Thursday, April 18, 2013

Newmania: Gonski

We have to talk about Gonski. We have to talk about what is happening to prepare the next generation for life. We have to talk about priorities.

We have to talk about King Campbell.

For reasons that I can’t begin to understand, King Campbell and his band of confused, overwhelmed ministers are planning to refuse $3.8 billion dollars from the federal government because Queensland can’t afford the $1.3 billion dollar state contribution that would be required under the Gonski reform plan.

Newmania’s Chancellor of the Money Bags, Tim Nicholls says that he’s already committed $835 million dollars of extra funding to education. By my calculations, that leaves just $465 million dollars to find. I was educated in New South Wales, so I did that calculation in my head.

In any case, Chancellor Money Bags will tell you that $465 million dollars is a whole lotta money, that would buy 465 hospital beds, almost 6,000 teachers or 9+ primary schools. It’s a trade-off. He says. I did those calculations in my head, too.

Here’s the reality: the Newmanian Government has decided that in a battle between a $5.1billion dollar investment in school education, including $3.8 billion of new federal government money, and $465 million of existing funds, the sane choice is to take the money we already have, rather than the gift we so badly need.

We need to improve education in this state. Last year, Newmanian students lagged behind the national average, and in some areas, behind minimum standards in NAPLAN testing. 

Education-wallah John-Paul thinks that it’s a minor detail and was able to find a lot of excuses for why our kids aren’t performing as well as they should. I’m sure Western Australia would like to know about our decentralised jusirdiction, and both Sydney and Melbourne will be fascinated by our diverse cultural mix.

In fairness, the NAPLAN results for Newmania had improved in many categories; we beat the Northern Territory…possibly because Newmanians don’t subject their children to the NT News each day...but that's for another day.

Again, as always, we must go back to the policy documents the LNP released and campaigned on prior to the last election. Unfortunately, the LNP has removed that document from their website, and basically reworked their entire website for the federal election five months from now. Fair enough too: Newmania has already made its mistake. If nothing else, may it serve as an example to others.

Back to the LNP website, though, and you’ll see, under Policies, a whole bunch of airy-fairy feel-good words that almost everyone of any political persuasion would have trouble ignoring:

In our view, government should achieve:

•A just and humane society, where those who cannot provide for themselves can live in dignity

•The family as the primary institution for fostering the values on which a cohesive society is built

•Equal opportunity for all Queenslanders in a tolerant and diverse society without exploitation

•The encouragement and facilitation of wealth so that all may enjoy the highest possible standards of living, health, education and social justice

•Preserving Australia’s natural beauty and the environment for future generations

•A spirit of patriotism in which all Australians are united in the common service of their country and accept the necessity of defending their nation in times of crisis or adversity

•A secure environment in which Australia is safe from aggression and plays its part in world security in defence of peace

Actually, the second dot point is a problem for me, but the rest of them are appropriately vague, warm and hairy. I’ve highlighted the fourth dot point, as it’s the only one that deals with education.

“The encouragement and facilitation of wealth…” the document says. I’d expect to see King Campbell running up the hill towards Caaanbra’s Parliament House, arms outstretched in fanatical encouragement of the fortune Prime Minister Gillard is offering. Okay, so the sticking point might mean that Chancellor Money Bags needs to do some fancy facilitation with $465 million to capture the prize. It’s worth it, isn’t it? Newmania’s kids are worth it, aren’t they?

Well, no, apparently they’re not.

The entire Education Spend in the last state budget was $10.7 billion. The Federal Government is offering to increase that by $3.8 billion, and we’re quibbling over $465 million. Excluding Gonski funding from the Federal Government, that’s 4.35% of the education budget. (I needed the calculator for that one.)

Put it another way: King Campbell is knocking back the opportunity to increase the state’s funding for education by 35.5% because it might cost him 4.35% of the original education budget.

Logic like this is why Newmania needs Gonski.

