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.

 

Stop The Votes: Shorten Stance Anchors Labor To Opposition

THE CRITICISM frequently made by this column — that Labor cares about power, not people — has found plenty of validating evidence this week; now, “leader” Bill Shorten heads to his first ALP national conference armed with a bag of conflicting promises aimed solely at election victory, but which — aside from provoking bitter fighting within his own party — would be disastrous if implemented. If, that is, anyone is silly enough to believe them.

First things first: I have been distracted this week once again, and have a partly written article from Wednesday about the GST (and so-called “alternatives” to reforming it put by two Labor Premiers) that I have held over and will complete and publish tomorrow; the GST conversation isn’t going to go away at any time soon, and I think it important to blow the attempt to hoodwink people that Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk are trying to make to bits: it’s just more vapid ALP spin that would do more harm than good if implemented.

And certainly, vapid political spin is the flavour of the week where the ALP is concerned.

I’ve been watching Labor this week, as it adds ridiculous new “policy” positions to an already dubious-looking platform under “leader” Bill Shorten, and I can only say that if the ALP is looking to provide reasons for people not to vote for it then the week’s handiwork should be regarded as a stunning success.

Shorten — who the temptation to permanently caricaturise as “Billy Bullshit” is becoming irresistible, so devoid of credibility have his utterances grown — has now taken his penchant for saying and doing literally anything to become Prime Minister so far that he heads into his first ALP national conference as “leader” armed with a bunch of conflicted “policies” that can only set various groups within the ALP at each other’s throats, and if voters assess the Labor offering purely in terms of its believability and its capacity to improve Australia, then Shorten has probably doomed his party to another hefty election loss.

Stop The Votes: it might as well be the theme for the ALP national conference.

Prior to his appearance at the Royal Commission into the unions, Shorten Labor made a huge splash with fatuous declarations that “It’s Time” on gay marriage to divert attention from the terrible press that duly materialised, as expected, in the wake of Shorten’s disastrous stint in the witness box.

With deputy and leadership aspirant Tanya Plibersek running hard on the issue and trying to bind Labor MPs to voting for the measure in Parliament, it probably seemed to Shorten that he was killing two birds with one stone, but — in a sop to the party’s Right — it quickly became evident that it would only be time if a conscience vote deemed it so.

And right now, that prospect, based on the current complexion of the Parliament, remains unlikely.

Having appeased the Right on gay marriage, the Left was thrown two massive bones on climate change: not only would there be a new, triple-whammy carbon tax under a Shorten government (that would make anything attempted or introduced by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and their masters at the Communist Party Greens look mild by comparison) but the renewable energy target — the source of so much consternation where energy costs are concerned, to say nothing of the actual efficacy of efforts to undo climate change in Australia — would be more than doubled under Labor in office to 50%.

As if this weren’t bad enough, Shorten had the bald nerve to claim publicly that this would drive power costs for consumers and businesses down; no research to back the contention was offered, and in fact with all anecdotal evidence suggesting the RET has been a prominent culprit in driving energy costs through the roof over the past decade, the Shorten pronouncement is — and deserves to be seen as — ludicrous.

But in case the Right got its collective nose out of joint over the Left being given such a sop, Shorten overturned more than a decade of obstinate Labor posturing to announce the party would now back the turnback of asylum seeker vessels at sea; and whilst it is unclear whether this extends to the full suite of Abbott government measures including the continuation of mandatory detention for new arrivals and temporary protection visas, the turnback backflip alone is enough to ignite a virtual civil war in Labor ranks.

Invisible for the moment is Shorten’s promise, announced last year and hurriedly stepped on to hide it, to abolish the private health insurance rebate: such a doctrinaire left-wing measure is music to the Medicare-obsessed Left but anathema to the cost-aware Right, which is all too mindful of the apocalyptic impact it would have on both public health budgets and the capacity of an instantly besieged state hospital system to deliver services at all, let alone cope.

Crackdowns on “the rich” through ending tax concessions for self-funded retirees and “taxing multinationals” might sound nice to Labor types, and certainly those on the Left of the party, but ignore the reality that forcing some at the lower end of the self-funded retirement community onto part-pensions will cost money overall rather than save it. The mad plot to force multinationals to “pay their share,” meanwhile, is a potent recipe for driving large numbers of Australian jobs offshore.

