When Rugby League legend Phil ‘Gus’ Gould stopped his on-air spruiking of sports betting for long enough to attack the Gillard Government’s responsible gambling laws on Friday night, he was blowing the opening whistle for what is looming as the match of the season.
Cash-Strapped Clubs versus Wilkie’s Wowsers shapes as a classic encounter, a contest where there can’t be any compromises, where a loss could spell death for one side, a victory worth self-evident, if ill-gotten, riches for the other.
Cash-Strapped Clubs, traditionally one of the principle sources of funding for NRL clubs, have been targeting New South Wales and Queensland Labor MPs for months claiming they would be driven to the wall if people were given the option of nominating a maximum losing amount before they hit the poker machines.
Now a number of AFL notables, several with strong Liberal Party ties, are parroting the dubious proposition that sporting clubs need the proceeds of problem gamblers to remain viable entities. Ignore the millions in broadcasting fees just secured; if people who can’t control their gambling are protected from themselves, the code itself is in peril.
Sex scandal! Now I have your attention, I want to talk about politics. That’s the show on TV where the woman with dyed red hair swaps insults with the boofhead in the suit.
These overpaid and out-of-touch liars run the country. But they never listen to us ordinary folk. While we are fed up with living costs and boats they just want to waste our money.
Labor’s hopeless: they stuffed up pink bats; wasted zonks in school halls; they can’t stop the boats and they want to bring in a big new tax on everything. And the other mob? Not much better: he says no to everything and wears budgie smugglers. I can’t stand either of them.
This is a pretty fair summary of the state of contemporary political debate; a series of swapped insults thrown at a disengaged electorate who has neither the time nor inclination to engage.
With popular culture now having entered the prime ministerial bedroom, it’s hardly stepping over the line to offer a few suggestions on what our besieged leader should be getting out at the Yarralumla video shop.
While the poll numbers look like the stuff of a horror movie the PM can draw inspiration from an entire genre of survivalist films that dramatise real-life encounters with oblivion and celebrate the way the human spirit can rise to any challenge.
Most of these movies start with a moment of sunshine and light before fate strikes and the odds begin to stack up against the protagonist. So it is with this week’s Essential Report.
Australia is now officially a ‘patch-work’ economy, according to anyone trying to explain away massive mining profits amidst job losses and rising living costs elsewhere.
It’s a neat term because it has a sort of unthreatening, homely feel; just a series of patches, knitted together by the golden thread of trickle-down economics.
But if you were to map out our economy into sectors and ask people to rate their value, you would see something looking more like a ragged blanket being pulled in multiple directions by different interests.
Which is exactly what we have done in this week’s Essential Report – asking people to rate industries by their importance – as well as by how we think they are travelling.
The sad irony for a government struggling for love is that the disputed use of a credit card to fill the emotional void of person or persons unnamed now threatens to end its rule prematurely.
But the bittersweet truth for the Gillard Government is that, while they are being absolutely smashed politically, the bulk of their policies actually have broad public support.
This week’s Essential Report shows that, save asylum seekers and climate change, just about everything the Government has done since the last election and is planning to do is, if it maintains power, backed by the electorate.
When Labor governments get into strife they call for the doctor, knowing that the management of the health system is one of the areas of policy where the ALP enjoys a strong brand advantage.
The defining image of Kevin Rudd’s final days as leader was his lap of the nation in scrubs with a constant flow of picture opps: it worked for a while, the polls recovering and 58 per cent supporting his reforms.
But in a sign of the hole the Government is now in, even health is proving a barren battleground with the Government lagging behind the Coalition as the party trusted to handle health amidst general confusion about what the latest reform package is all about.
We are currently witnessing the spread of a global contagion that threatens our quality of life; from the halls of Washington DC to the streets of London an international outbreak of dumb is gathering momentum.
On one side of the Atlantic legislators take their economy to the brink in a bid to conform with Tea Party slogans; while on the other the punters express themselves by smashing windows and grabbing what they’re told they have to have. United in dumb.
And we are not immune from this dumbness epidemic in Australia, with growing evidence that people want to put a stimulus straitjacket on the Government in the increasingly likely event of a Global Financial Crisis (GFC).
This week’s Essential Report shows that as we brace for another GFC, we are not prepared to back the use of stimulus spending to keep the economy strong – even though we accept it worked last time.
The High Court injunction to Labor’s elaborate asylum-seeker swap with Malaysia provides yet another forum to fuel, rather than soothe, community anxiety about the arrival of boats carrying asylum seekers.
This crisis has been driven by Government policy, Opposition alarmism, media sensationalism and all tied up with an ongoing sense of economic and cultural anxiety that we have lost control of our borders.
But as this week’s Essential Report shows, concerns about asylum seekers are not only informed, but are actually driven, by the myth that we are currently being flooded by new arrivals.
The concern about the level of asylum seekers arriving by boat has assumed the mantle of an Australian character trait.
It will be cold comfort for the latest batch of asylum seekers being prodded onto aircraft bound for Malaysia, but their personal journey reflects the political dead-end the Australian Government is currently confronting.
Having risked everything to find a safe haven, the Government’s plans have now been derailed by forces outside their control and now they find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Just like the asylum seekers.
As this week’s Essential Report shows, political support for the plan to trade asylum seekers for certified refugees at a rate of five to one has collapsed over the past six weeks.
Great tabloid scandals develop their own lives; like bushfires they move on from the original outrage to the cover-up to the failure of institutions, as the hand wringing becomes a form of interpretive dance.
The scandal provides the spark, the media the oxygen, but the real heat comes from our reaction as paying customers who keep the issue rolling as long as we keep buying the papers and tuning into the news.
The News of the World scandal has tightened this loop by cutting out the middle man, the tabloid coverage of a tabloid scandal driving a tabloid reaction: demands that someone should pay and that this should never happen again.
Australians have been watching the News of the World saga unfold with special interest; after all, Rupert Murdoch has been wearing the yellow jersey in the media world since before Cadel Evans was dreaming of his first BMX.
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