NT Election: Mediocrity, Cynicism, Hypocrisy The Only Winners

THE LANDSLIDE recorded by the ALP at yesterday’s Northern Territory election should be a cause for despair for anyone interested in sound governance in Australia; on the one hand, a fractious conservative administration with a penchant for self-immolation has been ejected from office with the force of a missile, whilst a Labor Party responsible for shocking miscarriages of justice has been restored. There is nothing to celebrate here.

I wasn’t going to even bother commenting on the circus that is NT politics, but lest ALP triumphalism spiral out of control, a few passing comments are probably warranted.

They say things are done differently in the NT, but as I see it, politics there are following the same cynical trajectory as is being pursued elsewhere in the country: and the same disastrous consequences — not least, the continued disenfranchisement of increasingly jaded voters — are likely to ensue.

Just as this column declined to publish so much as a congratulatory syllable after the Coalition “victory” at the 2 July double dissolution, we similarly see little reason to do so in relation to Territory Labor today; the ALP may indeed have prevailed in elections for what passes as the Territorian equivalent of a state government, but the circumstances in which it has done so are tasteless in the extreme.

In the blue corner sits the Country Liberal Party: racked by divisions and the competing agendas of misplaced egos, elected four years ago and ravaged by leadership ructions ever since, the CLP has paid a predictable price for self-indulgence, petty bickering, and the utter political ineptitude that now seems to permanently infect conservative administrations comprised of MPs determined on factional grounds rather than merit, and aided and abetted by advisers who in the main are bereft of a skerrick of political judgement, strategic or tactical nous, or the ability to convincingly sell ideas or policies to an electorate that expects better of its parliamentary representatives.

In the red corner sits a Labor Party which, like its interstate and federal counterparts, boasts precisely nothing to recommend it: a classic illustration of the adage about oppositions not winning elections and governments losing them, the new ALP Chief Minister — the aptly named Michael Gunner — may come to rue the fact his election triumph was sealed in a controversy over prison abuses that were perpetrated on his own party’s watch in office several years ago.

The defeat of the CLP — never in any doubt — was almost certainly amplified by some appallingly partisan “investigative” journalism by the ABC, which saw its way clear to run an explosive expose about the torture of young offenders in the NT and other outrages on its Four Corners programme just as the NT election approached: never mind the fact these excesses occurred during the last administration Labor formed, and never mind observing quaint notions of impartiality like declining to broadcast such material during an election campaign; the result of the Four Corners production was to ensure the fallout hit the CLP with laser-like precision, as intended. The kneejerk reaction of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in announcing a Royal Commission into the affair, made it a certainty.

Territory politics are notoriously volatile, and — since the end of almost 30 unbroken years of CLP rule — have been a template for instability. The projected 18 of 25 seats Labor is expected to finish with will guarantee it one term only, and whilst a further term must be considered likely, such is the nature of the beast that the resurrection of the CLP after a single term, whilst difficult to foresee today, cannot be ruled out.

But in this sense, the NT is merely following the pattern of politics that is starting to become entrenched everywhere else in Australia these days.

We have arrived at the point at which the ALP and, by extension, a broad coalition of like interests — the unions, the Communist Party Greens, the teachers, the churches and the welfare lobby, among others — simply refuse to acknowledge or accept the election of conservative governments and, whenever such a government holds office, the singular priority of these groups is to destroy it.

Aside from extending the reach of unions and kowtowing to the faceless thugs who run them, the Labor governments subsequently formed either achieve nothing or (as in the case of the Andrews government in Victoria) cause massive economic and social division, as inept MPs propelled by self-interest and greed for power prove spectacularly unsuited to the task to which they have been elected.

This is also a theme that will continue to play out across Australia in the years to come.

I’m not interested in the welfare or good fortune of the parties of the Left and their fellow travellers; even so, the ascent of the ALP in a minor regional assembly merely underlines even further the challenges faced by parties of the Right and their seeming inability to grasp them, let alone resolve them.

An abjectly pathetic approach to electoral politics, in which the hierarchy of the Liberal Party is run as a clubhouse rather than a bona fide war machine, means the actual business of winning elections and prosecuting arguments is relegated to an afterthought as alliances and crony cohorts are elevated above ensuring the best possible people are installed to engineer the triumph of right-of-centre policies and the sustained success that increasingly eludes it.

In the process, Labor becomes more and more the default choice of voters, thanks to compulsory preferences that reward the ineptitude and indulgences of the Liberals in office with defeat.

It doesn’t matter that Labor is guiltier of the same sins, or is demonstrably incompetent when it comes to the business of government: the Coalition parties across Australia is increasingly incapable of carrying even those arguments publicly. This result in the Northern Territory is simply further proof of it.

Turnbull can probably feel lucky in that directly at least, the NT can inflict no further damage on the federal Coalition; Labor controls the Territory assembly, and holds both federal electorates as well as one of the two NT Senate spots.

But any national interpretation of the result can only invite the conclusion that the Liberal Party’s current decline is not just continuing, but accelerating.

Of the remaining Liberal state governments, the one in WA is likely to fall when it goes to the polls early next year; the one in Tasmania appears to have run aground in a state not noted for goodwill toward the conservative parties, and in which the perennial threat of minority ALP-Greens administrations seems once again poised to consign the Liberals to opposition. Mike Baird in NSW is beginning to look as if his party is readying to surrender office to a discredited ALP just two terms after claiming office, as did the Greiner-Fahey outfit 20 years ago.

Liberal oppositions in SA and Victoria — for different reasons — seem certain to remain in opposition in 2018. What happens in Queensland, where Labor has rigged future elections by abolishing its own system of optional preferential voting with neither consultation nor a mandate, is anyone’s guess.

What is certain is that the only victors from yesterday’s field trip to the polls in the NT are the forces of mediocrity, cynicism and hypocrisy: and today at least, that means unjust reward for the ALP, which will simply be emboldened everywhere else.

Once again, the real losers are the poor bastards forced to choose between two unpalatable options.

If anyone finds this state of affairs worthy of celebration, it says much about the insidious narcissism and obsession with power at any price — with flagrant disregard for the consequences — that continues to infect politics and elections in this country.

Make no mistake, there is nothing to celebrate here. It is a reality that the predictably shattered CLP, the more decent adherents of the ALP, and their counterparts across Australia would do well to contemplate.

 

18c Farce: Leyonhjelm Right To Sue Uncle Fairfax

A DAY after we opined on the “horse shit” of the socialist Left and the opaque institutional and judicial edifice it hides behind, a test case emerges; Senator David Leyonhjelm — branded an “angry white male” by SMH writer Mark Kenny — has taken action against Fairfax Media under S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. It is vexatious and may fail, but in showcasing the double standards of a fatuous, contemptible law, Leyonhjelm’s action is right.

I am in Brisbane for the day today once again, so this morning’s post will be reasonably succinct; even so, it was probably only a matter of time before the infamous “18c” reappeared on our radar, although I didn’t expect it would happen quite so soon.

Literally a matter of minutes after I published yesterday on the issue of free speech — including, coincidentally, the need to abolish S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act — news broke that the Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, who had been branded an “angry white male” by Fairfax scribe Mark Kenny, was instituting proceedings against Fairfax Media, claiming he had been offended or vilified on the basis of the colour of his skin.

First things first: the “offending” article from the Sydney Morning Herald may be accessed here; readers can find some additional material on the subject, from The Guardian and The Australian, here and here.

18c is objectionable for precisely the reasons that are now being lobbed at Leyonhjelm, in the form of ridicule, to underpin suggestions his action against Fairfax is frivolous.

Leyonhjelm himself admits he wasn’t offended by Kenny’s characterisation of him as an “angry white male,” and even seemed to imply the proceedings he has instituted are destined to fail.

But he is right to proceed, as he acknowledged, on the basis that Kenny’s remarks singled him out for the colour of his skin, and also correct to note that had the reference been to an “angry black man,” nobody would be laughing, groaning, or otherwise making any attempt to dissuade the pursuit of legal action against whomsoever made such a reference.

Just as S18c provides recourse, among other things, for those who are insulted or offended on the basis of their race, S18d offers some cover if the utterances are made as fair comment: it is this provision Leyonhjelm’s detractors are pointing to in suggesting the good Senator might have shot his bolt.

