Reality Seeping From Labor Opens Door For Turnbull

AMID THE ENNUI of a timid, misdirected Coalition campaign, a ray of light has shone on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; his opponents’ efforts — hitherto a tightly disciplined exercise in the seamless delivery of unmitigated bullshit — have begun to unravel and with them, some hypocritical realities of Shorten Labor have oozed out. A week ago, Turnbull was gone. It remains to be seen whether he can capitalise on the chinks in Labor’s armour.

First things first: I didn’t watch the so-called leaders’ “debate” last night, and from what I have since heard, I didn’t miss much; these events — whilst allegedly integral to our democratic processes — have never, as far as I can recall over the past 30 years, made one jot of difference to the eventual outcome of an election: and nor would they, rendered sterile by rules of “engagement” that make spontaneity and authenticity impossible, filled with platitudes and the regurgitation of slogans served up for weeks and months and years beforehand, and “judged” by an aptly named worm that is neither representative of the voting public nor statistically valid or reliable in any way.

The fact those who didn’t mark the debate as a saccharine draw scored a paper-thin win to Bill Shorten doesn’t and shouldn’t come as a surprise, either: these “debates,” by virtue of the ridiculous format they follow, typically favour Labor leaders and opposition leaders in that order. Shorten is both.

Let’s pray there are no further “debates” between now and 2 July. Politics in its current incarnation is debased enough as it is without wilfully adding such rubbish into the mix and insulting the intelligence of the Australian public even further than is ordinarily the case.

I had intended to publish over the weekend a precis of where I think the campaign stands, with three weeks down and five to go (and I’m sorry, but after a day at the markets on Saturday, I instead went to and celebrated yesterday’s stellar win over Geelong by the Carlton Football Club) but it’s no real secret that after months of dithering, directionless government this year followed by the opening rounds of a misfiring and frankly pathetic campaign, had the election taken place a week ago, I think the insidious Shorten would have narrowly scraped home to form a government.

What the summary I had planned to publish would have said is that after a dreadful week in which Labor’s tight controls on the semantic diarrhoea it has been passing off as an agenda for office began to unravel, Turnbull — and the Coalition — have been dealt back into the game; at this stage it remains to be seen whether this process continues, and whether or not the government can finally begin to land some killer blows upon its opponent. But at the very least, the effronterous march of Shorten and the ALP toward the Treasury benches appears to have been stayed.

The revelation of gaffe-prone frontbencher David Feeney’s “forgetfulness” about investment properties he has negatively geared doesn’t just undermine Labor’s “hit the rich” rationale for abolishing negative gearing concessions, but merely represents the tip of a very large iceberg; with 1.8 million Australians directly involved in this practice, it defies belief that the ranks of organisations queuing up behind Shorten to rail against “the rich being subsidised by the taxpayer” in writing investment losses off against income — the ALP, the unions, and particularly those catering to teachers, nurses and emergency services personnel — are not awash with individuals with negatively geared property, and this includes the senior national leaders of these entities.

I suspect we will never know, of course. But where there is one David Feeney to be found, there are no doubt others: and whilst Feeney has made millions out of the taxpayer in the form of parliamentary salaries, the fact is that 77% of those who negatively gear properties earn less than $100,000 per annum, and 90% of them have just one or two investment properties.

This will — or it should — be an issue on which Turnbull and his acolytes run hard over the next month.

But Feeney is nothing if not generous, for he also forced during the week an admission that for all its hot air and blather about the Gillard-era Schoolkids’ Bonus — abolished by the Abbott government, with indications over the ensuing two years that a Shorten government would restore it — this blatant Labor Party election bribe would not be reinstated if it won office, which is more of a revelation than first impressions might suggest.

The ALP needs to win over hundreds of thousands of additional voters if it is to defy electoral history and return to office after a single term; the Schoolkids’ Bonus — which this column flatly opposed when it was cooked up by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, despite the fact I have school-aged children — should now be made a talismanic symbol by the Coalition parties of just what else Labor has suggested it would dish out if it won that is also in line to be scrapped.

For a self-confessed liar with the dubious record of professional trustworthiness that Shorten now asks voters to endorse for the Prime Ministership, this should be the thin edge of the wedge; the Schoolkids’ Bonus was set to cost $4.5bn over four years, and despite trumpeting a plan to slug Australians with $102bn in extra taxes over a decade and insisting that figure was both accurate and achievable, Feeney’s admission ultimately forced Shorten to concede that it wasn’t affordable.

Apparently, according to Feeney, there are other “savings” and boosts to the budget bottom line to come as part of Labor’s program.

What else in the bag of goodies Shorten is waving around the country isn’t affordable either? The seeds of doubt are there to be planted.

To be fair, the wild swings taken at Labor last week by Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance minister Matthias Cormann — arguing there was a “black hole” of some $67bn in Labor’s election costings — went some way to planting them, and we spoke about this on Thursday; the accusations were met by righteous and indignant protestations from the ALP that the “black hole” was a figment of the government’s imagination. But even the best rationale that could be offered up in its support found Labor $32bn short: and pressing this advantage home over the next five weeks will be paramount.

Today, The Australian chips in with a piece featuring former Queensland Treasurer Keith de Lacy — a Labor stalwart who mightn’t have had much corporate credibility during the term of the Goss government, but who has since become a rather distinguished voice within the business community — who takes the opportunity to rip into the federal ALP, dismissing Shorten’s claim that Labor has “excellent relations” with corporate Australia, and branding the opposition’s taxation policies the “most anti-business policy (he’s) ever seen federal Labor put to an election.”

This, from one of the few genuinely respected ALP figures to have been responsible for Treasury books anywhere for a protracted period in recent decades, is a damning indictment. As far as I’m aware, de Lacy isn’t nursing grievances or pursuing a vendetta against Labor, and so it’s probably safe to take his judgement at face value. And that judgement, of course, validates everything the ALP’s economic critics have been saying about it for almost a decade.

Labor’s ghastly social policies have taken big hits as well, with “Safe” Schools now permanently discredited by the departure of co-founder Roz Ward, whose outbursts included the declaration that Australia’s “racist” flag should be replaced with a hammer and sickle, and anecdotes of suggestions by her that people who believed “Safe” Schools was about stopping bullying when it was really aimed at destroying traditional values must be very stupid indeed.

Another of the Daily Telegraph‘s regular writers today highlights Shorten’s overreach — in seeking to pander to another minority community, this time Aborigines, in his efforts to win votes by demonising the mainstream majority — by insisting Australians are fundamentally racist and that only he, Bill Shorten, could terminate this outrage at a stroke.

Never mind the fact that millions of those racists must first vote for him if he is ever to do so: yet in any case, the idea of Shorten stamping out what pockets of racism exist in Australia is akin to the expectation he will walk to Parliament House in Canberra every day across Lake Burleigh Griffin. It’s just bullshit.

There are other things I could point to over the past week that have conspired, slowly, gradually, but definitively to expose the part of Labor’s neck that houses its collective jugular vein, but the point is that in increments and across a broad framework whose constituent areas are being filled in one at a time, the tightly controlled cacophony of bullshit that has been Shorten’s stock in trade for two and a half years is now being found out as rather loose.

