A Policy Agenda — Not Hubris — Key To Holding Government

IF YOU DO the same things the same way, the same result is inevitable; yet this truism of life, love, politics (and virtually anything else) seems too complicated for the parliamentary class — and, topically, Malcolm Turnbull and his government — to comprehend. The current PM is the latest in a long line of leaders who will fall on the sword of abject stupidity this year. More will follow. But an agenda, not slogans and hubris, could be his salvation.

Is it too late for Malcolm Turnbull to “remake” his government, salvage his Prime Ministership, provide leadership to his country, and forge a meaningful, valuable legacy by which future generations might regard his tenure with a bit of respect?

I think it is; others will disagree. But since publication yesterday of the piece I promised last week — a stocktake at the top of the year of how it is likely to unfold, and what it holds in store for Turnbull — there are a couple of items that have appeared in the media that fit the theme, and this morning I want to make some remarks about them.

An article by Peter van Onselen — which, admittedly, I have sat on for a few days — makes the cogent case about policy that could almost have been penned as a parallel piece to the political analysis offered in this column yesterday, for the itinerary of policy abrogation van Onselen offers is deadly in its clarity, and galling in scope.

If you are a liberal or a conservative, there is nothing for you at the Turnbull government, as things stand.

Economic reform, smaller government, industrial relations reform, tax reform, budget repair, education reform, media law reform…this list, by no means extreme or (to use the ridiculous taunt of the Left, eagerly parroted by the left-leaning press pack) “far Right,” reads like some line-by-line itemisation of the Howard government. Until Howard inadvisedly sprang WorkChoices on the Australian public without taking the package to the 2004 election, and doubled down on that folly by placing serial bungler and conservative disappointment Kevin Andrews in charge of implementing it, the Howard government derived vast electoral and political success from its stature as a reformist administration of the mainstream Right.

Readers well know I am far less a liberal than a conservative, despite a sprinkling of liberal positions across an otherwise rational conservative outlook, so when van Onselen nominates things like reform to asylum seeker policies — which I take implies some watering down of policies that have been abandoned once before, by Labor (in cahoots with the Communist Party Greens) in 2008, to disastrous effect and at the cost of well over a thousand lives — I bristle.

But let’s take the suggestion at its word: this is exactly the kind of issue the fawning elites of the liberal Left, who adored Malcolm but were never going to vote for him, nonetheless believed he would champion if elevated to the Prime Ministership in Tony Abbott’s stead; it isn’t just the conservative flank of the Liberal Party Turnbull has thumbed his nose at (or more precisely, extended the metaphorical one-fingered salute to wherever practicable), but the left wing contingent in the inner cities whose social agenda has always — whether he likes it or not — been Malcolm’s natural constituency.

A free vote on marriage equality? Even this issue, historically beloved of Turnbull (even if not on my own wish list), is a nugget of classical liberalism that the Prime Minister is too timid to countenance. The notion of being “hamstrung” by the conservative flank of the Liberal Party be damned: such alleged constraints didn’t stop him from signing the Paris Agreement on climate change — vehemently opposed by conservative liberals, and by anyone in the Australian community with any brains at all — and the truth is that he simply doesn’t have the bottle (or actual leadership skills) to act.

The fiction that Turnbull is a hostage to the conservative wing of the Liberal Party is just that — a fiction — and the notion that allegedly draconian policies like the current arrangements for processing asylum seekers has been maintained because Turnbull “dare not” overturn them somehow derives from the threat of leadership destruction doesn’t hold water. These policies work (like it or not) and even were Turnbull inclined to be rid of them, he has failed to articulate any alternative vision whatsoever let alone attempt to implement one.

And in any case, Turnbull has had no qualms over almost 18 months about ignoring everything else the conservative flank of the party is interested in; the list of areas that are ripe for reform presented by van Onselen (and lamented in this column regularly) is proof of it.

The fact, as van Onselen notes with deadly accuracy, is that “Do-nothing Turnbull” now rules for the sake of retaining power: it is not satisfactory, it will achieve nothing, and it will almost certainly lead to electoral defeat whenever the next election occurs unless a drastic recalibration of the government takes place.

The practice of government by spin, slogans, stunts, “smart answers,” and smug hubris has worn more than a little thin in the decade since Kevin Rudd pioneered it as a nihilistic strategy to win power for the ALP after almost 12 years in the political wilderness.

In the years since, both parties (and incorporating a slew of governments across the states, as well as at the federal level) have increasingly perpetuated the same narrow agenda whose key pillars are political correctness, risk aversion, facile rhetoric, and a slavering pursuit of policies to “deal with” climate change (about which Australia, with less than 1% of world emissions, can make exactly no difference to global outcomes whatsoever — and even that is if you accept climate change is man-made, rather than part of a natural long-term cycle).

Those critical of this view from the harder Right will counter that the Abbott government tried, and failed, to implement a substantive policy agenda.

But even that was hard to describe as “liberal” or “conservative,” beyond stopping the flow of asylum seeker boats and getting rid of the carbon tax; those items aside, the Abbott government was a big-spending, big-taxing outfit whose program of budget repair was predicated on steep tax hikes aimed at its own natural constituency rather than slashing the unaffordable spending on expensive social measures and thousands of unnecessary bureaucrats gleefully locked into place by the Gillard government.

The Abbott government abolished the carbon tax, but left the compensation measures in place. It agitated, vainly, for more expensive social spending in the form of its paid parental leave scheme, funded by more tax hikes on the business community. It sought to get rid of the mining tax (which raised virtually no money) but through timidity and appalling tactical ineptitude did a deal with Clive Palmer that left billions of dollars in related spending in place to get the measure through the Senate.

Many times, I was asked by people why I supported the “far Right” Abbott government: in all cases, I responded (correctly) that it wasn’t “far Right” — but it wasn’t liberal, it wasn’t conservative, it was simply an assortment of disparate measures that defied classification at all. And once the agenda was largely abandoned, Abbott became yet another proponent of the same mishmash of prevailing left-leaning rubbish that all the other governments around the country have been guilty of pursuing.

Unaware that there is a rock band (or a rock song? I’m showing my age 🙂 ) by the same name, I have referred to this as a “turgid miasma:” and such a confluence of political posturing isn’t a substitute for a proper suite of policy objectives either.

There are some who watch former Abbott Chief of Staff Peta Credlin on Sky News, or read her missives in the Daily Telegraph, and who have started to lament that Credlin should be “our first female Liberal Prime Minister.” These people have absolutely no insight whatsoever into the role Credlin played in the dysfunction of the Abbott government or its avoidable downfall, and have been hoodwinked by the exercise in image rehabilitation her media activities constitute. They can’t be told about her appalling management style, or the fact that she had oversight and final veto over everything Abbott’s government did, or that she was the “mastermind” (for want of any more suitable term) of its parliamentary tactics, which were abjectly pathetic and ran completely counter to delivering outcomes based on sound governance.