But then again, given the jobs in question are mostly not unionised, Labor’s slave masters at Trades Hall get a win there too.

In fact, the unions — which every objective criterion suggests the ALP would be best served abandoning its links to — get a little more from Shorten as well; as journalist and blogger Michael Smith put it yesterday, Shorten unequivocally supports the Abbott government’s free trade agreement with China whilst unequivocally opposing it. The pithy catchphrase neatly sums up the utter contradiction in what is being kicked around by Shorten as the official ALP position on the issue.

Yet as Andrew Bolt detailed in the Murdoch press yesterday, this kind of posturing is nothing new to Shorten, who a decade ago expressed support publicly for a similar arrangement with the US, but solemnly assured Labor and union types privately that he was opposed to it, tooth and nail, in the interests of protecting jobs.

On and on it goes, with Shorten saying literally anything to whatever group of people is immediately within earshot, apparently oblivious to (or not giving a shit about) the irreconcilable contradictions he is articulating, just obsessed with being all things to all people, and desperate to become Prime Minister at any cost.

The list of issues is endless; the contortions to present opposing and incompatible positions to placate competing interest groups are impossible; and whilst a Labor government would have to do something in office — something, anything — the probability is high that a Shorten government would end up alienating every conceivable section of Australian society.

Except, perhaps, the unions: the one group to which it should give the metaphorical middle finger.

It is true the Abbott government continues to do all it can to stoke the fires of Labor’s electoral fortunes; the refusal and/or inability to make an example out of Bronwyn Bishop is merely the latest in a long series of own goals booted by the Coalition that is probably fuelling Labor’s continued lead in opinion polls even if, unsurprisingly, Shorten himself is growing daily more unpopular personally.

But even with this underserved free advantage from his opponents, Shorten remains apparently determined to serve up a garbled mishmash of half-baked commitments whose currency depends on where he is, who he is with, and what he is trying to promise or buy his way past to secure a pile of votes.

In the meantime, the natives are restless: Anthony Albanese is said to have “no further interest” in the ALP leadership, and that he had “one shot and he fired it;” Tanya Plibersek, the ever-loyal deputy, maintains she is not manoeuvring to displace Shorten. Both formulations are time-honoured euphemisms for scheming treachery under a cloak of open secrecy masquerading as disinterest.

Meanwhile, it is openly known in political circles that Plibersek and/or people close to her are canvassing Labor MPs to find the 48 votes to trigger a leadership spill in the 80-strong caucus. Neither Albanese nor Plibersek — both from the Labor Left — can be taken particularly seriously as candidates for the Prime Ministership.

The poster boy for the Right, shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, is no more credible than a cardboard cut-out. Tainted by his association with Kevin Rudd and damned by his complicity in the economic dishonesty propounded by Labor for years, there are real questions about his viability as an alternative leader in the eyes of the public.

Whether the ALP likes it or not, it is probably saddled with Shorten until or unless he resigns or is slaughtered at an election.

In other words, little Billy Bullshit will keep on keeping on, making promises of anything and everything to anyone who will listen; with polls showing his personal popularity disintegrating to the point even Tony Abbott, faced with the viciously dishonest onslaught he copped from Julia Gillard and her handbag hit squad, look positively exalted by comparison, it is only a matter of time before Labor’s primary vote — and its two-party lead — follows suit.

There may be an argument that a significant portion of the electorate would like a return to Labor government; I don’t believe it, although redress of my criticisms of the Abbott government needs to go a lot further before I’m confident the government has fully recovered its position. Either way, it’s clear nobody expects Shorten to deliver what he says, and it’s fast becoming obvious that people are awake to the fact that nobody can believe a syllable he utters.

All of these competing policy positions, far from cancelling each other out, would add up to an absolute disaster if any attempt were made to legislate them but happily, the best efforts of Billy Bullshit should ensure that that insidious prospect never eventuates.

As Labor goes to its national conference this weekend, it will do so against a backdrop of an increasing number of floating voters abandoning their inclination to restore the party to office after a single term.

Such is the price of matey union loyalties and a refusal to say anything meaningful when responsible, sober and centrist ideas — entirely innocent of the union-obsessed, envious, class driven hatred that has lately characterised the ALP — are the key to Labor winning government in Australia.

It all makes for a fascinating weekend at the ALP conference. Stay tuned.

