Category Archives: Politics

Cone of silence update #2

Early this morning, I received a reply from Jaimie Abbott to last night’s email. Here it is (my reply follows):


I don’t use Twitter.

Please understand I receive over 300 emails a day from members in my electorate and I don’t have a single paid staff member. I also work full time on top of being a candidate. I personally reply to every single email that comes my way and I personally manage my entire Facebook page myself. At the moment I can’t keep up with replying to and fro with a million comments on Facebook so if people have specific concerns I ask them to write me an email so I can add it to the queue to reply. Everyone else has been happy to do this. With such a high volume of emails, it usually takes me around a week or so to reply.

I apologise if this method isn’t suitable for you and you don’t believe this is substance and instead you preferred me to go back and forward on Facebook and therefore delaying replies to other email questions from others in the queue, but I’m just one human being. As a Candidate at the moment that’s all I am physically able to do. I have a huge challenge in trying to win a seat which has never been held by a Liberal MP and I am trying to meet and respond to as many people as possible.

If you actually live in my electorate, and have specific concerns please email me with your suburb and I will endeavour to reply.

Our policies are found at

I will also be engaging in numerous live debates between now and the election, and I would invite you to come along and watch.


Jaimie Abbott | Liberal for Newcastle

I was genuinely surprised to hear that the LNP are offering so little support to Jaimie, given their obvious hopes for her campaign. I just sent this in reply:

Hi Jaimie,

Thanks for getting back to me.

I’m sorry to hear you’re so under-resourced for this campaign. I hope you – and your electorate – will be treated with more respect by the LNP as September 14 approaches.

Speaking of electorates, I’m actually in Charlton at this time, but yours is the only face I see in ads and banners, and given Kevin Baker appears to have zero presence anywhere (not even a profile on the LNP website), it seems you’re the only hope for the Liberal Party in this region. I’ve opened communications with you on that basis, and on behalf of those in my network who DO live in your electorate but are too disaffected with your party to even start the conversation. I can assure you they’re following with interest.

I remain frustrated (to put it mildly) by your gagging of discussion on Facebook (it is, after all, a social media platform, not a blogging platform), but I do understand your choice of protocol. That said, if you’re overwhelmed by correspondence, wouldn’t it make sense to collate the questions and address them once-for-all in a public context, i.e. online somewhere? (not necessarily Facebook!)

I appreciate that constructive social media interaction is difficult, especially without any staff, but as one voter who is desperate for Australian politics to actually mean something, I still contend that there must be something between the vacuous slogans of (surely even you must be ashamed of that website), and managing hundreds of private emails. Something sustainable for you, that will provide voters with something to sink their teeth into!

Or perhaps the real issue is that you can’t be seen to offer more constructive policy discussion than your party’s leaders?

Anyway, I’ll leave all of this for you to consider, and I do look forward to the rest of your campaign. Meanwhile, I’ll try to devise some creative and sustainable solutions to this communication challenge. I would love to be able to facilitate a new form of collaborative dialog between political candidates and the public. Failing that, I’ll certainly check in closer to September 14 if there are still insufficient details on the table!

Good luck,


That’s it, for now. There will be plenty of time to follow up.

Cone of silence update #1

As expected, my comment was deleted from Jaimie Abbott’s Facebook page, and I was blocked from making any further comments. There was a reply that started “Luke, this page is mainly for promoting my…”, but I couldn’t read the rest before it was also deleted.

I’ve decided to pursue this lack of transparency to the fullest extent possible.

First, this email to Jaimie:

Hi Jaimie,

Unfortunately I didn’t see your reply to my post on your page before it was deleted it and I was blocked … perhaps you could fill me in?

Meanwhile, here’s a little more context for you:

[link to my personal Facebook post on the matter]

More on Twitter, if you’re not too busy. I promise I won’t delete it.

I’m sure you can understand my disappointment re: your unwillingness to participate in public discussion of LNP policy. Given you’re asking for my vote, I would expect you to be jumping at the opportunity to demonstrate that you have political substance across a wide range of issues. Regurgitating LNP press releases is not substance. Photo ops are not substance. Private email correspondence, however impressive yours may be, is not substance.

