Careful What You Wish For: Palmer Demands Election

AN ADDICTION TO DOLING OUT HANDOUTS and politics by wilful deceit appears to motivate Clive Palmer’s latest demands for an election; claiming the Abbott government’s budget has “crashed” — a development aided and partly engineered by himself — Palmer seeks a mini-budget or a double dissolution. The political tide, which has ebbed for the Liberals in recent months, is showing signs of turning. Palmer should be careful what he wishes for.

There is something grotesque – to the point of obscene — about an opportunistic political figurehead, whose political existence is built exclusively on protest votes from those who feel disenfranchised from the major parties, engaging in and fuelling a high-stakes game of Russian roulette with the financial welfare of this country.

The scope of this obscenity is amplified by the fact the figurehead in question is not only a billionaire business identity, but who uses his success in business to justify the grubby and fundamentally dishonest political game he has elected to play.

I was reading The Age last night and saw (as many readers will have by now) an article in which Clive Palmer lashes out at the Abbott government over its “failed” May federal budget, and demands either the “(implementation of) a mini-budget” or a double dissolution election.

The hypocrisy beggars belief. Happily, however, circumstance may be starting to conspire to whack Palmer — and, by extension, his obvious objective of forcing the Coalition from office.

As readers know, Clive Palmer and his eponymous party have been having a whale of a time wreaking havoc on the budget and otherwise causing as much collateral damage as they can to the Abbott government.

The carbon tax was only repealed after an embarrassingly abortive vote (based on the conveniently expedient pretext of Palmer seeing to the detail of his demands), whilst some $9 billion in savings from the budget were obliterated; Palmer’s position — that he would back the repeal of the mining tax on the proviso the so-called “Schoolkids Bonus” and the Low Income Superannuation Contribution were retained — means that these expenditure items cannot be abolished despite explicit Coalition commitments before the election to do so, and this in turn probably means the mining tax can’t be axed either (involuntarily breaking another explicit election promise).

There have, of course, been other budget savings measures either rejected by the Senate — some of which Palmer has had a hand in scuttling, and some he hasn’t — whilst still more are either yet to face the Senate blowtorch or have been withdrawn by the government on account of the sheer parliamentary pointlessness of pursuing them.

Where the rub lies in Palmer’s latest outburst isn’t in the damage what he is doing will inflict on the budget bottom line, as outrageous as that is for someone claiming to act responsibly; rather, it derives from the self-flagellating twaddle and selectively omissive bullshit (yes, bullshit) he offers up as a half-baked rationalisation of what he is doing.

Palmer’s observation that “(he’s) been in business for years” is used to make a series of statements that if correct, are only half correct, but which in the main seem calculated to deliberately mislead people about the state of the budget and to paint his party in a responsible light. I would simply observe that there is nothing “responsible” about the Palmer United Party.

He has accused Treasurer Joe Hockey of lying, insofar as the suggestion Australia could lose its AAA credit rating is concerned; of course, this is not going to happen tomorrow or even next week: the latest review of the rating, maintained by all three major ratings agencies, was relatively recent.

Yet Standard and Poors rather pointedly observed that whilst Australia’s debt position remained low by international standards, the country has had the fastest rate of growth in government debt of any OECD country, and that this would have to be watched over the medium to longer term. If that isn’t the gentlest of red flags, I don’t know what is.

In this context, Palmer’s observation that there were $17 billion in spending commitments attached to the mining tax is telling. Rather than trying to make a virtue out of his willingness to wave through $7 billion in cuts to outlays, the true story behind his remarks is that there is $10 billion in spending that he wants retained.

That $10 billion, in turn, didn’t even exist a few years ago; it was pure electoral bribery on the part of the Gillard government, and the tax itself raises next to nothing to pay for it. In other words, Palmer would like to posture as the cuddly uncle responsible for perpetuating gratuitous but unaffordable taxpayer handouts, but he refuses to accept the responsibility for the cost in doing so.

Palmer is right to point out that the Abbott government is seeking to realise some $30-$40bn in budget savings in an overall economy of $1.5tn.

Yet what he fails to state is that there is already $350bn in government debt, mostly as a result of budget deficits created and pursued by Labor; and that over the ten-year forward scope taken by the government’s Commission of Audit, those savings, if unrealised, would add a further $400bn to that debt load.

At $750bn in debt, that’s 50% of GDP, and even that is predicated on there being no downturn in economic activity or growth. At 50% debt to GDP (at risk of monotonously restating the bleeding obvious), Australia would be nipping at the heels of the basket case economies in Europe that Labor, and the likes of Clive Palmer, have solemnly and misleadingly assured the public could never happen.

A solid rise in unemployment, for example, would inflict the double whammy of reduced tax revenues and increased welfare spending on the federal budget, and if that happens $750bn of debt would probably be a conservative estimate.

That is one highly realistic scenario; there are plenty of others. So let’s hear no more of cynical opportunists like Palmer trying to downplay the extent of any consequences of their determination to play Santa Claus with taxpayer money borrowed from overseas and saddling the country with an increasingly unserviceable debt load. (It’s a forlorn hope, I grant you).

Having said all of that, Palmer’s demands for either a mini-budget or a double dissolution would appear to represent a curious, and poorly judged, development.