 

Twin Taxes: Carbon Idiocy Will Kill Shorten, Labor

THE EXPLOSIVE REVELATION — leaked in detail yesterday to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph — that the ALP is readying to reimpose a carbon tax if it wins office should surprise nobody; this politically lethal concept has killed off a slew of Prime Ministers and party leaders, and will kill Shorten too. There is reason to believe the measure will be introduced even if, as seems likely, it is not presented as a commitment at any increasingly likely early election.

I am on the hop today, and between that and the lengthy piece I published yesterday on who is and is not to blame for the LNP’s disastrous election defeat in Queensland in January, this morning’s article will be comparatively short.

But the news — leaked in extensive detail to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, and contemporaneously and dutifully reported yesterday by that august tome — that Labor is preparing to reimpose not just one carbon tax but two if it wins the next election will increase the likelihood of an early election later this year, and almost guarantee that Labor loses it.

“Leader” Bill Shorten, when confronted by the revelation, tried to dismiss the policy as “complete rubbish,” an assurance that will presumably carry no weight with the electorate in the aftermath of his recent confession that he lied publicly about his role in the ALP’s internecine leadership brawling and in the wake of his testimony to the Royal Commission into the trade union movement that at best portrayed him as glib, smug, dishonest, and less than credible.

Simply, people can’t trust a syllable of Shorten’s utterances and now, that realisation is spreading through the electorate like wildfire.

One of his frontbenchers tried to dismiss the policy as “a discussion paper,” whilst another — obviously annoyed that someone had let the mangy cat out of the bag — labelled whoever leaked it “an idiot.”

But I would suggest that any “discussion paper” that runs to the degree of explicit and apparently highly considered detail that this features is nothing of the sort.

And anyone on the ALP frontbench with the presence of mind to brief a journalist is actually blessed with some quotient of political acumen, for this policy — and anything that resembles a “carbon tax” or “emissions trading scheme” — is, to put it bluntly, unsaleable in Australia.

The politics of carbon pricing are lethal in Australia; the political death toll includes two Prime Ministers — Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard — as well as a possible third in John Howard, whose lukewarm support for carbon pricing probably helped seal his defeat in 2007 as a minor contributing issue to the broader case for change; it has killed off Liberal leaders in Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull; and it helped cost the federal Communists Greens a quarter of their vote in 2013, partially in retribution for their handiwork in helping to inflict such a policy in cahoots with Labor.

It seems the ALP is cognisant of the risks, too, for as the Tele is reporting today in a follow-up piece, the policy was to be kept from voters if an election were to be called before a climate change conference in Paris in December.

I would assert that given the death spiral into which Shorten’s “leadership” has plunged, the toxic revelations at the Royal Commission, the likely bloodshed at the ALP national conference next week and the imperative for the Prime Minister to get to the polls before Labor replaces Shorten with someone who might actually know what they hell they’re doing (or at least, carries some broad appeal), the high likelihood of an early election means the policy was meant to be dishonestly sprung on the public in the same way Julia Gillard did it after the 2010 election.

The fact the Labor frontbench has explicitly canvassed concealing the policy will, rightly, now be used against the ALP.

It is impossible to believe this policy is a mere whim, or some indulgent discussion item; there is far too much detail in it for that excuse, now the party has been caught out, to wash.

This is not one carbon tax, but two; one for the electricity industry and one for everything else, and the inescapable conclusion is that electricity bills — already punitively high for most Australians even without a carbon tax — would skyrocket.

The measure to mandate tough new emissions control standards on new vehicles, raising the price of a new car by some $1,500, is unlikely to impress most voters: and the mooted fuel savings this policy brandishes of $830 per year, or $16 per week (a quarter of the average motorist’s weekly fuel spend at today’s prices) is so suspiciously bloated as to invite dismissal by voters as lying Labor bullshit — which it probably is.

And whilst I could go on — but will leave my readers to peruse the articles from the Tele owing to time constraints, as well as this additional piece from The Australian — the fact this policy has been developed at all and readied for introduction shows that at the very least, the ALP still hasn’t understood why it was so violently ejected from office two years ago.

There is an irony in the fact that for the fourth consecutive election, Labor is gearing up to fight over WorkChoices, despite no indication whatsoever from the Coalition parties of any intention to revisit the controversial Howard government laws.

