If Donald Trump “Wipes Out” The Left, So Be It

IF THERE’S anything about Donald Trump that merits unequivocal approval, it is the immediate, uncompromising assault he has launched against parasitic left-wing groups leaching money from the public purse, and against the cultural agenda of the Left itself; it’s time the pious, finger-shaking bullshit of the Left — in all its forms — was forced to eke out its own subsistence, or eradicated. This anti-Left crusade is well worth emulating in Australia.

Just when it looked like Donald Trump’s first weeks in office might be remembered for the own goal one of his advisers kicked, along comes something nobody with any common sense could possibly quibble about.

The slithering creep of socialism — cloaked in the finger-shaking tut-tutting of the Chardonnay drunks of the cultural Left — is an evil this column has railed against at various times throughout the six years I have been publishing it; in some respects it is hard to say what is worse: the malevolent advance of this noxious creed, or the fact that nobody in the mainstream conservative polity in this country seems able and/or remotely inclined to puncture it.

John Howard tried, valiantly: his efforts, whilst admirable, were a classic case of the metaphorical finger in the dyke.

But Donald Trump — who took office on Friday, determined to remake America, and determined to erase the pall cast over it by eight years of socialism that have left the US better resembling a stagnant European basket case than a world superpower —  has torn into a range of expenditure targets that seem, even by the debased standards of the Australian Left, grotesque.

I was reading a piece last week from London tome The Times, which provides an insight into just how far-reaching the new Trump broom will be; some of the hysteria extracted from the Left over some of the items it talks about has been debunked in other forums as misleading sensationalism — for example, the pages taken off the White House website are included in sections that are archived automatically at the conclusion of each President’s tenure — but when it comes to those organisations whose agenda can only be described as cultural terrorism, and the more civic-minded measures being wheeled out to replace them, what Trump appears to be doing is a sweeping rationalisation of where the government spends its money to delete expenditure on things that should be forced to rattle the tin themselves.

It is the kind of thing the Abbott government should have done immediately after the 2013 election, but didn’t.

(For clarity, I am not referring to the perennial football of blocking US aid to foreign organisations that perform abortions — a measure that has routinely been restored by every incoming Republican President since Ronald Reagan introduced it in 1984, and repealed by both incoming Democratic Presidents in the same time: and any comment today that accuses me of cheering that on will be deleted as soon as I see it).

Feel-good, Kum-Ba-Ya chanting outfits like the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which is a noble-sounding euphemism for appeasing the perpetrators of crime, would find their funding grants withdrawn; other organisations — like The National Endowment for the Arts — would be abolished altogether.

In the case of the latter, the article from The Times (republished yesterday in The Australian) notes the NEA doles out millions of dollars in grants each year to the arts community, funding such indulgences as plays “about assassinating Christopher Columbus, gun-control activist lesbians, ‘Doggie Hamlet,’ and climate change poetry.”

This is the problem with some sections of the arts community: their idea of “art” is not art at all. The types of works cited here are absolute, total, complete and utter crap. Yet they are emblematic of what eats up large chunks of taxpayers’ money: as it is in the USA, so too it is here.

Whole industries — overseen, populated and mobilised by the Left — spring up around this drivel, all paid for out of the taxpayer’s pocket. These people get their own minister, their own (sizeable) budget, they employ lobbyists for more money, and the whole commercially unviable (and to people in the real world, distasteful) behemoth gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

Like a turd attracts flies, these cottage industries draw hangers-on: the Chardonnay set. The do-gooder set. The bleeding heart bullshit artists, who think they are taking up with just and noble causes that advance humanity, when all this stuff amounts to is doggerel.

And then of course — just like Hollywood, with its jumped-up and overpaid screen legends, coddled in their bubble and fortified by the hundreds of millions of dollars they make from jumping around in front of a camera, whose deluded views get reported by a Left-leaning press pack as “fact” — these people think they have real clout to wield, and they wield it.

And then, the cycle perpetuates itself.

The Times piece correctly observes that the progressive agenda of the Left centres on “changing the world and human nature to accord with a preferred model of existence.” That model is unnatural, synthesised, and relies on engineering human behaviour to conform with a heavily doctrinaire and rigidly prescriptive set of values that are smothering in nature and totalitarian in application.

Just look at what happens on Twitter if anyone dares to say they don’t believe in man-made climate change: the ridicule and abuse is instant, incessant, and for a couple of hours hundreds of seemingly innocuous accounts appear out of thin air to ensure the “bad name” of the “denier” ricochets across the world. You will probably end up on a blacklist somewhere. Try the same thing over gay marriage, gender fluidity (whatever the fuck that is) or any of the other pet fancies of the Left, and the force of the abuse within the social media echo chamber will be akin to being hit by a truckload of bricks.

The point is that for all the “tolerance” these people preach, they have neither tolerance nor patience with dissenting views; for all the stock they place in “diversity,” they refuse to either countenance nor accept any diversity of opinion aside from their own.

These problems and phenomena are, if anything, even more entrenched in Australian society than they are in the USA, thanks to teacher unions run by socialist activists hijacking education curriculums in a concerted endeavour to ensure Australian schools turn out armies of compliant little socialists. They are fuelled by education budgets that throw far more money at “Education” than is actually required (if value for money and educational outcomes are the yardsticks), which means there is always cash for expensive social and “citizenship” education projects which rarely teach basic capitalist principles or entrepreneurship or personal responsibility, but never miss on teaching kids about their rights and entitlements.

(Just making that point is enough to attract charges from the Left of ignorance, sexism, misogyny, and probably of being Adolf Hitler. And that’s just for starters).

There are those in the Australian polity and embedded in the media firmament who scratch their heads and wonder why, with all the Left does for them, people could be inclined to elect someone like Donald Trump to the US presidency; they wonder, without irony, why there are signs of a “Trump effect” taking shape here in Australia.

The simple truth is that a significant majority of people are fed up with being told how to think, and speak, and behave; stripped of the ability to go out creating problems to solve would leave most on the Left with very little to say at all. Yes, there are problems in society, and bad people who give form to them, but the totalitarian and virtually fascist attempts to impose a rigid ideological straitjacket on the world are not the way to solve them.

If they were, the USSR would be flourishing today, and free nations would be clamouring to join. It isn’t, and they aren’t.

And this brings me back to Donald Trump’s America, and the early signs that the Left is not going to have a lot to celebrate in it.

I am literally in two minds about Trump — he may prove to be brilliant, or he may prove diabolical — and I suspect that whilst it will take a little time to ascertain which of those descriptions apply to him, we won’t be left wondering for very long.

If you are a socialist (or, quaintly, a “social justice warrior” — a term that is inherently oxymoronic in this context) then it’s a safe bet you still haven’t recovered from the grief and trauma of Hillary Clinton losing an election: if that synopsis applies to you, then the nicest thing I can say is that whilst I may be ambivalent about Trump, the defeat of Hillary Clinton is the best thing that has happened to both the USA and the rest of the free world in a very, very long time.

When official government communications portals promote actual Police rather than thought police, and when government leaders call out external military threats (Russia, China, Islamic State) for what they are, and promote staples such as reliable, affordable energy supplies and the rule of law instead of a fictitious ideological construct designed to cower and break their citizens, it is difficult to take issue with the changes already becoming evident in the United States at all.

The risk to the established parties in Australia (and to the Liberal Party in particular, which is the traditional home for those disinclined to leftist claptrap) is that not only is the silent majority in this country fed up with the prescriptions of the Left being forcibly imposed upon them, but a growing number of voters are now actively casting around for someone who listens to them and someone who will stop the socialist monster in its tracks.

This is why red herrings like Pauline Hanson are on the march: nobody in the respectable political firmament appears prepared to champion the majority over the snivelling diatribes of the Left, which in any case hates Western society and seeks, through incremental but unrelenting change, to destroy it.

The “Safe Schools” program — an anti-bullying scheme used as a Trojan horse to indoctrinate young children with the gender drivel of the hard Left — is but one piece of proof of this. There have been many others.

None of the pet causes and projects of the Left would survive if forced to rattle the tin and drum up money in the marketplace — in this case, from the citizens expected to capitulate to them — and the argument that people who don’t know what is good for them must be involuntarily forced to comply is in no way a suitable argument to justify a cent of public monies being allocated to fund them.

If Donald Trump’s activities “wipe out” the Left, then so be it: apart from the finger shakers and other parasitic filth dependent on such rubbish for their livelihoods, nobody will miss it when it is gone.

But failure by mainstream politicians in Australia to emulate the attack against the Left that is being unpacked in America will have dire consequences. The best way to ward off the rise of the far Right is to deal with these issues from the mainstream, which means listening to ordinary people rather than the alleged “elites” of the Left: and if Australia’s politicians refuse to do so, then when One Nation and other organisations pandering to the lunar fringe achieve a critical mass, the traditional parties will have nobody to blame for the fallout but themselves.