Based on the behaviour of the Senate over a budget that seeks to redress the criminally negligent impact of six years of Labor mismanagement, there is no reason to either believe or expect that a mini-budget would be treated any differently to the budget proper, which Labor, the Greens and Palmer have been happily tearing apart in the upper house.

An alternative program of abolishing the NDIS, raising the GST to 15%, slashing income and company taxes  to reflect the change in the tax mix and increasing the rate at which pensions and benefits are paid as an offsetting measure would be simpler, more sensible, and more straightforward than the myriad of small measures contained in the present budget to give form to Hockey’s desire that “everyone pitch in” and that the pain of fixing the budget be shared around the community.

Yet even were such a program put forward — either in a mini-budget as Palmer wants, or in the next federal budget proper — the same forces shredding the current budget before parliament would just as certainly shred that too.

And given the only ways to fix the budget are to raise taxes, cut spending or a mixture of the two, it goes without saying that Palmer isn’t exactly a repository of ideas on how this objective might be achieved — even if he is happy to portray himself as an expert on everything else, and to hold himself up as the arbiter of what is acceptable in terms of the budget, and what is not.

The casualty is responsible government, accountable to the electorate: the Abbott government is already being crucified over a budget that it hasn’t even be able to legislate, and increasingly seems unlikely to be able to legislate. Perversely, the ejection of the Coalition from office over laws it hasn’t even enacted is the very real prospective result.

And were that to eventuate, no government would bother trying to fix the nation’s books: the end result of what Palmer and his ilk are doing is to entrench the mentality that fixing the budget equals losing elections, and anyone with an outstretched hand is being given the imprimatur to place their own expediency above the welfare of the country by those — like Palmer — who should and indeed do know better.

Even so, there are signs that the smug arrogance that underpins demands for new elections from Palmer, and others opposed to the government, might yet be misplaced.

We have discussed the incremental resurgence the government has experienced in reputable opinion polling since about a month after the budget was delivered, and specifically that whilst Coalition support remains well below the level it sat at in last year’s election, most of the support it had lost had transferred to minor parties like Palmer’s — not to Labor.

In the aftermath of the shooting down of MH17, apparently by forces backed and supported by Russia, the public approval ratings for Prime Minister Tony Abbott have edged sharply higher, as the reality begins to hit people that the very big potential problem the Western world might encounter with Russia may very well prove horribly real, and not be the stuff of conspiracy theorists on the Right after all.

To date, the effect of this increase in Abbott’s approval appears to have had minimal flow-on effects to the Coalition’s vote. But with the situation surrounding Russia fluid, ongoing, and likely to be topical for some time, there is ample scope for voters to begin to flock back to the Liberal Party over national security concerns — and especially if the government’s handling of them remains as impressive as it has been to date.

Should that occur, the votes currently sitting with Palmer’s opportunistic but irresponsibly loathsome protest vehicle can reasonably be expected to return to the Coalition, where they will no longer be able to be directed to the ALP as preferences to force the vindictive change of government Palmer seeks.

And if we get that far, and the situation between the West and Russia remains as it is or even deteriorates, Abbott may well give Palmer the election he wants: and at that point, if the Coalition is re-elected and Palmer is wiped out — which is not unrealistic, at any stretch — perhaps the mining baron might reflect that a better storyline might have been to act responsibly, instead of making merry with other people’s money in his own political interest.

 

Sarah Hanson-Young And The Hammer And Sickle

A PHOTOGRAPH of Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young — apparently wearing a brooch in the form of a hammer and sickle — has circulated widely this week on microblogging website Twitter; if the authenticity of the image is disputed by the Senator, The Red And The Blue will offer her an opportunity to respond. If it is a genuine image, however, then this unpopular and provocative representative of the hard Left has some explaining to do.

Readers know that it is only half in partisan jest that I paint the Greens as Communists; the other half of my motive in doing so stems, in deadly earnest, from the fact that impartial consideration of their policies and their platform show them to be a far more ominous entity than simple tree-hugging, harmless, Gaia-loving hippies.

And what most people who think the Greens are harmless don’t realise is that the Green movement itself was originally set up in Nazi Germany as an attempted foil to the advancing tide of Communism; far from repelling the Red Menace, the Greens were subsumed by it.

“Concern for the environment” has little (if anything) to do with Greens policies these days.

So it comes as little surprise that the Australian Greens already boast one openly communist MP in the form of Senator Lee Rhiannon, a former fellow traveller and propaganda writer for the USSR; I have said previously that I don’t believe Rhiannon has any moral right whatsoever to sit in any Australian House of Parliament, and as a declared adherent of a foreign government that for many years was also an enemy power, I don’t think she should have the legal right to sit in the Senate either.

Are there two of them in the Greens’ ranks?

An image has been circulating widely this week on Twitter; it features Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young alongside Melbourne MP Adam Bandt: the pair are at some kind of rally, with Hanson-Young addressing a crowd and a Greens’ placard visible. Apparently visible, too, is a vile and repugnant piece of jewellery on the left-hand lapel of Hanson-Young’s coat.

I made contact with the Senator’s electorate office in Adelaide this afternoon, seeking either confirmation that the image (see below) is genuine or an explicit denial that Hanson-Young has been sporting the hammer and sickle in public. When it comes to images that circulate on social media (and given the ubiquity of Photoshop) it pays to ask the question.