This is why I cannot support a return to the Liberal leadership by Tony Abbott, despite my well-known view that Malcolm Turnbull’s position as PM is untenable (not that it should ever have commenced in the first place): you get Abbott, you get Credlin. If she is not restored to her old office in Parliament House, you get her at the end of a phone line. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, pointless making Abbott PM again, for not only was the agenda he pursued questionable, but the strategies and tactics used to prosecute it — Credlin’s department — were utterly useless.

With all this in mind, it came as some surprise this morning to see Mark Kenny — writing in the Fairfax press — arguing (with an apparent straight face) that a forthcoming speech by Malcolm Turnbull to the National Press Club offers an opportunity to reassert “his brand, his authority.”

Through his own actions (and it has been a case of action, not inaction: witness the farce of the embarrassing tax reform “debate” he allowed to play out last year ago, crippling the authority of his Treasurer in the process as a case in point), Turnbull has already comprehensively trashed his own brand — be it with liberals, conservatives, or the socialists who once noisily barracked for him) and squandered whatever authority he might have wielded.

The string of botched reshuffles, promoting leadership adherents ahead of any rational political judgement. The failure to call an election late in 2015 — on the thoroughly erroneous strategic miscalculation that he was “new” — that he would have romped home at. The said tax reform “debate.” The appalling election campaign over which he presided, and which arguably reaped a greater return than it deserved. The triumphant taunting of the Liberals’ conservatives, some of whom look likely to be silly enough to stomp out of the party, too incensed at being goaded to contemplate the damage they will do to the conservative polity in this country. On and on and on it goes. The list of examples is endless.

Can Malcolm retrieve himself? I doubt it. Yet in a surprising piece of insight, and speaking of mid-term leadership changes (with a comparative look at Gladys Berejiklian in NSW), Kenny writes that

“If there is a lesson for the incoming Gladys Berejiklian, it is to govern outwardly, rather than for cackling mob of insatiable media reactionaries and internal malcontents. Do that, and the opposition will be hemmed in – not the other way around.

“For Turnbull, who took the alternative, futile, path of appeasement, there has been compound failure: vastly lower standing with voters but with even more dissent from within – witness the outpourings of Abbott, George Christensen, and now the emergent threat of a breakaway party led by Cory Bernardi.”

In other words, not even the forthcoming National Press Club speech he trumpets so loudly is likely to resuscitate Turnbull’s fortunes.

To be sure, Turnbull isn’t the first leader to fall into the trap of the turgid miasma, and in this era of “modern” politics, he isn’t likely to be the last; the ALP and the Greens in particular, whose historic positioning on the spectrum at least mark out that awful mishmash as something they can own, will keep on playing the same game — sometimes they will fall into office for a while, and when the damage they inflict on the country becomes impossible to deny, they will get thrown back out again.

But on the conservative side of politics, where finger-shaking political correctness and “compassion” predicated on bottomless buckets of money that don’t actually exist are out of place as a one-legged man at an arse-kicking competition, talk — and the wanton flinging of money — simply won’t cut it.

If Turnbull is remotely serious about salvaging his Prime Ministership and his government, the only way forward is a comprehensive program of legislative reform designed to fundamentally overhaul all the areas of governance in which responsible and properly calibrated mainstream right-wing ideas can extract improvements in the national interest; the list of areas at the top of this article, whilst obvious places to begin, is by no means exhaustive.

At the very least, it would give the troops something to fight for — and a platform on which to fight any early election, in sharp contrast to the vacuous compassion and “fairness” blather Bill Shorten will deploy, as sure as night follows day, to win votes without actually being responsible for all that much afterwards.

“Jobs and Growth” doesn’t cut it: and in any case, six months after an election and nothing to show for it, this nauseating slogan has already been exposed as just another tired piece of rhetoric.

The Prime Minister — like the rest of Australia’s elected representatives — can talk until the cows come home, and ever weary, people will listen.

But if all the talk in the world adds up to nothing more than smug hubris and empty declarations of competence that are completely contradicted by a lack of tangible outcomes, voters are not going to be impressed.

The electorate has just about had enough. Turnbull will probably be its next victim. Many more will follow until the penny drops, whenever that might be.

‘Annus Horribilis’ Looming For Turnbull, Coalition

ANOTHER RESHUFFLE — a task seemingly cursed for Malcolm Turnbull — and bad polls are not the only threats to his position in 2017, but are headline items in an ominous list featuring a threadbare agenda, a hostile Senate, a likely WA state election loss, One Nation, and continued fracturing of Coalition support. Turnbull is unlikely to last the year as PM. The Coalition is set to pay for ills and misdeeds this column has increasingly warned against.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, if ever (and I have been watching politics like a hawk since my early teenage years more than 30 years ago), Australia is in the grotesque position of having a Prime Minister who will not only be torn down as a result of persistent dreadful polling, but has personally provided the imprimatur for doing so.

In nominating 30 consecutive losing Newspolls as the pretext for engaging in the daylight assassination of former PM Tony Abbott less than 18 months ago, Malcolm Turnbull should have known that not only would the same yardstick be applied to him, but that if it did he would not survive a run of 30 losing polls, or anything approaching it, and having notched up the first six consecutively after last year’s election and prior to Christmas, it seems only a matter of time before Turnbull’s numbers, figuratively and literally, come up.

Edging toward late January, we are yet to see the first Newspoll for 2017, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that when the first survey for the year appears, it will be a case of “seven down, 23 to go;” the early polls we have already seen are not good for the government — Essential showing it behind Labor to the tune of 57-43, and ReachTel in smackdown territory with the Coalition trailing 46-54 — and even if Newspoll simply maintains its year-end 48-52 result from December, which seems unlikely, the aggregate of these polls makes it difficult to credibly claim that Turnbull’s government is not at least leaching further support to the opposition.

This column broke the news pf a putative move against Labor “leader” Bill Shorten in late 2015 — stating he would either quit or be replaced in a leadership coup — and wore the opprobrium and some ridicule that followed the failure of this development to eventuate.

But Shorten was gone for all money, and the move was indeed afoot; what one can never mitigate against in politics is the capacity for events to intervene: and with a perfectly timed raid by Federal Police on the home of then-Turnbull minister Mal Brough, Shorten was afforded the wriggle room (and the issue) he needed to mount a rearguard action to fight off the move against him — and survived.

I tend to think that despite Labor’s closer-than-expected run at government at least year’s election, Shorten is unlikely to “lead” the ALP to another election; his approval levels remain crushingly low, and this charlatan and opportunistic, insincere dirtbag simply carries too much baggage — from Labor’s last election campaign, from his time as a union thug, from unanswered questions emanating from his past and his personal life — for the ALP to be able to afford to front another election with such a liability weighing it down.

In any case, the ALP vote (which failed last year to even reach 35%) is too low for Labor’s backroom spivs to be comfortable with, and I think any renewed push to get rid of Shorten will signal that the ALP not only regards itself a genuine threat at the next federal election, but that it is getting serious about returning to office.

