This is what a government hitting the wall looks like

Watching the World Athletics Championships this week, I couldn’t help but marvel at each athlete’s ability to kick home towards the finish line at the end of a distance race.


When it comes to politics, if a term of government is a marathon rather than a sprint, you would expect to see the government starting to kick for home right now.

But there are no signs yet.

Every week we see polls rating the performance of the leaders of political parties and voters’ preferences. Generally the question asked is along the lines of “were an election held today, which party would receive your first preference?”

Of course, such polls bring with them the inherent problem that an election is not actually being held today.

The next federal election is due in around 13 months, and it is just as well for Tony Abbot because were an election to be held today few would have any idea what it would be about.

Governments like to control the terrain over which an election is fought. John Howard made sure – rather brilliantly – that the 2004 election was fought on the issue of trust.

In particular, trust in keeping interest rates low and trust to deal with terrorism.

It is hard, however, to picture what Tony Abbott would argue the election will be about were he to step up to the microphones to announce the election date.

Right now all we really have is the sense that Tony Abbott would like to re-fight the last election – that it be about stopping the boats, stopping the carbon and mining tax and, as he said in his 2013 election speech, “changing the worst government in our history”.

Okay, perhaps he might not use that line, but most else from his 2013 speech could be regurgitated.

There has been some talk this week about how little this government has done. Last week it was revealed a cabinet meeting was held without one formal submission.

Now quantity of legislation is certainly no way to judge the performance of a government, but you would think it would take a bit sooner than 2 years for a new government to begin running out of ideas. It certainly is a bit soon to get to such a point when you consider most first-term governments run on the platform that they have made a good start, but there is a lot more work to go (and thus, they plead, let us do it).

The only clear sense we have is that Tony Abbott would like to make national security a big item for the next election – if not also for the Canning by-election to be held on 19 September.

Two weeks ago the chair of the parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, Dan Tehan, announced that Australia should start bombing ISIS in Syria.

He asserted that he hadn’t discussed his opinion with the Prime Minister but it did have the smell of the government trying to raise the issue of national security in a week in which all else was not working for the government, and also to pre-empt a future announcement.

And so came the news this week that the US government requested Australia carry out air strikes in Syria.

Fairfax papers reported that the Abbott government had actually asked the US to request Australia to do it.

A common trope among political conspiracy theorists is to invoke “Wag the Dog” – wherein a government goes to war to divert attention from domestic unpopular issues.

The reality is generally a lot more murky than that, but with the Abbott government it is not hard to believe that it is so eager to be seen to be a war-time government that it would ask the US government to do more.

Of course, the Australian forces won’t actually do more – they’ll just do what they’re doing in a different place. We’re not sending more planes, we’re just considering expanding the area in which Australian planes attack ISIS from only Iraq to also Syria.

Also no one believes the Abbott government is actually considering this request – clearly the government will agree to the request. That anyone within cabinet would consider not agreeing to the request is inconceivable.

The ALP has previously expressed doubts over the need and legality of Australia broadening its air strikes to include Syria. Thus the issue has that nice sense of being a wedge against the ALP.

It’s all pretty sad.

Sad that we have a government that would be eager to expand its military activities for political purposes, and sad as well that no one is all that shocked that this government would do so.

But air strikes in Syria are not an election issue. The ALP will likely make noise about the process, but in the end – as it always does – fall into line.

And so with national security mostly un-wedged and relatively unconcerned – unless it involved asylum seekers – the issues of the election will go back, as they always do, to the economy.

This week, Joe Hockey once again mooted the need for tax cuts, and once again he gave no indication of how he would pay for them.

The economy itself remains pretty tepid and hardly boasting the performance that would see a government wish to rest its laurels on.

And so with little over a year to go, the government limps along, already at the point where it seems tired and needing diversions from overseas to help with its domestic political prospects.

So far from looking like kicking towards the finish line, right now they look like they’ll be lucky to reach it.

Greg Jericho is an economics and politics blogger and writes for The Guardian and The Drum. 


Manspreading, hangry make it into Oxford dictionary

Britons are offending commuters by manspreading, revelling in bants with their friends at beer o’clock and having a brain fart while talking about the Grexit – but it’s all NBD.


Those are just some of the 1000 new words added to OxfordDictionaries杭州桑拿会所, in its latest quarterly update, which reveals current trends in the usage of language.

New entries include “manspreading”, when a man sits with his legs wide apart on public transport, encroaching on other seats; “bants”, short for banter; and “NBD”, an abbreviation of “no big deal”.

