Big Labor Spend-Up From Empty Coffers On Gonski, NDIS

JUST IN TIME for an election at which bribes, fear, empty populism and reckless irresponsibility collectively offer its only viable path to victory, Labor has wheeled out a stunning double whammy of almost $100bn in uncosted, unfunded promises and the arrant stupidity of its pious, self-important, utterly useless former Treasurer Wayne Swan to sell them. Plenty of options exist for Australians to vote for. Labor does not deserve to be one of them.

Here’s a fact: there is not some bottomless well of money for governments in Australia to plumb and throw largesse from like confetti; there never was.

Here’s another fact: there is an endless list of things political parties would like to promise to give voters if they win elections, and endless lists of things voters want from governments if they do: some of these are undeniably worthy; some are dubious, designed to buy off sectional constituencies depending on political stripe; and some are simply downright ridiculous.

But the kicker in this short statement of facts is that with gross government debt now approaching half a trillion dollars — or almost 40% of GDP — over the four-year budget outlook period, this country is no longer one whose debt is “low by international standards,” as ALP politicians like to proclaim; debt at 60% of GDP reaches the lower outskirts of the structurally unsound economies in Europe, whilst debt at 80% of GDP lands squarely in Eurotrash territory that sees several of those economies unable to fund their way out of chronic debt and borrowing.

Here in Australia, we have gone from gross debt levels of -5% of GDP to almost 40% of GDP in less than a decade. It’s now just a virtual hop, skip and a jump now until we hit real trouble: the sort of Armageddon the Liberal Party warned about prior to its return to government, and was ridiculed by the ALP for its trouble.

But just in time for a federal election at which dishonest, unprincipled and magic pudding money management offer its only viable option to puncture the apparent Turnbull juggernaut, the ALP yesterday dusted off its cudgels over two of its most beloved — and least affordable — relics from the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era, with “leader” Bill Shorten promising to sluice $37 billion in new spending around the education system over the next decade if it wins office, and its insidious, contemptible standard bearer for maladministration and unaffordable largesse getting out and about again in the form of one Wayne Maxwell Swan.

Swan — for the negligible value he represents in Australian politics beyond being a Labor machine henchman — has been spruiking the tired and deluded fantasy of his adequacy and skill as Treasurer, insisting that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (set to cost $22 billion per year within eight years) was left fully funded by the ALP in office: it wasn’t, and as this column said at the time, the “transitional” arrangements put in place were only ever enough to cover part of the start-up phase, and initially until 2018.

It took months — and a change of government — for the true eventual annual cost of the NDIS to be revealed, the original figure of $8bn declared by Swan having been comprehensively shown to be a gross understatement; so desperate was the ALP to conceal the true cost of the program before voters kicked it out of office, it was “sold” on a claim its cost was only a third of the true figure.

But Labor, despite its machismo about being responsible managers of money, was more concerned with sabotaging and booby-trapping the budget at that time to render it completely unmanageable by an incoming Liberal government than it was by any genuine regard for the lot of disabled people.

You’d have to say that that dubious project, against a backdrop of entrenched $50bn annual deficits, was an unqualified success. But remember, Swan was the man who, in tandem with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, was party to no fewer than 600 solemn pledges of a budget in surplus under Labor, even going so far in 2012 to talk in Parliament of “the four years of surpluses I announce tonight.”

Needless to say, no surplus ever materialised.

But just like a solitary swallow well before the Spring, Swan has decided to emerge from whatever hole he has spent three years skulking in to proclaim that NDIS costs were covered for an initial ten years when he was Treasurer, despite independent Treasury advice to the government that from this year it would be forced to find an extra $5bn per year to cover them over and above the funding already legislated, rising to $11bn per year by 2022.

The pot of money that was supposed to pay for the NDIS until 2018 is already exhausted, which is no surprise given the growth in people accessing welfare provisions for disability has continued to balloon under the Coalition, which — remember — has been prevented by a ragtag assortment of ALP, Communist Greens, Palmer (and subsequent stand-alone troublemakers) and other crossbench Senators from passing almost every budget saving it has tried to legislate in a desperate (if to date misdirected) attempt to push public finances back onto a sustainable footing.

In other words, the NDIS wasn’t fully funded when Labor left office, a situation compounded by the fact that measures attempted by the Liberals that might have made it so now have been relentlessly voted down in the Senate. Rises in the Medicare levy to 2% and then to 2.5% were only ever a fig leaf (and I said that at the time, too).

But this doesn’t bother Labor, which credits average voters with such absolute stupidity as to be queueing up to bombard them anew with — you guessed it — more unfunded, unaffordable spending measures, with solemn (albeit meaningless) statements of fiscal rectitude and promises that every cent of the proposed new money is paid for.

Warming to this irresponsible agenda, Shorten recommitted the ALP this week to fully funding not just the final two years of spending contained in the Gonski report commissioned by Gillard — which Labor failed to legislate, and which the Coalition was upfront about its refusal to pay for before the last election — but to go further, committing the ALP to $37bn in new education funding over a 10-year period in the unlikely event it wins government later this year.

According to Shorten, the outlay on education was “in the black” on account of increased taxes on tobacco consumption, increased taxes on superannuation, increased taxes on multinational companies, and abolishing the (unexpectedly successful) Coalition policy on Direct Action to combat emissions growth.

Taxes on tobacco are likely to impede Labor’s ability to win an election, disproportionately impacting its own lower-class electoral bedrock as they do; taxes on superannuation will push more self-funded retirees onto at least partial pensions as their ability to support themselves in retirement is eroded, wiping out any savings this red herring might deliver; and taxes on multinationals is a hoax currently being used by left-wing parties not currently in government everywhere in the Western world to hoodwink voters into believing there is something grievously amiss with the sector that provides hundreds of thousands of jobs. There isn’t.

Just this week, ultra-socialist British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was singing from the same vinegar-stained songbook about Google in the House of Commons as Shorten does in Australia; no concrete details of how this purported crackdown might be effected were given, of course — because it never will be — and no explanation for why, when Labour held office in the UK for 13 years until 2010, no attempt to fix the “problem” was made in government.

New Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the same tactic ahead of his election win late last year but of course, now ensconced in office, any mention of “forcing multinational companies to pay their own share” has predictably evaporated.

And so it is with Australian Labor, which didn’t do anything to remedy this alleged outrage of public administration of the business sector — under the astute and competent stewardship of the nation’s finances by Swan, no less — and won’t if, God forbid, it should ever win another election in this country.

But the grab bag of taxes doesn’t end there, with Labor committed to reintroducing not one carbon tax, but two, if restored to office: and with its flat refusal to countenance the cutting of so much as a cent from lavish social expenditure programs that might or might not be worthy, but which simply can’t be justified at a time the budget is haemorrhaging red ink in the tens of billions of dollars per annum, only a fool should believe that a Labor government would usher in anything less than unprecedented, massive, and crippling new taxation measures to pay for it if it makes any attempt at all to balance the budget.

Which, of course, it won’t: responsible economic management, with the partial exception of the Hawke-Keating years, simply isn’t the Labor way.

And anyone who believes Shorten’s latest protestations to fiscal prudence — based on the extremely dodgy nature of his “revenue” measures and on his party’s record in office — should seek urgent psychiatric assessment: the re-emergence of Swan to help hammer out the Labor message in this regard merely underlines the point.

I have been attacked, viciously, for merely suggesting in this column a re-examination of the arrangements for the NDIS and a recosting of the program to look for efficiencies whilst not compromising service delivery; any single social spending program whose first-up slated operating costs are $22 billion annually simply must be capable of yielding several billions of dollars in annual fat without compromising its objectives. But even the mention of looking for savings in a scheme that is a Labor sacred cow is jumped on and disgracefully attacked as somehow an attempt to cast disabled people into abject poverty.

Those attacks, of course, are horse shit, to use the vernacular: but it’s as bad as that when any fair consideration of Labor’s economic responsibility is considered; you can’t even look for ways to deliver the same outcomes for less money without being screamed down as a nasty bastard.

As for education — which isn’t a federal responsibility anyway — the problem far transcends the want of some $37 billion magic pudding handout, and goes to the heart of Labor’s sheer ineptitude in a portfolio it arrogantly and misguidedly insists it owns.

Labor was in office in every state and federally in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the university entry requirements for teachers’ courses were drastically lowered, admitting an army of candidates with severe deficiencies in literacy, numeracy, and critical reasoning to what used to be a noble profession.

I’d say the role of universities is not to teach kids how to think, but the various “education” faculties across the country seem to do a fine job churning out rounded little socialists on a mission to brainwash upcoming generations with their insidious socialist pedagogy.

Once ensconced in classrooms, these teachers — not all of them, mind, for one of the travesties of Labor’s education legacy is that the reputation of good teachers is sullied by the ranks of the incompetents infecting their midst — have presided over the steady fall in educational outcomes that has seen Australia’s international standing as an education nation slip from among the world’s best to the middle of the pack. and have directly facilitated an entire generation of kids that is mostly defective in reading, writing and basic arithmetic: not coincidentally, the same defects as those who should never have been admitted to tertiary teacher training courses to begin with.

Because of the diminished calibre of teachers in the overall pool, it is difficult to justify the continuing employment of a rising number of them on the grounds of merit, performance or outcomes: and also not coincidentally, this has seen teacher unions grow in relevance to the point it’s difficult not to rank them among the nation’s most powerful, if not the most powerful.

Simply throwing money at this problem, in the bucketloads of billions, isn’t going to redress the real problem behind education in Australia: the standard of people entering teaching, overall, is very poor indeed compared to 30 or 40 years ago.

Labor’s education policies are to blame for this — and have created a generation of union-dependent mediocrity that makes it impossible for the best teachers to be paid what they are worth, as the teacher unions insist on equal outcomes for all their members, and which perpetuates an undercurrent of uselessness whose end destination is the generation of Australian kids who simply aren’t equipped by their flawed teachers to face the world when they leave school.

