Happy New Year, Prime Minister: Now Fix It

AFTER TEN years of aimless governance and the primacy of policy that is ideologically driven by the far Left or far Right and/or based in cynical, dishonest, jingoistic populism, Australia’s sins are coming home to roost: Malcolm Turnbull holds office at a time the consequences of reprehensible political ineptitude are about to crash into the Canberra firmament like a nuclear bomb. Happy New Year, Prime Minister. Your job is to fix it. We doubt you can.

It is one thing to be in office, but another matter altogether to be in power; on the cusp of a difficult political year, it would take a bold pundit indeed to suggest Malcolm Turnbull holds power at all.

This reality — and the contribution made to it by the sham of his own Prime Ministership — is likely to cost Turnbull, his party and the country very heavily indeed.

Australia has become virtually ungovernable from the Right, and impossible to protect from the Left, through a cascade of disparate yet interconnected events that are set to collide with the national polity in 2017 like an atomic bomb; a quisling would say that this is the fault of the Labor Party and the damage it inflicted upon Australia during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, and that Turnbull is merely unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But however valid any condemnation of the ALP and the Communist Party Greens might be, to say so would be to ignore the reality that the Liberal Party shares some of the burden of blame: and to whatever extent it is culpable for the crisis of governance Australia faces, the present government is disproportionately responsible for the lion’s share of that burden.

In some respects, you couldn’t invent the confluence of events that have created the political cesspool Turnbull faces if you tried: the wanton amateurism and sheer self-destructive bent he has exhibited as Prime Minister defy almost every known law of political orthodoxy.

But first, a little history.

There are those who accuse the Howard government of “squandering the resources boom,” an ALP criticism that is both unreasonable and incorrect; the Howard years saw the repayment of $110bn in debt left behind by Paul Keating, a budget billions of dollars in surplus, and billions more in the bank.

Could Howard and his Treasurer, Peter Costello, have done more? Possibly, with the wisdom of hindsight. But the reality is that whilst the $110bn spent fixing Labor’s budgetary vandalism might instead have paid for nation-building infrastructure, Australia’s debt-free, AAA-rated economic position wouldn’t exist today had Howard and Costello not acted as they did.

But from (roughly) 2004 onward, the Howard government also started to give things away in what is popularly decried by the Left as “middle class welfare:” tax cuts for middle income earners. Family benefits. Pension bonuses for self-funded retirees. These cost money. Responsible as they may have been regarded at the time, they set a precedent that was gleefully leapt upon by the ALP soon after it returned to office in 2007.

The Global Financial Crisis provided Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan the pretext upon which to start shovelling out cash: first under the guise of “stimulus spending,” but later by showering selected constituencies earmarked for electoral enslavement with hundreds of billions of dollars. Superannuation bribes for low income earners. Tens of billions of unaccountable “Gonski” education dollars. A “fully costed” National Disability Insurance Scheme that costs $22bn per annum, for which the original pot of cash is already empty. Preferential higher wages for certain unionised public sector employees, such as cleaners. Funding for “community organisations” that are no more than socialist propaganda units. The list goes on.

In other words, the advent of modest arbitrary spending under Howard was subsumed by the stimulus pursued by Rudd and Swan — with tacit support from the then Turnbull-led opposition — which in turn snowballed into an avalanche of legislated political spending the current government is welded to and unable to mitigate or repeal on account of a febrile Senate.

When the tactics of squalid Labor “leader” Bill Shorten are factored in — opposing practically everything for the sake of it, to the point of outright lies to voters — it is easy to see just how toxic the environment in which a conservative government must operate has become.

That’s the backdrop to the mess Turnbull now confronts: a budget nobody seriously believes will return to surplus despite the timid and simplistic account given of the figures by his Treasurer, Scott Morrison; a debt pile continuing to balloon and a hostile Senate that is disinclined to pass measures that might arrest that spiral; an empty agenda — let’s call that for what it is — and an apparent lack of any idea of how to develop one; and the complete lack of authority that is the inevitable by-product of winning a federal election by a single seat after a moderate to severe swing against the Coalition.

It is the compounding effects of these legacy problems — and the dire political straits in which Turnbull finds himself — that now stand to destroy the Turnbull government and with it, any prospect of sound government for the foreseeable future.

So strewn with potentially lethal incendiary devices is Malcolm’s path it is hard to know where to begin; but I think it instructive to redirect readers to the article I published two weeks ago, in which I called for Turnbull’s resignation: I urge everyone to read (or reread) this piece, for it fleshes out much that is wrong with his Prime Ministership and why, with growing inevitability, it seems destined to end in tears.

This column has never supported Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, and won’t: I was however prepared to let the farce roll on for a while before calling for its demise. The hope Malcolm might have made a decent fist — rather than a botch — of the task was a faint one, but regrettably the latter was always going to be the punchline of the “Malcolm for PM” story.

Never popular with the conservative Liberals who comprise roughly of 60% of the party’s grassroots membership, Turnbull’s coup against Tony Abbott means a majority of Liberal Party members do not support their leader: yes, we go out and campaign for him and yes, some of us support MPs and candidates who ultimately back Turnbull, but the reality is that more than half the party has no truck with him — an undesirable position at the best of times, let alone in turbulent weather.

Like a creature from beneath the septic tank, Pauline Hanson roared back onto the national stage at the July election, taking votes from Coalition voters disappointed by the inability of the Abbott government to deliver (thanks in large part to the Senate) and/or disgusted by Turnbull’s execution of Abbott and the government’s consequent leftward drift.

The Hanson phenomenon will grow before it eventually dies off again, and whilst John Howard might have fought her off where state Liberal leaders failed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Turnbull is hamstrung by the fact that in terms of political smarts, he isn’t a Howard bootlace.

Predictably, One Nation will leach more and more Coalition support. Turnbull will do nothing to arrest the slide because, literally, he can’t.

Hanson aside, Turnbull faces the real possibility of a reasonable chunk of the membership — plus God knows how many MPs intent on committing political seppuku — detaching itself early in 2017 to form some kind of “conservative” party headed by backbench South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi.

We examined this issue last week and observed that based on what is already known, not only would such a party not be “conservative” at all, but it would likely gift government to Labor for years: a sentiment echoed by Abbott yesterday in a newspaper opinion piece (which earned him a rebuke from Bernardi on the laughable basis it was written out of self-interest).

Should a solitary lower house MP follow Bernardi out of the Liberal Party, Turnbull will lose his tiny majority and face enormous, immediate and justified pressure to resign or call an election. Given the nature of the beast suggests he would do neither, the federal government would become a running sore that would fester all the way to an undeserved ALP triumph in 2019 and the emergence of a Labor government that really knows how to damage Australia.

Yet Turnbull doesn’t need Bernardi to inflict politically fatal blows on his government. He is quite capable of doing so himself.

Despite the blather about a “strong economic plan” to generate “jobs and growth,” the truth is that Turnbull won the July election with a very threadbare agenda.

Neither the inclination nor the capacity to craft and advocate a comprehensive blueprint from office in a “better late than never” rearguard action is evident.

In my critique of Bernardi’s putative “conservative” party, I outlined an orthodox conservative agenda that could be adopted by a major party of the mainstream Right which, incredibly, would pose few conflicts with Turnbull’s left-leaning personal instincts. To thus combat weakness with the presentation of substance would require courage, skill, and tenacity. But as his stupid “tax reform debate” earlier this year vividly showed, Turnbull has none of these attributes.

Even if nothing is actually legislated, racking up trigger after trigger for another double dissolution — with a substantial agenda upon which to subsequently campaign — would add tremendous legitimacy to the government’s claims to a “strong plan” and the obfuscation of the Senate for petty political purposes, but even this won’t motivate Turnbull to do it.

The new Senate, with its swollen crossbench, may indeed be marginally less hostile to the government, thanks principally to the eradication of Clive Palmer from the national polity.

Yet it would be a dangerous indulgence to think its realignment is in any way a reliable plus for the government: as a case in point, the bill to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission (which the July election was ostensibly fought upon) was rendered pointless by an amendment Turnbull agreed to from Derryn Hinch for a two-year lead-in period; the almost certain prospect of a Labor victory at the next election means the ABCC is already as good as dead.

