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<p>PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images</p>

PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

How Offended Can The Indonesians Get?

Pollster Mark Textor thinks Australians won’t give a rat’s arse how offended Indonesians become. And he’s probably right.


Former Labor leader Kim Beazley never spoke so impressively as in defeat. And that was never more apparent than on election night in 2001.

Six months out from the November 10 election, Beazley and the Labor Party had looked nearly certain to take government from Prime Minister John Howard’s Coalition. Labor was way ahead in the public opinion polls – Nielsen showed them in front, in two-party preferred terms, by 60 to 40 through April, and 57 to 43 at the end of May.

Then Howard began to peg the lead back, thanks in considerable measure to the work of one Mark Textor, the party’s main pollster, who helped to identify the issue of asylum seekers as a winner for the Coalition.

In late August, after the MV Tampa, with its cargo of rescued asylum seekers, sailed over the horizon, Howard was saved. By September the Coalition was ahead in the polls, 57 to 43.

Textor claims responsibility for refining Howard’s pitch to voters in the 2001 election campaign down to the strong, declarative sentence: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.”

So, to Beazley’s concession speech. He announced he was stepping down as leader, and continued:

“[T]onight I … bow out by thanking the Australian people. We are a great nation. We have a nation with a capacity to be better. We have a nation with a capacity for a generosity of heart. Like any nation, there are dark angels in our nation but there are also good angels as well.”

He went on to note that the better angels of human nature were more easily evoked in people who felt secure in their lives.

Textor is an outrageous figure, but he’s no fool. As the pollster to the Liberal Party he has done as much as anyone on that side of politics to realise the potential of negativity.

He was right, of course. As we have noted here before, biological science now is confirming what political science has long believed – that anxiety begets political conservatism. In the face of worrying or hard-to-comprehend events, electors are apt to seek simple solutions and “strong” leaders.

Which brings us back to Mark Textor.

Textor is an outrageous figure, but he’s no fool. As the pollster to the Liberal Party he has done as much as anyone on that side of politics to realise the potential of negativity.

The Libs have been very clever in recent years at identifying points of voter dissatisfaction, magnifying them, and promising simple solutions. Think, for example, of the bogus issue of cost-of-living pressures.

The objective data shows it to be a non-issue. But it has proved so easy for the Coalition to seize on one small component – electricity prices – and turn that into a major issue. Then, a simple solution: blame it all on one small component of the electricity price rise – the carbon tax.

And hey, presto, they have an electoral winner. Even better, one which pleases the conservatives’ big financial backers in the carbon industry.

Our purpose today, though, is not to get bogged down in Textor’s role in that issue. It is to talk about Textor’s recent foray into the public sphere, via Twitter.

As you may already be aware, he took it upon himself to fire off a series of racially tinged, quite incendiary tweets relating to the current difficulties in the Australian relationship with Indonesia, which has been caused by the revelation that Australia has tapped the private phones of the Indonesian President, his wife and others.

In one tweet, apparently referring to Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, Textor said:

<p>Twitter</p>

Twitter

In another, referring to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: ''What sort of head of state communicates with a head of a neighbouring government by twitter FFS? SBY''.

(The letters FFS are understood to stand for “For fuck’s sake”.)

And there were more, similarly offensive jibes directed at the Indonesians.

The tweets got front-page coverage in the Indonesian press. They no doubt further inflamed public opinion there, where, reportedly, instances of public protest and Australian flag-burning have already occurred.

Back here in Australia, the response from more reasonable people was quick and direct. Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser opined via Twitter that Textor should be sacked by the government.

In parliamentary Question Time, Opposition leader Bill Shorten asked Tony Abbott whether he had pulled Textor into line, and whether he was reviewing the party’s contracts with Textor’s firm.

"They were tacky comments. And they have been withdrawn and apologised for," said Abbott.

But there is little reason to believe Textor is at all sorry, as you’ll see if you watch this brief, belligerent interview he did with the ABC.

As one of his other tweets, not so widely reported, read: “No one gives a rat’s arse in the real world. The bubble at work.”

In a way, that was the most disturbing tweet of them all. In Textor’s view — and we emphasise again, he is no fool, and a master at manipulating public opinion; it doesn’t really matter in domestic political terms how offended the Indonesians get.

