Happy Duck, an Alcoholic Librarian and Tram Pies – An Existential Evening with Ben Pobjie, Sarah Kendall and Laura Davis at MICF

My evening at MICF began with me arriving at the Melbourne Town Hall before 6.  I realised when I looked at what I had already booked that I had an evening of existential angst, surreal imagery and storytelling ahead of me.  I had some extra time, though, and could add to my evening. Maybe more existentialism?

No.

I actually read the flyers that were proffered to me by various friendly spruikers. I had a read of what they had to offer, had a look at some reviews and they seemed to offer “a laid back Aussie look at life” or “hilarious songs where the two comics outdo each other with crowd interactions” and some such. None of that grabbed me at all. So I just had some dinner and went to Fitzroy to see my first show for the evening.

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Show 1 – Ben Pobjie – Smackweasel

Have you ever driven around in one of those housing estates built in the 1990s?  The ones with endless bendy roads, no direct roads to anywhere cul-de-sacs everywhere.  I have, many times.  Whenever I’m in an unfamiliar one, I find myself constantly doing uturns and feeling hopelessly lost.

That’s what being an audience member in a Ben Pobjie show is like. This is why I really enjoy his shows, because I like being lost down through a network of non sequiturs, existential questions wrapped around existence and irrelevant pop culture references.  It is, however, more than that.  So much more.

Or maybe it really was just a man talking through sock puppets.

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The show is based around the idea that the protagonist became famous due to a wildly successful children’s show that involved socks and a really nasty unicorn sock (that unicorn really is horrible). It is, however, not just that. The show is more an exploration of what it could be if someone took a group of words, cliches, narrative hooks and drama forms and threw them down the stairs, picked them up and attempted to put them back together with some semblance of a linear story spine.

For all that (and that’s what I like about Pobjie’s work), it’s still clearly a well crafted show with Pobjie playing the storyteller role with a style that is becoming more like sardonic panache with each passing year.  It was a preview, so there was still the element of a bridled horse to the show.  At its best and unbridled, the words and concepts flowed with passion.  There will be people who go to this show who will be puzzled by where the show takes them, but if you like to be taken down those avenues, it’s a good way to spend an hour. Plus, you could step a couple of doors up the road and have an N2 icecream afterwards.

Show 2 – Sarah Kendall – A Day in October

Sarah Kendall’s show continued the storytelling theme, though it was a more traditional linear story with amusing tangents and audience interaction.  Plus, she has the advantage for me of being a red head.  Like her, I have spent many days bathed in sunscreen, standing in the shade.  Kendall draws strongly from her background as someone from Newcastle who didn’t quite fit into the milieu and took the position of observer – a gifted one who is able to give the story flesh and life.

The show, I believe, is sold very short on the MICF website. It’s considerably better and has more depth than “it was a seriously bad pool party”.  It’s a show that as many people as possible should see, as there’s great humour, but also a pathos to the show that is heart rending.  It provides at its core the story of a bullied child that could be someone in any number of Australian high schools, what leads to the bullying as well as the result of the bullying.    I’m not entirely sure at the end whether the story Kendall tells is actually based on real life and whether George Peach is real – but the story is so well done that it doesn’t matter either way (though, I really want to know…!)

This is not to say, however, that the show is overwhelmingly sad or earnest. It’s seriously funny and Kendall is a polished, engaging performer who knows how to take an audience with her.  She is the type of Australian comedian I really like – able to see the Australian mythos, able to encapsulate it and give it voice, but also not become an uncritical voice of it.

Show 3 – Laura Davis – Ghost Machine

The existential theme of the evening came back in a white room featuring a white ghost. Of the sheet with eye holes variety.  That’s the gimmick to start the show and I think it works well, because it allows Davis to warm up from behind the eye holes.  She’s an incredibly gifted observer of the world, from a perspective that is difficult to describe.  (If I was a critic from a newspaper, I’d say she’s “wacky” or “quirky” or whatever lazy words they would roll in their columns). She just projects a pure, innocent energy, wondering what the world is actually about and not really getting any answers.   That energy provides an audience interaction that is also memorable – the upfront nature of her existentialist questioning of the audience is one of the best parts.

The highlights from the show for me were those moments where Davis would tell stories of her existence – such as the stories involving her, pies and trams or of her life as a fork sorter; and those times towards the end where she would stand on a chair, put her hands on the ceiling and openly contemplate things that a number of us only ever contemplate at 2.35 in the morning.  There was something deeply mesmeric about those moments, where those of us who do have moments of self loathing / darkness / contemplation were taken to those places whilst also at a show.

There are times in life when it’s been tough to be a red headed, sensitive individual with a love of the surreal who frequently contemplates his purpose in life.  Last night was a chance for me to be in rooms where comedians had been in the same mental spaces in which I have existed. But ones who provided voice, shape and energy to life in those spaces far better than I could ever hope or want to achieve.