In turn, this means the union movement — knowing the Coalition has persisted with measures to bring it to heel, and cock-a-hoop in the knowledge those measures will probably never apply to it — will be emboldened to cause maximum trouble for the Liberal Party before the next federal election.

Next year sees state elections in WA, SA, Tasmania, and probably Queensland. That’s a lot of opportunities for unions to send fake emergency service workers to polling booths to bully voters, and a lot of opportunities for “nurses” to hit the phones, as they did in Victoria in 2014, to frighten shitless the old, the frail, and the sick. Every Liberal electorate the unions deliver Labor is a campaign unit lost; every Liberal state government beaten or kept from office in the first place is an extra Labor voice at COAG. The existing Labor states have shown themselves to be in no mood to cause Turnbull anything other than grief.

Turnbull faces the loss of Australia’s prized AAA investment rating if the Senate refuses to play ball; at best, this would add billions to the cost of servicing existing debt — and to the already haemorrhaging budget deficit — that could lead only to higher taxes or higher debt if spending remains impossible to cut. At worst, the certain ALP onslaught would simply compound the magnitude of the Coalition’s eventual defeat. After all, selling anything — let alone persuasively arguing the merits of its position — is an area in which this government has failed spectacularly.

Bill Shorten will continue to crap on about things that are “cruel” or “unfair;” just enough gullible voters will listen to him. Labor will lie to them and many will lap it up, for human nature is to gravitate to the soft option. It matters nowt that Shorten offered $110bn in tax hikes at the last election. The current Coalition government, poorly advised and tactically and strategically inept, simply can’t puncture the contradiction.

Energy prices will rocket, because of the cross-partisan obsession with renewable energy that Turnbull personally seems fixated with. Thousands of years’ worth of cheap coal sits in the ground and could power homes and businesses for a fraction of the current cost. But Turnbull, with his infatuation with emissions trading schemes and his blindness to the silliness of Australia shackling itself to the global climate change junta (which the biggest emitters, the USA and China, thumb their noses at) seems determined to simply let that happen.

Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act sits unchanged despite irrefutable evidence it has been co-opted by the Left to cause political trouble on the feigned pretence of being “offended.” Yet this self-described “thoroughly liberal” Prime Minister lacks the fortitude to even attempt to change it to safeguard free speech.

Enraged voters — the silent majority in the suburbs and the regions — are already flirting with protest vehicles like Nick Xenophon’s party, or lunatic options like One Nation, in a desperate search for someone who might govern for them rather than for minorities, vested interests, and the electorally bribed. Coalition voters are disproportionately inflating those minor parties. Turnbull seems oblivious to the people walking away.

These people see an inner-city trendy obsessed with a republic (which will make no difference to their day-to-day welfare); climate change (over which they are fuming at being priced out of the capacity to heat and cool and light their homes); and same-sex marriage (a political football in this country for far too long, which can only be resolved by a popular vote if political posturing over it is to ever cease).

They see Malcolm having televised dinners with Muslim leaders, with scant regard for their own issues and communities: the clear message is that the great unwashed masses simply don’t count.

Their anger is already showing up in Newspolls, six of which in a row have shown Malcolm on course to lose an election badly. There is no firepower in the Coalition’s policy cupboard and the dubious record of its leader suggests the polls cannot now be turned. With the bonfire erupting around the Coalition, those polls will worsen. Turnbull must be held to account. Having used bad polls to destroy Abbott, he cannot eschew responsibility for bad polls now.

A restive public, in the absence of any compelling Coalition narrative to negate opportunistic Senators and lying Labor goons, has become conditioned by charlatans like Rudd and Shorten to think that governments announcing initiatives that make a single voter a dollar worse off ought to be run out of office — just to make things even harder.

So there it is: a Prime Minister with no authority and a fragile hold on power, mired in internal divisions and confronting the predatory spectre of One Nation on the lunar right wing, faced with a hostile Senate and a rotting budget position, approaches 2017 with little support from his party, the real possibility a chunk of it will defect, an angry electorate and an agenda — to the extent he has one — that is anathema to most voters.

If this is a clueless government led by an even more clueless figurehead, the only consolation is that Bill Shorten and Labor would be worse. That won’t stop voters electing them, however, if for no better reason than to be rid of the developing apocalypse that is the Turnbull government.

As one wag in the mainstream press noted last week, Turnbull’s greatest political achievement may ultimately prove simply to have been Prime Minister.

Happy New Year, Malcolm.

 

Ban Lawless, Anti-Australia “Left Renewal” Greens From Parliament

HOW A COMMUNIST with links to the USSR could be eligible to sit in Australian Parliaments despite the national security risk defies belief; news NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon — with fellow traveller NSW MP David Shoebridge — anchors a hard Left Greens faction that recognises neither the rule of law nor the Australian state is a worry. This insidious subversive filth, and anyone else who signs on with it, must be barred from public office.

Those readers — especially those who come here intermittently just to be contrary — who profess disapproval of my wholesale characterisation of the Greens as Communists should perhaps take a little more notice today, as a Christmas present from Australia’s far Left that nobody in their right mind would want lobs onto the national political landscape.

(That’s right, a Christmas present — unwanted as it is — not some monument to “happy holidays” or similar bullshit).

Lee Rhiannon may very well have told the Fairfax press that she is not involved with Left Renewal — and we will get to that outfit shortly — and that none of her “current” staff are, but people will form their own conclusions and Rhiannon, as nobody has attempted to ever deny, is an active, ardent communist who once worked as a USSR propagandist: even if she has no formal, verifiable involvement with Left Renewal, her entire history suggests she would at the very minimum be amenable to its objectives.

Speaking of the press, readers can make their usual choice between Fairfax and Murdoch accounts of this issue.

For once, there isn’t a great deal to say.

The emergence of an ultra-left faction within the Communist Party Greens — claiming it does not acknowledge the rule of law, the Australian state, the authority of the Police, and seeks to “bring about the end of capitalism” — is hardly a surprise; after all, the party’s platform (which most voters are ignorant of) advocates pretty much the same thing.

But Left Renewal, this hardcore new Greens faction that explicitly aims to realise it, is a new development and a turning point in the long march of the Greens from their masquerade as a harmless place to park protest votes to an unveiling of their true form — an insidious, obsequious bastion of the most brutal aspects of socialism — that ought to be met with proportionate repercussions by the very state it claims to disregard the legitimacy of.

The reports available in the media all use the formulation that Left Renewal has “formed around” Rhiannon and her apparent fellow traveller — NSW upper house MP David Shoebridge — and on the presumption that this is how the reporting journalists have been briefed, Rhiannon and Shoebridge can hardly be surprised that some will draw the conclusion their fingerprints are all over it even if the paper trail doesn’t directly implicate them.

It does not recognise the rule of law.

It does not recognise the legitimacy of the Australian state.

It portrays Police as a “violent apparatus” of that state: needless to say, it doesn’t recognise their authority either.

And it is pledged to “bring about the end of capitalism” — something leader Richard Di Natale has tried to dismiss as a “ridiculous notion,” but if the shoe fits, the Greens must wear it: after all, it is an old story indeed that the Greens are “anti” just about everything that constitutes a modern, advanced, liberal democratic society: and that, by definition, includes free markets and financial systems within a capitalist economy.

But to really appreciate the truly repulsive — and subversive — nature of Left Renewal, it is necessary to republish a contemporaneous quote from The Age, from which the Left Renewal manifesto states that

“Capitalism depends upon violent and authoritarian divisions within the working class, such as elitism, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, religious sectarianism, and ableism (among others). It is only with the abolition of these authoritarian relations that we will be able to create a thriving movement capable of transforming society and so must challenge these wherever we encounter it (sic).”

Australia itself, Left Renewal claims, is “based upon an act of genocide which exists within a broader framework of global imperialism.”

What a pile of horse shit.