 

 

At the time of publishing this article — 9pm on Tuesday night, Melbourne time — I haven’t as yet had a response from Hanson-Young’s office; to be brutally candid I don’t expect one, either. I think my inquiry will simply be brushed aside and ignored.

(UPDATED, 10.45pm: A representative of Senator Hanson-Young’s staff has contacted me to strenuously deny the Senator has ever worn a hammer and sickle. More to follow).

So first things first: if the Senator or her staff contact me to deny the authenticity of the photograph in this image, I will — subject to agreement on form — publish a statement from Hanson-Young’s office in the interests of balance.

But more broadly, it needs to be remembered that Hanson-Young (and this is an old story) might play well with the Greens’ relatively small electoral constituency, but in almost every other quarter in the country she is either dismissed as an irrelevance at best, or suspiciously regarded as a dangerously divisive (and ill-informed) piece of work at worst.

Like most of her ilk on the hard Left of Australian politics, Hanson-Young and her odious views are anathema to the vast majority of Australians, and her “accidents happen” remark when challenged over the deaths of thousands of asylum seekers at sea, under a policy regime essentially dictated by the Greens to the Gillard government, would at the minimum be an apt summation of her unfortunate re-election last year.

I have no time whatsoever for Hanson-Young, her politics, her policies, her views or her party. I do support her right to say and think whatever she likes: a courtesy she and her colleagues do not reciprocate, and indeed would like to legislate out of existence.

But I cannot and I will not support the “right” of elected representatives in Australian Parliaments to wander around wearing the hammer and sickle.

This insidious emblem — little better than a swastika, to be frank — was the symbol of one of the most brutal and viciously oppressive totalitarian regimes the world has ever seen.

The tyranny and barbarism of communist rule in Russia, eastern Europe and elsewhere enslaved hundreds of millions of people; the regime in the USSR (and, literally by proxy, in the Soviet satellite states) imprisoned millions of their own in gulags, and an unquantifiable number of those were executed by their own government often for the crime of thinking and saying whatever they liked.

And again — as I remarked in relation to Senator Rhiannon — the USSR was a recognised enemy state after the second world war; pledged to the destruction of the capitalist system that underpinned the relative prosperity of the free world and to the overthrow of democracy, the nuclear-armed USSR brought the world to the brink of Armageddon several times, most notably in 1962. And even when the threat of military conflict between the USSR and the West was not imminent, the Soviet tools of deception, disinformation, subversion and subterfuge were a constant that many believe remain in practice even now by the ongoing regime in Moscow.

There is also the small matter of Australians who came here in the 1950s and 1960s, with the specific objective of escaping the cruelty and tyranny of Communism in eastern Europe: that emblem — especially when worn by a parliamentarian — is an affront to decency, and an insult to those Australians who have built lives and contributed in this country once freed of the Communist menace.

There are some good, decent people in the Greens with ideas that whilst I don’t agree with them (or at least, with the prioritisation placed on them) can be characterised as noble; people like Larissa Waters or even Bandt deserve some respect even if their policies do not merit electoral support, although I would add that they would do themselves a favour by arguing their cause on the Left of the ALP rather than as part of an insidious outfit like the Greens.

But Hanson-Young — like Rhiannon, or their horrible, sanctimonious, pious leader, Christine Milne — neither deserves nor warrants such courtesies of latitude.

In Hanson-Young’s case there is already a litany of own goals, anti-democratic policy prescriptions and doctrinaire fancies of the hard Left to her credit to excuse anyone for thinking she’s an embarrassment to governance in this country, and a dangerous — and downright nasty — specimen to boot.

Yet if it comes to pass that the image I have shared here is no triumph of Photoshop, I think Hanson-Young needs to level with the Australian public: on what basis does she believe it acceptable to masquerade openly as a Communist as a Senator, and on what basis does she believe this is compatible with her responsibilities as an elected member of Parliament?

As I said at the outset, depending on what (if any) response I get from my communications with her office today, we may revisit this — and give the Senator her say.

But at first blush, and as small a point as some might find it, this is simply more evidence of why Hanson-Young shouldn’t be eligible to be elected to represent anyone, and if the hammer and sickle are where her sympathies lie, then perhaps she — along with the regrettable Rhiannon — should get out of Australia altogether and go to live in Russia, where another totalitarian despot is hellbent on restoring the USSR to the world stage, and to restoring the “glory” it inflicted upon Russia, its people, and on others who were mortally terrified of its very existence.

 

Slippery Pete: Too Clever By Half, In The End

A SUPPURATING SORE on the integrity of politics in Australia was disinfected today, with the conviction of Coalition traitor and former Speaker Peter Slipper on charges of dishonestly abusing travel entitlements; the development is a welcome one, and it is to be hoped that it now closes the door on the public life of a slippery customer who managed to stay one step ahead of trouble for so long, but ultimately not for long enough.

Just over 18 months ago, I commented on a storyline that has now come full circle: namely, the breaking news that the contemptible Slipper was to be charged with misusing Cabcharge vouchers to cover the cost of touring around various wineries in the Canberra region. Today, those charges were resolved.