Aside from this personally self-indulgent response, it was also a chance to see how these excellent comedians can connect their lives, their experiences to audiences.   Kendall is clearly the most polished and has the audience to match – the show’s intimacy had, I think, the right sized room for it.  Pobjie is still starting in this game and he will learn the art of being comfortable with the idea that his audience is connecting with the material on different levels, even if that’s not necessarily happening with every single thing he does.  Davis’ audience engagement is sublime, because she is genuinely curious about what they think about her ideas and questions and her reference to audience members through the show isn’t schtick, it’s natural.

If you can’t get into the shows done by the people you know, or if you’ve seen them and want to see a wider variety, you really can’t go wrong with this night of existentialism and storytelling.  Or maybe you could.  I’m not you or you’re not me.

AusOpinion Reblogged 29 – Worming Families – The 20 Questions You Won’t Hear at the Debate on Sunday

Every so often, I can’t help myself and write things I actually enjoy writing. Jokes to amuse me and my wife and perhaps a few others. These are almost always unread and unshared. That’s when I wish I had the skills of Ben Pobjie, who is able to make politics funny. 

Sunday. We have a debate. Yay.  I am torn between watching the Battle of the You Know What Fair Dinkum and a replay of the GWS Giants play Fremantle.   It seems as though we have moved permanently into a land where the Very Blokey, Very Important Sky News has some kind of cred – David Speers is the moderator again – and that Peter Hartcher and Simon Benson are somehow ideal for asking questions.   Lyndal Curtis, yes, that’s reasonable – but Rudd’s Cheerleader-in-Chief and the main Abbott supporting hatchet man at the Telegraph?  It’s already shaping to be same kind of hard edged battle of talking points that we have seen for a number of years now, except now with two of the most partisan journalists we have seen for a while on the panel.  Plus, of course, no other parties allowed.  I’m frankly surprised they let a woman into the room for this – though, we are to get the GWS No. 1 Ticket Holder, Melissa Doyle “hosting” the broadcast on 7’s digital channel, along with Karl “Mr. Roboto” Stefanovic on the digital channel of 9.  Just so we can cop Kony Rubbott in HD, I imagine.

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We can picture exactly what will go on in this debate. The economy, “black holes”, “pink batts”, “trust”, “stop the boats” – you know the rest.  And the worm. You can be sure that Mel – sans – Kochie and Mr. Roboto will have worms turning faster than a Queensland Liberal can put his in a glass of pinot.  All the wormage will be connected to Working Families – or should that be Worming Families – pressing whatever buttons relate to their concerns about the Cost Of Living and how the Election Will Relate To Them.  The audience members will probably be disappointed that they won’t be able to send their questions via Facebook – which was a Labor party suggestion for one of the debates.  One can simply imagine how much fun the Social Media Strategists from both parties would be manipulating Facebook for those questions to each leader.  And Ten, in its wisdom, is encouraging #believerudd and #believeabbott hashtaggery for the the #auspol people to use for an hour.  Yes, true representative social media democracy inaction from Ten.  Oops, I meant in action. Actually, no I didn’t.

Because the questions to be posed I suspect will be pretty dull, safe, uncontroversial and the rest – I am suggesting 20 Questions that won’t be asked, but should.

1. Why are both of your parties obsessed with surplus budgets when economists are saying that we need government stimulus as the private sector goes through a downturn?

2. Aren’t new roads a waste of money? They just fill up with more cars in a couple of years.

3. Why do your parties insist on funding a private health care system that does not provide core health needs for the majority of the population, to the detriment of public health spending?

4. Can you say more than 3 words at once? (that’s not for you, Kevin, we know you can. Yes, we know you can say them in Mandarin too)

5. Can we get a rock solid guarantee that you won’t use the phrase “rock solid guarantee” or appear in hi-vis vests for the next 4 weeks?

6. Have you two actually ever considered talking to Indonesia and Malaysia about a long term solution to the processing of asylum seeker claims?

7. Have you actually ever met an asylum seeker?

8. What actually is a “Gonski” and how can someone really give one?

9. The IPA. Heard of it? What do you think of it?

10. Do you think the ABC is “Their ABC”?

11. Is narcissism an illness or a prerequisite to do the job you do?

12. Be your actual selves for a minute.  Just for the laughs.

13. Do you actually think Rooty Hill is a nice place and you enjoy going there?

14. Why haven’t either of you denounced Kyle Sandilands, Alan Jones and Ray Hadley as sexist peddlers of abhorrent attitudes who should be off the air?

15. Can we have an hour without a three word slogan?

16. Social Media is really a forum for partisan hacks to shout at each other, isn’t it?

17. Do you listen to the Ausvotes 2013 podcast? Follow up – Do you have a thing for Ed Butler?

18. Why are there only two of you here? Are you two scared of the leader from another party showing you up?

19. What do you think of Malcolm Tucker becoming Doctor Who?

20. Tempted to spend a day of the campaign without a single staffer around you?

If only.