Yet at the same time, for the fourth consecutive election, Labor is in fact standing on a carbon tax: the political history of both the Coalition and the ALP bluntly shows policies like this are pure poison, and of the two packages, I would even go so far as to suggest that carbon taxes are the bigger vote loser than WorkChoices: irrespective of your views on climate change, there is too much evidence to conclude anything other than a refusal of a majority of Australian electors to vote for carbon taxes, emissions trading schemes, or anything resembling them.

I don’t propose to get into any arguments about climate change today, and nor should commenters — this is a political problem Shorten has apparently decided Labor should be saddled with, and as I said, whether you believe in climate change or not or have your views about what causes it, it is the political consequences I am concerned with today.

Chief among them is the fact that this revelation will make an election this year likelier, perhaps certain: and for mine, a tenner on an election date being announced as soon as the ALP national conference is out of the way — with Shorten’s Royal Commission fresh in people’s minds, and the stench of blood from the Labor conference pungent in their nostrils — would probably be an astutely placed wager indeed.

 

Kill Or Be Killed: Stark Choice Posed By Carbon Tax Chaos

SOME MAY NOT see it, but the game being played in the Senate — lately over the carbon tax — is an existential fight between a Liberal government and an unlikely yet brutal alliance between the Left and an enraged billionaire benefactor hellbent on destroying a government he would once have bankrolled. By proxy, it is an institutional refusal to allow a conservative government to exist. The Coalition must respond, and respond quickly.

For some time now I have been blunt about the fact that for all his populist jollity and bum-wobbling hilarity in radio studios and elsewhere to win votes, there is nothing amusing about Clive Palmer wherever questions of the political health of the Coalition is concerned.

Like any lover who over-invests in a relationship only to find himself jilted, the proverbial saying about Hell having no fury would seem to be apt when it comes to Fat Clive and the Coalition; he gave the Queensland LNP his heart and soul (to say nothing of his wallet), and when it refused to give him what he wanted in relation to his business interests, he stomped out of the boudoir.

In the interests of bluntness, I have said before and do so again that Clive Palmer — any statement to the contrary notwithstanding — is hellbent on the destruction of Tony Abbott and the federal government. Just as he is hellbent on destroying Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and that state’s LNP government. Reading the morning papers today, I see others in the mainstream media are beginning to express the sentiment in almost identical terms. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his colleagues would be well advised to heed the sentiment.

And to make an investment in a long-term solution to both the Palmer problem and the ridiculous and anti-democratic farce of the Senate.

First things first: by now, everyone I think knows the carbon tax “repeal” went very badly indeed yesterday. For those who don’t, or who were hiding under a rock, these two pithy comment pieces from the Murdoch and Fairfax press respectively will see you right.

I heard Jacqui Lambie interviewed on Melbourne’s 3AW yesterday afternoon, claiming that the problem was the government’s use of the word “may” in legislation rather than “must,” which apparently the Palmer people had insisted on to give their amendments teeth when it came to the folksy assurances they want that power prices will be passed onto consumers. She stated, rather childishly, that Tony Abbott would have to “remember who he is dealing with” — meaning Palmer — and excruciatingly described herself and her Palmer United Party colleagues as “the puppies,” just for good measure.

(She also admitted to joining the Liberal Party to “infiltrate” and spy on it, which is another matter altogether; suffice to say the more I see or hear of Lambie, the more inclined I am to retract my initial favourable assessment of her. She is an idiot who will never be Prime Minister, contrary to her pompously articulated ambitions last week. But I digress).

There are a lot of interesting accounts and theories around, any and/or all of which are plausible, depending on what flavour you like your dose of parliamentary intrigue to be served as. But the bottom line seems to have been that on the pretext of being dissatisfied with the wording of amendments Palmer and his motley crew had “negotiated” (read: enforced upon) the government that were conditions for their support to rescind the carbon tax, Palmer and his lot voted against the repeal.

Really, the finer points and semantics being offered up to justify what happened yesterday don’t matter; Palmer decided to humiliate the government over one of the policies it received an unquestionable mandate for at last year’s election, and he had the satisfaction of doing so.

For what it’s worth, there’s another vote on repealing the carbon tax next week.

