Career Loser: Time For The Queensland LNP To Dump Springborg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which, of course, is the point.

The LNP is a mess.

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

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

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

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

Now that really would be an achievement of sorts.

 

Imbeciles, Cretinism, And New “Conservative Parties”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ministerial Reshuffle: Turnbull Nails It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Turnbull Surge: Coalition Lead An Indictment On Shorten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day One: Credlin, Spivs To Be Booted Out Of Canberra

EARLY PROMISING SIGNS are filtering out of Canberra in the wake of the Liberal Party’s leadership change, and this first full day of Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership sees  news that Peta Credlin — and a goodly number of the spivs and hacks linked to her — are set to be given the boot; there is no value in “intellectual capital” that has all but wrecked a government. This column welcomes the overhaul it has campaigned for over the past year.

We are going to keep it fairly succinct today (as I always say, it seems), as yet another manic day beckons for me; but one point I did not make sufficiently clear yesterday is that where the performance of the Turnbull government is concerned, this column maintains an open mind.

I did stipulate to readers that Turnbull would be given the benefit of the doubt, and as with all things political we will acknowledge and credit where indicated and critique and oppose if warranted, but everyone knows the potential pitfalls associated with Malcolm: we have spelt them out at length with great clarity often enough.

Now, Malcolm gets judged on his merits — or otherwise — as the course of events dictates.

To this end, I have been speaking with people behind the scenes, and those conversations mirror a series of headlines in the mainstream press this morning that suggest the former Chief of Staff to Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin — along with a swathe of senior advisors and Liberal Party figures, perhaps including her husband, the Liberals’ federal director Brian Loughnane — are set to be given their marching orders as the new regime in Canberra moves to establish itself in office.

This cleanout — significantly — is high on any list of urgent priorities I would nominate for Turnbull’s government, and I wish to put my total endorsement of the proposed back-of-house restructure on record without equivocation.

There are two articles I want to share today, both from The Australian — you can access them here and here — and whilst I appreciate some will now feel squeamish about people (even if they don’t know them) being summarily dismissed from their employment and thrown onto the street, I would remind them that context is an aspect of this situation that must transcend sentiments of that nature.

Very simply, politics is a brutal game: and people like Peta Credlin, Loughnane, and others charged with the execution of the logistical functions of an elected government must either deliver results that ultimately are political in nature, or depart.

At the risk of rehashing criticisms we have had need to revisit far too many times over the past 18 months or so, the signposts of their utter failure are strewn across the political landscape as far as the eye can see.

The most obvious, of course, is the persistent and entrenched standing of the federal Coalition across every reputable opinion poll since its first budget in May last year; as we noted as recently as Monday, the average of these portends a 6.5% swing to Labor and the loss of some 30 seats in the House of Representatives.

Those polls — Newspoll, Galaxy, Ipsos, Essential and ReachTel chief among them — have been far too settled for far too long to draw any other conclusion than that an electoral belting was certain, and as I have emphasised to readers repeatedly over the past four or five years, it’s the trend lines in opinion sampling that provide insights of value, not individual polls: and those trends, occasional flutter one way or the other notwithstanding, have been so stable as to constitute a lethal indicator of electoral sentiment.

The reason back-of-house operatives deserve to carry the can for them now, as a new broom sweeps through the government, is that those polls have been driven by all the things this government has been most defective in to date.

Political strategy and tactics, management of Parliament, the ability (or in this case otherwise) to communicate or sell anything to a jaded and betrayed electorate, the paucity of a genuine reform agenda…all of these things are the responsibility of those appointed by elected representatives to augment and execute the government’s business, and in every conceivable respect the government — headed, at the back-of-house, by Credlin, and substantially manned by hand-picked, personally sanctioned appointees — has been found wanting.

When (non-fictional) stories of business leaders being driven to apoplexy by a regime that refuses to provide access to the Prime Minister abound — tales of titans of industry being given access to Credlin rather than to Abbott himself are plentiful in any exploration of the goings-on of government — it’s not hard to spot what has been the greatest Achilles heel bedevilling the Coalition in office for the past two years.

Now, the entire rotten edifice appears set to be obliterated.

In this regard, Liberal Party adherents — from those enmeshed with the party in its membership and executive arms right down to the floating voters who helped elect it, and who have flirted with deserting it at the next election — can take great solace from the fact that veteran Liberal figure Tony Nutt has been drafted by Turnbull to overhaul the government’s advisory stocks.