(And if you’re still not convinced, listen to him not answer Steve Austin’s questions on 612ABC Brisbane this morning!)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Music: Yacht Rock

Think about the music that you loved as a teenager - the pop songs that still make you grin, even though you’ve been forced to concede that despite what you told your mother when you were fourteen, Duran Duran is not the best band ever. Now think about how much of your adult brain is taken up with lyrics to those pop songs from your high school years. If you’re musically gifted, you can probably consign even more brain space away to long-remembered riffs and chord progressions.

It seems that there is some science to why the music that we listened to as teenagers has remained such a part of our lives. Rock musician and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitan has explained it all in his book This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, and to be honest, I’m delighted that it’s not just me who thinks that the art of pop music peaked with the 3.5 minute song that was ruling my brain when I should’ve been concentrating on Mr McWhirter's trigonometry class.
My high school years were 1978-1983, and I’m not too proud to admit that much of the music that I listen to in 2013 was recorded during those high school years. Apropos of nothing important, I mentioned the term Yacht Rock last night on Twitter. I was surprised when ABC Queensland Evenings presenter Rebecca Levingston responded that she didn’t know what Yacht Rock is. How could this be?

Stars of Yacht Rock

I’m confident that Beck would know many of the songs, and like a few of them too. It’s just the terminology, the overt grouping of the sounds and images from a specific time, which links them all together, that is unfamiliar. The term “Yacht Rock” wasn’t around in the seventies and eighties, as far as I can recall, and these days the genre tends to get a hard time. It's smooth, bordering on over-produced, and I gather it’s not cool to like Yacht Rock. In fact, it has become so uncool that cutting edge hipsters have embraced it.

Bah humbug!
Cool or not, this music is imprinted on my brain. I am the baby duckling and Christopher Cross, whose song “Sailing” gave the genre its name, is my Mama Duck. Actually, that’s a totally misleading analogy. The truth is more about neurochemical tags and the ability of music itself to connect very deeply, making strong impacts on vulnerable teenaged minds. If you’re interested, I recommend Dan Levitan’s book.

Theory aside, here’s my Yacht Rock playlist, in no particular order. I’ve grabbed a few songs from outside the generally accepted time frame, but it’s my playlist and I give myself permission to do that.

Sailing, Ride Like The Wind – Christopher Cross
I’m All Right – Kenny Loggins

Minute by Minute, What A Fool Believes, 8th Avenue Shuffle – Doobie Brothers


You Can Do Magic – America
Rosanna, Africa, Georgy Porgy – Toto

FM, Peg, Hey Nineteen, Do It Again – Steely Dan

I Keep Forgetting – Michael McDonald
I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), One on One – Hall & Oates

I love every one of these songs, yet it all looked a bit thin, for what is essentially a pop/rock/funk blend characterised by seventies sophistication. Think dinner parties hosted by ladies with long hair, blue eyeshadow and bearded husbands. When I took a critical look at this list, I noticed three things:

  • 100% male
  • 100% white
  • 100% American-based


Just for variety, let’s throw in some extras – the mood is the same, even if the beards are missing:

Forget Me Nots – Patrice Rushen
Fantasy, After the Love has Gone – Earth Wind and Fire

Off the Wall – Michael Jackson

Never Give Up on a Good Thing – George Benson

Lowdown, Georgia – Boz Scaggs

Come Back and Stay – Paul Young
For now, feel free to miss the rains down in Africa as much as you like, but please be aware that you're singing the wrong words.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

CAAANBRA: Fraudband

  While I’ve been beavering away at work this morning, my twitter feed has feasted on the latest thing: the announcement by Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull of the Coalition's broadband policy.  
The policy, released under the new Liberal slogan of Hope Reward Opportunity, is now a reality. Already the wags are using the new slogan more creatively than the Liberals envisaged:

Hope…the damned thing works
Reward…our mates at Foxtel

Opportunity…to look like we care

  Two topics are up for discussion: Firstly, the actual NBN as proposed by the Liberals today. Tech-heads from work, along with most of Twitter, have assured me the Liberal proposal is the equivalent of answering a request for an iPhone 6 by providing a 1988 Motorola Brick – and expecting to be thanked for it. It will utilise some of our existing copper network, which Telstra has been phasing out since the early 1990s because of its age and limited capacity to carry large volumes of data at speed. In fact, Telstra has described the lifespan of the copper network as "five to midnight". 

