, except when it comes from neutralising her boss’s problem with the women. Ms Credlin’s answer was to sacrifice her privacy – some say dignity – and do an interview about her experiences with IVF. The focus of the article was the compassion and care that was shown to her by her gentle boss, Mr Tony Abbott. The theory was that if the women could only see what a kind and gentle man Tony really is, they would like him more.

Bollocks. I am yet to speak to a single woman whose opinion of Tony Abbott was changed by the Peta Credlin IVF story. Their opinions of Ms Credlin changed though. The perception of Ms Credlin as a successful young woman in a man’s world was replaced with a desperate woman who would sacrifice part of herself for her job, her male boss and her husband – who is, co-incidentally the National President of the Liberal Party. The net result was a negative impression. Strike Two.

And now, we must speak of the thing that should not be spoken of. Since Mr Abbott reappeared to launch his mini-campaign – which was promptly and comprehensively trumped by Ms Gillard’s announcement of the election date – he has been different. Where is the rugged blokey bloke who looks more at home in hi-viz lycra than he does in a suit? Where’s the stony face with the clenched jaw who stood silent and shaking while Mark Riley’s cameras recorded every cringeworthy second? Where the bloody hell is Tony Abbott?

As far as I can tell, he’s hiding, ashamed of himself, under an “expertly” applied layer of makeup. Girly bloody makeup. A highlighter around the eyes, a hint of pink on the lips, a close shave an orange gump that looks like it was sprayed on by his local volunteer firefighters. I’ve been saying for a few days on Twitter that I think he might have had a little work done – the wrinkles of a life in the Aussie sun are almost gone, yet the orange-o-tan has been turned up to 11. The hair is a little darker, a little longer, a little thicker than before. It could be dyed, it could be follicular implants, it could be a burgeoning comb-over with a decent spray of Final Net. I’m not an expert on how to turn an Action Man into a Metrosexual (do they still use that word?), but clearly someone is. Tony is a man transformed.

There are two groups of people who know a lot about the power of a subtle makeover to change the essence of a person: the marketing teams at cosmetic companies, and women. Yes, women. We know that slathering on the war paint each morning won’t change a damn thing – except possible our self confidence – and yet a lot of us do it every day for our entire adult lives. So will a makeover make Tony Abbott more attractive to women voters? Will a bit of a buff and shine make all of us – or any of us – turn into Tony fans? HELL No! Why? Because it’s obviously fake and we’re the experts at it. Strike Three.

Let’s just be honest here. Tony Abbott is a blokey bloke. At a backyard barbecue, he’ll be with the blokes around the barbecue. Why? Because that’s who he is. He appeals less to women than he does to men. It’s probably some elusive blend of the way he speaks and the way he swaggers and his reputation as a bloke who puts his fist through walls and whispers his Catholicism, and his marvellously bumbling attempts to make himself more appealling to women. Now, he's a blokey bloke wearing makeup.

Please note: This blog post is a policy free zone. Make of that what you will.