AusOpinion Reblogged 28 – Stop the Cars! How the Global Becomes Local in the West

This post summed up exactly the issues that faced the outer west of Sydney in 2013 and how the Liberal Party framed their pitch to the region. The question to be asked in the lead up to the 2016 poll will be – how successful will the Liberal Government be in being able to sell their message and fulfil their “contract”?  It’s something that should be ascertained now, rather than in 2016 – that way, campaigns can be predicted, rather than reacted to.  I have made points in italics where changes have occurred since this post. 

The September 2 Four Corners profile of the Lindsay and Brisbane campaigns were illustrative of an Australia that is pretty diverse – socially, economically and logically.  One of the more startling pieces of logic presented was that of Fiona Scott, the Liberal candidate for Lindsay, where she linked the arrival of asylum seekers with the problems of congestion on the M4 and hospital waiting lists.  This demonstrates how the Liberal Party continue to work to make global issues such as asylum seeker processing into local issues.   Hence we get these leaps of logic from Liberal candidates :

50,000 asylum seekers are arriving – Where can we put them all – Their cars will clog up our motorways even more than they are now

There’s a fixed price on carbon – This is causing electricity prices to rise – You can’t afford as much as you used to – The local economy suffers

The Government put the budget into deficit – This is exactly like you going into credit card debt – This credit card debt will cause use to pay more interest, just like you and your credit card debt

As well as simplistic leaflets like this (FEWER Jobs, my wife would scream):

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That is why refugee processing has become an issue for people in the west – because of the link that is frequently made with the problems with infrastructure. Fiona Scott has basically revealed what media outlets and the Liberals have successfully communicated to the collective minds of those now seeking simple, “real” solutions to those problems.  In today’s interview by Penrith Press journalist Kevin Cheng, she attempts to clarify her comments in Four Corners, but actually outlines her approach in more detail.  Her words are in italics.

“I certainly think things were taken out of context with the way it was cut. The points I was making is we’ve had 16 years of failed Labor government here at state level, which has meant we haven’t had the infrastructure investments that we have needed here.” she said.

“The last major piece of major infrastructure that western Sydney has received particularly in roads has been the M7 which was done under the Howard government”.

The M7 is a largely privately owned PPP tollway where the Howard Government provided $356 million, while the $1.2 billion balance continues to be paid by people who use it.  Not a particularly large government commitment and has little relevance to the solving of Lindsay traffic problems – unless Scott is advocating a Public Private Partnership tollway to solve the traffic issues of the west (which is well, WestConnex, but the tolls are happening in the inner west). That’s not a policy we have heard during this election, nor during the last state election.

“People say to me, ‘we are already choking under the weight of the population growth and the regional growth. We are not seeing the infrastructure being built here’, then we see things increasing (asylum seekers arriving) that gives people a sense of concern,” she said.

So, in other words, the original statements in the Four Corners interview weren’t taken out of context – she is still linking asylum seekers to traffic problems by mentioning them in the same breath – and then this:

“When you doorknock places like Glenmore Park and people trying to get out through Glenmore Park or fight through Mulgoa Rd. When you see you have porous border control, they want to see a humanitarian intake and they are wondering ‘our infrastructure is failing, we are having to commute for jobs, how are we going to facilitate this? How are we going to do this as a nation when we are struggling with the population we already have?’ That’s where the two issues are linked.”

Simple comparisons, explanations – and solutions – for complex problems, that is the skill of candidates like Scott.   The simplifying approach can be seen with the use of the expression “porous border control”, which infers that we can’t defend ourselves from attack.   From the 50,000 asylum seekers she referred to.  The 50,000 boat arrivals we have had since 1975.  And not a lot of them have gone to Lindsay – there would have been more arrivals from continental Europe, Britain and NZ than from BOATS in Lindsay since 1975.  However, Scott isn’t about to start blaming them for the traffic problems, because they are now part of her voting body.

Though at least Scott is talking to her local media – and the News Corporation owned Penrith Press. Out in Blacktown, Jaymes Diaz is avoiding everyone, including the Blacktown Advocate, the News Corp paper – with Liberal minders claiming : “Mr Diaz would not be answering any more questions until the Blacktown Advocate began practising ‘balanced reporting’”.  When you accuse a News Corp paper of unbalanced reporting, you may have a problem with the campaign, both now and after Diaz’s possible victory.

Problem is for Scott and Diaz and the other WestSyd Liberals, the promises made by both major parties don’t really address specific Western Sydney issues – hence the need to make global and Federal issues seem like local ones.  This is why David Bradbury has spent a chunk of the last three years attending NBN related events – because that’s the Federal turned local.

To show just how meagre the material promises are to outer suburban residents, we can see  what the Liberals say are their crucial policies in their “Contract with Australia” – mine came from the Member for Macquarie, Louise Markus.

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It’s fairly bland, small scale stuff.  Though, “boats” aren’t as important in the Blue Mountains parts of Macquarie electorate – showing how Markus is really aiming to appeal to her base in the Hawkesbury.   What is significantly missing is specific detail about local initiatives. The Liberal campaign has been very careful to avoid promising anything substantial for the Western Suburbs – Markus’ material has been careful to avoid it too.