So what is “fair?”

Is it fair to be a party to the virtual bankrupting of Australia — as a government minister and later as the leader of a conspiracy to prevent anyone else fixing the damage — in order to claim the Coalition is an assortment of economic vandals? The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Is it fair to mortgage the future living standards of not one but several generations for political gain spanning a single electoral cycle?

Is it fair to set Australians against each other, actively fomenting class envy and hatred, for the grimy anticipated return of a handful of votes?

Is it fair to aspire to govern Australia, preaching one set of standards for the wider population, whilst some in Shorten’s midst (and perhaps Shorten himself: we don’t know) operate on a different set of principles altogether?

Is it fair to fling borrowed money at voters to bribe them? Is it fair to promise people what the country simply can’t afford to spend? Is it fair, when caught out, to take the bribes off the table, saying there’s not the money to pay for them — in the same breath as announcing a $102bn tax slug on everyone in the country?

And the decidedly iffy, questionable past of Bill Shorten — the dodgy election donations, the dodgy workplace agreements, the selling out of workers whose fortunes he was entrusted with, and the dubious personal dealings he has had inside and outside his party — are a legitimate, and critical, part of any properly calibrated Coalition onslaught.

There are storylines and avenues of attack that Turnbull and his colleagues can establish, develop and shoot home with lethal force if the opportunities that have now begun to appear are seized and properly exploited over the remainder of this campaign.

Some of the weak points in the Labor edifice have sprung sharply into focus over the past week.

It hasn’t been enough to get Turnbull out of the woods — yet — and if the ALP re-establishes an iron grip over its own campaign, giving people easy answers and bags of non-existent money whilst saying what they think they want to hear, the ray of light shining on the government heading into week four may yet prove to have been a false dawn.

And it might be trite to say so, but every one of these attack themes have been advocated both in this column and elsewhere in the conservative press for almost three years as the key to securing a second term in office for the Coalition, and have been largely ignored: it might be a case of “better late than never,” but if the Coalition finally gets its communications and strategy people doing what they are paid to do, then the past week may yet be seen in hindsight as the point at which Shorten’s “leadership” of the ALP imploded, and the ALP’s electoral prospects with it.

For the first time in quite some time, Turnbull starts the week with a golden opportunity to turn the tide of public opinion back in his government’s favour, and to begin a process that culminates in slaying the Labor dragon in 33 days’ time.

The big question, of course, is whether or not he can. Time will tell. It always does.


Hillary For Prison 2016: The Indictment Looms

THE PROSPECT of POTUS fancy Hillary Clinton finally ending up where she belongs — in gaol — has drawn nearer, with a key report slamming her misuse of classified material on a private email server. This column has despised the Clintons for decades, with their entitlement mentality and penchant for acting as laws unto themselves. The likely Democratic nominee facing prison as a consequence of her actions would be no less than she deserves.

At some point late today or tomorrow morning, I am going to post a quick review of where our own federal election campaign sits with three weeks down and five to go; for some time I have thought Malcolm Turnbull was on track for a narrow defeat, although the best efforts of the ALP this week to deal the Coalition back into the game just might save Turnbull’s hide. Stay tuned.

But this morning I want to share a report carried by The Australian yesterday from The Times, which moves election season in the United States into some seriously interesting territory; a key State Department report into the unorthodox email management system utilised by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State — using a private server — has slammed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, finding the arrangement was not officially sanctioned, and was used to handle confidential and classified materials that were at heightened risk of hacking or interception as a consequence.

Clinton, tellingly, has apparently been “sweating” on this report exonerating her of any misconduct.

But in a further excoriation of her behaviour, the report also found that 30,000 emails deleted from the private server included classified documentation: and that not only should they not have been there, but they should not have been destroyed by Clinton either.

It now seems inevitable that Clinton will face charges over the matter, and if found guilty, faces prison: and with decades of history of acting, with husband Bill in harness, as a law unto herself, a stint in a federal penitentiary would seem no less than the one-time First Lady and New York Senator deserves.

THE decades-long endeavour to bring Hillary Clinton to justice may be nearing its conclusion.

This column has never made any secret of its deep loathing of Bill and Hillary Clinton; neither is able to point to any legacy in office of any particular value, and both fit the nauseating stereotype of would-be emulators of the “Camelot” mentality of the Kennedy family with their sense of entitlement, their penchant for doing whatever they like, and the expectation they will always get away with it: and that Americans will and indeed should love them irrespective.

I’m sorry, but even in the insiderish Washington establishment that protects its own at almost any cost, this is simply too much to stomach.

Not least from a woman who — 20 years ago — found herself at the centre of the Whitewater scandal, in which her role was never satisfactorily or convincingly explained; and not from an individual who now seeks arguably the most powerful office in the world, free to dispense patronage and favour to fellow travellers in the Democrats’ insidious liberal Left tradition, and whose ascent to that office could provide sufficient cover to ensure she never faces justice over the alleged misdemeanours of which she now stands accused.

This scandal has been years in the making, literally, and many decent Americans have wondered whether the whole sordid business would be swept under the carpet. In this sense, the release of the State Department’s report, and the obvious signal it sends to prosecutors to indict Ms Clinton, is a refreshing development.

As readers will note, the article I have linked to this morning sets out a likely timeframe for Ms Clinton to be indicted, the charges considered by a Court, and a verdict arrived at; this process will by its nature run longer than the remainder of the presidential election race, giving rise to the very real prospect that Clinton — if elected President — could earn the shame and ignominy of being the first US President to ever be jailed whilst holding office.

This, of course, is no excuse to defer or avoid justice being carried out.

But it adds fresh fuel to the campaign of Donald Trump — who, whether you approve or not, appears likelier by the day to be elected in November, providing the seemingly inevitable march toward the GOP nomination he has all but completed follows its course to conclusion.

And it raises the question of whether the Democrats persist with Clinton, disallow her candidacy on some arcane pretext and substitute her with ageing socialist troglodyte Bernie Sanders, or cut their losses with the pair of them and find a fresh candidate altogether, such as Clinton’s rumoured running mate, Elizabeth Warren.

Personally, I think the Clintons have been allowed to get away with far too much for far too long, and if Hillary ends up in gaol at the conclusion of the State Department’s action against her, it will be exactly what she deserves — and put her precisely where she belongs.

We will follow this issue as it develops, and of course with the nominating contests all but finished, this column will pay closer attention to the presidential race as it cranks up in the rundown to election day in early November.

But if it is decided at law that Clinton has destroyed classified documents (or worse, if it can be established that they have been intercepted) then that isn’t a piffling matter to get away with: it’s an offence against US national security, and should that verdict come to pass, it will be a damnation of somebody who has always held herself up as the “brains” trust in the God-forsaken Clinton sideshow: and a prison term in those circumstances would be a fitting punishment for someone who, on any measure, should have known better — and known better than virtually anybody else in the United States.

I will be back late today or in the morning, as promised, to talk about matters closer to home.