“Beer o’clock” and “wine o’clock”, describing the appropriate time of day to start drinking the respective alcoholic beverages, and “brain fart”, a temporary lapse or failure to reason correctly, have also been added to the free online dictionary.

“Hangry”, an adjective used to show feelings of anger or irritability as a result of hunger, is another new entry.

The word has seen its usage increase since 2012, with a big spike in April 2014 connected to an American study about low glucose levels making people cross, according to Oxford Dictionary’s language monitoring service.

Topical news terms have soared in popular usage.

“Grexit” and “Brexit”, referring to the potential departure of Greece and the UK from the EU, and “deradicalisation”, the action of causing a person with extreme views to adopt more moderate ones, are also included in the update.

Other new additions include “bruh”, describing a male friend, “pocket dial”, meaning to accidentally call someone while your phone is in a pocket, and “mkay”, representing the informal pronunciation of OK.

New words, senses and phrases are added to OxfordDictionaries杭州桑拿会所, once editors have gathered enough independent evidence from a range of sources to be confident that they have widespread currency in English.

But they do not gain an entry into the Oxford English Dictionary unless continued historical use can be shown.

Fiona McPherson, senior editor of Oxford Dictionaries, said the addition of multiple slang words did not represent a dumbing down of English, but showed “creative” use of language.

“There have always been new slang words,” she said.

“I just think we are more aware of them because of the ways in which we consume and live our lives now.

“We are bombarded with more and more avenues where those sort of words are used and we just think that there are more of them. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case.

“From my point of view, as a lexicographer, it’s not really about dumbing down, it’s more (about) creative ways that people are using language.”

Some of the new words in the Oxford online dictionary

– awesomesauce, adj.: (US informal) extremely good; excellent

– bants (also bantz), pl. n.: (Brit. informal) playfully teasing or mocking remarks exchanged with another person or group; banter

– beer o’clock, n: an appropriate time of day for starting to drink beer

– brain fart, n.: (informal) a temporary mental lapse or failure to reason correctly

– Brexit, n.: a term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union

– bruh, n: (US informal) a male friend (often used as a form of address)

– cakeage, n.: (informal) a charge made by a restaurant for serving a cake they have not supplied themselves

– cat cafe, n.: a cafe or similar establishment where people pay to interact with cats housed on the premises

– cupcakery, n.: a bakery that specialises in cupcakes

– deradicalisation, n.: the action or process of causing a person with extreme views to adopt more moderate positions on political or social issues

– fatberg, n.: a very large mass of solid waste in a sewerage system, consisting especially of congealed fat and personal hygiene products that have been flushed down toilets

– fat-shame, v.: cause (someone judged to be fat or overweight) to feel humiliated by making mocking or critical comments about their size

– fur baby, n.: a person’s dog, cat, or other furry pet animal

– Grexit, n.: a term for the potential withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone (the economic region formed by those countries in the European Union that use the euro as their national currency)

– hangry, adj.: (informal) bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger

– manspreading, n.: the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats

– mkay, excl.: (informal, chiefly US) non-standard spelling of OK, representing an informal pronunciation (typically used at the end of a statement to invite agreement, approval, or confirmation)

– Mx, n.: a title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female

– pocket dial, v.: inadvertently call (someone) on a mobile phone in one’s pocket, as a result of pressure being accidentally applied to a button or buttons on the phone

– rage-quit, v.: (informal) angrily abandon an activity or pursuit that has become frustrating, especially the playing of a video game

– rando, n.: (informal) a person one does not know, especially one regarded as odd, suspicious, or engaging in socially inappropriate behaviour

– Redditor, n.: a registered user of the website Reddit

– social justice warrior, n.: (informal, derogatory) a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views

– snackable, adj.: (of online content) designed to be read, viewed, or otherwise engaged with briefly and easily

– spear phishing, n.: the fraudulent practice of sending emails ostensibly from a known or trusted sender in order to induce targeted individuals to reveal confidential information

– swatting, n.: (US informal) the action or practice of making a hoax call to the emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address

– weak sauce, n.: (US informal) something that is of a poor or disappointing standard or quality

– wine o’clock, n.: an appropriate time of day for starting to drink wine


Ingall to replace Courtney at Sandown V8s

Russell Ingall will come out of V8 Supercars retirement to replace the injured James Courtney in next month’s Sandown 500.


Holden Racing Team have announced Ingall, 51, will drive alongside Jack Perkins in the opening endurance race of the year while Courtney recovers from broken ribs and lung damage he suffered in a freak pit-lane accident last weekend.