There’s been talk around of “well, the people of the western suburbs are the only important people in this election, they will get plenty”.  However, when you look at what is actually being promised people in outer suburban areas in Brisbane and NSW, there is an emerging pattern that both parties have in common:

– Sporting facilities upgrades – but mostly those associated with major clubs, like Manly, the Brisbane Broncos and Penrith Panthers

– One road to rule them all, whether it’s the Gateway in Brisbane or the Westconnex in Sydney

But you also have in common these things:

– No new public transport infrastructure

– Little bits of sporting infrastructure spend for community sporting groups.

Otherwise, it’s just whiz in, whiz out visits from either leader, so they can be seen by people that they have visited marginal seats – very much like Ohio was carpet bombed by Obama and Romney in the last election.

What would people in the West actually gain from Abbott then?  Not much.  The abolition of carbon pricing (which may not even happen) (actually, it did, but had next to no influence over power bills) would have little long term impact on power bills – we can be sure Abbott and Barry O’Farrell will become expert at talking about “poles and wires” and upgrading of power stations when explaining the main reason for electricity price rises. (now that the State Government will be leasing these to private enterprise, let’s see the impact) Even then, the uptake of solar power will probably continue at the cracking pace it has since 2007, as solar PV prices fall and electricity prices continue to be high.

Somewhere down the track the motorways will alleviate some traffic problems – in the case of the Westconnex, it will stop the current bottleneck at James Ruse Drive – but that’s not as significant a part of the Western Sydney narrative as those from Canberra or the city would have people thinking.  In any case, both sides of politics are promising this bit of road, so it shouldn’t be considered a gain for the Liberals. Even when the road is completed, however, the structural problems will remain – problems that neither side have tackled. These include:

– Where to put new houses for residents in an area that will continue to expand without major train expansion

– The current insane, 20 minute bottleneck for cars exiting the M4 at the Northern Rd and Russell St, which has little end in sight – especially for Fiona Scott’s “mum picking her kids up from childcare” (The Russell St jam has been alleviated, but the Northern Rd one is much harder to solve)

– Significantly overcrowded peak hour trains and poor bus network services

– The problems of people spending time in traffic or on trains, going into major cities in an age where decentralisation should be a reality for business and services

Abbott, Fiona Scott, Louise Markus (should she keep the seat) (she did) and Diaz (hahahaha, who?) should have their explanations handy for 2016, when they need to explain that nothing much will change – they will probably say that things like public transport are a “state matter”.   Unlike Jackie Kelly, they won’t have the significant advantage of a State Labor Government to blame.  These new MPs will have a Liberal state government to try to handpass the problems to.   A government seeking to increase urban sprawl in greenfield sides in the outer west and south west, with little talk of how they will be serviced transport wise.  Even if Abbott is able to “stop the boats” by buying them and so forth, I can’t see how he and his new western Sydney MPs will be too successful at Stopping the Cars.

AusOpinion Reblogged 27 – The Caravan Moves On and Western Sydney Does Not

I followed that absurdly successful post with a largely unread piece about what usually happens with Western Sydney in the media – not a lot.  It also raises the issue of sport funding – why is it that Penrith Panthers can attract funding for its initiatives while community organisations cannot.  What is even more infuriating is that it continued into the NSW State Election, with YET ANOTHER announcement of this same initiative. 
Posted by prestontowers on August 14, 2013
Yesterday, the people of Penrith were graced with the National Campaign Caravan and we have already seen its effects. The Caravan got its meme moment, the sex appeal comment – which has attracted a range of responses, such as the morning show discussion points, the main topic of the Adam Spencer breakfast show in Sydney and so on. The sex appeal story has DIDO stickability. So much so, we had Fiona Scott appearing on a range of programs, Abbott quoting his daughter in saying that it was a “daggy dad” moment – which raises a whole load of cultural questions. In addition, there was a great deal of comment about what this adds to the picture we have of Abbott and his view of women – framed through the male gaze of women judged by their attractiveness to the opposite sex. And then there was this.brmae1qcyaabkzu-jpg-large

All in all, not too bad for Abbott, who despite continuing to infuriate those who see Abbott as an unreconstructed “1950s man” who sees women in politics as “accessories” – as Christine Milne characterised him in her interview with Adam Spencer – continues his schtick as an awkward, daggy “ordinary bloke” for many voters. Certainly more positive than if he was pinned with the more serious charge of announcing a spending commitment which had already been made by the Government.

One of the main points I was wishing to raise with yesterday’s post was that the regional areas of the nation really get short changed by the way the media cover them in election campaigns – though not really all that much different from the rest of the time. In election campaigns, however, it becomes painfully obvious how anonymous and forgettable regional areas become to a press caravan constantly pushed from place to place with little idea of where is next – something Michael Gawenda highlights in this article. In that way, Penrith just becomes a place where the ordinary people are locked out and all they want is funding for their local football club – not that the journalists could escape and ask them about it.