Kevin Rudd tweeted that it was last century’s technology. Some of it is older than that, dating back to original copper cables which were laid from 1880.

Assuming that the copper cables can cope with the volume of data and deliver the speeds required, the next hurdle is “FTTN” – Fibre to the Node. In laymanspeak, fibre will be used to transmit major distances, ending at a node, where the data is transferred to copper cabling (or wireless) to reach the homes or premises that feed from the node. In populated areas, there’ll be nodes every few hundred metres.

Copper: pretty & antiquated
The Liberal plan supports the patchwork approach, where various suppliers provide bits and pieces – they call this ‘competitive’. The benefit is that they use whatever is already there, regardless of whether its fit for purpose. (It also ensures that Foxtel is protected, but we'll get to that later.) What happens when something goes wrong? Who is responsible? Technical support will be a nightmare for consumers.

When I read the Executive Summary for the policy, it struck me that the biggest consideration in the Coalition plan is not functionality, reliability, or longevity. It’s cost. There're little thought about the future, just a drive to convince us that in this case, cheaper is better.

At $29.5 billion dollars, it’s about $29.5 billion dollars overpriced if it doesn’t work, if it proves to be inadequate, if the copper cables fail, or if it’s obsolete. Technically, all of these options are more likely under the Coalition plan.

And then, Independent Queensland MP Rob Mitchell tweeted at about 1pm that the Liberal NBN page had failed. In fairness, that had nothing to do with broadband and everything to do with the public perception of the Liberal’s ability to understand and manage technology.

Twitter was brutal. Here are a few tweets from the #fraudband hashtag:

@conceravota Lucky Liberals were not in power when government put in pipe; we’d have ended up w/ a tap & dunny at end of every street. #fraudband
@Picketer Please hang up the phone. Turnbull wants to use the interwebs. #NBN #fraudband

@byTonyWilson It must be a turkey. The nerds haven’t been this angry since Star Wars was recut. #fraudband #NBN

@peterjhinton Stop acting like #fraudband is a turning point! The people who will hand #2031election to #abbott think a torrent is heavy rain. #auspol

@geeksrulz LNP FRAUDBAND CAR CRASH. Turnbull has no estimate on how long copper will last. Thorough planning. #NBN #Auspol

  The other issue was the announcement itself. It was a big deal, and now, competing with the death of Baronness Thatcher for column inches. Many of the policy details were known or at least suspected before the press conference. Rumours were circulating that not all media was invited to today’s launch. Freedom of speech is a different issue altogether, but is worth considering in light of three areas of context:

This is the Liberal’s first major policy announcement in this election cycle

Tony Abbott has been avoiding the tough interviews

Malcolm Turnbull has a background in telecommunications
Firstly, the announcement was made in front of a banner with the word Foxtel emblazoned on it. That was a poor choice by the Liberals communications team, as Rupert Murdoch, who owns a slab of Foxtel, stands to benefit from the Liberal proposal, and lose from the current NBN. It looks dodgy.

Secondly, Tony Abbott was there. Well, of course the Leader of the Opposition would be there when the first of his party’s policies is launched…except that last time he was anywhere near a Liberal policy on the broadband, he displayed an embarrassing lack of understanding of the basics and a condescending attitude to those who use technology. Remember this clanger:
"For me, broadband basically is about being able to send an email, receive an email," he said. For his daughters "it's about downloading movies, songs, all that kind of thing".

At that time, one of my key responsibilities was to work with rural and remote customers who were trying to use our transactional website, but in many cases, just didn’t have an internet connection to support it. A couple were still on dial-up. Those customers weren’t trying to download the latest Harry Potter movie or Sex and the City 2. They were trying to do business in the bush. That comment helped to ensure that when the situation arose, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor supported the ALP, because the ALP was committed to delivering fast broadband to the bush.