Still, Left Renewal makes its objectives very clear: to systematically overthrow and dismantle Australian society, with a flagrant disregard — defiance even — of any officially sanctioned authority that might stop it.

It makes a rather ironic start in this sense, given it establishes a faction within a party in which factionalism is supposedly verboten: and to continue the theme, any Left Renewal member will be bound to support and pursue decisions resolved by the faction’s members by majority ballot.

And in a vivid illustration of just how dangerous this ultra-left wing contingent at the Greens really is — both to its own party, and to Australian society more broadly — the fact calls by party elder Bob Brown for Rhiannon to get out of Parliament in the interests of “renewal,” and attempts by Di Natale to head the emergence of the faction off altogether, merely show the complete impotence of any proper leadership at the Greens, and the malignancy with which the parasitic hard socialist Left now seeks to advance its truck.

Margaret Thatcher used to say, of liberty and democracy, that you cannot have freedom unless you have order — and that you cannot have order unless you obey the law.”

It is clear that Left Renewal has little interest in obeying the law at all — let alone even acknowledging its fundamental role underpinning Australian society — and in that sense, it is debatable whether it has any interest in preserving order either.

I think a determination needs to be made on national security grounds that subversive elements like this should be barred from holding office: there is, after all, no point rattling on about democracy when it comes to those pledged to destroy the liberal democratic system in its entirety.

And whether she “is a member” of Left Renewal or not, that applies to the Communist Lee Rhiannon irrespective of this insidious new bloc inside the Greens: as an operative for a foreign (and hostile) power in the form of the USSR she should never have been allowed to stand for Parliament in the first place, let alone serve in the upper houses of both NSW and the Commonwealth.

She, and anyone else who throws in their lot with Left Renewal, should be summarily disqualified from standing for elective office. Their agenda may yield little electoral support, but — just like the Greens proper — precedent has already shown it takes relatively few people to be brainwashed through disinformation and propaganda to inflict disproportionate consequent damage on Australia’s instruments of governance.

With an agenda such as that now offered by Left Renewal, that damage — if milked for enough votes — could be cataclysmic.

 

Bernardi’s Conservatives Will Only Work If Mass-Based

WITH Malcolm Turnbull moving the Liberal Party to the political dead centre there is, at face value, room for a conservative party; even so, reports Senator Cory Bernardi will leave the Liberals to create one must be treated warily. A new party will fail unless it eschews messiah cults and is mass-based: if Bernardi’s Conservatives are an abortion-fixated, gun-toting mob of xenophobic Cory acolytes, they will amount to no more than a protest front.

As a Liberal Party member for 26 years — save for a bit of a gap after moving to Melbourne almost 20 years ago — and an openly conservative one at that, I should be just the kind of person who should be embracing Cory Bernardi and his Australian Conservatives with open arms: politically literate, located squarely on the mainstream Right, unsupportive of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership and frustrated in the extreme about the soft-moderate, progressive, namby-pamby allegedly “liberal” direction the party, at both state and federal levels, appears determined to pursue.

But reports in today’s press (see here the Murdoch or Fairfax version) that suggest the South Australian Senator will break with the Liberals next year to turn his “Australian Conservatives” into a new party make me wary and skeptical, not excited; I retain an open mind, of course, but this path has been traversed too many times before, and too many times — improperly executed — the resulting parties have become personality cults, a la the Palmer United Party, or incoherent pedlars of extremist fringe complaint politics, a la Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party.

(And of course, there have been idiotic examples of the phenomenon that deservedly polled 57 votes nationwide, such as this one).

There is much that is wrong with the Liberal Party today, and with the government led by Malcolm Turnbull in particular; not only is it not conservative, but it is difficult to describe it as “liberal” too: either way, it stands for very little other than the turgid miasma of left-leaning mediocrity that is the inevitable, execrable by-product of a government gripped by the balls by risk-averse advisors that is utterly incapable of (or willing to) stand up to the onslaught of socialism and the big government, high tax, high spending, incentive-crippling agenda of its opponents.

When it comes to the purported breakaway party being schemed up by Bernardi, there is a hat-trick of names being bandied about: Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, and maverick Queensland MP George Christensen. Some, all or none of these gentlemen may or may not break bread with Bernardi’s putative party; whether they do or not, the three between them — plus Bernardi himself — advocate ultra-hardline positions on Muslim immigration, the prohibition of abortion and the complete liberalisation of gun laws.

Is this a mainstream conservative agenda? I think not.

It does, however, sound an awful lot like One Nation.

In fact, the insult of choice among Labor and Communist Greens types, when it comes to anything to the Right of Lenin and Stalin, is to label it “far Right,” or to talk of “RWNJs;” an agenda composed of those three issues is not mainstream at all, but it certainly qualifies as “far Right:” a label the rest of us are heartily sick of having to fend off for the rather dubious crime of simply refusing to kowtow to socialists and their agenda of political correctness.

I believe the Liberal Party has indeed lost the commitment of a large portion of what has traditionally been its base, and I know for a fact that on the conservative wing of the party (which also accounts for a majority of its rank and file members) there is great disillusionment with Malcolm Turnbull, his government, the performance of the Baird government in NSW, and the disparate condition in which the various state divisions of the party are gearing up to fight elections over the coming 18 months in Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, and South Australia.

(Over in the moderate faction, the feeling is that Turnbull is just wonderful, with Baird and his counterparts in most of the other states similarly primed for great success in their view: they don’t like Tim Nicholls in Queensland, and they can’t see that the quality of state MPs across the country, by and large, is abysmal — and this head-wedged-in-backside perspective is a clue as to why I have little time for moderate Liberals, much less their tepid, me-too approach to the ALP, and refuse now to vote for them at preselections under any circumstances).

But there are those who profess outrage over the dumping of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott — the “give us our elected PM back” brigade — whose degree of political insight and sense of the public mood is so defective as to prevent the realisation Abbott had, by his actions (or in the case of retaining Peta Credlin at the head of his office, lack of actions) rendered his own position terminal; that is in no way, shape or form an endorsement of Turnbull of any kind. But the issuance of political pronouncements in such idiot-simple terms is no less puerile than the taunts of being “far Right” and “RWNJs” that are levelled at them by the Left.

Does the fact Abbott was replaced (and by as unsuitable a candidate for the Prime Ministership as Turnbull) directly warrant the formation of a new party? I doubt it. In fact, there is no suggestion Abbott would defect to a new conservative party at all, let alone lead it.

That honour, it seems, belongs to Cory Bernardi — seated in the wrong chamber of Parliament for a start, if he is to ever amount to anything more than just the figurehead of just another Senate-based protest rabble which dwells in the upper house on account of its lack of adequate appeal to put a majority together anywhere.

And if Bernardi isn’t the chosen leader, then who?

The press reports today have noted mining baroness Gina Rinehart is on board with the project, meaning — like Clive Palmer’s Titanic-like eponymous party before it — Bernardi’s crowd won’t be wanting for cash.

But money isn’t everything in politics; just as those with the most of it often have the least political acumen of all (certain Western suburbs Brisbane Liberals take note), the parties who have the most of it don’t necessarily win (as the huge union war chest that bankrolled a losing ALP campaign this year is but one example).

At the risk of asking an indelicate question, precisely what does Bernardi intend his new conservative party will stand for? What will its policies be?

Will it advocate a sweeping round of tax reform — not the bullshit Turnbull tortured the country with earlier this year — involving a broadening and doubling of GST, steep cuts in PAYE and company taxes, the lifting of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers out of the PAYE system altogether, and the abolition of a raft of less efficient taxes, duties, and perhaps even the fuel excise?

Will it step up to the plate and argue cogently and persuasively for labour market reform — in the face of plummeting Australian productivity and international competitiveness — that could slash the unemployment rate and put a bomb under economic growth?

Would it — like Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson in the UK in the 1980s — cut, deregulate and simplify, slashing red tape and abolishing overheads that affect businesses and private individuals alike, driving up costs and destroying incentive?