Personally, as a resident of the area, I really don’t want the Penrith Rugby League Club to be getting more money from the Federal Government for their programs – especially as their parent, the Panthers group, make enough money from their poker machines to be paying for any number of initiatives. Panthers was the same club that was one of the loudest in their opposition to the poker machine pre commitment reforms and I saw the original Bradbury / Albanese announcement as a way of attempting to ameliorate the club for putting them through that process. One of the loudest opponents of the reforms, Phil Gould, was the one tweeting the new Abbott “announcement”, showing that the Bradbury Albanese attempt hasn’t worked particularly well publicity wise. A reason I don’t support such funding is also while Panthers are scoring $12 million dollars from whichever major party has money to throw at them, places where most children play sport, like Jamison Park, some three minute walk away from the Penrith Football Stadium, remains underdeveloped. (Photo from @chrissiem)

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Times like election campaigns give no time for discussion of broader issues such as the appropriateness of giving more money to organisations that don’t really need it or even the question – is that all Abbott is going to give Western Sydney? – it’s about going wherever the leader is, watching what he says, waiting for the sound bite, moving onto wherever is next. But in these days of social media it need not be. Those piles of journos on the embedded caravan could be looking through their timelines, asking their followers, using those resources to find them facts, to look for the flaws in substance to be grilling the leaders about. I suspect, though, that it is style and gaffes that will be the marker of this campaign, not the genuine gotcha moment. Meanwhile, people watching their TVs will continue to see Western Sydney voters as people who will vote for more football club subsidising and candidates with sex appeal.

AusOpinion Reblogged 26 – What is Appealing About Media Coverage So Far? It’s Certainly Not Sexual

This post was one of the most read of my work on AusVotes / AusOpinion. That’s probably because it was one moment during the 2013 election campaign when there was a modicum of attention on Western Sydney and all that really came out was the “Sex Appeal” comment. (That comment, along with Scott’s comments on asylum seekers and the M4, still gets commented on often in Penrith political circles.)  

What was ridiculous though was the amount of stage managing that was being done in Penrith that day, as well as the lack of investigative detail being done by the shepherded journalists. The rehashed rugby league funding announcement was proof of that. I heard from one of the journos from that pile of people following Abbott, that most of them read this post and weren’t very impressed – they thought I was being a bit unfair.  But really, it doesn’t take much to do some research – or, just ask the local bloke. Kevin Cheng of the Penrith Press got it right and always gave me a grin for what I wrote about him in this post. It was a pity for Penrith that he has now left the country and is having a great time OS. 

The next election, though, will see no change at all, from both the parties and from the journalists when they report on Western Sydney.  They like to just run through the cliches and generalisations. 

Posted by prestontowers on August 13, 2013

Today was another common day out on the election hustings – Captain Awkward being Awkward again, this time in Lindsay.

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Another bland day being covered by the press pack forced to stick with the lead candidates, embedded, to use the phrase we heard during the Iraq Wars.  It was yet another stage managed affair, of announcements, of candidates flanked by the campaign workers / staffers from the Liberal Party – all behind locked gates at Penrith Paceway and Penrith Stadium (known to some as Centrebet Stadium). The event showed, however, just how much of a gap there is between actual news reporting, gossip and the public outside the gate of these events.

While the media were inside the gate at Penrith Stadium there was a local resident and regular Twitter user @chrissiem, taking photos outside the locked gates, tweeting what the public of Lindsay were actually allowed to see at this event.

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While the embedded media showed images like this:

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And then, as the event went along, as we can see from the lens of @chrissiem, the public could see these images of the election campaign coming to their town – note the police, making sure ordinary voters went nowhere near the candidates or Tony Abbott.

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And nothing can stop the bus, except maybe reversing from an awkward driveway.

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This is an all too regular sight whenever campaigns visit the outer suburbs, leaders being cocooned from interaction from actual voters and people. Maybe that’s a good thing for candidates like Greenway’s Jaymes Diaz, who again refused to talk about those notorious six points of his.

The problem is that the embedded media are too close to the action, looking for small, distracting things while outside, the people who wish to be engaged with such things are shut out, unreported, unlistened to. You can guarantee that none of those journalists inside the gate would be wanting to wander away, talking to locals and listening to what they want – unless editors have asked for some loon footage that we see most times Western Sydney is covered.  In any case, they got their fluff story, their Abbott gaffe – one to dominate the news bulletins.

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It was undoubtedly patronising, silly, degrading and acts to trivialise Fiona Scott, the candidate for Lindsay.  And if you look at the footage of Scott’s reaction to Abbott’s comment, you can see how uncomfortable she looks when he makes it.  Though, perhaps it’s the only nice thing Abbott could say about Scott, considering what former Priest – turned – Liberal hopeful Kevin Lee (now the late Kevin Lee) has said about a conversation he had with Abbott about Fiona Scott and Lindsay.

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And then the inevitable pictures come out, highlighting again just how awkward Abbott can look.

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And yet this is still not the worst part of this story of the gap between the media and the news. One of the chief reasons Abbott was in Penrith was to announce an initiative for a community sport centre associated with the Panthers rugby league club. Problem is, it was something the local member for Lindsay, David Bradbury announced in June this year, along with Anthony Albanese – the press release explaining the detail is here.