Lynton Crosby — the strategist who oversaw four election wins by John Howard and most recently engineered the stunning majority win achieved by the Conservative Party in Britain — is set to guide the new government along with his partner in crime, pollster Mark Textor; and to round out the return of the Liberals’ best strategic brains to the fold after being shut out at the behest of Credlin, former Queensland LNP identity, now Senator, James McGrath is also set to help shape the new government behind the scenes.

The era of real, perceived and/or imagined opponents being malignantly shut out of Canberra appears to be at its end; it’s an open secret, for example, that Crosby and Textor were unwelcome for most of the span of Abbott’s government — at Credlin’s behest — and that is a bewildering, and damnable, misjudgement given the miracle the duo worked for Britain’s Tories, the moribund state of health into which the Abbott government degenerated, and the reputational supremacy Crosby richly deserves as one of the best (if not the best) conservative political strategist in the western world.

The fact that Nutt — presently in charge of the NSW division of the Liberal Party — is said to be returning to Canberra speaks volumes; for those who care to look at the Liberal Party’s divisions across Australia, it’s no accident that the one in the most robust health is the one Nutt runs out of Sydney and again, he represents (like Crosby and Textor) an unbelievable instance of the Abbott government shutting out an obvious talent and potential asset for no better reason than the vanity and petty whims of its dictatorial chief advisor.

The departure of Loughnane should follow that of Credlin very, very closely indeed; as for his 2IC, Julian Sheezel — whom I last saw when he was 21 and I 19, and both of us less mature than our opinions of ourselves permitted us to admit at the time — I am ambivalent, although any decision to retain him should be contingent on an undertaking to prevent the departed duo from any input or involvement from the sidelines, and instant dismissal made an agreed consequence of any first breach of such an undertaking.

As for the rest of Credlin’s lackeys and stooges scattered across ministerial offices, one trusts Nutt will sort the wheat from the chaff and summarily dispatch the no-hopers who have been complicit in the malaise that has brought down a perfectly viable Prime Minister and almost destroyed a government altogether in so doing.

There are those who will lament the loss of “capital” and I simply respond that the retention of failures will aid nobody — aside from the ALP — and if the Liberal Party is, as The Australian suggested this morning, short of experienced executives to man its fortresses, then a punt on new people moved in and given an opportunity to shine is a better bet on balance than a wish for duds to metamorphose into something other than duds: they won’t.

Full stop.

It is true that the commencement of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership coincides with very low expectations on my part; but I am open-minded about such things — as the inclination to extend a wait-and-see approach should suggest — and I would like nothing more, in a few weeks or a few months’ time, to be singing the praises of the continuing government, and with very sound reasons for doing so.

Readers know that I will do nothing of the sort if I don’t believe it is warranted.

Yet the fact the advisory pool appears set to be gutted and rebuilt meets a demand this column has been making of the government for almost 18 months: ever since it became woefully evident that Ms Credlin’s outfit was hopelessly unsuited to the task, and gauged against actual political outcomes rather than some half-arsed entreaty that she is a “smart” and “fierce” warrior.

I can be fierce. Just ask my cat if it pisses on the carpet. It doesn’t automatically follow that I’m effective.

Top marks to Turnbull for elevating this crucial aspect of governance to the very top of his list of priorities. It’s an indication he may really be as serious about fixing things as he says he is. The ministry will be Turnbull’s next test, and the signs already are that he isn’t going to flub that one, either.

My criticisms of him aside, I’m more than happy to accept any call to Canberra to help if asked: and yes, following the message in yesterday’s column, I am already inclining towards remaining in the fold and fighting to help push the government back into a winning position.

And as for Credlin — as hard as this sounds — it is impossible to feel any compunction, even if the imminent purge renders her unemployable: I don’t have any sympathy for her, and nor should anyone else.

The Perils And Pitfalls Of Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister

IN AN EMBARRASSMENT to the Liberal Party and to Australia, former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull has been restored to the position by a snap ballot of the Liberal party room; it is the second time in just over two years an egomaniac deposed by his colleagues has toppled a Prime Minister to slake an ego. Tony Abbott’s defeat is self-inflicted. But Turnbull is no “solution,” and those responsible for his ascension should be ashamed of themselves.

