Simple “Solutions” To The Penalty Rates Debate

WITH THE TURNBULL government set to attempt penalty rate reforms its predecessor squibbed at the first sign of hostility from Labor and the unions, the same paleolithic arguments are being trotted out by the same anti-business troglodytes to defend “workers’ rights” fashioned generations ago and which belong in the past. The availability of simple solutions might temper the “rigour” of a flat Earth approach to screwing small businesses.

I’m not going to say too much this morning, as yet another very heavy week beckons (although hopefully things will ease off a little once it is out of the way); I have been tracking the resurgent debate about legislating changes to penalty rates to take some of the burden off small businesses in sections of the economy that typically ceased trading at weekends — and especially on Sundays — and with yet more fatuous pro-union, anti-small business propaganda seeping from the Fairfax Media stable today, some comment is warranted.

One of the standout promotions made by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in his recent reshuffle, new Employment minister Michaelia Cash, sees a very capable young minister (and a female, for those obsessed with gender) take on a portfolio that was singularly botched under Tony Abbott.

Already decried by the Left in friendly media tomes as “shrill,” a “fanatic” and “talentless” — perversely enough, excellent pointers to her likely effectiveness in her new post, albeit an indictment on those in the Left purporting to support the advancement of women in politics — it does rather seem that if anyone in Liberal ranks is capable of dragging the archaic regime of penalty rates during reasonable working hours (in the modern sense) into the 21st century, Cash may be just the lady to do so.

She is said to idolise former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: it is to be fervently hoped she shows the same disciplined commitment to reasonable and necessary reform that that great leader exhibited in the United Kingdom during a substantial career in public life over more than 30 years.

Her first test — the Senate in its current anarchic and counter-democratic configuration notwithstanding — is fashioning a regime for work and pay in industries that to some degree didn’t exist in their current shape just 20 years ago.

A criticism that has been sporadically made of Australia’s unions throughout the lifespan of this column is that in the most literal sense of the word, they are the most conservative institutions in the country; the world has evolved around them and so has Australian society, but the unions — in all their ugly malevolence — have remained rooted in the past.

In fact, a credible argument exists that they have regressed to the 1970s, when industrial sabotage and the economic vandalism inherent in bringing industries and cities to a standstill to enforce their will were their stock tools of trade; the litany of lawless thuggery being uncovered through the trade union royal commission is a good pointer to what I am talking about; the string of referrals of the bastards responsible for it to law enforcement agencies to be charged and prosecuted is another.

I hope readers have perused the article I have linked this morning from The Age; if they haven’t, here it is again — and it all sounds very reasonable, subtly emotive, and seemingly sober until it is pointed out that until the early 1990s, Australian cities more or less closed by 6pm. On Sundays, they were ghost towns.

Certainly, the intervening period has seen a gradual liberalising of trade laws, and consumer demand for retail, recreation and hospitality services has grown quickly to fill the extended hours during which businesses in those verticals are permitted to operate and do operate.

But it is worth remembering that weekend penalty rates were originally fashioned, explicitly, to provide recompense for work during “unsociable” hours: and by “unsociable,” this was explicitly aimed at those who were unable to attend church on Sundays — and framed in the sense that “work” took place between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Friday, in an era when anything outside those hours was very much the exception.

How many of those clamouring for the retention of penalty rates in full — and not least unionists happy to see small family businesses forced to pay up to $80 per hour for casual staff on Sundays with neither reserve nor compunction — also run around wearing the proud badge of atheism on their sleeve?

How many of those who pocket those wages are happy to put their hand out for the entitlement, with an utter disregard (or contempt) for the church-based social structures that in large part are the reason they even exist?

And how many people on both sides of the penalty rate debate accept, at every time other than when this exact subject is in prospect, that modern lifestyles and work requirements have effectively rendered redundant the notion of a 40-hour week that runs during daylight hours on weekdays only?

As ever, there is more political posturing by power-mad unions driven by unreasoning hatred of businesses and political conservatives to these questions than there is any real concern for “workers’ rights.”

Happily, however, there are two very simple solutions to the question of penalty rates; if the unions, the ALP, and their pliant mouthpieces that are the Fairfax press and the ABC are determined to be intransigent on the question, then it’s one that can be easily resolved.

After all — as the Fairfax piece today posits rhetorically — why should retail, hospitality and entertainment workers be “singled out for wage cuts?”

One, businesses in those industries could be exempted from trade practice and competition laws governing price gouging, abuse of market power and racketeering, and given the discretion to increase the prices of their goods, services and other offerings by 150% at all times such a loading is payable to staff.

Maybe if the $80 per hour waiter is serving a $100 main meal that usually costs $40 — or if the $60 usher at the cinema is checking a $50 movie ticket that usually costs $20 — the average idiot taking his family out on “unsociable” Sundays, or at times outside the obsolete 9 to 5 weekday stereotype, or (shock, horror) on a Saturday night outing that happens to tick past midnight, will cheerily fork out knowing he’s protecting “workers’ rights” and happy to become a fully owned subsidiary in the unions’ campaign to destroy business and hit “the rich:” proving the point that people have too much money if they can pay, and that seeing to it that some of it is shanghaied in the name of “the worker” is an impost everyone will laughingly and civic-mindedly accept.

Does anyone believe that?

Or two, if this is such an irreconcilable problem (and remember, trade hours were only really liberalised over the last 20 years), maybe it would just be easier to abolish Sunday trading altogether, and to reinstitute curbs on after-hours trading as well: and to dispense with the problem at a stroke.

I don’t think people would accept that either.

People who are paid by the hour who are working more than eight hours at a time, or more than 40 hours per week, or between the hours of midnight and 6am deserve some kind of loading: I don’t suggest for a second that they don’t, and indeed these are the people for whom there may be a case to pay even more than they are receiving right now.

But the point here is that the entire concept of “unsociable hours” as currently enshrined is based on social norms and in terms of community standards that no longer exist — and the structures that govern who can earn what, and when, either need to be overhauled to reflect the movement of the times or the (praiseworthy, common sense, natural) liberalisation of trade that has enriched Australian society and expanded choice must regrettably be wound back.

In the end, knuckle-dragging troglodytes from the unions are less concerned with the “rights” of those they claim to represent than they are with the perpetuation of their own feather-bedded sinecures: and if their role in a modern society is so crucial, some explanation based in fact as to why the union movement continues to lose members in both real and absolute terms is long overdue.

Spare us the propaganda of this being a call to enslave workers and exploit them; the revolution may not start today, and in any case the vapid bullshit the unions and their chums advance to that effect is, by present-day standards, puerile, immature, and childish.

No-one is advocating anything less than fair recompense for fair work (and yes, I am mindful I’ve used the F word twice there).

The problem is that we now live in a 24 hour world which once operated, in the main, for just eight to ten hours per day; working on a Saturday or a Sunday is normal now, and so is the proliferation of evening jobs for students, second income seekers and the otherwise unemployable that was nowhere near as extensive two decades ago as it is today.

Hypocritically sticking with obsolete and antiquated definitional arguments to oppose reform to what constitutes “ordinary hours of work” is an indictment on unions and a betrayal of the people they masquerade — when it suits them, and when they’re not extorting business even further — as the champions of.

A more sensible discussion would be how a restructuring of pay scales might translate into extra shifts in a restaurant, or more frequent tours at a theme park, or some other formulation for increasing the overall amount of work on offer in exchange for some relief for small businesses from the punitive (and increasingly prohibitive) real costs of weekend penalty rates.

If the unions are so wedded to their flat Earth positions, there are alternatives. They might not be popular and they might be undesirable.

But in the end, if the cost of labour and the framework that defines it are the only ingredient of the industrial equation that refuses, forcibly, to evolve — despite the world around it having quite literally moved on — then perhaps the only solution is to shut the whole thing down.

Maybe the question unions should ask themselves is whether some quite reasonably paid work — for those, according to their own propaganda, who most need it — is better than no work at all.

The unions could quite feasibly play a constructive role in helping to fashion a modern and constructive solution to what not so long ago was an unforeseen consequence of the evolution of the way we work and live; it doesn’t have to rip anyone off, but it has to ensure the jobs they so viciously claim to safeguard are actually affordable to businesses to provide in the first place.

And that’s another thing — businesses are not charities. They exist to turn a profit. There is no entitlement to a job any more than there is an indissoluble obligation on the entrepreneur to remain in business to provide one. There may be competing and sometimes conflicting forces at work in the relationship between labour and capital, but the end destination of total intransigence* on the part of one side of that equation is the collapse of the relationship altogether.

Cash has her work cut out, and it is to be hoped she won’t flinch as the Abbott government did the instant Labor and the unions signalled they would block any change whatsoever in the Senate that involved fixing the outdated regime of penalty rates.

It was an abject and pathetic surrender. But then again, the Left in this country is so hostile to any outcome other than its own collective arse in the seat of power — for power’s sake alone — that meaningful reform on an economy-wide basis has, on the face of it, become virtually impossible.