The conviction of Slipper on all of them comes after an extraordinary battle on his own part to have the charges abandoned, dismissed, or otherwise thrown out of court, even going so far as to declare himself — in effect — to be a mental case. Whether Slipper actually suffers from mental illness is a moot point insofar as his attempt to use it to escape prosecution merely continues a long history of questionable travel expense claims, and real or not, it should never have been allowed to provide him with an escape hatch.

I am not going to say very much: after all, before Slipper became “yesterday’s man,” we spent more time than he merited discussing his travails and misadventures in this column, and anyone interested in becoming reacquainted with him can do so through the “Peter Slipper” option in the list of tags at the right-hand side of the screen.

There is also a news report on these developments that anyone interested can access here.

There have been funny stories around about Peter Slipper for decades; some true, some not true, but most of which never became public.

Even when Slipper remained in the Coalition tent — with the facade that he was motivated by anything other than his own welfare and self-interest intact — there were many who, with good reason and for a range of reasons, gave him as wide a berth as possible. Following my initial contacts with him 20 years ago, I was one of them.

For at least that long (and in all probability, for longer), Slipper has had an uncanny knack of always being able to stay a step ahead of trouble; whatever was thrown at him — allegations of travel rorts, accusations of sexual misconduct, whatever — he was always able to survive.

$1,000 worth of government-provided Cabcharge vouchers, used on three separate occasions to pay for Slipper and his entourage to go on a virtual pub crawl through the ACT’s wineries, would be a laughably innocuous way for Slippery Pete to have finally brought about his downfall were it not for the fact there was finally evidence with which to convict him over some of his misadventures.

Several attempts to have the charges thrown out of court didn’t cut it; neither did his defence, which boiled down to an assertion that “everyone else repays the money if they’re caught, and so should I.”

The fact is that guidelines that govern the travel entitlements available to MPs are notoriously loose, open to misinterpretation, and easily rorted; it is inevitable that misunderstandings and incorrect claims will occur, and not least when staffers process claims as third parties to an activity they may not have been party to personally.

But “party,” in this case, Slipper did, and Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker found (among other things) that Slipper had knowingly and deliberately used the vouchers in such a way as to conceal the fact he was not on parliamentary business, and had knowingly caused a risk of loss to the Commonwealth.

I’m not going to get into any kind of slanging match over Slipper; I know he has friends and I am told he’s a likeable enough rogue if you get to know him. Fortunately — with my suspicions heightened and my eyebrows raised the day I met him — I never got to know him well enough to formulate my own opinion on it, and never had any desire to do so.

But the Speakership aside — a bauble he was only ever given to shore up the numbers for the Gillard government — Slipper rose to the dizzying heights of a parliamentary secretary, and after a political career that spanned the better part of 30 years, there is little Australia will remember him for other than his innovative approach to claiming entitlements.

In the final analysis, Slipper was adroit at staying one step ahead of trouble for a long, long time. In the end, one step wasn’t enough.

Slipper will be sentenced on 22 September. If we comment on it all, I doubt there will be subsequent cause to mention him again.

 

Bile, Bluster And Bullshit: Bill Shorten Resurfaces

MARGINALISED BY his refusal to accord Tony Abbott credit for anything in the face of a serious international event and shown as the irrelevance he is to domestic politics by Clive Palmer, whose Senate antics riveted attention in a way he can only dream of, Labor “leader” Bill Shorten has resurfaced today. Depressingly, it will surprise few that all he has to add to the political discourse is more of the same: bile, bluster, and unadulterated bullshit.

I was wondering what had happened to Bill Shorten — not that the political landscape, mind you, is in any way diminished by his absence — until I found out this morning that he’d had a week in the United States. It is not so much a pity he didn’t stay there longer as that he has seen fit to return to Australia at all.

It is fair to say that in the farcical international embarrassment Clive Palmer and his acolytes transformed the repeal of the carbon tax into, Shorten and his ALP colleagues were shown up as an irrelevance; with Labor hellbent on leaving the carbon tax in place at any cost despite election commitments to the contrary, Palmer’s preparedness to deal with the Abbott government — even if contrived to cause it as much political torment in the process as possible — neatly highlighted how easily marginalised Labor under Shorten is these days when it is determined to act counter to both the national interest and to the wishes of the public.

And that, unsurprisingly, is practically all of the time.

During the week, one of this column’s favourites, Daily Telegraph writer Piers Akerman, published an article that drew attention to the fact “the sisterhood” had failed to deign to make any acknowledgement whatsoever of the stirling job Foreign minister Julie Bishop has done in the aftermath of the MH17 disaster; Piers’ article made its point eloquently as it always does, and I’d make the observation that based on her performance to date as minister Bishop would have to be the clear standout candidate to replace Prime Minister Tony Abbott if he were to fall under the proverbial bus tomorrow.

Such an observation may seem off-subject; in fact, it merely underlines the point even further.

What Piers also pointed out, in criticising deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek (who has obviously decided to be too churlish and juvenile to give credit where due to another woman if that “other woman” has anything to do with the Liberal Party), was that aside from empty expressions of condolence for the families of the victims of the disaster, Shorten is guilty of the same slight.

Platitudes about “offering full support to the government” — five minutes before running away for a week, lest he be called on to show something resembling spine, or substance, or (God forbid!) leadership — is a poor and spiteful performance from a man who pretends to carry a claim to the Prime Ministership.