Yes, Scott Morrison, Cut Taxes – But Slash Spending, Too

THE call by Scott Morrison for Australia to cut company taxes — or risk being uncompetitive globally — has merit, but does not go far enough: proper tax reform would include lifting and broadening the GST, raising the income tax threshold, and cutting income tax rates; an agile government would rein in spending, too. Still, Morrison’s position is at least a start. Perhaps there is an ounce of intestinal fortitude within the government after all.

During 2017, readers are going to hear an awful lot from me about a strategy the Abbott and Turnbull governments should have used before last year’s election, but didn’t — racking up double dissolution triggers one after the other, on every area in which they attempt to legislate reforms but are stymied by the Senate — for the near-death experience of the Coalition at the polls, whilst attributable to a range of factors extending well beyond the nature of any legislation passed on its watch, owed as much to political timidity and a totally erroneous approach to parliamentary management as it did to anything else.

But the case made by Treasurer Scott Morrison in The Australian yesterday — that Australia risks being crippled as an internationally uncompetitive outpost of high taxation — has great merit, and perhaps (I emphasise, perhaps) signals that despite the woeful flaws spanning many aspects of the Turnbull government, some elements within it retain at least a scrap of intestinal fortitude, even if what Morrison is actually arguing fails to reach anywhere near far enough.

Morrison’s argument rests on the recent precedent of the United Kingdom, where the government of former PM David Cameron cut the British corporate tax rate to 20% whilst in a worse budgetary position than that currently facing Australia; Cameron’s government also implemented reductions to personal income taxes and increased VAT — Britain’s equivalent of the GST — from 17.5% to 20%, whilst winding back spending across the board, but with a particular emphasis on the UK’s ballooning welfare budget.

The effects of these changes are undeniable; Britain today is the fastest growing economy in Europe and, for a time, was the fastest growing economy in the Western world, outstripping growth in Australia; the fundamental premise that cutting taxes stimulates economic activity, creating jobs and bringing investment that in turn contributes higher revenues to government coffers than the “foregone” tax revenues cost, is a proven model that has worked many times over the past 40 years — and worked in Britain once before, too, during the early years of the Thatcher government, underpinning rapid economic growth in the late 1980s and sparking an unprecedented boom in the early 1990s that continued until the global financial crisis snuffed it out in 2008.

And Britain isn’t the only place this approach has worked, either; during the period of the ascendancy of the mainstream Right across much of the Western world during the 1980s and early 1990s, this emphasis on creating conditions conducive to economic activity and growth underpinned one of the largest expansions in history; it is the rise of the Left in the early 1990s — in the USA, in Canada, in Britain, with the arrival of the Blair government, and across continental Europe — that saw the rise in taxation by stealth and rampant social spending cut the foundations from beneath prudent fiscal management in the West, and for which the developed world arguably is paying the price today.

The Eurotrash economies of Spain, Italy, Greece et al — strangled by socialism and crippled by debts exceeding, in many cases, 100% of GDP — are the end destination of a ruinous dalliance with “modern” left wing dogma. The United States has just ended an eight year experiment with the same failed policies. Here in Australia, the Rudd and Gillard governments set what for years had been regarded internationally as the “miracle economy” on the same destructive path.

Without a drastic change in direction, the basket cases of Europe embody the fate Australia will, in time, suffer itself.

As The Australian notes, Australia boasted the ninth-lowest corporate tax rate among OECD nations 15 years ago, a position that has deteriorated to 22nd today; it also now ranks among the top five highest taxing nations within the same cohort — an unforgivable indictment on both the Rudd-Gillard regime, which saw business and high income earners as its personal piggy bank, and (I hate to say) the Abbott-Turnbull government, which hiked taxes on middle income earners and which has exhibited neither the inclination nor the mettle to engage in root-and-branch tax reform in any serious or meaningful way.

In this vein, the Morrison agenda of a two-tiered corporate taxation regime, with cuts at the lower end and little else, leaves everything to be desired.

The graphic carried in the article from The Oz is telling.

 

GREED ISN’T GOOD…Australia’s high-tax status will rebound on it in coming years, placing living standards, economic growth — and, ironically, tax revenues — in jeopardy. (Source: The Australian)

In other words, Morrison’s pompously labelled “Enterprise Tax Plan” is a fiddle, no more; yet like all of the fiddles undertaken by this government, it runs the real risk of achieving very little of value whilst cruelling the case for wider reform through its impotence.

Back in 2008 — shortly after Morrison’s arrival in Canberra as the member for Cook — a contemporary asked me for my take on the energetic new Coalition MP’s likely trajectory. “I think he’ll be Prime Minister one day,” I replied. My associate was incredulous. “You rate him that highly?” he asked, disbelievingly.

Readers of this column know that between his role in elevating Malcolm Turnbull to the Prime Ministership and his role as a patsy in the so-called tax reform “debate” presided over by Turnbull a year ago, my opinion of Morrison’s value to the Liberal Party has…slipped, to put it most kindly.

He flourished as Immigration minister in the Abbott government — in a portfolio that would have been a slam-dunk for any modestly competent Liberal MP at that time — but floundered in Social Services, in a stiffer test based on winding back the ridiculous Commonwealth outlay on welfare.

As Treasurer, his record has been unimpressive; his “Enterprise Tax Plan” will achieve little (if ever delivered) at a huge cost of political capital: just like Morrison’s fiddle to superannuation, which has outraged huge slabs of the Coalition’s base (this time the self-funded retirees who took little or nothing by way of government assistance). Morrison and his sidekick, the decidedly unimpressive Kelly O’Dwyer, have also fallen into the trap of implementing Bill Shorten’s “multinational tax” which O’Dwyer herself admits will recoup just $100 million per annum — but at the very real risk, as I have opined previously, of provoking multinational companies to take their operations (and the jobs they create) somewhere else.

This government operates in an environment in which a bare majority in the lower house, a very hostile Senate and the risk some of its number are set to leave to set up a rival “conservative party” are compounded by policy torpor and an utter lack of tactical and strategic smarts.

The tax reform “debate” last year proved, beyond any doubt, that the Turnbull government either has no clue whatsoever about meaningful top-to-bottom tax reform, or a complete lack of any political acumen with which to sell it, or both.

Morrison, as Treasurer, is the standard bearer of the government’s efforts in this arena. His career in the longer term hangs in the balance. He can either take a leadership role on proper taxation reform — breaking as many eggs as is required to make the omelette, and making a few enemies along the way by confronting self-interested vested interests — or he can sink like a stone with his piecemeal patchwork fiddles and the rest of the bullshit Turnbull passes off as a “jobs and growth” agenda.

A program that doubles and broadens the GST, cuts the company tax — for all businesses — to 20%, cuts the top rate of income tax to 35% and reduces the tax scales overall, lifts the tax-free threshold to $25,000 for wage and salary earners and provides a modest boost to pensions, should be accompanied by the abolition of as many other taxes and charges as the increased GST revenues enable (with the states enlisted in that endeavour), whilst identifying as widespread a program for spending cuts as possible: including as much Gillard-era social spending as can practicably be slated for abolition.

Labor will push back — as it always does these days, for populist political reasons — but its predictable rhetoric about tax cuts for millionaires, and fatuous statements that cutting taxes on business will fatten corporate profits but produce no additional employment growth, betray a fundamental lack of comprehension of basic economics, and this fact should be rammed home to the Australian public (provided, of course, the government can fix another of its complete failures during its tenure in office: its communications unit).

The enabling legislation should be presented to the Senate a second time in its original form if rejected, and the government should stand firm in the face of amendments contrived by the ALP, Greens and left-leaning Senate crossbenchers that aim to neuter the package (or even render it counter-productive, as Clive Palmer did with the abolition of the mining tax, turning it into a $3.2bn cost to an Abbott government more desperate for a deal than with delivering rigorous policy outcomes).

In other words, Morrison can use tax reform as the Coalition’s first base for building a proper reform agenda: and if the Senate knocks it back, the enabling bills should be converted into double dissolution triggers. More would follow if the same approach is replicated across government. This is the way Turnbull’s government can simultaneously answer the charge it has no agenda with which to govern, whilst stockpiling a solid base of worthwhile policy with which to fight another election if its efforts are thwarted.

An agile, streamlined, efficient system of low and broad taxes, that rewards and encourages enterprise and personal effort and discourages and penalises indolence, is a reform any conservative government could be proud of: and if Morrison is fair dinkum about tax reform, he should forget his half-baked “Enterprise Tax Plan” and have a serious crack at the whole thing.

The Australian notes Morrison is in London to talk to business leaders; he should take the opportunity to sound out Cameron, his Chancellor George Osborne, Minister for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan-Smith, and others who were central to the Cameron-era program that picked Britain up off her knees and set her back on her feet.