The Employment minister will need to channel every fibre of the Thatcher spirit if she is to prevail, but for the sake of sustainable employment outcomes and to the long-term advantage of those who depend on them, it is critical that she does.


*…and by intransigence (or moves to avoid it) I don’t mean half-arsed “solutions” like the unions made — involving people working 14 minutes extra per week — to try to save the inefficient car manufacturing industry that was simply a black hole for the unions to suck government subsidies into through successively greedier “enterprise” agreements: and the fact such a disclaimer needs to be made at all in the context of any discussion around labour market flexibility merely illustrates just how intellectually bankrupt and cavalier the union movement really is about “workers’ rights” in Australia today.


Time To End The Annual Daylight Saving Farce

THE FARCICAL MISHMASH of four time zones for 24 million people resumes tomorrow; coming just hours after the AFL Grand Final and coinciding with the finale of the NRL season — marking, obliquely, a passage from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Australian sport moves on to horses and pretty girls in dresses — the inefficiency, waste and confusion caused by daylight saving is again upon us for six months. It’s time for the circus to end.

It’s a less “heavy” post from me this morning, and I begin with a familiar apology to readers on account of the dearth of time I have had for posting comment; whilst the heavy workload I’m under is manageable, the additional impost inflicted by the medical fright* I have obliquely alluded to over the past two months will shortly be resolved as well: and whilst I’ll still be busier than a swarm of bees, the time I have been carving out to attend to the latter is about to draw to a close, and this is probably the difference between the three articles I’ve been delivering each week and at least another couple, so do bear with me.

I’ve read the editorial from this morning’s Brisbane Courier Mail, and whilst it contains a couple of errors of fact — Queenslanders (including, then, me) voted in a Daylight Saving referendum in 1991, not in 1992 as stated — I have to say I couldn’t agree more.

When those north of the Tweed last had their say on the permanent adoption of Daylight Saving, I voted against it.

But I did so with the explicit rider that had I lived in Melbourne, I would have been unreservedly supportive; I have of course lived in Melbourne now for almost 18 years, and whilst I don’t like the “extra hour of afternoon heat” that comes with Daylight Saving during the most unpleasant excesses of summer, the fact it remains twilight until almost 10pm during the longest days of the year (and is light enough first thing in the morning) outweighs that concern.

When I lived in Brisbane, it was still dark by 7.30pm — even during the three-year trial of Daylight Saving introduced by the Ahern government in 1989.

But time, experience, and the passage of more of life’s journey can evolve perspectives, and it certainly has in my own case.

True to its reputation of being “different” — a euphemism if ever there was — some of the arguments advanced against Daylight Saving in the so-called Sunshine State back in those days were ridiculous; the birds at the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, for example, were said to be disinclined to show up an hour early to be fed.

The same was said of country cows, who lacked comprehension of time zone changes, and would supposedly fail to arrive for milking at 4am…because they would still believe it to be 3am.

And my favourite was the effect Daylight Saving would have “on the curtains,” and watching Gerry Connolly’s Gerrymander Joh And The Last Crusade at Brisbane’s Twelfth Night Theatre in December 1989, audience members were treated to the disgusting spectacle of “Flo” hanging the most flatulently garish curtains at the Bjelke-Petersen ranch in Kingaroy, assuring the neighbour who had “popped in for a cuppa” not to worry about the hideous pattern on them because “they’ll be bleached white in no time with all this extra daylight we’re having.”

It is difficult to believe intelligent people could ever come up with this sort of rubbish. But the truly deleterious effects of Daylight Saving are no laughing matter.

In the almost quarter of a century that has passed since that ill-fated 1991 referendum, Brisbane has changed; no longer the archaic backwater that closes at 5pm and all weekend every weekend, the Brisbane lifestyle has evolved to make far more use of the daylight hours for recreational purposes than has ever been the case.

Businesses on the Gold Coast (which have traditionally driven any Daylight Saving push in Queensland) these days simply ignore the time change, and turn their clocks forward to synchronise them with their neighbours south of the Tweed River.

The cost in lost economic output and waste from the hotchpotch of time zones that exist for half the year has been estimated at $4 billion — a lot of money at the best of times, and inefficiency and waste that can scarcely be justified as the economic climate turns decidedly sour.

And the instrument of Daylight Saving itself seems to have become a de facto vehicle for state chauvinism and the persistence of States’ Rights that are becoming increasingly difficult to demarcate or even justify in a modern, integrated society such as Australia’s.

In theory, I spend a day each week commuting to Brisbane and back at present: and from this coming week onward, airline schedules become truly confusing, as flights to Brisbane take (on paper) one hour, whilst the return leg takes a little over three.

I am dependent on the latest departure possible on the return leg, on account of what I’m going for; to ensure flights arrive and depart in Melbourne at the same time all year round (and by extension, on other routes to the southern states) all of those departures become one hour earlier tomorrow — which scarcely helps business travellers requiring a full day interstate.

And having alluded to the little medical issue I have been working against of late, after the most recent incident Qantas barred me from flying until the condition was diagnosed and resolved (which will happen this week) — and I spent the following two days driving the length of the Newell Highway to get home: I raise this because Australia isn’t a series of petty fiefdoms, but a continuous, rolling plain that merely changes the further you go; there is no border checkpoint at Goondiwindi, or Tocumwal, or anywhere else. To arrange the country as if there were is fatuous, and a relic of a bygone era that belongs in the history books and not in the 21st century.

It’s only a few weeks since we last looked at Daylight Saving: through the lens of vacuous expediency and cheap political frippery deployed by South Australia’s Liberal Party to scuttle a move to permanently align that state’s time zone with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania; filled with imbecilic righteousness and a sadly misguided sense of self-importance, serial embarrassment and senior Liberal Vickie Chapman spoke of a need to remain “in sync with northern trading partners” (in Darwin, of all places) and to avoid becoming “a western suburb of Sydney” as the Liberals’ brain-dead reasons for torpedoing what was objectively a pretty good idea.

The same sense of faux righteousness emanates out of Queensland irrespective of who is in office these days; the LNP claims to be defending the small business community by acting to preserve the status quo, whilst Labor simply claims there is no consensus on the issue despite its platform committing it to Daylight Saving for decades.

I understand there are parts of Queensland — its rural west and its far north, for instance — in which Daylight Saving really isn’t a fit; these are the areas that hardly depend on efficient or harmonious accord with what goes in in the southern states, and which can and indeed should probably be left to their own devices.

But the south-east — say, from Noosa and Coolum to the border, and west to take in Ipswich and perhaps the Warwick/Toowoomba arc, depending on local sentiment — really should be brought into line with the vast majority of the population that lies south of the Tweed, and as the Courier Mail correctly notes, majority support in the south-east for such a move existed even at the time of the 1991 referendum.

But there is a bigger issue here; does Australia remain a series of disparate former colonies that reluctantly tolerate each other’s existence, or is the country evolving toward being a united, single nation?

Some express surprise whenever, as an unabashed conservative, I express my view that the states are basically redundant; far from the mad centralism the likes of former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen would accuse anyone of if they dared suggest abolishing state government, I actually advocate the opposite: a federal government devolving responsibility wherever possible to a system of beefed-up local authorities, and getting rid of one tier of government in a ridiculously and indefensibly overgoverned country.

It’s an argument for another time, of course. But this internecine sniping over daylight saving is a symptom of national dysfunction, not some machismo expression of the bona fides of states’ rights.

If you look at any global map of time zones internationally, these are not crisp, clean, and do not run in straight vertical lines: there goes that theory, and debunks the cretinous argument of Vickie Chapman for good measure.

It’s high time someone took some leadership, moved South Australia and the Northern Territory onto the same time zone as the eastern states — ignoring mental midgets like Chapman and charlatans like everyone in the Queensland Parliament, it seems — and bring as much of the eastern half of the country into sync.

There are ample provisions in the Constitution to justify the Commonwealth instituting such a change, even if the charge of riding roughshod over “sovereign” states becomes the next irresponsible political fraud to be kicked around the place as a consequence.

Frankly, if an elected federal government using the mechanisms available to it to override the irresponsibility and posturing of hillbilly state politicians whose usefulness in the big scheme of things is a colonial relic ruffles a few feathers, then so be it.


AND ANOTHER THING: with the Grand Final set to begin in a few hours in Melbourne, my tip; with no disrespect to my old mates in Brisbane, I am not interested in what happens in the NRL  — having grown up a Carlton supporter many years before God invented the Brisbane Bears — but I wish those who love their rugby a great game tomorrow.

Obviously, with my beloved Blues not playing in finals this year, I don’t have anything invested in what transpires at the MCG this afternoon.

Yet by the same token — and this used to rankle friends when I lived in Brisbane and refused point-blank to abandon Carlton (or even find my way clear to make supportive utterances of the Bears when they sputtered into the competition in 1987) — I only ever support an interstate side when they play Collingwood and especially Essendon, which I utterly and absolutely despise (and would barrack for a freight train en route to the MCG against the Bombers if I thought there was some prospect it could prevent them winning).