Will it finally make the case for putting an end to what one British MP termed “all this Greens bullshit,” abolishing renewable energy targets and subsidies to commercially unviable sources of ultra-expensive energy, in favour of an expanded coal-fired electricity sector that can provide inexhaustible power to Australian homes and businesses at some of the world’s lowest prices, as opposed to some of the world’s highest today?

Will it look at Health and Education, and make the case for genuine reform in each? I have privately floated a plan that I’ve called a “grand reform bargain” which (in crude terms) cedes Health to Labor and claims Education for conservatives: in very broad terms, it acknowledges Medicare can’t be unpicked, and nationalises primary care to form a UK-style National Health Service, with private clinics and hospitals still available for those who choose them after paying the Medicare levy; in return, it acknowledges the only reason for Labor’s alleged “superiority” in Education is that it throws money at teachers, whilst curriculums and the social engineering that increasingly passes as “education” generate falling standards and outcomes — and empowers individual schools to compete for teachers, set remuneration, develop their own curriculums, be governed by local school boards, with parents able to choose a school that best fits their child.

If not in these areas, then what bold reform ideas will Bernardi’s conservatives champion? After all, the notion that conservatives are completely opposed to change is a myth, and one peddled by Labor ruthlessly; to genuine conservatives, it’s the rate and type of change that is at issue, as opposed to change itself: and in this sense, a rich menu of potential options beckon. Reforming the Senate? Abolishing the states? A national infrastructure-building program to build dams, roads, schools, hospitals and railways?

Rather than flirting with spending billions of dollars on a transition to a republic — which might make a few people feel warm and fuzzy, but which would achieve exactly nothing of practical importance — what is Bernardi’s vision for a robust national identity and the restoration of pride in Australia, as opposed to the Labor/Greens practice of cringing over it?

What is the agenda of the Bernardi forces for robust national defences, and better and expanded relationships with traditional allies such as Britain and the US?

How does Bernardi reconcile the needs of rural conservatives with the agenda of their city counterparts?

In short, what exciting, integrated national vision for Australia would a breakaway conservative movement led by Bernardi actually offer?

I fear it will be nothing more than abortion, stopping Muslim immigration, and gun liberalisation.

And just on those issues, people are entitled to their opinions; the point is that those three things are not the platform of a party of government: they are the platform of a party of protest. And if the rest of the hard policy work hasn’t been done, Bernardi’s party — if it champions those, and little else — will go the same way the rest of the protest parties that have come and gone over the years have done.

The hard reality is that even if Bernardi simply walks out on the Liberal Party and takes a few of its less trustworthy MPs with him, the Turnbull government will fall sooner rather than later; on one level, what appears to be in prospect could simply install a Labor government in power — an outcome Bernardi, and anyone who backs him, will have to wear.

Bernardi claims to have “signed up” 50,000 supporters that could be used as the basis for this likely new party: I can definitively say that this is absolute rubbish.

I signed up when Bernardi launched the website for Australian Conservatives; not because I was “on board” but to keep an eye on what it was doing. Yes, I’m curious, but highly skeptical. I daresay that everyone — from other Liberals monitoring his activities, to enemies from the ALP and the Greens, and to everyone in between — has done the same thing. Just how many of those are rusted onto the cause is unknown, but I’d bet tens it’s a hell of a lot less than 50,000.

Readers know that I believe there is a willing and receptive constituency when it comes to a comprehensive mainstream conservative agenda; properly articulated, communicated and sold to voters, such an agenda would be an election-winning manifesto.

But running off half-cocked — especially with Trump-like slogans such as “Make Australia Great Again” — is a recipe for eventual disaster, but only after irretrievable damage is inflicted upon the Liberal Party, which at some point will be left to pick up the pieces and put them (and itself) back together again.

Based on the available information and what is already publicly known about this “Australian Conservatives” project, I remain to be convinced: and if a born conservative of the drive and passion of someone like me isn’t excited by what Bernardi appears to be contemplating, then I doubt he is pitching to much more than a very narrow audience indeed.

Maybe the best option is for genuinely conservative Liberals in the Liberal Party — not the left-straining moderates, nor those who might accurately be termed “far Right” — to be more assertive about what they stand for, and to fix what remains a great political organisation whose cardinal sin has been to stray from its core beliefs, and which is fast losing both members and supporters as a consequence.

 

Rigged: ALP Fights Fair Electoral Boundaries In SA

SINCE 1982, SA Liberals have won the two-party vote at 8 of 10 state elections, but won two; many observers — me included — have long felt SA boundaries are rigged. SA is the Liberals’ biggest failure; now, the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission has produced a redraw notionally giving the Liberals office on 2014 votes. Like a toddler in meltdown, Labor is off to the SA Supreme Court. The rort offers national insight into the rotten ALP mentality.

In any discussion of “gerrymanders” in South Australia, what many casual observers (and even some seasoned ones) overlook is the fact that it was a Liberal state government which, in 1968, abolished electoral malapportionment in SA and in so doing, redistributed itself out of office; even so, what Labor has perpetuated in the Croweater State in the name of being “fair” over the past 40 years has been anything but, and now the rort is ending, the ALP is screaming blue murder.

I am including articles today from The Australian and Adelaide’s Advertiser newspaper — the latter including more links to other relevant coverage — that readers can access here and here; but first, a little history.

Step back 50 years, and most Australian states had electoral boundaries that incorporated some kind of malapportionment; the thinking at the time — before reliable air travel and fast, safe road transport was as prevalent as it is today — was that rural MPs should be accommodated with smaller electorates to service than their city cousins, and this guiding principle meant that state elections (by their nature) gave the man on the land a vote that was more heavily weighted than the man about town.

It is also one of the reasons why some of the long-term state Premiers of the past — Tom Playford, Frank Nicklin, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Henry Bolte — were conservatives representing country electorates; but the impact of this philosophy was not universal and was not consistent, as 24 years of ALP rule in more urban NSW between 1941 and 1965 shows by way of example.

As the state “gerrymanders” (which they were commonly called, despite more correctly being termed malapportionments) went, the SA boundaries were the heaviest in Australia, believed to weight country votes against city votes by a 6:1 margin; the example most commonly railed against by Labor (and which the ALP itself introduced, its latter-day declamations notwithstanding) and the one fine-tuned by Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland was also the least distorting, giving weight to rural votes at about 3:1.

The Queensland “zonal” boundaries also meant any party winning 50% of the vote after preferences would win power, which is exactly what Labor did when it won a majority of the two-party vote in 1989 for the first time since 1956.

It goes without saying that fair elections, conducted on the principle of “one vote, one value,” are absolutely imperative; I am no apologist for boundaries that are rigged in favour of conservatives, and have railed in this column against attempts to gain electoral advantage through fiddling with electoral apparatus by either side ever since I started it.

But after Steele Hall committed electoral suicide by redistributing himself out of office in South Australia in 1968, Labor — under the guise of “fairness” — legislated a special commission that would review that state’s boundaries after every election, and “adjust” them based on the most recent results to ensure that as closely as practicable, the party which won a majority of two-party votes at the next poll would win office.

In practice, this has meant that the Liberal Party — despite itself, and we’ll get back to that — has been almost completely locked out of office in SA since David Tonkin was beaten by John Bannon (with Labor scoring a minority of the vote) in 1982, save for the 1993 boilover in the wake of Labor’s State Bank disaster and a narrowly acquired second term four years later.

The effect of this has become more pronounced in recent years, with SA Liberals losing elections in 2010 and 2014 with well over 50% of the statewide vote: in 2014, the Liberal Party under Steven Marshall won more than 53%, and didn’t just lose, but lost convincingly.

Now — in a breath of fresh air — the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission has finalised its redraw of boundaries ahead of the 2018 state election, which moves five seats on paper into the Liberals’ column and with them, makes an end to the most recent long-term Labor government in SA look likelier in 18 months’ time.

And Labor, having benefited from rigged boundaries for decades, is trying to raise merry hell about it.

In its “appraisal” of the latest redistribution, the ALP makes much of the fact that almost 400,000 voters (or almost one in three) are shifted into different electorates: hardly much of a surprise, given the distortions that have existed to this point, and which most recently gave Labor a majority win with a tick over 46% of the statewide vote.