Incidentally, Mr Abbott should be careful of raising the issue of price rises. His policy document claims that the ALP NBN was originally costed at $44.1 billion, but has almost doubled to $94 billion. Almost doubled, eh? In 2010, Mr Abbott priced the Coalition NBN substitute at around $6 billion. The plan unveiled today is estimated at $29.5 billion – almost 5 times as much as the 2010 estimate. Yes Mr Abbott, costs and priorities change over time.

So what’s the outcome?  It’s a cost/benefit judgment. It seems to come down to personal ethos: a bigger spend for a more robust, durable system, or a cheaper alternative for a cheaper result.

I want the one that works, and will keep working into the future. The rest of it, we manage.

Trending Hashtag: Fraudband. © @KRuddMP   Update: 4 hours later, and #fraudband is still a very active hashtag. There are very few tweets in favour of the Liberal plan - but not everyone tweets. Those who have little contact with computers will probably prefer the cheaper option, so be cautious about taking the twitter preference as a sign.

CAAANBRA: Hide and Seek

For months and months the progressive/left twitterati has been quivering with indignation. Why has the mainstream media forsaken us? Why is the mainstream media giving Tony Abbott and the Coalition such an easy ride to the next federal election?

"It’s not fair!" we whinge silently. The ALP Government has done a pretty good job of governing in what is a hostile environment, but they have comprehensively failed at getting the message out. When they do something good, it’s invariably and unfairly overshadowed by something else, and that something else is often a relatively minor issue of Labor's own making. If you’re a Labor supporter, or even just an interested centre voter, you could be forgiven for thinking that the media favours Tony Abbott and the Coalition.

Everyone has a preference, a perspective, yet like almost everyone I know, I still harbour an expectation that The Media will be objective, fair and honest. I've known for decades that my belief is not always reality, but each time I turn on Fox News, I'm surprised by their partisanship.

The surprise in the Australian media is how the mainstream media can so blatantly support Tony Abbott when he so openly lies, fibs, backflips, flipflops, evades, obfuscates, goes silent and even walks away from the media when the questions get uncomfortable. And he gets away with it by continuing the same behaviour.

Australia's Conservative Media Stars

As columnist and academic Peter Van Onselen reminded us on his Sunday Agenda programme two days ago, it was 482 days since Mr Abbott appeared on the programme. Van Onselen is one of a handful of commentators who have commented in the past week or two that the Leader of the Opposition been getting a very easy ride and not being asked to explain his views. Van Onselen’s opinion piece in the Sunday Telegraph highlights the fickle series of stories Abbott’s been telling State Premiers about the GST disbursement.
When it comes to the GST, Abbott's going around the country telling states what they want to hear. But his comments are entirely inconsistent.

It seems that Mr Abbott is able to say no to repeated invitations to appear on a variety of current affairs shows – a luxury which will not continue beyond the next election, regardless of the result.
He has refused to appear on any of the major ABC current affairs programmes since he was disemboweled by Leigh Sales on 7:30 on August 22nd last year. Even worse, it’s approaching 1000 days since Mr Abbott has appeared on the ABC’s top-rating current affairs chatfest QandA.

But no! Ask Mr Abbott’s camp, and you’ll quickly learn he’s not avoiding the media. He's been giving interviews to stacks of regional and right-wing talk radio hosts, as well as the usual round of doorstop comments and quick pressers, usually accompanied by some combination of hi-viz, hairnet or hard hat. Mr Abbott even appeared with conservative commentator Chris Kenny on the Sky News weekly programme Viewpoint. Mr Kenny noted that so persistent are the calls for Mr Abbott to talk to the media, he raised the subject with Mr Abbott. It must’ve been like landing on a cloud of fairy floss.