Seriously, the present iteration of the Hawthorn Football Club is the best football side the national game has seen since the Brisbane Lions of 2001-03, and probably the Hawthorn and Carlton sides of 1979-1991 before them; that brown and gold outfit that has already won three flags from four Grand Finals over seven years has another opportunity today, and I am convinced Hawthorn will prevail.

The West Coast side they face is a seriously impressive unit, and cannot be dismissed out of hand today; there is the realistic prospect they will score a lucky strike this afternoon and will be worthy winners if they do.

But I see the Weagles as potentially next year’s champions rather than today’s, and faced with a battle-hardened opponent at its ruthless best almost every time the big occasion demands it — and especially when backed into a corner — it is impossible to believe Hawthorn won’t add to its legend as one of the best sides to ever play Australian football when it lines up against West Coast at the G this afternoon.

Hawthorn by 27 points.


*For those who’ve expressed concern in comments, I can assure them I am perfectly all right — perfectly all right — but the “stroke” symptoms that triggered a flight diversion to Sydney when I was returning home from Brisbane seven weeks ago have turned out to have been caused by one of the myriad of harmless (albeit unpleasant) afflictions that mimic a stroke but which have nothing to do with the brain or a stroke at all: I have the extremely rare condition baroparesis facialis which is believed drastically under-reported (I’m the 24th confirmed case worldwide) that is simply an ear problem in which pressure changes caused half my face to collapse at 37,000 feet — and would have righted itself upon return to sea level if unattended to.

Regrettably, confirming that diagnosis (at considerable expense) has had me spend some days in total with a raft of specialists and included a whole-day field trip down an MRI tunnel last week…the “cure,” at age 43 (which may or may not relieve the problem) is a grommet — the sort of thing I never had as a child — but then that should be that.

I’m lucky it was nothing sinister (and with excellent BP and blood numbers, it shouldn’t have been anyway) but it’s better for medicos to err on the scary side first and work backwards rather than the other way around…thanks for the concern people have shown too. Happily, it seems it has been a false alarm this time. :)


Career Loser: Time For The Queensland LNP To Dump Springborg

THAT LABOR — restored unexpectedly (by some) to office in January — could govern only to erase the handiwork of its LNP forebears is unsurprising; that the LNP is incapable of gaining ground on a spiteful, mediocre outfit populated by dubious individuals is unforgivable. The avoidable problems ailing Queensland conservatives are an old, familiar list; their next order of business must be to forever jettison their least successful leader in 60 years.

Readers know that six months after it was elected in the biggest electoral landslide in Queensland political history, this column — to the gleeful ridicule of some in the LNP’s inner sanctum in Brisbane — wrote Campbell Newman’s government off as unlikely to secure re-election on account of the characteristically amateurish behaviour some of its ex-Liberal elements had seen fit to indulge in.

Whilst I tempered my remarks a little during the state election campaign in Queensland at the start of this year, I was nevertheless insistent (and had been for months) that Newman was dead in the water in his inner north-west electorate of Ashgrove, and my article the day before the election — explicitly arguing that the election might well be lost in a swing of 12% or more, and would go right down to the wire either way in an extremely tight finish — remains the most read piece on this site for 2015 in a year readership has grown significantly despite the extreme limitations on my time for writing commentary.

And one day later, as Queenslanders went to the polls, I published a highly qualified and heavily conditional endorsement of the LNP that unambiguously stated that should the LNP (whether re-elected or defeated) use the leadership ballot that was certain to follow the election to restore three-time loser and rural MP Lawrence Springborg as either Premier or opposition leader, then my endorsement of the LNP “should be regarded as void.”

There were good reasons for taking such a stance: and whilst I like Lawrence — you couldn’t not like Lawrence if you’ve ever had anything to do with him — he isn’t the man for the job, he is never going to win a state election for Queensland’s conservatives, and the longer he remains in his present post the likelier it is Labor will be re-elected despite growing evidence it wasn’t fit to hold office in the first place.

And those reasons, it seems, came home to roost yesterday, with the first Newspoll of Queensland voter sentiment since the January election appearing in The Australian; despite the headline that a “small target strategy” had proven a big winner for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the hard truth is that her Labor government might as well have had a huge bullseye painted on it: but so inept has the LNP onslaught against it been, Labor could have safely gone out and painted such a bullseye on itself.

I’m not going to bog down in the specifics of the poll — readers can peruse the attached article if they choose — but I will just note the 1.9% swing to the ALP Newspoll finds since the election and the 53% two-party standing it translates to (which mirrors other polling during the year, suggesting a 52-48 Labor lead) would, if replicated uniformly at an election, add eight seats to the ALP’s existing 44 in the 89-seat unicameral Parliament to claim a substantial majority and a second term in office.

Of those eight seats, three are in Brisbane — where the LNP now holds just 10 of 36 — with an additional seat on each of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts; the biggest historical criticism I have made of the LNP (and the Coalition before it) is that Queensland conservatives are incapable of winning seats in the south-east of the state, and the way things are going it appears the party is simply reverting to type.

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the source of the problem.

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg — now heading toward a fourth election as leader unless an intervention is made — is approved of by just 34% of Newspoll’s respondents, with 43% disapproving of the job he’s doing; for a figurehead Queenslanders have known for many years (including passing judgement on him at the 2004, 2006 and 2009 state elections) that 34% approval number is a clear message to give up the game: especially after seven months back in the post.

Frank Nicklin might have lost five elections before eventually profiting from the Labor split in 1957 and winning the ensuing election that year; times have changed, and even if Springborg managed to survive to contest a fourth it is inconceivable that he could win — or make it any further as leader.

This column has repeatedly made the point over the years Palaszczuk has led the ALP that she is a mediocrity; nice enough, but not really cut out for the job of party leader, which only fell her way after her party was almost wiped out in 2012.

Labor itself didn’t believe it would win this year’s election, which is why former Bligh government minister Cameron Dick now sits in Labor’s safest seat of Woodridge; the clear ALP intent was to reinstall Dick in Parliament to lead it from a seat that was almost impossible to lose (although the party gave it a decent shake in 2012, only winning Woodridge on preferences), and however Palaszczuk’s government plays out in the longer run, that reality should be lost on nobody.

Yet on the “preferred Premier” metric, Palaszczuk heads Springborg by a 49-28 margin, and whilst this might be regarded as a “normal” poll setting after a change of government, it needs to be remembered that Queensland is a state with a minority government, and that government houses several alleged miscreants, the antics of any one of whom could easily trigger a by-election that may hypothetically force a change of government on the floor of Parliament.

Viewed this way, Springborg — the so-called “father” of the LNP and a man he and others believe was born to be Premier — ought to be making mincemeat of Palaszczuk.

Instead, Newspoll finds 53% of voters approve of the job she is doing; just 33% do not.

I’ve decided to comment on this today because whichever way you cut it, the LNP has a very big problem that it largely has only itself to blame for; in and around the results of this Newspoll have erupted mutterings that I had been hearing around the traps privately, but which have now been leaked to the press using the Newspoll results to circulate and build public legitimacy around a “let’s get Lawrence” mentality that could be a further blunder into more trouble.

Make no mistake, the LNP should indeed dump Springborg: it should never have restored him as its leader to begin with.

Like anything to do with the Queensland LNP, it is regrettably necessary to say the same thing over, and over, and over again, for the impermeable reason that whatever else the LNP might offer, sound and/or astute political judgement rarely features.

For once, I’m not going to revisit the merits or otherwise of the wisdom of merging the Liberal and National Parties prior to the 2009 state election; for now we’ll leave that alone, although I note that of the 42 LNP MPs currently sitting in George Street, 22 appear to be ex-Liberals (one associate in Brisbane disputes this, saying 24 of them are Liberals) but either way, for the second time ever what was once the Liberal Party has primacy in Queensland conservative politics.

But the point that has to be made — ad nauseum and it seems, ad infinitum — is that whatever the troglodyte ex-Nationals and the spineless, gutless, gormless, clueless ex-Liberals who capitulate to them might think, the days of conservative parties in Queensland storming to victory under the guidance of a rural leader from west of the Great Divide are over.

It’s perfectly simple: no leader from the city, no conservative government in Queensland.

It is impossible to say this often enough, for it seems that whenever anyone in Brisbane who “gets it” lets their guard down, along comes Lawrence Springborg, propelled by the decrepit and politically moribund National Party rump, to “save” the LNP all over again.

It makes for interesting speculation as to who will be leading Queensland’s conservatives in 30 years’ time, but this is beside the point.

Since the abolition of the gerrymander a tick over 20 years ago, south-east Queensland has had a majority of the state’s electorates for the first time; and whilst the other half of the state is no less important, of course, those seats away from the south-east that are winnable by Old Nationals will (phenomena like Pauline Hanson and the Katter party aside) vote for the LNP no matter where its leader comes from.