It’s little wonder, when I hear stories of the better state teachers I have known over the years, that so many of them have left the industry, retired early, gone to private schools that pay more for quality hires, or are running specialist and/or remedial private sector educational enterprises based mostly on fixing the faults of state-provided “learning.”

The problem is even further complicated by the fact that to criticise the poor teachers who unfairly sully the fine reputation of the best is to invite abuse from Labor and teacher unions that to criticise the poor is to criticise them all: and this renders the problem impossible to fix. The unions use their muscle to destroy Liberal state governments who try to fix it. Labor state governments, of course, fiddle, but have neither the interest in nor the stomach for slaying the beast their own policies created.

If Shorten, and Labor, wanted to preside over a true “Education Revolution,” biting the bullet and overseeing a root and branch overhaul of the entire Education monolith would be a far better way of doing it than simply throwing money around.

But that’s all Labor knows; tax, spend, tax, spend, borrow, borrow, tax, spend.

In 2016, Shorten Labor is no different, and already, the shamefully irresponsible bribes that only Labor maintains are affordable are already being thrown around, with nary a care as to whether they bankrupt the country, or compromise the living standards of future generations to the point Australia begins to rocket backwards in coming decades relative to comparable Western countries.

Just today, Reserve Bank governor John Fraser has sounded the warning that without budget redress and a hefty cut in the bloated expenditures of the Commonwealth, Australia faces the loss of its AAA credit rating; the consequences of that is that interest on the half-trillion of government debt would rocket, as lending to Australian governments becomes more expensive as global money markets factor in premiums for the risk of default.

There may be a case to argue both Labor and the Coalition are responsible for the mess that must be fixed, but on account of the appearance of $300bn of debt on its watch in government where none existed previously, and more debt-fuelled recurrent spending legislated prior to its defeat — coupled with its stout refusal to allow the Coalition’s savings measures to pass the Senate, content to let the budget haemorrhage, believing this opens opportunities for political attack — Labor is far, far more heavily culpable than anyone could credibly accuse the Coalition.

Some additional material on these themes is available to readers here and here, and it should be noted that — as usual — these articles all come from the Murdoch press simply because the Fairfax titles have published little to nothing where any serious attempt to hold the ALP to account over its incompetence with money is concerned.

There are plenty of options at the looming election for people to vote for; true to type, the Labor offering seems increasingly certain to feature taxes that are either fairy stories or inflict unmanageable burdens on ordinary Australians, whilst promising tens (or hundreds) of billions in bribes that will either never be delivered or which will bankrupt the country.

For those people who actually care about whether the Australia remains a great country in future decades, the ALP is not an option that should seriously be considered as they mark their ballot papers; the risks are simply too great.

And whilst this might mean certain programs are either not delivered or are cut back to make them affordable — even if those programs are, on the face of it, worthy — then that’s the way it must be; the bucket of largesse isn’t bottomless, and there is increasing evidence that it no longer even exists. If it ever did.

Next time Bill Shorten and/or his cronies are in your face promising extravagant spending with supposedly little pain associated with its delivery, readers would do well to bear the points we have covered this morning in mind.

 

Bitch Fight: Just Abolish The Australian Of The Year Award

INTERNECINE BRAWLING over an elitist, increasingly divisive award is not only unedifying, but a symptom of the entitlement complex of the Left and an object demonstration of why the bauble must be abolished. The 2016 Australian of the Year is a poor, undeserving choice. Recent predecessors and pretenders are no better. Far from recognising excellence, it has become a prized trinket of social engineers. Australia will be better off without it.

To some extent, I have been beaten to the punch by one of my favourite conservative columnists — the Daily Telegraph‘s Miranda Devine — but whilst Miranda has covered some of the ground I wanted to address (and you can read her excellent piece on the farcical 2016 Australian of the Year award recipient here) the subject is still worthy of discussion.

But before we start — and I have to be careful how I relate this — I have a story to share.

Many years ago, I knew an individual who was (and it’s the only way to put this) an attention addict; everything was a drama, or an acting-out of fantasies, or — most usually — she was the victim in some conspiracy of the universe against her; unable to accept or respect authority (unless it pandered to her), unable to hold down a job without abusing her employers and/or starting highly visible relationships with male colleagues, this girl is probably the most self-destructive individual I have ever met, although I should add that her wanton behaviour was carefully and deliberately contrived to achieve the maximum attention and sympathy possible, as widely as possible, and from as many people as possible.

Fail to gasp in sympathy and wring your hands in a suitably obtrusive fashion, and you were booted. She wasn’t looking for friends, she was looking for a cheer squad, the members of which were invariably referred to as “the beautiful people.”

This person was fond of male company — not that there’s any harm in that — and was “quick off the mark,” so to speak, with first dates almost invariably ending up in bed (and those around her regaled with lurid accounts of her adventures at every turn). Whilst it does not become us to judge, the reason I note the very high number of partners is because it was accompanied by a very high number of accusations — rapes, stalking, other predatory behaviour, assaults — that never led to criminal charges despite the fact Police were kept busy attending to her complaints.

Eventually, one of these men evolved into enemy #1.

Fast forward about ten years (omitting, deliberately, much of the information that could identify her), this individual made something of a career out of her tale as a domestic violence victim; confronted on at least one occasion that I know of over the decision of Police not to pursue charges in relation to any of her allegations, or on account of the total lack of any medical proof of her story, she made attack her defence — and became abusive. The Police had been wrong. Her medical records were destroyed in a flood. And of course, the individual who had confronted her was screamed at and called…well, all kinds of things. The bottom line: she said what she said, and therefore every detail of her story was true.

(And no, it wasn’t me who confronted her. I just heard about it afterwards).

Never mind that a cursory following of it in the press, over a period of years, was sufficient to identify a progressive development of that story, and ongoing embellishment of key details in it.

Remember, there is no judgement here. But this is an individual with a known history over decades of exaggeration, dramatisation and fabrication of life events, so it came as no surprise that when disgraced wellness blogger Belle Gibson was outed a year ago as a fraud, this person panicked, announcing to her inner coterie that all of her domestic violence work would have to stop as she “had had enough of it,” and reportedly destroying the manuscript for an autobiography that (unbelievably) was set to be published by some ultra-feminist wimmins’ network that had clearly decided it could cash in.

An attempt to blow the whistle on her, in the wake of Gibson’s humiliation, fell flat: the man she had made a fortune and cultivated a cult following from maligning (but never naming) refused to speak to one of the journalists who exposed Gibson as the fraud she was.

The reason I start with this ostensibly inane anecdote is because last year — when domestic violence survivor Rosie Batty was announced as the Australian of the Year — it was reported to me that the mother of all tantrums was thrown by the individual I have just told you about within her closed circle of confidantes. She should have been Australian of the Year. Her work on domestic violence was “better” than Batty’s. Her story was “more compelling” (seriously) than Batty’s. And it seemed, standing on the outside and observing from well beyond arms’ length, that she realised her opportunity to be a national “hero” had been usurped by Batty’s appointment: for the past few years, the Australian of the Year award has been a march through the ranks of minorities, the oppressed, the marginalised, the hard done by. But the odds of a second domestic violence identity receiving the award in rapid succession to Batty would seem remote. All that hard work at profile building and greasing up to influence shapers, on the part of the individual in question, had been for nothing.

Seriously, folks, if you’re determined to be “a star” and prepared to be a victim, a convincing story and a fair amount of worn shoe leather is all it takes to get this close to being declared a national celebrity on Australia Day.

And it seems that comparably bitchy recriminations have erupted this year, with transgender military identity Cate McGregor apparently similarly miffed at not being named Australian of the Year herself; the Fairfax press is carrying a story that notes that despite subsequently apologising (who could fail to be convinced of the sincerity of that?), McGregor lashed out at the appointment of her former boss and former Head of Army David Morrison as a “weak and conventional choice” and — in an interview with (apparently prominent) gay and lesbian magazine Star Observer — declared that the National Australia Day Council Board “did not have the courage to go with an LGBTI person.”

In other words, with her.

“I think I’ll die without seeing a trans Australian of the Year and I think that’s terribly sad,” Fairfax quoted her as saying. You can read the rest of the article here.

I’m sorry, but having a sex change does not entitle you to be named Australian of the Year. I don’t care who you think you are. But lest anyone think this is just another isolated anecdote, we’ll go further.

In 2014, Adam Goodes couldn’t understand why his “stand” against a 13-year-old girl at a football match elicited universal condemnation from much of the football public, and the wider Australian community; last year, the Chardonnay drunks and finger shakers tried to move heaven and Earth to have Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs lined up for the 2016 award, blissfully oblivious to the servile partisan bias of this known hardcore socialist in writing a report that highlighted the child detention debacle that occurred under the Gillard government, but sought to apportion full blame for it to the ongoing Coalition administration that had overseen the release of 90% of the kids by the time it was released.

And this year, of course, we’ve been lumbered with Morrison for twelve months, gifted — as the award seems to confer — a full year in the public spotlight on a free soapbox of media exposure to advance whatever social causes he cares to champion, despite not being elected to any political office and without any tangible base of support (or goodwill) among the wider populace. The Australian Republican Movement probably couldn’t believe its luck when Morrison’s first act was to call for the monarchy to be abolished.

Everywhere you look these days lies some left-wing idiot — revered by the chatterati and elevated to celebrity by a fawning media pack — just waiting to shake their fingers and “set” the national agenda; for the most part these people have no public accountability, are unelected, and are free of any restraints of accountability, circumspection, or context.

Unfortunately, a parallel class has also emerged, comprising glory seekers, professional victims, or those who simply feel entitled to the acclaim they believe the world “owes” them: Gibson was one such creature; the regrettable individual I alluded to earlier is another; and the slew of unmasked “wellness” gurus in Gibson’s wake illustrated that they were and are far from isolated cases.