In other words, Shorten — and Plibersek, and Labor generally — may well have declined in the interests of expediency to play tacky, trashy politics over the Malaysia Airlines disaster, preferring to sulk and sullenly skulk on the sidelines for the contemptible reason that Abbott and Bishop — elected to govern, and proving far more adept at it than the ALP narrative would ever concede — were winning international acclaim for the real world leadership and skill they have shown.

Like four-year-old brats, hard-wired on red cordial and forced to watch in impotent fury as the kid they hate most gets his hands on the final lollipop at a party, the backdrop of international atrocity (and the attendant risk of global war that accompanied it) must have really ruined the past week for the ALP.

It isn’t hard to understand why I can’t see why Shorten being away for a while would detract from the polity of this country one jot.

But now he is back — badder and madder than ever, it seems — and filled with the usual Shorten bile and bluster, the Labor “leader” seems determined to pick right back up where he left off.

Shorten’s first order of business in officially resuming his duties as “leader” was a speech to the NSW ALP Conference in Sydney; the Fairfax press described the speech as “fiery,” whilst the Murdoch crowd called it “strongly worded.”

I think it more accurate to describe it as yet more of the sanctimonious bullshit for which Shorten is becoming renowned, and in that sense — and weighed against Shorten Labor’s “case” against the Abbott government — there’s nothing new here.

Calling Treasurer Joe Hockey “an arrogant cigar chomper” might play well to the stupid and the brainwashed, but even as a political barb it achieves nothing: and in any case, there are plenty of ordinary folk around who enjoy a cigar — your columnist being one of them — who are hardly going to feel some sense of fraternity with Shorten because of a cheap stunt aimed at making a point.

There is also the small matter of playing the man rather than the ball, although Labor — not least under Shorten, and especially notwithstanding the ongoing endeavour to personally crucify Tony Abbott — long ago proved incapable of keeping to the argument whenever attacking opponents personally was an active option.

He perpetuated the myth of ALP “reform” to put the party more strongly under the control of its members — blathering about rebuilding Labor as “a party of members, not of factions” — at the same conference unions used their controlling stake in the party to squash the latest attempt to do so.

Yet it was Shorten’s flagrant dishonesty about government policy that has motivated me to tear into him (again) over a Labor storyline that might end in a return to the government benches, but which, in greater likelihood, will not.

Anyone listening to Shorten and the wider Labor diatribe generally needs to remember that a) the ALP was not defeated at last year’s election, which is why b) the reality of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister (that hated, despicable, woman-hating, evil gnome!) is the outrage it is, which in turn c) justifies saying and/or doing literally anything to overturn the discomfort of present political realities as quickly as possible, and if this means d) totally disregarding fact and honesty (as opposed to merely paying lipservice to them), then the ends justify the means.

If that’s just too sarcastic and caustic, then so be it. There isn’t any substance in Shorten’s utterances to work with.

Anyone who can be bothered sitting through it can watch the Shorten speech here.

There was acclaim for trade unions, for whom there seems little public affection or loyalty left in the wider Australian community; there was a glowing acknowledgement for NSW Labor leader John Robertson, whose own admission of failing to report being offered a $3 million bribe to Police should have been enough to terminate his political career the moment it was uttered. And that was just the beginning of it.

Shorten sought to resume the Labor campaign against the federal budget, which presumably justified in his own mind at least the undignified personal attacks on Hockey, who he characterised as “devoid of charity” on account of his “personal comfort in life.” It was maliciously resentful class warfare gobbledygook of the worst and most inflammatory kind, and hardly becoming of a man purporting to suitability to serve as Prime Minister.

His latest attempt to justify Labor’s cavalier lies over the budget rested, in his speech, on the assertion that those recommendations by the Abbott government’s Commission of Budget Audit that were rejected are actually the next wave of “cruel cuts” the government will make.

The $7 Medicare co-payment thus became “a $15 GP tax.”

There would be “a hospital tax.”

There would be “a lower, state-based minimum wage.”

To continue the theme — and to continue to fan the flames of frightening hell out of the vulnerable with reprehensible dishonesty — Labor’s shadow Health spokesperson, Catherine King, claimed on Sky News that not only did the Abbott government seek to “unpick Medicare,” but that if this fictitious goal were ever realised, low-income earners would be “bumped out of (healthcare) appointments.”

Shorten, in his conference speech, belted the tired old can of “US two-tiered health care” that nobody seriously thinks anyone wants to see introduced in Australia, but never mind that.

It’s all rubbish. And it ignores a few basic points. Chiefly, that unless the rampant and profligate recurrent spending the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government set in train is halted, then this country is 10 or 15 years (at the most) away from being as much a basket case as half of Europe is now.

But none of this bothers Shorten, who claimed the government was “unravelling from the centre and rotting from the top.” He couldn’t even get the metaphor of a fish rotting from the head right.

Is anyone impressed?

It goes without saying, of course, that Shorten announced no Labor policies; gave no details of how he would undo the “cruel cuts” he uses as a handy soundbite, or how they could be reversed without consigning the budget to a decade of structural deficit and high — and growing — national debt; and made no attempt to either acknowledge the faults of the last Labor government, nor to defend its record of strategic pork barrelling and legislating the budget traps it set for the current government to try to fix.