And besides, the idea of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister isn’t just ridiculous, it is offensive.

But this is where any itinerary of battlefield markers that might give succour to Turnbull starts and ends; the truth is that Malcolm has a big problem, and in turn, that big problem is comprised of a multitude of smaller ones that are apparently beyond the capacity of the Coalition to deal with — at least whilst the current Prime Minister remains in his post.

One of the consequences of taking an essentially threadbare agenda to an election is that now the bills concerning union governance and oversight have passed Parliament (if in an unsatisfactorily distorted form), the Turnbull government is likely to be seen to drift; “jobs and growth,” whilst hardly original, must have seemed like an irresistible mantra to Coalition “strategists” unable to elicit anything of substance to work with from their minions, but a three-word slogan, as we have oft heard previously, is no substitute for an otherwise empty policy cupboard in government.

Key areas like industrial relations, education and — yes — taxation are years overdue for comprehensive, root-and-branch reform; but in almost every case, Turnbull’s government has no particular policy upon which to overhaul them.

The “jobs and growth” policy, brutally distilled, amounts to a modest tax cut for business (that will never pass the Senate), a hacking away at self-funded retirees to recoup far less money than the political rancour the change generated was worth; and a vague promise to extract “value” from the burgeoning welfare spend that eats up four dollars in every ten spent by the Commonwealth.

I heard junior minister and serial disappointment Kelly O’Dwyer on Melbourne radio station 3AW on Wednesday afternoon, talking about the so-called “Google tax” that is meant to bring miscreant multinationals to heel by forcing them to pay (wait for it) their “fair share” of company tax.

Yet O’Dwyer herself candidly admitted this measure would reap just $100 million per annum at a time the budget deficit is running at more than $40bn per year, and Commonwealth debt at almost half a trillion dollars; the measure will make next to no impact on the national finances whatsoever.

But antagonising major global corporations for whom it is cheaper to do business in most other places in the world — remember, Australia’s uncompetitive company tax rate of 30% is higher than almost every comparable OECD country — could well motivate them to scale back, sack workers, and withdraw the contributions they make to the local economy by operating here.

Perhaps this is the bottom line of “jobs and growth:” destroying them by trying to head off a cheap one-line attack from the ALP and the vapid Shorten.

What little agenda the Turnbull has indicated it will pursue will be distorted, emasculated and/or voted down by the Senate, which seems to think its role centres on causing terminal damage to the elected government in the lower house; the Senate has long abandoned any pretence of being a “states’ house” — the role envisaged for it by the founders of Federation — and even the claim that it is a house of review, where “diverse” voices fashion “better” policy outcomes, should be roundly dismissed: the misuse of proportional representation to create a political battering ram is certainly not the role that was envisaged for the upper house, which has played a central and increasing role in bring politics and politicians into abject disrepute in the past decade.

To the left, nauseating bleating about the inability of Coalition politicians to “negotiate” with the Senate can be sneeringly dismissed: it doesn’t really matter who leads the Liberal Party in one sense, for the Senate will, in most cases, find some spurious pretext upon which to vote down legislation or mangle it to render it useless.

Where “budget repair” is concerned, the Senate has even more self-interest in preventing such an enterprise from ever occurring: minor independent and small party MPs (who would never be elected under a reasonable and robust electoral system) have a vested interest in using the Senate to see truckloads of money shovelled out with their names attached to it.

And wherever Labor and the Communist Party Greens are concerned, these entities have now repeatedly shown they will do literally anything to stop the Coalition from repairing the damage they themselves inflicted on the national finances when last they were in office — up to and including causing significant and compounding damage to the national interest in the medium to long term by wrecking Australia’s once-envied financial position.

To the right (and I use the term loosely), Malcolm Turnbull enacted piecemeal “reform” early last year to the method by which the Senate is elected, at the high cost of all of what little political capital he had left to spend, and which predictably made little appreciable difference (if any) to the outcome of a double dissolution: the Senate crossbench, whilst milder in its stridency, remains hostile to the government, which now controls less than 40% of its votes, and for a measure that was meant to make it harder for peripheral candidates to be elected on a sliver of the vote, the Senate now incorporates 20 independent and minor party Senators.

Some success!

For all the talk on the Left of Turnbull having “sold out” to the Right of the Liberal Party, the fact is that those positions Turnbull has maintained — like maintaining the rigorous border protection regime set up on Abbott’s watch — are, pragmatically, policies that have been maintained simply because dismantling them would bring disastrous consequences: and this is not hyperbole, for we have seen what happens when such measures are abandoned, and the 1,200 deaths at sea that are a monument to crazed left-wing obsessions are a price Turnbull is rightly unprepared to risk a repeat of.

But when it comes to measures apart from things like border protection and trying to get some accountability from Australia’s burgeoning welfare spend, nobody can categorise Turnbull as a “hostage” to the Right in any way; obsessed with the sham of climate change, obsessed with turning Australia senselessly into a republic, long known for his desire to legalise gay marriage without obvious concern or attention to institutional and social repercussions, the Prime Minister who promised a “thoroughly liberal” government seems bogged down with fancies centred on changing the state and legislating social change.

The whole climate change fiasco, which is likely to collapse this year if the US walks away from it altogether, as seems likely, has for years been a battering ram with which to abuse “deniers:” hardly the sign of either a rigorous policy or a constructive force in our polity.

But with one thing and another, the electoral gods are lining up to punish Turnbull too.

The departure on Friday of NSW Premier Mike Baird will perhaps affect the federal Coalition little, save for some renewed tensions between the various factions within that state; even so, three NSW Premiers in six years is as poor a contribution to the stable governance of the state — the valid reasons for Baird’s resignation notwithstanding — as the four ALP Premiers in the six preceding years who collectively helped create the perpetual sense of chaos in Australia’s largest state.

Western Australia heads to the polls in seven weeks’ time for an election even Liberal Party insiders are beginning to privately concede is likely to be lost; defeat for the Barnett government — even narrowly — will be as humiliating for Turnbull as the landslide four years ago against Labor proved for then-PM Julia Gillard.

The July election saw the Liberal Party go backwards federally in WA for the first time since the GST election of 1998: hardly a badge of honour for Turnbull in what has consistently been one of the party’s two best-performed states.

And if a state election in Queensland results in the re-election of the Palaszczuk government, irrespective of the role One Nation might play, then Turnbull will be in real trouble not because of any overlap in federal-state issues but because this time, the resurgence and rise of One Nation appears to be fuelled by the paucity of policy and the leftward frift that are characterising Turnbull’s government.

And this brings us to the slow leaching of Coalition support to the parties of the far Right, and the near-certain prospect Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi will wreck the Coalition by walking out to start his own “conservative” party — and probably destroying the Turnbull government in the process anyway.

I have long said that whilst entities like One Nation attract rednecks and bigots, the bulk of the support they draw comes from disaffected voters who don’t fit the “bigot” mould but simply want to be listened to: something today’s two-party divide, with is confluence around the politically correct rhetoric of the Left, its choreography and its saccharine, risk-free objectives doesn’t deliver.