But speaking of bolts, 18d didn’t stop Andrew Bolt from being prosecuted, ostensibly in making a reasonable argument in relation to Aboriginal issues, so there goes that theory.

The problem here (as with so much of the rubbish the Left is peddling in this country, and which persists even with Labor and the Greens in opposition) is that minorities are “protected” by the Racial Discrimination Act, but when the shoe is on the other foot in any way, those affected can — to use the vernacular — get stuffed.

In other words, there are two sets of standards at play: just as we talked about yesterday.

Leyonhjelm, however, has set up a perfect storm.

Declaring he is taking action against Fairfax to demonstrate the stupidity of the law, as opposed to being motivated by a real sense of grievance, what the Senator is doing probably kicks the door to either modifying or abolishing S18c wide open.

If his case is successful, it will demonstrate just how petty the scope for using S18c to pursue ambit agendas really is: handing ammunition to those who want it changed on the pretext the potential for abuse is clear.

If his case is unsuccessful, it will clearly and graphically show that there is indeed one set of standards for the majority population and another for minorities, gifting ammunition to those who want S18c abolished on the basis the law itself is discriminatory.

Either way, the Left — which fashioned this dreadful piece of legislation in a too-clever, too-smug attempt to arm itself for future action against political opponents (like Bolt, for instance) will be shown up as the cynical frauds they are.

This column does not suggest Mark Kenny set out in any way to deliberately offend or vilify or humiliate Senator Leyonhjelm: quite the contrary. Whilst it is clear Kenny is no political friend of Leyonhjelm’s, it is difficult to infer there was any malice in his article.

But that’s the whole point, and it seems that however the action by Leyonhjelm plays out, the continuity of S18c is far from certain if any concerted attempt to change it emerges from the ramshackle new Parliament elected six weeks ago.

Gillian Triggs must be choking on her corn flakes this morning.

If she is, who could complain about that?

Free Speech: Governing For The Majority Might Save Turnbull’s Hide

THE FANCIES of the Left — veto over thought, word and deed, and favour for minorities with votes — persist after three years of “conservative” governance, and will be entrenched by a change of government; alleged “thorough liberal” Malcolm Turnbull is no conservative, but abolishing sinecures and fiefdoms of the Left may find him favour with Australians fed up with being told others are more important than they are in their own country.

Three years ago, almost to the day — and three weeks out from a federal election that produced a large swing against a Labor government that had unashamedly spent years pandering to the hard Left — I published an article in this column that singled out a predominantly government-funded “community organisation” that appears dedicated to little more than the dissemination of propaganda telling people how to think, speak and act; that article, despite being one of the better-read pieces of the election campaign, generated just three comments which, even accounting for the fact this form of media usually has an interaction rate of about 1-2%, was…very low.

What is interesting is that in the time since then, the material from the website of the organisation we looked at that day — FECCA — was moved at least twice, so the link I inserted to it in my own piece led to an error message if followed; like a dog with a bone I have fixed the link twice, too, and no doubt after today’s discussion, I will probably need to fix it up a third time.

But the takeout? Just as people in Australia have grown understandably reticent about laying into the mouthpieces of the Left, lest they attract prosecution for having an opinion that isn’t a sop to some minority or another, those mouthpieces are highly intolerant of any form of scrutiny whatsoever, and will go to silly lengths to ensure they remain beyond reproach and immune to criticism.

I begin my remarks thus this afternoon on account of a slew of opinion pieces that have appeared in various organs of the Murdoch press today, and it is no coincidence that these items were published by an organisation that sends the Left into mouth-foaming paroxysms of incandescent rage; the pliant, pliable (and reliable) tomes of Uncle Fairfax, Crikey! or “their ABC” would never stoop to the depths of opining against the pet fancies of the finger-shaking, Chardonnay-swilling, bullshit-dribbling imbeciles of the nanny state Left, but Murdoch scribes are fair game: and the main reason is that their mastheads usually (but not invariably) lend their support at election time to the Liberal Party.

First things first: for interest, readers may wish to peruse the selection of material I’ve been reading this morning here, here, here and here; these articles are really just for extra reading today, for the specific issues in them — whilst mostly outrageous, and uniformly a national disgrace — are, sadly, nothing new to intelligent people who are routinely told that unless they think and speak and act in a predetermined fashion, they are racists or bigots or homophobes and God alone knows what else.

The sub-plot to this, of course, is that there is a “class” of people who know better: those opinion “leaders,” unionists, bureaucrats, left-wing academics and other idiots bent on the insidious slither and spread of socialism at the expense of societal vigour, individual liberty and the entrepreneurial spirit, and the prioritisation of a sick ideological dogma over the national interest and the rights of the majority of people who live in Australia.

To be sure, this sad state of affairs is not unique to Australia; it’s happening across the Western world: “diversity” — a term more related in this context to punching socialism and social change down the throats of sullen, hostile majorities who were never consulted than to any real sense of multiculturalism (and to a plurality of cultures not limited to race) — is the dirty word used by left-wing activists to justify the insidious cancer of the doctrine they seek to propagate, the abuse doled out to anyone who dares speak against it (“Islamophobia,” anyone?) and to a gushing torrent of taxpayer dollars handed out to “community organisations” and other euphemisms for social engineering that the country neither needs nor can afford.

The reach of this odious, insidious hand is almost without end.

As readers will see from the pieces I have linked to this afternoon, it extends from public funding of so-called “think tanks” like the Grattan Institute all the way to insignificant flyspecks like FECCA, which nevertheless consumes half a million in taxpayer money every year; it runs from a national broadcaster whose “news” sense starts and ends with plugging the agenda of hard socialism, all the way through university social science schools; and it spans expensive QANGOs that pointlessly and unproductively consume hundreds of millions of dollars every year for little tangible purpose beyond providing high-paying citadels from which socialist troglodytes like Gillian Triggs are free to shake their fingers and lecture at us: the great, unwashed, uncouth, morosely silent majority.

These people do not know better than us, irrespective of whatever delusional self-assurances they fortify themselves with.

Sometimes they work in lockstep, with Triggs’ Commission coming to the party to help crucify some white Australian students facing prosecution for daring firstly to use “Aboriginal-only” computers at the Queensland University of Technology, and secondly, to complain about being asked to leave the computers alone: the heavily tokenised Aboriginal student population might be growing impatient, after all.

Sometimes they just work with Labor, like the Grattan Institute’s provision of convenient “research” that just happened to dovetail perfectly with ALP policy before the election on Negative Gearing, or Professor Triggs’ outfit (again) waiting until a Liberal government had all but solved the mess of thousands of incarcerated asylum seekers (including children) before releasing a ridiculously biased report that all but sought the roasting of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in hell over the fact a small minority of the kids were still awaiting the finalising of their processing, whilst remaining mute on any culpability on the part of Labor or the Communist Party Greens, who put them there in the first place.

And sometimes, they just feed like-minded fellow travellers out in the big wide world, with the AFL’s diversity and “compliance” regimes a stark illustration of just how stupid it is possible to be over a game of football: every football stadium in the country now has a number to dob in “anti-social” crowd behaviour — so the AFL’s goons, under the auspices of its New World Order social policies, can eject the perpetrators. We’re not just talking about the odd fight between supporters, either, much less any racist catcalls or “vilification.” A bit of blue language, I’m told, is sometimes enough to attract the attention of Security even without a complaint being sent.

Is this country so insecure, so immature, and so unintelligent that it requires socialist masters to tell its inhabitants how to think, speak, and/or act?

I don’t think so.

The problem is that all of this bullshit (yes, bullshit), whilst a latent presence to varying degrees over the past 30 years or so, really got a leg-up on the watch of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard; that’s fine, so long as her government lasted, but it didn’t — and all of this crap should have been abolished in quick order once the change of government occurred in 2013.

To its credit, the Abbott government tried, taking aim at the notorious S18c of anti-discrimination legislation: the problem, of course, was that the minister charged with prosecuting the case, Attorney-General George Brandis, chose unwisely to associate “freedom of speech” with the “right to be a bigot.”

Needless to say, that was the end of the Abbott government’s campaign for change: after Brandis’ remarks, any attempt to proceed would have been futile.