Shorten is a brilliant whinger; I’ll concede that; he probably has skills in cultivating disaffection where none exists and whipping the disgruntled into orgies of self-righteous and indignant fury. After all, he was a trade union organiser for years. He was probably very good at that too.

But as a candidate for the Prime Ministership or as the “leader” of a prospective government, he has nothing to offer.

Nothing except a few stirring speeches tailored to play well to the gullible and the brainwashed, but nothing for the people who really matter — the majority in the middle of Australian society.

All Shorten has is bile, bluster and bullshit. And as of today, he’s back on the job.

Be afraid.

 

 

Perspectives On MH17, And On Handling Russia

IN THE AFTERMATH of an atrocity that saw 298 people needlessly slaughtered when their aeroplane was shot down in Ukrainian airspace, Russia has been the target of surprisingly unified international outrage; yet even now, there are reports of obfuscation and interference in enabling investigations of the disaster and the repatriation of the deceased to progress. Today, we look at a no-nonsense, commonsense approach to Putin’s Russia.

This is one of those posts in which I’m really only sharing something I have read; today it’s a piece from David Davis (the veteran Conservative Party MP and minister under John Major, not his namesake in the Victorian Parliament) which readers can peruse here.

Davis’ thesis — that it is time to end the appeasement of Russian President Vladimir Putin — is bang on the mark.

This time last week, we considered questions about Russia broadly and its behaviour under Putin specifically in some detail; those who missed the article at the time can access it (and a couple of other bits and bobs I linked it to) here, and as I said at the time it seems that any reluctance to condemn Russia for its culpability in the episode was misplaced.

Even now, though — amid the outrage the shootdown of flight MH17 has provoked — Russia is being given every opportunity to “prove” its bona fides as a “responsible” global citizen.

Yes, there are sanctions being applied to Russia by the US and the West. But whilst these will cause some inconvenience to Putin’s regime, they won’t hit Russia where it really hurts: by cutting it out of global financial circles altogether, and by preventing it from making a fortune selling energy to Europe — and holding it, quite literally, to ransom as it does.

Davis’ assessment is brutal in its candour, blunt in its resolve, yet nonetheless still proposes that Putin’s Russia be offered a carrot for its co-operation — with the real stick of isolating Russia altogether not just to be threatened for non-compliance, but actually implemented. I strongly urge readers to take the time to read the article I have shared.

There are three points I make.

One, that Davis is right: US President Barack Obama has handled Putin with kid gloves, which in turn has emboldened Russia to modernise and rearm both itself and its acolytes regionally — and this includes the so-called “separatists” in Ukraine who were the apparent culprits in shooting MH17 out of the sky. (I am not going to use the sanitised semantics preferred by Russia that present the plane as  “downed” over Ukraine: it was shot down, pure and simple).

The Obama presidency has, predictably, been an abject waste of time where international relations are concerned. Under the auspices of its purported “trust” in “partners” and its pursuit of “peace,” the US has perpetrated a ridiculous act of self-disarmament that (unsurprisingly) has not been met in kind by Russia; it has, in seeking to eschew conflict, allowed the outrages of militant Islamic violence in the Middle East to cost thousands of lives; and despite its rhetoric, it has allowed potential flashpoints involving Russia and China (at the top of a long list) to develop into problems that could trigger dangerous military conflagrations, where more a hawkish posture might have kept these things at bay.

Two, the carrot-and-stick approach Davis advocates is the only correct tack to take; it must be made clear that if Russia refuses to co-operate (as opposed to saying one thing and doing something else) then the funds it derives from trade with the West — and on which it relies to prevent economic collapse — will be summarily stopped. Davis is right that this would involve some real cost in the short term to the EU and countries like Britain as alternative sources of reliable energy are brought online, and quickly. But the failure to walk such a path would amount to no more than a continuation of the very appeasement he rightly rails against. The EU and Britain prospered without Russia for decades. There is no reason to believe they could not do so again.

And three, some will say that isolating Russia won’t work; that shutting it off from the free world will simply provoke it. The devastating response to such piffle is that embracing Russia hasn’t worked either; and unprovoked as it may or may not be now, it has certainly been working itself into a position of globally apocalyptic offensive capability largely on the back of what used to be called “petrodollars.” The fear of angering Russia has encouraged it to strengthen its hand. Putin has already demonstrated a willingness to flex the muscles of Russian military might and hold its fist aloft, as have some of his cronies. If “working with” Russia hasn’t worked, then cutting it off can only yield results that, at the very least, are no worse.

And lest there still remain those who think taking a stronger line against Russia is a madness confined to the lunar outskirts of reality, another excellent article I have seen this morning — this time from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper — more or less echoes the same sentiments expressed in this column, as well as those enunciated by David Davis and a growing number of prominent leaders and public figures across the free world.

Now that some time has passed since this shocking disaster occurred — and as voices such as these grow stronger, and louder, and face less resistance in mainstream discourse than they might have a fortnight ago — I am interested in what readers of this column might make of them: both in terms of the arguments raised in the articles I have featured, or in the brief comment I have made on the points raised in the Davis essay.