John Howard managed to tame and eventually see off this threat from One Nation by accommodating some of the more reasonable outcomes it sought whilst slapping down the more extreme elements. There is no indication Turnbull is even prepared to tackle the problem, let alone be able to prevail.

If just one lower house MP follows Bernardi (who, at the weekend, removed all Liberal Party branding from his social media platforms) into a rump “conservative” group, Turnbull will face justified calls for an immediate federal election on account of losing his lower-house majority; if two or more desert (and I am told there are up to four who will likely walk out the same day Bernardi does) then the Coalition’s position will become untenable regardless of what it might cobble together in terms of crossbench support.

There are those who think Bernardi is about to split the conservative side of politics and consign it to opposition for 20 years; I am not quite so pessimistic, although the pieces will have to be picked up — from opposition — and that process will probably still take at least three terms: long enough for the ALP and Greens to resume their nation-wrecking program of high debt, high taxes, social division and this time, with no glittering Howard-era set of numbers to inherit, economic carnage.

That’s a hell of a price to pay for an adventure in new conservative parties: but as ever, when you boil what Bernardi seems to be contemplating right down, it is anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-abortion and pro-guns — the agenda of a protest party, not one seriously inclined to govern.

To be sure, we haven’t even talked about external threats to Australia — be they military, economic, or just Trump — but we don’t have to.

The point is that there are so many perfect storms lined up with Turnbull’s fiefdom and due to strike this year, it is nigh impossible to see him surviving even part of the onslaught.

You can argue about events beyond control and all the rest of that type of excuse until the cows come home, but Turnbull has been PM for almost 18 months, and most of these land mines on the road ahead have been sown by his and his ministers’ actions during that time.

I have $20 riding on whether Turnbull is still Prime Minister come Easter time: if he isn’t, I’ll collect. As a conservative Liberal — and one who has no intention of deserting the party to join Bernardi’s mad little game — it gives me no real joy to say so.

But at some point this year, the total unsuitability of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister is likely to catch up with him. The disintegrating government barely re-elected last year would arguably have been better off losing. But it didn’t, and life goes on.

If that includes Turnbull at the helm after Easter, I’ll be stunned. If he makes it as far as that, the end will follow soon enough.

It’s time to get your running shoes, on Malcolm. You are going to need them.

 

President Trump: Australia Must Work With The USA

NEW US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has taken office with customary American pomp and ceremony, and has already started work on his quest to “Make America Great Again;” whether you love Trump or hate him, much of his agenda is far more orthodox than either his belligerent rhetoric or the outraged reaction to it from the Left might suggest. Trump should be given a fair go, and Australia must work with the new administration.

At the outset, I will simply note that whilst I am not a supporter per se of Donald Trump, I am not hostile to him either; my only position during the recent presidential election in the United States was that Hillary Clinton (irrespective of who else was standing from any party) should lose, and that excellent outcome materialised very sharply in early counting. The world and the US has dodged a bullet whatever Trump might be accused of or indeed do, and in particular, those who think women have been shortchanged by her defeat in any way imaginable should review this unrebuttable piece.

This column minutes its congratulations to Donald Trump on his ascension to the office of President of the United States, and sincerely wishes him well as he seeks to implement far-reaching change in one of the Western world’s leading democracies; stripped of the rhetoric and assessed on its merits, there is as much to commend his agenda as there is to express unease over, but should the new President succeed he will leave the United States in far more robust shape than he found it after eight years of a socialist experiment that can only be described, domestically and internationally, as a failure.

One of the great ironies, as Trump settles into his new post, is that the chief gripe of the assorted socialists and other left-wing fruit cakes who have staged noisy demonstrations across America and around the world derives squarely from what Trump has actually been elected to do — govern in the best interests of the USA — and the nihilism and cult-like rage over the vanquishing of Hillary Clinton aside, Trump promises a revolution every bit as far-reaching as that overseen by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, which arguably restored a post-Vietnam America traumatised by the Nixon years and crippled by the Carter years to the position of global pre-eminence it had enjoyed in the early decades following World War II.

The Barack Obama presidency wasn’t as bad as that of Jimmy Carter, but by God it came close.

Trump should be lauded, not ridiculed, for his desire to establish better relations with arch-enemy Russia and is leader, Vladimir Putin, in particular; so low had US-Russian relations fallen during the Obama years that a third world war has become a distinct possibility for the first time in 30 years, and the Obama model of delivering rhetoric designed to humiliate Russia (a “regional power,” in Obamaspeak) whilst turning a blind eye to the threat it poses — even pontificating about eliminating the US nuclear arsenal — shows an ignorance of world affairs and historical strategic risk that placed not just America, but the rest of the world, in existential peril.

For years, it has been an open secret that Russia has been modernising, upgrading and expanding its strategic capabilities; for years, it has been building vast underground bunkers to shelter its people — an effort that has accelerated in recent times — and the Obama position, that Russia represents little risk and can be humiliated and put back in its box, is lunacy.

The world has become a much more dangerous place on Obama’s watch; in eight years we have seen Russian insurgents destabilise Ukraine, Russia itself annex the Crimea, forces aligned to the Kremlin commence positioning for a possible move against the Baltic states, China begin to rattle the sabres of war over its claim to the entire South China Sea, building military installations on reclaimed islands in that waterway in defiance of international law, the growth of the threat posed by North Korea, the rise of Islamic State and an apparent US strategy to deal with it that has been completely unproductive, and a deal to “disarm” Iran that any honest assessment of shows the theocracy in that country retains clear avenues to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

On balance, only an idiot can object to fresh attempts to deal with these hot spots: Trump may or may not succeed, but one certainty is that more of the same would not have worked: and more of the same is exactly what could have been expected of Clinton, save for the fact the Russians hate her anyway after her misadventures as Secretary of State (under, of course, Obama) and the familiarity that comes with the knowledge her husband’s presidency — which many believe was actually Hillary Clinton’s administration in all but name — was also largely focused on kicking foreign policy threats down the road instead of dealing with them too.

On Trade, Trump has announced that an “America First” philosophy — to buy American and to hire American — will guide the policies of his administration; he has also said that trade deals struck with global partners must work “in America’s interests.”

This does not mean that dealings with the USA will be precluded from satisfying the interests of other parties too, and in Australia’s case, an opportunity to strike bilateral deals to the betterment of both countries beckons.

It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers are up to this assignment. Yet opposition “leader” Bill Shorten has all but declared Trump, his administration, and by extension the USA itself, an enemy of Australia. It is yet another huge black mark against the suitability of Shorten (and the ALP) to ever hold office, not least during Trump’s tenure at the helm of our most important economic and defence partner. Typically, however, the self-serving Australian Left, devoid of any common sense or obvious signs of actual intelligence, thinks the Shorten approach is just great.

