Belmont Club

Can't Hear You

Although it went largely unnoticed outside of Australia, the electoral massacre of the Australian Labor Party — coming as it does after a similar debacle in New South Wales — suggests not only that Julia Gillard is doomed, but that an entire political formula no longer works. Andrew Bolt writes:

Fatal news for Julia Gillard. Labor’s humiliating annihilation in Queensland proves voters can’t forgive a politician who lies – and then taxes them.

Worse, it proved Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was right to say Saturday’s election was in part a referendum on the carbon tax.

Oh, and a third lesson: sliming opposition leaders is dangerous.

Bang. Three out of three. The Prime Minister’s re-election hopes destroyed.

The parallels with US politics are obvious, provided they apply. But assuming that the same factors affect American politics if only to a partial degree, what possible lessons can be learned? The first is that you can’t fight arithmetic. Australian voters apparently do not like the combination of higher taxes, rising prices and ‘Green Energy’.

Labor must have known this, but they couldn’t help themselves. Carbon taxes in particular proved to be the Labor monkey trap. For some reason the Party Leadership felt compelled to impose a program so unpopular that they promised voters not to impose it — then imposed it.

Queensland is the warning. Politicians who cyncially break election promises get punished. Gillard cynically broke a promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Voters had being lied to about this tax, which many also fear. Gillard will be punished. All the rest is excuse-making, wishful thinking and we-know-best arrogance. Labor must drop a tax for which there is no mandate and from which there is no benefit – to the planet, the economy or Labor itself.

The public distaste was so bad that  Green Regulators began to lie to friends about where they were employed.

staff at the Department of Energy and Climate Change are too ashamed to admit where they work.

Staff morale is so low the government has spent almost $175,000 on consultants to lift staff’s flagging spirits.

A negative public image of the department, changing environmental policies and lack of internal support had left them feeling miserable and disengaged, an internal report has found.

Yet despite this, Labor politicians believed to the end they could win the election by relying on celebrity endorsements, media gimmicks and comedians. But even though the average Australian voter was laughing, he was apparently laughing at Labor, something the leadership obtusely refused to see. One Labor staffer, who lost his job in the latest bloodbath saw the handwriting on the wall:

“My view on why Labor lost its way so badly? The desire of most of the ALP front bench to be media darlings and comedians.

“Honestly, you wouldn’t believe the insane amount of energy and time senior ministers wasted trying to come up with a clever tweet. If the choice was between reading a vital policy brief or coming up with a clever gag to throw in your shadow’s face next sitting week, I think you can guess which one won out.

“Politics was seen as a contact sport where your primary goal was to get your face on the 7pm news saying something withering about the Tories … they didn’t just want to beat the LNP [the conservatives], they wanted to humiliate them and show the electorate that Labor was the party of clever gags and putdowns.”

The laugh was on them.

This illustrates two factors which may be relevant to US politics. The first is that Parties are so shackled to their political base that they cannot break free. Even though Labor must have known that the voters hated carbon taxes — so much so they promised not to impose them — once the initial outcry had passed they felt compelled to introduce them through the back door. The Green/Reds owned the Labor party, and had chained them to their cell wall in a dungeon deep and dark.

The second was the reliance on “messaging” to carry the day when the war with arithmetic had already been lost. The idea within the Labor Party seemed to be “we can fool the rubes again — haven’t we always?”

It didn’t work this time. But that brings up a possible third lesson: for some reason the left-wing leadership never sees it coming.  Never, ever. Trapped in their own echo chamber, and convinced they have been handed an unshakeable mandate by “History” they cannot possibly believe they can lose. In the words immortalized by Pauline Kael, many on the Left have never known anyone who voted for the other side and hence cannot understand how anyone ever would.

Perhaps the most bizarre indicator of the connection between US and Australian politics was the article in the Brisbane Times quoting a coal magnate who claimed that the Queensland Greens (who lost what little support they still had in Queensland) were funded by the CIA!

Mr Palmer turned his attention to a report by Greenpeace and other anti-coal groups, titled Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom, which outlined an environmental campaign designed to disrupt and delay the expansion of the industry …

While brandishing a copy of the report this afternoon, Mr Palmer said it was the result of a CIA conspiracy involving the US-based Rockefeller Foundation.

“This is funded by the CIA,” he said …
The author of the report, Greenpeace senior campaigner John Hepburn, strongly refuted the accusations, saying Greenpeace’s cause was funded by tens of thousands of individuals across Australia.

‘‘First up, Greenpeace does not accept funding from the CIA, nor from any other secret service for that matter,’’ he said.

Though Palmer’s view is probably more than a little paranoid, a similar accusation of illicit US support has interestingly been made abut Canadian NGO opponents to its pipeline and hydrocarbon sands projects.

An environmental charity pegged as “radical” by the Conservatives for its opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline is fighting back, arguing the Harper government is shutting down dissenting voices.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver lashed out at environmental groups – like Tides Canada – that have taken money from U.S. donors to mount opposition against the $6.6-billion Northern Gateway pipeline that would connect British Columbia to the oil sands. …

Several Conservative senators repeatedly questioned why Tides Canada was using foreign funding to oppose the oil sands, but Ms. Smith said it was “unfortunate how much confusion there is over the numbers.”

“The focus of the majority of the U.S. foundation dollars that is going through Tides Canada is not around the pipeline or the oil sands,” Ms. Smith said. “Only 3 per cent of our money in total is going to that [and] 33 per cent of our money comes from the U.S.”

In a separate inquiry launched last week by Senator Nicole Eaton, Tories in the Red Chamber have also questioned how U.S. foundations are funnelling money into Canadian charities, in particular environmental charities. That inquiry could eventually lead to changes in the Canada Revenue Act, which would still have to be approved by the House of Commons.

By some strange alchemy, NASA is now charged with uplifting the morale of the Muslim world while Australians and Canadians suspect that the CIA is out to get them. However that may be, it suggests that the recent rejection of the Carbon Tax in Queensland and the troubles the Green lobby is having in Canada are an indirect referendum on President Obama’s energy policy. The political outcomes in those countries reflect what the broader Anglosphere thinks of the One.

But maybe he doesn’t care. Just as the Australian Labor Party failed to change course in the face of open and bitter voter opposition — even when the alternative was political annihilation, it is possible that the administration will keep going on its narrative ‘arc of history’ — or kamikaze mission, depending on your point of view — until the bitter end.

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