This is the issue that’s starting to develop for you though in that the Government’s had so much trouble, there’s a sense that you’re looking to skate into government without enough scrutiny as a small target opposition, not putting out your policies, your plan for the country. Now, a lot of your policy work is done. We hear that the IR policy and communications policies are ready to go. Why not get them out there so that the voters of Australia can have a look at them?


Well Chris, let’s scotch this myth that there’s been no scrutiny of the Opposition. Every day there would be a half a dozen government ministers who come onto Sky News who do doorstops and interviews attacking the Opposition. I mean this is the most attacked, the most scrutinised Opposition in history because….


….They do talk a lot about the Opposition, there’s no doubt about it, we hear AbbottAbbottAbbott from the Government, but what about the policy detail. You need to get an industrial relations policy out there for instance, we also need to know in detail what Malcolm Turnbull plans to do with the NBN. Get that detail out to the public; give the voters your vote of confidence that they can understand your policies.


And all in good time Chris. Obviously we are not going to go to polling day with the voters in doubt as to exactly what will happen under a Coalition government. The last thing I want to do is be one of those politicians who says one thing before an election and does the opposite afterwards because that’s why we are in trouble as a political class. Too many members of the current Government – the Prime Minister in particular – have broken faith with the public and that’s the last thing that I will do. But I would, Chris, encourage people to read this book…they can get it online and it’s…

And on it goes, the non-answers, the lack of commitment. The full transcript is worth reading, just to note how often Chris Kenny sees that Mr Abbott is getting into difficulty in answering a question, and gently lets him off the hook and moves onto the next topic. At other times, he simply lets a scripted talking point stand, unchallenged. I’ll bet that Tony Abbott gets tougher questions from Margie than he got from Chris Kenny…which itself is to be expected. Despite a background in media, Mr Kenny spent a decade working in various Liberal Party roles, and even stood – unsuccessfully - for pre-selection to run for the Liberal Party. Chris Kenny is a Liberal Man, and there's a fair chance that should the Coalition form government in September, there will be a plum job somewhere in Canberra for Mr Kenny.
Tony Abbott, wrapped in plastic

Then, we moved to last night' Viewpoint panel. So weighted to the right was last night’s Viewpoint panel, it’s a wonder it didn’t tip my television over. Aside from Mr Kenny, there was
Lee Rhiannon - Greens

Bob Katter - Federal Conservative with his own party

Tim Blair - Conservative Columnist (News Limited)

Miranda Devine - Conservative Commentator
Rather than disproving the suggestions that Mr Abbott is avoiding serious interviews and interviewers, choosing to appear with Chris Kenny reinforces the belief that Mr Abbott is not comfortable across the desk from less sympathetic interviewers, answering tough questions.
And that’s fine. Not everyone excels at debating, and not everyone is comfortable in front of cameras. But no more excuses. Even Chris Kenny has admitted that if the Liberals have policies ready and costed, they should release them - and they are releasing the details of their NBN alternative today.

The problem for the Liberals is that the Prime Minister of Australia needs to have those debating skills, that confidence, ready to fire. Even those closest to Mr Abbott must concede that he is lacking, and that this situation cannot continue.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Newmania: Secret Squirrel Business

Thinking back 12 months, there was one LNP policy that I agreed with: the one about ensuring that the business of government was conducted openly, with transparency and accountability. Yes, it’s all of the big governance buzzwords crammed in together, but it means something, particularly in a state like Queensland which has no upper house to provide balance or oversight.

With the CMC in turmoil, it seems like time to revisit that pre-election promise and see just how King Campbell and his band of not-so merry ministers is doing in terms of being accountable to the people who elected them.

The page is gone...whooosh...although I did find the policy points below. It's unclear what they relate to, although it could be the detailed dot-points of the Accountability policy. I don't recall the detail.

In fact, the entire LNP website has been transformed from the website that included all of the Can Do policies for Queensland to a site featuring Tony Abbott and placing the Queensland LNP in a federal context. That makes sense – there’s a federal election in less than six months. Unfortunately that doesn’t help those of us who wanted to keep an eye on those pesky election promises. They’re not there.