Among members of the demographic that the Liberals, with Textor’s help, have so successfully appealed to in recent years — the ones whose dark angels are more easily aroused — a bit of intransigence is interpreted as strength.

It looks like the headline in Wednesday’s edition of the Liberal Party house journal, The Australian: “Abbott stands firm in spying row”.

So, while Abbott might tell Parliament Textor’s comment was “tacky”, we may be reasonably sure he’s not terribly angry at his pollster. And is certainly not about to sack him. Textor’s dark arts are way too useful.

41 comments on this story
by Constantine

Thank you Mike for exposing this guy's 'dark arts'. You are spot on with his character assessment. How frightening that he is advising the LNP, a most unprincipled and unworthy rabble.

November 21, 2013 @ 7:29pm
by John Fraser

I'm starting to wonder if this is Abbott's Falklands, Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Murdoch and Abbott lied to Australians".

November 21, 2013 @ 8:14pm
by John Fraser

Thanks Mike (Seccombe) and Michael (Safi).

And thank you "The Global Mail".

2 excellent articles in 1 day.

Makes up for the crap Murdoch keeps pushing down Australians throats.

November 21, 2013 @ 8:32pm
by Blackheathian

Textor and Abbott are both living by the sword, so to speak. They are confident, overly confident thanks to the Murdoch cushion and the politically lazy population. However like anyone living by the sword, the mistakes can be unforseen and fatal. Abbott and his boats were stopped more or less by the PNG solution, and the Indonesian cooperation and intelligence sharing. The Indonesian dies of that is in doubt and the are rumblings for PNG regarding their situation. Textor might think he has a cushioned bubble to protect the right wing agenda, but the boats are just one of Abbott's weaknesses and one which he has less control over then the media is letting on.

November 21, 2013 @ 9:17pm
by Steve Johnson

I don't disagree with any of this Mike. But the point you've failed to address is this: While the average Australian is unlikely to lose sleep over Abbott's glossing overTextor's lumpen comments, it does nothing to help the government's drive to get the asylum boats issue resolved.

So if Textor is not a part of that solution he must be pay of the problem.

If he's so smart, what is the end game? A stand off with Indonesia? Surely not.

The alternative is that Textor dislikes the Turn Back The Boats solution and wants it disbanded, and he and his seemingly ideological buddy Chris Kenny are working against Abbott.

November 21, 2013 @ 9:20pm
by Whyalla Wipeout

I agree about the benefit to Abbott on the Australian side - but I think the timing is terrible for him. We are too far out from an election for this particular tweet, no matter how excited it may get bogans in western Sydney, to have long term impact.

Now that would not matter if it was only the Labor Opposition in his sights, or some benighted asylum-seekers. But the collateral damage in this case matters because it is affecting a country with significant importance for Australia - in my opinion far greater importance than vice versa. We'll see how it goes long term, but at this stage Textor's tweets have reinforced every sense of the ugly, arrogant Australian that those Indonesians who think about these things believe already.

November 21, 2013 @ 9:23pm
by John Byrne

Textor just about sums up the moral vacuum in which Tony Abbott operates. Between the two of them they have now taken complete ownership of Graham Richardson's infamous "anything it takes" quote. Take note Liberal voters. This is what you have bought on our country. In a year or two I confidently predict that you will understand and regret what you have done.

November 21, 2013 @ 9:53pm
by Cressida O'Hanlon

This Indonesian issue aside, does anyone get the sense now (if they didn't already before) that the coalition have entirely forgotten that politicians are there to represent us the people? But no, not Tony Abbott. We are evidently there to be played by him, in whatever manner he sees fit, in order to further satisfy his lust for power. I imagine him to be as conceited as the Toad of Toad Hall. I'm sure what Tony Abbott sings in the shower is something akin to Toads praise of himself: "The world has held great heroes, As history-books have showed; But never a name to go down to fame compared with that of Toad (Tony)!" "The clever men at Oxford know all that there is to be knowed. But none of them know one half as much as intelligent Mr Toad (Tony)!