It goes without saying that racial persecution, or vilification on the base of gender or sexuality or whatever, simply isn’t on. But it does not follow as a logical extension of that sentiment that an army of do-gooder Chardonnay drunks is required — at usurious and unmerited public expense — to preside over its execution, showering fortune and assistance over ideological soulmates, and seeking to destroy anyone who dares question them.

And it should surprise nobody that when the Donald Trumps and Pauline Hansons and Geert Wilders of this world appear on the far Right — as a populist, if defective and inadequate, response to the most frustrated sections of the electorate — nobody bellows louder than the same entitled band of socialist finger shakers. Heaven forbid anyone should derail their gravy train, after all.

Self-interest and the public benefit coincide, happily, for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: if he chooses to seize the opportunity, that is, the small matter of his wife being a director of the Grattan Institute notwithstanding.

A clear majority of the aggregate primary vote was cast at last month’s election for parties opposed to Labor, the Greens, and the handful of more openly socialist parties that receive negligible direct support; there are those on the Left who argue that because the preferences from many of these non-Coalition sources ultimately flowed to Labor, it is reasonable to assert the hard Right finds the soft Left more palatable than the Coalition. But such an assertion ignores the fact groups like One Nation regard the Liberal Party (and Turnbull especially) as an enemy, not a friend.

I use the Nixonian term “the silent majority” regularly, for I believe in this country that is exactly what we have: these people, who are not brimming with racial hatred or a desire to inflict harm on gays, lesbians, Muslims or anyone else, nevertheless want to be heard: and just as the musings of the Left on One Nation preferences are based on a false premise, so too is the idea that an election in Australia is an opportunity to be heard.

The compulsion to preference parties and candidates one would sooner spit on dilutes the intended messages of voters; whether that is the effect or not, the two major parties (thanks in no small part to Turnbull’s famed leftist social instincts) are caricatures of each other. The only real alternative lies further along the Left of the spectrum; and to them, equivalent interlopers to the Right must be slapped down and demonised at any cost.

The problem is that unless something definitive is done to rein in the rampant entrenchment of the hard Left as a force for the governance in Australia, the chance to do so will be lost: based on present realities and the current political climate, it would be a brave individual who sought to proclaim anything but a Labor win at the next election as the likely outcome.

And if Labor wins the next election — under minorities-obsessed Bill Shorten, or either of the Left’s candidates in Anthony Albanese or Tanya Plibersek — these people will become impossible to get rid of or to defund.

How the government finds the intestinal fortitude to make such changes (or the communications nous with which to sell them) is unclear, but the abolition of the Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Discrimination Commission, and scores of ideology battalions like them would save hundreds of millions of dollars at a stroke with few deleterious effects in terms of the “constituencies” they claim to represent.

The complete and instant abolition of funding to groups like FECCA, and to others like them who specialise only in the socially noxious purpose of telling people what they should say or think, would yield a hefty boost to a budget bottom line that simply cannot afford to bankroll the doctrinal misadventures of socialist lunatics and the wholesale demonisation of the majority of the Australian public.

And having failed to bring “their ABC” to heel when he was directly responsible for it, Turnbull should use Prime Ministerial imprimatur to orchestrate a review into the ABC’s news standards that forces balance on the public broadcaster. “Independent” and “impartial”are not the same thing. Nobody is advocating an ABC that goes out and roots for the Coalition: this would be equally offensive. But as it stands, the ABC’s “independent” editorial policies merely provide a fig leaf of cover for it to be independently biased, and it isn’t on.

Turnbull might actually discover just how much support is up for grabs from the millions of people who are sick of being told how to behave as cardboard cut-outs if he goes down this path. It might even save his beleaguered Prime Ministership, or at the very least, provide him with a firmer platform from which (shock, horror) to make more meaningful attempts at serious reform than the complete botch he made of it earlier this year.

He might also find that a new Senate can be convinced of the merits of drastic action to put the socialist genie back in  its bottle, if not to support such action outright.

The alternative is to permanently entrench the thought Police and a nanny state, with controls over speech and thought that are Stalinist at best and downright evil at worst: it might satisfy the Triggses of the world who personally pocket hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars per year for their trouble, but the average voter has had enough of such trifles.

The whole stinking edifice of left-wing thought control and the stifling of free speech is a putrefying pile of horse shit: it might gratify those at the top of the incestuous little pyramid but it is no way to run a country.

Horse shit has some value in terms of fertilising the garden, but its misuse as an instrument of governance has gone far enough. There is strong public support for change. The question is whether Malcolm has the bottle to enact it.

Senate Terms: Human Headline Constitutionally Skewered

BY allocating six-year terms to the first Senators elected in each state, the new Senate will replicate the act of all others convened after a double dissolution since Federation; Derryn Hinch, aggrieved by a three-year term but worthier of six than most, offered a surprisingly undemocratic alternative his colleagues and precedent will sink. A touted lawsuit is constitutionally doomed. He should eschew pointless brawls in favour of more salient issues.

Short of criticising Malcolm Turnbull and the tentative early missteps of his re-elected government — over Kevin Rudd, the Don Dale fiasco, the continued triumphalism of moderate factional hacks in the Liberal Party in rubbing the majority conservatives’ noses in the dirt, or over his diminished authority and continued exhibition of poor or non-existent political judgement — there has been little to discuss over the past week, and as I am waiting to see how Turnbull fares when Parliament reconvenes in ten days’ time, I am reluctant to tear into his government. For now.

After the appalling election campaign and the events that led to it, readers can be well assured that whilst this column’s guns have not fired at the Prime Minister in recent weeks, they are trained in that direction and will do precisely that if my view is that Turnbull and his smug moderate cohorts are pushing the Coalition nearer to the electoral abyss: not that there’s very far to push these days, given the government was re-elected with the barest possible majority in the lower house and a diabolical position in the Senate.

But the news this week that the Coalition and Labor have “done a deal” to put a majority of the Senate crossbench on three-year terms is unexceptional, albeit one of the first items of real business for the new Senate to resolve, and even in the current era of rank negativity, pointless populism and incendiary tactics to achieve outcomes counter to the national interest but conducive to one political agenda or another, it is hard to have any sympathy for any of the Senators who have got it into their heads that they should have been installed for six years if they ended up being relegated to three.

Readers can access coverage of this issue, depending on preference, by the Fairfax and Murdoch stables; the allocation of six-year terms to 16 of 30 Coalition Senators and 13 of 26 from Labor is hardly excessive, and I would make the point that if this were indeed a conspiratorial stitch-up claimed by the likes of idiotic Communist Greens leader Richard Di Natale, then most or all of the seven of the 18 crossbench or Greens Senators in line for six-year terms would be contemplating just three years in the red chamber this weekend.

So let’s dispense with the bullshit: there hasn’t been a hatchet job done on the crossbenchers, even if obsessive self-interest has deluded some of them that there has.

The “order of election” method for allocating six-year and three-year terms to Senators after a double dissolution is the exact method used after double dissolutions in 1914, 1951, 1974, 1975, 1983 and 1987; it is impossible to argue that the utilisation of this method now is inconsistent with historical practice.

As part of its 1984 electoral reforms — which, at root, are responsible for the mess the Senate has descended into over the past ten years — the ALP enshrined in the Electoral Act a “countback method” (the so-called Section 282 recount) as an alternative mechanism for allocating terms based on the votes obtained by the 12 winning candidates in each state to the exclusion of preferences obtained from eliminated candidates; significantly, the Hawke government did not use this mechanism after the 1987 election, and as the article I’ve linked from The Age notes, the electoral commissioner advised the Clerk of the Parliament after the election that the Senate was in no way obliged to use Section 282 of the Electoral Act in determining the tenure of Senators.

And the reason is brutally simple, and brutal in its finality: the Constitution.

I have provided links to the Constitution in the past, and do so again today here; in the context of how three-year and six-year terms are carved up, the matter is entirely dealt with by S13, and that section itself makes no prescription whatsoever for the method to be used, merely noting that the Senate itself is responsible for dividing Senators into short-term and long-term Senators following a double dissolution.