Some years ago, I knew of a gentleman who attempted to engineer appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia for himself to bolster his case for Liberal Party preselection, and someone whom he thought supportive of the scheme tipped off the Office of the Governor-General (which administers the awards) to the plot. Needless to say, there was no award. But where there is one, there are usually others just slithering around in the woodwork undiscovered.

In past times, the Australian of the Year — even if you disagreed the choice — was someone who had genuinely achieved something in the previous year.

There were entertainers, like John Farnham and Dame Joan Sutherland; sportspeople like Lionel Rose and Robert de Castella; eminent scientists and physicians like Ian Frazer and Macfarlane Burnet, the latter also a Nobel prize winner for Medicine; entrepreneurs, artists, Aboriginal leaders and judges — and many others — cumulatively constituted a representative, if evolving, cross-section of the very best in Australian achievement, endeavour and excellence.

Now it seems the award has been hijacked by the finger shakers and the Chardonnay swillers and those determined to talk Australia into the ground — with an insidious code of purportedly superior socialist doctrines to roll out over the top of it at the ready.

Now, it seems, becoming Australian of the Year isn’t just recognition for something you’ve done, but a licence to be “an ambassador” — and to advance whatever socially trendy views you please, knowing every word you utter will be dutifully be reported and broadcasted across the length and breadth of the country until the rest of us are fed to the teeth hearing about it.

The award is only open, mind you, to fully owned subsidiaries of the socio-political Left: nobody connected with common-sense conservatism is suitable. Heaven forbid that a sporting identity should get the nod. Or an entertainer? These days, the chattering elites would frown upon anything less than some scion of the fine arts that wouldn’t exist without ridiculous taxpayer subsidies to prop them up.

As for the frauds, award chasers, glory seekers, professional victims and everyone else drawn to this arbitrary bauble like flies to a turd, they can be dismissed with the contempt they deserve (and Cate McGregor, that includes you).

To be sure, I’m vehement in my condemnation of domestic violence; I have no particular problem with LGBTI people per se (unless individual ones are just not nice people); I don’t condone racism; and I have the utmost respect for Australia’s armed services.

But with the exception of Batty, there is no compelling argument to justify any of Goodes, Morrison, McGregor or Triggs even warranting consideration as Australian of the Year, let alone being given the award.

The point is that by virtue of the flawed selection process (which Miranda spelt out in her article) the Australian of the Year award is yet another fine Australian tradition that has been hijacked by the Bollinger set and open only to the kind of people who say what the Bollinger set thinks they should say.

I don’t know about the rest of my readers, but I’m just about fed up with being told what to say, or do, or think — and I don’t need cookie-cutter mouthpieces being designated as the best example of Australian citizenry to add some perverse aura of authority to the bullshit they peddle.

There’s another issue here, too: at what point is the silent majority — pushed aside for the preferential treatment of minorities under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and (if anything) even less central to the national agenda now — going to simply snap, and make it brutally clear they have had enough? It mightn’t be a pretty sight.

Balance in all things. But ordinary white, Anglo-Saxon people are the most discriminated against group in Australian society. By governments, so-called “thought” leaders, and through insidious mechanisms like the Australian of the Year award, those who don’t fit one minority or another are being sent the clearest signals imaginable that their values and aspirations actually count for nothing.

This isn’t a problem that can be resolved at a stroke.

But in the context of the discussion at hand, I think the Australian of the Year award has become a bastardised and jaundiced concept that invites ridicule, not respect; it attracts pretenders who seek to game the process — just like the Order of Australia awards do — and to now be told that a mediocrity from the defence forces whose instinct is to advocate for a republic rather than for the betterment of the lives of returned service personnel and their families, or who thinks parroting about gender equity from a socialist song sheet will somehow impress rather than insult the millions of decent people in this country who aren’t sexist or racist bigots, is officially the best citizen of Australia this year is just one fait accompli too many from the sneering, snickering Left.

The rest of the country’s social ills might be an impossible conundrum, but this one isn’t.

Just abolish the Australian of the Year award. Shut it down. It no longer serves its intended purpose. The only people who will miss it are those who have manoeuvred themselves into a position from which dictating its appointees — and their agenda — has become virtually unassailable.

Frankly, we’d be better off with no award than having the likes of Morrison, McGregor, Triggs, Goodes et al running around the place lecturing to us.

And really, given the degenerate state and the farce it has been reduced to, would anyone really miss this award when it is gone? I think not.

 

With The Silly Season Over, The Year “Starts” Today

BACK TO REALITY — in some cases, with a thud — is the order of political business from today, with the passage of Australia Day marking the end of the traditional “silly season” as the country knuckles under for 2016; the major agenda item is a federal election, which may not be as straightforward as it seems at first glance. Plenty of action in the states, where no elections are ostensibly due, and issues from left field, will round out a busy year.

I wanted this morning to simply pause and reflect on where things stand, even after a modestly busy festive season threw up plenty to keep us talking; the political year proper really starts from today, though — the silly season done and done with — and it promises to be a very interesting year in Australian politics indeed.

The central feature, of course, will be the federal election that must be held by January, is “due” around September or October, and whose timing is the subject of great conjecture and argument.

Whilst this column does not support the present Prime Minister as the leader of the Liberal Party and has said so countless times since its inception almost five years ago, we nevertheless believe Australia’s best interests will be served by the emphatic re-election of the Coalition to government, preferably at a double dissolution election, and ideally one held before Easter at the very latest: the worst Tory government is better than the best Labor one, and whilst few would seriously describe Malcolm Turnbull as “a Tory,” or his government as the worst* the Liberals have formed, the so-called alternative offered by the present opposition under its present “leader” is, to be brutal, no credible alternative whatsoever.

I was critical of the ability of Turnbull to translate the easy popularity he recorded in polls prior to resuming the Liberal leadership into electoral success, and whilst the Coalition now averages 54% after preferences on an aggregation of reputable polls, I will be convinced if and when he wins a landslide victory at the polling booth; the 70% who said they would vote for him as Prime Minister have of course melted away to a more believable level, but big opinion polls leads count for nothing if they don’t deliver the government benches at an election.

Just ask John Hewson.

Even so, Turnbull must be an odds-on favourite to secure re-election, and I restate my view that the best way to make this a certainty is for the Prime Minister to get himself to Government House as quickly as he can — even in the next fortnight — to call a double dissolution election for the first half of March (and yes, unbelievably, March is now less than five weeks away).

I think the longer an election announcement is left, the harder it will grow for Turnbull to record the smashing election win the polls currently indicate is within reach; as he demonstrated in September, when launching a leadership challenge against Tony Abbott, when you have the numbers, you use them. It is to be hoped that this same logic is applied to the sterner electoral test — a date with voters — for whilst he may have the numbers now, the nature of electoral support is such that it is never permanent.

Obviously.  🙂

The further the year progresses without an election date, the greater the propensity for hurdles — known and unknown — to be cast into Turnbull’s path.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the government’s greatest political asset — Labor “leader” Bill Shorten — is already on borrowed time, with a mooted switch to Tanya Plibersek late last year averted partly by Plibersek’s ridiculous position that she would seek to bind ALP MPs to vote in favour of legalising gay marriage, and partly by the re-emergence of a Federal Police investigation into Turnbull supporter (and suspended minister) Mal Brough over his alleged involvement in the Peter Slipper affair some years ago.

Shorten could yet be dumped. Brough could yield all sorts of political trouble if the Police turn up anything concrete with which to charge him. New Treasurer Scott Morrison is due to deliver a budget in May — which, if it is to be responsible in an election year, must come laden with tough economic medicine to finally fix the haemorrhaging bottom line and the corresponding explosion in public debt — and this could knock the government right back to where it was under Abbott. Turnbull has already obliged the Coalition to deliver firm policies on labour market flexibility and structural taxation reform. These issues are minefields, not cakewalks.

And all of that is before things just happen, as they invariably do, and typically at the worst possible moment.

I think the best thing Turnbull could do is to spend the next few weeks making broad directional announcements around the key issues his government intends to tackle that provide clear parameters from which to proceed, but which restrict the detail, and then announce an election for both Houses of Parliament; obviously, such a campaign would need to explicitly target the crossbenchers and urge a vote for either of the major parties in the Senate, with the attendant announcement that after an election, measures to clean up the notorious Senate voting system would be legislated.

Bills for Senate changes can and should be introduced to Parliament before it is dissolved: and if not instantly passed, with the government guillotining debate in the lower House to hasten their passage to the Senate, could form an additional justification (if not, indeed, a constitutional trigger) for a double dissolution in the first place.

Shorten, for the little he is worth to Australian politics, would of course bluster and rant about “unfairness,” but an early poll announcement would lock him into his job — which is what Turnbull needs to ensure. On balance Shorten, his vacuous scare campaigns, his paleolithic renewable energy policies and his union baggage pose less of an electoral risk to Turnbull than either hard detail on tax reform or any of the other latent issues that might explode in his face is permitted to fester.

Take the early option, Malcolm.

I can’t remember the last time we entered a year with no state elections due, off the top of my head — perhaps a reader will remind us — but an unscheduled election in Queensland, a year after the LNP was historically booted out of office after a single term and despite the biggest win in Australian history three years earlier, simply must be an odds-on bet.

The minority government formed by Labor after that unedifying loss has hardly set the world on fire; indeed, it seems that aside from restarting the haemorrhage of budget red ink by irresponsibly ramping up spending, the only tangible agenda of Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government has been to remove as widely as possible any trace of Campbell Newman’s handiwork. The latest item on this to-do list appears to be a move to abolish the so-called VLAD laws that put an end to organised criminals using the Gold Coast as a virtual sanctuary.

And Palaszczuk has her problems: with one MP (Billy Gordon) expelled from the ALP and another (Rob Pyne) reportedly contemplating quitting the party — and with scandals around MP Rick Williams and sacked Police minister Jo-Ann Miller all chipping away at what little legitimacy the government has — Palaszczuk enters the political year in a parlous position. An election seems inevitable, and should be a lay-down misere for the LNP to walk back into office at with a healthy majority.