In fact, there are enormous risks to Australia inherent in the Trump agenda that, with proper diligence and appropriate overtures, could be turned to great benefit; Trump is proposing, for example, to cut the corporate tax rate in the US to 15%, which will make Australia’s already overpriced goods and services even less competitive despite our dollar shedding 30% of its value in the past couple of years against the greenback. The change of power in America can and should be grasped as the pretext to enact comprehensive taxation reform in our own country, and not the kind of hot air and bullshit propagated, and dissipated, by Turnbull last year in a grotesque waste of the political capital he began 2016 holding.

Trump is an enthusiastic advocate of Brexit — the UK’s pending departure from the EU infrastructure — and eager to take advantage of opportunities to more closely integrate with Britain as it re-engages more fully with the wider world after 40 years of an overwhelmingly pro-Europe focus. There is scope to work collaboratively here to further the so-called “Five Eyes” relationship between the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and ourselves to build comprehensive economic and security links between the five countries on Earth that arguably share the most in common with each other.

Veteran financial journalist Robert Gottliebsen has published a brilliant analysis of how the international landscape is likely to change under Trump — and how this will affect Australia, and ways in which we might constructively respond — that you can read here. Far from a picture of international doom and gloom, there is plenty of upside for Australia in a Trump administration: if, that is, our “leaders” have the bottle to identify the opportunities that exist and to capitalise on them.

It is at times like this that the retirement of former Trade minister Andrew Robb is likely to be increasingly felt, and regretted, by those in this country with the insight to recognise the real value he offered.

And whilst many rightly find Trump’s 20-year-old remarks about grabbing women “on the pussy” distasteful in the extreme, the simple fact is that the lot of women stood to be far more comprehensively compromised and vastly more damaged by a Clinton presidency than anything Trump will in fact do in office: offensive drivel is one thing, but Clinton “boasts” a decades-long history of real action to destroy the lot of women and, in a litany of cases, women themselves, and those who don’t believe it should revisit the link I posted near the top of this article if they haven’t already done so.

Trump has, in the most part, assembled a first-rate administration — something conveniently overlooked by the outrage merchants of the hard Left — that will, in many cases, check some of the wilder outbursts their leader will undoubtedly make.

He must also deal with Congress, something Obama circumvented by issuing hundreds of autocratic executive orders that Trump is rightly repealing in his first act as President. One wonders what excuse the Australian Left, which claims the Liberal Party is “incapable” of negotiating with an utterly intransigent Senate, might offer in defence of Obama’s dictatorial misuse of executive orders through which to prevail.

Yes, there is much to worry about where Donald Trump as president is concerned; the bellicose rhetoric, the propensity to make unfiltered international announcements on Twitter, and the apparent lack of any “filter” at all for that matter are all points on which a pause for thought is far from inadvisable.

My point today, irrespective of what people might think of Donald Trump, is that he deserves to be given the opportunity to deliver on his promises, and to deliver on the outcomes he has promised those Americans who have elected him. There is much to do.

The final point I would make, for the benefit of those who profess to despise him, is that Trump’s victory is the logical end result of an approach to democratic government that benefits the rulers, is aimed solely at appeasing and buying off minorities and the marginalised, and completely ignores the silent majority in the middle.

This is no green light to the likes of Cory Bernardi — who is a red herring peddling snake oil — or Pauline Hanson who, whilst not a racist personally, has perfected an appeal to the bigoted and the rednecked in a cynical path to harvesting votes, a handful of seats in parliaments around the country, and public election funding.

But political types of all stripes in Australia — in contemplating the “Trump factor” and how it might apply here — would be well advised to remember that whilst winning elections in Australia requires a majority of the vote, it is the actions they take after achieving that which fuel approval and dissent. Ignoring the majority of voters to pander to narrow sectional interests is a recipe for political disaster, and that disaster is already beginning to be reflected in election results in Australia.

Exhibit #101: the 2016 federal election. Both Houses. No Authority. Splintering Support. And a process of revolt that is by no means complete.

This is the most salient lesson from the “Trump factor:” governing for all, in practice, means governing for as many people as possible, and this means for the majority — not just those interests who fit a politically correct, debased, quasi-socialist agenda that shafts the majority of the voting public.

Congratulations, Mr President. We are watching with great interest.

 

Daniel Andrews Responsible For Bourke Street Slaughter

WE’LL SAY it plainly: culpability for yesterday’s tragedy in the Melbourne CBD — a recidivist criminal with a history of armed violence going on a rampage in a car, killing four people and injuring dozens — rests squarely with Daniel Andrews; after two years in office, presiding over ballooning rates of violent crime that are the logical consequence of a lax and cavalier attitude to punishing criminals, his government has blood on its hands.

By now, everyone in Australia knows about the sickening incident that occurred in the Melbourne CBD yesterday afternoon; it is a tragic outrage and — the resolve of decent people permitting — ought to represent a line in the sand when it comes to butt-covering and “smart answers” to bat responsibility away from Daniel Andrews and his loathsome, incompetent state government.

I want to begin by extending condolences to the families who have lost loved ones — and wishes for a full recovery to those who have been seriously injured — in a mass slaughter event that could have been avoided if platitudes like “jail is a last resort” and misplaced concerns about the rights of criminals were dispensed with.

In addition to two adults who lost their lives, as 26-year-old Dimitrious Gargasoulas allegedly drove at pedestrians in Bourke Street to murder and maim as many people as possible, a 10-year-old child has been killed. A fourth victim has also died, although at the time of writing details are unavailable.

The alleged offender is said to have a history of mental illness and a long history of violent behaviour, and it is very nice that social workers and other do-gooders saw to it that he wasn’t deprived of his liberty.

Who took the rights and welfare of the public — including an innocent child — into account?

There are certain obligations the state — irrespective of which theory of political ideology one subscribes to — must discharge on behalf of its citizens; paramount among these is to preserve order and to uphold the rule of law: for without order under the rule of law, the freedom of ordinary folk to safely go about their lives, with confidence they will not be attacked or robbed or murdered, is impossible to guarantee.

In this instance, the inability of Police to at first detain, and later shoot (or otherwise thwart) the alleged offender, is a failure of governance for which responsibility can and must be sheeted home to Premier Daniel Andrews, his government, and any public official who had direct oversight of a sequence of events that permitted Gargasoulas to be free to commit the atrocity that took place in Melbourne yesterday.

Police Media commented that Gargasoulas had “repeatedly become known to (them) in recent weeks,” and references to a shooting incident last month involving Gargasoulas were also made, in a segment aired by Melbourne radio station 3AW late yesterday afternoon; on that basis alone, the guy should have been in gaol where he could pose no further risk to public safety.

It has also emerged that at 2am yesterday morning, Gargasoulas allegedly stabbed his brother in the chest and head at a house in the inner city suburb of Windsor; homicide investigators were called to that incident.

Another detail that filtered out last night, thanks to the efforts of journalists, is that Gargasoulas has a long history of violent behaviour.