In the final analysis, however, Morrison’s remarks offer the flicker of hope that someone in the Coalition’s senior ranks has belatedly got the message that unless the government does what it was elected to do in 2013 — and embarks on sweeping reform in Australia — it is doomed to lose whenever it next faces the public at the ballot box.

Perhaps there is an ounce of intestinal fortitude within the Turnbull government after all; but if Morrison wants to ever be Prime Minister — or even be regarded as a successful Treasurer, and not just another hack occupying that office — this piece in The Australian must merely represent the start of a renewed effort and change of focus, and not just another of the directionless thought bubbles that have already cruelled the Coalition’s political stocks for far too long.

 

Italian Job: Abbott Partly Right On Senate Reform Call

THERE IS great merit in the call by Tony Abbott — reported in The Australian today — for a proper, multifaceted overhaul of the Senate to remove the parliamentary gridlock into which Australian government is sliding; Abbott is right to conclude that the upper house is no longer a “house of review,” much less a “States’ House.” But the measures he advocates are yet another Band-Aid approach where radical surgery is in fact warranted.

The problem of Australia’s entrenched, anti-democratic and unrepresentative Senate is one we have periodically contemplated in this column, and something that is the fault of both the ALP and the Coalition parties for creating; it is Labor’s fault for the electoral “fiddles” — in 1948 and, particularly, in 1984 — that enabled the enduring mess in the upper house to even be possible, and it is the Coalition’s fault for lacking the backbone, ideas and the communications skills with which to persuasively argue for and implement a solution to it.

The “reform” of the Senate electoral system enacted by the Turnbull government last year should be dismissed with contempt as ineffectual, infinitesimal, and proof of the Coalition’s current dearth of nous or will where advocacy for significant and meaningful reform is concerned.

I have been reading Paul Kelly’s piece in The Weekend Australian today — a preview of a speech “to be delivered in the next few days” by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott that will call for “resolute action” to break the gridlock in Australian politics that the Senate, rigged, gamed and hijacked as a battering ram, imposes — with more than a little interest; the state of the Senate is an ugly stain on Australian democracy, and anyone who claims my arguments on this subject are born purely of political self-interest need only compare the architecture of the upper house today to what was created by Australia’s founders in 1901. There is almost no resemblance between the two whatsoever.

And the reason this is such an indictment on the national polity is that the two rounds of change that are most responsible for this mess were never endorsed by voters at a referendum at all.

Labor’s 1948 changes — which increased the size of the House of Representatives from 74 to 121 seats, and the Senate from 36 to 60 — were, on one level, entirely justified due to population growth.

Its 1984 changes — expanding the lower house from 125 to 148 seats, and the Senate from 64 to 76 — were similarly justified on the same grounds.

But the introduction of proportional representation to the Senate by Labor in 1948 opened a Pandora’s box that the ALP revisited in 1984 with no better rationale than attempting to permanently destroy the ability of its opponents to control the upper house; it is true that the first past the post system that applied to the Senate prior to the 1949 election — with each state voting “as a single electorate,” as the Constitution puts it — routinely produced lopsided electoral results that gave one side or the other an iron grip on the Senate: and as the non-Labor parties were arguably the natural parties of government until 1983, this more often than not meant the ALP was rendered toothless in the upper house.

The primary driver for the 1984 changes, of course, derived from the events of November 1975 — when the Malcolm Fraser-led opposition used an upper house majority to engineer the dismissal of the Whitlam government — and Labor’s determination to never again permit the Coalition to achieve control of the Senate; reforms involving the introduction of proportional representation have been imposed by Labor on upper houses in every state Parliament that has one over the past few decades as well, with varying degrees of success in stopping the Coalition controlling them.

I have published previously on this issue; in November 2014, in a piece readers can access here, which was in turn a development of an earlier piece from October 2013, which can be viewed here.

I have suggested more than once in the past that the House of Representatives — with each MP responsible for some 110,000 electors, as opposed to 60,000-ish in 1984 — needs to be increased in size again, to 180 or even 200 seats; this is hardly a surprise, given Australia’s population has grown from 14 million to 25 million in the same period.

The UK’s 45 million registered voters (or roughly triple the number of voters in Australia), to offer a comparison, are served by 650 members of the House of Commons (or 600 once a pending reduction of the size of the Commons is completed).

But I am insistent that the Senate should not be increased in size; the further its numbers are increased on the current electoral system, the greater the scope for tiny parties to “win” seats on a sliver of a fraction of the primary vote becomes: such is the impact of “preference gaming” that has arisen over the past decade, completing and compounding the effects of Labor’s 1984 changes, and which is the final component of the anti-democratic mess the Senate is today.

In fact, I see no need whatsoever for 76 Senators in Australia at all: the USA, with 320 million people, has 100. Australia is the most overgoverned country in the world, and whilst I am open to abolishing the states in favour of a two-tiered system based on a Commonwealth government devolving spending and service delivery to localised regional authorities, that’s an argument for another time.

But the size of the Senate isn’t, and there is no reason — aside from the stipulation of Section 24 of the Constitution, which dictates the House must be as nearly as practicable twice the size of the Senate — why its numbers cannot be cut to the 64 spots that applied to it prior to 1984.

It is here that I begin to find fault with the Abbott argument.

The former PM (as reported by Kelly) makes no mention of a referendum question to break the nexus S24 imposes in relation to the size of the Houses of Parliament; on a particularly minimalist interpretation of constitutional change, the easiest way to give effect to the solution Abbott seeks is to abolish S24 or modify it significantly, increase the size of the lower house, and cut the number of Senators.

But this would leave in place the proportional system that Abbott rightly fingers as the culprit responsible for decades of political instability and chaos in Italy, where unsteady governments are cobbled together based on inconclusive proportional election results, and which fall on average every 12-18 months on account of their inability to effectively govern.

As readers will see from the past articles I have linked to today’s piece, I have outlined previously an alternative solution: upper house districts, akin to the system that applied in Victoria prior to 2002 when the ALP junked it and replaced it with a token proportional voting system, that return one Senator at half-Senate elections, and two at full Senate elections, based on a preferential voting system.

In some respects, the point here is that a plethora of alternative models exist for overhauling the Senate; I suggest that the “solution” implemented by the Turnbull government last year — an “optional preferential” approach to proportional voting — was just a Band-Aid to avoid tackling, head-on, the much greater problem that the Senate voting system itself needed overhauling rather than tinkering around the edges.

But even if we work with an assumption that proportional voting stays — a prospect that is anathema to anyone who believes democratic government should reflect the will of the majority rather than pandering to minorities — there are still changes that could be made that would give effect to some of what Abbott, others like him, and myself have been agitating for.

Placing a threshold on the percentage of primary votes required to qualify for election to the Senate is the obvious one; those who oppose such a measure (overwhelmingly, people from the political Left) are wont to rhetorically ask why, if a candidate or party gets 10% of the vote, they shouldn’t get 10% of the seats?

In isolation, it’s a fair argument, and one answered by the fact that at a half-Senate election in each state, one-sixth of the six Senate berths up for grabs equates to 16% of the available seats; at a double dissolution, one-twelfth equates to about 8% of the available seats. It would be just as fair to say that 16% (or 8% at a double dissolution) was a reasonable ask in terms of electoral performance to qualify for election to office.

There goes the argument that Ricky Muir, on 0.5% of the primary vote in Victoria in 2013, deserved to be elected; there, too, goes the argument that any or all of the candidates who have polled less than 8% at any election deserve to be elected either (and in the past few decades, this ensnares dozens of independent and minor party candidates, including — regularly in some states — the Communist Party Greens).

A further justification these people offer up is that a party winning 8% of the national Senate vote should be rewarded with 8% of the Senate spots (which, to the nearest whole number, is 6 Senators). But Senate elections are in fact conducted on a state-by-state basis, and such an argument is thus a fallacy.

I make these points because I have argued in the past that a primary vote threshold of 5% to qualify for election (with the threshold to qualify for public election funding lifted from 4% to 5% to align the two benchmarks) is not only reasonable, but it would actually represent a discount to the number of votes proportionally required to justify election at all, and frankly — with an eye to the myriad of single-issue minorities who think they are entitled to a seat in Parliament in the first place — if 5% of the vote in any given state is too much for them to achieve, then they shouldn’t be elected at all.

Seats in Parliament are not some divine right, legitimised by arcane preference-harvesting deals: they can and should actually require a reasonable level of direct actual public support.

These are considerations, based on Kelly’s reportage of the Abbott position, that appear to have been overlooked.

I agree with Abbott completely when he speaks of the disenchantment of Australians with the political process; a government that can deliver either nothing at all, or merely some lowest-common denominator fix that clears the Senate but in practice pleases nobody, is a government few will  be satisfied with — and rightly so.