It somehow seeks to claim that because the usually safe Liberal seat of Waite — held by turncoat and general piece of shit Martin Hamilton-Smith — returns to the Liberal column on paper, this is more evidence of a “biased” redraw. But Waite voters were sold down the river by Hamilton-Smith, who tossed principle overboard to jump into bed with the ALP and pocket a fat ministerial salary, and there is no obligation on the Commission’s part to somehow sanction this piece of bastardry just because it suits the Labor Party.

And the outrage Labor types seem to profess at the fact that some seats have been “flipped” on paper to the Liberals is fatuous, given the whole point of redistributions is to more equably apportion electorates based on the most recent electoral results, and if Labor now suggests that “notional” electorates should never emerge from a redistribution process it’s an indictment on its power-crazed entitlement mentality and an insight into the anti-democratic instincts that now underpin Australia’s oldest party.

The ALP has also made a lot of noise about the variable enrolments in the new seats, as good as declaring the new boundaries are rigged. But the Commission’s report clearly shows no electorate is above the 10% tolerance that is standard in Australia these days at all state and federal redistributions, and Labor’s bleating is no more than an attempt to smear and defame those who refuse to do its bidding: in this case a statutory government authority, which for once appears to have produced a fair outcome.

It should be emphasised that the SA Liberals — despite their lack of success at elections, which is in turn at least a partial consequence of past outcomes of the Commission — have in other respects been their own worst enemies, with bitter faction fighting and other divisive, self-destructive behaviour more entrenched and rampant in that division than anywhere else in the country; there is no guarantee at all the party will win the state election that is now less than 18 months away.

The Liberals retain a leader in Steven Marshall whose electoral appeal and ability to govern remain unclear, and they retain inside Parliament and out powerful factional players (such as Bragg MP Vicky Chapman, a perpetual target of this column) without whom they would well and truly be better off.

And the rising presence of Nick Xenophon’s NXT team, on its home turf, might well derail any prospect of a Liberal win altogether, as this left-leaning influence has at the federal level siphoned votes off the Liberal pile and disproportionately sent them on preferences to Labor.

But for all that, the changes in SA should be welcome: and are at least a decade overdue.

I don’t propose to discuss any issues that particularly apply to SA politics today, for the focus is the electoral system: it would, however, be remiss not to note the statewide blackouts that occurred there recently, and to note that for a party in office for 14 years (and for 25 of the past 34) Labor has nobody to blame but itself for anything SA voters are motivated to take up baseball bats over.

But the disturbing thing about these changes, and Labor’s reaction to them, is the pattern of anti-democratic thuggery it continues where the ALP’s approach to elections and government is concerned.

Federally, it is unable to accept it is in opposition, and uses the Senate not as an instrument of review, but as a battering ram to try to destroy the government.

In Queensland, it stealthily fiddled the electoral system, abolishing optional preferential voting (supported by at least the 60-70% of voters who no longer allocate preferences there) to give itself the best chance of harvesting Greens’ votes. In so doing, it abolished its own electoral fix, introduced when it ended the gerrymander in 1992.

In Victoria and Queensland, Labor sends out union officials at state elections masquerading as essential services workers, and in Victoria in 2014 even had “nurses” ring old and sick people to lie to them about what a Liberal state government would do if re-elected.

And where outright lying is concerned, the so-called “Mediscare” fracas during the recent federal election continues the theme of an ALP prepared to literally say anything to barge its way into the corridors of power, where patronage and influence can be handed out to union thugs and other filth that resides in the Labor tent.

In this sense, the ALP’s recourse to the South Australian Supreme Court should surprise nobody; it is the action of a sore loser, and one whose profit from a shabby rort has been allowed to go on for too long as it is.

My bet is that the Court will dismiss any challenge the ALP brings, although I don’t wish to pre-empt such a finding: it just seems so cut and dry as to be a frivolous and vexatious attempt to maintain advantage by legal intimidation and brutality.

And in this sense, there is a message for voters in every other state, and federally.

Next time you hear Bill Shorten, or any of the other parrot puppets the ALP sends out to address the media, talking about “fairness” and “equity,” what they are really talking about is their own self-interest and unfair advantage.

Labor is so concerned with fairness that it seeks to rig and rort the mechanics of elections to either keep itself in power forever, or destroy any government by someone else that voters have the nerve to install in its place.

Once again, what is going on in SA merely shows Labor is rotten to the core, and frankly, if SA voters needed an extra reason to throw the ALP out in 2018, Labor itself is handing it to them.

But even this is no guarantee, for the SA Liberals have repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to make themselves unelectable. For its trouble and its lack of real principle, SA Labor may yet prevail if the Liberals, once again, prove unable to get their shit together ahead of a state election at which they should be a lay-down misere.

 

MYEFO: Labor Must Pull Its Head In – And Get Out Of The Way

TREASURER Scott Morrison’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook shows falling revenues and rising debt, but Australia will keep its AAA credit rating despite recession risks; the Coalition may be too tactically inept to hold the ALP to account for damage it caused in office and now perpetuates through Senate obstruction, but unless its aim is to win power in Australia by first wrecking it, Labor must pull its head in, and let the government govern.

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) released by Treasurer Scott Morrison today (and you can read some of the coverage of it here and here)  paints a slightly rosier picture than many observers (myself included) might have expected; despite falling revenues and increases in both deficits over the next four years and overall government debt, Morrison’s projections nonetheless show the budget remaining on track for a return to surplus in four years’ time.

They have also elicited firm indications from all three of the international economic ratings agencies that Australia remains in a sound enough position to retain its prized AAA credit rating, and to be completely blunt, this news will devastate Labor types, who have spent three years talking Australia down and virtually daring ratings agencies to downgrade its investment rating, in a perverse approach to chasing cheap political gain through national misfortune.

In this sense, today’s announcement is a wake up call to the Labor Party under the charlatan Bill Shorten, which flatly refuses to permit the Coalition to fix the damage the Rudd/Gillard government inflicted on the national finances in office through its obstructive marshalling of anti-government forces in the Senate. More on that later.

But whilst the proof will be in the pudding with MYEFO — as is usually the way with these things — Morrison’s announcement, despite the histrionics and hysterics of shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, is little more than a minor tweak on the figures presented at budget time. Barring anything unforeseen, or a second consecutive quarter of negative growth in February confirming a recession, there is very little that is exceptional in today’s announcement.

Government spending falls slightly, from 25.8% of GDP to 25.2%, as do both employment growth and GDP growth; Morrison is forecasting that no recession will hit Australia which — given the 0.5% contraction for the September quarter was at the upper end of expectations — might yet prove rather heroic.

Nett debt is forecast to peak in 2020-21 at $364bn, which in raw terms equates to gross debt of more than half a trillion dollars; in historic terms, this is a national embarrassment, for in my view it doesn’t matter how well able to service debt the country might be, borrowing to fund recurrent government spending is the wrong kind of debt altogether, and produces no lasting economic benefit whatsoever.

In short, the country should be living within its means. It still isn’t.

And the $1bn+ that will continue to be shelled out every month, in perpetuity, to service that debt would pay for an awful lot of schools, and roads, and hospitals, and dams, and railways if it wasn’t going to line the pockets of international financiers: a fact seemingly lost on Labor, which seems hellbent on stopping the Coalition from balancing the budget through Senate shenanigans for as long as it is physically able to do so.

But the real story here, yet again, is that three years after the Coalition took office with an explicit mandate to fix the federal budget, Labor — in cahoots with its favourite whore, the Communist Party Greens, and other undesirables in the Senate — apparently remains on a mission to prevent precisely that, using various fatuous semantic formulations (such as “fairness” and “cruelty”) to justify its brazen actions in allowing the budget to still be haemorrhaging red ink.

Make no mistake: the Global Financial Crisis is over, and whilst nobody blames Labor for the GFC (even if its response to it was overcooked), the only reason the Coalition has been unable to deliver a surplus budget by now, or to start paying back government debt, is that the insidious Shorten simply refuses to permit it to occur.