So just how is it that he was free, at 1.45pm yesterday, to commence doing burnouts at the intersection of Flinders Street and Swanston Street before driving down the Bourke Street Mall, mowing people down as they scrambled for cover, and proceeding across Elizabeth Street before finally being rammed by Police several blocks further up Bourke Street?

Seasoned former journalist Senator Derryn Hinch — as plugged in as ever to what goes on in Melbourne — tweeted last night that his sources had told him that Police had seven opportunities to ram the car before it embarked on its deadly rampage down Bourke Street, but were denied permission to do so. By whom?

And whilst this is a perennial question of any victim of crime — especially those who have had a friend or family member killed by a known violent offender on bail or parole — on precisely what grounds did psychologists, social workers or other “experts” who found that Gargasoulas was no risk to public safety arrive at that conclusion?

This horrific episode throws up hard questions. The Victorian public will be lucky if it ever receives straight answers to them.

As indelicate as it may be to say so, the government of Victoria has blood on its hands: the Premier, his ministers, and whoever was in operational command yesterday are very heavily culpable.

On Daniel Andrews’ watch in Victoria, we are witnessing in real time an attempt by an elected government to use the High Court — arguably in an abuse of process — to avoid an inquiry into allegations that boil down to a question of whether its actions in sequestering parliamentary resources for electoral gain amounts to official misconduct: it isn’t a good look, and whilst it isn’t directly relevant to yesterday’s events, it forms part of the backdrop I will sketch out.

The insidious slither of the PC agenda of the Left — this time into penalties, sentences, and what we might term “incarceration practices” — sees more humane and considerate treatment of criminals than their victims; the mantra of jail being last resort is applied ever more widely, and it seems there is no end to dangerous criminals being released into the community whilst awaiting trial or in short order after serving a token sentence.

There seems no end, too, to the odious practice of finding grounds for special consideration for these vermin to use to extract watered-down penalties: Gargasoulas has been widely reported to be mentally ill; the reaction of the bleeding heart do-gooder regime is to say “there, there…we can’t lock you up if you’re sick.”

Meanwhile, this special treatment is repaid all too often, on undeserved and unjustified bail or parole releases, with wanton violence and/or murder — in this case, both — and Andrews’ government, elected at about the time a wave of public anger over criminals on release committing fresh crimes was forcing change, has failed to deliver on the expectations and outcomes demanded of it.

Whether it is APEX thugs terrorising Melbourne, or gangs of Sudanese youth perpetrating a rising number of home invasions, carjackings, and assaults against the person, or the drug-fuelled violence that is the consequence of a methamphetamine epidemic and rampant availability of other illicit drugs, what was once the safest state in Australia now ranks among the most dangerous.

Speaking of the Sudanese, most of their number are decent people; but in Daniel Andrews’ Victoria, it is verboten to identify the scum in their midst terrorising old ladies in their homes and perpetrating violence against ordinary decent folk as Sudanese: to do so is fatuously said to be “racist.”

Liberal leader Matthew Guy is little better, and I’m told he has privately had screaming matches with Liberals who have called the Sudanese gangs out as “Sudanese” on the basis they are “off message.” This apparently bipartisan approach to failing to call law and order problems for what they are is delusional. Those who are in on the act, to use the vernacular, have their heads up their arses.

And then there’s the small matter of the even smaller sentences that are actually served by those dangerous criminals who end up in jail at all.

The point is that having governed Victoria for almost 14 of the last 18 years, the ALP is heavily and disproportionately responsible for the law and order regime in force in this state.

Having now served in office for almost two-thirds of the four-year term to which it was elected in November 2014, the Andrews government does not have the dubious luxury of blaming the opposition or attempting to deny there is a crime problem in Victoria that is spiralling out of control.

The only parties to what happened in Melbourne yesterday who are blameless are those frontline Police who were simply obeying orders; these tireless law enforcement officers deserve respect for what they do. Notwithstanding the very real issues at play here and the tragic manifestation of them we saw yesterday, the Victorian community owes these people a debt of gratitude.

If it is true, as Hinch reported, that Police were forbidden to capitalise on seven opportunities to ram Gargasoulas’ car off the road before he went on his slaughter spree, then whoever gave the orders not to intervene should be dismissed.

Andrews, for his part, has spent two years explaining away the rocketing crime rate with unconvincing rhetoric and creative interpretations of official statistics for no better reason than cynical politicking, but there is a deadly flaw in doing so. The position of the Andrews government is that crime is well under control, and that Victorians have never been safer. Yesterday’s events prove they are not. The fact that Gargasoulas’ background contains all the elements of foreseeable risk compounds the fault of the state government.

In other words, you can’t have it both ways. If the principle of responsible government means anything at all to Daniel Andrews, his first order of business on Monday must be to sack Police minister Lisa Neville. His second should be to tender his own resignation. If former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell can be forced to resign over an undeclared gift of a bottle of wine, then four deaths and dozens of people hurt, in an incident that could have been avoided through rigorous policy and governance, makes O’Farrell’s misdemeanours pale by comparison.

I would be unsurprised if, in due course, the survivors and the families of the deceased launched a class action against the state of Victoria for compensation; the liability to the Victorian taxpayer could run into the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. The realist in me says they would be entitled to the money. The cynic says they will never see it. So morally bankrupt is the Andrews government that even if a judicial inquiry led to an obligation to pay, the government would probably fight that all the way to the High Court too.

In practice, the senseless slaughter and the circumstances that led to it will take years to unpick. The trauma will similarly last for years.

But the buck stops with the government, where law enforcement is concerned.

Mentally ill or not, or premeditated in his actions or not, the alleged offender Gargasoulas’ history is a veritable road map to an individual who should never have been released into the community: but he was, and with tragic consequences.

Nothing is going to bring back the dead, and nothing is going to ever make it quite right for those who were hurt — or, come to think of it, for many of those who were bystanders and simply witnessed the dreadful actions that were committed in central Melbourne at lunchtime yesterday.

But Daniel Andrews must be held responsible for what happened in Melbourne yesterday; it is the failed policies and maladministration of his government that led directly to the tragic events that took place on Bourke Street, and responsibility demands that consequences follow.

A shred of decency would see Daniel Andrews dismiss his minister, and resign himself shortly thereafter. But Andrews, like the government he leads, has no sense of public decency whatsoever, which means all care will be taken to protect the rights of the alleged offender — and the victims, in all likelihood, will be given the shaft.

 

Baird Quits: NSW Libs’ One Chance To Get It Right

THE RESIGNATION of NSW Premier Mike Baird today was not really unexpected; with several immediate family members gravely ill, Baird’s decision to quit to enable himself to help more is entirely in character. But NSW’s Liberal government — arguably two years from defeat until this morning’s news — now gets one chance to aright itself under a new leader. Either way, the instability that marked 16 years of ALP rule continues apace.

Yet again, the half-finished piece on the Turnbull government is being delayed on account of things that just happen, and yet again, I am going to be circumspect: not through any shortage of time for a change but because really, the political ramifications of today’s change can be well and truly picked apart over the coming few days. It is probably a little more decent, in the circumstances, to keep discussion of those to a minimum.