I have said in this column previously — in relation to other aspects of Palmer’s style of “negotiation” with the Abbott government — that like any exercise in appeasement, dancing to Fat Clive’s tune is a dangerous enterprise indeed; the demands come, the baubles are handed out, and still the demands come. At some point comes the demand that simply can’t or won’t be accommodated, and then the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

Whatever the excuse offered up to rationalise what happened yesterday, the simple fact is that the Abbott government is caught in a pincer movement with the Greens and Labor on one side, Clive Palmer and his objectives of wreaking vengeance upon the Coalition on the other, and with the Senate standing as the instrument selected by the triumvirate to enact the government’s destruction.

We have talked at great length (especially just this week) about the details, and issues, and tactics, and the God-forsaken lack of honesty and ethics with which this campaign is being prosecuted. I don’t propose to do so any further today, but I am going to put an idea on the table that would start the process of dealing with the Senate, Palmer, insignificant quislings like the regrettable new Victorian Senator Ricky Muir, and anyone else who would seek to abuse this country’s institutions of democracy by slithering into a Senate sinecure with little more than no electoral support (and yes, Christine Milne, leader of the fruits of the votes of just one in twelve voters, I am talking about you).

And to put not too fine a point on things, the Senate from an overall view has shown its hand: it won’t allow the government to govern, and is taking steps to ensure it no longer exists after the next election. This is not the role of the Senate, and no amount of sanctimonious whining about a role as “a house of review” can justify its pursuit.

A few of the comments that appeared on this site yesterday canvassed the prospect of a joint sitting of Parliament as a way to resolve the Abbott government’s legislative deadlock in the Senate; I had to point out that there has to be a double dissolution election first, and whilst the government already has triggers in hand for such an election, any item to be considered and voted on by the joint sitting must first have been knocked back twice over a certain timeframe (and subject to a couple of procedural details) before it can be.

This got me thinking about the blueprint I have outlined for reform of the Commonwealth electoral system and of the Senate in particular, and with an eye on the unmitigated disaster the present Senate is and the charade that was played out in it yesterday, I came up with a course of action the government could do worse than follow in its current situation.

My article of 24 October last year discussing electoral reform can be accessed here; I acknowledge this is the second time I have reposted it this week, and do so again now merely for readers’ convenience. In any case, the blueprint it outlines will obviously require further development, although I have decided to work it into a formal policy submission and deliver it to relevant cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister’s office.

The games and antics and bloody-minded hostility being played out in the Senate will continue apace for as long as this government retains office.

The Senate has already shown its readiness to hand double dissolution triggers to the Abbott government with nary a care; I propose engineering another. Unlike the budget bills before the Senate, the abolition of the carbon tax and the mining tax, and anything else the upper house wishes to shred, this strategy is a longer game, with the benefit it would clean up the turgid cesspit the Senate has evolved into once and for all.

I propose the government draw up a bill that introduces optional preferential voting in both Houses of Parliament; lifts the threshold for candidates and parties to receive public election funding to 5% of the vote; introduces a threshold requiring individual candidates to receive a minimum of 5% of the valid first preference vote to qualify for election to Parliament; and replaces the existing senatorial arrangements that are predicated on accruing quotas of votes under the system of proportional representation used at present by dividing each state into six dual member, Upper House provinces, each of which would return a single member at half-Senate elections and two in the event of a double dissolution.

The ALP, if it were smart, would side with the government to see the bill legislated. After all, the ALP (numerically) would probably stand to gain the most of any party from the changes, and packaged and sold as a suite of reforms to strengthen accountable democracy and augment stability in government (which is what they are), there would be little downside to the ALP in doing so.

Of course, given the state the Labor Party is in these days and the pathetic, insipid specimen it has as its “leader,” the more likely result is that Labor would vote the bill down.

And that’s fine too, so long as Abbott and his Senate leader, Eric Abetz, reintroduce it in a timely enough fashion for it to be rejected a second time, enabling it to be added to the pile of double dissolution triggers beginning to accrue and — most importantly — enabling it to be approved by a joint sitting of Parliament.

In the meantime, the language of the government should become neutral where questions over botched repeals, rejected budget savings and anything else its enemies are using to detonate political dynamite is concerned; clear the decks, manage the country as best it can whilst ruffling as few feathers as possible, and wait.