I am also, as regular readers well know, a proponent of the notion that governments should be allowed to implement their agenda in full, and then subject to the verdict of voters at the ballot box, and the present system in the Senate, now operating at its logical conclusion thanks to increased quotas and preference harvesting arrangements (irrespective of what Turnbull did to it last year), makes such a quaintly democratic objective impossible to give effect to.

The disgusting spectacle between 2013 and 2016 of the Senate going on disgraceful witch hunts to destroy state governments and to openly seek to destroy the government in the lower house, contrived by Labor, the Greens, and Clive Palmer’s mad little outfit, is another foreseeable consequence of the 1984 Senate changes that should never have been permitted to occur.

It was the final proof — if more was required — that the Senate is not a “States’ House,” nor a “house of review,” but a political instrument that could be used to batter governments to death: even governments well beyond Canberra and the direct remit of the Senate itself.

I disagree with the Abbott idea of regular joint sittings of Parliament to clear deadlocked legislation; in practice, we would be having joint sittings all the time, so to speak, as the Senate would dig in even deeper if it is hostile to a government in the lower house on the hope some additional votes could be rounded up from lower house MPs to counter the majority of the government of the day.

The Turnbull government, for example, would be lucky to pass legislation at such a sitting at all, which is why no joint sitting was convened after last year’s double dissolution election: the government’s grip. not just on office but on Parliament itself, is metaphorically held by the fingernails on one hand, and is insecure to say the least.

Including change in any constitutional reform referendum to enable a new Senate to be convened immediately after an election and at the same time as a freshly elected House of Representatives, however, would be something well worth exploring — and Abbott apparently has failed to explore that avenue as well.

But broadly, I think Tony Abbott is on the right track here: the current arrangements for electing the Senate are undemocratic, unrepresentative and unstable, and better befit some third world country experimenting with a fumbling move toward democracy than a first world western country with a tradition of democratic process stretching back more than 100 years.

And in a final nod to accusations of political self-interest, I should note that like any cynical fix — just as Labor’s 1984 changes now work to its, and the Greens,’ seemingly permanent advantage, as they were intended to — they can also bite their proponents on the arse, as occurred in 2004 when the Howard government unexpectedly managed to win a narrow Senate majority.

Any doubt about the bona fides of “democratic” ALP electoral reform should be dispelled with one glance north of the Tweed River, where the optional preferential voting system introduced by the Goss government (as part of Fitzgerald-directed anti-corruption reforms, no less) has been cynically junked by the current Labor state government to a) force Greens voters to allocate preferences, which can confidently be expected to break the ALP’s way by an 80-20 margin, and b) capitalise on emerging splits in the non-Labor vote.

What goes around comes around, which is why — with the basic premise that the Senate is broken, and must be fixed, beyond reasonable dispute — a solution that eliminates all of these anomalies and dysfunctionalities, and produces a democratic and representative upper house, is well past due.

Such an enterprise requires radical surgery, not a Band-Aid. In this sense Abbott’s ideas are a step in the right direction, but he still has some way to go to find the solution.

This effort will be viciously opposed on the Left by a self-interested ALP and others, who bleat about excluding voices from government and a “less diverse” Parliament, and rendered almost useless by a Coalition whose “tactical” and “strategic” prowess has been shown, over the past four years, to be as good as non-existent.

Abbott has his work cut out for him. We wish him well.

 

A Policy Agenda — Not Hubris — Key To Holding Government

IF YOU DO the same things the same way, the same result is inevitable; yet this truism of life, love, politics (and virtually anything else) seems too complicated for the parliamentary class — and, topically, Malcolm Turnbull and his government — to comprehend. The current PM is the latest in a long line of leaders who will fall on the sword of abject stupidity this year. More will follow. But an agenda, not slogans and hubris, could be his salvation.

Is it too late for Malcolm Turnbull to “remake” his government, salvage his Prime Ministership, provide leadership to his country, and forge a meaningful, valuable legacy by which future generations might regard his tenure with a bit of respect?

I think it is; others will disagree. But since publication yesterday of the piece I promised last week — a stocktake at the top of the year of how it is likely to unfold, and what it holds in store for Turnbull — there are a couple of items that have appeared in the media that fit the theme, and this morning I want to make some remarks about them.

An article by Peter van Onselen — which, admittedly, I have sat on for a few days — makes the cogent case about policy that could almost have been penned as a parallel piece to the political analysis offered in this column yesterday, for the itinerary of policy abrogation van Onselen offers is deadly in its clarity, and galling in scope.

If you are a liberal or a conservative, there is nothing for you at the Turnbull government, as things stand.

Economic reform, smaller government, industrial relations reform, tax reform, budget repair, education reform, media law reform…this list, by no means extreme or (to use the ridiculous taunt of the Left, eagerly parroted by the left-leaning press pack) “far Right,” reads like some line-by-line itemisation of the Howard government. Until Howard inadvisedly sprang WorkChoices on the Australian public without taking the package to the 2004 election, and doubled down on that folly by placing serial bungler and conservative disappointment Kevin Andrews in charge of implementing it, the Howard government derived vast electoral and political success from its stature as a reformist administration of the mainstream Right.

Readers well know I am far less a liberal than a conservative, despite a sprinkling of liberal positions across an otherwise rational conservative outlook, so when van Onselen nominates things like reform to asylum seeker policies — which I take implies some watering down of policies that have been abandoned once before, by Labor (in cahoots with the Communist Party Greens) in 2008, to disastrous effect and at the cost of well over a thousand lives — I bristle.

But let’s take the suggestion at its word: this is exactly the kind of issue the fawning elites of the liberal Left, who adored Malcolm but were never going to vote for him, nonetheless believed he would champion if elevated to the Prime Ministership in Tony Abbott’s stead; it isn’t just the conservative flank of the Liberal Party Turnbull has thumbed his nose at (or more precisely, extended the metaphorical one-fingered salute to wherever practicable), but the left wing contingent in the inner cities whose social agenda has always — whether he likes it or not — been Malcolm’s natural constituency.

A free vote on marriage equality? Even this issue, historically beloved of Turnbull (even if not on my own wish list), is a nugget of classical liberalism that the Prime Minister is too timid to countenance. The notion of being “hamstrung” by the conservative flank of the Liberal Party be damned: such alleged constraints didn’t stop him from signing the Paris Agreement on climate change — vehemently opposed by conservative liberals, and by anyone in the Australian community with any brains at all — and the truth is that he simply doesn’t have the bottle (or actual leadership skills) to act.

The fiction that Turnbull is a hostage to the conservative wing of the Liberal Party is just that — a fiction — and the notion that allegedly draconian policies like the current arrangements for processing asylum seekers has been maintained because Turnbull “dare not” overturn them somehow derives from the threat of leadership destruction doesn’t hold water. These policies work (like it or not) and even were Turnbull inclined to be rid of them, he has failed to articulate any alternative vision whatsoever let alone attempt to implement one.

And in any case, Turnbull has had no qualms over almost 18 months about ignoring everything else the conservative flank of the party is interested in; the list of areas that are ripe for reform presented by van Onselen (and lamented in this column regularly) is proof of it.

The fact, as van Onselen notes with deadly accuracy, is that “Do-nothing Turnbull” now rules for the sake of retaining power: it is not satisfactory, it will achieve nothing, and it will almost certainly lead to electoral defeat whenever the next election occurs unless a drastic recalibration of the government takes place.

The practice of government by spin, slogans, stunts, “smart answers,” and smug hubris has worn more than a little thin in the decade since Kevin Rudd pioneered it as a nihilistic strategy to win power for the ALP after almost 12 years in the political wilderness.

In the years since, both parties (and incorporating a slew of governments across the states, as well as at the federal level) have increasingly perpetuated the same narrow agenda whose key pillars are political correctness, risk aversion, facile rhetoric, and a slavering pursuit of policies to “deal with” climate change (about which Australia, with less than 1% of world emissions, can make exactly no difference to global outcomes whatsoever — and even that is if you accept climate change is man-made, rather than part of a natural long-term cycle).

Those critical of this view from the harder Right will counter that the Abbott government tried, and failed, to implement a substantive policy agenda.

But even that was hard to describe as “liberal” or “conservative,” beyond stopping the flow of asylum seeker boats and getting rid of the carbon tax; those items aside, the Abbott government was a big-spending, big-taxing outfit whose program of budget repair was predicated on steep tax hikes aimed at its own natural constituency rather than slashing the unaffordable spending on expensive social measures and thousands of unnecessary bureaucrats gleefully locked into place by the Gillard government.

The Abbott government abolished the carbon tax, but left the compensation measures in place. It agitated, vainly, for more expensive social spending in the form of its paid parental leave scheme, funded by more tax hikes on the business community. It sought to get rid of the mining tax (which raised virtually no money) but through timidity and appalling tactical ineptitude did a deal with Clive Palmer that left billions of dollars in related spending in place to get the measure through the Senate.