But the news that NSW Premier Mike Baird has decided to call time on his decade-long career in politics — including three years as Premier — was to be expected; the poor health of his mother and father has not been a secret, and the revelation his sister Julia has relapsed in her cancer battle is very sad indeed.

Whatever people think of Baird, his devotion as a family man is the stuff of legend; a deeply religious man not always comfortable with personal interactions, he has been misrepresented at times as aloof or dour (or as one newspaper piece put it today, “a dictator).

I have consistently argued in this column that MPs of every stripe, love them or loathe them, are human beings first and foremost: and whilst some have sorely tested my inclination to treat them as such, and others proved undeserving of such basic courtesies at all (Bill Shorten, please note) the fact is that bad things happen to people from all walks of life, and our elected representatives are no different.

I wish Baird the very best for a happy and healthy retirement from public life, and I hope he enjoys the extra time he has to spend with his kids (you don’t need to be in politics to have too little of that). He can walk away knowing that despite the political difficulties that have lately engulfed it, he was jointly the leader of a government that over six years has restored NSW (and Sydney in particular) to the position NSW people believe they should occupy as the drivers of Australia’s economy and the engine room of the country’s growth.

(I could say something viciously parochial as a ferociously proud Melburnian about everything that is wrong with Sydney, but I won’t. This time).

It is always upsetting when elderly relatives enter declining health, and in this sense — with parents only slightly younger than Baird’s — I both sympathise and can relate. Bruce Baird (again, agree or disagree with his political views) was, like his son, a gentleman of politics, and widely liked throughout the Liberal Party. Clearly I know nothing of Baird’s mum, but to have both parents seriously ill simultaneously is a cruel blow.

Add in his sister too, and the Bairds have had more than their fair share of grief to deal with, quite literally.

We wish their family the very best as they work through these very grave health issues.

Despite the successes the NSW Coalition is able to point to in terms of outcomes, it has also mishandled an adequate number of issues to suggest that provided the opposition Labor Party can get its…self…together, the Liberals’ second term in office might well be its last.

Council amalgamations and the ridiculous attempt to ban greyhound racing — along with stunts like the lockout laws in Kings Cross, which have merely transferred drunken and miscreant behaviour to other parts of Sydney in the wee small hours — have added up, and the Coalition now trails in reputable polling of state voting intent just six years after winning two-thirds of the two-party vote at an election.

To date, there is little to suggest the attempts to fix these mistakes has cut much ice with the NSW electorate.

And whilst the junior Coalition partner, the Nationals, has had three leaders of its own in six years (and lost one of its safest seats anywhere in the country through the Orange By-election), the selection of Baird’s replacement — almost universally anticipated to be the treasurer, Gladys Berejiklian — will signal the seventh Premier of the Premier State in just ten years.

The rotating door on the Premier’s office in Macquarie Street, which spun like crazy during the 16-year tenure of the ALP and was credited as a contributing factor to that party’s demise in 2011, is still revolving now: and it is to be hoped that whoever replaces Baird will, election results permitting, stay in the one spot for at least five to seven years to provide some sorely needed stability.

As I said, however, we will leave the politics of today’s announcement for another time; aside from this brief recap, it’s really not the time to explore these issues thoroughly.

But in closing, I think Baird’s departure buys the NSW Liberals one chance — and one chance only — to aright the ship and retrieve their standing under a new leader.

For reasons that extend well beyond the state’s borders, they had sure as hell better get it right.

Reserving Judgement: Malcolm Turnbull’s Latest Reshuffle

THE LATEST reshuffle of Cabinet — necessitated, of course, by the departure of Sussan Ley — is questionable, and any judgement of the arrangement should be deferred; Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to eschew a comprehensive overhaul of a line-up that has mostly failed to fire since the election, rewarding leadership supporters as usual, and delivering a double kick in the guts to Tony Abbott. Yet again, the portents are not good.

This evening’s piece will be relatively brief; I have partially completed something of an omnibus piece on the government as a whole, and once this is finished, it will be published: it probably would have been up during the day today, but thinks to the interference little children are wont to run when “big people” are visibly occupied with something, I ran out of time before needing to head out this morning. Any parent reading will understand.

But despite the news that Greg Hunt is to be Australia’s new Health minister being the worst-kept secret in politics for some time, there is very little to get excited about where Malcolm Turnbull’s latest, involuntary ministerial reshuffle is concerned; it is one thing to be pushed into a corner by an unavoidable ministerial departure, but — in the broader context of a clearly misfiring government — it is another matter altogether to fail to use that inconvenience to make more widespread changes.

Watching the Coalition at work (and this was also true during the tenure of Tony Abbott) is akin to watching a very poor imitation of a decent political drama; you can almost hear the stock lines jumping out from the screen, things like “simply stand firm” and references to nights of long knives that ultimately land in the (metaphorical) skull of the leader who wields them.

“Cynical club of cronies” is another such line that is especially pertinent where Turnbull is concerned; once again, the chief beneficiaries have all been MPs who voted for dear old Malcolm at his successful leadership coup, and if Turnbull wonders why the conservative wing of the party despises him (and especially at the grassroots level, without which the Liberal Party would be unable to fight effective election campaigns), perhaps his penchant for stacking the frontbench more and more heavily with sycophants could provide a clue.

In making Hunt Health minister, Turnbull has — whether he realises it or not — probably marked him out as his preferred long-term successor; after all, Julie Bishop (solid ministerial record aside) is anathema to the Liberals’ parliamentary conservative wing now on account of being seen to have been not quite straight with her involvement in the Turnbull coup, and Treasurer Scott Morrison’s prospects are…well, they’re the collateral damage sustained from the ridiculous tax reform “debate” during the top half of last year. Beyond that, it’s hard to imagine who, on the moderate side of the party, might step forward when the time comes with a better or more persuasive claim.

But Hunt comes with risks; Turnbull and his mouthpieces have been out and about today, spruiking him as “the son and husband of nurses” — whatever that is meant to matter — whilst a willing press and a ready onslaught from the ALP conspired to quickly remind everyone that just like his predecessor, Hunt faces questions emanating from unclarified travel expense claims that ought to be resolved. More on that shortly.

When it comes to the utterances of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten, on this issue or any other, he should simply be ignored.

Moving Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinis — another Turnbull man — into the Industry portfolio comes with risks; after all, he was so swiftly demoted a couple of years ago as Assistant Treasurer, when caught up in an ICAC scandal over which it was found he had no case to answer, that he remains a virtual ministerial neophyte despite his years running John Howard’s office when the latter was PM himself.

Turnbull failed to resist the opportunity to aim a kick at Abbott and his former Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, noting that Sinodinis’ duties as Cabinet Secretary would return to being a function of his office rather than a ministerial post; saying that as proper process had “been restored” to the functions of a Cabinet Secretary on Sinodinis’ watch, there was no longer the need to assign a minister to them. It was a cheap crack that was as unnecessary as it is likely to fuel the grievances of those MPs who viscerally loathe the sight of Turnbull.