To be clear, the Coalition has deeply entrenched shortcomings that don’t help; the woeful inability to sell anything or to frame a convincing narrative for mass public consumption is one of them. The utter inability to pin Labor’s economic vandalism squarely on Shorten, and force him to carry the can for his actions, is another.

But Labor seems content to try to destroy the economy from opposition in is mad lust for power at any price, and whilst that might sound harsh, it’s the only logical conclusion to draw from its behaviour in the Senate. The ALP is prepared to wreck Australia for the criminally petty reason a majority of its people had the temerity to vote it out of office.

The exceedingly low level of regard in which most Australians hold politicians of all partisan hues is increasingly well deserved, and is starkly illustrated by the fact that at the election held on 2 July, almost a quarter of voters cast a ballot for candidates other than the major parties in the lower house. In the Senate, the figure was 35%.

Quite aside from ALP recalcitrance in the Senate — the masquerade of “principle” that is really a fulsome expression of contempt for Australia’s national interest and the betterment of the people who live in it — there are all sorts of other things Labor has done, now and in the past, that feed into the numbers Morrison has released today.

The “booby-trapping” of the federal budget, for instance: a reprehensible scheme cooked up on Julia Gillard’s watch as Prime Minister to load the federal budget up with so much new recurrent spending as to render the budget unmanageable, and that wouldn’t appear on the books until Labor was safely out of office and able to cast indignantly righteous stones at the Liberal Party.

Or the final year of the so-called Gonski education money, which was set to exponentially inflate the Commonwealth’s obligations to the states and which was (rightly) abandoned by the Coalition under Tony Abbott.

Or — with an eye on economic growth figures that are now decidedly treacle-sluggish — the Fair Work regime instituted by Gillard, in payback to the unions for bankrolling the anti-WorkChoices campaign that swept Labor to power in 2007, which has introduced rigidity and inflexibility into the labour market that is now flowing through to tepid employment growth and diminished returns from the small business sector.

And all of this is before we even get to the blatant Labor lies about Medicare being privatised, which would be the most disgusting campaign tactic ever pursued in Australia were it not for other Labor schemes (such as sending fake firefighters to polling booths, and calls from “nurses” to scare hell out of people) to rival it.

It’s little wonder people have nothing particularly nice to say about politicians when this kind of thing is symbolic of their best performance: and whilst the blame in this case lies at Labor’s door, the average voter simply dismisses both sides with a “pox on both your houses” mentality — and is increasingly turning away from the major parties as a consequence.

If Labor truly believes it is a force for responsible government, it has a very big opportunity now to prove it.

If the Liberal Party and its prescriptions are wrong, they will be seen to be wrong, and aggrieved voters will have another opportunity to vote them out of office at an election that could be no more than 18 months to two years away, courtesy of the double dissolution that was held in July. It isn’t as if Labor has to wait for decades for another shot at the title.

But if there is to be a clean fight, and the Liberal Party made to account for what the ALP blathers is “unfair” or “cruel” or whatever other diarrhoea Shorten cares to verbalise, Labor has to get out of the way — and allow the Coalition’s budget repair measures to pass the Senate.

Average voters, in contrast to the way Labor treats them, aren’t stupid: they are capable of making their own judgements and their own decisions, and they should be able to make decisions based on how a particular program works once implemented rather than on the basis of distorted and hysterical screeching about what might happen if the ALP wasn’t there to stop it.

And if Labor isn’t prepared to do that — to let the government pass its budget measures in full — then perhaps we are having the wrong conversation altogether; maybe we ought to be talking about how to reform the Senate in a way governments are able to actually govern once and for all.

Or if that simply proves impossible, about abolishing the Senate altogether.

 

 

No Republic: It’s Time To Dump Turnbull As Prime Minister

IN 15 torrid months, Malcolm Turnbull has squandered stellar polling numbers, wasted six months on incoherent “tax debates,” let senior conservatives twist in the wind and almost lost an election. Enough is enough: incapable of governing, Turnbull has turned to the issue that cost him his leadership in 2009 — carbon pricing — and his repugnant signature policy, a republic. The Liberal Party must cut its losses, and cast this abysmal leader adrift.

In making Malcolm Bligh Turnbull leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister on 14 September last year, in a daylight ambush against a sitting but deeply unpopular incumbent, even Turnbull’s most ardent acolytes must have known — in their heart of hearts — that there was a reasonable prospect their man would have to be replaced, and sooner rather than later.

With Turnbull now publicly contemplating timeframes to revive his repugnant signature policy — a republic in Australia — that time has arrived.

This column, whilst hospitably disposed toward Turnbull on a purely personal level, has been flatly and resolutely opposed to his return as Liberal Party leader ever since his eviction from the post in December 2009 and, if brutally candid, was never in favour of his ascension to the position in the first place.

We said as much back in February last year, when former PM Tony Abbott was about to survive the “leadership challenge by an empty chair,” and were unequivocal about the fact that Malcolm Turnbull was no solution as Prime Minister.

It is a matter of record that reluctantly, and with deep regret, this column withdrew support for Abbott over his obstinate refusal to jettison his divisive, counter-productive Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, some months afterwards, and it is a matter of history that his refusal to do so was ultimately responsible — in part, at least — for triggering the second, successful move on his position.

But at no time did we regard Turnbull, in any way, as a suitable replacement — anything but — and in fact, many of the risks this column warned were implicit in a Turnbull Prime Ministership have materialised to almost deadly effect.

The flood of new support Turnbull was supposed to bring to the Liberals never arrived; be it for the basic strategic mistake of failing to go to an immediate election, or the disinclination for lefties who genuinely like Turnbull to actually vote for him, the landslide victory many of his adherents believed Turnbull would deliver remains a fantasy.

What did arrive in its stead was a return of the flawed judgement and political tin ear that fatally tarnished his initial stint as leader; from botched reshuffles to the kind of elitist posturing (green tea and craft beer, anyone?) that is such a turn-off to the vast majority of voters outside the chardonnay-swilling latte belts of inner-city urban areas, it became readily apparent that Turnbull hadn’t learned much in six years away from the Liberal leadership.

The failure to call an election for December 2015 is, with the benefit of hindsight, (although we said so at the time) the pivot point for the Turnbull government’s fortunes; facing the charlatan Bill Shorten, whose leadership was to all appearances fatally damaged by the Heydon Royal Commission — and who was set to be dumped by his colleagues if he didn’t take the face-saving path of resignation — Turnbull was spooked out of a December election following the AFP raid on the home of key lieutenant Mal Brough: the episode let Shorten off the hook, and allowed the ALP to take heart.

And as sure as night followed day, the Liberal Party’s “march toward a return to opposition,” which we also warned of last February, duly recommenced.

The wild, bold, hysterical lashing out (typified by “Utegate” during Turnbull’s first stint as leader) was replaced with a form of stupefied inertia and the utter aversion to any kind of risk at all, as Turnbull wasted the first half of this year on an excruciating “reform debate” over tax that was neither a debate, nor led to any meaningful advocacy of genuine reform.

During that process, Turnbull hung his Treasurer (and putative future leadership prospect) Scott Morrison out to dry, with Morrison’s long-term political future perhaps terminally compromised by his association with various half-baked tax proposals that were floated, allowed to be savaged by Labor, and hastily withdrawn; this was not conducive to the exercise of political authority, nor a posture of political strength in difficult parliamentary conditions, and it weakened the government significantly.

The reforms made to Senate electoral process, whilst admittedly an incremental improvement, were piddling, and extracted at great cost to the government in terms of what little goodwill it enjoyed from the Senate crossbench: that most (but not all) of the antagonised crossbenchers were re-elected constitutes an ongoing potential source of trouble.

But the campaign ahead of elections on 2 July was turgid, ineffectual, and a downright fiasco; it enabled the resuscitated Shorten to run rings around the Coalition. Had Shorten not overreached in the final ten days with his brazen “Mediscare” lies, it is likely Labor would have won.