But the south-east is different: and this is a reality successive generations of politically incompetent Liberals and Nationals in Queensland have ignored, denied, rationalised away or tried to circumvent to their enduring detriment.

There is no longer a gerrymander to “fix” this problem.

Now — confronted by a terrible opinion poll (which validates others) and pushed into a corner by the leaking of the mutterings of mutterers and plotters — the LNP in Queensland is facing a very, very serious leadership crisis indeed.

More or less obliged to act (for the detailed confirmation of Springborg’s planned execution will not go away now, however much they wish it) LNP MPs must now find a viable leadership ticket: the problem is that anyone who’s suitable (and some who aren’t) has been smeared, nobbled, or generally buggered up by their own party, and those who don’t fit that category have something else wrong with them in that their seats are so marginal they might not survive an election.

So it is with Tim Mander, whose Everton electorate sits on a 1.8% margin; hardly what anyone would describe as natural Liberal territory, the LNP hold on Everton would be broken if yesterday’s Newspoll were uniformly repeated at the ballot box.

So it is with Mansfield MP Ian Walker, whose seat is even more marginal than Mander’s and would be lost on a swing of half a percentage point.

Current deputy leader (and former leader) John-Paul Langbroek is apparently slated to get it in the neck in a gruesome double sacrifice with Springborg; already damaged as a leadership prospect by the way he was overthrown to make way for Campbell Newman four years ago, it now appears the LNP is content to render him permanently unviable as a leader by destroying him again now for no better reason than the fact he put his hand up to serve at the same time the idiocy of another Springborg leadership was entertained.

“JP,” as he is universally known, would almost certainly have led the LNP to victory in 2012 and, as I have said before, been a solidly competent — if unspectacular — Premier. On balance of probabilities, the LNP’s re-election prospects would have been better this year with him at the helm.

But never mind that: JP can be dispensed with like a lolly wrapper. It’s just a shame the kids in the candy shop are so hardwired on sugar that they are incapable of any rational thought, let alone the exercise of any credible political smarts.

Perennial joke candidate Fiona Simpson’s name is getting bandied around — presumably by ex-Nationals who, I’m told, regard her as “royalty” owing to who her father was — but those who continue to try to elevate her are wilfully and blissfully blind to the fact that in Brisbane (home to more than a third of the state’s seats) Simpson is regarded as a wowser, a God botherer, a frump, and an utter turn-off.

(I should note for the record I don’t necessarily think that of her, but what LNP figures in the parliamentary party, the organisational wing and the membership base see and what ordinary voters in the “burbs” perceive are two totally different subsets — and for the former to be indulged, the latter has to be ignored completely: hardly a recipe for building credibility in the electorate).

Some are talking about Indooroopilly MP Scott Emerson — perhaps as a deputy to someone else — and whilst Emerson is a decent fellow and was a reasonable performer as a minister, he isn’t (in my view) a serious candidate for the Premiership, and to draft him into the LNP leadership would be a mistake.

Moggill MP Dr Christian Rowan (with whom I’m very impressed despite his National Party background) might or might not lead the LNP one day; right now, he’s not even a senior shadow minister. Rowan is two to three terms away from being ready, and the best use of him by the LNP now would be to promote him and see how he performs.

And after all of these people have been excluded, the only realistic name left is that of former Treasurer Tim Nicholls — easily the LNP’s best minister in government — who elements in the party are determined to squash into oblivion for the hanging crime of being a mate of former Liberal Party identity Santo Santoro.

Just to safeguard against any shred of viability as a leader Nicholls might have still retained, apparently a book written by Newman that is due for release is going to crucify him: highly, highly helpful where the LNP’s present predicament is concerned.

It’s beyond childish; these people would rather live in opposition as a squabbling rabble, it seems, than operate as a professional political outfit and win something; Nicholls engineered a compelling case for re-election through sound financial management that was squandered by the inability of those appointed to serve the government and the general political ineptitude of the LNP as a whole.

This is the “labyrinth” I so often find myself alluding to when the dysfunction in conservative politics is discussed; it’s not just the MPs, or the members’ representatives on the party’s executive wing, or the employees who soak up membership dues and donation monies who fail to deliver consistent results, or the faceless powerbrokers who aren’t necessarily elected to anything yet wield more power than the rest combined (and they know who they are, and so do I): it’s the whole rotten, stinking, putrefying edifice, and in the LNP’s case in particular, it seems determined to race to a crushing election defeat as quickly as possible.

Yes, Springborg must go: as a party leader he has forged a career out of losing winnable state elections that spans more than a decade; enough is enough. He’s a spent force, yesterday’s man, and he should leave both the LNP leadership and the Queensland Parliament if he seriously wants to help his party.

Just look at the opportunities that have been squandered this year: an accidental and clueless government has been rocked by scandal involving backbenchers Billy Gordon and Rick Williams; others are known to be waiting to leap out of the closet like skeletons; minister Jo-Ann Miller is yet to provide a satisfactory answer as to why she was talking to Williams in suspicious proximity to revelations of alleged past misdemeanours becoming public; the government has the hand of the CFMEU inserted squarely into its collective anus, and does whatever that lawless entity decrees; it governs solely to erase the legacy of the Newman government from the statute books; and it is faced with a failed leader who has been recycled in defeat.

The ALP in Queensland probably couldn’t believe its luck, for on any evaluation of probability back in February, Springborg could hardly be considered to pose any kind of formidable threat.

His first act back in the chair? To waste time and momentum chasing a by-election in the Court of Disputed Returns in a traditionally Labor-leaning seat (Ferny Grove) that the LNP had been lucky enough to win in the first place in 2012, let alone lose by a handful of votes three years later.

How a thrice-failed leader from west of the Range, who had failed to attract support in any more than half a dozen Brisbane seats at all three previous attempts, might have expected to win a by-election in a seat like Ferny Grove with the tide running strongly against the LNP beggars belief, but there you go: Springborg did, or at least the people around him did, which is tantamount to the same thing in any case.

Almost a third the way through its first term in opposition — one which, unless it gets a grip on itself, will by no means be its last — the LNP has entrenched itself on the opposition benches even more securely than the voters who put them there in January did.

Never mind the embarrassment and humiliation of squandering an Australian-record parliamentary majority in one fell swoop: the LNP is back where is belongs in Queensland, it seems, and its antics and misadventures since that point prove it.

The charade of its recent State Convention aside — replete with the kind of feelgood, rah-rah bullshit that so often and so tragically typifies such gatherings — the LNP almost needs one of the Deen Brothers’ notorious midnight demolition jobs performed on it to knock the entire structure over, and to rebuild it from scratch.

Its list of MPs, with a handful of exceptions, is talentless; it is bereft of fresh leadership prospects; the people the party has employed (at its own expense and on the taxpayer dollar where entitled) have served it extremely poorly, and a look at the results tallied on 31 January is deadly proof of it; and before anyone insults my intelligence with protestations of wholesale change at Convention, I should point out that the faceless hacks who have run the Liberal Party into the ground over decades, and their counterparts from the Nationals who are little if any better, still pull the strings from behind the scenes.

Which, of course, is the point.

The LNP is a mess.

Fixing it will take time, skill, money and patience — all of which, with the exception of the first, the party appears to have none of — and an injection of the tactical and strategic nous that is in such short supply in Australia’s conservative parties, which these days are more clubhouses for juntas of useless, sinecure-addicted cronies than they are serious vehicles for the achievement of sustained political success.

But first things first, the LNP needs a new leader.

Should Nicholls emerge from the current murky round of malicious mischief-making to lead the LNP — or, failing that, if JP is detached from Springborg and the latter shot separately — some indication of a brain, if not intelligence, will have been exhibited.

Anything else, I’m afraid, simply doesn’t cut it: and if Mander emerges with the chocolates, the LNP will have made a rod for its own back that could well see two of its leaders booted out of Parliament at consecutive elections.

Now that really would be an achievement of sorts.


Imbeciles, Cretinism, And New “Conservative Parties”

THERE ARE SOME who seem to have decided — both before and after the event — that the political demise of Tony Abbott has left a yawning chasm in conservative politics that only they can fill personally; far from a yawning chasm, these types could do the country a favour by stumbling across an abyss in the Antarctic ice cap and falling right in. Australia needs power-crazed legends in their own minds like it collectively needs a hole in the head.

I’m really sorry, readers, that I have missed most of the week; life in my world is uber-busy right now, and unfortunately this column isn’t the only thing that has suffered from a lack of the attention I might otherwise have paid it.

And I owe a further apology; thanks to a cretinous imbecile with messianic delusions of a salvation he seems to believe he will render upon conservative politics in Australia, some issues we’ve missed through the week — the need to send a message to Peta Credlin, for example, that she should simply shut up and go away, or the praiseworthy early salvo fired by new Special Minister of State Mal Brough on the fraught issue of Senate reform, screamed down by the useless and support-free Senators with everything to lose if their sinecures are abolished — are going to have to wait at least another day.

