Hume Campaign Diary - Jan. 04

Hi, and welcome to 2013.

It only seems like a week since I commented that things were (pleasingly) a bit quieter in the Christmas period. But you know what they say a week is in politics.

This week we had three letters published in the Goulburn Post from candidates (Bruce Nicholson, Adrian Van Der Byl and Angus Taylor), not to mention two received too late for today’s paper from James Harker-Mortlock and Bruce Nicholson (which will no doubt be printed in the Post next week).

Also, Angus was quoted in stories about the proposal to put B-Triples on the Hume Highway in both the Goulburn Post and the Canberra Times.

So I think I can safely say the break is now over.

The story about the B-Triples was the first to appear this week. In it Angus makes the point that the debate about whether we should have B-Triples shouldn’t be necessary and wouldn’t have been if the federal government had adopted the Coalition’s 2010 election commitment to build an inland line from Melbourne to Brisbane.

Improved rail transport for passengers and freight would offer lots of opportunities throughout Hume. The proposal by Angus that rail could be used for long haul freight could be of benefit not just to the inland line but to the southern line especially if linked to a Goulburn freight hub.

So thumbs up on the rail suggestions.

But regardless of whether the debate regarding the need for B-Triples could be solved by the Coalition’s policies, the fact is the debate is now here. Angus doesn’t declare his opinions on B-Triples in that story (maybe because it’s an initiative of his state government Liberal colleagues?) but as a regular reader of my own blog, I remember a comment he made in his previous press release `Truck accidents highlight urgent need for freight rail investment’ in which he said of B-Triples “I have been and remain highly critical of this development.”

I love a stat, and the Canberra Times has supplied us with some. In their poll on whether B Triples should be allowed on the Hume Highway, the results were: Yes (23%), No (71%) and I don’t know (6%). I suspect those stats might be similar for Goulburn (mental note: might do a similar poll for the Post).

Our article also generated some lively discussion in the comments section so go have a squiz if you want to see what was said.

Next batsman was Bruce Nicholson with a letter to the editor of the Goulburn Post. Now I’ve not met Bruce, but from reading his facebook posts and emails he strikes me as a friendly, avuncular bloke from the “Hail fellow, well met” school.

But I’m getting a bit confused with his strategy regarding Angus Taylor. When they catch up in social media it’s all friendly and chummy, but when addressing the public Bruce gets a bit personal. Not full on nasty mind you... here, I’ll show you what I mean.

In the opening sentence of his letter he referred to Angus Taylor as “The Liberal Party’s new poster boy” which sounds like it’s meant to be an insult, although it’s kinda vague and unspecific. Didn’t we get past the name calling bit?

But if you ARE going to throw out a label like that - which granted isn’t that harsh but is still arguing ad hominem and playing the man, not the topic – then maybe it could be backed up with what you mean by the label. Maybe it’s not an insult?

He also refers to Angus in Facebook this week as “the Golden Boy” of the Liberal Party.” Golden Boy, Poster Boy… to be honest Angus, I’d enjoy getting the Boy descriptions while you still can. I don’t get them anymore despite my boyish good looks, and I’m a bit envious to tell you the truth. But I digress and I’ll get back to the Facebook comment in a little bit.

Back to Bruce’s letter, and in the next few sentences Bruce then creates what’s called a “straw-man argument”. That’s where you mis-summarise an opponent’s argument, statement or belief, and then counter the argument that hadn’t been made.

What Bruce said Angus had said: Because of Labor, there will be no funds available for the foreseeable future.

The actual quote was: Local consumer confidence and infrastructure projects could not happen while “this wastage” continued... Only by getting the government finances back under control can we get these projects to happen soon.”

James Harker-Mortlock made similar comments in his press release “Angus Taylor has given up on Hume already.”

Granted, Angus’ comments sound a bit like someone laying the early ground work for saying later “We have no money because of the last government so we can’t spend for a while”, and that makes me nervous that once again we will get the minimal attention non-marginal seats like Hume always get. But that point isn’t clear so follow it up.