Many times, I was asked by people why I supported the “far Right” Abbott government: in all cases, I responded (correctly) that it wasn’t “far Right” — but it wasn’t liberal, it wasn’t conservative, it was simply an assortment of disparate measures that defied classification at all. And once the agenda was largely abandoned, Abbott became yet another proponent of the same mishmash of prevailing left-leaning rubbish that all the other governments around the country have been guilty of pursuing.

Unaware that there is a rock band (or a rock song? I’m showing my age 🙂 ) by the same name, I have referred to this as a “turgid miasma:” and such a confluence of political posturing isn’t a substitute for a proper suite of policy objectives either.

There are some who watch former Abbott Chief of Staff Peta Credlin on Sky News, or read her missives in the Daily Telegraph, and who have started to lament that Credlin should be “our first female Liberal Prime Minister.” These people have absolutely no insight whatsoever into the role Credlin played in the dysfunction of the Abbott government or its avoidable downfall, and have been hoodwinked by the exercise in image rehabilitation her media activities constitute. They can’t be told about her appalling management style, or the fact that she had oversight and final veto over everything Abbott’s government did, or that she was the “mastermind” (for want of any more suitable term) of its parliamentary tactics, which were abjectly pathetic and ran completely counter to delivering outcomes based on sound governance.

This is why I cannot support a return to the Liberal leadership by Tony Abbott, despite my well-known view that Malcolm Turnbull’s position as PM is untenable (not that it should ever have commenced in the first place): you get Abbott, you get Credlin. If she is not restored to her old office in Parliament House, you get her at the end of a phone line. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, pointless making Abbott PM again, for not only was the agenda he pursued questionable, but the strategies and tactics used to prosecute it — Credlin’s department — were utterly useless.

With all this in mind, it came as some surprise this morning to see Mark Kenny — writing in the Fairfax press — arguing (with an apparent straight face) that a forthcoming speech by Malcolm Turnbull to the National Press Club offers an opportunity to reassert “his brand, his authority.”

Through his own actions (and it has been a case of action, not inaction: witness the farce of the embarrassing tax reform “debate” he allowed to play out last year ago, crippling the authority of his Treasurer in the process as a case in point), Turnbull has already comprehensively trashed his own brand — be it with liberals, conservatives, or the socialists who once noisily barracked for him) and squandered whatever authority he might have wielded.

The string of botched reshuffles, promoting leadership adherents ahead of any rational political judgement. The failure to call an election late in 2015 — on the thoroughly erroneous strategic miscalculation that he was “new” — that he would have romped home at. The said tax reform “debate.” The appalling election campaign over which he presided, and which arguably reaped a greater return than it deserved. The triumphant taunting of the Liberals’ conservatives, some of whom look likely to be silly enough to stomp out of the party, too incensed at being goaded to contemplate the damage they will do to the conservative polity in this country. On and on and on it goes. The list of examples is endless.

Can Malcolm retrieve himself? I doubt it. Yet in a surprising piece of insight, and speaking of mid-term leadership changes (with a comparative look at Gladys Berejiklian in NSW), Kenny writes that

“If there is a lesson for the incoming Gladys Berejiklian, it is to govern outwardly, rather than for cackling mob of insatiable media reactionaries and internal malcontents. Do that, and the opposition will be hemmed in – not the other way around.

“For Turnbull, who took the alternative, futile, path of appeasement, there has been compound failure: vastly lower standing with voters but with even more dissent from within – witness the outpourings of Abbott, George Christensen, and now the emergent threat of a breakaway party led by Cory Bernardi.”

In other words, not even the forthcoming National Press Club speech he trumpets so loudly is likely to resuscitate Turnbull’s fortunes.

To be sure, Turnbull isn’t the first leader to fall into the trap of the turgid miasma, and in this era of “modern” politics, he isn’t likely to be the last; the ALP and the Greens in particular, whose historic positioning on the spectrum at least mark out that awful mishmash as something they can own, will keep on playing the same game — sometimes they will fall into office for a while, and when the damage they inflict on the country becomes impossible to deny, they will get thrown back out again.

But on the conservative side of politics, where finger-shaking political correctness and “compassion” predicated on bottomless buckets of money that don’t actually exist are out of place as a one-legged man at an arse-kicking competition, talk — and the wanton flinging of money — simply won’t cut it.

If Turnbull is remotely serious about salvaging his Prime Ministership and his government, the only way forward is a comprehensive program of legislative reform designed to fundamentally overhaul all the areas of governance in which responsible and properly calibrated mainstream right-wing ideas can extract improvements in the national interest; the list of areas at the top of this article, whilst obvious places to begin, is by no means exhaustive.

At the very least, it would give the troops something to fight for — and a platform on which to fight any early election, in sharp contrast to the vacuous compassion and “fairness” blather Bill Shorten will deploy, as sure as night follows day, to win votes without actually being responsible for all that much afterwards.

“Jobs and Growth” doesn’t cut it: and in any case, six months after an election and nothing to show for it, this nauseating slogan has already been exposed as just another tired piece of rhetoric.

The Prime Minister — like the rest of Australia’s elected representatives — can talk until the cows come home, and ever weary, people will listen.

But if all the talk in the world adds up to nothing more than smug hubris and empty declarations of competence that are completely contradicted by a lack of tangible outcomes, voters are not going to be impressed.

The electorate has just about had enough. Turnbull will probably be its next victim. Many more will follow until the penny drops, whenever that might be.

‘Annus Horribilis’ Looming For Turnbull, Coalition

ANOTHER RESHUFFLE — a task seemingly cursed for Malcolm Turnbull — and bad polls are not the only threats to his position in 2017, but are headline items in an ominous list featuring a threadbare agenda, a hostile Senate, a likely WA state election loss, One Nation, and continued fracturing of Coalition support. Turnbull is unlikely to last the year as PM. The Coalition is set to pay for ills and misdeeds this column has increasingly warned against.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, if ever (and I have been watching politics like a hawk since my early teenage years more than 30 years ago), Australia is in the grotesque position of having a Prime Minister who will not only be torn down as a result of persistent dreadful polling, but has personally provided the imprimatur for doing so.

In nominating 30 consecutive losing Newspolls as the pretext for engaging in the daylight assassination of former PM Tony Abbott less than 18 months ago, Malcolm Turnbull should have known that not only would the same yardstick be applied to him, but that if it did he would not survive a run of 30 losing polls, or anything approaching it, and having notched up the first six consecutively after last year’s election and prior to Christmas, it seems only a matter of time before Turnbull’s numbers, figuratively and literally, come up.

Edging toward late January, we are yet to see the first Newspoll for 2017, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that when the first survey for the year appears, it will be a case of “seven down, 23 to go;” the early polls we have already seen are not good for the government — Essential showing it behind Labor to the tune of 57-43, and ReachTel in smackdown territory with the Coalition trailing 46-54 — and even if Newspoll simply maintains its year-end 48-52 result from December, which seems unlikely, the aggregate of these polls makes it difficult to credibly claim that Turnbull’s government is not at least leaching further support to the opposition.

This column broke the news pf a putative move against Labor “leader” Bill Shorten in late 2015 — stating he would either quit or be replaced in a leadership coup — and wore the opprobrium and some ridicule that followed the failure of this development to eventuate.

But Shorten was gone for all money, and the move was indeed afoot; what one can never mitigate against in politics is the capacity for events to intervene: and with a perfectly timed raid by Federal Police on the home of then-Turnbull minister Mal Brough, Shorten was afforded the wriggle room (and the issue) he needed to mount a rearguard action to fight off the move against him — and survived.

I tend to think that despite Labor’s closer-than-expected run at government at least year’s election, Shorten is unlikely to “lead” the ALP to another election; his approval levels remain crushingly low, and this charlatan and opportunistic, insincere dirtbag simply carries too much baggage — from Labor’s last election campaign, from his time as a union thug, from unanswered questions emanating from his past and his personal life — for the ALP to be able to afford to front another election with such a liability weighing it down.

In any case, the ALP vote (which failed last year to even reach 35%) is too low for Labor’s backroom spivs to be comfortable with, and I think any renewed push to get rid of Shorten will signal that the ALP not only regards itself a genuine threat at the next federal election, but that it is getting serious about returning to office.

And besides, the idea of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister isn’t just ridiculous, it is offensive.

But this is where any itinerary of battlefield markers that might give succour to Turnbull starts and ends; the truth is that Malcolm has a big problem, and in turn, that big problem is comprised of a multitude of smaller ones that are apparently beyond the capacity of the Coalition to deal with — at least whilst the current Prime Minister remains in his post.

One of the consequences of taking an essentially threadbare agenda to an election is that now the bills concerning union governance and oversight have passed Parliament (if in an unsatisfactorily distorted form), the Turnbull government is likely to be seen to drift; “jobs and growth,” whilst hardly original, must have seemed like an irresistible mantra to Coalition “strategists” unable to elicit anything of substance to work with from their minions, but a three-word slogan, as we have oft heard previously, is no substitute for an otherwise empty policy cupboard in government.