I begin with a message to readers that over the next few days — perhaps over a week or so — I will be giving very careful consideration to my membership of the Liberal Party, and specifically to whether there is any point in either continuing as a member of the party or for the party to continue to exist in its present form at all; on the latter, some of my comments today will explain my thinking, but whether or not I remain within the organisation this column will continue to articulate conservative views and advocate for rational, practical, moderate conservative policies as it has always done.

Let’s be frank: Australia did not receive conservative government from Tony Abbott, despite the initial false promise and in spite of the insults hurled around that his was a “hard Right” government. It most certainly will not receive conservative government from Malcolm Turnbull.

But first things first: congratulations to Malcolm on winning the ballot for the party leadership last night. I heard him talking on Sky News some time afterwards, and he made what at face value were encouraging noises — as he had to — but it remains to be seen whether he can deliver on them, or can deliver a slate of constructive policy outcomes at all. To some extent whether he can or not is well out of his hands, and I would warn those who naively think the messiah has been elevated through this process that he may not in fact be able to satisfy them.

I think what we have seen play out — and I had advance notice that moves were afoot, which is why articles targeting Peta Credlin and Malcolm Turnbull were published in this column at the weekend — is the end result of a classic “three into two” situation, and has produced an outcome that will prove as unsatisfactory to its proponents as the mess it was contrived to clean up.

We had a conservative Prime Minister — unpopular, but elected with a solid mandate and a healthy enough stipend of public goodwill at the outset — who eschewed the provision of conservative governance and made no serious attempt at broad reform in the face of a hostile Senate and a noisy but intellectually and morally bankrupt opposition in the form of the ALP and the unions.

That reticence was informed by a virtual proxy Prime Minister in the form of his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, whose paw prints could be found upon every conceivable aspect of the Abbott government: its staff, its strategies and tactics (such as they were), its management — or inability thereto — of Parliament; its misfiring apparatus and strategies for communication; its (fraught) relationships with the Liberal Party membership, the business community, and just about everyone and everything else.

And we had a relentlessly ambitious, egomaniacal former Liberal leader, whose mistakes and misadventures cost him the post six years ago, and who has given every indication ever since that the job was one he regarded by right to be his.

The conservative Prime Minister refused to bring his proxy to heel, despite repeated warnings, protests, and the near-death experience of the spill without a candidate seven months ago: even at risk of being booted from the Prime Ministerial suite, Abbott steadfastly and stubbornly proclaimed “loyalty” to Credlin (and other unworthy recipients of this virtue) and elevated that position above all else. The resultant flow of support to the vanquished failed leader has seen him restored to the job he has coveted as an arrogated right: only this time, Turnbull will become Prime Minister himself, provided the National Party does not act on its past hostility toward Turnbull as leader and terminate the coalition agreement with the Liberals.

In the most politically lethal fashion possible, what transpired yesterday graphically illustrates the adage that three into two does not go.

Yesterday’s events are an embarrassment: they are an embarrassment to the Liberal Party, which — for whatever reason, or aggregation of reasons — has performed poorly in government to date and exhibited a distinct degree of political amateurism for which those charged with running the government through the Prime Minister’s Office and the organisational wing of the federal Liberal Party are heavily culpable, and who must now be removed: involuntarily if need be.

They are an embarrassment to the Liberal Party because — despite the lofty talk of “grown-ups” and not being like the ALP — the party has been shown to be no different to the ALP at all; whilst the likes of Credlin and her insidious influence and Abbott’s refusal to curb it have been the ostensible triggers for the leadership change, the true reason Malcolm Turnbull will become Prime Minister today is because people are frightened of losing an election, and not for anything more high-minded or grounded in principle.

And yesterday’s events are an embarrassment to Australia, which for the fifth time in seven years (and for the third time in less than three) faces its international partners and friends to tell them we’ve got a new leader: what is traditionally one of the most stably governed countries in the world has become little better than a banana republic for executing its leaders in midnight coups and replacing them with messiahs — real, perceived, or (usually) imagined.

I believe the defeat Tony Abbott has suffered is entirely self-inflicted, and I direct readers no further than the piece I published on Saturday — having been privately alerted a move against him was just a few days away — as to the reasons for it. Enough said, without rehashing that argument contemporaneously.

So today we have Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister. The very notion of it is ridiculous.

I truly hope Turnbull has learned — as he claims he has — from the disaster he presided over in 2008 and 2009, that very nearly rent the Liberal Party asunder beneath the weight of the burden and the structural stresses he inflicted upon it: he will have had to, because being a distastefully ambitious (if flawed) opposition leader is one thing. Discharging the responsibilities of the Prime Ministership is another matter again.

