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Misleading Election Commentary on the ABC

Today, on Geraldine Doogue's "Saturday Extra" (ABC radio national), the wrong impression was given by a British-accented commentator that the GST had been brought in in Australian in a fair and reasonable manner. This is infamously untrue and misleading on election day. Wide-eyed talk of how people oddly resent 'change' ignores the fact that change initiated by the people is resisted adamantly by the press and the politicians.

Geraldine's Saturday Extra on Election day 2010

Today, on Geraldine Doogue's "Saturday Extra" (ABC radio national), the impression was given by a British-accented commentator that the GST had been brought in in Australian in a fair and reasonable manner. This is infamously untrue.

History of Howard's Goods and Services Tax (GST) whitewashed

Howard won the 1996 election promising that he would never never introduce the GST (which had rightly been made such poison by former prime minister, Keating.) After Howard was elected in 1996 he set up a sham parliamentary inquiry to look into supposedly reforming Australia's tax system. One person on the inquiry, Paul Zammit, resigned because he was interested in serious alternatives but found that Howard had planned for the inquiry to ram through a GST. Howard used this inquiry to pretend that an independent inquiry had recommended the GST, weeks prior to the 1999 elections. As a result of a confusing campaign, Howard clawed back into power in 1999, whilst losing the popular vote. On a two party preferred basis, the Liberal Party lost 49.02% to 50.98% [1]. Had more been understood about the GST, the loss would have been greater. Nevertheless, and in spite of a Senate majority opposed to the GST, Howard claimed a mandate to introduce the GST. He was able to get the Democrats leader, Meg Lees, to vote for the GST against the wishes of most Democrats and most of the Australian public. This history shows that the GST was introduced deceptively and against democratic objections.[2]

Change is good?

The election commentary this morning is full of how strong politicians supposedly inflict pain on the electorate for a greater good which the electorate is too stupid to understand. There is also wide-eyed talk of how people oddly resent 'change', but of course people resent change because they have no control over the results and they have adjusted, to their benefit, to what is. Change initiated by the people is resisted adamantly by the press and the politicians.

What a grab-bag of last-minute propaganda surfaces in these desultory election 'commentaries' on the ABC.

Footnotes

1. The two-party preferred vote was originally given as "48.5% to 51.5%". I have since discovered from these pages that that figure was wrong. It was in fact 49.02% to 50.98% - our apologies. 49.02% to 50.98% is still a substantial loss of the popular vote. That was a substantially larger margin than the 1990 two-party preferred margin of 50.10% to 40.90% against Labor. For having lost the 1990 election Howard was depicted a victim of injustice by the Australian newsmedia. - JS, 14 Oct 11

2. For discussion on the GST, see also comment to John Quiggin's article Core Promises of 8 May 2008. See also SMH article Let's have the honest truth, once and for all of 18 August 2004 by Alan Ramsey which was quoted in that discussion. Note that the evidence of John Howard's dishonesty was not challenged on that forum discussion by any Howard apologist.

Comments

(The following comment was posted by me to Life Matters just now.)

The claim that the GST was introduced by the supposedly farsighted Howard government in 1999 against the unreasonable resistance of a timid electorate fearful of change was misleading. The introduction of the GST is an example of how our parliamentary system can and has been manipulated to impose policies harmful to the country and which serve a vested minority interest. Prior to the 1996 election, John Howard promised never to introduce a GST. Only the sham inquiry into "tax reform" set up by Howard after he came to government gave him the excuse to break that commitment just prior to the 1999 elections. Even then he lost the popular vote 48.5% to 51.5% on a two party preferred basis ( although still winning a majority of seats in the house of Representatives). The vote against Howard and the GST was even greater in the Senate. It would have been even greater if so much information, shown, after the elections to have been misleading, had not been fed to voters. It was only because Senator Meg Lees and the majority of Democrats Senators went against the wishes of the electorate and Democrats members that Howard was able to impose the GST. This policy has harmed us economically and is only one of many examples I could give of how Australia's political system is not democratic in practice.

And in so doing, Meg Lees betrayed and accelerated the demise of the Democrats.
Selling out to Labor meant that only The Greens became a viable force to keep the LibLab bastards honest.

Now we see The Greens preferencing Labor.

Thanks, John, for your response to my comment. I happen to agree that the Greens and, in their time, the Democrats were, at best, seriously flawed political parties. In 2010, the Greens have failed again to offer voters alternative policies so desperately needed. (Apart from the crucial issue of population stability, perhaps the most needed is a policy to make secure affordable housing a guaranteed right for all citizens. That only a few less well known Greens, and not their leaders, are even prepared to occasionally raise this issue confirms to me that the Greens aren't seriously concerned that millions of Australians have been denied this most basic of human rights.)