Yet there, too, there are problems; arguably, three-time loser and re-re-recycled LNP leader Lawrence Springborg is the best card in an otherwise poor Labor hand. There is word that Springborg — a true gentleman of politics — is set to be given his marching orders once and for all within the next month. We hope so, and endorse former Treasurer Tim Nicholls as the best bet to aright the listing LNP ship and make a promising electoral position a winning one should Queenslanders return to the polls any time soon.

Still in Queensland, Liberal Lord Mayor Graham Quirk faces what should be a straightforward exercise in re-election in March, coming off a 68% vote four years ago and with the LNP holding 18 of Brisbane’s 26 council wards after a redistribution.

But there are signs that the 12-year-old Liberal administration is growing tired in the minds of voters; a recent poll I saw (and I haven’t got the link, unfortunately) suggested 39% of Brisbane voters thought Quirk deserved another term, 33% were undecided, and 27% favoured the ALP candidate, Rod Harding.

Those numbers almost perfectly mirror the sort of numbers Sallyanne Atkinson was recording at the same stage of the cycle back at the start of 1991: and we all know how that ended.

I would expect Quirk to win, probably not by much, and certainly not with almost 70% of the vote after preferences as he did last time. The interesting thing will be whether he can also retain a majority in the wards (remembering 13 wards will still give the LNP control of Council), and I think he should. It makes the contest in Brisbane a little more interesting than last time, to say the least.

A look around the states shows two Liberal governments in NSW and Tasmania travelling well, polling very well, and both in a position to convincingly win an election “if an election were to be held this weekend,” as the standard pollsters’ question goes; in NSW, however, a sleeper issue is the machinations moderate Liberals are engaging in over federal preselections at present, and given some of the key players are based in state politics, it could impact Mike Baird’s government if it all goes pear-shaped (which, given the scorched Earth approach the moderates seem determined to take, is a distinct possibility).

One will say something positive about the South Australian Labor government too — which seems on course to win an unprecedented fifth term in 2018 unless the Liberals somehow, unexpectedly, miraculously get their act together there — in that its leader, Jay Weatherill, is exhibiting a willingness to at least engage in mature and realistic discussion about GST reform and allocations from the federal government to the states, unlike his Labor counterparts in Victoria and especially Queensland (and Shorten), who seem more content to use the issue as a political football, advancing “solutions” that are nothing of the kind, despite the heinous damage inflicted on the budget by Labor prior to 2013, and despite irrefutable evidence that the lingering malaise is now really beginning to damage the country internationally.

But the state Liberals in WA — re-elected in a massacre of the ALP three years ago that some thought could take three terms to undo — continue to wallow in poor poll numbers as an ageing Premier with no identifiable successor is walloped by the collapse in state revenues that derives from the end of the mining boom, and as his state staggers under ballooning debt loads as a consequence.

And the Labor government in Victoria wins this column’s early vote as the likeliest political bomb-out of 2016: Daniel Andrews’s promise that cancelling a contracted toll road across Melbourne would expose the state to no liability for compensation has been exploded as either incompetence or a lie, with the bill already at $1.1 billion — for no road or other tangible return — and not certain to remain at that level either; the state budget has been turned around on Labor’s watch in a single year from a surplus approaching $2bn to a deficit of some $250 million. Andrews looks and sounds out of his depth (which he is) and is backed by a ministry that could only be described as lacklustre. With unions almost openly running the Andrews government and its record to date conjuring up unflattering comparisons with the Cain-Kirner years, the prospect of this particular administration becoming a train wreck is a compelling one indeed.

The other obvious candidate for bomb-out of the year is one Clive Palmer, likely to be involuntarily ejected from federal Parliament if he is silly enough to stand again for his seat of Fairfax, where current polls show his support at 2%: Palmer has proven to be a destructive loudmouth, unsuited to politics, and bent only on causing as much damage to the Liberal Party as humanly possible — exactly as forecast in this column when he first put his head above the parapet three years ago and announced he would form his own party.

In fact, the effect of Palmer (and of the rabble elected under his banner to the Senate in 2013) has been tantamount to providing an additional faction to the ALP, so prejudicial to the Coalition’s interests has palmer proven.

And with revelations that Palmer “ghost directed” his failing nickel company under the alias “Terry Smith” — despite repeated public declarations he was “retired from business” — along with great anger from businesses and residents in his Sunshine Coast electorate (and not least, over the “Palmer Coolum Resort” that has been all but destroyed as a viable concern under his ownership), nobody can argue that getting the boot from voters is not exactly what he deserves.

It would have been better for Fat Clive to keep quiet. From what I’ve heard, voters aren’t the only group of people who have historically been amenable to the boofhead at first blush, only to develop a near-hatred for him once they got a good look. Perhaps being a shadowy, eccentric benefactor to the LNP now looks like a good wicket wasted in retrospect. Who knows what Palmer really thinks.

And that brings up time for me this morning: obviously there will be other issues, but my objective today was simply to provide a curtain-raising look at the main ones, keeping a weather eye on the political goings-on around the country from an overall perspective.

I’ll be back tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to a long, busy, exciting, and very interesting year in politics.

Can I thank readers for their continued support — last year was our best in terms of readership thus far — and ask that if you enjoy the conversations and debates that take place here, to spread the word to others with an interest in politics and to get them involved as well.

And don’t forget, if you’re not following me on Twitter already, you can do so @theredandblue.

 

*Take a bow, Bill McMahon.

No Thanks: States’ Republic Call An Empty Populist Charade

THE LATEST IDIOCY masquerading as hand-on-heart nationalism kicks off what might be an interesting week this week, with all state and territory leaders — bar WA’s Colin Barnett — signing a so-called “declaration of desired independence” with the aim to end the link to the monarchy and declare Australia a republic; the move is empty, cynical posturing that is likely to fail, but could do irretrievable damage to this country were it to succeed.

This morning’s article was a toss-up between this issue and the renomination of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott for Liberal Party preselection in his seat of Warringah; we will come back to Abbott (and the repercussions of that) this evening, although I am mindful it may be just about time to see some reputable opinion polling as the silly season draws to a close — and if any of that comes through in the meantime, we may have to juggle.

But the “declaration of desired independence” signed by most state and territory leaders — calling for Australia to abandon its links to the British monarchy and declare itself a republic — is the sort of banal drivel that might be expected from people who literally have better things to do with their time, and I say that in full cognisance of the fact that Liberal Party identities in New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are parties to this empty piece of absurd populist posturing.

First, depending on preference, readers may access mainstream media coverage from either the Murdoch or Fairfax stables.

Having covered off on this in the past it’s hard to know where to begin today, so utterly devoid of credibility is the rehashed, reheated, recycled bullshit being squirted afresh by the Australian Republican Movement; dispassionate consideration of the facts of this matter — made with a brutally realistic judgement of the behaviour of people and politicians, rather than some pie-in-the-sky feelgood claptrap and a national singing of Kum-ba-ya — shows the adoption of republican government in this country to be unattainable at best, and downright dangerous to its stability and security at worst.

And no, it has nothing to do with whether you love or hate (or couldn’t care less) about the Royal Family, although with the high visibility and prominence of a large band of popular younger royals, combined with the instant accessibility of social media, it must terrify the ARM that pro-monarchist sentiment in generations Y and Z is running a country mile ahead of support for a switch to a republic among those younger Australians.

In other words, there’s a degree of “it’s now or never” about this.

Traditionally — starting with Paul Keating in 1992 — the idea of a republic in this country is floated by Labor Party politicians facing extreme electoral difficulties as a diversionary tactic; of course, since Keating put the issue on the agenda almost quarter of a century ago, many Liberal Party figures have leapt onto the bandwagon as well. But even now, whenever there’s an attempt to reheat the souffle, it is almost invariably an ALP personality (or someone aligned with the Left) who kicks it off.

So it appears to be now, with most of those behind the so-called declaration being from or aligned to the ALP; the move has the explicit support of embattled federal Labor “leader” Bill Shorten, and if ever there were a Labor figure in diabolical electoral trouble, it is he.

This latest move seems to be an attempt at implicating Prime Minister (and former ARM head) Malcolm Turnbull in a fresh republican plot. To date — and to his credit — Turnbull has resisted the temptation.

It is difficult to see how the conspirators believe they can succeed; after all, there was a referendum just 15 years ago that was convincingly defeated; it is neither possible nor advisable to keep having referendums (or non-binding plebiscites, as is the case here) with the eventual ambition of smashing opposition by wearing it down into resignation. Yet this seems to be the tactic, despite (as The Age records) opposition to the move now commanding an outright majority in reputable opinion polling.

And there is a deadlock among republicans that I can see no way through: the so-called “direct electionists,” compelled in 2000 to vote on a model that featured a President selected by the Houses of federal Parliament, opposed it as “the politicians’ republic,” whilst the so-called “minimalists” who advocated it (and it seems current ARM chief Peter FitzSimons is one of them) have historically appeared to heed at least one argument of monarchists in that the office of a directly elected President would inevitably become politicised — and for a politician to wield the power the Constitution confers on the Australian head of state would be downright dangerous, and would threaten the political stability (and even the security) of the country.

That point should not be ignored or downplayed, and anyone who fatuously claims “oh, they’d never do (insert undemocratic outrage here)” is kidding themselves.

A directly elected President would be a conflict with, and a rival power centre to, the elected government of the day and to Parliament as an institution: and before anyone starts rattling on about 1975, the reserve powers wielded by an impartial figurehead to resolve a constitutional deadlock between the Senate and the House of Representatives — precisely as the constitutional architects foresaw — would not have been used, say, had the Whitlam government held office under an overtly ALP President.