Perkins, Courtney’s co-driver, is taking over as No.1 driver for the team’s No.22 Commodore for the September 13 race.

“When the call came to help out a mate I didn’t hesitate,” said 2005 V8 Supercars champion Ingall, who retired at the end of last year.

“Jack’s also a mate and while he’s disappointed not to be driving with James as planned, we’ve driven together in the past and he understands the need for an experienced replacement.

“I know the guys on the team, they know me well, so at least there’s some hope of getting a result.”

The call-up means Ingall, the most experienced driver in V8 Supercars history, is set to extend his record to 248 race starts.

The race will also continue the Ingall-Perkins family partnership.

Back in 1995 Ingall partnered Perkins’ father, Holden legend Larry Perkins, in their famous last-to-first Bathurst win.

The victory earned Ingall a full-time V8 drive with Perkins’ team the following year, with the pair taking another victory at Mt Panorama in 1997.

Ingall also teamed with Jack Perkins for the 2011 enduro season, finishing eighth at Bathurst.

Whether the veteran also replaces Courtney for the showpiece Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama on October 11 will depend on how quickly the 35-year-old recovers.

Courtney, who is recuperating at home on the Gold Coast, advised Ingall to live up to his nickname, The Enforcer.

“We’re racers, and that’s exactly what Russell is,” he told Fox Sports News.

“He’s a junkyard dog. You’d cut off both of his arms and he’d be driving with his teeth.

“That’s the sort of spirit that I race with and that’s a big part of why big muscle’s in there.”

Courtney said he’s yet to receive an apology from organisers of the helicopter fly-over at Sydney Motorsport Park that caused a piece of pit equipment to be blown into Courtney’s ribs.

The incident is being investigated by V8 Supercars and the Royal Australian Navy.

“There’s negligence there,” Courtney said.

“At the moment my manager just said `I’m taking care of everything, you just take care of getting yourself ready’.”


Rally for Chibok girls marks 500 days since kidnap

Boko Haram’s actions drew international condemnation and online campaigns, and high profile figures such as Michelle Obama calling for their release.



But little progress has made in bringing the the girls back.


For 500 days, it’s been a simple, yet very clear message.


Bring back our girls – now, and alive.


It’s been over a year since Boko Haram militants abducted the girls.


They may still be missing but on the streets of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, they’re not forgotten.


Relatives and supporters have commemorated the milestone with singing and marches across the country.


The father of one of the missing girls, Enoch Mark, puts the grief and anguish into words.


“Five hundred days is not five days, it’s very painful. Our daughters, in their mother land, they are now in slavery, it is very painful.”


Another parent, Esther Yakubu, expresses her dissatisfaction with the official response to the kidnapping.


“They cannot get just one of them, just one! And they cannot get the necessary information where these girls are. Now we don’t even know whether they are alive or dead. With faith, with hope I know that she is alive but they are not doing anything for us at all.”


It was in April last year when Boko Haram militants stormed into a high school in the remote town of Chibok, in Borno state, capturing 276 girls who were preparing for their end-of-year exams.


57 girls have escaped, but little has been heard of the 219 others since appearing in a Boko Haram video in May last year.


A viral social media campaign was launched shortly after the incident, dubbed ‘Bring Back Our Girls’.


It attracted international outcry and celebrities led the digital activism.


Nigeria’s government was criticised for not responding swiftly to the incident.


Despite offers from the international community to support Nigeria’s rescue effort, there’s still no sign of the missing school girls.

Relatives and supporters are hoping for a renewed push to return the girls home safely.


This activist says many children in Nigeria now live in fear.


“The captivity of the Chibok girls, one thing that it has done to us is the fact that it has made our children to be so afraid. They have this fear that they too can go to school and be taken away and nothing will be done for 500 days just the way that Chibok girls have been taken away.”

But it’s not just the Chibok girls who’ve been abducted by Boko Haram.


According to international rights group Amnesty International, at least 2,000 women and girls have been captured by the group since the start of last year.


It says many have been forced into sexual slavery and trained to fight.


Activist Bukky Shonibare says boys have also been seized.


“Several girls have been abducted, several young women, several boys, several people have been killed as a result of this insurgency in Nigeria.”


The Nigerian community in Australia has also expressed concern at the lack of progress.


The federal government last year offered Australia’s assistance in finding the girls but the offer was not taken up.


The President of the Nigerian Society of Victoria, Fred Alale, says Australia should keep trying to help.


“I guess the challenge is to maintain a concerted effort. To make sure that the Australian government follows through on some of those offers of assistance.”