However, I don't think that any political party should be automatically condemned for stating that it views one of the major parties as a lesser evil to the other as the Greens have implicitly done by preferencing Labor over the Liberals. Indeed, in the article "Don't give Abbott mandate to inflict misery" of 20 August, I have put my case as to why I believe that a re-elected Gillard Labor Government will be less harmful to the interests of Australians than a newly elected Abbott Coalition govenment. Essentially the reason is that an incoming Coalition Government is far more likely than a re-elected Labor Government to come up with excuses not put during the election campaign to ignore implied or explicit policy commitments made during the election campaign (as John Howard did during the 1996 election campaign) only to subsequently 'discover' an economy in far worse state than they were prepared to acknowledge during the election campaign.

The way that elected governments routinely enact policies against the wishes of the public on whose behalf they are supposedly governing (as for example the Queensland Bligh Labor Government is now ignoring the wishes of well over 70% of Queenslanders opposed to its sell-off of $16 billion worth of publicly owned assets) or John Howard ignored public opposition to the introduction of the GST) shows that Australia is not a democratically governed country in any true sense.

All the same, in spite of the fact that neither major party has shown itself willing to govern in the interests of the people of this country, a case can still be made in some elections for one or the other being the likely lesser evil as we have done. So, whilst John Marlowe, you are rightly harshly critical of the Greens, your condemnation of the Greens for preferencing Labor over the Liberals has not swayed me.

(Subject was: "Bastards" - admin)

The bastards will always be out there and there will always be bastards in power so long as grass roots apathy and self interest reigns over common sense.

It really does not matter who wins this election we will still have dickheads running the country.

The quote “In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve” certainly rings true here in this country.

Without constitutional change the cycle just continues.

I can't agree that the electors are principally responsible for the likely outcome of an election with such poor choices on offer. As has been raised many times on this site, neither of the two major parties nor their main alternatives such as the Greens have offered the electors any true alternative to the pro-corporate 'free market' policies which have guided the destiny of this country for the last three decades. None, not even the Labor Party under Julia Gillard, has come out clearly and unambiguously for population stability. No-one is campaigning strongly for the basic human right denied to millions of Australians, that is, the right for secure affordable shelter. What was once affordable to ordinary Australians, little more than a generation ago - a free-standing home - is now only affordable to people on high incomes or those who have inherited family homes.

If voters aren't given a real choice and if the reporting of the election is as poor as it has been, is it any wonder that so many voters are apathetic?

Re: James Sinnamon's comment 'Should be critical of Greens, but not for favouring lesser evil' and Search For Truth's comment 'Bastards' of 21st August 2010:

My comment was to highlight the weakness of Australia's undemocratic political system that hinges on the whims of individual personalities like Meg Lees rather than the collective strength of a political organisation like the Australia Democrats.

Indeed look at the media-created vulnerability of the political parties associated with John Howard, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, Bob Brown and Pauline Hanson.
Extract the leader and what chance to the respective parties have to win election and govern the country. Squat! It is so wrong and weak a system that hangs by the whim of an individual leader's charisma.

The ideological and policy differences between Labor and the Liberals are marginal. The differential is down to tactical spending preferences and the entire campaign on both sides has been to differentiate between one another, not to prove a better national vision or capacity to deliver that vision.

I expect to wake up Sunday morning to another Labor era and with the Liberals in leadership turmoil again.

The fundamental reason is that Labor has sold its $20 million donator funded propaganda targeting selfish personal hip pocket insecurity, and that this has been more effective than the Liberals propaganda of aspiring to better national financial governance. At the ballot box voters' hip pocket is overwhelming. Labor will have conned most despite its excessive spending, delivery incompetence, state-based wrath and voter distrust.

So it will be a hip pocket outcome, but nothing to do with different ideologies or visions. LibLabs are just a factional variant of the same political ideology.

But I am not trying to convince anyone to vote either way, just to question their assumptions and to be mindful that most vote with their hip pocket and so must accept the consequences - personal gain, national pain!

Yes, so long as the electoral process remains undemocratically biased toward those in power, the LibLab cycle will continue.

When I conducted a search using the terms:

"Paul Zammit" Australia GST

... I failed to find any record of John Howard's manipulation of the electoral processes to impose the GST except for what is on candobetter and contributions by daggett and myself to johnquiggin.com. (However, as footnote in the article above shows, discussion includes comment with quote from Let's have the honest truth, once and for all of 18 August 2004 by Alan Ramsey.)

That's unfortunate because the public discontent with Julia Gillard's Government may well lead to her Government being voted out and replaced by a Tony Abbott Liberal/National Government - possibly in an early election, if the mainstream newsmedia gets its way.

This could happen in the same way that Australians' rightful dislike of then Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating caused John Howard's Liberal/National Government to be elected in 1996. After Howard was elected he took Keating's scandalous mismanagement as license to implement his own policies which were even more harmful to public welfare. This included his vicious slash-and-burn budgets which he carried out using his "discovery" of Paul Keating's $10 billion budgetary "black hole" as his excuse.

If the media wants us to embrace Tony Abbott at least it should more closely scrutinise the record of the Howard Government of which Tony Abbott was also a Minister, particularly in its early years.

A proper scrutiny would most likely convince a great many that Abbott is no more deserving of their vote than Gillard and they might start seeking real alternatives to both.