“Black Hole” Or Not, Labor Simply Can’t Manage Money

THE INTERNECINE brawl over whether the ALP has a “black hole” in its policy costings — and if so, how big it is — represents a cynical, over-used (and abused) feature of elections in this country; even so, for all but three of the past 30 years, Labor has never delivered a balanced federal budget: and its record of debt accrual at both state and federal levels is unrivalled. Even the deficit and debt increase under the Coalition is directly Labor’s fault.

I am off to Brisbane again for the day today, and whilst I have to spend a day there next month this is the last one until late July: so with some luck, that particular impact on our discussions here will lessen considerably in the next little bit.

But you know it’s election time in Australia when the Liberals and Labor are throwing around barbs about black holes and blowouts; this time-dishonoured practice is in full swing, with a tick over five weeks until polling day, and the danger of this insidious practice is that by the time voters march wearily into the polling booth they will have been so bombarded with bullshit as to disregard the matter altogether.

They shouldn’t.

It is one of those ironies that three years ago, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan accused the Coalition of having a $70bn “black hole” in its policy costings: it didn’t. Not unless you count the apparently predetermined Labor position of blocking every Coalition spending cut in sight to try to wreck the federal budget if it lost the election as expected, that is.

This week, of course, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance minister Mathias Cormann have levelled the same charge at Labor, and in eerily similar terms — $67bn — and whilst there will inevitably be some dispute over the quantum, the balance of probabilities based on Labor’s form over decades is that they are onto something.

Readers will recall the unprecedented program of tax rises totalling $102bn set out by Bill Shorten last month, which was almost immediately discredited as falling between $20bn and $30bn short; wild estimations of the money to be had from slugging smokers yet again in excise imposts were the main culprit, and the episode was reminiscent of another fatuous justification for hitting smokers by another fatuous ALP leader.

At the time of the last election, the idiotic Kevin Rudd ran around proclaiming that smokers cost the health system $31.9bn per year to treat smoking-related illness as a justification for slapping on an extra $5 per packet in tax; in something of a breath of fresh air, it was one of Rudd’s own health bureaucrats who publicly contradicted the then-PM, stating that not only had Rudd exaggerated the figure tenfold (the actual cost was $3.19bn) but that the regime of excise collection, as it stood at the time to reap $6bn per year, more than paid the cost of smokers’ healthcare.

Demonising smokers might be fun, but at least do it honestly.

The record of the Rudd-Gillard-Swan government — whilst withdrawing some Howard-era measures — was to lift expenditure on social experiments and welfare addiction measures targeted at the most vulnerable under the cover of the Global Financial Crisis; contrary to the ranting of Rudd and Swan in particular, revenue never fell during or after the GFC, and increased on average during the six years of Labor governance by 7% per annum.

But this didn’t worry Labor then — as it borrowed heavily overseas to fund its mad obsession with locking selected constituencies onto the Labor teat — and it won’t worry Labor now; its Treasury spokesman is the same Labor Treasurer who was a party to Rudd’s mad pronouncements on the state of the budget in 2013, and there is no reason to believe he has changed his spots.

And to some extent, serial embarrassment David Feeney — already a source of negative headlines for Labor over his failure to remember he has negatively geared property, contradicting Labor’s plans to abolish negative gearing — has let the cat out of the bag with his “inability” to say whether the ALP will continue the $1.6bn annual Schoolkids’ Bonus introduced by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, abolished by Tony Abbott, and set to expire after this year.

Feeney, of course, ought — by the usual debased standards of an election campaign — to be disendorsed; many better people than him have been booted off the cart by both sides over the years for a lot less.

But he is a union and factional thug with clout, which means Labor is obliged to carry his festering carcass all the way into the next Parliament: if he doesn’t lose his seat to the Greens, that is.

My point this morning is that where there is smoke, there is usually fire, and this commodity is not in short supply where Labor’s election effort to date has been concerned.

Already, Shorten is promising tens of billions of extra dollars in health and education spending with at best a dubious story as to how it will be paid for: never mind, of course, that more and more money won’t fix a health system carrying too many bureaucrats, consultants, advisers and other hangers-on, nor an education system currently consuming record levels of money in real terms, and in which deficient teacher training and not education funding is the true culprit in generating unsatisfactory outcomes.

According to Shorten, GP consultations will fall by up to $24 under a Labor government, which is the biggest pile of manure seen outside a proctologist’s office in some time: for bulk billed patients, how much less than “free” can you get? And for those who are not bulk billed,  the volume of money required to deliver this unbelievably crass pledge is horrific.

But let’s not forget that this is the same party which insisted government borrowings were low “by international standards” — as it merrily racked up $300bn in debt in less than six years — and which has shown such cavalier disregard for the national good as to have spent three years playing fast and loose with Australia’s future, blocking every Coalition bill aimed at reining in the tens of billions of dollars in annual recurrent expenditure it legislated before leaving office in what we now know was an attempt to blame the whole lot on the Coalition.

Labor has governed this country for 16 of the last 30 years; of those it has delivered surplus budgets just three times, and even then more than quarter of a century ago when Paul Keating was Treasurer.

By contrast, 11 of the 15 Coalition budgets in that time have delivered surpluses.

The past three (and especially the unmoving trend in the bottom line) arguably have far more to do with Labor’s misuse of the Senate as an instrument to prevent the delivery of election promises by its conservative opponents than with any real charge of mismanagement on the Coalition’s part.

(Political stupidity a la the 2014 budget and fiscal incompetence are not the same thing).

In other words — with debt now at the half trillion dollar mark — Labor has effectively spent somewhere in the order of $200bn on the public purse from opposition, in the form of borrowings that might not have been required, and that is the price Australia has paid for a Shorten government before such a contemptible entity has even come into existence.

God willing, it never will.

And when it is remembered that every Labor state government that has been kicked out over the past 30 years left a huge pile of debt behind that wasn’t there to begin with — and in at least two of those bequests, in Victoria in 1992 and South Australia in 1993, those states were left all but insolvent — the charge I regularly make about Labor being rotten to the core becomes difficult to convincingly refute.

Is there a “black hole” in Labor’s election costings? Who in hell knows, if we’re being honest. But based on past form and on balance of probabilities, betting your house on the suggestion Labor’s sums don’t add up is probably a guaranteed way to hit paydirt.

Even if, by some miracle, Shorten and Bowen have added mathematical prowess to the thin list of problems the ALP has resolved since being flicked by voters three years ago, their party doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

My great fear is that voters have grown so accustomed to a federal government haemorrhaging red ink and mortgaging future generations’ living standards for the dubious benefit of Labor’s election prospects that such considerations register with fewer and fewer people who take such matters seriously.

Certainly, most of the many people I talk to every week have no comprehension of how the debt disgrace afflicting this country can be Labor’s fault after three years of government by someone else.

But once I explain it — and clarify anything that might unduly bias the point — there’s no problem understanding it at all: and in this sense, Bill Shorten can probably feel grateful that when it comes to the TV soundbites from which most swinging voters get their political insights from, their usual attention span is less than that of a gnat.