The consequences of that, at a time the government could not appropriate Supply in the Senate and at a time of national social and economic chaos, would have been disastrous.

But really, this stunt — and that is all the “declaration of desired independence” is — hardly merits the trouble of mounting complicated constitutional arguments to shoot it down.

First, it was signed by eight people — eight — out of a country with 25 million people in it, and elected to represent as they may well be, their views on such a critical issue of national importance are no more valid than the other 24.9 million or so living here.

Secondly, one has to wonder why this is such a pressing issue at a time the country’s expenses are running well beyond its income, and have done now for several years; with half a trillion dollars in Commonwealth debt (a figure that grows dangerously close to $1tn once the gross liabilities of the states are included) and no inclination of the entire political Left to even countenance genuine solutions to restore national finances to a sustainable position, the fact its servants can find the time and energy for this is an indictment on them.

But really, the kind of statements — and blatant intellectual dishonesty — being trotted out over this are almost childish.

Thanks to the Australia Acts passed by the Whitlam and Hawke governments, this country is already fully independent of Britain; the British Parliament no longer wields any power to directly determine in the interests of Australia or its people, save for those who still retain UK citizenship; and whilst nobody in the republican cart cares to acknowledge it, Australia has had an Australian head of state now for 50 years: the Governor-General, an office which has been held by Australian-born appointees continuously since 1989, and of whose past 11 appointments 10 (stretching back to and including Lord Casey in the 1960s) were Australian-born. The exception — Sir Ninian Stephen (1982-89) — was a dual national who came to Australia as a child, and who served in the Australian Army in World War II. Only a pedant would suggest Sir Ninian was “a foreigner.”

Significantly, the monarch is a ceremonial figure only, acting on the advice of his or her ministers — including those in Australia — and has no power to amend or reject legislation in this country; and where the spectre of 1975 is invoked, that particular ghost is easily vanquished by the hard, cold fact that Sir John Kerr acted on his own initiative, but in full accordance with the Constitution, to dismiss the Whitlam government: the Palace, whilst reticent in its support, was only informed after the event.

Still, that precis of facts hasn’t stopped the likes of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews making stupid statements like “it’s time to stand on our own two feet, on paper and in practice,” or Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk claiming — with no sense of irony — that it’s “about time our country (was) led by one of our own,” when in point of fact, it already is.

In my view, the entire thrust of the republican offer is based on the cultural cringe and anti-British bent of the hard Left — not all of its advocates necessarily fit that description, but it’s where it originated — and it’s noteworthy that so many of the most prominent advocates for a republic just happen to be Irish Catholics who, of course, have their reasons for hating England, but such prejudices have no place in this country.

(I could add — tongue-in-cheek — that their own anti-discrimination and racial vilification laws prohibit it, but that would hardly be sporting).

But to whatever or whomever you ascribe responsibility for the republican movement, its only appeal is an emotional one, not one based in facts, logic, or consideration for the consequences.

An Australian Head of State (when we have one now). Being led by one of us (we already are). Time to cut the apron strings (which were cut 30 years ago). Time to stop tugging the forelock (what?). Time to do away with a foreigner as Head of State (in any meaningful sense, there isn’t one).

On and on it goes, mindlessly ignorant of the fact that were the republican “dream” to become reality, this could quickly become a very ordinary place to live.

Anyone who trusts Australian politicians to behave soberly and responsibly when imbued with the absolute mandate of directly elected presidential power has a mental problem. Let me just say to those on the Left, you know the hated Tories you reckon are so incompetent, reactionary, dangerous, etc etc etc? At some point they will win the Presidency and they might just act unilaterally. What will you do — bring the unions out onto the streets to overthrow the government?

Naturally, more conservative voters don’t need to be warned about either the dangers of handing their opponents absolute power or of gifting it to their own. There are checks and balances in the present system that would be forever destroyed by abandoning current arrangements. Once they’re gone, no politician will vote them back into existence. And once the monarchy has been abandoned, it is unlikely we would ever be welcomed back into the fold.

Don’t point to the US as an advertisement for the use of presidential power; that country has more problems than we have here.

As I have opined in the past, none of these so-called republican nationalists are running around the world maligning Canada, or New Zealand, or any of the other countries who retain the Queen as the ceremonial head of a constitutional monarchy as the best form of government.

And as FitzSimons points out, 32 of 54 Commonwealth countries have become republics during the present monarch’s reign. An awful lot of those, which he conveniently fails to mention, are social and economic basket cases. There goes that justification as well.

One idea I have heard — either the codification of the reserve powers in the Constitution or their excision from it at a referendum as part of the transitional arrangements — merely underlines the view that as tear-jerking and heartwarming as some of the republican rhetoric might be, there are some very sinister undertones to the actual intentions behind those barbed words and what they seek to achieve.

And very soon, Australians might just be in line to get a little more bang for their buck, and gain a real advantage from being a Commonwealth country sharing a common monarch; British Prime Minister David Cameron, a Tory, is set to retire within the next couple of years — not wishing to serve either a third term in the post, or all of his present term to enable a successor to become established — and his likely replacement, current London mayor Boris Johnson, is preparing to institute a system of free people movement initially between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand: the idea is that as Commonwealth countries, citizens of each will be able to live and work without restriction in the participating countries, with the scheme only open to those countries who share the common monarch.

The proposal opens opportunities to Australians of all ages and from all walks of life that they wouldn’t otherwise have (except in New Zealand) as well as building on economic and trade links. Want to live in Canada for five years? Want to live and work in London if you’re over 32? If you don’t have citizenship of those countries, then good luck. And it wouldn’t hurt to see more Canadians and British folk spending time here, either. We don’t know everything — the fact yet another republican debate is starting proves it — and as a country of migrants, we can hardly shun economic immigrants who want to work and contribute, and from whom we might actually learn a trick or two as well.

Refute that, Peter FitzSimons.

I think the arguments in favour of constitutional monarchy and against “feelgood” republicanism are watertight anyway, but should Johnson succeed with his plan (and I’m told the other contenders for the Conservative Party leadership are on board with it too) there’s a very big extra bonus to be had from keeping things just as they are.

So no thanks: to the ARM and its current band of snake oil salesman, tell your story walking. We’re not interested. And frankly, this so-called “declaration of desired independence” isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on, let alone acknowledging it as anything more than a stunt, a charade, and a pretty empty one at that.

 

Ruddwatch: World Needs “Kevin 747” At The UN Like The Pox

IT WAS KNOWN almost a decade ago that Kevin Rudd’s real ambition was to be Secretary-General of the United Nations; this column has never hid its disdain for the UN, believing it obsessed with meddling in member states rather than its charter to maintain peace. Even so, the moronic Rudd — with pointless meetings, unruly temper, and gratuitous travel — is not what the world needs. Any official sanction of his bona fides for the post is lunacy.

Today’s article isn’t so much an opinion piece per se, but a trip down memory lane — with a little help from YouTube — for it amazes me just how short some people’s memories can be, and where Kevin Rudd is concerned, the propensity for time to “heal all” and wipe away the recollections of his defects and shortfalls is a dangerous and salutary lesson in just how easily people are prone to forget.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, I have been at pains over the years to note in this column that political figures of opposing political stripes to my own are still, first and foremost, people; that expression of grace is difficult to concede in certain cases, and near the top of any list of those for whom it is impossible to harbour any concession of the kind sits one Kevin Michael Rudd.

Right from the start, there were those who grasped the fundamentally ridiculous nature of his claim to government in Australia; right from the earliest days of Rudd’s tenure as Prime Minister, the rumours of his eventual grandiose ambition to run the United Nations — providing a global platform on which he might parade the pomposity and histrionic bombast Australian voters quickly wearied of once he had been elected — spread like wildfire.

And right from the start Rudd became, aptly, a figure of ridicule.

Those with short memories will have forgotten how he not just alienated but enraged his Labor colleagues; his temper and ego are the stuff of legend in political circles, and his noxious and destructive approach to matters of governance was such that a large portion of the ALP caucus swore that if he ever returned as Prime Minister once he had been dumped that not only would they refuse to serve in his ministry, but that they would leave Parliament altogether — a threat many of them made good on after June 2013, when he orchestrated the overthrow of Julia Gillard to reclaim what he saw as rightly his.

For those who have, indeed, forgotten, here’s an aggregation of the sentiments of the Labor caucus of the day. It isn’t what you would call edifying.

Who could possibly forget the Rudd decree that climate change was “the greatest moral challenge of our time” or the shameful performance he turned in at Copenhagen late in 2009, as he strove to be the international face of some kind of agreement to deal with this menace, only to fail abysmally? Who can forget the stories of his brutality as a “leader,” abusing his ministers, tearing shreds off young service personnel on RAAF flights, and systematically leaking and backgrounding against his colleagues to undermine them?

Those of us with very long memories recall only too well the mess he created in Queensland — as the state’s top public servant under the government of Wayne Goss — before be entered Parliament, as a vicious crusade was embarked upon to fire not just those senior public servants who owed their positions to National Party cronyism of the 1970s and 1980s, but also to target politically unaligned (or, wisely, silent) individuals whose only crime was not to make vociferous expressions of fidelity with the ALP during the “dark” years of National Party oppression that preceded Goss’ regime.

We also remember the complete consequent mess made of the Queensland public service, with that state’s health bureaucracy rendered dysfunctional, and scores of sacked National Party appointees rehired in their old roles on expensive contracts when the penny dropped that the chosen ALP appointments Rudd oversaw simply weren’t up to the jobs they were given, and that unless those with real experience of running Queensland were brought back into the fold, the disaster Rudd’s “management” of the Queensland government created would in fact have become a cataclysm.

The huge swing to the Coalition at the 1995 state election was, apart from a few seats affected by a toll road Goss wanted to build, almost entirely built on a backlash from public servants: and to this day, I can’t think of another instance anywhere in Australia where public servants have voted en masse and as a solid bloc against a Labor government. It was an achievement of sorts, and one in which Rudd’s handiwork was everywhere.