Wait until the “weather” clears — and until it looks like holding for a month or so — and in that break in the storm, get to the polls for a double dissolution election as fast as C1 can transport Abbott to Yarralumla to advise it.

In the short term, the prospect of being hit with a bloody big stick might — I emphasise, might — be enough to frighten time-serving red herrings like Muir into behaving responsibly rather than just making statements of intent to do so; in the longer run, it would offer a way to fix the Senate, which has become an unrepresentative, anti-democratic and toxic entity in its present form irrespective of what system is used to elect it, and a national embarrassment to boot.

But if the Abbott government does nothing, then Palmer, the Greens, Labor, and others are all circling for the kill. Most have shown a complete lack of reluctance to strike hard and to aim for the jugular. It is time for the government to respond in kind, with the pleasant certitude of knowing that its own interests, and the national interest when it comes to cleaning up the electoral system, are perfectly — and defensibly — in sync.

 

 

AND ANOTHER THING: Whilst we are talking about budget measures, agenda peddlers and irresponsibility, Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny might write for a media outlet that revels in barracking against the Liberal Party, but he nonetheless pretends to be an impartial and responsible journalist.

Perhaps there is some explanation, consistent with “impartiality” and “responsibility” as a journalist, that could shed light on why, in his article today, he uses the Shorten Labor catchphrase of a “GP tax” to describe the Abbott government’s proposed Medicare co-payment.

Pleading a quota of column space doesn’t cut it when it comes to unilaterally deploying the partisan linguistics of one side over the other, and presenting it as “fair” and “balanced.” I’m calling out this single incident today. There have been plenty of others.

 

Clive And Christine: Different Dreams Of A Carbon Tax

TONY ABBOTT will be able to deliver a signature election promise, with the eccentric Clive Palmer agreeing to allow the tax to be rescinded by the Senate: provided savings to consumers are enshrined in legislation and enforced by the ACCC. It’s a populist stand on what amounts to no more than Abbott initially pledged. Predictably, Communist Party Greens leader Christine Milne has her own supercilious, sanctimonious stand on the promise as well.

You have to wonder whether the reading of tea leaves by the mercurial Clive Palmer — increasingly a populist buffoon publicly, but no fool behind a closed door — has moved the mining magnate and MP to soften his stand on the abolition of the carbon tax; perhaps Palmer’s private research is beginning to show there is a limit to how much “silly buggers” people are prepared to tolerate.

Whatever the reason, Palmer has confirmed (at least for now) that his party’s Senators will permit the government’s carbon tax repeal laws to clear the Senate; this development is a circular return to the position Palmer advocated at the beginning of his foray into federal politics, and brings the Palmer United Party into line with the Abbott government.

Gone, it seems, is Palmer’s demand for the abolition of the tax to be retrospective, a move that (coincidentally, to be sure) would see Palmer’s companies in line for a refund and/or waiver of millions of dollars in carbon tax liabilities already paid or invoiced.

Palmer’s only condition is that the savings to consumers — modelled at 9% on electricity bills, and 7% on gas — be legislated too, and their enactment policed by the ACCC.

Clearly, Clive wants to be seen to be “getting a win” for struggling, battling consumers. But this, too, is precisely what Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised all along.

Palmer’s move to shut down one contentious stoush at least with the government is overdue and welcome; I’m not going to dole out praise or suggest Palmer be acclaimed as some sort of people’s hero, because the amount of obstruction he has stirred up over this (and other Abbott government measures he initially pledged to back before wavering) has only added to the general distrust people feel toward their elected representatives anyway.

Still, it’s the right decision to make. Even belatedly. It is fair, I think, to recognise that much at least.

Having said that, Palmer’s newly reconfirmed stand on the carbon tax contrasts with the abject hypocrisy and anti-democratic instincts of the Greens, with leader Christine Milne — having repeatedly made it publicly known that her party, in cahoots with Labor, will never accept the removal of the rancid carbon tax no-one voted for — devising yet another creative new way of wishfully attempting to hoodwink people smarter than her Greens party into doing its bidding.

According to Milne, all Palmer United Party members of Parliament must abstain from any vote on the carbon tax due to a “potential conflict of interest” represented by Palmer’s mining interests.

It might come as some surprise to Milne, but this conflict of interest has not only been explicitly accepted and acknowledged by Palmer in the past, but he has also promised to abstain — personally — from voting on the bills to abolish the carbon tax when it is presented in the House of Representatives.