As there is no recourse where the Constitution is concerned — clearly, any finding by a Court against the provisions of the Constitution would, by its nature, be unlawful — it is safe to assert that the method for this practice is as the sole discretion of the Senate; the fact the same method used on six previous occasions is again being used now merely adds the strengthening hand of precedent to the allocations announced yesterday, and it would be a foolish and wantonly expensive misadventure indeed for any aggrieved party to run off to the High Court seeking an intervention against the Constitution in their favour. It isn’t going to happen.

Family First Senator Bob Day found this out the hard way earlier this year, when he launched a ridiculous High Court challenge to changes to the way the Senate is elected, believing his interests and those of minor parties generally were disadvantaged; whether they were or not is irrelevant (and with a record 20 Senators set to take their places on the crossbench on 23 August, it’s problematic to argue the point), for S9 is unequivocal that the Commonwealth Parliament may prescribe the method of electing Senators provided such a method is uniform for all of the states: which, earlier this year, it did.

Assessed against the backdrop of constitutional provisions that confer unequivocal authority on Parliament to determine these matters at its absolute discretion, the actions of Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch are curious, to say the least.

Surprisingly, for a decent man ferociously (and rightly) obsessed with standards in public life, Hinch’s proposed alternative — that all represented parties be allocated at least one six-year Senator — not only flies in the face of both constitutional provision and parliamentary precedent, but also exudes a distinctly anti-democratic odour.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the Hinch proposal would have seen the Australian Motorist Enthusiasts Party Senator Ricky Muir, with his 0.5% of the primary vote, given six years in the Senate had that result and outcome been replicated last month; the Hinch proposal gives every appearance of being an unashamed attempted sop to minor parties at the expense of the traditional major parties, and those who rail against the major parties too often conveniently lose sight of the fact that they generally do win an awful lot more votes than their tiny counterparts.

Long-term readers know I have a lot of time for Hinch — and have had for decades — and I welcome his presence in the Senate; some of his positions (such as his support for gay marriage) I do not support, but others (such as disclosure and tougher sentencing for sex offenders) I wholeheartedly endorse. I am not having a go at Derryn today. But it does seem that in trying to push a proposal that would in fact benefit him, he has highlighted problems not just with Senate elections more broadly, but with the conflict that erupts at the intersection of standard parliamentary practice and the “modern” political practice of doing business with a sledgehammer and voluble amounts of intimidatory hot air designed to force opposition into submission.

But as I said earlier in today’s piece, were this simply a stitch-up, there would be worse things to bleat about than Derryn only being given a three-year term.

The good news is that odious actual Communist and national disgrace Lee Rhiannon has been added to the list of those who must face election before June 2019: an opportunity to get rid of an appalling blight on the national polity once and for all. Diversity be damned; this is someone whose past activities verge on treason, and who should be permanently disqualified from holding elective office in this country altogether.

Also to be welcomed is the fact Rhiannon’s rival as the Greens’ most contemptible parliamentarian — the obsequious Sarah Hanson-Young — will also be forced to provide voters with a further opportunity to get rid of her the next time a federal election is held.

And all three of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation buddies will be forced back to the polls at the same time; the prospect of any or all returning to Canberra after the next election must be regarded as low given the almost doubled quotas they will require in order to do so.

The bad news is that good people — like Hinch, Day, and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm — will likewise be marched off to the polls again; this is not the result of any personal targeting but the even application of a system that has been used repeatedly at double dissolutions. In this case, it has produced outcomes that are not desirable.

Similarly, the news that Pauline Hanson and Jacqui Lambie will spend six-year terms in the Senate is a cause for rue; Hanson, by virtue of the vote recorded in Queensland, is entitled to such a term whether you like it or not, but Lambie — in my view the stupidest person ever elected to an Australian Parliament, and much, much worse than Hanson in any case — is a presence whose voice adds precisely nothing of value to the national debate in any way, shape, or form.

But “the system” is just that — the system which, by consent under law, we agree to abide by — and too often in recent years, the refusal of some (mostly, but not exclusively, on the Left) to accept the outcomes it delivers is a disturbing symptom of anti-democratic momentum that runs counter to the national interest, and it is for this reason I was dismayed by Hinch’s “give all parties six years” approach when such a position lacks merit, credibility, and legal integrity.

My criticism of Hinch starts and ends there, but my ongoing critique of others in Canberra — whom we have repeatedly discussed this year in their attempts to subvert process in one way or another — does not.

If I was honest, I would have to say I’m just about fed up with the Senate: the niceties of allocating three and six-year terms aside, it’s not democratic, it’s not representative, and it most certainly isn’t functional in the sense a reasonable person would understand the term to imply — just like proportionally elected Parliaments in Europe, which are usually gridlocked and are a direct cause of the economic and social malaise that now afflicts the EU and its neighbours on the continent.

Perhaps all of this lends weight to the possibility of constitutional change to overhaul Parliament itself, along the lines we have discussed in this column across the journey: breaking the nexus between the Houses that dictate their relative size, along with a recasting of the Senate into upper house districts that return a single member at a half-Senate election and two members at a double dissolution.

But any such change would require the courage and perspicacity of MPs and their organisational structures to formulate arguments for such change, and the skill to sell those arguments and carry public opinion: attributes I don’t think anyone believes exist right now, to any great degree, among the group currently charged with governance in Canberra.

To be clear, the changes made to Senate election procedures earlier this year were entirely within the Parliament’s jurisdiction to make, but were in fact little more than a Band-Aid on a suppurating sore: they were no more “real reform” than the idea a superannuation tax rise and a business tax cut was a “clear economic program.”

In this context, whatever merit or otherwise might rest in Hinch’s musings on the carve-up of terms for Senators, the point is moot: and even if his concept were valid (and I don’t believe it is), such a change would be just as much a rearrangement rather than an overhaul as those electoral reforms are already proving.

Hinch was elected on credible (and in some cases, urgently indicated) policies: he should shun the allure of picking a pointless legal fight guaranteed to end badly, and focus instead on those policies. The Constitution has him snookered. The High Court would simply pot the black on him. It would be a silly waste of time, money, and public goodwill.

But this wouldn’t stop him attempting to explore, as a Senator, substantial ideas for genuine reform of the Senate, although the record level of self-interest and obsession with keeping their snouts in the trough means that whatever else is said of Australia’s MPs, the interest factor will be virtually zero.

Best to get on with the job at hand. Most of the people in Canberra, despite their protestations to the contrary, are really only concerned with staying there. If Hinch is to be different, there’s a big opportunity to prove it by standing out from the pack.

The clock is ticking.

 

In Dealing With Pauline Hanson, Remember Rob Borbidge

COALITION MPs who think Pauline Hanson must be vilified and her party smashed must reconsider; the inherent risks in any attempt at accommodation of the right-wing party are tempered by the dangers of literally ignoring it. A procession of state Coalition figures 15 years ago — headed by former Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge — offers an object lesson in the consequences of crucifying Hanson, One Nation, and the people who vote for it.

If there’s one thing that has generally been missed in much of the published commentary since last month’s election, it’s that the overall swing that occurred — in raw terms — was to the Right, the success of Nick Xenophon in South Australia notwithstanding, rather than to the Left.

Certainly, it’s the ALP and Bill Shorten who ostensibly emerge as the biggest winners and, in the House of Representatives at least, this is also certainly true; Labor now requires just seven additional seats to win an outright majority, and a swing on paper of just over 1% of the two-party vote would deliver them.

But with the Labor primary vote still languishing at a near-historical low of 35%, it would be unwise for Shorten to get too carried away with his own importance; votes obtained on preferences are every bit as valid as primary votes, but it is preferences — not outright support — that have pushed the insidious Shorten far closer to the finish line this time than any reasonable assessment would suggest was either merited or warranted.

And in that sense, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s coterie of “strategists” (and I use the term despairingly) would do well to look to the past, for just as night follows day, history is repeating itself in ways that could cost the Coalition very dearly indeed.

I have been relatively quiet these past few weeks; something rather splendid — sarcasm intended — that made its way into the general population from my son’s daycare centre six weeks ago performed a spectacular 180-degree rebound on me a couple of weeks ago with all the fury and malevolence of a Sarah Hanson-Young rant against reality, and despite being OK now, the past week has seen my workload ramp right back up including the resumption of my weekly field trips to Brisbane. There are things we should discuss, and over the next few days, we will cover some of them.