Is there a black hole in Labor’s numbers? It would be a miracle if there wasn’t, but the greatest shame of all is that you only have the word of a politician for that: and as the politician in question is on the record as a self-confessed liar, his word isn’t worth all that much at all.

Is it, Mr Billy Bullshit?

Nova Peris-Nowhere: Tasteless End To An Abuse Of Parliament

THE RESIGNATION of Aboriginal identity Nova Peris — three years after being controversially shanghaied into an unloseable Senate seat by Julia Gillard — brings to a tasteless end what was always an abuse of Parliament. The ALP has form for treating elected sinecures as baubles for trade, and the Peris fiasco is just one of a long list of cases of Labor wiping its backside on Parliament and on voters. This time, it has been left to carry the can.

It does rather seem that in the runup to the election to be held on 2 July, the usual spate of comings and goings promises to be rather “special” — and I use the term sarcastically — this time around; yesterday we wrote the deserved political obituary of Clive Palmer, with a few equally justified barbs lobbed at his onetime protegé Jacqui Lambie for good measure, and it also emerged yesterday that perennial candidate and division pedlar Pauline Hanson seems primed to make yet another comeback attempt 18 years after she last represented anyone except herself.

But news that former Olympic champion and prominent Aboriginal figure Nova Peris — shoehorned into an unloseable Labor Senate seat three years ago by then-PM Julia Gillard, who unilaterally dumped the sitting Senator in the process — has quit her seat should outrage anyone with a care for such quaint notions as the commitment of elected representatives to their constituents, or cling to the faint but forlorn hope that politics might yet be a vocation for individuals and parties genuinely committed to public service and to the public good but who are repeatedly proven delusional by the cynical antics of the so-called political class and its flat disregard for any of the aforesaid concepts.

First things first: when Gillard’s “Captain’s Pick” was unveiled in January 2013, this column was affronted by the undemocratic and dictatorial manner in which the Prime Minister made it her business to dump a sitting Senator (the plodding Trish Crossin) and the insultingly patronising token it made of the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal community. Indeed, one indigenous elder at the time remarked that Gillard has seen to it that Peris would be the “pet Aborigine around Parliament House,” and given the invisible nature of her service ever since, the barb was probably not too far wide of the mark.

Readers can reacquaint themselves with discussion of the issue in this column at the time here and here.

One of the things I found most offensive at that time was that for all the hype and bullshit from Gillard that she was giving an opportunity to an Aboriginal woman to serve in Parliament, there was already an Aboriginal woman, in Labor’s ranks, with a depth of experience in public life and intending to stand against Crossin for her endorsement: Marion Scrymgour, who had acted as Chief Minister in the Northern Territory Assembly, and who was a veritable heavyweight as a candidate for high office compared to Peris.

It is to be hoped that Scrymgour might be persuaded to stand for the unexpected vacancy now, and not least because media reports suggest the mediocre (but understandably aggrieved) Crossin may by weighing the prospects of a comeback.

Peris announced yesterday that she was quitting her Senate seat after just three years — failing, apparently, to tell her staff before the announcement was made publicly — and whilst there was some suggestion it was to take up a role at the AFL as Head of Diversity, conflicting reports last night indicated she was by no means a certainty for the post.

Even so, and with the exception of the lack of grace shown by not giving her staff the courtesy of prior warning, the most difficult person to blame in this episode is Peris herself; at the time of the so-called “Captain’s Pick,” there was plenty of anecdotal evidence and scuttlebutt to indicate she was far from an eager recruit, and that some degree of cajoling and “persuasion” had been necessary to convince her to accept Crossin’s Senate spot in the first place.

I said at the time that it was an insult to Aborigines, that it stank of tokenism and paternalism, and that the histrionic rhetoric the appointment was couched in — that Gillard was “righting a wrong” — was nothing more than melodramatic twaddle and with the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think I was wrong.

But what it also was, on a more sinister level, was just another example of the ALP exhibiting such disrespect for the voting public and the institutions of elective office as to be little more than a contemptuous exercise in the party wiping its backside on Parliament, and on the voters of the Northern Territory.

Labor has form for this kind of thing. The Peris appointment wasn’t the first time the ALP has done something like this and it won’t be the last.

Former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett was parachuted into the (then) safe Sydney seat of Kingsford Smith in 2004; as an eventual minister he was an abject failure.

Disendorsed Senator David Feeney was parachuted into the safe — for now — Melbourne seat of Batman; Feeney is a machine thug and a union hack who adds nothing to either the national debate or to constructive outcomes of governance.

Former NSW Premier Bob Carr was parachuted into a casual Senate vacancy on Gillard’s watch specifically to replace Kevin Rudd as Foreign minister; the calibre of his performance in that role was debatable. Yet having stood for and secured a fresh six-year term at the 2013 election, Carr quit Canberra in land speed record-breaking time once the trappings of government had been displaced by the drudge of opposition.

All over the country, Labor’s factions (and in recent years, militant unions like the CFMEU) have divided the spoils of the electoral map between themselves as if they are baubles and trinkets for trade; it is an appalling one-fingered salute to the notion of representative democracy for which the ALP makes no apology.

Indeed. the party’s current federal “leader” — having lost a leadership vote of the Labor rank and file by more than a 60-40 margin to Anthony Albanese — occupies his position today only on account of union dictates to individual MPs to support Shorten in the ALP caucus: or else.

But Labor in its “modern” incarnation has never much cared for democracy: the wild frenzy to destroy the Abbott-Turnbull government within a single term, and the unprincipled gutter tactics with which that effort has been prosecuted over the past three years, far exceeds what might ordinarily be described as a “vigorous” opposition to the government of the day, and represents merely the culmination of an increasingly anti-democratic trend that has taken root at the ALP over the past ten years.

For once, however, Peris’ sudden resignation has left the ALP carrying the can.

Less than six weeks from polling day, it must now find a replacement Senate candidate, and quickly; Scrymgour would be the obvious (and most credible) choice, although Crossin’s musings ought to alarm Labor hardheads hoping some good might come of yesterday’s bombshell by replacing Peris with a much more substantial figure.

And there is, of course, no chance whatsoever that that candidate — whoever it is — will fail to be elected: with just two Senate berths to fill and the quota required identical at a double dissolution to that for a half-Senate election (for the uninitiated, the territories elect Senators for three-year terms that are synchronised with the House of Representatives) the only parties with a realistic chance of winning them are Labor and the NT’s Country Liberal Party, and neither is ever dominant enough to win both.

But just for once, one of these “smart” appointments by Labor has blown up in its face, which is no less than the party deserves.

It delivers a politically posthumous slapdown to any lasting belief (if there ever was any) that Gillard was possessed of an iota of sound judgement: the appointment of Peris should never have been made and we said so at the time.

Labor will continue to carve up the spoils of power for as long as it remains an unreconstructed morass of factional appetites and union prejudices, but this time at least the ALP has been made to look very silly indeed, and voters across the country are entitled to question just how poorly it might perform in office if they are inclined to elevate Bill Shorten to the Prime Ministership in a backlash against what has been a disappointing Coalition outfit to date.