This slight, of course, was the doubling down on the failure to offer Abbott a frontbench position at all, despite the fact that whatever risks might have flowed from doing so, Abbott is more capable as a minister than most of the current frontbench — and was proven as such during the Howard years.

But when sycophancy rules, as it does in the Turnbull government, such distinctions are pointless.

Promoting Ken Wyatt to Aged Care and Indigenous Health is an unknown; good luck to him. But really, about the only unequivocally nice thing that can be said about Turnbull’s reshuffle is that he (wisely) resisted calls to make a female backbencher Health minister: any untried backbencher, female or otherwise, is a completely unfit option for such a senior, politically sensitive and central domestic portfolio — and those who make these brainless, unreasoning calls need to have a Bex and a lie down, and temper the blind gender crusade with more than a little dash of reality.

But Turnbull has left a slew of good people languishing either on the backbench or the outer reaches of the ministry — Dan Tehan, Angus Taylor, Alan Tudge — presumably for the sin of remaining loyal to Abbott when others were prepared to pay their 30 pieces of silver in September 2015.

And he has left liabilities like the chronically underperforming Kelly O’Dwyer, and the rank political embarrassment that George Brandis has come to represent for the government as Attorney-General, right where they are: but then again, they voted for Turnbull in 2015 as well.

For the sake of the Liberal Party and the country, I hope that the piecemeal fiddling Turnbull has engaged in today really does add just enough oomph! to his ministry to kickstart its capacity to generate political momentum; God knows, political momentum is something Malcolm has spent nearly 18 months pissing away, and now has none.

I’m unenthusiastic, to be sure.

But with several continuing ministers under the cloud stirred up over the travel rorts affair — in addition to a raft of ALP identities who have sensibly kept quiet in the hope of not being noticed — if Turnbull does not follow today’s announcements up with an immediate, rigorous and genuinely independent audit and review of all MPs’ travel expenditure claims, his government might be right back in the same situation it was a week ago before another week is out.

Readers will forgive the obvious lack of confidence I have in today’s reshuffle, but in the final analysis, we have been here with Malcolm before and, as sure as night follows day, we will be here again.

 

 

“Responsible” Urgings To Put One Nation Last Are Political Stupidity

THE DEFECTION of an inconsequential, two-bit monument to mediocrity to One Nation notwithstanding, this column maintains that Queensland’s LNP should place both the ALP and Greens below One Nation on how-to-vote cards for the looming state election; the outrage over Steve Dickson’s defection to the far Right party should not cloud the fact supposedly “responsible” observers are using One Nation to goad the LNP into electoral suicide.

It is a very quick post from me this morning; quite simply, I have to go to my office today.

But when you look at what some sneering southern commentators described, for a time, as “the other Australia” — that portion of the country located beyond the usually smugly Left-entrenched citadels of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania — it isn’t hard to see how a disastrous hegemony of Labor state governments came to exist during the 2000s: and how it still persists in South Australia and Victoria today.

Reader have seen two posts from me in the past week dealing with matters afoot in Queensland: one, arguing that the conservative LNP should exchange preferences with One Nation at the looming state election; and two, a scathing piece after the defection of forgettable LNP MP Steve Dickson to the fringe party on the crass pretext of medicinal cannabis.

There is no reason, based in logic, emotion or fact, to suggest that the rabid cabal of fruit cakes at the Communist Party Greens is any better than or different to One Nation in terms of the odious nature of their policies and the insidious presence they represent in Australian politics at any level.

Yet as readers have heard me lament too often — albeit correctly — the Coalition parties, of which Queensland’s LNP is one, couldn’t articulate the desire to purchase sexual services in a brothel if they tried: so defective are their ability to communicate much at all, let alone sell anything, and political strategy and tactics are concepts that all too often might as well be alien to these entities.

Today, an article has appeared in the Courier Mail, this time from generally respected Brisbane political scientist Paul Williams, who makes the spurious case that because one of its MPs has leapt into bed with Pauline Hanson’s nascent outfit, the LNP would be “insane” to preference One Nation after the event.

But this type of argument ignores reality, and the behaviour of the ALP in seeking and accepting preferences from the Greens for decades.

The Greens (and this is an old story) essentially wish to de-industrialise the West — despite whatever feeble rhetoric they offer by way of denial — and despite the territorial risk the Greens pose to Labor, as they seek to devour everything that lies in their path, Labor invariably preferences the Greens above the Coalition and its related entities in almost 100% of cases, as well as pocketing the almost 80% of Greens preferences that are available to it at elections across the country.

So addicted to Greens preferences votes is Labor that in Queensland, it has also rigged the state’s electoral system to ensure it gets them.

I don’t like One Nation any more than I like the Greens, and whilst I regard the Greens with a contempt that is no less than a party of hard socialism deserves, it worries me that people voting for One Nation out of the desperation that follows the fact they believe nobody else listens to them could place their trust and faith in a false messiah like Pauline Hanson and the irresponsible messages she send to milk votes, a public profile, and public election funding.

But their votes are no less valid than anyone else’s: and that includes those cast for the Greens, as offensive and downright dangerous as that party is.

Nobody has ever held Labor to account for the cottage industry of harvesting Greens votes, and as things stand, nobody from the major parties is ever likely to; indeed, the ALP is unlikely to ever revisit this dirty little arrangement.

But there are those who now seek to goad the LNP into a political catastrophe, urging it to eschew One Nation votes on “principle,” when any reciprocal application of such a virtue would and should see the ALP drop the Greens like a hot brick — and seek to preference it out of existence.

I don’t know if Dr Williams has a particular penchant for ALP administrations elected in a landslide, but if he doesn’t, a quick look at history is instructive: the Coalition’s loss of government in WA in 2001, Queensland in 1998 and in the NT in 2001, along with Coalition wipeouts in Queensland in 2001 and NSW in 1999, were the direct result of exactly the behaviour he now advocates in Queensland.

Whilst One Nation will never win enough support to win an election outright (or even as the senior partner in a coalition, if anyone is silly enough to form one with it), it has a demonstrated history of destroying the electoral prospects of those who preference against it — and if “everyone” preferences against One Nation, it takes aim first and foremost against those parties it can inflict the heaviest damage on, and those are the Liberal and National parties (and the LNP).

Time Nicholls and his associates should ignore the urgings of people like Paul Williams, and seek to harvest all the preferences from One Nation they can.

After all, defeat beckons if they follow this “principled” advice; it would be defeat of epic proportions, and a loss it would take another decade from which to recover.

But this may be exactly what the “principle” merchants want, for seven years in WA, 16 in NSW and 14 years in Queensland were the tenures of the resulting state Labor governments.

If the LNP wants to hold office in the Sunshine State this side of 2025, it would be well advised to ignore the rantings of those who seek to harm it, and — the outrage of Dickson aside — do the deal that will at the very minimum mitigate the electoral damage that One Nation would almost certainly otherwise inflict.