It isn’t very often this column singles out an individual to tear to shreds beyond the confines of the mainstream national debate and/or without a solid public record to calibrate the attack against, but tonight I am going to do just that; in a political era so heavily shaped by social media, ignoring potential threats to the stability of the national polity is so much easier with a block button, or the option to ignore a request, and whilst I intend to take aim at some of the usual suspects tonight, one encounter this week (and the subsequent digital footprints of the individual in question) has galvanised me to publish on this subject at the first opportunity that presented itself.

There are people floating around, supposedly from the conservative Right — Clive Palmer, Jacqui Lambie, Glenn Lazarus, and others — who decided, for various reasons and at various times, that mainstream conservatism in Australia left everything to be desired even when the supposed “far Right” leadership of Tony Abbott persisted within the Liberal Party.

And of course, Abbott’s demise a fortnight ago seems to have rang out as a clarion call to self-important nutcases possessed of excessively well-established senses of their own significance as a call to arms: just as those who “knew” conservatism in Australia was fatally compromised during Abbott’s tenure at the helm of the Liberal Party were inspired to try to destroy it before the event, others now present with arrogantly and dangerously delusional claims to fill a “void” that has been created on account of the political downfall of the member for Warringah.

I want to tell readers of this column who come here for reasoned and nuanced comment on the political affairs of the day about a particularly insidious specimen who is apparently using Twitter to force himself upon the political arena, and to recommend that he be shut out of any and all conceivable avenues for mainstream acceptance in Australia’s political discourse.

But first of all, let’s be honest: if you’re on the mainstream Right in Australia and even if you’re prepared (like me) to at least give Malcolm Turnbull an honest chance to either get it right or to make the mistakes we’ve warned about for years, the best anyone can say of him is that expectations are low, and — despite a couple of promising early signs — anything his moderate-dominated Liberal government gets right will in fact be a pleasant surprise.

Let’s be honest, too, that those of us who thought a brilliant, affable knockabout almost perfectly embodied our thoughts and values was a total failure; the Abbott government was a disaster, and not because Tony Abbott was the leader of it, but because he abrogated his responsibilities and his authority to a useless unelected hack who was political poison — and little better, in the big scheme of things and on the big stage, than a rank amateur.

But this doesn’t justify the feeding frenzy that has been going on since Turnbull ambushed Abbott in a snap coup two weeks ago; it seems everyone has decided it’s their moment of triumph — and smelt an opportunity they think exists — to ooze out of the festering woodwork of greasy political machinations and stake their claim as the “true heirs” to the conservative mission in this country.

There are two accounts on Twitter, both run by the same person, and I strongly recommend readers unfollow them if they have inadvertently followed either, and to block both without a shred of compunction or any sense they might be missing out on something. They won’t be. Even for amusement value on the “what an idiot” spectrum, this bloke falls woefully short.

Peter Wallace — the self-proclaimed “leader” of the “Australian Conservative Party” (sic) — is a menace to the mainstream political Right in Australia who probably makes likes of Pauline Hanson look great; at least Pauline (who I know, and even if I utterly disagree with her) has the decency to try to connect with people she encounters, however limited she might be where sophisticated concepts and her very simple but honest personality are concerned.

I have had, over the past seven or eight weeks, no fewer than ten “follows” and “unfollows” from Wallace (whose Twitter account, incidentally, can be found @PeterWallace_1) and to be honest, were it not for the irritation of Twitter’s perennial email notifications, I mightn’t have even bothered to pay him any attention: there is nothing impressive about this self-styled party “leader,” and I would be interested to know if others have found this bloke following and unfollowing them every few days to attract their attention.

Those who go looking for Wallace at the Twitter handle I mention will find he’s shut his diatribes away behind a Twitter account lock; however, if you go to the so-called Australian Conservative Party (@ConservativeAU) you will find that since 24 September, or last Thursday — and only since 24 September — roughly half the tweets this “conservative party” has excreted are in fact retweets from a different “Peter Wallace” account, this time @PeterWallaceAU.

I’m publishing this article at 11pm on Sunday night, on 28 September; last Saturday night — sick of being pestered by Wallace’s ADHD-driven follow/unfollow antics — I had an exchange with him on Twitter, and I regret not getting a screen capture of the conversation.

Held to account over his trolling, he told me “it’s all about me” and whenever I asked him for information about his party — masquerading as a non-hostile fellow traveller who was merely a bit peeved at what he was doing to try to attract attention — he told me he was accruing online support “for obvious reasons” and that there would be another phase in the near future.

The Peter Wallace Twitter account now hidden behind a lock claimed his party would be launched in 2016 with the objective of winning a Senate seat — just like any other moron with no public support and utterly unwilling and/or incapable of going out and putting together 50% of the vote somewhere — even if, admittedly, on someone else’s preferences.

His “Australian Conservative Party” account, however — perhaps thanks to something I said to him — simply states the party will launch in 2016 and contest “the federal election,” with no specific mention of the senate, and my advice to readers who have come to know and trust my counsel as serious, well-calibrated and rational, is to dismiss the “Australian Conservative Party” from consideration completely, and to preference it (if it ever appears on a ballot paper) just above the ALP and the Communist Party Greens.

As far as I can ascertain, this “Australian Conservative Party” isn’t registered as a political party under relevant Commonwealth electoral laws, which raises the question of whether Mr Wallace may in fact be committing an offence by presenting a) the “Australian Conservative Party” as an actual political entity at all, or b) himself as its “leader.”

Then again, everyone thinks they’re the hottest thing since iced dog shit at some point, and no doubt Wallace is no different.

I had a Twitter conversation with Wallace last Saturday night, as I said, and thanks to the fact he has since chosen to lock his original account away (which makes me wonder what else he has been saying to people) his responses are no longer visible to the curious minds of the public.

But my questions to him are: I took a screen shot of those at least, earlier this evening, just in case he blocks me altogether once this article has been published.

Mr Wallace should be mindful of the fact that just as he can hide the responses away under a lock, they’re not invisible: and even if he chooses to delete them at some point, Twitter can and will reproduce them if ever subpoenaed.

So don’t bother with the lawsuit, Peter, you grub.

The date of these exchanges — with the currently visible @PeterWallaceAU tweets appearing on his “Australian Conservative Party” account less than four days later — are just a bit too convenient to be coincidental.

The world may well have changed to the point social media sits squarely in the middle of its political goings-on, but unfortunately for Wallace, the time when a mass-based, mainstream political party is ever assembled through Twitter is years away — if it ever arrives at all.

But like a lot of these “conservative” parties (and I say this with a peg on my nose) there’s a grain of intelligence to this one; it appears (through its Twitter feed) to be cognisant of the arguments for first past the post voting, for example, but follows that up with barely literate, semi-coherent populist rubbish by way of retweeting calls for a “$25 voting fee” and tweets left in the “Australian Conservative Party” Twitter feed reiterating the ambition to win Senate seats (read: the ability to wreck things with next to no real support) and tweets from @PeterWallace_01 that the dumbarse clearly didn’t have the foresight to understand that whilst he could hide one Twitter account under a lock, he couldn’t hide what he’d retweeted from it with another account that was in another name and…you get the idea.

Just like everyone else who says they’re the saviour of conservatism — but is really just a fuckwit — Peter Wallace has no idea what he is doing.

To my readers, I urge you to simply delete this idiot, and his noxious “party,” from your radar. This is as much a one-way ticket to nowhere as anything else bandied about by delusional imbeciles in recent years.

There is, to be sure, plenty of competition on this count.

Clive Palmer spoke of a “fair go” but really only wanted to destroy the Coalition because it didn’t do whatever he tried to order it to do; the LNP government in Queensland he wanted to kill is dead, the Coalition government in Canberra might or might not survive, and the Palmer United Party — a Stalinist personality cult if ever there was — is, thankfully, on its last legs.

Jacqui Lambie — perhaps the stupidest individual to ever be elected to an Australian Parliament — is only really interested in what Jacqui Lambie is angry about or what she thinks will win her votes; the Defence Forces she claims to speak for don’t want a bar of the disgraced Army truck driver, and her own son has pilloried her in public for making political capital out of his addiction to the drug ice.

Another renegade Palmer Senator — Glenn Lazarus — also seems infected with the personality cult of self; what reason anyone would have to vote for Lazarus is unclear, apart from glorying in long-dead football triumphs that hardly matter a jot to national governance.

And what point there really is to Family First or the modern reincarnation of the Democratic Labor Party  — aside from the playable fact of proportional representation — eludes logical perception.

It has long been an article of faith on the non-Labor side of Australian politics that “messiah figures” are required to galvanise voters and dominate their parties, but there are too many people floating around who think the precedent of Bob Menzies legitimises their tasteless and pointless ambitions.

They lose sight of the fact Menzies — when he formed the Liberal Party — was not only a former Prime Minister, but a former minister in a Victorian government, a colossus of the legal fraternity, and a respected figure in public life of more than 20 years’ standing, which is more than one can say of any of the would-be leaders of nominally conservative parties around at the moment, including Palmer.