Perhaps you remember the LNP’s five point Can Do Action Plan, and if not, the headlines are conveniently preserved on the new-look website. The five points were

o Grow a Four Pillar Economy

o Lower the cost of living for families by cutting waste

o Deliver Better Infrastructure and better planning

o Revitalise Front Line Services

o Restore Accountability in Government
  So what does this ‘accountability in Government’ policy mean? According to the website, it includes such flimsy concepts as

o CanDo LNP’s First 100 Days Plan

o A Public Service to Serve Queensland

o Empowering Queensland Communities

o Giving communities a choice on de-amalgamation

o Planning and reinstating the role of the Coordinator-General

I’m hard-pressed to see what any of those items have to do with the literal meaning of accountability as it applies to a democratically elected government. They could have called that policy grouping “F*cking Around with Queensland’s Government Structure” and it would have been as accurate and as enlightening.

Mercifully, the current website includes links that take you to the detail that was included in the original policy document…or so I had hoped. Instead, when I clicked the link, I was confronted absolutely nothing. The page has I was looking for, with details of the Accountability policy has not been loaded into the new-look LNP website. 

In fact, of the five major policy areas that the LNP themselves promoted in 2012, only one now links to anything more substantial than a slogan. Don’t be surprised that it’s the Queensland Economy page that has been preserved.

In the absence – deliberate or otherwise – of the LNP’s definition of an accountable government, I’ll try to define it: An accountable government is one which is transparent, responsive and ultimately answerable to the electorate.

That’s the kind of definition I envisaged when I first heard that "restoring accountability" was not just part of the LNP vocabulary, it was a key LNP policy. But where are we now, fifty-three weeks down a pretty unpleasant path? Do we have that accountable government I hoped for?

Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC), seems like a place to start and after today's shenanigans, I’d say not. The results of an in-depth enquiry into the CMC were released today, and part of the recommendations included these secret-squirrel suggestions:

 Abolish ethical standards units in Queensland government departments, replacing them with ‘responsible management’

 Give the state government the legal right to refuse access to documents, without having to supply a reason
 Prohibit the CMC from investigating any matters without the permission of the attorney- general

 Make it illegal for anyone, including people who have made a complaint, to talk about their complaint
That looks to me like a whole lot less transparency around the government, and if the electorate can't see what the government is doing, can't request enquiries without being silenced, can't access documents with certainty, and have no independent oversight within their government departments, how can they hold the government accountable for anything?
Perhaps they'll do better with accountability should they win the federal election in September. At least they'll have an upper house to keep the egos in check.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Family Assistance

What did you learn during the Easter break? If you read the papers, you probably learned that Tony Abbott's daughters love their father, and Tom Waterhouse's mother loves her son. I'd like to thank News Limited for sharing both of these pieces of breaking news with their readership. It's important not to take even the most brain-numbingly obvious relationships for granted.

The whole Tom Waterhouse persecution story simply too silly too pursue. In summary, a grown man with a multi-million dollar business is attracting negative attention because the multi-million business in question is gambling and Mr Waterhouse's profile is ubiquitous. Everyone from Mummy Bloggers to politicians is concerned about the amount of screen time Tom Waterhouse commands as his polished voice gives sports viewers the latest odds on the horses, the footy and anything else that can be wagered upon.

It’s a serious issue which has been creeping into our media during the last few years. A mention of the odds here and there goes almost un-noticed until it starts happening more and more…and suddenly, the insidious incursion of gambling promotion into our family viewing time has a name and a face. It is Tom Waterhouse, with his clean-cut young-man-about-town appeal, his fine cotton shirts and ties and his infamous surname, all bundled together with some brilliantly strong branding - he almost owns the colour teal these days.

Tom is also his own worst enemy. I hate to think what his media budget must be. All of those paid television ads, in combination with neat little deals that see him on screen with the sports commentators, adding his brand of gambling-commentary to the soundtrack. The problem is that the sheer volume of ads and personal appearances on sports telecasts is what has got him noticed. He may have avoided the 'over-exposed' tag had he run a more subtle campaign.