Now, Kevin Rudd — who once famously described himself as “an out-of-work diplomat” — is showing signs of making a serious attempt to replace outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose term in the post expires late this year.

Perhaps mindful of the fact support from the continuing (Coalition) government may or may not be forthcoming, Rudd is said to be working solus to try to secure the post through his own contacts, and no wonder: who could possibly have forgotten the billions of dollars doled out on Rudd’s watch, over a single weekend in 2009, to buy off various countries in support of his government’s campaign to have Australia elevated to a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council?

Yet disturbingly, there are reports today that Foreign minister Julie Bishop will, in fact, consider providing official backing to any push by Rudd to go to the UN if he formally requests it.

Such support cannot and must not be provided, for the cretin Rudd is something the wider world needs like the pox.

Many, it seems, have forgotten the Rudd brand of diplomacy, brown-nosing to Chinese leaders to their faces and showily refusing audio translation of their speeches to highlight his Chinese language skills, whilst calling them “rat fuckers” behind their backs.

And it beggars belief that the kind of wit and wisdom exhibited toward foreign leaders by Rudd behind the scenes, replete with contempt for his audience and filled with malignant animus, could have ever been overlooked.

We will keep an eye on Rudd as this issue develops: in some respects, it’ll be quite like old times.

But the bottom line is that Kevin Rudd — despite the shortfalls of the United Nations, which are many, and the inappropriate activities it engages in that have nothing to do with preserving military peace whatsoever — is perhaps the most unsuitable candidate on Earth to lead an organisation whose primary purpose is the preservation of order and the maintenance of global peace.

Right now, the world faces increasing instability and growing threats of military conflict: the plunge in relations between Russia and the West to Cold War levels of iciness heads that list, of course, but there are other threats wherever you look. The perennial problem of North Korea and its ongoing development of nuclear weapons capabilities and the accompanying bellicose threat to launch them on the US, South Korea, Japan, and God knows who else. The tinder box that is the Middle East. Russia’s perceived designs on the Baltic states, as well as the ambition to annex other Soviet-era satellites, after its march into the Crimea provoked no consequences of significance. Perpetual tensions between India and Pakistan, or between Israel and all of its neighbours. On and on the list goes. One misstep, at the wrong time and over the wrong issue, could set off a chain reaction.

In this sense, the last thing anyone would characterise as “a resource” to deal with these threats is Kevin Rudd: abusive, egomaniacal and incendiary, Rudd’s penchant for strutting the world stage and lecturing people — to build his own profile, irrespective of whether anything is ever achieved — would simply place another match into the box.

It doesn’t matter that some characterise Ban Ki-moon as ineffective, ineffectual, or lazy; it doesn’t justify putting an insidious and volatile specimen like Rudd in his place when the opportunity to replace him falls due.

Just when you think Rudd has finally gone away, back he comes with a vengeance.

There is obviously a long way to go in this issue, and as it develops, we’ll keep watch, but the final word today goes to another old Liberal Party commercial that dates from just after Tony Abbott replaced Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in late 2009.

The Liberals got this right; the reality soon dawned on Rudd’s ALP colleagues; and I think the more time that has passed since then, the more it has dawned on a very large contingent of the same voters who were hoodwinked into electing Rudd in 2007 in the first place.

Let Rudd play his games, and busy himself killing time, by all means: but there is no case for him to become Secretary-General at the UN.

If the government provides Rudd with any kind of endorsement, or support — either openly or behind the scenes — for hit pitch to replace Ban, it will be a very large black mark against the Turnbull government indeed.

Stay tuned.

 

Actions And Consequences: NSW Liberals Could Destroy The Party

THE APPARENT PUSH by so-called Liberal moderates in NSW to engage in a wholesale purge of conservative MPs before this year’s election could destroy the Liberal Party; it stinks of a desperate, opportunistic attempt to shore up a leader whose support lacks depth across the national rank-and-file. A parade of conservative casualties in a party whose membership leans more Right than Centre could set off a reaction that shatters it as a viable force.

If there’s one line I have heard more than any other during membership of the Liberal Party spanning more than 25 years, it’s that “the Liberal Party is not a conservative party:” it’s a line that is only ever offered up by members of its so-called “moderate,” small-l liberal (or “wet”) faction, and whilst there is an argument the party was more centrist in its early decades than it is today (despite its founder, Sir Robert Menzies, being a conservative in everything but name), that argument ignores the fact that Australian society as a whole has shifted to the right in the past 30 years — and so, quite decisively, has the Liberal Party itself.

Plenty of extra material for readers’ perusal today, which curiously enough comes from the Murdoch press — see here, here, here, and The Australian‘s editorialisation early in the week of the problem at hand here — about the endgame in an aggregation of events, both historical and most recent, that have conspired to see an apparently orchestrated move by moderates in the NSW division of the party to seize upon an electoral redistribution of lower house electorates in that state as a pretext to get rid of sitting MPs from the conservative wing of the party that tellingly extends to both Senators and members of the House of Representatives.

Without being melodramatic about it, I think that if the moderates succeed in administering the boot to at least half a dozen incumbent MPs, the reverberations could well prove the catalyst for a split that taken to its logical conclusion could see the existing Liberal Party rendered irrelevant in the shadow of a broad-based and truly conservative party, and whilst I identify as a conservative Liberal and have no enthusiasm whatsoever for Malcolm Turnbull as the leader of the party, the last thing I want to see is the party ripped to pieces by the deluded, cynical and it must be said outrageous ambitions of a few finger-in-the-wind glory seekers north of the Murray River.

Yet this is a situation born of truly labyrinthine origins, and as much as the finger needs to be pointed at the moderates for creating the potential for disunity and ructions ahead of an election that just a few months appeared certain to bring defeat, the Right must shoulder some of the blame for allowing it to eventuate at all.

20 years ago, Australia stood on the cusp of electing a shiny new Coalition government after 13 years of ALP rule; back in 1996, the standard bearers of the Liberal Right formed a formidable list from an impressively diverse range of backgrounds. John Howard. Peter Costello. Peter Reith. Alexander Downer. David Kemp. Nick Minchin. The list went on: forming the heart and soul of the Howard government, real intellectual and political finesse devolved from this nucleus, underwriting in large part the success of what I believe has been the best government in Australia’s history over 12 years.

Today, after almost three years in government, the list of the Right’s leaders looks rather different. Tony Abbott. Andrew Robb. Eric Abetz. Kevin Andrews. Peter Dutton. Bronwyn Bishop. Some would add the fair-weather friends George Brandis and Christopher Pyne, who have shown more loyalty in recent years to likely winners of leadership votes than to any consistent philosophical underpinnings. With the clear exception of Robb (and perhaps Abbott, before he allowed the idiots he surrounded himself with to permanently infect his government with incompetence on every level), none of them has covered themselves in any glory. Most have brought embarrassment to the Liberal Party. And once again, with the exception of Robb, none of them are worthy of an additional term in safe parliamentary seats based on either merit or on the (dubious) calibre of their performances, jointly and severally, in office.

Not all of those names, of course, are from NSW, and not all of those NSW MPs facing preselection challenges from moderate forces could be said to include “leading lights” of the conservative faction (the list includes Senator Bill Heffernan, for goodness’ sake). But the allusion goes to a point I have repeatedly argued in this column, namely that the conservative group in the party has failed to identify, groom, and preselect a generation of “tomorrow’s leaders” to comprehensively replace those who engineered the successes of the Howard era.

And whilst the finger is being pointed in the direction of the Liberal Right, it bears remembering what those torch bearers of the Liberal conservative wing did with the election victory they secured in September 2013: I have copped a lot of flak for the article published in this column a fortnight ago, in which I argued that the Abbott government dishonoured the conservative cause in Australia.

Coupled with the diminished calibre of Right-leaning Liberal MPs that has evolved over the past ten years or so, the failures of the Abbott government invited some kind of boilover from the moderate wing that transcended merely tipping Abbott off the cart and getting rid of some of his trustiest cronies. I stand by that article, and I point out to those fellow conservatives still in the party that however painful it might be, some honesty and a grounding in fact are critical if any evaluation of why Abbott failed is to be worth a pinch of the proverbial. I didn’t support Malcolm Turnbull, and had a decent candidate emerged from the Right as a replacement for Abbott I would have backed whoever it was against Turnbull. The point is that Malcolm is now Prime Minister: and in the context of today’s discussion, that reality only feeds into the febrile climate just waiting on a spark to ignite an explosion.

Really, on the conservative wing of the Liberal Party, there are three groups of people: one, those who have noisily stomped out of the party in disgust or who remain in the fold purely to cause trouble, and who are sniping at Turnbull from the sidelines and/or taking up with imbeciles who believe Abbott’s departure opened up opportunities for personal glorification they could disguise as expressing fidelity with the conservative cause.

These people are no loss to the Liberal Party and most — not all, most — would be of little value to any other mass-based political party, conservative or otherwise. These are the people for whom nothing less than the destruction of the Coalition will suffice (Bill Shorten, unbelievably, being preferable to them as Prime Minister than Malcolm) and who spend time on Twitter claiming to be planning “something big” to “get their elected Prime Minister back” in a popular uprising they cannot be told has insufficient public support to make it worth bothering.

Spare us all, and let’s move on.

Two, those who take the pragmatic view that Malcolm won’t be around forever; that his historic flaws and shortcomings will quickly resurface, and that he will prove over time to be a poor Prime Minister; and who accept a longer-term view that his presence merely allows the opportunity for conservatives to quickly identify succession planning and reinvigorate their parliamentary representation by moving on longstanding and/or ineffectual MPs from the Right.

And three, those who take the apposite pragmatic view that Malcolm offers electoral victory where Abbott had, by dint of his own stupidity and that of those hand-picked fools around him, condemned himself to certain defeat, and who believe that a Coalition government led by an undesirable figurehead is preferable under any and all circumstances to a return to Labor — and to a Labor Party “led” by an insidious specimen like Shorten to boot.

