Credlin Controlling Coalition Campaign? It’s Worth A Thought

THE NOTION of controversial former Chief of Staff to Tony Abbott (and one-time Turnbull adviser) Peta Credlin running the Coalition election effort to instil discipline and consistency is not as ridiculous as it sounds; Malcolm Turnbull will have Credlin nowhere near his government, and usually, we would wholeheartedly agree: but the divisive former aide’s campaign skills will be sorely missed in a tight contest, where the risk of defeat is real.

This column — as regular readers know really, really, really well — evolved over the two years following the 2013 election into a staunchly implacable critic of the Chief of Staff to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin; the operating methods of the government under his leadership were amateurish, counter-productive, and in terms of the Coalition’s public messages were almost invariably of more benefit to the ALP than they were to the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister, or to the voters who elected them to office in a landslide.

Indeed, it was Abbott’s refusal to redeploy or replace Credlin that led me to withdraw my decades-long support for Abbott as Liberal leader, although I was at pains to stipulate that this did not equate to an endorsement of Malcolm Turnbull.

Even so, we have always been careful to acknowledge the one strength (and triumph) that can never be taken from Ms Credlin: the welding of the Liberals into a cohesive, disciplined fighting unit that (mostly) remained focused and on message leading into and during the 2013 campaign; I have often opined that Credlin was an ideal spearhead for an opposition, or for an election effort, or both; the great shame is that it appears to have been one of those situations where what was brilliant in opposition did not translate to government: and refusing to exercise the foresight and perspective to recognise as much, Abbott and Credlin together paid the ultimate political price.

On this basis, it is difficult to argue with the sentiments expressed today by Herald Sun commentator Andrew Bolt, who argues Credlin (or someone like her) should be running Turnbull’s re-election campaign which, lamentably and to put it most kindly, is all over the shop.

As Bolt notes — and despite explicit and repeated threats to call a double dissolution election if his legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission was defeated — Turnbull couldn’t even confirm the poll would be held on 2 July as previously indicated, a state of confusion echoed by other senior Coalition figures from deputy Julie Bishop down.

Despite a reasonable suite of reforms to overhaul the corporate regulator, ASIC, and give it more teeth to act on real and/or alleged misdemeanours by Australian banks, the government seems unable to present a united position on whether the planned changes are sufficient or whether a Royal Commission into the banking sector should be held instead.

And instances of ridiculous Coalition disunity — such as the one cited by Bolt that featured Queensland backbencher Warren Entsch bragging about hanging up on Turnbull “in disgust” over his marginal electorate missing out on “a share” of a lucrative shipbuilding contract — are unforgivable, heading into a difficult campaign the government may struggle to prevail in.

Meanwhile, opposition “leader” Bill Shorten is being allowed to escape, scot-free and with no accountability applied to him by the government, as he works his way through a series of emptily populist ruses that he thinks may yield votes: hitting multinationals (which no Western country has successfully “hit” to date), hitting “rich” people’s superannuation, hitting the “rort” of negative gearing, hitting smokers, hitting “high” income earners — you name it.

Unwisely, but perhaps as a result of its own systematic slash-and-burn approach to potential reform options, the Coalition has too often danced to Labor’s tune rather than articulating its own vision — opening itself to the charge of having no ideas — and when it has presented its own ideas (read: income tax powers for the states) the result has been a big old mess.

And it has let Shorten get away with brazenly boasting about the $102bn in new taxes a Labor government would raise over the next decade, which Labor itself makes no effort to deny is earmarked solely for more lavish, wasteful spending programs, with no firm pledge to repay any of the half-trillion dollars either borrowed on its watch last time or embedded into legislation to force the Liberal Party to its will.

I’ve been calling this obscene intended tax slug what it is: a $400 raid per year, every year for ten years, on every man, woman and child living in Australia today.

Given half the population already subsists exclusively on one government payment or another, in reality this is more like double that amount for the rest of us: $16 each, each week for ten years, for a Labor government likelier than anything to finish the job of destroying Australia that its Rudd-Gilard-Rudd forbear started.

Can anyone seriously believe Mr Three-Word-Slogan — Mr Great Big New Tax — would be letting Shorten and his accomplices get away with such a brazen exercise in chasing power at literally any price?

More to the point, can anyone seriously believe that a Credlin type would be letting her Prime Minister vaccillate and ramble on the stump — with no consistency other than to be consistently fickle — for a second longer than the blunt conversation to “tell” him to stick to the script?