And speaking of Shorten, a recent similar adventure in exercising a “Captain’s Pick” to install an Aborigine into a Senate vacancy over the heads of the local rank and file — this time in WA, with the endorsement of Pat Dodson — offers a chilling parallel for ALP strategists to ponder over the next few years: if, that is, Dodson is even elected, for he wasn’t even given a high enough position on the WA Senate ticket to make victory certain.

Shorten would want to be damned certain in his judgement of Dodson, and sure that he had backed the correct candidate where Gillard blundered badly: but if Dodson fails to enter the Senate at all, the embarrassment will be considerable, and point only to an insidious culture of preferment that should be stamped out at all costs, and which flies in the face of any sanctimonious blather about merit.


End Of An Error: Clive Palmer Quits Parliament

AN UNMITIGATED FARCE unworthy of even a single vote has ended, with news Clive Palmer will contest neither a Queensland Senate seat nor his electorate of Fairfax; too gutless to face his incensed constituents — who will now be denied their opportunity to boot his voluble arse onto the pavement — Palmer leaves Canberra having arguably helped destroy a state government, a Prime Minister, and to help facilitate the return of the ALP to office.

And so it ends, that which should never have started.

The unmitigated farce that was the Palmer United Party — with Clive Palmer, who was going to win 100 lower house seats and become Prime Minister in “a revolution” — came to an end with a whimper rather than a bang today, with the not-unexpected news that not only was Palmer wimping out of facing the wrath of the voters he walked all over in the seat of Fairfax, but that he couldn’t even be bothered trying to take the cheat’s route back to Canberra by trying to secure a Senate berth.

There’s a good reason for that. Palmer would be lucky now not to be eliminated in the early rounds of any Senate count.

First things first: depending on preference, readers can peruse the Fairfax or Murdoch press attached to this afternoon’s news.

This column — right from the outset — was scathing of Clive Palmer and his egomaniacal pretensions to the Prime Ministership; an unsuitable candidate — for anything, if we’re honest about it — Palmer’s alleged mass uprising turned out to be small-scale but politically toxic incursion into three Senate seats, and a single House of Representatives electorate by 53 votes after preferences off the back of just 26% of the primary vote, at the 2013 election.

It was as good as it got for the self-styled billionaire and mining baron.

As far back as April 2013 — more than three years ago — we called out the “popular revolution” Palmer claimed to embody for what it was: an unabashed, arrogant pantomime, shamelessly aimed at personal advancement and the settling of not-so-old scores, with the delusional insistence he would become Prime Minister paling into insignificance beside the very real prospect he would find some way to kill off Campbell Newman in Queensland, Tony Abbott in Canberra, or both.

At root, the sole discernible pretext for Palmer’s political aspirations — aside from megalomania — was the fact that having donated millions of dollars to the Queensland Division of the National Party (and later the LNP), Palmer found the Newman government singularly unwilling to do whatever he wanted: planning approvals, land zoning decisions, favourable tax treatment, the whole box and dice.

With astonishing chutzpah (and notwithstanding the very sensitive antenna post-Bjelke-Petersen Queenslanders retain for anything with so much as a whiff of corrupt behaviour about it, even now), Palmer launched into a savage diatribe against Newman, all but accusing him of corrupt misconduct, accusing then-Treasurer Tim Nicholls of having “cooked the books,” and labelling the LNP a “bunch of crooks.”

There obviously wasn’t a mirror handy that day.

And of course, somewhere along the way, Tony Abbott and the federal Coalition became just as hated in Palmer’s eyes as Newman and the Queensland LNP; a cynic might say it was at the intersection between a massive ego and the need to retain votes, and the fact that offering to sluice huge amounts of cash around as the price for allowing legislation to pass the Senate might help curry empty but populist favour with the “battlers” for whose situation in life he had thitherto exhibited scant regard.

The balance of power in the Senate — which is what his bloc of three votes, in practice, amounted to — was used to no better ends than to cripple the Abbott government.

It is a point of record that I have criticised the 2014 budget as loudly as anyone, so misguided and poorly managed as it was.

But with Labor and the Communist Party Greens blocking everything in sight, it was Palmer’s votes that tipped the balance: and invariably, it was to vote unpopular measures down to make himself look like a champion of the oppressed. On at least one occasion — the repeal of the mining tax — he allowed the measure to pass, but only after insisting on billions of dollars in spending that ensured that far from helping fix the state of the Commonwealth budget, the abolition of the mining tax actually worsened it.

Palmer stands condemned for a distinct lack of judgement in ensuring the election of imbecilic Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie by throwing large sums of cash into her campaign; Lambie — probably the stupidest individual ever elected to any Australian Parliament — has made Parliament and Australia a laughing stock, with her childish prattle about chasing rich men with big dicks, or her excruciating distinction between “Chinese” and “Communist Chinese,” and who advocated some kind of nuclear strike against the latter contingent.

Lambie, unbelievably, stands a good chance of surviving the imminent double dissolution, and if she does, it will be a permanent indictment on Palmer for enabling the moron to get anywhere near the Senate in the first place.

More recent times have seen Palmer pick — and lose — legal fights with an array if institutions and identities, not least his state-backed business partners in China; for those who always knew what Palmer was like and/or could see straight through the wafting cloud of bullshit he tried to cloak his “people’s party” in, it was a deeply satisfying process to watch as court loss followed court loss, and the 68-zip record of success in lawsuits Palmer used to boast about was obliterated.

I’m reliably told that the only real difference between the Clive Palmer who was a Young Liberals member in Brisbane in the 1970s and the Palmer of just a few years ago is the fact that his business success meant that he was actually able to make good on the threats to sue anyone who pissed him off that were commonly made even as a teenager.

It’s a telling insight.

The idea of a full-scale replica of the Titanic — built in China and escorted into harbour in the USA by a Chinese submarine — was laughable beyond belief, and it goes without saying that there will never be a second sinking of the Titanic because there will never be a Titanic to sink.

But there has been nothing to laugh about as his business empire crumbles, killing off jobs and family livelihoods with it: first his resort at Coolum, in his electorate, and lately the Queensland Nickel refinery in North Queensland, the spectacle of hundreds of jobs being lost is of far more concern than listening to Palmer whinge in the press about his declining business fortunes.

In the end, nobody is going to miss Palmer when he vacates the national political complex on 2 July.

Except, perhaps, Bill Shorten, whose Labor Party is arguably the sole beneficiary of the antics of Palmer and his eponymous party; even though the 2014 budget was a political obscenity of the most unbelievably grotesque proportions, it is impossible to believe that even the misfiring Abbott government could have been hauled to the brink of defeat over it were it not for the tactics employed against it in the Senate by Palmer and his cohorts.

The fact the budget itself was deeply flawed does not automatically make Palmer’s actions right, but if Bill Shorten wins the election on 2 July, Palmer will be able to take a fair share of the credit for it — and this is an indictment on an individual who claimed he was starting his own party to promote the “true” virtues of Australian conservatism.