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This out and out stealing and rebadging of a Government initiative has gone unreported and unnoticed by the embedded media.  And also by Phil Gould, the General Manager of the rugby league club, who probably should have known the truth of this matter (especially considering he was at the original launch with Bradbury) before tweeting that it’s Abbott who supports the community and Panthers, rather than the initial people responsible for funding the initiative.

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The media train will continue to blandly report what is being said by the candidates, looking for amusing gaffes and the like, while actual news is left unreported and actual people are excluded. This is why our media coverage of this election will be as trivial, self serving and narrow as it ever was in previous elections. All spin, all press release, little substance.

Update – thanks to eagle eyed tweep @lanceleysandy, it turns out one journalist did get it right about the fact the Liberal Party is indeed just matching the Government’s commitment.  It was a story by local Penrith Press journalist, Kevin Cheng that pointed that out.  My response to that, however, is this – why wasn’t this pointed out by the major newspapers, such as the SMH, or the Daily Telegraph in their coverage of the event.  This brings into question why, if it’s just a matching of an already made commitment, why it’s an “event” at all.  Or whether Abbott at any point said that it was a “matching” of what was already there.  No evidence of such admitting from this account from Lanai Scarr of the Daily Telegraph nor any of the reports of the event I have read since.

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It certainly seems from the way the national media and Phil Gould tweeted about it, it was worth Abbott bringing to bus out to Penrith for the “announcement”.  This means the question still remains – why didn’t the national media there press Abbott with a question as to why he was making an “announcement” and wasn’t admitting that this was just a matching of what was already put in place by the government.  Maybe a Google search may have unearthed the fact Abbott was trying to pass off a Government funded initiative as something he was “announcing”.  That passed the assembled embedded journalists by.  Ultimately, the incident renders even more useless such events and the way in which they are reported by the national press pack following leaders.

Postscript

Looking back over the Jaymes Diaz video footage, I noticed two things:

Ted Sage, the husband of the now former member of the Blue Mountains, Roza Sage, realising what Jaymes Diaz was going to be up for.

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Even more amusingly in the background is the sight of controversial anti-mosque Liberal Party member / “Conservative Independent” Councillor Marcus Cornish trying to move a sign closer to the cameras as if to protect Diaz from their withering gaze.

Marcus!Cornish, for any eagle eyed readers of this blog, is the main driving force behind the anti-mosque council campaigns I reported on here and here.

AusOpinion Reblogged 25 – Homophobia, Aggression and Facebook – The Battle for Macquarie

And then there was Macquarie in 2013. This is another crucial seat for the 2016 election. If Labor can’t win Macquarie, they can’t win government.  This interest here was in the murky background to a Federal campaign and whether this kind of Facebook nastiness will occur next year as well.
Posted by prestontowers on September 5, 2013
There are those outside the seat of Macquarie who would think that it’s a fairly quiet seat – most of it is in the Blue Mountains, Vote Compass dubs it the second most left leaning Liberal held seat in the country.  There are, however, darker forces at work in the campaign.  Louise Markus, the existing Member for the seat, will be in trouble on election day. This is due partially to her living in Riverstone, which is in Greenway, her former electorate – which was redistributed as a Labor seat after the 2007 election. When she won Greenway in the 2004 election, it was a bitterly fought campaign, where Liberal supporters allegedly used the Muslim religion of Labor candidate Ed Husic against him.   There are many parochial residents of the Blue Mountains who have not appreciated having a local member who isn’t local.  Her campaign, too, has followed along similar western Sydney lines as the campaigns of Lindsay, Greenway and the rest, with Contracts and letters with little detail and local commitments included in them. This provides a problem in a seat with a different socio economic makeup than those seats.There is also the issue of her membership of the Hills District’s Pentecostal Hillsong Church, which is sometimes discussed by residents of an electorate where many are suspicious of the Hillsong church and its prosperity doctrine – in addition to its past homophobic activities and attitudes, including its links to the Mercy Ministries – even if the Chief Pastor, Brian Houston, isn’t explicit about their attitudes towards homosexuality.   This is not to say Markus’ Christian faith would necessarily the issue with such members of the community, it’s more the attitudes of the particular church of which she has been a member.   The issue of marriage equality is important to the people of Macquarie, especially with there being a thriving LGBTI community in the Blue Mountains.  The problem for Markus, however, is to avoid answering questions on the issue, considering that her party is keen to avoid discussing anything outside Stopping Things and Making Things Better.

wrote earlier about a Facebook reported incident where this happened between a voter and Markus during a door knock :

“She said her Party (Coalition) had a strong clear view on this issue and it would be unlikely she would change her mind,” he said. “I said ‘perhaps I could move to the UK where it’s legal’ and she said ‘perhaps you should move there”. 

That voter has now gone to the his local paper, the Hawkesbury Gazette, with the story.   It’s also reached the widely read Blue Mountains Gazette in the final week of the campaign.  The difficulty for Markus is that due to her links to Hillsong and its reputation will confirm any opinions that Markus herself is homophobic – even if that is not her personal view.

