‘The Coalition has abandoned debt and deficit in a monumental shift to its political narrative.’

That’s the refrain we’ve basically heard from many of Australia’s political journalists since the release of the Government’s last budget and its emphasis on spending on aged care, mental health and other social policy areas.

If one moment singularly captures how bad some sections of Australian political journalism has become, we have arrived at.

Let’s breakdown the bad. Let’s look at the flawed assumptions and lazy thinking.

First and foremost — by like a half-marathon ahead — the current take on the Budget reveals the…


This past week, in a tiny town in upstate New York that he and his family have called home for more than sixty years, a good man was buried with his coffin proudly draped by an American flag. State Troopers in their Smokey and the Bandit hats provided a guard of honour at his funeral.

Zen Sawchuk, my uncle, was 95.

When a loved one passes, we set out the historical markers of their lives. It’s how we “locate” them in the world and in our own adjacent lives. We can also reflect on what gracious gifts the deceased have…


Every profession has a “black box” that it’s not keen for customers or the public to look inside. Or, where it hides the little tricks of the trade that create the industry’s perceived value and operators’ return on investment.

“Black boxes” pay for a lot of ski holidays in Aspen and private school fees on the North Shore, and can therefore be firmly jammed shut lest their contents become commodified.

When it comes to media management and public relations, the “black box” can be even harder to get inside because it’s an industry based on words and images. …


I took a tumble this weekend.

Ass over tit, as they say. Head over heels.

Specifically, a young kid somehow crossed over into the opposite lane and we had a big bicycle bingle. I first flew into my handlebars, and then up and over them into a perfect two-point landing. The two points being by my brain bucket (or bike helmet) and my right hand.

And that isn’t elegant when you’re built like a 120 kilogram rugby prop and not like Richie Porte (an Australian cycling champion).

After briefly blacking out and then coming to on the bicycle path, I…


Cycling is a remarkable gift to very unremarkable people like me.

I’ve spent the best part of fifty years admiring and sometimes madly envying people with real talent and skill. Those of amongst us who can:

· Do somersaults and handstands in gymnastics;

· Put names against every plant or rock they see;

· Play Mozart on the clarinet;

· Build a kid’s playhouse from a scratch, or;

· Understand and contribute to quantum mechanics.

Alas, I’m a very mere mortal with no ability in most things and limited ability in a narrow set of things — like writing a…


If one were to judge by Twitter, everything in Australia is currently shit. Endless angry and hurt tweets about injustice, power imbalance, sexual abuse, and gender discrimination.

There’s no doubt that there’s legitimacy to many concerns being expressed — especially by women of lived and very damaging experience. As someone who was in and near politics for nearly 20 years, I am among those who say: the culture sucks and make changes now.

But there’s equally no doubt that some of the current discourse is on the border of a “gendered McCarthyism”. While the cause may be worthy, we can…


Every profession has stuff that it would prefer for people — be it clients, stakeholders or punters — not to know.

Think of the all the hidden cost and profit structures around modern medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Or, you know that you’re only getting glimmers of insight when you listen to ex-captains of the national cricket team doing the TV commentary.

And so it is with the profession that is political polling.

Times, though, have changed due to the debate — which was ironically somewhat inaccurate — about the accuracy of Presidential polling in the 2016 Trump upset win. …


Rules are awesome.

They are a safety net that minimises risk to ourselves and to others. They give us a map when in uncharted territory. They give us a way to decide on issues that’s beyond the limitations of our often flawed, stressed or fragile ego’s. They are meant to reflect our beliefs and values, and how we allocate resources around them as a society or organisation.

When designed well, rules reduce uncertainty, arbitrariness and inequity.

Having been a staffer, campaigner and candidate in and around politics for around 17 years, when I’ve been reading the news out of Canberra…


It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) and, to be honest, I’m not sure what to say.

I know what I want to say, but I’m not sure anything that I do say will be somehow “appropriate” or “correct” or “helpful” during a possibly transformational moment in Australian political and social history where there are many emotions around about the role and treatment of women.

I think like many men — and excluding the arseholes — I see myself as wanting to do the right thing by women.

And, no, it’s not because I have a very independent and determined wife, sister…


“We need to explain it to them.”

“If they only knew the facts, they’d support it.”

“We have to improve our communication and do more of it.”

“What’s a good ad campaign cost?”

Most people working in corporations, public administration, politics and elsewhere have heard some form of the above words at some point from some boss or colleague. Somebody gets frustrated that an idea, proposal or policy isn’t gaining traction among audiences — be it a workforce, a constituency or a supply chain — and then they decide it’s about what and how much is being communicated.

So, they…

Pete Shmigel

Pete Shmigel writes, coaches, advocates for mental health, and serves on Boards - after surviving 3 CEO gigs and professional politics.

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