Meanwhile, out here where reality bites hardest, Australians struggle with a gambling culture that rates as one of the worst in the world. We have banned the advertising of cigarettes at sporting events and on television. We have regulated the advertising of liquor. It seems gambling goes untouched. We don’t seem to care about preventing gambling addiction; we just make well-meaning though under-resourced attempts to mop up at the other end. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

And some of us are. Peter FitzSimons, himself a former sports star and now successful author, found the simplest of truths:

…instead of having the tagline of ''I was born to bet,'' it should have been ''I was born to take money off mugs who bet.
Poor young Tom has been copping criticism for months, since his profile during some broadcasts became more memorable than the game or event itself. That's a problem so serious for Tom that his horse-training mother Gai has splashed herself across the front pages, begging readers to stop picking on her darling boy, and promoting her son as a genuine commentator and lover of sports.
No, Mrs Waterhouse. Your son is promoting his business. The family business.

Like so many others, I would've have preferred that those column inches were devoted to covering gambling as the crippling national epidemic that it is. The simple fact that enough of us are disturbed by the Waterhouse gambling factory to have caused Gai to defend her baby boy suggests that gambling in Australia is an issue that warrants front page coverage.

Unsurprisingly, News Limited got the right story from the wrong angle. The only thing to surprise me more is that the online version of the story appears surrounded by TAB ads. In fact, there are no other advertisers on the screen at all.

Which brings us to two of Tony Abbott's daughters who are speaking out on controversial political issues. Bridget and Frances Abbott have confirmed their support for marriage equality, despite their father's unwillingness to deviate from the party line. Those opposed to same sex marriage must be relieved to know that neither one of the Abbott Girls interviewed have been elected, and seem to have no influence over their father.

So why is the Murdoch press splashing this utter non-story? Why does the story exist in the first place?
Somehow I doubt that the two Abbott girls approached media to state their positions on same sex marriage, regardless of how hurt they may have been when their father was branded a misogynist last year. It’s far more likely that this lovely little piece of PR was dreamed up by the communications team at Liberal HQ. They seem to like using the women in Mr Abbott's life, including Margie, the three daughters, and Chief of Staff Peta Credlin. And why not? From the outside, if you discount the fact that it's irrelevant, the story looks like a win-win for the Libs

It links the Liberals to a story about support for same sex marriage (even though their position hasn’t changed)
  • It marks Tony Abbott as a man who is comfortable disagreeing with women while still respecting them
  • It dilutes the perception that Tony Abbott’s robust Catholicism will dictate his policy decisions on certain issues
  • It’s certainly not a win-win for Frances and Bridget, who are being used as part of their father’s political campaign. Sure, they may have agreed to it, may have been eager to help their father, yet there are consequences. By allowing themselves to become media figures, they allow themselves to be ‘fair game’. They don’t control the media, and the media will be more than happy to use two attractive girls who just happen to be related to someone important: look what they did to Pippa Middleton.

    I honestly can’t remember a time when the family of an Australian politician has had such a media profile as the girls are developing. It could be that they add an attractive, youthful element to the Liberal brand, but I doubt it. There were a handful of shots of Penny Wong and her baby, and a generation ago, Hazel Hawke and Margaret Whitlam had public profiles, but I don’t even remember Mrs Janette Howard making the news over her views on social reform. Surely the opinions of the family of a politician are irrelevant, even if given freely?
    So responsibility for this story must be shared between News Limited and the Liberal campaign team. Get used to it, Australia. Frankly, I feel sorry for Bridget and Frances. At 21, they don't realise what they're in for.

    I have no sympathy for Gai Waterhouse or her son. Both Gai and her son Tom come from privileged stock, and have run into challenges as a result of their career choices. Gai overcame hers by force of will and was eventually granted the trainers licence she had been denied when her husband was implicaated in the Fine Cotton scandal.We're yet to see whether Tom has the strength and determination to see this through.

    Personally, I hope he doesn't.