I feel very sorry for voters in Palmer’s seat of Fairfax; they have paid a heavy price for his purported advocacy on their behalf, and their communities are poorer for his continued presence in them. The Coolum resort was once a major community hub, a driver of economic activity in the region, and a provider of hundreds of jobs. Now it is as good as defunct. It seems an indicative metaphor for the trail of scorched Earth that seems to follow Palmer wherever he goes.

Electors in Fairfax deserve the opportunity to piss all over their rotund parasite of an MP from a great height, and to propel his sizeable arse across the pavement and into the gutter: so ungracious is Palmer, and so utterly self-serving, that he hasn’t even got the decency to face the music and allow them to pass judgement upon him.

Australian politics has seen its share of self-important hero figures — consumed by hallucinatory visions of their own grandeur, and fortified by the sheer gall to suggest people actually like or even love them — who are almost without exception the worst kind of people anyone could find to entrust with the mandate of acting on their behalf.

In this sense, Palmer isn’t the first — and regrettably, he won’t be the last. Even as I write, Lambie is sitting in Tasmania somewhere quietly congratulating herself on what a legend she is in her own mind.

But Palmer leaves public life with no discernible achievements, no track record of making the lives of the ordinary folk he was charged with serving any better, and nothing for which he will be remembered fondly or, indeed, remembered at all.

Nothing, that is, except the abuse of power implicit in seeking elected office to further his own business interests, and to destroy those who refused to do it — improperly, indecently, or even corruptly — on his behalf.

It is a sick and sorry record of “achievement” by a leech whose chief conviction seems to have been that a little money entitled him to whatever he wanted, and that the refusal of others to capitulate to his demands merely legitimised his abuse of that power in seeking to destroy them personally, politically, and with malice.

Vale, Clive Palmer — Prime Minister of nothing.

Good riddance.


Newspoll: Without A Change Of Strategy, Turnbull May Be Gone

SOME think another 51-49 ALP lead is meaningless, but I disagree; today’s Newspoll for The Australian sees overall Coalition polling stuck near 49% — hardly winning — and ominously, Bill Shorten as popular as Malcolm Turnbull and closing in as preferred PM. Ineptitude under Tony Abbott has given way to scandal, mediocrity and bickering on Labor turf today. The Coalition has a story. Unless it tells it, Turnbull’s days are probably already numbered.

I think we’re now well beyond the point at which it became platitudinous to suggest that had Malcolm Turnbull taken the government to a December election, he — and it — would have been so resoundingly re-elected as to take seats off Labor and perhaps emerge with a majority in both Houses of Parliament; certainly, that argument is one I propounded at the time, and the irony is that with an election for both Houses of Parliament now in progress, the only certainty is that no such outcome will eventuate.

But if Turnbull leads the Coalition to defeat on 2 July, it is a proposition I will return to; and if Turnbull does in fact lose, he will be absolutely (and rightly) crucified from the top of the Liberal Party right down to its foundations, for the unexpected opportunity of a certain second term that looked like nothing more than fantasy less than nine months ago will have been carefully, and wilfully, squandered.

And right now, an election loss is looking more and more as if it is on the cards.

Enter Newspoll — in The Australian — which today finds the government’s standing on the two-party measure after preferences unchanged at 51-49 Labor’s way for the fourth consecutive fortnight; there are those (including many whose judgements I respect) who believe such a finding is a yawn, a statistically insignificant bit of nothingness, and a non-event.

But I beg to differ, for such an assessment ignores other factors at play.

For one thing, today’s result means that a basket of Coalition polling numbers across the suite of reputable surveys suggests an aggregate value of its standing is more like 49.5% to 50.5%, and whilst the latest Newspoll doesn’t alter that in any way, the point is that a) it puts the Coalition behind Labor, and b) that sub-50% aggregate is now looking — through the eyes of this Liberal Party member at least — disturbingly settled, if not already set in concrete.

For another, and as outrageously obscene as it is to note this, Labor’s so-called “leader” — Bill Shorten — is now as good as on par with the Prime Minister where his personal approval numbers are concerned: 38% (unch) of Newspoll respondents indicated they are satisfied with Turnbull’s performance; 37% (+4%) said the same of Shorten. 50% (+1%) were dissatisfied with Turnbull; 49% (-3%) were similarly unimpressed with Shorten. On the “net satisfaction” calculation, the two men are dead level on -12%, with Turnbull’s standing on this measure deteriorating a point and Shorten’s improving by seven. And on the “preferred PM” question, Turnbull (46%, -3%) continues to head Shorten (31%, +4%), but by a margin that is now better characterised as “clear” rather than “solid,” as opposed to the “overwhelming” 64-15 score he recorded in November last year.

The overall voting numbers might be unchanged, but the swirling undercurrents and subterranean whirlpools below the surface have all moved definitively (and beyond any margin of sampling error) in the cretinous Shorten’s favour.

And whilst bookies might still favour the Coalition to win, Newspoll’s punters now split 44-33 toward the government on the question of which side will emerge triumphant on 2 July: even this is a large reversal, from the 55-25 finding by Newspoll in March, which means a sizeable percentage of those it identifies as planning to vote against the Coalition also now believe Labor might win — whereas eight weeks ago, they didn’t.

Readers can check out the Newspoll tables here.

Regular readers know that until 15 September last year, I spent years campaigning vigorously to prevent Malcolm Turnbull from ever returning to the Liberal Party leadership.

That campaign — colourful as it may have been from time to time — was never personal and never intended to be construed as such irrespective of whatever conclusions some (including, perhaps, Malcolm himself) insisted on drawing from it. Certainly, having had a bit to do with him many years ago and having found him enormously likeable, it was impossible for it to be personal.

Rather, it was based on a hard assessment of the faults that saw him despatched as leader in barely over a year the first time around and a judgement — substantially validated in the past few months — that little, if anything, had changed.

Turnbull’s support (vocal or involuntarily mute) for a slew of issues with which I have no truck — a republic, gay marriage, emissions trading schemes et al — were simply the own goals that sealed it.

But the thunderous win recorded under Tony Abbott in 2013 should have set the Coalition up for at least two, if not three, terms in office; in some respects the seeds of Abbott’s demise were sown during the 2013 campaign, when he inadvisedly ruled out spending cuts to a raft of bloated, inefficient recurrent expenditure centres that severely limited his government’s capacity to do anything about pruning waste from them without seriously pissing the electorate off.

There had been a catch-all, as I noted before and after the election — that if the books proved to be in worse shape upon inspection than the condition Labor declared them in when it lost the election (and they were) — then the Coalition might have to do some things “it didn’t want to do.” But this proved too delicate a distinction to draw, and in the full heat of a predictably vicious (but entirely unscrupulous and unprincipled) ALP onslaught, the government simply withered with nary a yelp.