The Abbott forces — which, of course, include Credlin — are (understandably) believed to remain highly aggrieved and very bitter over their unceremonious dumping last September, a disproportionate share of the reasons for which emanated directly from Peta Credlin herself.

Yet even Abbott, in a column appearing in Sydney’ Daily Telegraph today, continues to show that whilst he may no longer be Prime Minister and may well be possessed of a mouthful of sour grapes, he remains more able than Turnbull to at least identify the key issues the government should be targeting — even if, on his own government’s watch, the communication and strategy apparatus at his disposal to prosecute them was useless.

Could there be a one-off, short-term role as a campaign strategy consultant for Credlin? It’s doubtful. Not only is she unwelcome in the engine room of the Turnbull government, but common sense suggests (with no slight to Ms Credlin’s sense of professionalism intended) that putting such an embittered and jaundiced individual anywhere near the drivers of the continuing administration would be too great a risk to justify it.

Just look at what Kevin Rudd and Shorten got up to as Cabinet ministers last time. The principle is identical.

But one of the glaring deficiencies in Turnbull’s — well, you could hardly call it a campaign strategy — is the ostensible absence of anyone who might haul the entire enterprise onto a far more professional (and not least, effective) footing.

In this sense, Bolt is dead right, and with electoral defeat a very real risk for Turnbull, the imperative to remedy this problem is beyond urgent. The fact the problem even exists at all is beyond belief.

If nothing is done, Turnbull and his acolytes will stumble, bumble, contradict and waffle their way all the way to 2 July. If this methodology indeed proves the route they traverse to get there, the humiliation of defeat will loom large.

Shorten is running all over the government with a message that is one half bull and the other half shit, to paraphrase a rather indelicate ditty from the 1980s.

The only people who can win this election for the Coalition are Turnbull and his colleagues. If they are serious, and if they want to win (which from outside the Canberra bubble is a devastatingly valid question), then it’s time to start to behave like it.

If that means providing a temporarily renewed lease on life for the adviser this column once characterised as the creature from beneath the septic tank, then so be it.



7 thoughts on “Credlin Controlling Coalition Campaign? It’s Worth A Thought

  1. What about a response to the Greens immigration policy. Why would you allow 50000 people a year into Australia. What about infrasture. Where is everybody going to be housed. Reading this policy makes you feel depressed.

  2. A good thought Yale, It is amazing that Turnbull, who appears to have spent much time plotting, has now so totally lost the plot. If Credlin is unavailable perhaps he could call Rudd in. He always had a plot up his sleeve!

  3. Yale, it seems that all that the flying is having an effect. Wasting even one thought on Credlin could be a symptom of altitude sickness, a light headedness caused by a lack of oxygen. Recommend a Bex , cup of tea and a good lie down.

  4. Why are they losing votes and popularity? even blind Freddie could answer that, they don’t represent their conservative base at all, you don’t have to be clairvoyant to see this current Turncoat led coalition was eventually going to crash in the polls, that was a certainty.
    As screwy as the Abbott/Credlin govt was, they would be holding their own right now…far better than Malcom in a muddle ever could, right now they could re instate Abbott and Credlin and do better than Turnbull ever could, at least there would be a fight!!

    I mean Short on brains wants to bring in a double Carbon Tax…not a word about this from Bishop, Malignant Tumourballs ..or any of them…amazing!!! makes you wonder.
    Hopefully Turnbull would lose his seat, that would be the best situation for Australia.
    Even better would be Turnbull, Bishop and Pyne all losing their seats, and somehow the Liberal Party scrapes in again.
    Then they perhaps may think twice about putting a smiling leftist, globalist, pandering, false conservative as their leader again.
    And some of us would have a choice rather the left. and further left, and extreme left

  5. Yale I read as much of your article as I possibly could. Whenever you decided to compare Malcolm and Bill, I glazed and did not read any more. Bill is absolutely appalling on every possible level. No argument from me on that.

    I have never voted anything other than the Liberal Party at every election (local, state and federal) since being able to cast my first vote.

    What I am about to do on 2nd July makes me queasy. So much so I am still trying to find a compelling argument, anything, that could possibly bring me back into the tent. You write beautifully (first visit to your page ever) and your argument is almost patriotic in its pleading.

    On any pragmatic analysis, Malcolm is 1000% better than a Shorten 2016 win.