My personal position is probably an amalgam of options #2 and #3.

But with all that said, on the moderate wing of the party in NSW — emboldened by the ascension of one of their brethren to the Liberal leadership for the first time since Andrew Peacock in 1989 — the big push seems to be on to get rid of a swathe of long-serving conservatives, plus one of their own in Philip Ruddock, whose 43-year career in the House of Representatives should, on any measure, come to an end: Ruddock isn’t a face of the future, and isn’t going to return to the ministry now, and safe seats with 20% margins should be used to find and draft the ministers and leaders of tomorrow — however much a hero the incumbent might be.

Yet looking around what is happening in NSW, there isn’t so much common sense being shown as that.

I have opined that Tony Abbott should quit Parliament (and he should) but strangely enough, he’s being left unchallenged in Warringah: based on the way his government played out and the prohibitive opportunity costs of making any attempt to further harness his skills, there is as little justification for him to remain as there is for Ruddock.

And this is where it gets complicated, for as difficult as it is insuperable, the propensity for Abbott’s ongoing presence to galvanise the aggrieved and more shortsightedly reckless elements in the Liberal Right does in fact need to be excised: just as aged 30-year veteran and undisputed political liability Bronwyn Bishop must be removed, and just as the laudable but 70-something Ruddock must also go.

These are three very, very safe seats there that can all be used to bring fresh talent to the NSW Liberals’ federal ranks; it is an indictment on the NSW Right (and a perfect illustration of part of the central point) that in all three cases it has failed to have clear replacements ready and the numbers to assure their preselections guaranteed.

But the moderate faction isn’t content with just clearing out deadwood and people past their prime, and the redistribution of federal boundaries in NSW appears to have been seized upon merely as a pretext to wreak as much havoc as politically possible — with scant regard for the consequences.

Make no mistake, if it all goes pear-shaped, these goings-on have the potential to slice the Liberal Party down the middle.

On one level, the push by moderates to dispense with as many Right-aligned MPs as it can is understandable; the Liberal Party leadership has been controlled by the Right for decades. Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension must seem better than Christmas for these people, and not just because of the poll boost he has, for now, delivered.

But a simple fact that is barely disputed, and indeed tacitly acknowledged on all sides of the party, is that the Liberals’ grass roots membership is far more philosophically conservative than Turnbull, and its residual inclinations more in the Howard/Abbott mould — even if Abbott made a botch of it.

During the week, Turnbull intervened to provide support for all six MPs in the gun and facing challenges from moderate-aligned forces — Ruddock, Bishop, Angus Taylor in Hume, Heffernan, his Senate colleague Connie Fierravanti-Wells, and Hughes MP Craig Kelly — and it is telling that in spite of this move, the machinations against the six continue apace.

This early indication of the true limits of Turnbull’s authority over his own party — and an inability to control what, nominally at least, are his stablemates in the moderate faction — will be ignored to the enduring detriment of the party, and should send a shiver down the spine of any Liberal around the country who remains inclined to see the Coalition stay in power in the medium to long term, irrespective of their position on the moderate/conservative spectrum or their disposition toward Turnbull as leader.

As recently as Thursday, a deal was said to be on the table to save Taylor — facing preselection challenge from moderate-backed MP Russell Matheson, whose electorate of Macarthur has been made highly marginal as the redistribution moved half his voters (and many of his branches) into Taylor’s seat — and Fierravanti-Wells, and reported as likely to hold.

The National Party has already said it would offer Taylor preselection in Hume if Matheson were to obtain endorsement for the seat; Taylor is keeping his powder dry publicly, of course, and the Nationals are salivating at getting their hands on a candidate that good: with more experience, and discounting the present stoush over who contests which seat, Taylor will be a senior Coalition leader one day, and perhaps even a Liberal leader.

But Matheson seems more interested in simply having a safe seat than in retaining his existing (redrawn) electorate, and just as Taylor seems a lock on a senior role in the not-so-distant future, Matheson has proven an excellent marginal seat campaigner. For Taylor to be deselected (and especially if he were to jump ship to the Nationals) would potentially cost the Liberals both. It is incredibly shortsighted, to say nothing of downright dumb.

But Kelly, in Hughes, seems to be the true potential trigger point for a split.

Unlike Taylor, Kelly faces a challenge not from an MP who has a case (of sorts) that part of his electorate has been redistributed away, but from a moderate, an ALP turncoat at that, who isn’t even in Parliament; the move against Kelly in Hughes appears to be one of those things the moderates in NSW are hellbent on doing just because they can — often the worst reason for doing anything — and despite Turnbull’s intervention and the swirling attempts to otherwise do deals to protect sitting MPs, the challenge from party vice-president Kent Johns appears to be very much a certainty.

Like Taylor in Hughes, it also seems certain to succeed if it goes ahead.

Like Taylor, Kelly is keeping mum about whether he would stand as either an Independent or as a National if disendorsed as a Liberal, but as The Australian reports today, dumping him has the potential to split the Liberal Party statewide in NSW: and as is the way of these things, such a rupture would be impossible to contain between the Tweed and Murray Rivers.

It’s an imperfect parallel, of course, but the lunatic putsch in 1987 by Queensland Nationals to somehow install Joh Bjelke-Petersen as Prime Minister that year — despite never getting very far outside Queensland — managed to derail the federal Coalition’s bid to win an election that was arguably there for the taking; the contagion from that event cruelled the ability of Liberals to win enough votes in enough marginal seats in Sydney and Melbourne to provide the impetus for victory, and cost them seats in Queensland, even though the Nationals’ vote held up across the country and the Coalition outpolled the ALP on primary votes.

In some respects, the tinder box in NSW represents a far graver threat to the Liberal Party than Bjelke-Petersen did 30 years ago; unlike the former Queensland Premier, none of the protagonists from the moderate faction are perceptibly mired in a delusional geriatric haze. They know what they are doing.

All of this could come to nothing, of course, and aside from dispatching Ruddock and/or Bishop — Abbott, it seems, is likely to stay where he is — the sitting MPs in the gun could emerge chastened, but with their endorsements intact.

But for a man who rightly elicited ridicule when he asserted that “factions do not control the Liberal Party” three months ago, Malcolm Turnbull has mates who could inflict far more grievous harm on the party than just knocking off a few factional adversaries at the preselection table.

And the problem with playing Russian roulette, as the NSW moderates appear determined to do with the wider interests of the Liberal Party by their behaviour, is the fact it’s impossible to know which squeeze of the trigger will inflict a fatal shot.

We have already seen an ominous portent of this behaviour in North Sydney — Joe Hockey’s old seat — at Turnbull’s first electoral test: after a preselection brawl that saw a candidate on the party’s far moderate left emerge, heavy by-election swings against the Liberals were recorded on primary votes and after preferences notwithstanding the candidate, Trent Zimmerman, being elected: this without an ALP candidate, in one of the party’s safest Sydney seats, and in the supposed blush of Turnbull’s “honeymoon” and the burst of support it was said to have generated.

If the mischief the moderate NSW Liberals are engaging in does in fact fire the bullet at the wrong target, the consequences could be dire: and by dire, I mean the effects of the fatal shot could ricochet across Australia, crippling the Liberal Party nationally, and conceivably terminating its relevance as an electoral force.

Such a self-inflicted blow could make anything Bjelke-Petersen managed to inflict look like child’s play.

Long-term readers will have heard me say many times that I believe the Australian electorate, distilled to a basic level, wants a choice between a genuine conservative party and a genuinely social democratic party: it’s a potential realignment that hasn’t gone away in recent years. Events like the embarrassing revelations of the Trade Union Royal Commission for the ALP,  the emergence of a socially left-leaning Prime Minister on the Liberal side of politics, and a consequent enraged core of conservative grassroots Liberal Party members — combined with a National Party ally that is ambivalent at best about Turnbull — all contrive to bring it nearer.

I’m not definitively saying it will happen, but an amalgamation of the Liberal Right, the National Party, less extreme conservative outposts like Family First, and even a reaching out to the likes of Katter forces — with conservative policies that at least cater to regional interests, if not capitulating to their outdated dreams of a return to a protectionist past — could, if an emphasis on developing a truly national, mainstream conservative agenda was pursued with the explicit aim of bringing mass popular support in behind it — leave the rump moderate Liberals with nowhere else to turn except the unpalatable choices of the ALP or the crossbenches.

Yes, such suggestions are hypothetical, and hypotheticals are just that.

But the ambit clearing out of factional rivals in NSW — just because they can — in the face of the fact that whatever internal power the moderates may temporarily wield, the broader party and a majority of the electorate remains a step further to the Right, is an exercise that could quite conceivably unleash consequences none of the key players on the moderate side appear to have thought through sufficiently, if they even care about them at all.

Any war can start with a single, isolated event. In 1914 it was a political assassination in Serbia. In 1939 it was the issue of an Allied ultimatum that was ignored by Germany. As I said at the outset, there is no desire to be unduly melodramatic, but in terms of the medium-term future of the Liberal Party, the NSW moderates are playing with fire.

It may be that the NSW moderates collect all of the scalps they seek; that the House of Representative MPs and Senators they are stalking are jettisoned; and that within their own NSW dunghill at least, the trendy wet Liberals emerge all-powerful — for now at least.

Yet just as the wets in NSW might win a series of battles during the current round of preselections, the wider war for the heart and soul of the non-Labor side of Australian politics remains very much unresolved.

Their antics, and their list of targets on the Right, stink of a push to shore up a leader in Turnbull whose support within the ranks of the Liberals’ membership is very thin indeed; Turnbull might be travelling well in the polls for now, and this may well embolden his followers. But once the political tide turns — or once Turnbull reverts to form, and begins making the sort of mistakes that cost him his leadership of the Liberal Party in 2009 in the first place — the justification for what they are up to will evaporate.