Another difficulty for Markus is that her Facebook page, like many others in this campaign, has flaws in it, especially from her supporters in the area. One such supporter, Matthew Breedon, was named in Markus’ Maiden Speech in Parliament in this way:

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This same Matthew Breedon is responsible for these comments, accessed from Markus’ campaign Facebook page by Twitter users @hawkesburyhound and @tiffanythetaxi – views that should have no place in a modern mainstream political party:

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It is also accessible via the web version:

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As well as this comment to a Labor supporter:

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It’s not fair to be, as many would be doing, damning Markus due to the comments of one of her supporters – no political campaigner should be held accountable if their supporters express such views.   A difficulty for Markus, however, is that anyone reading the article about her interaction with the gay voter, then going to her Facebook page, can find such material readily.  This provides a problem for Markus and her campaign team – especially if the one making the comments has had links to the Liberal Party.   There’s only so many generalised leaflets you can send to homes as a campaign strategy and hope it all goes well.  Issues like marriage equality are important and require sensitive treatment, especially in a seat like Macquarie.  Sometimes in campaigns there are dark undercurrents that leak out.  This is one of those occasions.

P.S. I thank Hawkesbury district tweeps @tiffanythetaxi and @hawkesburyhound for the information they supplied about the Facebook page.

AusOpinion Reblogged 24 – The Truckie, Dead Gay Cousins, Sex Appeal and Boats – The Battle for Lindsay

Lindsay will be a key battleground seat for the 2016 Federal Election, and the seat is still without a clear Labor candidate. If I was a pollster (and I’m not), I would be polling the suburbs of Emu Plains and South Penrith pretty regularly to see just if seats like Lindsay are for the swing.  This was my account of the campaign from 2013. 

This week, a bit of the spotlight in this election campaign was shed on Lindsay – the fabled seat that became all important in 1996, when its fall to the Liberal Party signified the end of the narrative that had Penrith as a constant “rusted on” Labor area.  When it switched back in 2007, it was held as an example of the success of the Kevin 07 campaign – along as the cynicism of the type of people who organised the notorious fake leaflets in North St. Marys.

In this election campaign, it appears to be important again – though maybe the Liberal Party think it’s already in the bag, considering that Abbott appeared in the seat early in the campaign and only made an announcement of something that’s already been allocated funds.  It seems that the Liberals’ strategists are right, considering the easy victory that will occur, according to a Guardian poll taken this week.  As with 1996, it seems that the cricket bats are ready to wielded against the ALP in the seat.  I am not entirely surprised that the poll showed that the Liberals will probably win the seat. What surprised me was the size of the primary vote, as well as the view that Rudd’s return doesn’t seem to have helped Bradbury very much:

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In the light of this poll, it is important to see what kind of candidates are running in the area, especially its probable future member.  On Wednesday night, I went to a Lindsay Votes forum organised by the local News Corp newspaper, the Penrith Press. The tweets from the session are preserved here – most of the tweets were done by me and by local resident Mick Morris.  It was a fairly predictable evening in a number of ways – you had the main two candidates treading a well worn path, though not entirely sounding like a string of soundbites, which was a relief ; there was a virtual exclusion for most of the Q and A session of the other candidates ; the other candidates were a colourful bunch that revealed interesting insights into the region.

One of those insights was the reaction of the audience to a question related to “sex appeal” – older Liberal voters in the crowd were shouting “shame” and “what a stupid question” – clearly they don’t like the way such trivial matters come up in election campaigns – or maybe it’s the word “sex”.  But they were quick to disapprove. Scott laughed it off as a lighthearted compliment from a “mate”.  Bradbury said he was relieved that people didn’t apply it to him “with his head”. Haw Haw.

It was an evening focused on the main two parties – most of the questions were focused on them, and the answers provided by them. We did, however, have the Australia First candidate, Mick Saunders, who continually referred to the fact he is a truckie. He came out with lines such as “I’m a truckie, and I…” ; “I don’t have a degree, I have something better – common sense” ; “I’ve been married for 33 years and I think…” ; and also a smack down for multiculturalism, unsurprisingly.  For those outside Lindsay who would be surprised that Australia First still exist, Penrith Council has an Australia First councillor, a man by the name of Maurice Girotto, who is also a truckie.  He was substantially helped by the fact that Liberal and Labor refused to preference the Greens candidate for the East Ward – the ward that contains North St. Marys, where the fake leaflets were dropped.

The Australia First candidates have that Pauline Hanson style appeal to voters who feel confused about the way the world is moving towards a globalised place – they speak about “common sense” and “real solutions” like building more factories and “getting things done” as well as knocking out “political correctness”.  Saunders had that in spades.  His answers, as the night went on were things like  – because he’s a truckie who drives into the city, he knows the problems with the roads and the fact that factories are moving out from Botany and Alexandria out to the west – his pitch was that Penrith should be getting those factories.  Looking at candidates like Saunders, you can see that the appeal of Australia First isn’t just the dog whistling title of the party. It’s also a philosophy of 1950s / 1960s politics where the “wogs” and “reffos” ran the local fish and chip shop and became Aussie like the rest of them, there were no such thing as gays and roads were the way of the future.

