Penbo wants the Greens to replace Brown

David Penberthy, former Daily Telegraph editor, today seeks to give the Greens some advice: replace Bob Brown. Ignoring for a moment that this is like the Liberals seeking advice from, say, me (I don’t exactly have their party’s best interests at heart, do I), he makes two main points, one of which needs to be disposed of bluntly, and one of which raises an issue that the Greens will need to consider.

The one that is clearly false is his line that the Greens are terrified of real scrutiny of their policies. To the contrary, the Greens would LOVE the chance to debate the issues openly and publicly with the other parties, to discuss their policies with the media. Presumably what Penbo is remembering is Green disgust with the way tabloids like the one he used to run shamelessly misrepresent their policies. He refers to “their terrifically laissez-faire drug policies” as an example – and it’s an excellent example of how a rational policy that is supported by pretty much everyone involved in the area, from police to health professionals to social workers, is smeared as being a kooky pro-drug free-for-all. Greens voters can see what’s being done there (and are relieved the party is sticking to its guns) – but that doesn’t stop them being annoyed at the one-sided and inaccurate tabloid attack, and the damage it does – by wrecking the chance of progress – to real people’s lives.

The Greens are happy for an open debate on that, and any other, subject. They’re just less impressed, justifiably, by their stance being deliberately wrongly portrayed by those with the power to drown them out.

The second issue is whether Bob Brown is the best spokesperson for the party. And that’s one that the Greens will have to, over time, consider. Penbo’s main attack is Bob’s response to a ridiculous question from Kerry O’Brien on Tuesday night:

BOB BROWN: Well, let’s not talk about hypotheticals, let’s talk about the reality. 180,000 immigrants have come to this country in the first part of this year. It is a very tiny number. Let me again say: do we accept the 50,000 overstayers who’ve come by plane about whom there’s no debate. And let me also put it at – the numbers forward, where we’ve got a humanitarian program in this country which is very tiny compared to the rest of the program. Sure, that may need to be adjusted, but the time has not come for that yet, Kerry. What has happened here is this concentration on this, on this …

KERRY O’BRIEN: What limit would you put on it? At what point – where would you draw the line?

BOB BROWN: What do you think it should be, Kerry? What do you think the population of this country should be? Governance takes the circumstances at the times and calibrates it.

KERRY O’BRIEN: You’re the elected senator. You’re the party leader; I’m asking you.

BOB BROWN: Well I’m telling you that the 6,000 people who have come by boat to this country should all be processed legally and accepted into this country if they’re genuine refugees, and the majority of Australians in the most recent opinion polls agree. They believe that genuine asylum seekers should be brought into this country and made part of this country’s future, made productive citizens of this country, and I agree with that majority.

I would’ve shot back to Kerry – “you’re asking me at what number of asylum seekers we’d agree that the rule of law should break down and we should panic and stop following our obligations under the refugee convention? I haven’t got a number, but we’re clearly nowhere near that yet. We’re apparently fine with 50,000 overstayers by plane – it’s absurd to suggest that at 6,000 people on boats the time has come where we have to throw our responsibilities, if you’ll pardon the expression, overboard.”

(I wouldn’t really have made that last crack on TV, but the rest I would’ve.)

Bob’s “what do you think it should be, Kerry” is quite reasonable as a retort to a frankly unanswerable question – but to the voters who haven’t thought it through, it did look evasive.

It’s a bit like Sarah Hanson-Young’s problems on Q&A the other week.

I suspect the Greens could probably do with more media training – what’s lacking here isn’t so much the message, as the polish of its delivery in the mass media age. And of course, they don’t have the same amount of money as the major parties to spend on advisers and staff to make sure they have a quick answer to any broadside a journalist can come up with. But that’s just a reality of modern politics, and since I suspect that the real issue with their vote being stuck in the teens is not their policies – which I think represent the views, conservatively, of at least a good 30% core of Australians – but their ability to get the message out through a hostile media and in a political system massively weighted towards the big two; it’s something on which I think they need urgently to focus.

You can be slicker selling your message without selling out on that message.

How you do that with the limited funding of being a growing third party, though, I’m not sure.

ELSEWHERE: On the decriminalisation of drugs issue, an interesting report by the BBC on the experience in Portugal:

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16 responses to “Penbo wants the Greens to replace Brown

  1. “I suspect the Greens could probably do with more media training – what’s lacking here isn’t so much the message, as the polish of its delivery in the mass media age.”

    Sad isn’t it, I wonder how many decent leaders we’ve missed out on and will miss out on just because they aren’t kings/queens of the 5 second sound byte?

  2. Yes, I would agree that more media training would be helpful for the Greens, but I don’t agree with Penberthy that Bob Brown has failed on this point. The question of exactly how many seaborne asylum seekers the Greens would accept was a ridiculous one and I think that Bob Brown handled it pretty well.

    In relation to the viability of affording better media training, this is a real issue, but so is the lack of opportunity for gaining experience. The fact that the Greens get so little air time really doesn’t help. It means that they don’t have a lot of chances to learn from experience and that any small ‘blunder’ or failure to get a sound-bite across becomes more of a big deal because they have such a limited number of opportunities to redeem themselves.

    As for solutions… I guess it just requires a slow build. The more votes that they get, the more money they will get to build the party and the more air time they will receive from the media. Donations are also useful, but they do feel a bit like a drop in the ocean sometimes.

  3. Splatterbottom

    It is fair to enquire about whether there is a limit to our capacity to accommodate refugees. It is also fair to reply that whatever the limit, we are not even close. Australia is underpopulated, and the low level of natural increase means that we need more immigration. It is clear that refugees are small part of the immigration that currently occurs. The real problem is the lack of resources allocated to integrate people from alien cultures. This is something that needs serious attention.