November 21, 2013 @ 10:26pm
by Michael Creswell

So we have Mark Textor to blame for the absence of political honesty amid the right in our national life. I read, Mike seccombe that you say Textor was a master at manipulating public opinion but then so was Goebbels with much the same disregard for the truth or damage done to people along the way. This is not acceptable in a system of responsible government accountable ultimately to the electorate. I do give a rat's arse about our relations with Indonesia, I don't give a rat's arse about Mr Textor - only the resulting evil from his work and words. Oh, the stench

November 21, 2013 @ 10:36pm
by kevin burrett

Has Mark Textor taken a vow of arrogance ?

November 21, 2013 @ 11:06pm
by Greg story

Textor is just another leach on the arse of we we call representative politics in Australia. I guess he wold be an expert on phillipines porn!

November 21, 2013 @ 11:08pm
by Nigel Stanley

I am very, very concerned for the psychological health of this country because on it depends everything else. We are seemingly being led down a very slippery slope but to what? Towards totalitarianism? Towards war with our neighbours? Towards economic implosion as well as the other two? We, the people, are told little and our questions and concerns are simply brushed aside. What, pray, is this governemnt doing to us, and so quickly, too? Tyranny beckons.

November 21, 2013 @ 11:18pm
by Michael Faulkner

It will take a lot for Abbott to censure this emotionally stunted individual. He will stand by him, when really, Textor should be cut free of influence with this government.
Indeed, Abbott's limp ' tacky' response to Textor's appalling and arrogant gaffes is tacky in its own right, and a bit similar really, to his statement of regret that SBY might be embarrassed by the spying revelations. Neither of these guys get it.
Abbott and his accolytes in the next three years, is going to foist upon this nation, a whole new version of the the cultural cringe, and that will be only a small part of the damage.

November 22, 2013 @ 12:09am
by Andres Timmermanis

Note to Mike Seccombe...the issue of "cost of living pressures" was first used politically in the modern cycle by Kevin Rudd....remember "Grocery Watch"? Or did you just skip over that one?

Sad.

November 22, 2013 @ 2:25am
by maman

Indonesian People are not stupid. Australians must be carefull, we are 240 million population ready to fight .

November 22, 2013 @ 5:32am
by Vince O'Grady

To Andres,

Cost of living pressures in Victoria were ramped up by the Kennett Liberals when theu sold the Electricity Industry and the Gas and fuel corporation.

Immediately it added a Profit component to the Industry where one never existed before. It also stopped the Government from taking a dividend from those State run enterprises which could be ploughed back into services for the owners of the Utility.

So he buggered the budget in Victoria and the shortfall is now taken up with Speeding fines and gambling revenue. Social Evils. Rudd had nothing to do with these Liberal Policies.

The worst thing about greed for money and conservatism generally is that you might enjoy the spoils of the wealth whilst you are alive but when you die your Money stays where it was made. And you disappear into the ether. So greed and avarice are just so much hot conservative aIr.

There is nothing compassionate about the conservative ethos, but there is plenty of evil there. As evidenced by the current crop like Textor.

November 22, 2013 @ 8:53am
by Warren Ross

Mark Textor is lucky he can count as that is most cherished facility amongst politicians and their advisers these days. His social gaucheness is the key attribute that drives Liberal Party politics. Textor was extremely useful as John Howard plumbed the depths of the Australian voters' character and fed our views back to us as jingoism, xenophobia and hate. We need to know more about Mark Textor. It would tell us much about our political system. None of it will be pretty but we need to see it.

November 22, 2013 @ 9:25am
by VoterBentleigh

Steven Ciobo, the Federal Member for Moncrieff, claimed that Mr Textor is not a government person, not a staff member and not a government appointee and acted as a private citizen as if this means that his views did not represent LNP attitudes. But Mr Textor is contracted by the LNP and therefore they employ a person whose views are socially reprehensible and whose political comments are not in the national interest since they have seriously jeopardised our standing with the Indonesians. By employing such a person, they condone his behaviour; it is not enough to for Mr Textor to offer a sneering apology.