You, and your party, need to offer some insightful, compassionate, responsible, visionary, detailed policy. You’ve put your name next to the LIBERAL logo in this electorate, which means you’re asking me to help you form a Coalition government as my representative, and I don’t think a little substance is too much to ask in exchange. I will do everything in my power to extract it from you – or to spread the word about your lack of it – between now and September 14.

FYI, I don’t have any affiliation with any political party at this time.

Here’s to the next 5-ish months!



I’ll keep you informed.

Politicians + cone of silence = me + red flag

A few days ago, I used the relevant Facebook page to ask a number of questions of Jaimie Abbott (LNP), who’s standing for the federal seat of Newcastle. Among other things, I was critical of her party’s not-actually-broadband policy, which she was praising, but I wasn’t especially ruthless (on a scale of “0” to “Leigh Sales 2012”, I was probably a 4). Today, I noticed that all of my posts were gone, along with many others that weren’t completely flattering to Jaimie’s party. So, I just posted the following on her page. Because it will be deleted soon (federal Libs don’t know how else to handle social media), I’m repeating it here:

Jaimie, I notice you’ve ignored/deleted a significant number of posts, from me and others, where legitimate questions were asked and thoughtful policy critique was offered. Looking through your page just now, I see nothing remains that in any way questions the coalition or its policy platform.

Given you are standing as a Liberal for the federal seat of Newcastle and hope to play a significant role in leading this country, I urge you to communicate openly with constituents via all available means, and to avail yourself of the opportunity social media provides to do this transparently. Asking people with inconvenient questions to move the discussion to email is cowardly and shows little respect for the office you intend to hold as this region’s representative in Parliament.

None of the posts I made contravened the social media policy you’ve published here, and all were significantly more edifying than most of your own party’s contributions to, say, question time in Canberra. So, why were they deleted? Do you intend to communicate openly with those you’re asking to represent? Are you interested in adding a little substance to the political conversation in this country? Or are you just another victim of Tony’s cone of silence?

Will she respond publicly? N/N

Terror is especially terrifying in the USA

Terror is especially terrifying in the USA

Click through for an excellent piece on why shutting down Boston was just the latest victory for terrorists who target the US. Love this line:

What terrorists want is to terrify people; Americans always oblige.

And regarding an attack on London:

I happened to be in London on 7/7—a far more deadly and frightening terrorist attack—and by 7 P.M. on that horrible day, with the terrorists still at large (they were dead already, but no one knew that), the red double-decker buses were rolling and the traffic was turning and life, though hardly normal, was determinedly going on.

Civil liberties aside, maybe it’s time for America to grow a pair.

Unlike the Liberal Party of Australia, Google knows how to be good

Unlike the Liberal Party of Australia, Google knows how to be good

Follow the link for Google’s announcement re: their latest Google Fiber rollout. It’s like Australia’s National Broadband Network, but Google’s doing it.

Yay! Something to love about Google!

[Unless, of course, they’re rolling out Google Fiber just to increase the speed with which they can collect your data. Hmm…]

Anyway, here’s the bit Malcolm Turnbull needs to read, very slowly, to Tony Abbott:

We believe the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, and we hope this new Google Fiber city will inspire communities across America to think about what ultrafast connectivity could mean for them.

No offence, Mr. Shadow Minister for Communications, but your National Dial-Up Network policy is an absolute joke. I do hope your boss will allow you to resume the use of your very capable brain in the not-too-distant future.

On private school funding

Full disclosure: I work at a private school. My opinion hasn’t changed much since taking the job, though.

Government funding for schools is a Big Topic (just ask Gonski), but here’s a summary of what I think about private vs. public school funding.

At first, it seems simple. Private schools receive income from fees, alumni donations, side businesses, investment returns and more, so it must be a waste of Taxpayers’ Money1 for them to be given the the same level of government funding as public schools. And if they get MORE money than public schools, well, that’s just outrageous! Right?

If only it were actually so simple.