As it stands, victory by a single seat is hardly a triumph of which Turnbull, nor the government generally, can be proud: reduced to three seats and a third of a percentage point more than Abbott achieved in 2010, it is difficult to argue the Coalition retains any kind of clear mandate at all.

There have been botched reshuffles and ministerial scandals — the latter largely the consequence of the former — as Turnbull’s defective judgement and wide vindictive streak toward conservative Liberals has seen the government pay the price for the wrong people being elevated (or retained) on the frontbench; even now, there are political liabilities (George Brandis, take a bow) who continue to enjoy ministerial office purely on account of their fidelity to Turnbull when their political performance dictates otherwise.

And the faulty apparatus Turnbull inherited from Abbott — the inability to sell a message to the public, the ineptitude of Coalition “strategists” and “tacticians,” the inability to fatally wound the imbecilic and unelectable Shorten, even after the union Royal Commission — continues even now to misfire unretarded, with the government incapable of turning even a victory (like getting its union accountability legislation through Parliament) into any kind of momentum-builder with the general public.

But it is the traditional Turnbull agenda — gay marriage, carbon taxes (of whatever variety), and a republic — that is the most insidious aspect of his unsuitability to be Prime Minister, and this agenda has, since the narrow escape on 2 July, now fully filtered back onto the Liberal Party playlist: and this agenda will cost the party dearly unless fundamental and drastic change is now taken.

Gay marriage has been allowed to become a political football in Australia for far too long; as regular readers know, the liberal in me says gay people should do as they like (provided, like the rest of us, it doesn’t hurt anyone else) whilst the conservative in me resists on the basis marriage is at its genesis a religious institution that has never incorporated same-sex unions.

Even so, the only way to resolve such a fraught issue would appear to be to allow the public to decide; I actually think the French have the right idea on this, whereby all couples get the same legal union, and then those who choose to solemnise the act can do so in a religious or civil ceremony. The churches shouldn’t be forced to marry gay couples if they don’t want to. But this whole issue has been squibbed, with the task of getting a plebiscite through the Senate beyond the capability the Turnbull junta. Should same-sex marriage be legalised in a vote of Parliament on Turnbull’s watch, it is likely to inflict enormous damage upon the Liberal Party politically as the direct consequence of a fundamental breach of faith with its core support base.

A couple of weeks ago — like a kid in a lolly shop, unable to contain himself — Turnbull sent another future conservative leadership prospect, Josh Frydenberg, out to fly the kite of “a different kind of carbon pricing” in the form of an “emissions intensity scheme;” at a time when electricity bills continue to rise, and Victorians face average further increases of $100 per household next year thanks to the closure of the Hazelwood power station, this was obsession and lunacy masquerading as “vision.”

When the inevitable public backlash hit social and mainstream media channels like a tidal wave, Turnbull left Frydenberg to twist and dangle in the wind: just like he did to Morrison earlier in the year.

But desperate for an agenda, desperate to respond to naysayers and the critics, desperate to find favour from someone, somewhere — desperate, in fact, to be seen to be doing anything at all — Turnbull unwisely chose to use an address last night to the 25th anniversary function of the Australian Republican Movement to dust off the rancid old cheese of “a vision” for an Australia with an “Australian Head of State.”

Readers can access indicative coverage of this odious call to arms from today’s press here and here.

Never mind this change was roundly defeated at a referendum 16 years ago; never mind reputable public opinion polling shows support for retaining the monarchy surging, particularly among younger voters; and never mind the fact that there is no substance whatsoever behind the blather and hot air about Australia “growing up” and “taking its place in the world:” nobody suggests New Zealand or Canada are somehow immature forelock tuggers — and neither is Australia.

And of course, never mind the fact that the billions of dollars it would cost to turn Australia into a republic would achieve precisely nothing of any economic, political or social value; it wouldn’t fix problems with Aborigines, the immigrant community, the poor, small businesses being priced out of their markets by rising costs, or the woeful state of the federal budget, which continues to haemorrhage almost a billion dollars per week.

No, in the world of Turnbull, this mad, bad, lefty trifecta — gay marriage, carbon taxes, and a republic — is something he was and is determined to pursue at any cost: even, in the case of a republic, at the risk of destroying the stability of the entire system of government Australia enjoys under its present constitutional arrangements.

No republican has ever provided a persuasive argument about how life would be better for ordinary, hard-working Australians were the Crown to be dispensed with; no republican has ever offered a convincing reason why fixing the real (and growing) socio-economic problems facing this country should be brushed aside to enable the expenditure of billions of dollars chasing a stupid Nirvana that doesn’t even exist.

Australian Head of State? Look no further than the current Governor-General, or to most of the past ten of his predecessors: this entire nonsense is built on a false premise.

But be all of that as it may, this column made it very clear a year ago that it would take a “wait and see” approach to Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister — as much from loyalty to the Liberal Party as from any genuine desire to see him succeed — and even as it quickly became apparent Turnbull simply wasn’t up to the job (as long suspected), we were gracious enough to describe that approach as more “wait” than “see.”

Well, I think we have seen enough.

If Malcolm Turnbull contests another election as Liberal Party leader, the Coalition will be slaughtered; it isn’t enough to rely on the abhorrent nature of the opposition “leader” to get the government across the line again, and after more than a year in the role it is clear Turnbull peaked in his first few weeks in office. In any case, it seems unlikely he can skewer Shorten from this point if he hasn’t already managed to do so.

The transaction costs of any mid-term leadership change must be weighed against the realistic scope for such a change to provide the opportunity for political improvement; in this sense, I believe it is absolutely pointless for the Liberal Party to continue with Malcolm Turnbull unless it is resigned to a lengthy stint in opposition.

I am mindful, of course, that many of the problems that were meant to be solved by the last Liberal leadership change — strategy, tactics, mass communication, policy rigour — remain unresolved, and any further change now simply must be accompanied by a wholesale overhaul of the Liberal back of house once and for all.

But the Turnbull agenda — fuelled by the Turnbull style, which in turn is code for simply alienating conservative voters who constitute the great silent majority in Australia — is a guaranteed recipe for defeat: those voters who want it will vote for Labor and the Greens, and so will a great many usual Coalition voters (even if through preferences) in disgust unless the Liberal Party reconnects with its base.

The Turnbull experiment has been a failure, and its continuance will condemn the government to the electoral doom that seems its likely fate in about 18 months’ time.

Whilst offering no opinion at this time as to whom the replacement should be, it is time for Liberal MPs to act: and to rid the party of the scourge of a Turnbull leadership that has plagued it, in actual form or in the shape of a stalking horse, for almost a decade longer than it should have been permitted to.

 

More Newspoll Misery: Turnbull Mired In Losing Position

IN NEWS with which Malcolm Turnbull will be sorely familiar, his government seems welded to a losing position; today’s “triumph” — a tiny lift in support to 48% — is the sixth in a rerun of the “30 losing Newspolls” Turnbull used to justify knifing Tony Abbott. His personal numbers are the lowest since 2009. Solutions are difficult, but obvious, as they were under Abbott. Unless Turnbull finds a way to enact them, his papers will soon be stamped.

It seems ridiculous, really, that one year ago, the Coalition was positioned to crush Labor and potentially gain a majority in both Houses of Parliament had a double dissolution then been held; the first chink in Malcolm Turnbull’s armour had been exposed by a raid by Australian Federal Police on the home of former minister Mal Brough, yes. But the initial effects of Turnbull’s ascension to the Prime Ministership — compounded by the scathing report into the union movement tabled by Dyson Heydon, which directly damaged Labor “leader” Bill Shorten — saw the Liberals with enough support across all reputable polls to maintain their 30-seat majority in the lower house (and probably increase it) whilst making the Senate a tantalising proposition indeed.

In the ensuing twelve months, many of the same mistakes made by the Abbott government have continued to be made — albeit by a different group of people — whilst Turnbull has spent much of the year giving the distinct impression of a man determined to find new ways to tank at an election (his excruciatingly pointless taxation “debate” a salutary case in point) with the pathetic two-seat victory on 2 July more reward, judged objectively, than his efforts probably deserved.