But the emergence of four Senators from One Nation, with Pauline Hanson at its helm, is a development than can scarcely come as much of a surprise in view of increasingly frequent Islam-related terrorist attacks this year, or given the vocal intentions emanating from some sections of the Right to abandon the Coalition in retaliation for the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull to the Liberal Party leadership late last year, and it is with this matter we restart our conversation this evening.

Let’s slip back in time: firstly to 1998 and then, more ominously, to 2001.

It is an irony lost on many, but had the Liberal Party not disendorsed Pauline Hanson in 1996 over remarks she made about Aborigines leading up to that year’s election, it is doubtful she would ever have broken through as a political force; her disendorsement oxygenated her campaign in the media, and — with no other local campaign to work on — the foot soldiers of Liberal Party branches in the seat of Oxley continued to toil for Hanson: delivering the manpower and resources to mount a credible campaign without the weight of the Liberal brand to back her.

That’s a matter of history, of course, and the Queensland Liberals probably had little choice but to show Hanson the door; since then she has used Asians, and now Muslims, as her pretext to stir up resentment among lower socio-economic groups and rednecks, and the proof lies in the fact (as we’ve said many times) that just as she’s adept at articulating “problems” in these areas, there is never a rational, credible “solution” in sight.

This time, the “solutions” — such as insisting on CCTV cameras in mosques to capture evidence of radicalising activities for use by law enforcement agencies — miss the obvious point that even were this silly idea to be implemented, the activity it contrived to target (if any, indeed, occurred) would simply be conducted at other venues, rendering the entire exercise pointless. But that’s a detail lost on the redoubtable Ms Hanson.

Even so, her win in Oxley in 1996, and the media attention it enabled her to generate, sounded a clarion call to every redneck in Australia to embark on race-related crusades in politics; it should be pointed out that aside from the lunar right-wing fringe, others who backed Hanson couldn’t be accurately described as “racist” at all: these were the people who felt alienated by rapid economic change, the digital revolution, and by globalisation, who feared for their jobs and livelihoods and their ability to provide for (and hold together) their families. These were (and are) the people who saw in Hanson a voice of “reason” that merely articulated their concerns without any deeper contemplation of the validity of her arguments, and as condescending as this might sound, it is not reasonable to expect every voter in Australia to be an expert on social policy, economics, and/or the minutiae of the political process.

In other words, some of the people attracted by Hanson were well-meaning and honest (if poorly informed) folk supporting someone they believed spoke for them, as was their right.

Where all of this crystallises into relevance in terms of the present situation federally begins back in Queensland, ahead of the 1998 state election, at which Hanson’s One Nation party scored 23% of the primary vote and 11 of the 89 seats in Parliament.

One constant about One Nation has been its appeal to voters in regional and provincial areas — hardly a shock, given communities in these areas are statistically much more likely to experience downturn and decline even in the face of overall economic expansion — and in a textbook illustration of how the National Party routinely called the shots in Queensland state politics, the Coalition government of Rob Borbidge went to the 1998 election with a strategy of preferencing One Nation ahead of Labor in all 89 seats.

For those who don’t recall, this strategy was a prescription for vicious internal brawling in Coalition ranks (and especially in Liberal-held areas in Brisbane where the Liberal moderates held sway), which allowed Labor — then led by Peter Beattie — to deploy the age-old Queensland argument against Borbidge that the ALP was united, but the Coalition was at war with itself over how to deal with the threat from the racist Right: a proposition the Coalition couldn’t (or wouldn’t) convincingly refute.

It didn’t help that some Liberal candidates (such as Steve Wilson, standing in the One Nation target seat of Ipswich) took it upon themselves to break ranks and refuse to issue preference recommendations placing One Nation ahead of the ALP: Wilson was instantly disendorsed for his trouble, and the ALP retained the seat that would arguably have fallen to One Nation (and thereby prevented Beattie taking minority government after the election) had the episode not occurred.

Most of One Nation’s 1998 Queensland votes — as they did federally on 2 July — came from people who in 1995 had voted for the Coalition.

The loss of government (with 31 seats and just 31% of the primary vote) was embarrassment enough for the Coalition, but worse was to follow; believing it had learned its lesson, by early 2001 the conservative parties had decided One Nation must be placed last in any and all circumstances, and — just to repay the favour — Hanson went on an “anti-incumbents” crusade, with One Nation preferences directed to the ALP and helping to blow away a seemingly unassailable Liberal state government in Western Australia and the conservative CLP regime in the Northern Territory.

By the time the tortuously conflicted Queensland Coalition faced off against the Beattie government in early 2001, the damage was done; now bent on placing One Nation last, Hanson’s outfit once again lined Borbidge up: and as some of his terrified backbenchers in provincial seats, sensing imminent annihilation, attempted to do seat-by-seat deals with One Nation in their own electorates, the facade of Coalition unity was rent asunder, and One Nation preferences poured onto ALP piles across Queensland, turning a likely Labor landslide into a near-existential shellacking. Labor won 66 seats; the Liberals just three, two of which were in doubt days after the election. One Nation lost most of its MPs, but the damage was done, and the Queensland Coalition commenced what would prove to be more than a further decade in opposition.

By contrast, the Howard government — itself facing an election — suddenly became very keen to mollify a lot of One Nation’s grievances, and by the time the MV Tampa appeared on the horizon, the government’s credentials on dealing with what would otherwise have become a signature issue for One Nation to latch onto were set in stone.

My apologies for the history lesson, but recent events bring what happened 15-20 years ago sharply back into focus; already, in the lead-up to the July election, we have witnessed Turnbull’s declaration that Pauline Hanson wasn’t welcome in Canberra — followed in short order not only by the resurrection of One Nation as a parliamentary force, but by One Nation preferences in lower house seats either contributing to the defeat of Liberal MPs (for example, Longman and Herbert) or contributing toward the overall swing against Liberal MPs in marginal seats who have held on, but with their margins drastically cut, in some cases to next to nothing.

Hanson holds a grudge, and so too do those who vote for her; the more fervid of her supporters, on the hard Right, view the Liberal Party as no different or better than the ALP: far from having “nowhere else to go,” as Liberal pollster Mark Textor infamously decreed of the party’s conservative and harder Right contingents following Turnbull’s replacement of Tony Abbott last year, the hard Right at least is more than happy to both withdraw its support in favour of a Hanson (or the ALA, or some other hard-right entity), and to double the insult by directing preferences to the ALP in the certitude that Labor is no better and no worse than the party lined up in their sights.

To these people, it matters nowt that the Liberal Party is nominally a conservative party, nor that it offers — at face value — an easier ticket than the ALP to getting the measures it wants into legislation; to Hanson’s supporters, the Liberal Party is filled with people who want to destroy their leader, put her back in gaol, and to tell them they are stupid and ignorant and bigoted: to them, the Liberals are just as bad as Labor and the Greens. There isn’t even a distinction to draw.

Perversely, the years of conniptions over what to do on the fraught issue of preferences and One Nation has probably only exacerbated this malignant assessment of the Liberals in One Nation eyes; by making such a big deal of it, the clear invitation was sent to the ALP to make an even bigger deal of it. Never mind that the Greens are, arguably, exponentially more odious and contemptible than One Nation: the Coalition has never sought to punish Labor electorally for its proximity to the Greens. No, even when the decision is to put Hanson last, there is a ready reservoir of shit to be tipped all over the Liberals, and when the decision is to put her before Labor, the tactical ineptitude on show merely invites being belted from arsehole to breakfast by literally every conceivable opponent.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the arrival of Hanson in Canberra — replete with garbled sentences and half-baked conclusions drawn from idiot-simple ideas — has put the issue of Muslim immigration onto the mainstream political agenda once and for all; it is the issue the major parties do not wish to talk about, let alone even acknowledge exists, for the ALP milks votes from the Islamic community whilst the Coalition is too scared to mention or acknowledge it, lest it be labelled “bigoted.”