Key areas like industrial relations, education and — yes — taxation are years overdue for comprehensive, root-and-branch reform; but in almost every case, Turnbull’s government has no particular policy upon which to overhaul them.

The “jobs and growth” policy, brutally distilled, amounts to a modest tax cut for business (that will never pass the Senate), a hacking away at self-funded retirees to recoup far less money than the political rancour the change generated was worth; and a vague promise to extract “value” from the burgeoning welfare spend that eats up four dollars in every ten spent by the Commonwealth.

I heard junior minister and serial disappointment Kelly O’Dwyer on Melbourne radio station 3AW on Wednesday afternoon, talking about the so-called “Google tax” that is meant to bring miscreant multinationals to heel by forcing them to pay (wait for it) their “fair share” of company tax.

Yet O’Dwyer herself candidly admitted this measure would reap just $100 million per annum at a time the budget deficit is running at more than $40bn per year, and Commonwealth debt at almost half a trillion dollars; the measure will make next to no impact on the national finances whatsoever.

But antagonising major global corporations for whom it is cheaper to do business in most other places in the world — remember, Australia’s uncompetitive company tax rate of 30% is higher than almost every comparable OECD country — could well motivate them to scale back, sack workers, and withdraw the contributions they make to the local economy by operating here.

Perhaps this is the bottom line of “jobs and growth:” destroying them by trying to head off a cheap one-line attack from the ALP and the vapid Shorten.

What little agenda the Turnbull has indicated it will pursue will be distorted, emasculated and/or voted down by the Senate, which seems to think its role centres on causing terminal damage to the elected government in the lower house; the Senate has long abandoned any pretence of being a “states’ house” — the role envisaged for it by the founders of Federation — and even the claim that it is a house of review, where “diverse” voices fashion “better” policy outcomes, should be roundly dismissed: the misuse of proportional representation to create a political battering ram is certainly not the role that was envisaged for the upper house, which has played a central and increasing role in bring politics and politicians into abject disrepute in the past decade.

To the left, nauseating bleating about the inability of Coalition politicians to “negotiate” with the Senate can be sneeringly dismissed: it doesn’t really matter who leads the Liberal Party in one sense, for the Senate will, in most cases, find some spurious pretext upon which to vote down legislation or mangle it to render it useless.

Where “budget repair” is concerned, the Senate has even more self-interest in preventing such an enterprise from ever occurring: minor independent and small party MPs (who would never be elected under a reasonable and robust electoral system) have a vested interest in using the Senate to see truckloads of money shovelled out with their names attached to it.

And wherever Labor and the Communist Party Greens are concerned, these entities have now repeatedly shown they will do literally anything to stop the Coalition from repairing the damage they themselves inflicted on the national finances when last they were in office — up to and including causing significant and compounding damage to the national interest in the medium to long term by wrecking Australia’s once-envied financial position.

To the right (and I use the term loosely), Malcolm Turnbull enacted piecemeal “reform” early last year to the method by which the Senate is elected, at the high cost of all of what little political capital he had left to spend, and which predictably made little appreciable difference (if any) to the outcome of a double dissolution: the Senate crossbench, whilst milder in its stridency, remains hostile to the government, which now controls less than 40% of its votes, and for a measure that was meant to make it harder for peripheral candidates to be elected on a sliver of the vote, the Senate now incorporates 20 independent and minor party Senators.

Some success!

For all the talk on the Left of Turnbull having “sold out” to the Right of the Liberal Party, the fact is that those positions Turnbull has maintained — like maintaining the rigorous border protection regime set up on Abbott’s watch — are, pragmatically, policies that have been maintained simply because dismantling them would bring disastrous consequences: and this is not hyperbole, for we have seen what happens when such measures are abandoned, and the 1,200 deaths at sea that are a monument to crazed left-wing obsessions are a price Turnbull is rightly unprepared to risk a repeat of.

But when it comes to measures apart from things like border protection and trying to get some accountability from Australia’s burgeoning welfare spend, nobody can categorise Turnbull as a “hostage” to the Right in any way; obsessed with the sham of climate change, obsessed with turning Australia senselessly into a republic, long known for his desire to legalise gay marriage without obvious concern or attention to institutional and social repercussions, the Prime Minister who promised a “thoroughly liberal” government seems bogged down with fancies centred on changing the state and legislating social change.

The whole climate change fiasco, which is likely to collapse this year if the US walks away from it altogether, as seems likely, has for years been a battering ram with which to abuse “deniers:” hardly the sign of either a rigorous policy or a constructive force in our polity.

But with one thing and another, the electoral gods are lining up to punish Turnbull too.

The departure on Friday of NSW Premier Mike Baird will perhaps affect the federal Coalition little, save for some renewed tensions between the various factions within that state; even so, three NSW Premiers in six years is as poor a contribution to the stable governance of the state — the valid reasons for Baird’s resignation notwithstanding — as the four ALP Premiers in the six preceding years who collectively helped create the perpetual sense of chaos in Australia’s largest state.

Western Australia heads to the polls in seven weeks’ time for an election even Liberal Party insiders are beginning to privately concede is likely to be lost; defeat for the Barnett government — even narrowly — will be as humiliating for Turnbull as the landslide four years ago against Labor proved for then-PM Julia Gillard.

The July election saw the Liberal Party go backwards federally in WA for the first time since the GST election of 1998: hardly a badge of honour for Turnbull in what has consistently been one of the party’s two best-performed states.

And if a state election in Queensland results in the re-election of the Palaszczuk government, irrespective of the role One Nation might play, then Turnbull will be in real trouble not because of any overlap in federal-state issues but because this time, the resurgence and rise of One Nation appears to be fuelled by the paucity of policy and the leftward frift that are characterising Turnbull’s government.

And this brings us to the slow leaching of Coalition support to the parties of the far Right, and the near-certain prospect Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi will wreck the Coalition by walking out to start his own “conservative” party — and probably destroying the Turnbull government in the process anyway.

I have long said that whilst entities like One Nation attract rednecks and bigots, the bulk of the support they draw comes from disaffected voters who don’t fit the “bigot” mould but simply want to be listened to: something today’s two-party divide, with is confluence around the politically correct rhetoric of the Left, its choreography and its saccharine, risk-free objectives doesn’t deliver.

John Howard managed to tame and eventually see off this threat from One Nation by accommodating some of the more reasonable outcomes it sought whilst slapping down the more extreme elements. There is no indication Turnbull is even prepared to tackle the problem, let alone be able to prevail.

If just one lower house MP follows Bernardi (who, at the weekend, removed all Liberal Party branding from his social media platforms) into a rump “conservative” group, Turnbull will face justified calls for an immediate federal election on account of losing his lower-house majority; if two or more desert (and I am told there are up to four who will likely walk out the same day Bernardi does) then the Coalition’s position will become untenable regardless of what it might cobble together in terms of crossbench support.

There are those who think Bernardi is about to split the conservative side of politics and consign it to opposition for 20 years; I am not quite so pessimistic, although the pieces will have to be picked up — from opposition — and that process will probably still take at least three terms: long enough for the ALP and Greens to resume their nation-wrecking program of high debt, high taxes, social division and this time, with no glittering Howard-era set of numbers to inherit, economic carnage.

That’s a hell of a price to pay for an adventure in new conservative parties: but as ever, when you boil what Bernardi seems to be contemplating right down, it is anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-abortion and pro-guns — the agenda of a protest party, not one seriously inclined to govern.

To be sure, we haven’t even talked about external threats to Australia — be they military, economic, or just Trump — but we don’t have to.

The point is that there are so many perfect storms lined up with Turnbull’s fiefdom and due to strike this year, it is nigh impossible to see him surviving even part of the onslaught.

You can argue about events beyond control and all the rest of that type of excuse until the cows come home, but Turnbull has been PM for almost 18 months, and most of these land mines on the road ahead have been sown by his and his ministers’ actions during that time.

I have $20 riding on whether Turnbull is still Prime Minister come Easter time: if he isn’t, I’ll collect. As a conservative Liberal — and one who has no intention of deserting the party to join Bernardi’s mad little game — it gives me no real joy to say so.

But at some point this year, the total unsuitability of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister is likely to catch up with him. The disintegrating government barely re-elected last year would arguably have been better off losing. But it didn’t, and life goes on.

If that includes Turnbull at the helm after Easter, I’ll be stunned. If he makes it as far as that, the end will follow soon enough.

It’s time to get your running shoes, on Malcolm. You are going to need them.

