23 November 2007

Australian Federal Election: John Howard's track record examined

US readers please note: In Australian politics the 'Liberal' Party are actually centre-right, the equivalent of the UK Conservatives. Go figure!

The long-suffering Australian public, weary of election propaganda, are always granted a few days advertising silence before a Federal election. I’m sure that doesn’t bother the major parties much, as meaningful debate has long-hence descended into the battle of the soundbite, and reductio ad absurdum underlies the core messages on all fronts. I’ve never understood why our politicians, particularly on the Liberal benches, are so convinced that the Australian public are stupid, but their belief is certainly borne out by the Vox Pop at an Adelaide McDonalds this morning:

Bloke 1: Howard’s the best Prime Minister Australia’s ever had.
Bloke 2: Huh?
Bloke 1: I mean, the Labour parties just about unions and shit
Bloke 2: Huh?

Bloke 1 has certainly been paying attention to first core message of the Liberal Party—Unions are bad, and anything associated with them is bad. It’s a simple message which has garnered considerable sympathy for decades. Problem is, it’s such simple-minded nonsense. Unions and almost all those associated with them should be able to stand up proudly in public and defend a magnificent history of standing up for the rights of workers. Like all large organisations, unions occasionally suffer from bureaucracy and corruption, but to suggest that is the norm and the average Australian should be frightened is just a ridiculous and contemptible notion.

The Liberal Party’s other core message is that they have a strong track record on economic management, so why change? This argument would appear to have some merit, if one believed that governments really have that much influence over the economy. But they simply do not. The global economy and market factors have little or anything to do with a national government’s policies, which are nearly always responsive. And interest rates are controlled by the Reserve Bank of Australia, not the government of the day. So the economy is basically a moot issue—there’s almost no credit at all to the government, and the Labour Party’s attacks on interest rate hikes are equally ill-directed, except in their criticism of Prime Minister Howard’s promises. Clearly Howard should not have promised that there would be no such increases as it’s completely out of his control.

And while we’re talking about track records, let’s look at factors outside of the economy—the Tampa affair, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, treatment of refugees, climate change, the list goes on. Economy be damned—these are the important issues that shape our world and define Australia’s place in it. On these issues the Liberal government has been consistent—consistent in its shameful avoidance of truth and compassion and its grovelling to the pathetic neocon agenda of the current US administration. It’s an approach that has endangered Australian troops in an illegal and ill-thought war, has made Australian civilians targets of terrorism, has ill-equipped us to deal with the environmental issues that are critical to our very survival and has led to a general reduction in the respect Australia receives on the world stage, at least outside the US.

It’s a great track record, John. Thanks for reminding us of it, and making Saturday’s decision even easier. All the best in your retirement, and I hope you get a nice cushy diplomatic posting. I hear Afghanistan and Iraq may be available.
Go to eebahgum!

6 November 2007

Melbourne Cup post mortem

Well no winners this year. With Maybe Better a late scratching and the unfancied Efficient hit the front just before the post, eebahgum's remaining 5 rated horses wended up 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th and 9th. Not a bad result, but a miss is as good as 3200 m, and this was a veritable miss. There's always next year. I hope you did better than I.Go to eebahgum!

Melbourne Cup tips 2007

Late scratchings: Gallic & The Fuzz

It's Melbourne Cup day again, so here is the obligatory tips posting. Last year, my ratings included the first four horses over the line, a hard act to follow.

It's another tough race this year, not because there's a massive field full of class horses, but rather because we have been spoilt by some real class over the last few years in horses such as Makybe Diva, and there's no-one even approaching that standard this time round.

On top of that, rain in Melbourne over the weekend has softened the track considerably. But the track is now rated dead, and it's fine and breezy in Melbourne today, so it's almost certain the track rating will be good come post-time.

The usual small gaggle of highly fancied, but largely unknown imports completes the puzzle. I always reason that trainers and connections do not waste their time and money flying halfway across the globe if their horse is not a serious contender, but Vintage Crop aside, I have been wrong by virtue of this logic more often than not in the past.

But of one thing we can be reasonably certain, and that is Melbourne Cup winners almost always have good form in their last couple of starts. I don't want to overstate the importance of the Caulfield Cup, Mackinnon Stakes and Saab Quality races, but they do give a pretty fair indication of form, and lead us to the inevitable conclusion that MASTER O'REILLY is the horse to beat in this field. The heavily backed Irish stayer PURPLE MOON may only have finished sixth in the Caulfield, but was coming home impressively and will run the distance. He also has the brilliant Damien Oliver on his back, which is enough to convince me he is a real chance. That riding change comes from his connections not being happy with the 6th place ride in the Caulfield by Kieren McEvoy. They were obviously expecting more.

After those two, last years third placed MAYBE BETTER has claims, as do ZIPPING and SCULPTOR. I've also been impressed by the overseas form of bottom weight MAHLER. Though he hasn't shown much in Australia so far, the news from his trainer this morning is that he has settled over the last few days and is ready to peak, though I am a little concerned that he doesn't have a top jockey aboard, which may be an indication of his trainer's expectations. Expect him to try to lead at some point though.

So in summary:

Likely winner:

In the mix:

Best long shot:
SCULPTOR which has real form yet is showing $28 on the TAB as I write. Expect it to shorten considerably, but it's great value at the moment.

As always, take the usual disclaimers as read, don't bet anything you can't afford to lose and send me a cut if you win. Happy punting! Go to eebahgum!