I am no apologist for Pauline Hanson — and it’s so obvious that even certain long-term readers who once suggested I had much “in common” with her now concede my aversion to her is genuine — but I have always been emphatic that MPs of all colours are people first and politicians second, and deserve to be treated as such; there are exceptions (such as the liar Bill Shorten, and the cretinous pathology case Kevin Rudd), but the treatment doled out to Hanson personally over the years (and especially by the Liberal Party) borders on sub-human.

Whilst I agree with Derryn Hinch that Hanson is “full of shit” — after all, her views on Islam are so defective it’s clear she has no clue how to solve the problems she raises — I also believe she’s a damned side smarter than Jacqui Lambie, and treating her like a real person with bad ideas might be a bit more productive than treating her like Frankenstein with leprosy.

It is also the case that in the Senate, Turnbull is going to need every vote he can cobble together if his government is to pass any legislation whatsoever: Labor plus the Greens command 35 of the 76 Senate spots, and the Liberal-hating Jacqui Lambie makes that a lock for 36. If the left-leaning Nick Xenophon and his team of three can be enticed by Shorten, the opposition can block whatever it likes, which means that whatever he thinks of Hanson, Turnbull has no choice but to deal with her.

The first sign of any bullshit about “not accepting” the votes of Hanson and, ridiculously, the grotesque spectacle of Coalition MPs vaulting out of the Senate whenever Hanson and her minions line up with them during votes, will be a sign the Coalition has learned absolutely nothing.

The ALP has never had the slightest compunction in accepting parliamentary support from wherever it originates; it doesn’t get crucified over such matters: it doesn’t even get crucified over its links to violent, thuggish unions. Perhaps Coalition efforts might be better directed dealing with the predictably vacuous onslaught and turning it back whence it came, where the Senate votes of Hanson are concerned, than to negating those votes.

The people who vote for One Nation (and other entities of the harder Right) — almost three-quarters of a million in the lower house, and roughly double that number in the Senate — deserve better from national leaders than to be noisily dismissed as racist, bigoted, stupid, ignorant or offensive: and in demonising Hanson in these terms, Coalition MPs of the past were also guilty of demonising her supporters.

It isn’t like Jacqui Lambie, by whose own admission flitted from party to party seeking money, support and leverage simply to get her arse into a seat; Lambie’s only apparent principles seem to be based on getting taxpayer money thrown at various constituencies to buy their support, and nobody could accuse Hanson, at the very least, of that.

During the week, Turnbull announced, rather unconvincingly, that he could deal with Hanson; it’s a start, and it needs to go further.

John Howard understood that politics is the art of the possible and — in some cases, when confronted by circumstances he would prefer not to have to deal with — pragmatism dictated that giving a little bit away was a worthwhile price for the protection of his government and its ability to otherwise deliver the platform upon which it was elected in the first place.

I think that if Hanson is made to feel she has been listened to, taken seriously, and can see some kind of return on at least a portion of her wish list, the flow of preferences from One Nation next time will almost certainly favour the Coalition rather than its opponents.

The alternative storyline has already been played out once, and it isn’t pretty: One Nation preferences destroyed the Court government in WA; brought down a 23-year CLP administration in the NT; and helped lift Bob Carr to a landslide in 1999 over a first-term Liberal opposition that rated itself half a chance of returning to office.

It also destroyed Rob Borbidge in Queensland — not once, but twice — and left in a smoking ruin the political career of a good man who in other circumstances could have been a natural long-term Premier in the Sunshine State.

And as I said at the outset, the movement of votes at the election that has just concluded was toward the Right — not the Left, the appearance conjured by the final results in the lower house notwithstanding.

There are plenty of challenges Turnbull will face as he attempts to govern with minimal parliamentary authority, and we will return to some of the others in short order, but how he manages Hanson is probably the pivotal relationship he faces: not just now, for his government, but in terms of the fortunes of the Liberal Party federally in the medium term.

The potential for error — and disaster — is considerable, as is the scope to inflict collateral damage elsewhere: the excellent new leader of the Queensland LNP, Tim Nicholls, is already feeling the impact of resurgent One Nation poll numbers in state voting intention surveys.

History is repeating itself. Hanson is back, against all odds. Her party carries more clout (and oddly, more credibility) than the likes of Clive Palmer could ever have dreamed of.

The ball is in Malcolm’s court, but if the Liberal Party’s response echoes that of the late 1990s, its repercussions will be disastrous — and not just for the Coalition.

Snivelling, opportunistic grub Bill Shorten doesn’t care how he gets to be Prime Minister, so long as he gets there: and if the response to Hanson delivers Shorten that office, the effects on the Coalition might be bad, but the effects of a Shorten government would be cataclysmic for Australia.

Let’s hope those “strategists” have learned a bit during the parliamentary recess. They will have had to.

 

Wannabe Cretin: Turnbull Spares Australia Rudd Embarrassment

THE CABINET BRAWL over Kevin Rudd’s pitch as Secretary-General of the UN was grotesque; but it fades to irrelevance beside the embarrassment this narcissistic megalomaniac might cause if merrily sent on a global “look at me” tour with official sanction. Treacherous, psychotic lunatics are not export goods Australia should cultivate. By instructing Rudd to tell his story walking, Malcolm Turnbull was right: whatever criticism ensues.

If corrupt, disgraced former WA Premier Brian Burke had got it into his head, perhaps on account of his stint as an ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See, to seek the role of Secretary-General of the United Nations, would there be any kind of clamour — from anywhere — for the Australian government to “back the Australian candidate?”

Of course there wouldn’t be, and whilst I note that unlike Burke Kevin Rudd has never been charged with or convicted of official misconduct, in some respects Burke might make the more suitable candidate: and that is a judgement that takes some considerable lowering of comparative standards to be able to arrive at.

A judgement that should have been immediately rendered, however — rather than squibbed by a brawling federal Cabinet and handballed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for a “captain’s pick” — was belatedly delivered yesterday afternoon, with the announcement that the federal government would not formally endorse (and thus support) Rudd’s maniacal quest to take charge of the United Nations; better late than never.

But the only argument of any logical soundness at all for the Turnbull government to do so (and it’s a very poor one at that) was that he’s “the Australian candidate;” even a cursory glance at his alleged diplomatic achievements, and his malodorous record over decades in personnel “management,” is sufficient to conclusively judge Rudd an advertisement for Australia that should never be aired at all, let alone permitted to grace the widescreen of the global stage.

By contrast — as has been noted in the mainstream press over the past day — had it been a question of an ALP-aligned nominee such as Kim Beazley, the current conservative government would in probability have (rightly) endorsed him without reserve. It’s a very salient point.

There has been an orgy of comment erupting in the mainstream press since the announcement of Turnbull’s decision to let Rudd twist and dangle in the wind — from both the usual anti-Coalition suspects (the ABC, Crikey, Fairfax) as well as those organs of the press that are usually friendlier to the Coalition from the Murdoch stable — that, distilled to its essence, suggests Turnbull has been petty, biased, vindictive, and just plain nasty.

On the face of it, perhaps he has. But a decision of the kind Rudd has attempted to manipulate Turnbull into is not one to be determined on the basis of trivialities, and whether any or all of the puerile insults being flung at Turnbull ring true or not, the decision he has ultimately made is unquestionably correct.

Has Turnbull been “rolled” by conservative MPs within his party room and/or Cabinet? I doubt it. Are those conservatives able to claim a very big triumph in the washout from this, given their near-complete hatred of the man they have just seen nobbled? You bet your life they are.

And stories about the diminished authority Turnbull now possesses — like today’s Editorial in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail, which fatuously asserts the decision to veto Rudd delivered a “brutal blow” to Turnbull’s leadership — will, by virtue of the abjectly pathetic Coalition election campaign and the correspondingly pathetic result it produced, burst forth on every conceivable issue until either a further electoral pronouncement is made on Turnbull in three years’ time or he leaves his post in the interim.

But the simple truth is that Cabinet was asked to consider on its merits a request from Rudd for Commonwealth sanction and resources to pursue the Secretary-Generalship of the United Nations as an official Australian candidate, and in this sense, nobody could argue the outcome ignored considerations of merit.

It couldn’t have ignored Rudd’s idea of international diplomacy, most infamously encapsulated by his outburst against the Chinese some years ago as “rat fuckers.”