    Generally populations expand to the extent of the available food supply. In giving foreign aid the West has adopted a “we feed ‘em while you breed ‘em” policy. The natural consequence of this is that there are lots of people wanting to move to wealthier countries, including a surfeit of refugees. Coincidentally many Western countries haven’t been reproducing at replacement level, and have a need for more labour.

    What we are seeing with globalisation is a slow but steady increase in wealth in poorer countries. This is mainly due to the operation of market economics. The good thing about this is that as the standard of living increases, population growth slows and the demographic pressure on wealthier countries to take in more people should diminish.

  4. Splatterbottom I’m baffled by your account of both economic globalisation and official development aid programs.

    Economic globalisation has actually increased global inequality and real wages have been falling around the world since the 1970s (even in China).

    Food aid (and, particularly, the dumping of subsidised food) often undermines the capacity of countries to feed their own populations by temporarily undercutting local food producers – driving small farmers off the land and into growing urban slums.

    Finally, the issue of asylum seekers is primarily linked to political issues including war, genocide, and political persecution and although these issues area related to financial inequality I highly doubt that we are going to see any reduction of these problems through our pathetic development programs.

  5. Blast Tyrant

    cristy Splatterbottom I’m baffled by your account of both economic globalisation and official development aid programs.

    Haha, new to this blog? Don’t be surprised. SB is currently seeking a change in legislation that would allow him to marry free market economics.
    He is also an idiot.
    Although his point about raising the intake levels against sustainability, and that we’re not even close is valid.
    The problem is that the Liberals make out like we’re being inundated when we clearly aren’t.

    In fact, if it wasn’t for the hysteria in the media and the shit spun by the two main parties about boat arrivals, it’s pretty unlikely that many people in Australia would have even noticed a few thousand people arriving at the top of WA.

  6. Ah, right then. I am fairly new to this blog in a way. I used to read it regularly a while back, but managed to lose track of its location with all the trouble that Jeremy had with hacking etc.

    As for sustainability of population, I think we can all agree that the main issue is that the tiny number of asylum seekers that we receive are essentially irrelevant to such calculations.

  7. Splatterbottom

    Cristy, the main problem is the immoral agricultural subsidies of many Western countries. These make it uneconomic to grow food in many places. Europe and the US spend about $300bn on subsidies and then give a few billion back in aid to salve their consciences.

    And don’t worry about the Blasted Tyrantosaurus. He sometimes exhibits dementia when his hemorrhoids are playing up!

  8. its just a thinly veiled attack on Bob Brown

    penberthy has no interest in helping the Greens, anything he suggests, they’ll probably want to do the opposite

    i had a chuckle, the very article he writes, denying any media bias against the greens, is in fact a character assasination on the greens leader.

    not many could write that without cognitive dissonance haha… it takes a special person to be a newscorp editor

  9. mondo rock

    Cristy: Finally, the issue of asylum seekers is primarily linked to political issues including war, genocide, and political persecution

    That’s certainly what generates refugees Cristy, but it’s not what convinces them to seek asylum in Australia. That decision is based more on the economic pull factors that SB has identified above.

    Having said that I coudn’t agree with you more that the population sustainability issue should be treated as separate to Australia’s asylum seeker intake.

  10. “That’s certainly what generates refugees Cristy, but it’s not what convinces them to seek asylum in Australia. That decision is based more on the economic pull factors that SB has identified above. ”

    How would you know?

  11. mondo rock

    Common sense tells me that buns.

    I can think of no other reason that they would risk such a dangerous and long journey when there are much closer countries they could settle in.

  12. Marek Bage

    Blast Tyrant said;

    Haha, new to this blog? Don’t be surprised. SB is currently seeking a change in legislation that would allow him to marry free market economics.
    He is also an idiot.

    Well that shows that you’re also new to this Blog.

    Two points….

    Firstly, yes. SB has strange ideas about how real and permanent wealth can be created from thin air.
    He also has a strong Libertarian streak which underpins his belief in a Free Market over a regulated market.

    Having said that, I’ve seen SB argue in favour of regulation when it makes sense.

    So; SB is fond of the Free Market, he probably fantisizes about it while “in congress” with the market he lives with, but I doubt he actually wants to marry it.

    I say so because SB probably realises that, although the Free Market is sexy and always up for it, she’s not the kind of girl that you can depend on to stand by you when the chips are down.

    If you can’t give the Free Market the kind of lifestlye to which she’s acustomed, then she’ll dump you in a flash, leaving you with the kids and an un-payable mortgage.

    SB understands this.

    Which leads me to my second point.
    Of all the unkind things I could say about SB, I would never call him an idiot, brcause that’s simply not true.

    Cheers.

  13. Blast Tyrant

    Of all the unkind things I could say about SB, I would never call him an idiot, brcause that’s simply not true.

    Yeah, i kinda agree. But i felt bad about calling him a dishonest turd for some reason and decided to tone it down.

  14. jordanrastrick

    I don’t think its worthwhile getting embroiled in the argument in this comment thread, so I’ll settle for a question for Lefty.

    “Ignoring for a moment that this is like the Liberals seeking advice from, say, me”

    Tell me, which party do you think Penbo votes for?

  15. Liberals, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a right-wing ALP voter.

  16. jordanrastrick

    Right, well, having never asked I don’t know how he votes, but I do know him personally, and I’d be surprised if he voted Liberal.

    You realise that as editor of the Daily Telegraph, his job was to sell copies of the newspaper by appealing to its audience, not to advocate his own personal political agenda, right?

    Penbo, in spite of some being responsible for numerous headlines that infuriated me, is a decent, good natured and intelligent person and by no means some sort of right wing ideologue. His advice to the Greens about Bob Brown in his capacity as an opinion piece writer for the Punch should be taken at face value.

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