What might really shock Milne, however, is the hard reality (not capable of being waved out of existence by bullshit and silly statements of the kind she is wont to make) that unless Palmer’s three Senators also have assets and investments in the minerals and energy sector, there isn’t even a moral obligation on them to abstain from such a vote in the Senate, let alone anything that might pose a legally binding consideration.

It amazes me how dumb the Greens think people have to be to swallow this kind of thing, but here we are — again — and any semantic justification it is remotely possible to craft, the Greens are ready to deploy it.

Christine Milne and her God-forsaken party seem to remain blissfully unaware that 92% of the electorate voted against them at last year’s election, and that specifically, more than 50% of the electorate cast primary votes for parties that stood with explicit promises to “axe the tax.”

With more than half the electorate voting for the repeal of the carbon tax at an election, Milne doesn’t have a leg to stand on. She can talk until the cows come home, or at least could do so if the Greens weren’t pledged to shut down the dairy industry over its methane emissions.

It’s a brief post this morning, as we watch a number of targets (the Heydon Royal Commission, the Prime Minister’s US trip and the Victorian Parliament, to name a few).

But it is good to have the Greens back at The Red And The Blue; I (and many of my readers) have missed the opportunity their sage words and enlightened edicts on the world present for us to tear them to shreds, and to expose them for the charlatans they really are.

I think we’ll be seeing a little more of them in the not-too-distant future. Robbed and starved of their relevance in a couple of weeks when the Senate slips through their fingers, expect a lot of noise — and murky dreaming — to issue forth from the Greens’ quarter.

 

Labor Since Latham: One Giant, Self-Inflicted Wound

THE CARBON TAX remains in force today, courtesy of the flagrant disregard yesterday by Labor in the Senate of a clear mandate for the Liberal Party to abolish it; the move reflects similar expressions of contempt for the wishes of the public by Labor, and a total refusal to acknowledge the result of last year’s federal election. Labor’s record over the past ten years is a poor one. Worse awaits it at the ballot box if it refuses to change course.

WorkChoices — with the benefit of hindsight, and the continuing guidance provided by the unfolding of current events — has proven, for the ALP, the genesis of all manner of sins; introduced without a mandate by John Howard nearly ten years ago, the Howard government’s final industrial relations package has had unforeseen ramifications that have mushroomed the more time has progressed since it became law in 2005.

Its focus finally sharpened by an over-arching cause that was not the GST, the ALP went on the hunt: boots and all, its purported sensibilities outraged by what it perceived as the final proof of the illegitimacy of the Howard government.

This illegitimacy, mind, is something that had been an article of Labor faith for almost 40 years.

Gorton would never have become Prime Minister if Harold Holt had lived, they said, and pointed to the 1969 election as “proof.” McMahon was a treacherous liar and a simpleton who got his comeuppance at Whitlam’s hand, they crowed. Fraser would have been destroyed by Whitlam had the dismissal not occurred, they claimed. Howard lacked any right to be Prime Minister because he tore down the government that entitled them to rule forever, they thought. And Abbott is simply an affront to them because he was far, far more adept as a politician than any of them were.

But WorkChoices was a turning point; it marked a time at which Labor simply stopped developing meaningful policy to take to the electorate, and relied instead on a curious amalgam of stunts, slogans, and opportunistic deceit as it sought to steamroll the Liberals and to take government by sheer brute force, and brute force alone.

For a time, this new methodology appeared to work; after all, Kevin Rudd won a resounding endorsement in 2007, sweeping away the hated 12-year government Labor had fought so desperately against for so long, and finishing its political nemesis — Howard — off once and for all.

The “proper” order of things — Labor in government, and free to do whatever it liked — had been restored.

Yet anything other than a superficial reading of the Rudd victory quickly shows that his win was anything other than an unconditional embrace of the ALP.

For one thing, the money (and, indeed, the script) for the 2007 Labor campaign came from the union movement; without it — and the steel with which to fight the fight the unions provided — it is doubtful whether Labor could have beaten Howard when it did.

For another, Rudd wasn’t ever meant to be Prime Minister; consumed and conceited by a burning ambition and an egomaniacal superiority complex to match, Kevin Rudd was always going to have to be given the leadership of his party at some point. But ALP hardheads factored it would take two terms to reclaim office after the trouncing inflicted by Howard in 2004, and it seemed a safe bet to allow Rudd to take the fall for that and to kill some time in the process.