And it seems that for all the pointers emerging across Western democracies that the majority of people want to be listened to and provided with leadership by their governments — not fed elitist bullshit and told how to speak, and think, and behave, whilst being prioritised below minorities and foreigners — those who govern Australia at present simply refuse to heed the message.

Clearly, I have been far too busy of late with other obligatory things to have posted as regularly as I would like, and we have missed a couple of the Newspolls published by The Australian since the 2 July election was held.

But in one sense, we haven’t missed much; in what is quickly becoming a case of “another fortnight, another Newspoll shocker,” the Turnbull government is now six polls into an increasingly likely rerun of the “30 losing Newspolls” its leader used to justify overthrowing Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, and whilst there was some direction and strategy provided under Abbott on the watch of the redoubtable Peta Credlin (even if it was hopelessly flawed and misdirected), under Turnbull it is difficult to even acknowledge that.

Newspoll’s finding (and you can access The Australian‘s coverage here) that Coalition support, after preferences, has increased by one percentage point over the past fortnight to 48% will be cheered by some in the Liberal bunker and among some of its public mouthpieces and so-called strategists.

The reality, however, is that this degree of support (or the lack of it), corroborated by all of the other recent polls, amounts to a 2.4% swing to the ALP, which if repeated at an election would cede at least 12 seats to Labor and with them, government.

Coalition hardheads, noting their 39% primary vote has actually risen a point in this poll, will point instead to Labor’s 36% (-2% over the fortnight) and insist this level of support is too low to win an election, but of course thanks to the system of compulsory preferential voting we use in Australia, 36% will suffice if the ALP can harvest enough preferences in enough seats: and with the Communist Party Greens polling 10% and probably half the 15% recorded by “Others” in this Newspoll also likely to flow to the ALP, the flaw in this kind of logic is a fatal one.

Shorten, as he has deservedly always been, remains vastly unpopular, with just 34% of Newspoll’s respondents approving of the job he is doing as Labor “leader.”

But as The Australian correctly notes, Shorten’s net satisfaction rating has improved from -35% in January to -17% now; and — incredibly — he is actually more popular than Turnbull, of whom 32% of respondents expressed approval for a net satisfaction score of -23%.

Irrespective of the woes that befell the Abbott government and no matter how appropriate critiques made of that administration might be — in this column as elsewhere — it isn’t hard to spot the central defect in the current government: the Prime Minister himself.

A series of abysmal ministerial appointments that exploded in his face have been compounded with a steady supply of ongoing political embarrassment (George Brandis, take a bow) in an area of personnel management that is Turnbull’s direct responsibility, and his alone.

The appalling directionlessness of the top half of 2016 — the “reform” of the Senate notwithstanding — persisted into and throughout the glacial federal election campaign which, as I noted earlier, was probably rewarded with more than it deserved in the form of outright victory by a single seat. Indeed, had Shorten not overreached in the final fortnight with the wildly dishonest “Mediscare” attack, I think Turnbull would in fact have been beaten.

His arrogant, ranting performance when he belatedly fronted the cameras on election night (which may or may not have been fuelled by copious amounts of champagne, as some scribes at the time suggested) further alienated many voters who had already turned on him, or who had supported the government with pegs on their noses.

And there has, to be sure, been very little for the government to crow about in the five months since.

There are those in the government who think the passage of the Registered Organisations laws and the bill to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission are a triumph from which the revival of their electoral fortunes will soon flow, and who will also point to the tiny rise in the Coalition’s vote in this poll as “proof.”

But those who comprehend such things know that by agreeing to a two-year lead-in for the restored ABCC — irrespective of whether Derryn Hinch or Turnbull himself proposed such an idiocy — the government might as well not have bothered; in two years’ time, unless something drastic happens, Australia could well be weeks away from returning the ALP to office, and if Labor wins the next election, its CFMEU masters and other filth at Trades Hall will ensure the ABCC never sees the light of day.

The sad truth — and I speak as a conservative nominally sitting on the mainstream Right — is that three years after its big win in 2013, this government has progressed from accident-prone and ineffective under Abbott to a living, breathing electoral time bomb under Turnbull, whose approval ratings now closely resemble the unflattering (and terminal) levels of support he recorded late in 2009 before a successful leadership challenge from Abbott put him out of his misery.

The solutions are obvious, if difficult to implement: a focus on fixing the structural abyss in the federal budget and finally paying down some of the obscene national debt. Slashing extravagant Gillard-era social spending, on programs and constituencies that would never vote Liberal or National in a pink fit. Banishing the scourge of political correctness, in every form, from the government’s handiwork. Abolishing (or enacting a proper revision of) Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. Drawing up a program of modest labour market reforms to restore some of the flexibility wiped out by the ALP’s union-dictated “Fair” Work laws.

The list goes on, but the point is that the Coalition has spent too long (in opposition and in government) cowering before the onslaught from Labor and the Greens: too timid to stand its ground on what are bread and butter Coalition issues, and too timid to stand up to the slithering creep of socialism and big government spending that panders to the constituencies of the Left.

Before Tony Abbott was knifed by Turnbull, I suggested in this column that the government should simply reintroduce every piece of legislation rejected by the Senate in its original form, inviting it to be rejected a second time, racking up perhaps dozens of double dissolution triggers in the process: a messy way to govern, perhaps, but any double dissolution election would be fought on a substantial and wide-ranging program that a joint sitting would pass to transform Australia.

Instead, a poor campaign focused on an empty slogan masquerading as an “economic plan” — “jobs and growth” — received an appropriately tepid return that was insufficient to make a joint sitting of Parliament worth bothering with at all.

In any case, the two bills — useless as the ABCC one probably is — that might have been passed at such a sitting are now finalised, and the government has to start from scratch for an agenda for the coming two or two-and-a-half years.

Will the penny drop? Who knows. But media reports last night, suggesting Turnbull’s government was set to abolish the Abbott-era Green Army environmental initiative and look to implement some revamped form of a carbon tax, are hardly encouraging: a carbon tax has been proven over a decade to be absolute political poison. The bodies it has claimed are strewn across both sides of the political divide. One of them, in 2009, was Turnbull’s. It beggars belief that he could be so inept and suicidal as to revisit it now.

But really, what issues Turnbull does and does not pursue are only half the problem.

The Coalition — and this is an old story, as much as it is an embarrassment — seems incapable of selling anything to the public; it seems incapable of prosecuting an effective attack on its opponents that has any impact at all, let alone any lasting impact; it is wrong-footed and outsmarted by a greasy, smarmy, duplicitous and downright contemptible specimen in Shorten, whose path to the Prime Ministership might yet be paved by the tactical and strategic ineptitude of the Coalition. And it does seem, as I have heard quite a bit around the party of late, to be not quite sure of what it actually stands for.

For all that, it also seems incapable of breaking the finger-shaking, totalitarian culture of the Left — dictating to voters what they should say, and think, and do — that took root in this country under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and which has been permitted to become more and more deeply entrenched as a consequence.

All of this should be called out for what it is: the resurgent menace to democracy that is socialism. Instead, it is treated with kids gloves by the Liberal Party, lest it offend anyone by standing up to it.

Meanwhile, all over the world — Brexit and the ascension of Donald Trump to the US presidency illustrating the point — silent majorities are signalling in the clearest possible terms that not only have they had enough, but that they will no longer tolerate it.

So here we are: six losing Newspolls into a sequence that may yet stretch to 30. The Coalition has its problems, and the solutions will take more intestinal fortitude to implement than we have witnessed from it since John Howard led it.

My guess is that Turnbull will be dead meat long before he is allowed to rack up 30 shockers in a row, but you never know; either way, there is little point in junking him unless the party is prepared to fix the misfiring apparatus that is the government it continues to form.

Yet unless Turnbull moves to do exactly that — starting with the substantial removal of dead wood from his ministry and a sweeping overhaul of the government’s back of house — his papers will soon enough be stamped. Australia needs Bill Shorten as Prime Minister like Argentina needed Galtieri, but if things don’t change quickly, “our Galtieri” is exactly what we will get: and the Coalition, it pains me to say, will be culpable for it.