For starters, it’s difficult to establish a fair comparison between different schools. It’s certainly not as simple as “school A gets $X of government funding per student, vs. $Y per student in school B.” One must allow for variations in demography, facilities, projected growth, private funding levels and more. It’s irresponsible to ignore the complexities of these factors (not that some journalists seem to care).

But if it’s true that private schools get more from the government than their public counterparts (and it probably is), I’m not convinced that taxpayers should fret. Here’s my rationale:

Schools populated by parents willing to make a significant financial contribution to the education of their children should be actively encouraged by the government.

In other words, if the endgame is quality education, then schools full of kids who WANT quality education should not be left behind funding-wise. They should be fully equipped to make potent investments in the future of Australia: the minds of its brightest children.

That said, quality education isn’t the only endgame. We must also offer a viable, competitive education to ALL Australian children, whether or not their parents can afford to send them to a private school, whether or not they’re bright enough to get a scholarship to one, and whether or not their parents even believe in the value of education.

Should this be achieved at the expense of schools that value-add enough to be able to supplement government funds with school fees and other private sector income? You know my answer.

And I haven’t even started on the student welfare benefits of (many) private schools. These can dramatically increase the value of education for some students, but that’s for another day.

1 I hate this phrase. It’s only ever used manipulatively, or at the expense of the Big Picture. I was demonstrating manipulation here!

“Meaningful action”

We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.

So said Barack Obama today.

His words gave me hope that he might finally be the President to lead the US away from its insane gun culture and the equally insane laws it has created.

Yes, the man pulling the trigger was ultimately responsible for the horror of the last 24 hours, but the nation that made such powerful weapons available to him is also guilty.

America, you are out of time. You are the only western nation to collectively believe that civilian guns increase public safety. You are wrong. There are rivers of blood flowing in your schools to prove it.

Fix it.

Your irrelevant second amendment be damned.

The Salvation Army (eventually) replied

A few posts back, I expressed my concern over the Salvos’ endorsement of Jeff McCloy for Mayor.

Tim Halliburton, Media Relations Manager for the Salvation Army in Sydney, eventually replied (on 10 September – after the election). Here’s what he said:

Hi Luke,

Thanks for getting in touch and apologies for the delay in responding.

In regards to your enquiry, The Salvation Army in the Hunter region is simply saying a ‘thank you’ to Mr McCloy for his generous support to us for our work in the local community. We need to be clear that all Mr McCloy’s involvement with the Salvos was prior to him being involved in politics. Trust this clarifies the situation a bit further and please let me know if there’s anything else we can do for you.

Thanks again for your support.

Meanwhile, Neil Raymond, a prominent local Salvation Army member, posted on McCloy’s Facebook page re: a phone conversation he had with Salvos HQ, who indicated that a $1.5m “donation” had been made around the same time the Salvos endorsed the campaign.

The plot thickens!

Here’s my reply to Tim:

Hi Tim,

Thanks for getting back to me. I’m sure it was no accident that your reply came after the election ;)

Unfortunately your email didn’t really help clarify what happened in the lead-up to McCloy claiming Salvation Army endorsement for his mayoral campaign (which, like it or not, is what actually happens when you allow “thank you” footage to be used in political advertising). Given other anomalies in Jeff’s campaign, and the fact that he subsequently won the mayoral race and will hold office in Newcastle for the next 4 years, I’m sure you can appreciate my ongoing concern that allowing yourselves to be bought in this way will damage both the Salvation Army and the city of Newcastle. I hope I’m wrong!

Thanks again for your time,


I’m not going to pursue this any further, but I hope someone else will.

Good luck, Newcastle.

Do the Salvos really support Jeff McCloy?

Sounds odd to me. So I put it to their head office:


Did you know that Jeff McCloy is running TV ads claiming Salvation Army support for his run for local office? See here:

I wouldn’t have expected the Salvation Army to align itself with any specific political cause. Did you authorise this message?

[NB: I’m not at all involved in this election, except as a concerned voter who doesn’t want to see the Salvos name trashed.]



Will keep you posted.