Readers will know that I have signalled I’m not closed to the idea of a new, mass-based conservative party, but not something in the Palmer/Lambie/Lazarus/Wallace/Family First/DLP mould — or anything remotely approaching it.

Any new, mass-based party — conservative or otherwise — would need to spring from multiple figureheads spanning a raft of prominent roles in business, politics, commerce, industry, and other spheres like the armed forces and interest groups like pensioners.

There is an agenda a conservative party — a proper conservative party — could easily win mass backing for: one fashioned around opportunity and reward for effort; built on the family, the business community, strong national defences and a sense of national identity; looking after the vulnerable, whilst rewarding the entrepreneurial; and modernising the entire outdated structure of the pillars of the so-called “Australian settlement” that still see unions controlling whatever they like in this country, despite less than one in six Australians belonging to a union, and which see anyone who wants to sit on their arses doing nothing protected by the populist outrage of anyone with a political point to gain from letting them do so.

Just for the record, once I’ve published this article, I’m blocking Mr Peter Wallace and his various self-glorying accounts on Twitter, and I encourage all readers of this column to do the same thing, and to do everything possible to reward a half-arsed effort to grab a bit of power with the failure it deserves. Bugger him.

But in the absence of any truly conservative, mass-based party emerging — one built with a broad cross-section of actual public support, rather than one individual’s delusions, by a wide cross-section of genuine leaders from various sections of the Australian community — the Liberal Party, imperfect as it is (and a little more so this month than last) remains the best vehicle in Australia today for the furtherance and enactment of genuine conservative philosophy in government.

Australia needs false messiahs like a hole in the head: there is an argument that one such individual will shortly move into The Lodge. It does not need others.

It certainly doesn’t need the Lambies, Palmers or Lazaruses of this world: and it most certainly doesn’t need Mr Peter Wallace, Esq.

There are too many cretins and imbeciles around who think they are God — and whilst the system that elects the Senate is broken and must be fixed, the presence of idiots like this only brings politics in Australia into deeper disrepute, and drags conservatism into the muck when an authentic interpretation of it would cure Australia’s growing list of ills if ever properly implemented.

Tomorrow, time permitting, we’ll talk about something a bit more worthwhile.

51-49 Newspoll: Messages For Turnbull, Shorten, Coalition

A THIRD POLL in a week sees Coalition fortunes under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rocket, albeit off a low base; a second narrow lead over Labor from those — enough to win an election, but no more — is accompanied yet again by the collapse of direct “support” for Labor and the disintegration of Bill Shorten’s personal ratings. There is no cause for Coalition complacency here, although there are messages in these numbers across the board.

First things first: I’m aware that opposition “leader” Bill Shorten enjoyed a solo appearance on the ABC’s ghastly #QandA programme last night, but the sleep-deprived stupor that saw me miss the show would nonetheless have almost certainly been induced by Shorten’s dull wit had I been sprightly enough to watch; it’s a little disturbing that confronted with a new Liberal Prime Minister the ABC opted to not only showcase Shorten but did so 140km from Melbourne amid a clutch of marginally held state and federal ALP seats in Ballarat, but perhaps my cynicism that Labor had been provided with a de facto campaign stump for the night can be held over for another week — and “their ABC” given the benefit of the doubt.

That said, a third major poll since the Liberal leadership change — this time, the long-awaited Newspoll in The Australian, showing a 51-49 lead after preferences for the Coalition — has appeared overnight, and whilst we’re not going to get obsessed with polls to the point of picking every one that appears to pieces, this one is significant in that some trends are appearing that warrant comment.

That 51-49 Newspoll mirrors a Galaxy finding late last week, and comes after an automated ReachTel survey produced a 50-50 finding; on a crude aggregation this puts the Coalition position since the leadership switch at 50.7%: and given the Coalition average over the previous 18 months was a ridiculously settled 47%, the findings suggest a move of 3.7% back to the conservatives, cutting the swing to Labor (on 2013 election numbers) to 2.8%.

A 6.5% swing (which is what polls were showing before last week) would, if replicated uniformly at an election, have seen the Coalition lose 29 seats to the ALP, reducing it to 61-63 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives (depending on what happened in seats like Fairfax and Indi) and electing Bill Shorten very solidly as Prime Minister.

A 2.8% swing, by contrast, would have limited the loss of seats to just 13 (from a starting tally of 90) and produced a small but workable majority for a re-elected Turnbull government.

There are those who believe the early bounce in polling for the Liberal and National Parties is no more than a “sugar hit” that will quickly wear off — and I agree to some extent that without a sustained emphasis on rebuilding its position with voters, that is a likely outcome — but the indications are already clear that the change in the Liberal leadership has indeed offered the circuit breaker its proponents argued it would, although what happens from here is very much a matter for conjecture.

The mostly excellent fist made of his ministerial reshuffle by Turnbull offers the Coalition some prospect that its early gains can be consolidated by a more politically adept frontbench line-up, although that judgement is heavily contingent on a thorough cleanout of the back of house and the injection of some real nous in the areas of (surprise, surprise) political strategy and tactics, media relations, communications, parliamentary management, and a sales and marketing focus that has largely been absent for the past two years.

To be clear, a 51-49 position (or the 50.7% rolling aggregate it feeds into as of today) is not a lay-down misere result, and the real work begins now for Coalition insiders to start to lock down, consolidate and build upon the early promise the switch to Turnbull appears to have generated.

But the real story, for now at least, is that voters appear to be deserting Bill Shorten in droves: and stripped of the huge positive the ALP believes it had turned Tony Abbott into over a period of many years (through character assassination, defamation, and outright lying) it seems improbable they can attempt to turn Turnbull into a similarly reviled ogre figure (although given the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Labor Party these days, they will sure as hell try).

Newspoll finds Turnbull preferred as Prime Minister by 55% of its respondents, compared with 21% for Shorten; and just like the result recorded by Galaxy during the week, I suggest this constitutes a return to more “normal” findings for a first-term government confronted by an insidiously vapid opposition “leader:” the idea of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister is inconceivable, or at least it should be — judged solely on his (dubious) merits.

This contention is borne out by continuing dreadful personal approval numbers for Shorten, which sit at just 29%; 54% of Newspoll respondents disapprove of the job he is doing as opposition “leader,” and whilst that’s a mild improvement on the previous Newspoll survey, the fact remains that Shorten is little less unpopular than Tony Abbott was — and that’s without facing the kind of mindless, baseless, senseless, highly personal onslaught that Labor has filled its days directing toward Abbott.

By contrast, Turnbull’s first outing since his rebirth as liberal leader finds 42% of respondents approving his performance, 24% disapproving, and a predictable 34% yet to form a view.

Readers can access The Australian‘s coverage of Newspoll — and its tables — here.

With the benefit of the first few polls now complete it is possible to segment some key messages from these numbers, although I emphasise the political situation is likely to remain fluid — and that whilst Shorten and his party have the most to lose in raw terms, with a consistent if undeserved election-winning position now gone — it is the Coalition that will largely shape the political climate from this point a year out from a scheduled federal election.

The most obvious is that having decisively rejected Labor at the polls two years ago, underlying voter sentiment remains very much open to the idea of Coalition government; whether through ineptitude on Abbott’s part (and, more importantly, the people he surrounded himself with), bloody-mindedness, or a mixture, it is this position the Coalition had spent two years squandering.

It is a point that should not be lost on Labor and on Shorten in particular, who has spent two years mouthing empty platitudes and being relentlessly obstructionist for the sake of it: convinced they could slither into office whilst delivering precisely nothing of any substance, Shorten and his cohorts have been found out; it is inconceivable Turnbull will permit an equivalent to the Credlin regime to fritter away the position of his government, but unless he does, Shorten — and Labor — are set for another term in the wilderness at least.

Pause should be given to any leadership change at the ALP, and whilst I have heard those around Plibersek are spending the parliamentary recess looking for the numbers to roll Shorten, such an enterprise is pointless if it simply replaces him with more of the same: Plibersek might be pretty and (in the absence of any particular substance) be pleasant to listen to, but she is also an unreconstructed socialist and a carping whinger seemingly more content stirring up trouble than with producing anything pertinent for public consumption.

I tend to think Turnbull would make mincemeat of her, although he would be pilloried by “their ABC,” Fairfax, and the other blinkered media outlets of the Left for doing so.

If nothing else, the replacement of an unpopular leader with a well-regarded one — even if Turnbull does face questions of just how “conservative” he may prove in some quarters, like this column — shows that mind-numbing negativity, banality, and stupid populist bullshit impresses nobody if there’s nothing to back it up: and it is this strategy Shorten is going to have to junk urgently if he even wants to make it as far as an election.

The past week has seen a distinctly panicked inflection colour his public utterances; spooked, wrong-footed and skewered, you have to wonder if the Labor “leader” has any real clue at all now he has been found wanting. Yet that isn’t my problem, and I don’t really care what happens to “Billy Bullshit.”