 

President Trump: Australia Must Work With The USA

NEW US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has taken office with customary American pomp and ceremony, and has already started work on his quest to “Make America Great Again;” whether you love Trump or hate him, much of his agenda is far more orthodox than either his belligerent rhetoric or the outraged reaction to it from the Left might suggest. Trump should be given a fair go, and Australia must work with the new administration.

At the outset, I will simply note that whilst I am not a supporter per se of Donald Trump, I am not hostile to him either; my only position during the recent presidential election in the United States was that Hillary Clinton (irrespective of who else was standing from any party) should lose, and that excellent outcome materialised very sharply in early counting. The world and the US has dodged a bullet whatever Trump might be accused of or indeed do, and in particular, those who think women have been shortchanged by her defeat in any way imaginable should review this unrebuttable piece.

This column minutes its congratulations to Donald Trump on his ascension to the office of President of the United States, and sincerely wishes him well as he seeks to implement far-reaching change in one of the Western world’s leading democracies; stripped of the rhetoric and assessed on its merits, there is as much to commend his agenda as there is to express unease over, but should the new President succeed he will leave the United States in far more robust shape than he found it after eight years of a socialist experiment that can only be described, domestically and internationally, as a failure.

One of the great ironies, as Trump settles into his new post, is that the chief gripe of the assorted socialists and other left-wing fruit cakes who have staged noisy demonstrations across America and around the world derives squarely from what Trump has actually been elected to do — govern in the best interests of the USA — and the nihilism and cult-like rage over the vanquishing of Hillary Clinton aside, Trump promises a revolution every bit as far-reaching as that overseen by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, which arguably restored a post-Vietnam America traumatised by the Nixon years and crippled by the Carter years to the position of global pre-eminence it had enjoyed in the early decades following World War II.

The Barack Obama presidency wasn’t as bad as that of Jimmy Carter, but by God it came close.

Trump should be lauded, not ridiculed, for his desire to establish better relations with arch-enemy Russia and is leader, Vladimir Putin, in particular; so low had US-Russian relations fallen during the Obama years that a third world war has become a distinct possibility for the first time in 30 years, and the Obama model of delivering rhetoric designed to humiliate Russia (a “regional power,” in Obamaspeak) whilst turning a blind eye to the threat it poses — even pontificating about eliminating the US nuclear arsenal — shows an ignorance of world affairs and historical strategic risk that placed not just America, but the rest of the world, in existential peril.

For years, it has been an open secret that Russia has been modernising, upgrading and expanding its strategic capabilities; for years, it has been building vast underground bunkers to shelter its people — an effort that has accelerated in recent times — and the Obama position, that Russia represents little risk and can be humiliated and put back in its box, is lunacy.

The world has become a much more dangerous place on Obama’s watch; in eight years we have seen Russian insurgents destabilise Ukraine, Russia itself annex the Crimea, forces aligned to the Kremlin commence positioning for a possible move against the Baltic states, China begin to rattle the sabres of war over its claim to the entire South China Sea, building military installations on reclaimed islands in that waterway in defiance of international law, the growth of the threat posed by North Korea, the rise of Islamic State and an apparent US strategy to deal with it that has been completely unproductive, and a deal to “disarm” Iran that any honest assessment of shows the theocracy in that country retains clear avenues to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

On balance, only an idiot can object to fresh attempts to deal with these hot spots: Trump may or may not succeed, but one certainty is that more of the same would not have worked: and more of the same is exactly what could have been expected of Clinton, save for the fact the Russians hate her anyway after her misadventures as Secretary of State (under, of course, Obama) and the familiarity that comes with the knowledge her husband’s presidency — which many believe was actually Hillary Clinton’s administration in all but name — was also largely focused on kicking foreign policy threats down the road instead of dealing with them too.

On Trade, Trump has announced that an “America First” philosophy — to buy American and to hire American — will guide the policies of his administration; he has also said that trade deals struck with global partners must work “in America’s interests.”

This does not mean that dealings with the USA will be precluded from satisfying the interests of other parties too, and in Australia’s case, an opportunity to strike bilateral deals to the betterment of both countries beckons.

It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers are up to this assignment. Yet opposition “leader” Bill Shorten has all but declared Trump, his administration, and by extension the USA itself, an enemy of Australia. It is yet another huge black mark against the suitability of Shorten (and the ALP) to ever hold office, not least during Trump’s tenure at the helm of our most important economic and defence partner. Typically, however, the self-serving Australian Left, devoid of any common sense or obvious signs of actual intelligence, thinks the Shorten approach is just great.

In fact, there are enormous risks to Australia inherent in the Trump agenda that, with proper diligence and appropriate overtures, could be turned to great benefit; Trump is proposing, for example, to cut the corporate tax rate in the US to 15%, which will make Australia’s already overpriced goods and services even less competitive despite our dollar shedding 30% of its value in the past couple of years against the greenback. The change of power in America can and should be grasped as the pretext to enact comprehensive taxation reform in our own country, and not the kind of hot air and bullshit propagated, and dissipated, by Turnbull last year in a grotesque waste of the political capital he began 2016 holding.

Trump is an enthusiastic advocate of Brexit — the UK’s pending departure from the EU infrastructure — and eager to take advantage of opportunities to more closely integrate with Britain as it re-engages more fully with the wider world after 40 years of an overwhelmingly pro-Europe focus. There is scope to work collaboratively here to further the so-called “Five Eyes” relationship between the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and ourselves to build comprehensive economic and security links between the five countries on Earth that arguably share the most in common with each other.

Veteran financial journalist Robert Gottliebsen has published a brilliant analysis of how the international landscape is likely to change under Trump — and how this will affect Australia, and ways in which we might constructively respond — that you can read here. Far from a picture of international doom and gloom, there is plenty of upside for Australia in a Trump administration: if, that is, our “leaders” have the bottle to identify the opportunities that exist and to capitalise on them.

It is at times like this that the retirement of former Trade minister Andrew Robb is likely to be increasingly felt, and regretted, by those in this country with the insight to recognise the real value he offered.

And whilst many rightly find Trump’s 20-year-old remarks about grabbing women “on the pussy” distasteful in the extreme, the simple fact is that the lot of women stood to be far more comprehensively compromised and vastly more damaged by a Clinton presidency than anything Trump will in fact do in office: offensive drivel is one thing, but Clinton “boasts” a decades-long history of real action to destroy the lot of women and, in a litany of cases, women themselves, and those who don’t believe it should revisit the link I posted near the top of this article if they haven’t already done so.

Trump has, in the most part, assembled a first-rate administration — something conveniently overlooked by the outrage merchants of the hard Left — that will, in many cases, check some of the wilder outbursts their leader will undoubtedly make.

He must also deal with Congress, something Obama circumvented by issuing hundreds of autocratic executive orders that Trump is rightly repealing in his first act as President. One wonders what excuse the Australian Left, which claims the Liberal Party is “incapable” of negotiating with an utterly intransigent Senate, might offer in defence of Obama’s dictatorial misuse of executive orders through which to prevail.

Yes, there is much to worry about where Donald Trump as president is concerned; the bellicose rhetoric, the propensity to make unfiltered international announcements on Twitter, and the apparent lack of any “filter” at all for that matter are all points on which a pause for thought is far from inadvisable.

My point today, irrespective of what people might think of Donald Trump, is that he deserves to be given the opportunity to deliver on his promises, and to deliver on the outcomes he has promised those Americans who have elected him. There is much to do.

The final point I would make, for the benefit of those who profess to despise him, is that Trump’s victory is the logical end result of an approach to democratic government that benefits the rulers, is aimed solely at appeasing and buying off minorities and the marginalised, and completely ignores the silent majority in the middle.

This is no green light to the likes of Cory Bernardi — who is a red herring peddling snake oil — or Pauline Hanson who, whilst not a racist personally, has perfected an appeal to the bigoted and the rednecked in a cynical path to harvesting votes, a handful of seats in parliaments around the country, and public election funding.

But political types of all stripes in Australia — in contemplating the “Trump factor” and how it might apply here — would be well advised to remember that whilst winning elections in Australia requires a majority of the vote, it is the actions they take after achieving that which fuel approval and dissent. Ignoring the majority of voters to pander to narrow sectional interests is a recipe for political disaster, and that disaster is already beginning to be reflected in election results in Australia.

Exhibit #101: the 2016 federal election. Both Houses. No Authority. Splintering Support. And a process of revolt that is by no means complete.

This is the most salient lesson from the “Trump factor:” governing for all, in practice, means governing for as many people as possible, and this means for the majority — not just those interests who fit a politically correct, debased, quasi-socialist agenda that shafts the majority of the voting public.

Congratulations, Mr President. We are watching with great interest.

 

Daniel Andrews Responsible For Bourke Street Slaughter

WE’LL SAY it plainly: culpability for yesterday’s tragedy in the Melbourne CBD — a recidivist criminal with a history of armed violence going on a rampage in a car, killing four people and injuring dozens — rests squarely with Daniel Andrews; after two years in office, presiding over ballooning rates of violent crime that are the logical consequence of a lax and cavalier attitude to punishing criminals, his government has blood on its hands.