To seek clarity, you COULD (I’m looking at you JHM and Bruce) ask what projects will be committed to for Hume by the Liberal Party, whether the funding is guaranteed, and where it will come from.

Mind you, if you ask those questions, you better be armed with your own costed funding - which could be tricky if you’re an independent or from a party that can’t form government alone, unless you can somehow convince people you’ know that you’ll hold the balance of power.

In any event, there’s a partial list of Angus’ priorities in a letter to the editor “Much more than thought bubbles” in Wednesday’s Post. It isn’t the same as a list of costed proposals but may help the candidates (and journos, and readers) formulate their questions about exactly what tangible things will happen in Hume and by when.

So anyway, on to Bruce’s Facebook comment, the one with the Golden Boy reference, and he refers to “the power of social media”. In the comment he says that Angus Taylor had posted on Twitter that the Liberal Party had put a ban on social media… and that for a couple of weeks Bruce and others got mileage out of the fact he didn’t have enough clout  to get an exemption.

Bruce then adds that “obviously some internal polling showed I was eating into his votes and he got the ban lifted for him. Nice to know I’m getting noticed.”

It’s a good yarn, but any resemblance between it and what actually happened is coincidental.

In a Sunday newspaper on Sunday Dec 9 a story appeared that said the Libs were banning incoming candidates from tweeting. Five days later in the Hume Campaign Diary I mentioned the ban and that it was disappointing and made the Libs look like control freaks and blah blah blah, and Angus tweeted back that same arvo “Ban? What ban” and has been tweeting away merrily since, just like Bruce.

So if you change the two weeks into five days, cut out the bit that said Angus tweeted that there was a ban on him, and disregard the bit about internal polling playing a roll (I reckon that’s just Bruce stirring the possum, that last bit) I guess you could say he had the details spot on.

I’m not without sympathy for Bruce who copped a bit of a spray himself from Nick Cleary, National candidate for Throsby in the Southern Highlands News. Sigh, if only we could all just get along.

Next up, Adrian Van Der Byl wrote a letter about global warming to the Post. In essence, he believes that Global Warming is a political issue and not in itself, you know,  reality. I wish I had some more energy left to say a few sentences featuring the words “science” and “facts” and “it bloody snowed here in Goulburn in October and ocean levels are rising everywhere and at the present moment it’s more plausible to be a round Earth sceptic than a global warming sceptic” but I used it all up in the early parts of this blog and will have to save myself for that debate on another day.

And THAT, I believe, is roughly the week in Hume. And roughly seems a pretty fitting term because there’s still a bit of feeling in some exchanges. And not just by the candidates. Some of the supporters are even worse.

There’s one guy, a frequent  commenter to the Post website, who makes frequent comments containing the term Ju-liar and the phrase Ditch the Witch (can you guess his political persuasion?) all of which are instantly deleted. It’s not just because personal attacks are the lowest limb on the comments tree, but also because those particular terms would sound embarrassing (and eventually repetitive) from the mouths of a twelve year old let alone supposed adults.

For what little it’s worth, I still think this whole thing works best without the personal attacks. A bit of good humoured jousting - great. Passionate defence of a belief - crucial. But name-calling… misquoting… I think we’re all pretty much sick of it and it just clouds the issues. I don't want to keep making this same point... just saying.

So… there were a few stories, and a bunch of letters to the editor this week but no press releases, no itinerary and just not enough love, dang it. If this continues I’m taking all of you out for a night of Karaoke and I’m going to keep singing until you all hold hands and hug.

The latest Hume Chronicles can be read here.

King of the week? I hate giving anyone an easy run, but I thought the best proposals for Hume this week were those of better rail lines and no B-Triples (not that a federal candidate can change that) from Angus Taylor. He can have the crown for the next seven days at which point we’ll gather around the fire/sprinkler and do this all again.

Hooroo.

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