It couldn’t have ignored Rudd’s idea of personnel management, which over decades of involvement in Australian governance — openly or behind the scenes — has been manifest in a scorched Earth policy with a trail of broken careers in its wake, from seasoned senior Queensland bureaucrats in the early 1990s to an endless procession of burnt-out staff through his Prime Ministerial office, and right down to his abuse of a junior female RAAF aide that reduced her to tears for no better reason than he objected to the refreshments available on a short VIP flight.

It couldn’t have ignored the volumes of evidence of his methods in dealing with those with he is charged with working most closely; a little trip down memory lane appears below for those interested in such tawdry details.

And it surely couldn’t have ignored the fact that if Rudd were to become Secretary-General of the United Nations, that body — supposedly the peak forum of the international system — would have at its head an individual once thrown out of a venue in New York that provided sexually explicit entertainment, heavily inebriated, for “inappropriate conduct.”

The reality, as difficult as it might be for Rudd and those voices in the press who deign to continue to root for him, is that there is nothing to recommend the former Prime Minister for such a plum posting, and with the imprimatur of the Commonwealth to boot.

Anyone who knows — directly or second-hand — exactly what Rudd is like knows, deeply, how flawed and irretrievably unsuitable he is for the United Nations post; those of us who have variously characterised him as psychotic, psychopathic, narcissistic, cretinous, egomaniacal and/or a pathology case do so not to be petty, or nasty, or any of the insults now being flung at Turnbull, but because it is in fact true.

Just in case there is any doubt on this point, Rudd, chillingly, saw fit yesterday to validate virtually every criticism his detractors have ever levelled at him, releasing private correspondence dating back almost a year between himself and Turnbull that purported to show Turnbull had reneged on a deal to support him.

The Rudd release of private communications is, in itself, an appalling act of poor faith and a breach of trust, which is only worsened by the fact Turnbull himself warned Rudd months ago that neither he, nor Cabinet, would back him for the UN post: a development that surely supersedes any previous assurances, but a detail Rudd conveniently saw fit to omit from his jaundiced fit of pique yesterday afternoon.

If nothing else, Rudd’s actions underline the entrenched treachery and bastardry his old colleagues at the ALP have accused him of for decades.

Some of those past colleagues — most notably, former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally — have had the integrity in recent days to remain honest in their assessments of Rudd, with Keneally’s suggestion her pet dog would make a better candidate probably an insult to the dog only on account of it being likened to Rudd in the first place.

Others, however — led by alleged leadership prospect Tanya Plibersek, who has never hid her contempt for Rudd in the past, but has seen fit to engage in the same petty politicking she accuses Turnbull of, claiming Rudd was an outstanding candidate vetoed by the Coalition to settle a vendetta — ought to be ashamed of themselves.

In the end, Turnbull explained his decision by saying that in his judgement, Rudd was not a suitable candidate “for that particular role,” which is an understatement.

The prospect of this supreme egotist turning up in corridors of power across the world, demanding meetings with officials and government leaders off the cuff, throwing God knows what insults around at Australia’s most powerful international partners in unguarded moments near microphones or listening ears (and throwing all manner of tantrums whenever things don’t go to plan) is a nightmare scenario Turnbull is right to dissociate his government from.

And that’s just where Rudd’s campaign for the position is concerned. Imagine the embarrassment Australia might be subjected to if he succeeded.

If there is merit at all in the prospect of Kevin Rudd as Secretary-General of the United Nations, let the vanquished candidate now reflect that really, what happened yesterday might be the fault of nobody but himself; if he is qualified at all for that post — a point of obvious conjecture — perhaps he might consider that the gleeful and/or oblivious alienation of people he indulged himself with for decades just might have come at a price.

There can be no room for sentiment, and no entertainment of shades of grey in what is a black-and-white proposition.

There are too many question marks over Kevin Rudd as a candidate for a high-profile position of global governance to make the risk of endorsing him worth any benefits (real, perceived or imagined) he might deliver, and specious arguments that he should have been supported simply because he is Australian must be dismissed as the juvenile claptrap they are.

Turnbull would have been criticised over this whichever way he jumped, and just as those peddling mock outrage today are shining a light on how this government will be treated in the immediate term, the opposite call on Turnbull’s part would have been disastrous.

It would almost certainly have elevated Liberal leadership ructions, for a start; but more importantly, it would have left this country exposed to unquantifiable embarrassment at the hands of a volatile and self-consumed psychopath in a context Australia could ill afford any opprobrium or rancour Rudd managed to generate along the way.

It was only half in jest I suggested Brian Burke might be less unsuitable than Rudd; after all, Burke at least was civil, and not just in front of a camera.

A narcissistic lunatic is not the kind of commodity Australia needs to export to the world with a letter of introduction and a blank cheque.

Whatever else people might think of Turnbull, he was dead right on this.

 

 

Shorten “Dream Team” A Foul, Seething Brew From The Septic Tank

OPPOSITION “LEADER” Bill Shorten has reshuffled his frontbench days after a rearrangement of the Coalition benches, describing his new shadow ministry as a “dream team” that will make Education the opposition’s focus; if the line-up announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week was a damp squib, the ALP’s is far worse. Rather than talk of a “dream team,” a creature from beneath the septic tank is a more useful analogy to paint.

It was with no apparent sense of irony that Fairfax journalist Nicole Hasham, writing in The Age yesterday, eulogised

“Senator Penny Wong, one of the (Labor) party’s most accomplished talents, will give up the trade and investment portfolios for the coveted foreign affairs gig. She will juggle the responsibilities with an already large workload as Labor’s leader in the Senate.”

The truth be told, Wong — a Finance minister in the last Labor government who was party to the accrual of hundreds of billions of dollars in Commonwealth debt — is an unrepresentative and unreconstructed socialist warrior of the hard Left, who is an offence to notions of responsible governance; the pinnacle of her stint in her previous position was to campaign to implicate the Governor-General in an undemocratic conspiracy to shut down an inconvenient Royal Commission into Labor’s lawless union paymasters, turning on its head at a stroke Labor’s solemn post-1975 dictum that “the Governor-General takes advice from his Prime Minister and from no-one else” (outraged Whitlamesque emphasis added).

It is not known what value (if any) Wong delivered in the areas of Trade and Investment, although as shadow Foreign minister she now has a platform upon which to spruik internationally her support for the so-called BDS campaign (boycott, diversity, sanctions), aimed at Israel and so beloved of the Communist Party Greens and others on the lunatic socialist Left, that is sure to win great acclaim among Australia’s international partners (including Israel) for its sobriety, its maturity, and its lack of doctrinal strictures.

Of course, I speak in jest, but to read the sage words of Uncle Fairfax’s scribe, you could be forgiven for thinking poor Wong has actually deigned to make some sort of sacrifice as part of the switch. It’s as bad as that. And truly, the whole tawdry business of Labor’s new front bench gets a whole lot worse from there.

First things first: in the interests of balance, those readers who prefer the News Ltd take on the ALP reshuffle to the Fairfax one can access coverage here; but just as I was scathing (with good reason) of the reshuffle unveiled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week, the criticism I made that Turnbull’s line-up was a damp squib and a disappointment pales into insignificance when ranged against objective consideration of the “dream team” Labor “leader” Bill Shorten wheeled out yesterday.

In fact, rather than any talk of a “dream team,” a more fitting comparison would be with the mythical creature from beneath the septic tank: a foul, evil specimen with nothing to recommend it; noxious, vile and malevolent, Shorten’s motley crew represents the stuff of nightmares — and based on what it says on the label, would prove an unmitigated disaster if ever sworn into office on the allocation of responsibilities that has been doled out.

If there are two things Labor thinks it “owns,” they are Health and Education; the ALP seems to think that provided it talks incessantly about those portfolio areas, it will storm home at elections it contests: and as the recent election brutally showed, if the party’s “standard” message on these themes isn’t registering strongly enough to get the job done, then Labor is perfectly happy to lie through its teeth — a la “Mediscare” — in a desperate attempt to ensure that it prevails.

