Should Labor be Worried About the Royal Commission into Unions?

Forever in payback mode after missing out on the Prime Ministership in 2010, Tony Abbott’s latest stunt is to announce a royal commission into unions. The obvious intention is to inflict maximum harm upon the Labor party, under the guise of “looking out” for honest Australian workers (a bit like “stopping the boats” to save lives.)

Tony Abbott and the LNP fail to remember, as per usual, that they are in government now and the spotlight shines upon the government of the day. If News Limited won’t shine the light, then Fairfax, ABC, SBS, The Guardian and the New Daily, along with countless independent media sites WILL.

Australians have suffered through six years of screaming Murdoch headlines, “Labor this. Labor that”. They don’t care what Labor is up to now, just so long as they are effectively keeping the current government to account. Australians care about what Tony Abbott and the LNP have in store for their country. After the disastrous start to Abbott’s Prime Ministership, Australians are more alert than ever to what nasty surprises this government may have in store.

Predictably, News Limited will run endless headlines about union corruption as the royal commission unfolds. The headlines could last for years. Labor could suffer severe embarrassment, but in the scheme of things, Australians are likely to shrug their shoulders and  become bored with the news BECAUSE Labor are not in power anymore. Like Schapelle Corby, they are sick of hearing about it.

When the royal commission is over, Bill Shorten would do well to effectively diffuse what is likely to be Abbott’s only strategy for winning the next election. He should acknowledge the findings, then hire a top quality public relations team to assure voters that the issues are dealt with. Then he ought to clobber Abbott with a huge scrolling list of failures and broken promises. No doubt the list will be hundreds of pages long. And all in time for the next election.


Twitter Taking a Toll on Tory Tactics

Newly sworn in Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made no secret that he wants to take us back to the glory days of John Howard. Secrecy, subterfuge and fear-mongering are back, with a recycled Howard cabinet thrown in for a bit of nostalgia.

Tony Abbott, however, has a problem. The notorious luddite may not have considered that Howard governed in a time when the Internet was relatively new in Australia. For years, many people remained on dial-up and e-mail was the revolutionary new method of getting your message out (but only to people you knew).

Fast forward to the age of social media (namely Facebook and Twitter). Today virtually every man and his dog has a smartphone. You carry the Internet in your pocket and receive news in real time.

Not only can you receive news in real time, but you can post it as well. The Coalition found out the hard way last week when Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, explained they will not be announcing asylum seeker boat arrivals as they happen.  They choose, instead, to release information on a weekly basis… (which could change)”. Back in Howard’s day, there wasn’t much that could be done about it, other than hope that the media would hold the government to account. Today, in 2013, the government tries to hide the boats, but the public tweets the boats. Gordon Thomson, of Christmas Island, says they are determined to “tell the world” about asylum seeker arrivals, firing off the first “state secret” last week (@gordonthomsonci).

And today we learned, that upon the Abbott government’s closure of the climate commission, they simply bounced back on Twitter as the privately funded “Climate Council” (@climatecouncil). D’oh!

Conservative columnists, such as Andrew Bolt and Paul Sheehan, don’t appear to be impressed with this social media thing. They have taken to lashing out at users for disagreeing with their opinions, or God forbid, disliking Tony Abbott. Bolt compared Twitter to a sewer and typically applied a label to its users (“leftists”), attempting to associate them with Labor at every opportunity. Meanwhile Sheehan, for 2 weeks in a row (here and here), used his column to lament the post-election increase in anti-Abbott sentiment on Facebook. Each of his columns were filled with so many contradictions one could assume they were written in a blind rage.

Speaking of the media, Twitter is proving to be a thorn in the side of the fiercely pro-Abbott News Limited. When tweeter @davrosz questioned whether Abbott had broken a promise to spend the first week of his prime ministership in Arnhem Land, Political Editor, Samantha Maiden, jumped to Abbott’s defense denying that he said it (even though video proof was provided.) The exchange then took on a bizarre twist, with Maiden descending to personal insults (view the exchange here.) The story managed to work its way to SBS and to a wider audience.

If this wasn’t proof enough that social media is taking its toll on the Tories, we now learn that the Coalition proposes a ban on boycotts for environmental groups, most of whom galvanise their supporters through social media.

The problem for the Tories is that while Howard had an easier environment in which to pull off these tactics, the Abbott government will be under the Twitter microscope with thousands of critical thinkers on standby to call out the propaganda and evasion the very second it occurs.