By now, everyone in Australia knows about the sickening incident that occurred in the Melbourne CBD yesterday afternoon; it is a tragic outrage and — the resolve of decent people permitting — ought to represent a line in the sand when it comes to butt-covering and “smart answers” to bat responsibility away from Daniel Andrews and his loathsome, incompetent state government.

I want to begin by extending condolences to the families who have lost loved ones — and wishes for a full recovery to those who have been seriously injured — in a mass slaughter event that could have been avoided if platitudes like “jail is a last resort” and misplaced concerns about the rights of criminals were dispensed with.

In addition to two adults who lost their lives, as 26-year-old Dimitrious Gargasoulas allegedly drove at pedestrians in Bourke Street to murder and maim as many people as possible, a 10-year-old child has been killed. A fourth victim has also died, although at the time of writing details are unavailable.

The alleged offender is said to have a history of mental illness and a long history of violent behaviour, and it is very nice that social workers and other do-gooders saw to it that he wasn’t deprived of his liberty.

Who took the rights and welfare of the public — including an innocent child — into account?

There are certain obligations the state — irrespective of which theory of political ideology one subscribes to — must discharge on behalf of its citizens; paramount among these is to preserve order and to uphold the rule of law: for without order under the rule of law, the freedom of ordinary folk to safely go about their lives, with confidence they will not be attacked or robbed or murdered, is impossible to guarantee.

In this instance, the inability of Police to at first detain, and later shoot (or otherwise thwart) the alleged offender, is a failure of governance for which responsibility can and must be sheeted home to Premier Daniel Andrews, his government, and any public official who had direct oversight of a sequence of events that permitted Gargasoulas to be free to commit the atrocity that took place in Melbourne yesterday.

Police Media commented that Gargasoulas had “repeatedly become known to (them) in recent weeks,” and references to a shooting incident last month involving Gargasoulas were also made, in a segment aired by Melbourne radio station 3AW late yesterday afternoon; on that basis alone, the guy should have been in gaol where he could pose no further risk to public safety.

It has also emerged that at 2am yesterday morning, Gargasoulas allegedly stabbed his brother in the chest and head at a house in the inner city suburb of Windsor; homicide investigators were called to that incident.

Another detail that filtered out last night, thanks to the efforts of journalists, is that Gargasoulas has a long history of violent behaviour.

So just how is it that he was free, at 1.45pm yesterday, to commence doing burnouts at the intersection of Flinders Street and Swanston Street before driving down the Bourke Street Mall, mowing people down as they scrambled for cover, and proceeding across Elizabeth Street before finally being rammed by Police several blocks further up Bourke Street?

Seasoned former journalist Senator Derryn Hinch — as plugged in as ever to what goes on in Melbourne — tweeted last night that his sources had told him that Police had seven opportunities to ram the car before it embarked on its deadly rampage down Bourke Street, but were denied permission to do so. By whom?

And whilst this is a perennial question of any victim of crime — especially those who have had a friend or family member killed by a known violent offender on bail or parole — on precisely what grounds did psychologists, social workers or other “experts” who found that Gargasoulas was no risk to public safety arrive at that conclusion?

This horrific episode throws up hard questions. The Victorian public will be lucky if it ever receives straight answers to them.

As indelicate as it may be to say so, the government of Victoria has blood on its hands: the Premier, his ministers, and whoever was in operational command yesterday are very heavily culpable.

On Daniel Andrews’ watch in Victoria, we are witnessing in real time an attempt by an elected government to use the High Court — arguably in an abuse of process — to avoid an inquiry into allegations that boil down to a question of whether its actions in sequestering parliamentary resources for electoral gain amounts to official misconduct: it isn’t a good look, and whilst it isn’t directly relevant to yesterday’s events, it forms part of the backdrop I will sketch out.

The insidious slither of the PC agenda of the Left — this time into penalties, sentences, and what we might term “incarceration practices” — sees more humane and considerate treatment of criminals than their victims; the mantra of jail being last resort is applied ever more widely, and it seems there is no end to dangerous criminals being released into the community whilst awaiting trial or in short order after serving a token sentence.

There seems no end, too, to the odious practice of finding grounds for special consideration for these vermin to use to extract watered-down penalties: Gargasoulas has been widely reported to be mentally ill; the reaction of the bleeding heart do-gooder regime is to say “there, there…we can’t lock you up if you’re sick.”

Meanwhile, this special treatment is repaid all too often, on undeserved and unjustified bail or parole releases, with wanton violence and/or murder — in this case, both — and Andrews’ government, elected at about the time a wave of public anger over criminals on release committing fresh crimes was forcing change, has failed to deliver on the expectations and outcomes demanded of it.

Whether it is APEX thugs terrorising Melbourne, or gangs of Sudanese youth perpetrating a rising number of home invasions, carjackings, and assaults against the person, or the drug-fuelled violence that is the consequence of a methamphetamine epidemic and rampant availability of other illicit drugs, what was once the safest state in Australia now ranks among the most dangerous.

Speaking of the Sudanese, most of their number are decent people; but in Daniel Andrews’ Victoria, it is verboten to identify the scum in their midst terrorising old ladies in their homes and perpetrating violence against ordinary decent folk as Sudanese: to do so is fatuously said to be “racist.”

Liberal leader Matthew Guy is little better, and I’m told he has privately had screaming matches with Liberals who have called the Sudanese gangs out as “Sudanese” on the basis they are “off message.” This apparently bipartisan approach to failing to call law and order problems for what they are is delusional. Those who are in on the act, to use the vernacular, have their heads up their arses.

And then there’s the small matter of the even smaller sentences that are actually served by those dangerous criminals who end up in jail at all.

The point is that having governed Victoria for almost 14 of the last 18 years, the ALP is heavily and disproportionately responsible for the law and order regime in force in this state.

Having now served in office for almost two-thirds of the four-year term to which it was elected in November 2014, the Andrews government does not have the dubious luxury of blaming the opposition or attempting to deny there is a crime problem in Victoria that is spiralling out of control.

The only parties to what happened in Melbourne yesterday who are blameless are those frontline Police who were simply obeying orders; these tireless law enforcement officers deserve respect for what they do. Notwithstanding the very real issues at play here and the tragic manifestation of them we saw yesterday, the Victorian community owes these people a debt of gratitude.

If it is true, as Hinch reported, that Police were forbidden to capitalise on seven opportunities to ram Gargasoulas’ car off the road before he went on his slaughter spree, then whoever gave the orders not to intervene should be dismissed.

Andrews, for his part, has spent two years explaining away the rocketing crime rate with unconvincing rhetoric and creative interpretations of official statistics for no better reason than cynical politicking, but there is a deadly flaw in doing so. The position of the Andrews government is that crime is well under control, and that Victorians have never been safer. Yesterday’s events prove they are not. The fact that Gargasoulas’ background contains all the elements of foreseeable risk compounds the fault of the state government.

In other words, you can’t have it both ways. If the principle of responsible government means anything at all to Daniel Andrews, his first order of business on Monday must be to sack Police minister Lisa Neville. His second should be to tender his own resignation. If former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell can be forced to resign over an undeclared gift of a bottle of wine, then four deaths and dozens of people hurt, in an incident that could have been avoided through rigorous policy and governance, makes O’Farrell’s misdemeanours pale by comparison.

I would be unsurprised if, in due course, the survivors and the families of the deceased launched a class action against the state of Victoria for compensation; the liability to the Victorian taxpayer could run into the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. The realist in me says they would be entitled to the money. The cynic says they will never see it. So morally bankrupt is the Andrews government that even if a judicial inquiry led to an obligation to pay, the government would probably fight that all the way to the High Court too.

In practice, the senseless slaughter and the circumstances that led to it will take years to unpick. The trauma will similarly last for years.

But the buck stops with the government, where law enforcement is concerned.

Mentally ill or not, or premeditated in his actions or not, the alleged offender Gargasoulas’ history is a veritable road map to an individual who should never have been released into the community: but he was, and with tragic consequences.

Nothing is going to bring back the dead, and nothing is going to ever make it quite right for those who were hurt — or, come to think of it, for many of those who were bystanders and simply witnessed the dreadful actions that were committed in central Melbourne at lunchtime yesterday.

But Daniel Andrews must be held responsible for what happened in Melbourne yesterday; it is the failed policies and maladministration of his government that led directly to the tragic events that took place on Bourke Street, and responsibility demands that consequences follow.

A shred of decency would see Daniel Andrews dismiss his minister, and resign himself shortly thereafter. But Andrews, like the government he leads, has no sense of public decency whatsoever, which means all care will be taken to protect the rights of the alleged offender — and the victims, in all likelihood, will be given the shaft.