In fact, the utter inability of the Abbott government to sell anything — literally, anything — or to inspire confidence that it would even be capable of articulating the intention to purchase sex at a brothel quickly became the most immediate hallmark of that government, and it is a matter of record that the dysfunctional apparatus set up by Chief of Staff Peta Credlin to execute parliamentary management, political strategy and tactics, mass communication and any kind of salesmanship at all is the target at which this column’s aim was firmly and unswervingly directed from shortly after the politically calamitous 2014 budget until Abbott was dumped late last year.

The more things change, of course, the more they stay the same.

Abbott might be gone, but the allegedly messianic arrival of Turnbull was meant to send a wave of competence and acumen crashing through the ranks of the government: the termination of Credlin’s services and a cleanout at the Liberal federal secretariat showed early promise, but any objective assessment would conclude that this faint ray of light was in fact a false dawn.

Turnbull the master communicator was going to restore the government’s “narrative” and repair the fractured relationship with the electorate: instead, he has waffled, and talked gibberish, and put ideas on the table as “policy” directions only to whisk them away again in record time: not once, not twice, but repeatedly.

The voting public is entitled to be unsure as to what Turnbull stands for.

Perhaps constrained by Prime Ministerial directives (like the one killing off GST reform just as it was unbelievably starting to gain traction and support) or perhaps because he isn’t up to the high billing many (including me) have given him, Treasurer Scott Morrison delivered a budget three weeks ago that was like an Aero bar — you know, when bubbles of nothing make it really something — and with the state the national budget is in and the paucity of any kind of money other than the borrowed variety available to throw around, that really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

But the effort to sell even that came to an abrupt halt the following morning, as Turnbull engaged in an on-air argument with ABC Radio’s Jon Faine in Melbourne, and with that crashing end to any momentum the budget might have generated, so too did the government’s best (and perhaps last) chance to seize control of the agenda and swing the electorate back into its favour.

The scandals that have plagued Turnbull as Prime Minister have largely been entirely foreseeable and avoidable fiascos that emanated from two botched reshuffles, which — whilst containing a handful of excellent appointments in each case — also saw the appointment of likely unmitigated liabilities (all of which have detonated in Turnbull’s face) as well as some crony-style payback positions for leadership votes that are impossible to justify on merit.

And as ever, the more things change, the more they stay the same: I had hoped that gutting the Prime Minister’s Office and starting again — despite my distinct unease about the political viability of its new occupant — might at least have had the spillover consequence of getting some people into the media/communications/strategy roles who could cut through the bullshit and oxygenate a message that would resonate with voters: it didn’t have to be popular, and if it was genuinely honest and fashioned in good faith, it wouldn’t have been.

But it might have been respected.

Anyone who listens to a syllable of the ALP’s blather about there being no debt problem in this country — or that there isn’t a problem with spending, or that the current government is a high-taxing, high spending government that should be crucified for its excesses — really should think again.

Of course this government is high-taxing and high-spending: Labor carefully and methodically legislated both rising taxes and rising expenditure before its eviction from office in an unapologetic attempt to sabotage the budget to make it unmanageable by the Liberal Party. Labor’s obstruction in the Senate — aided and abetted by Communists Greens and other filth from the Palmer United Party — were the second component of this orchestrated campaign to ensure a Coalition government imploded within a single term.

It has almost worked — and whether aware or not of the trap it has fallen into, or even conscious of the monumental political failure that has compounded the damage Labor’s pre-2013 handiwork has inflicted on it — the Coalition, now less than six weeks from polling day, is blundering around trying to out-Labor Labor, and faced with polls already clearly suggesting likely (albeit, for now at least, narrow) defeat.

Labor promises tens of billions of dollars in extra spending on Health and Education; we’ll deliver more, too, says Turnbull, but it won’t be as much. The argument is lost at that point: there isn’t money to fund Labor’s bribes without borrowing it, and Shorten knows it. But by competing with Labor instead of making its core case, the government has ceded those issues to the opposition.

Labor says it will hit high-income superannuants; so will we, says Turnbull — and we’ll do it more savagely than Labor can. Argument lost: the merits of the Coalition “plan” notwithstanding, it has validated the broad thrust of the Labor “case.”

On and on it has gone. Tax for multinationals. Shorten says he’ll cut the cost of GP visits by between $14 and $25 — impossible, short of shovelling tens of billions out in direct cash payments, which he isn’t promising — and the Coalition still can’t tear this vacuous bribe to pieces.

Labor promises an LGBTIQ commissioner — a provocative and socially inflammatory abuse of power to pander to minorities if ever there was — yet the Coalition response is mute. Whatever benefits it might have derived from changing leaders, any form of improved communications capability was not among them.

And now, as Francis Urquhart might say — plan until you’re blue in the face and events just happen — events are indeed intervening to make the government’s job that much harder.

Like the raid on ALP offices last week over leaks from the NBN Co, which should have reflected squarely on the ALP but instead, through tactical superiority and the missteps of the Coalition, made Turnbull the only target to sustain any damage.

Like the “news” this morning that slain mobster Joseph Acquaro “unwittingly” lunched with Turnbull almost a decade ago: for this story to filter out now, someone has been sitting on it until its release could inflict maximum political damage. There is no suggestion Turnbull did anything improper, or that he was even aware of the dubious company into which he had stumbled. But as anyone who knows the ALP playbook knows all too well, by the time Labor is finished with this issue, you might as well just cuff Turnbull and cart him away. The machine the government is up against is that bad and that insidious. But the Coalition, in likelihood, will fail to lay a glove on it.

Unlike the business community that wanted the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws and then deserted it in 2007 — refusing to put up money for a campaign to tackle the union onslaught against what were fairly moderate and sensible laws, once the rough edges had been smoothed out — the property industry appears to have come to Turnbull’s aid on one front, running a campaign against Shorten’s proposal to end negative gearing on all but newly built residential properties and to halve the capital gains discount. This dangerous Labor initiative is based on a report that admitted it ignored many of the policy’s possible consequences, understated average incomes to produce more “rich” people in the investment community to take aim at, and could well induce a recession if ever implemented. And the Coalition’s running on what could be a pivotal issue?


It may be too late, but the key to this government’s success — and any aspiration (or delusion) it once harboured to emulate the stellar performance of the Howard years — was actually shelved by Joe Hockey in early 2014: the report from its own Commission of Audit into the government’s finances, undertaken after the change of government in 2013.

Nobody should be under any illusion that unless the federal budget is repaired (and quickly: that is, within the next five to seven years), Australia’s envied standing as a “rich” country will give way to an economic management reputation more akin to the likes of Italy, or Spain, or eventually Greece.

Those “low” debt levels Wayne Swan used to gloat about as debt passed zero, then 5% to GDP, then 10%, then 15% are now at 35% and not looking so trivial any more; debt sits at half a trillion dollars where it was zero less than a decade ago, and Labor’s legislated increases to recurrent expenditure — which it has stubbornly refused to permit the ongoing government to reduce in any way, shape, or form through its Senate antics — will merely continue to fuel the problem until it explodes.

I don’t want to be melodramatic about it, and I haven’t even mentioned the Abbott loyalists deserting the Coalition. But if there had been an election this Saturday gone, I think Shorten would have won it: and it isn’t just Newspoll that makes me think that.