Then there was Andrew Green, the Christian Democrat candidate, whose pitch was based on the Bible – hence why he held an old one up during his opening 2 minute pitch to the gathered group.  He then went onto talk about his “compassion” for homosexual people who have made the choice to give into their “tendencies”.  He then talked about three of his male cousins who were gay – mentioning that two of them were now dead. He then cited some “fact” that “gay men die at an earlier age than heterosexual ones”.  Green (note the irony of the name) was conscious of the dislocation of his views and that of the modern day and didn’t make apologies for his “Christian” view of the world.  It was quite remarkable a display of antediluvian thinking.

As for the Greens candidate, David Lenton, I won’t comment on his performance, considering that I was at the event as a Greens volunteer worker for the campaign and David is a good friend of mine. I will, however, reflect on this quote from Margot Saville’s comment on Lenton from her Crikey piece ($) about the forum:

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Stereotyping, it seems, is not just a staple of the “mainstream” media.  Maybe he should have sung the Greens’ platform during the brief opportunities he was afforded.

It was the Bradbury and Scott show and both provided a fairly solid performance. Bradbury managed to produce a fairly competent representation of himself as economics wonk and explained carefully what the Government had done and was continuing to do with the economy – he came across as dry and competent.  Scott presented the party lines with some flesh – she was good at reciting stuff from the Real Solutions pamphlet, unlike Jaymes Diaz, but was more interested in talking about her connections to the area, that she went overseas and worked, but chose to live in Lindsay – and working for Westfield, which sums up her attitude to the world of economics and politics – it is a retail based view, with time and respect for small business leaseholders inside that world.  Both did mention the dreaded boats – but both talked of similar things, with lives lost at seas, and so on – but Scott referred to John Howard’s times, Bradbury spoke of the positive qualities of the PNG solution. Unsurprising, uncontroversial.

One theme that arose from the evening was the idea of transport and local jobs – Scott frequently referred to the “long commute” for many residents in the region. Then later, referred to the Wesconnex – something designed to help with the long commute.  A more than slightly contradictory statement.  Also mentioned was the usually taboo Badgery’s Creek airport – not supporting an airport at Badgery’s Creek is an article of faith for big party candidates for Lindsay and will continue to be, no matter what their leaders say.

Another curious offshoot of the evening was the ever present issues of asbestos and the NBN and the nuclear waste from Hunter’s Hill that could be sent to a site in Kemps Creek – issues that matter to people in the electorate. They were difficult questions to answer. In the case of Kemps Creek, Scott was abrupt in cutting it off and shifted it to it being a state issue while Bradbury said it was outrageous, and so on – he, along with Chris Bowen and Chris Hayes have made it an important side issue in the region.

The asbestos tale was intriguing in that it said something about the retail politics that are important in a seat like Lindsay. Bradbury talked of personal meetings he had had with locals about the issue and then saying that Scott, during a phone link up with people in the seat claimed Bradbury was doing “nothing” about it, citing a Western Weekender newspaper article saying as much. This comment met with some laughs from people who know that the Western Weekender has links to Liberal Party supporters in the area.  Scott responded by saying that she had had meetings with people about it in cafes and so on – showing that she cared.  It was a messy insight into the importance of constant connections to the community.

The event didn’t attract the national newspaper media, which wasn’t surprising – there wasn’t much for them in terms of “sex appeal” moments.  Though, there was a crew from Four Corners, which was interesting.   Present also were the usual gaggle of advisers you get at these events – though the supporters for Fiona Scott was telling for people who know of the internal world of Liberal politics in the Lindsay electorate.   Scott is considered by some to be a member of the more “moderate” side of Liberal politics in the area, as opposed to the more conservative wing.  Her family has been a part of Liberal politics in the region for a number of years – her father an owner of a local car parts business that has been around for decades.  This is why it was telling that present was Ross Fowler, local councillor and member of the “moderate” Liberals as well as another well known local “moderate”, Senator Marise Payne.  Notable for their absence, however, was the more conservative Liberal mayor of Penrith, Mark Davies, his wife, Tanya – the member for Mulgoa in the state parliament – and local Liberal councillors from that group.  While this may be just gossip to many outside the region, it’s still interesting for the way politics is playing out in western Sydney, as well as the way the Liberal Party is evolving and changing. It could also shed some light as to why Tony Abbott called Fiona Scott “feisty and with sex appeal” as opposed to “a fantastic candidate who would have a crucial role to play in a future Abbott Government”.

An interesting evening overall, though only as a museum piece where such events matter to the population at large. These days, it seems to be just the old, the interested young and the middle aged political tragic there to watch as a tightly managed and timed event wends it way slowly along the pathway of irrelevance as the leaders spin their slogans and take their selfies.  But in the meantime, there will be those Australia First candidates, driving their trucks.

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