How not to answer questions in parliament

Junior federal minister Stuart Robert today showed how not to answer questions about integrity and, in the process, damaged the government.

Three times the Opposition asked Robert to define the actual capacity he attended a ming industry function in China. 

Because the government has referred the matter to the head of the Public Service, Robert used the “out” clause of “the matter is under investigation, or lack of words to that effect.

By inference, Robert has given the impression he could be guilty, simply because he hasn’t provided an open and full answer.

It’s the age-old wrong PR tack to take: avoid an answer until you’re in the clear … or not. 

All well and good if Robert is hedging his bets but, as I said, he has damaged the government by not being up-front. 

See his answers here:


Let the (no fun) games begin

Get set for the hard slog.

Federal politicians returned to Canberra today. You know what that means? Electioneering. Yep, we vote (seems like yesterday) again this year.

Malcolm says it will be August, September or November. Wonder of he could be more specific? Then again, that’s Turnbull. He’s quite non-specific (flaky would be my descriptor).

The latest version of the Liberal Government has had time to show its stuff Can’t say it’s much different from the previous Tony Abbott-led version. I think perhaps a little meaner, with increasing attacks on the most vulnerable (cuts to pensions and cutbacks to health to the forefront). Of course, there’s the possible increase in GST, which will also hurt the weakest. I haven’t heard any pledge of how pensions will rise by the same amount.

On the other hand, the wealthy get away with “blue murder”. The hundreds of major companies which don’t pay tax (or very little) in Australia is well documented. In fact, it’s astounding. Among them is News Limited, Rupert Murdoch’s Aussie arm of his global media empire. And Murdoch papers have the temerity to attack people ripping off the welfare system (not that I condone it) – just the hypocrisy of Murdoch.

Back to Malcolm.

The honeymoon is well and truly over. It’s time he stopped the rhetoric (polite word for bullshit) and spelt things out. Where do we stand as a nation? There’s lots of things happening (i.e., gay marriage, the republic, war on terror). But where are we going as a nation, when all I can see are average people struggling to get ahead?

Unemployment is way up, despite “offical” figures saying otherwise. You only have to work for an hour a week to be classed as employed and/or for a job to have been created. Never mind the thousands who have been laid off by the mining, banking and manufacturing sectors (with more to come).

8e691ece55eca46507767bcc36cc2877The smoother veneer Malcolm coats himself in (and that includes a highly-polished Instagram feed – some of the latest trading off the homeless, which have suddenly been deleted) hopefully will receive some scratches as we progress throughout the year.

Let the games begin.


Pic: Daily Telegraph


Australia vulnerable to “desperate” world, says Salt

Western Australia could find itself at the centre of growing international tension over its mineral wealth. And governments aren’t prepared.

Leading Australian demographer Bernard Salt made the prediction at a forum of WA Vocational Educational Trainers in Perth this week.

“The world wants and needs what we have, and there’s going to be a made scramble for all of these things,” Salt said.

“We have what the world wants. That makes us valuable, but also vulnerable.”

Alarmingly, the scramble will come sooner than later.

“Most people are predicting this will happen around 2070, but I think it will come by 2020,” said Salt, who was addressing 200 VET industry representatives in a forum sponsored by the Department of Workforce Training and Development.

“For me, this is the biggest issue facing Australia, and governments are doing nothing about it.

“Look at where our military presence is. We have Lavarack Barracks in Townsville. It was built in the sixties. What’s it protecting now? We have Robertson Barracks in Darwin, which was expanded during the East Timor crisis.

“But there’s no military assets of note between Darwin and Perth – an area that contains pretty much all of Australia’s wealth – about $43 million worth of gas and oil.

“The Chinese have already demonstrated they need the raw materials. Gorgon was about China shoring up its assets.”

Salt was quietly scathing of government inaction, saying while we had aligned ourselves militarily with the US, we expect our financial support to come from China.

“China is now the emerging power, but it remains to be seen how governments deal with the dilemma.”

Salt called for a massive boost to infrastructure, including a larger military presence with at least 5000 soldiers, and a regional town of 150,000.

“It only makes sense to put the military hardware where you are most exposed.

“This is the biggest issue confronting us.”

Aussies abandoned by government

What exactly does the Department of Foreign Affairs do?
Two indicents this week highlight the ineffectiveness of Australia’s overseas representatives.
Aussies stuck in Libiya got no assistance and were told to book their own flights out. Then, just across the ditch, they were told the same thing.
Two massive events in which citizens in danger received zero help.
And don’t start me on QANTAS charging people $900 for a ticket home from NZ, when Air New Zealand offered flights for $70.

Sunday, silly Sunday

Weekends are reserved in government PR circles for announcing those issues that would not usually rate highly, or which are controversial. Part of the logic is that if they are announced on weekends, they won’t get noticed in news bulletins, amid the fires and sport.

And so it was this weekend (the Easter long weekend) when Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon struck with an announcement on Sunday that we need more women in uniform, and in higher positions. Hardly news.

FItzgibbon must be kidding if he thinks a few hundred women in more operational positions will solves the military’s recruitments problems.

Sure, elements of macho culture exist within Defence. But let’s be honest; the sharp end of the military is no place for the feint-hearted. If that fosters a macho culture, then so be it.

I have served in the army for 20 years and have worked for he air force. There are Rambos out there, but you get this in any walk of life. Having fewer women on the front line will certainly skew the options for them reaching higher rank. Maybe that’s not fair. But then, there’s nothing fair about war.

Because this was announced on a weekend, I’m assuming the government PR boffins took the view this was something that should best escape under the radar.

Rather than playing the populist, I’d suggest the Minister start getting tough with the people who have been responsible for major blunders with Defence equipment contracts (Abrahams tanks, helicopters, jet fighters, destroyers), which have cost us billions.

More PR comment at

TV campaign not the answer to alcohol problem

The government’s simplistic approach to teenage binge drinking will not assist to solve the problem.

For a start, the Prime Minister admits he doesn’t have much data to back claims there is a problem (which there is, if the number of media reports are any guide. And just talking to my teenage children is enough to alarm me).

But what does the government propose? A TV campaign. In this modern day and age of communications, this is hardly inspiring, as any first-year PR student could tell you.

Teenagers do not use television as their medium. 

All an advertising campaign will do is boost the agency’s and TV stations’ profits.

What’s needed is a well-crafted IMC campaign. However, this will have to be an extremely long-haul program which goes beyond the standard education program. It should even extend beyond the target audience.

As nation, we have to overcome a decades-old alcohol-abuse culture. This will require a massive shift in thinking across several generations. 

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Labor’s first 100 days

Today markes the first 100 days of the Rudd Labor Government. Hip, hip, hooray.

 Kevin and Co. got in early to mark the milestone last Friday. Not sure why, but PR probably had a lot to do with it. Maybe they milked more exposure over the weekend by doing it then. 

 I thought the most interesting part of the entire non-event was the production of a book to outline the achievements. In fairness, this was produced by the ALP and not the government. However, I believe the government’s coat of arms was on the cover. Strange.

 While it’s not possible to change the nation’s fabric in 100 days, Labor has given it a nudge, albeit in a mostly cosmetic way. There’s saying sorry to the Aborigines, ratifying Kyoto, starting to wind back Work Choices, holding community forums and a Cabinet meeting in Perth and replacing Howard’s Parliament House suite furniture with some old orange stuff, last used by Bob Hawke. Oh yes, there’s also the 20/20 summit, minus a decent proportion of women; but it has got Cate Blanchett.

Labor’s got a way to go. I just just hope it doesn’t produce a book every time it has something to say. Think of the trees.

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