It might already be too late: a sudden flurry of talk about debt and deficits might now appear to voters as panic, and not least because in their hamfisted and conflicting treatment of this issue (there is an emergency, there isn’t an emergency, we have to tighten belts, but here’s a small business tax write-off bonanza) Abbott and Hockey trashed the credibility of the actual pretext for the Coalition’s 2013 election win in the first place.

But unless those charged with such things in government circles find a way to construct a dialogue about just how parlous Australia’s financial position really is — and it is parlous, irrespective of what any politician from any party tries to tell you to the contrary — then the election in July is probably already lost.

After all, am insipid chorus of me too-ism is no substitute for the raw appeal to unthinking and/or gleefully self-interested types of Shorten’s tsunami of money, painless spending increases, and his all-things-to-all-people approach to seizing power at literally any cost: even his $102bn in tax hikes, which have already been discredited as worth about $30bn less than that, inspire only apathy from those to whom they don’t (or won’t) apply.

This election actually matters: it is an election about what shape Australia is in as it heads deeper into the 21st century, in uncertain economic times and amid an increasingly insecure (and in some cases, hostile) international climate. In one sense, neither side is an ideal fit to deal with the real issues that are at stake.

But some experiment in illiberal social policy and a further massive, debt-fuelled lurch to the Keynesian Left is the very last thing Australia either needs, or can afford: and the onus rests squarely upon the Liberal “brains” trust to construct the messages that actually matter — and to see that just for once in the life of this inept, accident-prone incarnation of Liberal governance, those messages not only cut through, but make Newspoll numbers like today’s a thing of the past.

As ever, my door is open and the standing offer of help remains, but even when making such basic errors, those in the bunker always know better than everyone else — especially those who can see what they are doing is wrong, and have the temerity to call them out on their mistake.


Shorten Promise To Slash GP Fees Is A Dangerous Delusion

THE PROMISE by ALP “leader” Bill Shorten to cut fees for GP visits by up to $25 is dubious, almost certainly unfunded, and a further recipe to ramp up debt to fund spending from a party planning $102bn in tax hikes that have already been discredited by independent analysts as incapable of generating the projected revenue. The bribe will either not be delivered, will drive the country deeper into debt, or need hitherto secret taxes to fund it.

With my time once again at a heavy premium this week, I’ve found myself in a quandary this morning: whether to talk about the latest hare-brained promise from Labor (this time on Health), the embarrassment it has brought upon itself by bickering over asylum seeker policy, or the naive and nakedly populist proposal to yank negative gearing concessions out of the economy, with the potential to create economic mayhem and downturn that they entail.

The Medicare announcement wins — by a bee’s diaphragm — and if my workload eases up at all over the next few days we will return to the other two issues, for like anything that passes the lips of “Billy Bullshit” and his band of merry miscreants, none of their utterances on these matters should be taken at face value.

But the Medicare pledge announced yesterday by Shorten — to reduce the cost of visiting a doctor by between $14 and $25 — ought to be consumed with a rather large pinch of salt; reportedly set to cost $12.2bn over ten years, Labor’s past record suggests that the actual figure is likely to be roughly double that amount.

Even if it isn’t, Shorten is already throwing promises totalling tens of billions of dollars around like confetti, with taxation promises that can’t pay for them, and that should give voters pause enough for thought on its own.

By lifting the Coalition’s freeze on indexing the Medicare rebate, this promise will cost $2.4bn over four years, rising to $12.2bn over a decade; already staggering under the weight of non-existent money with which to pay for other lavish promises, Shorten knows that this expenditure is completely unaffordable: and he doesn’t even care.

There isn’t much point in examining the merits of the latest Labor Health announcement — there aren’t any — and instead, this “initiative” speaks more to the operational practice over at the ALP these days of saying whatever its boffins think will force the gullible and/or stupid to vote for it than it does to any serious attempt to fashion credible policy.

The only thing that matters to the ALP is power: to get it, and keep it, by literally any and all means possible.

And with Shorten on the record that becoming Prime Minister of Australia is his “destiny” (get the sick bucket), this new announcement merely serves to strengthen that assessment.

The 25% or so, give or take, of Australians who are not currently bulk billed (including myself) pay gap contributions over and above the schedule Medicare fee of anywhere between $30 and $50 for a GP visit; the indexation of the rebate is generally only a couple of extra dollars per year. So how does Shorten arrive at a figure of up to $25 cheaper on this measure?

Those who are bulk billed, of course, pay nothing. How do these people get a saving from the Shorten policy of $14 to $25 every time they see a doctor?

The suggestion the $12.2bn would be covered by discontinuing the baby bonus, abandoning company tax cuts and capping VET Fee Help loans sounds suspiciously like cover for raising taxes to pay for something else — perhaps the shortfall from his existing plan to extort $102bn from Australian workers and businesses over a decade.

Because patients who continue to be bulk billed will continue to be refunded nothing — with or without Shorten’s policy — and those who aren’t bulk billed are not going to see consultation fees cut by the level Shorten claims when just two or three dollars per visit are added to the existing Medicare rebate.

So, “Billy Bullshit” strikes again, it would seem.

Whether or not indexation of the rebate is restored, it seems unlikely that Shorten is proposing to increase it by $14-$25 either.

But if the increases in line with CPI do recommence ahead of schedule, the cost blowouts faced by Medicare will grow even faster as population growth and an ageing population compound the effects of indexation, and fuel the budget deficit further into the red.

And this, in turn, means more foreign debt: something Labor denies any responsibility for, despite racking up $300bn of it in six years before 2013, and which it has stoutly refused to allow the Coalition to repair through its childish, megalomaniac obstruction in the Senate ever since.

In short, this is a promise that will either never be delivered — or simply become the newest monument to Labor’s dubious recent heritage of economic vandalism — or will need other, secret taxes to fund it that the self-confessed liar Shorten has hitherto failed to level with the Australian public over.

I think it’s just a further illustration of Shorten’s penchant for saying whatever seems like a good idea when it comes to hoodwinking voters, so desperate is he to slake his ego with the title of Prime Minister — and to hell with whatever it might cost the country in the longer term.

Just like his plan to hit “the rich” by abolishing negative gearing, which will not help first home buyers, but will raise rents, moderately depress house prices, cost thousands of jobs and create unquantifiable knock-on effects across the broader economy.

But at the end of the day, who cares? So long as Shorten gets to be PM, what difference does it make what he and his acolytes have to say and do to get him there?

When it is remembered Shorten also flagged the abolition of the private health insurance rebate shortly after winning the Labor leadership — a measure that has not been heard of again since then — a better assessment of any government Shorten might lead becomes easier to make.

And when the public healthcare system collapses under the sheer weight of patients flooding it, as they dump their private health policies and withdraw the extra money those policies pump into the healthcare sector overall, empty promises of price cuts that are based in fantasy will be the last thing angry voters are concerned with when they can’t get to see a doctor — or a public hospital bed — at all.

But, never fear: Bill told us it was thus, so thus it must be.

Mustn’t it?