Now is a time for sober, reasonable, and prudent action in the NSW Liberal Party, not the reckless pursuit of factional adversaries and the settling of long-dead scores.

Regrettably, it seems the latter it the higher imperative. It remains to be seen where the pieces fall as a result of the mad free-for-all the moderates are determined to pursue, and at exactly what cost.

As the poet John Dryden observed, even victors, are by victories, undone: and today’s expedient, self-gratifying hatchet job by the NSW moderates could tomorrow sound their death knell.

 

Dreaming On: Abbott Isn’t Going To Be PM Again…Ever

ONGOING reports Tony Abbott will recontest his seat of Warringah, based on Manly on Sydney’s North Shore, in the hope of regaining the Prime Ministership are exceeded in absurdity only by the fact his divisive aide, Peta Credlin, is said to be egging him on. Abbott is no more a future Prime Minister than Bronwyn Bishop. His seat could take a bright new prospect to Canberra, and Credlin, for the little she is worth, should disappear altogether.

The detailed analysis of the apparently co-ordinated push by so-called “moderates” in the NSW division of the Liberal Party (read: empowered spivs who think they’re entitled) to cut a swathe through the ranks of conservative Liberal MPs at the preselection table before this year’s election — even at the cost of dispensing with prospective future leader Angus Taylor, and some others who are arguably critical to holding marginal seats and/or reasonable performers in their own right — will likely now appear late today or tonight, after a brief bout of illness yesterday prevented me from completing and publishing it as promised.

But I wanted to make some comment this morning on another preselection-related issue that has the potential to cause as much division and damage to the Liberal Party as the machinations being engaged in by the soft fringe associated with Malcolm Turnbull: namely, the nonsense that Tony Abbott should recontest his plum, blue-ribbon seat with the explicit purpose of reclaiming the Prime Ministership at some hitherto undefined point in the future.

First, some coverage (depending on preference) from the Fairfax and Murdoch stables.

Whether we’re talking about NSW moderates or the NSW Right, the bald (and mostly unwarranted) sense of entitlement on show from both sides in the increasingly ugly round of federal preselections is unbelievable; people with no right, based on merit or a reflection of the wider Liberal Party membership, are conspiring to enact hatchet jobs on people for no better reason, it seems, than the indulgence of enacting hatchet jobs on them.

The lure of paid parliamentary sinecures and a spot near the circle of power in Canberra, of course, has a bit to do with it as well.

But leaving most of that aside this morning, the inability of some on the Liberal Right to grasp the incontestable political fact that the career of Tony Abbott is dead — kaput, cactus, finito — knows no bounds, for persistent (and well backgrounded) stories of a plan for Abbott to recontest his Manly-based seat of Warringah with an eye on recapturing the Prime Ministership ignores both reality and the political disposition of the electorate, which had more than enough of an opportunity during the two years Abbott spent at the helm to know that whatever any of us in the membership (or those “insiders” who think they know better than the party’s members, or voters) might say, Tony Abbott will never again be a viable candidate to be Prime Minister of Australia.

Ironically, the reports and counter-reports that have been floating around over the past few days merely underline the point.

On the one hand, Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph notes that Abbott is said to be “in mourning” over the loss of the Prime Ministership, which simply proves his utter folly in backing incendiary aide Peta Credlin for too long in a post she was clearly unsuited to and/or out of her depth in as Chief of Staff.

On the other, Fairfax reports that “a confidant” of Credlin claims she is doing nothing of the kind: I would simply say that whatever some Credlin stooge has been instructed to tell a journalist at Fairfax, when it conflicts so directly with the material published by a Murdoch paper known to have been heavily favoured by the Prime Minister’s Office on the Abbott/Credlin shift, should be treated with the utmost caution — and, indeed, suspicion.

On account of Abbott’s imprimatur and by virtue of Credlin being given every conceivable freedom to discharge the most important non-elective role in Australian politics, the failure of the Abbott government can be pinned specifically on the axis between the pair: and everyone from Abbott’s parliamentary colleagues to the staff whose careers were incinerated on Credlin’s watch, and from those she snubbed and deliberately prevented from going to Canberra to serve the government to the most passive branch member of the party, have been given concrete proof that the only government the duo will ever run is one that is defective on political strategy and tactics, incapable of communicating or selling anything to the electorate, terrified of introducing difficult policies in the face of vacuous ALP attacks, and motivated by a vicious get-square mentality against anything or anyone who dares utter a syllable in defiance of it.

There are those who think that given time, the anti-Abbott animus in the electorate that helped motivate his downfall will subside; it won’t.

Two years of the kind of directionless drift presided over by Abbott and Credlin (and at a time when Australia is facing real challenges of governance that are arguably the stiffest it has faced in more than a generation) is not the kind of government this country needs or wants.

Significantly, at this time of preselection posturing, and on whether he will stand again at all in Abbott’s case, Credlin is said to be urging her former boss to remain in Parliament again “with the hope” of some day returning to the top job — and from this we can make some fairly definitive judgements.

One — and this should frighten hell out of anyone who thinks Prime Ministers should offer the ability to win any coming election — if Abbott returns, Credlin would be part of the package: that in itself is enough to permanently disbar Abbott from any return to the Liberal leadership.

Two, and following that point, even if Credlin served in a lesser staffing role (or didn’t officially return to Canberra at all under a renewed Abbott government) it is unquestionable that her advice and counsel (and presumably, her agenda) would continue to be sought and acted on by Abbott. We know, from his virtually non-existent measures to reduce Credlin’s visibility after the initial move against his leadership a year ago, that his heart and his head are not really into any move to hold office without her influence, and the risk that this inept commodity would continue to inform Abbott as a reborn leader cannot and must not be entertained.

Three, with Abbott turning 59 this year, any realistic prospect of him returning to the Prime Ministership would need to occur in the next term of Parliament; the oldest Prime Minister to take office in Australian history was the dud Billy McMahon, who was 63 when he ousted John Gorton in a knife-edge Liberal leadership ballot in 1971. Apparently those around Abbott are holding John Howard, Bob Menzies and even Malcolm Turnbull out as precedents to justify their delusional visions of an Abbott return.

But Howard and Turnbull were untried as Prime Ministers — Turnbull arguably still is, although that is changing (and, with his fawning cosying up to socialist failure Barack Obama in the US this week, this column increasingly dislikes what it sees) — whereas Menzies in 1949 was still only 55, had done the hard yards of forging a new party from scratch with mass community support, and was a far more substantial figure than Abbott ever was or will be (my past support for him, of course, notwithstanding).

Four — and despite the real ability Abbott has, which he abrogated in favour of a useless unelected hack — restoring him even to Cabinet would be unwise, for where Abbott goes, Credlin goes: and the whole scheming, inept, amateurish culture of silly stunts and own goals that comes with that in the place of mature conduct and competent governance are a price for utilising the duo that simply can’t be justified.

And, finally, Abbott has never enjoyed the widespread respect that Howard did — even as “Mr 18%” in 1988, or after he was unceremoniously dumped in May 1989 — or the mass popularity of Malcolm Turnbull, even if that popularity is/was largely underpinned by people who would never vote Liberal in a pink fit, and who are now (predictably) turning on him publicly.

Many of us on the conservative wing of the party are desperately disappointed (and in many cases, furious) at both the golden opportunity to implement a responsible, mainstream conservative agenda that was squandered through the direct shortcomings of the machine Abbott assembled around himself, and by his removal; on the latter score, some of us (and I am one) are angry at his removal despite our acceptance it had to occur because we were and are flatly opposed to his replacement and the Labor-lite government he now apparently wishes to lead.

But the bottom line is that the Australian public, no matter how much support Abbott might retain from noisy but marginalised rumps, or however much residual mainstream support there may be in the country for a program of responsible conservative policy, will not tolerate a revived version of the Abbott government. Not now, not in three years’ time, and not ever.

I have to be emphatic. There are few things I have been as politically certain about in recent times. That is, of course, just another dimension of the failure Abbott’s government was, and just another pointer to the wacko delusion that people don’t just miss it but are actively hankering for more of it.

The best use of Tony Abbott’s seat would be to find a bright, talented, long-term Liberal prospect — I don’t care if it’s a man or a woman, so long as it’s the best person available from Abbott’s North Shore branches — and for those who have delivered preselection to the former PM over more than 20 years to swing in behind that new candidate with Abbott’s explicit blessing, and his withdrawal.

“The best person available” is not Peta Credlin (or any of the other prominent members of the junta she led) and on no account should Credlin receive grassroots support if any attempt is made to install her as Abbott’s replacement in Warringah.

Very simply, where questions of an Abbott Prime Ministership are concerned, the bird has flown; you can’t reheat a souffle, and the only appropriate response to suggestions Abbott should stand again and position himself to resume as PM within three years is to dismiss them as devoid of any basis in reality whatsoever.

As for Credlin, it’s time for her to push off.

In fact, it was time for her to do that four months ago when Abbott was involuntarily removed from his post, but for weeks we were treated to the unedifying public spectacle of “poor Peta” who, unbelievably, attempted to conduct some kind of personal “charm” offensive in the mainstream press, and who now apparently seeks to continue to wield the clout she no longer has via the moronic fantasy that somehow, the mess she engineered was adequate, satisfactory and/or competent. It wasn’t.

Abbott will never again hold the highest political office in the land, but Credlin’s dubious services must finally be terminated by anyone associated with the Liberal Party in any political capacity. She has had her chance. It was a disaster. Far from eschewing responsibility for the failings of the Abbott government she must recognise her paw prints were all over the train wreck that derailed on 14 September last year.

She has nothing to offer to politics and government in this country. Just as Abbott should withdraw, Credlin must disappear. We wish her well in some private sector capacity should she find one, and bear her no personal animus. But where the Liberal Party is concerned, its best interests will be served if her name is never again heard.