 

It Leaked Stolen Baillieu Tape: Labor Unfit To Govern Victoria

APPARENT REVELATIONS in the Fairfax and Murdoch press today confirm what most observers and pundits had already guessed: that despite its denials, the Labor Party was responsible for the theft and distribution of the dictaphone of a journalist from The Age, and damaging material featuring former Premier Ted Baillieu stored on it. Others are yet to be called to answer, but the development proves the ALP is unfit for government in Victoria.

In framing my remarks this morning on a tasteless, reprehensible and grubby little stunt that provided ample fuel for the animosity many voters feel toward politics and politicians, I direct readers firstly to my article of 28 June, in which I made my only comment on this episode to date; and secondly to the reports carried by The Age and the Herald Sun this morning, which collectively amount to an admirable effort of investigative journalism that ought to see Victorian Labor dangling and twisting in the wind.

(An excellent analysis piece was also published by The Age this morning, and that can be accessed here).

It is the Fairfax report I am going to rely on today; partly because the stolen dictaphone at the root of this scandal belonged to its journalist, Farrah Tomazin; partly because it provides the most detail; and partly because this welcome (if self-interested) burst of impartiality from The Age dishes up hard questions the Labor Party has not only refused to answer, but has seemingly continued to deny responsibility over for the actions that make them necessary to contemplate in the first place.

I would like to begin by pointing out that none of these articles offer any answers as to a) how and by whom sensitive internal Liberal Party distribution lists were accessed, and b) who it was that used those lists to send hundreds of Liberal Party members (including me) and state MPs an audio link to the potentially damaging material contained on the tape from the stolen dictaphone under the name of non-existent party member Elizabeth McRobert.

My belief remains that this could only have been done by a person or people with access to Liberal Party headquarters and its databases, although investigations into their identity (or identities) continue. I have already communicated my view that these people should be rounded up, humiliated publicly, expelled from the Liberal Party and prosecuted to the Party’s State Director. I stand by that sentiment.

But for an illicit distribution to occur, there must first be suitably explosive material to distribute; and were it not for the theft of Ms Tomazin’s dictaphone and the consequent access to the politically sensitive recording on it, no such material would be available for such an enterprise to be undertaken.

In other words, the finger points at the ALP: the perpetrator/s of the original theft are, at its genesis, responsible for this whole scandal. The investigative report in The Age lays the blame squarely at Labor’s feet.

Today’s revelations prove the Labor Party is unfit to govern Victoria.

At various times since the private conversation between Tomazin and former Premier Ted Baillieu was first made public on 24 June, senior Labor figures — including its leader, Daniel Andrews, his deputy, James Merlino, and the ALP’s state secretary, Noah Carroll — have all stated, on the record, that the ALP rejected any suggestion of its involvement in either the theft of Tomazin’s recorder or the subsequent dissemination of the material on it.

Yet just as the finger points to Labor for “acquiring” the dictaphone from a lost property bin at its state conference, no amount of blame shifting or butt-covering can absolve the ALP from answering for the actions of whomever in its ranks took it, or from taking responsibility for the repercussions; the buck has to stop somewhere, and — as the public face of Labor in Victoria — that “somewhere” is its leader, Daniel Andrews.

The Age‘s report that “senior staff from…Daniel Andrews’ office and Labor Party chiefs” — whom it has declined, for now, to name —  strongly suggests that despite their denials, Andrews and his colleagues are uniquely placed to know exactly who the culprits are.

It is clear, given the detailed analysis undertaken by The Age, that great consideration of the tape was given by Victorian Labor at an organisational level; it can hardly be said that collectively, they did not understand the import of the material they had procured nor the potential for such explosive material to seriously damage the government of Premier Denis Napthine if handled adroitly, and without any traces of their involvement that could cause the issue to rebound on the ALP in the runup to the state election on 29 November.

Indeed, The Age reports that one of them went so far as to seek legal opinion on the tape. To the credit of whoever it was, he argued against its circulation. But — in the kind of filthy political storyline so common of Labor across the country these days — the offending material was nonetheless passed on. To someone, somewhere. Australia has witnessed the fracas that erupted as a result.

The list of questions published in The Age this morning — which it asked of several senior ALP figures, but most notably of Mr Andrews — is entirely in the public interest.

Yet Andrews has not proven unable to answer them; he has simply refused to do so, and this fits a disturbing pattern of behaviour that most thinking Victorians should consider before casting their votes in November.

Piecemeal as it may be so far, evidence is beginning to emerge at the Heydon Royal Commission of an unhealthy relationship between Mr Andrews and the militant, anti-democratic CFMEU: a relationship Andrews also seeks to deflect by refusing to comment on the apparently less savoury alleged aspects of it.

As Health minister in the Brumby government, he sought to defend waiting lists in state-operated hospitals that were doctored prior to publication to show the former ALP regime in a more positive light than was the case.

As opposition leader, he refused to condemn the “ring in” of union officials to pose as sick patients lying on hospital trolleys in those same hospitals, in a despicable piece of political propaganda aimed at aiding unions in their pay dispute with the (then Baillieu) government.

His party has sought to use rogue MP Geoff Shaw to create maximum havoc for Napthine, lambasting the Premier for the simple crime that the government is hostage to tight numbers in Parliament and has depended on Shaw to govern. Yet this moralising outrage is tempered by the fact his party has proven more than willing to collude with Shaw or to harness his antics to its own advantage at almost every available opportunity.