I am — despite my trenchant criticism of Turnbull and my total opposition to his ascension to the highest office — going to attempt, initially at least, to give him the benefit of the doubt; I do actually like Turnbull very much on the personal level, but politically my reservations about him are extreme. We will see how he does.

It was encouraging to hear that he wants to lead “a truly liberal government,” for one of the criticisms we have made in this column is that the Abbott government wasn’t liberal, it wasn’t conservative, and in fact it wasn’t even following the path of least resistance: slugging its own swinging voters in marginal seats, worrying more about appeasing opponents than delivering for supporters, and running away at the first sign of trouble whenever it attempted anything difficult, the Abbott government will — sadly — become a footnote in the country’s political history to rival Julia Gillard’s and Bill McMahon’s for their torpidity and their lack of rigour.

Turnbull correctly noted the free trade agreements signed (or being developed) by Trade minister Andrew Robb as a crucial foundation stone for Australia’s future prosperity, and he is right; these — along with the re-establishment of proper border controls — are the two shining legacies Abbott as Prime Minister leaves behind.

But in what the sycophantic Left that has championed Turnbull ought to interpret as a shot across the bows — but won’t comprehend — his stated commitment to “freedom, the individual and the market” signals a classical liberal emphasis on personal responsibility and untrammelled capitalistic freedom that sits at odds with notions held by Northcote and Balmain elites of a watermelon-style welfarism predicated on some concept of noblesse oblige that will see the well of entitlement run deep on Turnbull’s watch: it won’t, and it shouldn’t.

If Turnbull’s actions find fidelity with his stated objectives in this regard, I will accord him acknowledgement and a little respect.

But it has to be remembered that this is a deeply defective leader we are talking about.

Turnbull is the man who charged off, half-cocked and without verification, on accusations of a criminal conspiracy involving a ute and Kevin Rudd’s campaign office on the pretext of a doctored email which Turnbull never bothered to authenticate before relying on it.

Turnbull is the “leader” who told his National party coalition partners to pull their heads in and to do what they were told — over the fraught issue of climate change, which is of paramount importance to the Nationals’ farming community — and compounded that with his insistence on pursuing the “market-based” emissions trading regime which, bluntly, was just a tax, later shown under Julia Gillard to be little more than ineffectual at cutting greenhouse gas emissions in any case.

Turnbull is the leader whose concept of Australia is disturbingly evocative of his inner-Sydney electorate, with Oxford Street and Kings Cross at one end and Double Bay and Point Piper at the other; the rest of Australia really bears no resemblance to that sliver of Sydney at all, but Turnbull as Liberal leader the first time showed every inclination of aspiring to govern as if the whole country was a carbon copy of it.

Turnbull is the leader with the undeniably Left-leaning agenda — a republic, gay marriage, climate change — in a party still comprised in the majority by mainstream conservatives; it’s an obvious and dangerous clash that he couldn’t reconcile last time, and it will be interesting to see how he attempts to do so now.

Turnbull is the man who — by repute — you are either for or against; slavering, simpering affection and support is welcome but criticism, notoriously, is not: and there are anecdotes everywhere you look for them of Turnbull’s fits of rage, his grudges, and his vindictiveness against those who don’t fall into line with the mantra.

And whilst Turnbull is obviously a more articulate communicator than Tony Abbott, he’s famed for waffling and going off on tangents — and even watching his brief remarks to the press last night I saw signs he was straining to do just that.

But even if Turnbull manages to control his personal shortcomings, he may still fall flat on his face on account of some of the same obstacles that bedevilled Abbott, the albatross of Credlin around the latter’s neck notwithstanding.

The viciously hostile Senate that confronted Abbott will now confront Turnbull; the new Prime Minister might heed my advice, get rid of Credlin and her coterie, and bring in people with real nous and ingenuity where political strategy and tactics are concerned.

He will face the same noisy, vacuously populist, and intellectually abhorrent opposition in Labor and the unions; Bill Shorten isn’t going to change his ways, even if he’s been “nice” to Turnbull to date — he will merely recalibrate his filthy and dishonest attacks to reflect the new opponent he faces, and rip into Turnbull instead.