In this sense, the move by deputy Labor leader (and sometime Prime Ministerial wannabe) Tanya Plibersek to the Education portfolio can hardly be seen as positive; certainly, Plibersek has a higher media profile and more authority than the former spokesperson, Kate Ellis. But the chatter emanating from Canberra in the immediate aftermath of the election was that Plibersek had set herself to be shadow Health minister, so her enthusiasm for the role she finds herself in is questionable from the start. “(Education) is one of those areas that makes a difference to an individual’s life,” The Australian quoted her as saying.

No shit, Sherlock.

But the near-invisible shadow Health minister from the last Parliament, Catherine King, has been left in her position, which invites the conclusion that just as he did before, Shorten will once again more or less usurp his frontbencher and arrogate the bulk of comment on Health to himself; then again — with ominous suggestions about “continuing to fight to save Medicare” emanating from the ALP a pointer to the likelihood that “Mediscare” is by no means dead and buried — it probably isn’t going to matter a can of beans who prosecutes the Labor argument on health given we already know it’s just a crock of shit to begin with.

Even so, Shorten’s pronouncement that “Education…is the first order economic and social priority for Labor in the 45th Parliament” serves potent notice to the Liberal Party — and to the rest of the country — that the brazen lies the ALP resorted to on Health are likely to be replicated in Education, and in this sense, Shorten’s proud assertion of the firepower he has added to the education-related positions bears this out.

Kate Ellis (who loses the central Education role to Plibersek) remains as Early Childhood, TAFE and Vocational Education spokesperson; aside from the small matter of TAFE actually being a state responsibility, Ellis’ primary value on the ALP frontbench (which she demonstrated as a member of the “handbag hit squad” during Julia Gillard’s tenure as Prime Minister) is as a whinger unapologetic about turning everything into a heavily partisan political attack, and someone who will regurgitate whatever slogan or talking point has been cooked up by her betters.

Terri Butler (Universities) is the sort of finger-shaking, sanctimonious socialist claptrap purveyor who, by rights, should not be charged with the oversight of the mass education of young people at all; education and brainwashing are not the same thing. But anyone who has witnessed Butler’s appearances on the ABC’s loathsome #QandA programme knows all too well that where Butler is concerned, there are two perspectives: the way of the Left, and the wrong way.

Doug Cameron (Skills) doesn’t even get marks from me for being a Scotsman; like so many British unionists, Cameron mysteriously surfaced in Australia after Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher smashed the British union movement by (shock, horror) the involuntary imposition of democracy and the rule of law on trade unions and by outlawing the ability of the TUC to hold the UK to ransom, usually with the explicit objective of trying to bring down a Conservative government (which it did, successfully, in 1974, but came off second-best against Margaret ten years later).

Cameron’s unspectacular career since entering Parliament shows every fidelity with being an entitled, time-serving union hack rather than a serious proponent of meaningful policy; like so many refugees from British unions who find succour within the ALP or at Australian unions, he probably can’t believe his luck that despite twice being elected with a mandate to clean the union movement in this country up, the Liberal Party is likely to prove unable to do so on account of the composition of the Senate. Exactly what “skills” Cameron is meant to bring to his new role are uncertain, but the fight against industrial changes are likelier to feature than any substantial ideas relating to skilled employment, productivity growth, or similarly novel concepts.

I’ll confess I don’t know enough about Andrew Giles (schools) to offer detailed comment, but all anyone needs to know about the Labor approach to schools is encapsulated in a single word — Gonski — which, by the time the next election rolls around, will have morphed into a solemn trillion-dollar “package” that is held aloft as the greatest commitment to educational advancement in the history of this country.

Again, I speak in jest to some extent, but you get the drift.

But beyond the Education and Health portfolios, the clangers from Shorten continue.

Surely, Chris Bowen — who as Treasurer under Kevin Rudd proved just another slogan regurgitator in the Kate Ellis vein — is too tarnished and bereft of credibility to continue as shadow Treasurer now, having put his name to Labor’s $110bn slate of tax slugs and the admission the budget deficit nevertheless would worsen over the medium term had the ALP won the 2 July election; but in the grand old tradition of both major parties overestimating the value of some of their “stars,” Bowen has been left in his post.

A shrewder motive might be ascertained from the promotion of Richard Marles to Defence, a move that could bolster his leadership credentials in the event Shorten (regrettably) falls under a bus: someone from the Labor Right will need to stand against Anthony Albanese or Plibersek at some point, after all.

The notion of former ACT Chief Minister (and former Canberra bureaucrat and union hack) Katy Gallagher being made responsible for Small Business is as obscene and grotesque as Turnbull’s move to hand the portfolio in government to a National Party MP, and a neophyte at that: it remains to be seen what level of complicity Labor will have in this area in trying to advance the insidious spread of the unions as they seek to re-infiltrate, by stealth, industries and sectors that have progressively (and astutely) wiped their hands of them.

In fact, the frontbench Shorten has announced is as heavy on union hacks and spivs as any that has preceded it over the past decade.

An opportunity has been missed to move Employment and Workplace Relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor to a more suitable post; anyone can see that having the brother of a notorious CFMEU boss responsible for industrial policy is an intolerable and irreconcilable conflict, but such considerations of propriety are of no importance to “modern” Labor and its union-dominated, union-dictated agenda these days.

The idea of someone as slippery and as untrustworthy as factional spiv Sam “Dastardly” Dastyari being made responsible for Consumer Affairs would be laughable if it weren’t so ridiculous, or serious.

And the notion of Shorten himself being responsible for Aboriginal Affairs — an area he looked, and sounded, completely out of his depth in whenever he strayed into it during the last Parliament — can only be interpreted as a shameless attempt to rip off former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who, unlike Shorten, had cultivated real and deep links with Aboriginal Australia over many years. It isn’t difficult to see this self-appointment becoming a rod for Shorten’s back: even if, as loudly trumpeted, newly elected Aboriginal identity Pat Dodson is to be catapulted into an assistant spokesman’s role to help out.

Just as Turnbull was guilty of retaining too many underperforming time-servers on his own front bench, so too has Shorten committed the same error, with ageing warrior Jenny Macklin (a 20-year veteran of the Labor frontbench) kept in her position of Family Services spokesperson when a vacancy might have given someone younger an opportunity; Senator Kim Carr — dumped by his own faction — has been kept by Shorten for no better reason than the murky variables of his own survival in the ALP leadership.

When you consider just how insidious Shorten really is as a candidate for high office, such a criterion is hardly a satisfactory basis for doling out positions on the ALP frontbench.

Just about the only positive I can find in the Shorten announcement is the heavy demotion of Stephen Conroy to the posts of shadow Special Minister of State and shadow minister for Sport; it’s disappointing, however, that given Shorten has already defied the factions in keeping Carr that he didn’t dump Conroy altogether: a hell of a factional operator Conroy might be, but a suitable candidate for ministerial office he isn’t — and any doubt about that is resolved with a single glance in the rear-view mirror at his plot to regulate, and censor, the media when a senior Cabinet minister under Gillard.

Selling this line-up, Shorten — in what must rank as one of the most oxymoronic statements by a political “leader” in recent times — said “the challenge for Labor is that we’ve got more talented people than places to put them, which is the opposite to the government,” which begs the question: who? Where are they? A ragtag assortment of ALP bovver boys, socialist misadventurers and union spivs (the latter representing just 9% of all private sector employees now) does not translate to a group of talented people at all, let alone amount to an adequate quantum of talent to be crowing about.

In fact, there are two identifiable purposes behind this line-up, and two only: one, to further the creeping campaign of the union movement to slither its way through the back door into businesses and industries that long ago turned their backs on it; and two, to provide the firepower — the rat cunning, the lack of ethics or scruples, and the sheer effrontery — to attempt to win the next election with an even less honest or principled pitch than the blatant lies upon which Shorten sought to be elected just three weeks ago.

This is no “dream team;” it offers no vision or substantial offer to Australia whatsoever; and it is, to put it mildly, a toxic and seething brew of squirming appetites and competing egos that is no masterstroke or a blueprint for governance.

This is, to cite an urban legend, the political equivalent of the creature from beneath the septic tank. If the Turnbull government has any bottle at all, its top priority is to slay the beast before it can inflict untold damage upon the national interest in government.

Given the first-term Coalition administration lacked the killer instinct where its opponents were concerned, it remains to be seen whether it can get this crucial piece of strategic targeting right in its second.