And that brings us — quite neatly — full circle, and back to the tape from the stolen dictaphone, which Andrews seeks to defend Labor from by again deflecting pertinent questions about its involvement.

At some point, the ALP has to be held to account; it is not good enough for Labor to simply operate as a law unto itself, and to expect what it believes to be a gullible electorate to accept its pronouncements at face value.

There is ample evidence that across Australia, the Labor Party continues to grow increasingly cavalier with the truth: it cares little if the utterances of its representatives are grounded in fact.

And its refusal to take any responsibility whatsoever for its own shortcomings in government are, in this case, a mere precursor to its refusal to now offer an explanation for the Tomazin dictaphone theft that is acceptable or plausible in any way, shape, or form.

In fact, Labor offers no explanation at all.

It is quite possible that criminal charges and prosecutions will flow from these events; indeed, The Age reports that the unauthorised distribution of material such as the private conversation contained on that tape carries a two-year maximum penalty under applicable state government law. Yet that doesn’t seem to faze Labor — or Andrews — in the slightest.

Matters of probity and accountability sit at the forefront of any government’s responsibility to the people it is elected to serve, and as a party that aspires to reclaim government at the imminent state election, that responsibility equally applies to the Victorian ALP.

For this reason — and in view of its clear attempts to sweep these matters under the carpet — Labor has proven itself unfit to serve as a government in our great state of Victoria.

It becomes incumbent on electors to register their disgust at what can only be interpreted as a conspiracy to rig an election, and to vote accordingly.

 

 

Class Act: Politics And Dating With Jacqui Lambie

STUNTS AND BUFFOONERY are one thing, but the performance of Palmer Senator Jacqui Lambie on Hobart breakfast radio today shows how unsuited she is to anything requiring discretion, decency, or any pretence to good taste. Lambie’s declaration — that she is a gold digger seeking men with huge penises — suggests she is better suited to the pub circuit, not the Senate. Men are entitled to be disgusted. The “sisterhood” should be horrified.

It was cringeworthy, tacky, and tasteless in the extreme, but never mind that.

Rookie Palmer Senator Jacqui Lambie has shown — again — why those who have always pilloried her as a lightweight and a joke are correct in their assessments of her, and why others (like this column) who were initially prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt were mistaken. Certainly, aside from the value of her vote in the Senate, it is increasingly clear there is nothing whatsoever to recommend Lambie as a suitable person to sit in an Australian House of Parliament.

Lambie’s appearance on Hobart breakfast radio this morning was less about building her profile and “connecting” with an audience than it was about demonstrating what happens when unthinking voters lodge protest votes to avoid the fine for failing to vote at all. Those who missed it can access an audio link to the segment through this story, carried in the Fairfax press.

There is a time and a place for everything, and — to be fair — this extends to talking dirty, outlining “theories” of (in this case) men, or articulating a wish list in terms of what one might seek in a life partner if single and looking.

But those are conversations to be had behind closed doors and privately, or perhaps in light of what Lambie has had to say today, in the cold light of a grimy pub in some God-forsaken shithole at 3am when the music stops and the supply of booze has been cut off.

With no sense of either occasion or position — to say nothing of ordinary, old-fashioned good taste — Lambie seems oblivious to the fact she no longer resides in a barracks, but sits in the Senate; and that irrespective of whatever predilections or peccadilloes she may pursue privately, she is now a parliamentarian and a community leader. She needs to start behaving like one.

There is no need, for example, for a Senator to use a media platform (which any idiot would know would circulate nationally) to lament the unkempt state of her pubic mane.

But it is in the list of attributes the unsurprisingly single Lambie outlines as “ideal” in a man that she really oversteps the mark; stating that any prospective suitor must have “heaps of cash” and “a package between their legs” (also known, colloquially, as being hung like a horse) is not the kind of thing a responsible holder of office should be sharing with a public audience.

“They don’t even need to speak,” Lambie told her disbelieving radio hosts.

And faced with the prospect of being “a cougar,” as those hosts tried to line her up for a date with a man younger than her son, the fact that the fellow in question stated a) that he had inherited “a small fortune,” b) that he didn’t “have any diseases,” in response to an explicit question from Lambie to this effect, and c) that he was “hung like a donkey” all apparently conspired to make him suitable to Lambie to continue to discuss the prospect of a date is as illustrative of how far out of her depth she is in the Senate as it is of just how dysfunctional her sense of appropriate standards of conduct are.

If it were a male parliamentarian discussing the desired size of a woman’s breasts on radio, for example, or talking about the size of his own…er, endowment…he would be roundly castigated and rightly so.

And whilst some of the so-called “handbag hit squad” might deem such observations to be “sexist” or “misogynistic,” Lambie has shown herself if nothing else to be rough, coarse, and not much of a catch for any genuinely well-intentioned male.

It says much that this is the kind of thing some people in Australia find an appropriate level at which to pitch their contributions to the national polity; God forbid anyone should want to talk about standards and values of decency.

But men — decent men — are entitled to be disgusted. And Julia Gillard’s “handbag hit squad” — who, thus far, have remained silent — ought to forego their expedient cloaks of hypocritical expediency, and slap Lambie down on behalf of the sisterhood they purport to defend.

Is it any wonder non-compulsory voting is so attractive to so many reasonable people…