The unions aren’t going to treat Turnbull any differently than they treated Abbott; in fact — given Turnbull’s vast wealth, professional background and stated objective of tackling genuine economic and industrial reform — it is conceivable Abbott might be seen in hindsight to have been let off lightly by the unions in particular.

And anyone who thinks the media puppets of the political Left who have gazed adoringly on Malcolm for years — Fairfax, the ABC, the Private Media, and so on — will give his government a free ride are in for a rude shock, especially if he proves to be serious about the things he has said he wants to focus on.

Like Andrew Peacock and Kevin Rudd before him, Turnbull reclaims his leadership with stratospheric personal poll approval numbers; I think the first round of polls will see a sharp spike in the Coalition’s ratings, followed by a decline at a yet-to-be determined rate of knots — and I say this not to be anti-Malcolm, but because that is exactly what happened to Peacock and Rudd after the proverbial first five minutes had passed.

Quite candidly, if Turnbull were serious, he’d call an election later today once he’s been sworn in, and seek his own mandate.

And why? Unlike Julia Gillard (of whom conventional wisdom concurs made a mistake in “rushing” to an election on becoming Prime Minister), voters know him well; he’s been around, with a sky-high profile inside and outside Parliament, for decades; and the impression voters have of him is never going to be higher than it will be when the first round of polling comes in a week or two.

Better to go now — to an election for both houses of Parliament — and try to cash in.

Because the longer he leaves it, the likelier it is the Coalition will lose anyway; the obstacles to Turnbull’s success — within and beyond his control — will eat away at whatever support he might bring back to the Coalition’s pile. As we saw with Rudd Mk II, that erosion can happen very quickly.

If the formidable coalition of the Senate, Labor, the Communist Party Greens, the unions, the ABC and Fairfax take to the new Liberal Prime Minister with malicious vengeance, Turnbull could find himself standing in Tony Abbott’s debased position very quickly indeed.

And to go today — literally — brings with it the added benefit of locking Labor’s greatest liability, Bill Shorten, in as “leader.”

Make no mistake, when Parliament rises for three weeks on Thursday, little helpers associated with Tanya Plibersek are likely to go looking for the 48 autographs that are required from Labor’s 80 MPs to trigger a special leadership ballot and circumvent Rudd’s ALP leadership election rules that supposedly make Shorten immune to challenge.

Turnbull might beat Shorten now, but a new Labor leader, after time to wear the government down, and with the distinct prospect all of the forces ranged against it could scuttle any renaissance Turnbull might hope to spark, could be a different proposition altogether.

Yet discarding my anti-Turnbull political prejudices and being objective about it, I’d rate Malcolm’s re-election prospects at no better than 50/50: and that’s right at the beginning, when his stocks are highest.

Those who deserted Abbott — searching for the quick fix and motivated by electoral desperation, panicked into something that might keep their own arses comfortable in a marginal seat held onto just once more — really ought to be ashamed of themselves, for to fail to give forethought to the realistic prospects of electoral success under Turnbull that are far from a sure thing means they may well have put the Liberal Party through a desperately undesirable trauma for nothing.

I’m not saying Abbott shouldn’t have been overthrown and in fact, I think I have made it clear that he probably needed to go on account of his refusal to remove an unelected “Prime Minister” and the existential damage she was doing to the party and its support in the country.

But there were other options (not that this column will ever advocate for Julie Bishop again in a hurry) that weren’t explored: a ticket featuring Bishop, Robb, Scott Morrison and even Turnbull in a different capacity could have achieved everything the party needed without chancing its arm on a proven liability with questionable claims of rehabilitation underwriting his sales pitch.

It may be at some stage that serious people across Australia — from the Liberal and National parties, other smaller political entities of the mainstream Right, business, industry, and key constituencies in defence and the elderly — examine the prospects for a new, mass-based and unified conservative party; that’s a prospect I am open to, but I think the Turnbull experiment, for better or for worse, must first run its course.

Obviously, we will be talking about this extensively in coming days, so for now (at 1.25am) I am going to leave it there: today is a very heavy day for me, and I’m pushing it as it is on very little sleep to begin with.

But to say I am disgusted, angry, and extremely disappointed by what the elected servants of the Liberal Party did yesterday is an understatement.

Let those who have volubly and remorselessly advocated for a Prime Ministership for Malcolm Turnbull enjoy their moment of triumph.

A moment is all they may get. For all of the reasons we have discussed — and then some — the Liberal Party’s problems may only just be starting.