In the end, Turnbull appears — at the outset — to be readying for one hell of a crack at both running an effective government and at re-election, which makes a refreshing change from the way things had been going under the previous regime.

Unless Shorten fixes his act — a tall ask at the best of times — he and his God-forsaken, union-dominated party will go down like a sack of shit whenever they face the voters, and it won’t matter how many de facto community forums “their ABC” engineers on their behalf: free publicity is one thing, but if all it is used for is to deliver vacuous drivel, intended audiences will look somewhere else for a message of genuine substance.


Ministerial Reshuffle: Turnbull Nails It

FOR A SECOND TIME in three days, this column offers ringing endorsement of the machinations of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government; having signalled on Friday he would put a scythe through the ranks of advisors hand-picked by the insidious Peta Credlin, Turnbull has followed that today with a well calibrated ministerial reshuffle. We will give credit and criticism wherever due, but early Turnbull moves are proving surprisingly deft.

If the Turnbull government proves successful (and by successful, I mean re-elected reasonably comfortably) I will be very pleased, and forthright about saying so; my disagreements with Malcolm have been about his left-leaning social ideas — and sporadically, overweening ambition — but never personal from my perspective, and whilst I did not support a switch to his leadership that outcome has materialised: and Liberals must either close ranks or leave the party.

In my own case, I’m staying in the tent, but for as long as this column continues to publish independent, conservative comment, we will apportion credit and/or criticism as variously warranted; today however — for the second time in three days, since Turnbull allowed it to become known the government’s (severely dysfunctional) advisory pool is set to be drained and refreshed — I have to be effusive in my praise.

The ministerial reshuffle announced yesterday by the Prime Minister, to be blunt, absolutely nails it; unlike the train wreck unveiled late last year by Tony Abbott, Turnbull’s first ministry sees several of yesterday’s men, no-hopers and other liabilities dumped, and — with one or two notable exceptions and at least one glaring omission — refreshes the ministry, promoting both men and a reasonable number of women, and ought to reinvigorate what should always have been a stellar Coalition government (and would have been, if more adroitly managed from the outset).

Readers can access some excellent coverage of the reshuffle from The Australian (including a full list of the Turnbull ministry) here, and whilst some in the conservative faction of the Liberal Party (with which I nominally identify) will take umbrage with some of my remarks, it’s hard to take much issue with the line-up Turnbull has announced.

Credit must be given, and tribute paid, to former Treasurer Joe Hockey; this column has been relentless in its crusade to have him removed as Treasurer, but believed he nevertheless had a substantial contribution to make as a minister in a different capacity; Hockey has stepped down and instead all but resigned from Parliament, and he goes with my goodwill and very best wishes for whatever he chooses to do in the future.

Similarly, Small Business minister Bruce Billson has also stepped down, clearing the way for another new entrant to be promoted.

Howard government minister Kevin Andrews — possessed of such promise for such a staunch conservative, only to spend a decade delivering a series of monumental disappointments and failures such as the inability to sell WorkChoices, the Haneef debacle that helped seal defeat for the Coalition in 2007, the bungled attempt at welfare “reform” last year and the misdirected “giggle” of marriage counselling vouchers that he himself purported to lead by example with — has been dumped.

For good measure, Andrews saw fit to compound his humiliation yesterday by calling his own press conference prior to Turnbull’s reshuffle announcement; claiming to be “disappointed” the Prime Minister had turned down his “offer to work with him,” Andrews seems oblivious to the fact Turnbull would remember his role as a stalking horse for a leadership change in 2009 (drawing 35 of 82 votes in a snap challenge to precipitate a second, more serious attempt the following week) and the fact he seriously misread the mood of the party by standing against Julie Bishop last week as deputy leader, no matter how aggrieved or justified he may have felt in doing so.

Moderate/conservative allegiances are well and good, and I have been vocal in my own right to this end: including where Malcolm Turnbull himself is concerned.

But there is a time and a place; prior to Monday evening was the time to fight, but now is the time to try to heal and to live with the reality that has emerged if you’re a conservative Liberal, and Andrews has neatly illustrated why his is neither a healing nor unifying voice where Liberal Party politics are concerned.

In addition to Andrews, Billson, Hockey, and the obvious absence of Abbott, the dumping of Eric Abetz as Employment minister and Ian Macfarlane as “Industry Assistance” minister are to be lauded; both of the Right — and as I did say, with an eye to Andrews, some on the Right won’t like me saying it — Abetz was a waste of space and a failure where any serious advocacy of industrial relations reform was concerned; a murmur of union militancy via Bill Shorten and his ardour for reform evaporated.

As for Macfarlane — who took it upon himself to advocate for the bottomless pit of billions in government largesse to continue to be thrown at the car industry, where it was recursively consumed by union EBA agreements and needing more billions to fuel the cycle — the less said, the better.

Turnbull’s ministry, understandably, has a more moderate feel to it than the one it displaces, and whilst I am concerned that true conservative voices have either been shut out or restricted to token voices commanding little authority or respect (Peter Dutton in Immigration, take note) it is difficult to argue with most of the appointments on merit, if divorced from the prism of moderate/conservative considerations.

The expansion of Cabinet to accommodate former Howard government Chief of Staff Arthur Sinodinis as Cabinet Secretary will go some way to providing the strategic compass so conspicuously absent on Abbott’s watch, charged as it was to Credlin to execute.

The elevation of former WA Treasurer and Attorney-General, Christian Porter, is a no-brainer, and a promotion that should have been made soon after the 2013 election; for all the talk of “stability” and “grown-ups” being back in charge, the Abbott government was guilty of leaving an embarrassment of riches on the backbench where its future prospects and talents were concerned — and Porter sat atop any honest list of those languishing on the outer whilst relics and list cloggers occupied prime roles in their stead.

Several women have been promoted, and as with any group of individuals my thoughts are mixed; Michaelia Cash was, like fellow Western Australian Porter, a no-brainer to promote into Cabinet, whip-smart as she is; Marise Payne (to Defence) sees a capable no-nonsense mind tackle a difficult portfolio at a difficult time, and whilst Payne is too moderate for my blood the nature of the portfolio should temper that to a degree; Kelly O’Dwyer (Assistant Treasurer) finds an opportunity for the member for Higgins to realise the sky-high (and reasonable) expectations widely held of her, on the turf most related to her pre-parliamentary field in banking; and whilst others — such as Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson — arguably deserved to be promoted, there are now nine women on the Turnbull front bench, including five in Cabinet: and more women, it must be said, are not the only people to have missed out here.

Rhodes Scholar and Hume MP Angus Taylor can consider himself unlucky to have missed out, for Taylor is another of those MPs with arguably stronger claims than some who were allowed to remain, and one of the great travesties of two years of Coalition government has been the practice of leaving real but unproven talent to languish on the backbench in favour of the retention of ageing seat warmers. I understand too much change at once can resemble instability and chaos. But a couple more changes yesterday would have been well warranted.

Queensland Senator George Brandis QC — who is elevated to Government leader in the Senate — could have benefited from a portfolio change at the minimum, having botched the selling of metadata laws, changes around anti-discrimination and freedom of speech laws, and having caused the government grief over entitlement-related issues; Peter Dutton’s resignation, frankly, should have been accepted; and new appointment Wyatt Roy and the steep promotion of Senator Mitch Fifield appear more driven by rewarding support than with any particular claim to higher office in their own right.

Christopher Pyne, moving to Industry, should be thankful the times have been kind to him; were leadership manoeuvres and factional and state balances irrelevant, he might have found himself on the backbench after a woeful performance in Education. There may well be a case for the reforms Pyne attempted to make, but as a salesman — and he is not alone among his colleagues in this respect — Pyne has proven utterly useless to the government to date.

The big story of this reshuffle is the promotion of future Liberal leader (and I believe, Prime Minister) Scott Morrison as Treasurer; it is an unfortunate reality that Hockey simply wasn’t up to the job, and to the extent he was it is an open secret the PMO under Abbott was a handicap on him. The government’s economic message has been contradictory, inconsistent, confused, and decidedly un-Liberal for the duration of this government to date. A clean break and a fresh approach has become critical, and Morrison is the ideal candidate to deliver.

The retention of star trio Andrew Robb in Trade, Julie Bishop in Foreign Affairs and Matthias Cormann in Finance is to be lauded, but expected: these are, along with Morrison, the standout performers from the Abbott government, and Turnbull has wisely retained them without moving them. Morrison’s promotion to fill a void in Treasury completes a core of key ministers that is evocative of the Costello-Reith-Downer triumvirate that was so effective early on in the Howard years.

Speaking of those, the Turnbull reshuffle closes the door on most of the ageing has-beens from that period; the future lies ahead, not 20 years ago, and Turnbull deserves kudos for finally dispensing with the fantasy that this government offered a return to all that was best of the Howard government: it didn’t, and it hasn’t, and with luck these changes will be the last we hear of it.