It is could be that Mr Textor's brawling, street gang style of aggression reflects the Prime Minister's approach to politics and it could also be that Mr Textor's apparent knowledge of pornography movies appeals to LNP supporters, but the real test of whether the majority of Australians care about Mr Textor's remarks will be shown if Indonesians retaliate by reducing their association with Australians in all spheres of life.

As for the Prime Minister's attitude to the Indonesians, that was clearly shown with his back-hander to them that they were "perhaps" one of Australia's best friends.

November 22, 2013 @ 10:34am
by sebkh

I rather enjoyed Textor's body language - jutting chin and rocking shoulders - unmistakable signs of false bravado but betraying the cringing, snivelling, terrified despair he must be feeling inside for such a foolhardy display of unalloyed stupidity and unmitigated racial prejudice. Suffer in ya jocks, Wannabe Tea-Party Tory Scum!

November 22, 2013 @ 5:19pm
by Limarick

oops .. looks like I stumbled into a left leaning love-in ... bye!

November 22, 2013 @ 7:57pm
by ratee

What is in the LNP interest is not (necessarily) in Australias interest - Textor works for the LNP - not Australia. The LNP works for their backers not Australia.
To that extent, there are many who work for their own interests at the expense of Australia not just the majority of politicians (who are able to convince themselves that their views represent what is best for Australia)

November 22, 2013 @ 8:13pm
by Roger Hawcroft

You are so right, Virginia. However, Australians should be concerned. If the Indonesians wanted to take over this country, all they have to do is start to come. There are so many of them that our defences would be useless - how many can you kill when they just keep coming ... basically, if they wanted to, they could just walk in and take over.

Not that I'm suggesting that they do want to do such - but, circumstances and political personalities change. With our world going down the toilet through the failure of politicians to bite the bullet on global warming, it will not be long before the world faces and even bigger refugee crisis than exists already. Tony Abbott's "stop the boats" doesn't work now and it won't work then.

If we had real statesmen and women at the head of our government we would be building close relationships with our neighbours and, indeed, the whole world. Not lip-service diplomatic publicity programs such as joint naval exercises but real meetings of people who's agenda is to work out better ways of understanding one another and working together.

Unfortunately, people are generally self-centred and greedy and can't see further than their noses. As a result, the human race is likely doomed. The Textor's will have a lot to answer for but no one to whom to answer.

November 22, 2013 @ 9:05pm
by Pam

I have never been so ashamed of Australia as I am now. Go over To ninemsn page and under advice on dealing with spy claims in the more news section and it is horrifying to see the nastiness towards Indonesia. Abbott has really divided this country. Some of them are saying drop a bomb on them. Some of them are having a go at labor and green voters declaring war on us. A lot of them are screaming out for war and telling Indonesia they will be ready for them. Abbott has brought out the evil in this country and the worst thing is I doubt anyone will be able to stop this rot in our country. Also they are bad on the news item about textor tweeting. This is horrifying stuff to read what they are writing. The worse thing is they believe ther own rubbish and all the rubbish Abbott and co put out. Is Abbott stirring the pot for war with our neighbours, it certainly feels like it. The way Abbott is going he is going to have Australians fighting each other, never mind the Indonesians. I have just had to stop reading those comments, the whole lot of them are absolutely toxic and totally disgusting.

November 23, 2013 @ 1:15am
by Ron Barnett

Its a pity Labor were so dysfunctional, now we are stuck with Tony Baloney and his rabble for 3 years. The Liberal's Speaker, Brownyn looks like she is about to burst out laughing at any time.
The previous Labor speakers handled their role well with appropriate decorum.

November 23, 2013 @ 4:14am
by Bob

What hasn't been covered by the Australian media are the details of the spying, which were revealed by Edward Snowden. The Australian embassies in Asia are being used by the United States to spy on our neighbours with the blessing of both major parties.

November 23, 2013 @ 6:39am
by Douglas

Struggling to think what good things conservatives have done for this country in recent decades. OK, there were John Howard's gun laws, a tick there. But is there anything else?

November 23, 2013 @ 10:01am
by alfagtv

sebkh...wonderful comment...couldnt have said it better myself....well done.

November 23, 2013 @ 10:12am
by Janice Wallace

Look, Textor was delivering a coded message direct from Abbott and Bishop, it's very clear.

