Sean Kelly

is a columnist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and a former adviser to Labor prime ministers.

By this author


Opinion August 11, 2018

Pushing the limits of acceptable debate

“Like Donald Trump’s presidential victory, the appearance of far-right nationalist Blair Cottrell on Sky News cannot be excused by reference to recent events. It wasn’t the dumb mistake of a producer, nor was it unique to Sky. The expansion of what …”

Opinion August 04, 2018

How Turnbull is stuck in reverse

“Turnbull vowed to look “very seriously and thoughtfully and humbly” at the results. Bill Shorten explicitly said “we hear you” to those who voted for third parties, and has spent the days since the vote repeating a version of this mea culpa: “We …”

Opinion July 28, 2018

Negative reinforcement for Super Saturday

“This was not just negative campaigning as it is usually understood – attacking your opponent rather than focusing on your own strengths. Instead, each side put its case in terms of what couldn’t be done if the other side got its way. On company tax …”

Opinion July 21, 2018

Turnbull backs in the race favourite

“Early in his prime ministership, approval numbers rocketing, he would have imagined himself breaking the mould, a new type of leader. But like most political leaders, over time Turnbull has, wisely if not admirably, accepted the narrowness of his immediate …”

Opinion July 14, 2018

Political attention seekers to the fore

“I have just returned to Australia from some months spent in London, and it was something of a shock to return to all this. Howard fighting culture wars, Hanson pulling stunts, Latham yelling – oh, and there was Abbott, too, trying to tear down a leader …”

News September 02, 2017

Welcome to the ‘No’ case

Led by established and co-ordinated conservative voices, the ‘No’ case breaks down into three key arguments, under which sits the backbeat of homophobia.

News August 26, 2017

Keeping asylum seeker healthcare offshore

The government’s determination to avoid onshore legal challenges to asylum-seeker detention has endangered detainees requiring serious medical attention.

Opinion July 22, 2017

Security and Malcolm Turnbull’s bluff

“By now we’ve all seen enough of Turnbull not to expect a tough guy. We want the guy who knows stuff, who is across his brief, who can explain things in detail and persuade us he has it all in hand. Instead, this week, we got Turnbull as played by Sly …”

Opinion June 18, 2016

Men of few deeds

“Morrison warned that Greens activists had ‘infiltrated’ the Labor party, as though the entire election were an episode of Get Smart. ”

News June 11, 2016

The two battles of the 2016 election

“That is all you need to know about election 2016. It is a battle of two battles. The Coalition needs voters to see it as a choice between stability and instability. The ALP needs the same voters to decide their vote based on fairness versus unfairness.”

Opinion January 23, 2016

Abetz and Andrews’ petty politicking dogs statesman Turnbull

“It is the worst type of cynicism to use the battle against Daesh as some kind of proxy for the fight between Liberal moderates and conservatives.”

Opinion August 29, 2015

Abbott baulking the talk

“Abbott must now decide, firmly and without second-guessing himself, what it is he wants to achieve in politics. ”

Opinion May 30, 2015

The dog and Tony show

“Both the public and the Liberal backbench get confusing signals about the government’s policy. That suggests either genuine tension between Abbott and Hockey, or a failure to get media strategies lined up. ”

Opinion May 23, 2015

Libs, ALP need courage under ire in face of opinion polls

“A complaint turns us all into comrades-in-outrage. They’re easy to agree with, even if you happen to like the person or party being complained about.”

Opinion November 29, 2014

Every parliament’s rule of three

“Many, myself included, thought that Abbott the tight-lipped automaton would become a convincing human once he had actually been elected. We were wrong.”

Opinion July 18, 2014

Scott Morrison, the minister of truth

Scott Morrison’s abuse of language ties the asylum-seeker debate in Orwellian knots.

Opinion May 31, 2014

Failure of imagination

The budget reveals the government’s inability to put itself in the shoes of its electorate.