And whilst he backed Turnbull, the elevation of Queensland LNP identity James McGrath sees another of the Liberal Party’s best strategic minds brought in from the cold; readers know I have made a lot of noise about people of outstanding tactical and strategic bent being shut out of Canberra by Credlin and her little regime for one petty or vindictive reason or another, and whilst the real difference in this regard will be made by cleaning out the defective individuals running those areas (and media/communications) in the advisory pool, McGrath has been left outside the tent to date out of nothing more than spite. It is pleasing to see his inclusion.

Similarly, the restoration of Howard government minister Mal Brough — despite some trouble he got into over the Peter Slipper/James Ashby fiasco a few years ago — is commendable; whilst we expect Turnbull’s reshuffle to make an instant difference to the government’s fortunes, the bald fact is that the government had few stars to its credit this time last week; Brough, a very good minister under Howard, has been excluded to its clear detriment. He now has an opportunity to show the faith expressed in him by many people (including me) is justified.

To be clear, there are those who will never be happy with anything Turnbull does, and those voices will pipe up to try to sabotage the fresh face he has put on his government.

I have been frank about my concerns — a couple of people left out who deserved inclusion and a couple who should have been demoted or axed, and a lack of effective conservative voices overall — but this ministry must be given its opportunity to showcase its wares and to deliver the outcomes expected of it.

Despite those reservations, I think Turnbull has absolutely nailed this effort: provided he has, the early opinion poll lead he has established should prove far less illusory than many observers (and disgruntled conservatives) think or expect.

Time will tell if he has the balance right. It is the results from this point that must be judged, not some pre-emptive strike landed to sabotage the endeavour. We will be watching, but despite my reservations about Turnbull in the first place, this column is — at the outset — very, very cautiously encouraged.


Turnbull Surge: Coalition Lead An Indictment On Shorten

EARLY POLLING showing new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull trouncing Labor’s “Billy Bullshit” in the personal approval stakes — and the Coalition leading, 51-49, for the first time in 18 months — provides succour for those who sought a circuit breaker for the government; the Liberal Party can be pleased with initial voter reactions to its new leadership arrangements. Where Labor and Bill Shorten are concerned, these numbers are an indictment.

One poll a revival doth make; and as the saying goes, one swallow dies not make a Spring.

But the early voter reaction to new Liberal Prime Minister, whilst heartening for the Coalition, is at root a reflection on opposition “leader” Bill Shorten, whose “achievement” in rebuilding the ALP’s position has been instantly exposed as illusory, intellectually lazy, and validates the train of thought we have canvassed here for months that people were indeed prepared to vote Labor, but only in the absence of a more palatable choice.

First things first: Galaxy has published a poll overnight suggesting primary vote support for the Coalition has risen three percentage points since its previous survey last month, to 44%; Labor support falls by the corresponding amount to 36%, with the Communist Party Greens (11%) and “Others” (9%) unchanged — producing the 51-49 headline result that sees the federal Coalition hit the lead for the first time in a reputable opinion finding since April last year.

It finds a preference among respondents for Malcolm Turnbull (51%) as Prime Minister easily outstripping support for Labor’s vapid union parrot (20%), and as solid as that result is, it’s about the only thing that could temper a ReachTel finding one day earlier of preference for Turnbull (61.9%) over Shorten (38.1%), although ReachTel’s rating of both leaders is inflated by the fact it strips out the “don’t knows” and support for other candidates.

Like Galaxy, ReachTel also found a three-point movement to the Coalition after preferences — to an even 50-50 — off primary support for the Liberal and National Parties of 43.3% (+3%), 35.9% (-1.6%) for Labor, and 11.9% (-1.5%) for the Greens.

Heading into tomorrow’s by-election in the Western Australian seat of Canning — which, through the Liberal leadership change and constraints around my time, we haven’t really paid much attention to — all of this augurs well for the Coalition, and media reports yesterday suggested that Labor itself has all but given up on taking the usually marginal seat made vacant by the death of a popular long-term Liberal MP.

In terms of getting overly excited, the true test will be the polling three, six, nine months from now: nobody should be getting carried away, although Turnbull would clearly be happier with these figures than if the initial poll findings on his watch had stagnated, or moved the other way.

But the real story in this — with no disrespect to the new Liberal PM — relates to the ALP, and in that sense, these findings are an indictment.

Like many strategic minds in the Coalition, I don’t expect the initial public euphoria around Turnbull to last; the so-called “sugar hit” appears to be materialising on cue, and a better test of his support will be if the government can lock down the extra support being generated by the week’s events.

The precedent of Kevin Rudd from June 2013, and the earlier example of Andrew Peacock in 1989 — the closest equivalents to Turnbull’s ascension, replete with stratospheric pre-leadership coup poll numbers — should serve as a warning to anyone who wants to get carried away.

Yet the obvious observation to make here is that with Turnbull pulling in between double and triple the support of Shorten in the head-to-head measures, this heralds a return to “normal” poll settings for a first term government: new oppositions typically struggle to make much headway, and Shorten — denied the easy meat of an unpopular Prime Minister compounded by an utterly dysfunctional back office — is recording the kind of dismal numbers his insipid and insidious version of “leadership” truly warrants.

We already know Shorten is a liar, a backstabber, a treacherous plotter and a man obsessed with power and personal ambition, with a woeful personal record of “loyalty” to leaders he has served since entering Parliament, and whilst some will accuse Turnbull of the same things, it must be noted on the record that he conducted his challenge to Tony Abbott from the front this week rather than getting behind the departed PM to lodge a blade between his shoulders as Shorten deftly did during two ALP leadership changes during its last stint in office.

This, in and of itself, might be dismissed, albeit cynically, as the mere cost of doing business in Canberra by some.

But when it is remembered that Shorten has advanced very little new policy, aside from trashing the public health system by abolishing the private health insurance rebate, in an unbelievably spiteful act of class hatred — and has compounded that debauched stance by signalling the revival of discredited policies on climate change and asylum seekers that were roundly rejected by voters in 2013 — it’s hardly adventurous to assert that little Billy Bullshit offers virtually nothing to mainstream Australia.

Labor, it must be conceded, may very well still win next year’s election irrespective of the change to the leadership arrangements in the Liberal Party this week.

But the instant evaporation of ALP support (and, more ominously, the total disintegration of Shorten’s standing as “preferred PM”) exposes the potential limits of bloody-minded opposition at all costs and the pursuit of power for its own sake.

Readers have heard me say many, many times now that Labor cares about power, not people; it should come as no surprise that the instant a fresh adversary arrives on the scene with a potential message in any way different to the unpopular Abbott’s, indications are that voters lose interest in such a vacuously naked lust for the Treasury benches.

Free of meaningful policy and led by a dubious individual of highly questionable character, Labor may well have cruised to victory against Tony Abbott — mostly on the back of the former Prime Minister’s own deficiencies, and those of the people around him who were charged with delivering better outcomes but who were simply not up to the job.

Now, Shorten and his party are going to have to come up with a new strategy — and quickly — for just as time was running out for Abbott to retrieve his position prior to this week’s events, the sands in the hourglass now begin to run against Labor.

More of the empty, pathetic drivel Shorten has become synonymous with simply won’t cut it, and to this end, his attempts this week to characterise Turnbull’s government as a “right-wing Liberal Party” deserve  to be exposed for what they are: a direct copy of the mindless rant British Labour is using to cajole the BBC — just as biased to the British Left as the ABC is to the Australian Left — to use identical terminology against David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

The problem with a virgin brain — to use the analogy from Don’s Party — is that no original thought ever penetrates it: and in this regard once again, it appears Shorten is indeed possessed of such an attribute.

Unlike Abbott, with his scripted, targeted lines that lacked spontaneity, Turnbull is a gifted debater who will tear Shorten to shreds if he persists with this kind of garbage.

Like Abbott, however, it seems Billy Bullshit knows no other way than they way he has always done things, and in this regard it will cost him heavily.

For now, the Coalition is reaping its reward from the leadership change, irrespective of whether you agreed with or supported it or not, and at the very least it returns what had become an entrenched and one-sided political climate to a contest, and one that has to favour the Coalition given the lacklustre opponent it faces and the red herring Turnbull promises to quickly expose him to be.

It should come as no surprise that rumours abound of forces aligned with Tanya Plibersek spending the parliamentary Spring recess making enquiries of her colleagues to ascertain how many of the 48 signatures that are required to trigger a leadership ballot under the ALP’s arcane new rules might be forthcoming.

Plibersek might or might not be a more formidable opponent than Shorten, but right now the utterances of the latter have gone from being delivered in smugly sanctimonious piety to sounding shrill, hysterical and panicked in the space of a mere few days.

Billy Bullshit is about to be exposed for the unelectable charlatan he is and, all other sentiments aside, the prospect of Turnbull ripping the hopeless Shorten to pieces is an inviting one indeed.