This was no 'error of judgement', it was calculated to offend, to make Abbott sound more reasonable.

This was part of Textor's job.

November 23, 2013 @ 12:56pm
by Peter Franklin

As a side issue, After seeing vision of Textor he looked open to seedy comments about his own appearance. As it is said, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stone.y

November 23, 2013 @ 2:08pm
by Dee

Textor (can this really be his name) is now working with a party in government, not opposition.

Very different. So easy to be slanderous, reckless, smart arse and downright offensive when he don't have to justify any consequences.

Different game now. The lowest, most simplistic level, to which Mr Textor gravitates, is suddenly not going to be so terribly wise because at that level there is always a voter, watching, listening, tweeting and texting.

His people and the Liberal people need to speak about future tactics.

November 23, 2013 @ 2:56pm
by marty steele

Perhaps Mr Textor should reflect on the relative importance to the world of a highly educated former ambassador to the UK and foreign minister of the fourth biggest country and a Liberal Party pollster

November 23, 2013 @ 3:22pm
by eric of perth

What a striking similarity there is between Mark Textor, Scott Morrison and, of course, Tony Abbott. I'm afraid the country is well and truly in the hands of the dark angels.

November 24, 2013 @ 12:28am
by austar

To me Matk Textor looks like an eunach guarding a Royal harem.

November 24, 2013 @ 12:41am
by jock

The northern cattlemen were rejoicing that the "Adults" were now running the country and they could sell as many cattle as they wanted but are now getting very nervous. Who will they blame now? abbott and Australia need Indonesia more than Indonesia needs us. The Indonesians have fought centuries of colonialism and won't be bullied or patronised by the white trash of South East Asia.

November 24, 2013 @ 6:06am
by Sebkh

Thank goodness the grown ups are back in charge of the country.

November 24, 2013 @ 9:50am
by bedlambay

Textor is the Karl Rove of the Liberal Party which has used the Republican Party's manual of dirty tricks for a long time. Credlin is now the puppet master of spin, propaganda and manipulation.

November 24, 2013 @ 2:08pm
by ChrisinBrisbane

Australia has the PM and Govt it deserves. Australians only have themselves to blame for what happens over the next 3 years. The ALP needs to have a serious look at which direction it is heading and offer a leader of intellect and inspiration. The LNP has one, but unfortunately Malcom Turnbull will never be PM. How sad it is that the most capable will never see office.

November 25, 2013 @ 9:01am
by Neil Cook

Textor will be back on Twitter if he's not already. He's far too much the narcissist to not want to know what people in the REAL world, with real opinions, are saying about him.

November 25, 2013 @ 3:17pm
Show previous 38 comments
by sebkh

I move for Textor's immediate appointment as Vice-Chancellor of the Tony Abbott School Of People Skills.

November 25, 2013 @ 6:00pm
by Daemon

Truth is Australia's problem with refugees comes directly from the western suburbs of Sydney, where more than half of the people utilized by both ALP and the conservatives, for the focus groups used by Textor et al, were/are long term unemployed and a net drain on the economy in general. In my own research, I have discovered that over 67% of every focus group held in the area, was held mid morning, and the folk called in and paid $80 per seat, were declared to be at least second generation unemployed..

One wonders how representative they actually are, of the Australians who are capable of or prepared to get and hold employment, and thus not cost the rest of us anything to keep them alive and breeding for whatever it is they think their lives are worth.

I haven't been able to discern from the details I have been allowed access to, how many of them are more than second generation unemployed, nor could I get a clear picture of their voting intentions, but I find it humorous that the wally currently in Canberra, calling himself PM would even consider, outside an election cycle, being seen dead in St Mary's and other such cess-pits of humanity.

The fact that most Australians now view these creatures as some sort of guide to how our country is run makes the whole process of running an election more of a joke, with Textor acting the puppet master, since the PM doesn't appear to have the capacity to manage his own life with his good friends Christopher and Julie right at his side, to keep reminding us that yes, we really did, as a nation, put that man in charge.

November 26, 2013 @ 9:00am
by sebkh

Current voters are to blame, but our children will pay the price.

November 26, 2013 @ 8:26pm
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