    Being pragmatic, rational and guided by evidence, I consider key hallmarks of the conservative / liberal broad church. Emotionalism, feelings and denial of reality are the other sides go. Generalisations I know, but they ring pretty true in most cases.

    Sure I was furious when Tony Abbott was executed. That said, I could also honestly see that Tony Abbott was a REAL liability for the coming election. When 98% of the media are ABSOLUTELY mortified by everything Tony Abbott stands for, he was a genuine risk of losing in spite of what he actually achieved.

    He could literally cure cancer, solve ‘global warming’ and eradicate global poverty entirely, in three consecutive days – the media would be asking why is that all he had done in three whole days? What a wasted opportunity and lack of direction for Australia!

    The sneering contempt by which he was held meant he was at risk because of what he stood for, Ao much more than for his obvious failings (which were real. But knighthoods are not pink batts).

    Not just in the media, my family members and friends detested Tony Abbott cause all they ever heard was about his rampant, mysoginistic, bible bashing right wing ways. He was evil personified. I cannot readily recall a more consistent loathing of a public figure than Tony Abbott. The contempt was near universal. The only other figure afforded such ‘coverage’ would be Cardinal George Pell.

    James Allan at Quadrant put it best for me. Take a look if you have not already.

    Malcolm stands for nothing but Malcolm. His term as PM has shown he had the most articulate. And calculated plan to take the job. But he had not given a single shred of thought about what to do once there. Just rely on Malcolm’s brilliance to carry the day – how is that working out?

    So my message is for the 53 who threw a first term PM out. Where is your loyalty? Tony Abbott took the party from opposition to government in a landslide. You do not give him the courtesy of watching his back, while Malcolm schemes in the shadows? You are a disgrace to our country and I am ashamed to have been a member of the same party.

    My message is for you – you spineless wonders. You either stand for something or you stand for nothing. You made your Turnbull bed, you can now rot with him, tucked sound in the multitude of glowing memoirs of the greatest PM we ever had – September 2015 through July 2016. Malcolm Turnbull.

    Vote 1 for Labor in the house and the Liberal Party dead last. In between makes no difference.
    Liberal / National in the Senate so Bill cannot completely destroy the place in the first three years with his team of misfits and shakedown union thugs.

    Thanks for your writing though – have you bookmarked now.



    • Matt thank you for your thoughts, and be assured I have agonised over these matters just as it seems you have. The prospect of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister of this country is nothing short of an unmitigated obscenity. Even so, you find little dissent here with almost everything you have written.

      I think the only point we differ on is whether or not (as individuals) we are prepared to sanction a Shorten government as the means to aright the injury rendered by the Turnbull coup. I don’t suggest Malcolm’s government has been a roaring success — quite the contrary — but only that it has more promise than anything Shorten might peddle to entice voters.

      In my own case, the decision is complicated and compounded by the recent preselection in my electorate of Goldstein of a candidate who is expressly pro-Turnbull, is a moderate Liberal, and stands for just about everything that I, as a conservative, do not. Now the preselection is finalised I am able to comment that I did not support Tim Wilson, and I would add that despite my preference for Turnbull to be re-elected, I will be going to another electorate elsewhere in Melbourne to help campaign. Should Mr Wilson end up with my vote at all, it will not be by way of a primary vote, and I too have voted Liberal at every state and federal election held since I turned 18 (and that dates back to voting for Andrew Peacock in 1990).

      I have written in this column about Malcolm stacking the ministry with “Malcolm Mates” — too often already with disastrous consequences — and there seems to be a trend going on in vacant seats all over the country whereby “Malcolm Mates” are replacing more conservative Liberals at the preselection table. It is deeply unsatisfactory and deeply worrying.

      I can only say that I know how traumatic this process continues to be, and to assure you that a great many people feel as you do (or more strongly than that). I came very close to leaving the Liberal Party 18 months ago, and whilst I decided against doing so there remains much about the party that needs to be fixed. There are a lot of people who feel this way. In the end — and as little as each individual can do — I took the view that nothing is going to be achieved by storming out of the tent.

      You may not see me here for another few days — I have a temporary mountain of urgent things to get done wearing my other various metaphoric hats — but I do hope you will continue to share your thoughts.

      Had there been a federal election this weekend, I believe Turnbull would have lost. It remains to be seen what transpires over the next ten weeks, but unless something drastic changes, you may not have long to wait for the vengeance you obviously wish to see to be enacted upon those who conspired to elevate Malcolm to the top job.

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