And a serious — perhaps fatal — miscalculation was made by Labor in the wake of WorkChoices and the Rudd victory in 2007: a judgement that not only had the unions returned to the mainstream of Australian politics following their campaign against WorkChoices, but that Australians had signalled they were now prepared to tolerate government by union dictate and the elevation of the union agenda above all other drivers in Australian political life.

It is a matter of history that the Rudd government squandered what might nonetheless have been transformed into a modern template of governance for the ALP: its policies made on the fly in an atmosphere of autocratic intimidation, often with little consideration of their excesses or consequences, and almost invariably in pursuit of the cheap win or the easy retribution that could be milked from them.

The abolition of the Howard government’s Pacific Solution — whose absence between 2008 and 2013 cost Australian taxpayers the better part of $15 billion, and cost over a thousand asylum seekers their lives — is an excellent example of the ramifications of half-arsed policies implemented on a superficial pretext, in this case in the name of “restoring compassion.”

The Fair Work Act and its attendant bureaucracies — combined with the rigid inflexibilities they have built into Australia’s industrial landscape, at the cost of countless thousands of jobs and the closure of untold numbers of businesses — is another.

But by this time, the damage had been done, and in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis Labor was emboldened — against what seemed a weak and divided Liberal opposition — to embark on policy journeys that were not underpinned by the election win it had achieved.

Kevin Rudd’s Resource Super Profits Tax — the forerunner to the current mining tax — was news to everyone when it appeared in 2010; supposedly drawn up to “share the benefits of the boom,” its real intent was to cash in on the one sector of the economy that had held the rest out of recession 18 months earlier.

After all, Labor governments, high taxes and profligate spending go together like the honey and the bee and the hive; for spending to occur, there must be tax money to be spent.

His Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme — the forerunner to Julia Gillard’s carbon tax — was a botched concept that never had the agreement of the public and which, tellingly, cost the Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull his job as Liberal MPs rebelled against a measure whose Green-tinged anti-business ramifications offended orthodox notions of Liberal policy, and which threatened to cost many of them their seats if forced to defend this sellout of the party’s core constituency at an election.

For good measure, the Labor government (by now presided over by political flatfoot Julia Gillard and the execrable, self-important Wayne Swan) was making little secret of its real priorities: smash “the rich,” interfere in settled superannuation arrangements that were never canvassed before the people in the context of taxation changes, and sell control of governance in Australia out — to the unions, to the Greens, and to anyone or anything else through whom the retention of office had been purchased with a favour or with a promise.

Government spending was allowed to mushroom, with any interest group or lobby believed by Labor to be available for purchase showered with money: tens of billions of dollars were earmarked to buy off the Greens, with socially useless schemes based on economic vandalism set up in the name of “clean energy;” the teachers were purchased with a $15 billion package, ostensibly to better resource their schools, but which is destined only to bankroll their future pay rises; and the disability sector — a deserving case, to be sure — feted with an uncosted and unaffordable insurance scheme slated to cost tens of billions of dollars.

By late in 2007, the unions — knowing there was neither the inclination nor the will in government to stop them — began to throw their muscle around as Australia witnessed days lost to industrial disputes rocket to their highest levels in nearly 30 years; enterprise bargaining agreements were struck with major employers that tilted the balance in workplaces across the country solidly in the unions’ favour, and any employer refusing to play the union game faced blocks to even being allowed to go about their business.

The grounding of Qantas in late 2011 — and the problems the airline now faces, largely off the back of an engorged labour cost base — are good examples of this.

The departure of car manufacturing from Australia — despite governments throwing $30 billion at it over 15 years — is another, as the ridiculous drain placed on automotive companies by enterprise agreements destroyed any pretence that it was economically feasible to build cars in this country.

By the time the Coalition finally reclaimed government under Tony Abbott, Labor had accrued a contemptible record in its latest attempt to govern the country.

It virtually destroyed new investment in minerals and energy.

Its capitulation to the Communist Party Greens on the carbon tax has seen many more billions pissed up against a post subsidising unviable industries in wind and solar power, whilst destroying jobs and businesses in others — such as the aluminium industry — and pushing energy bills for businesses and households to breaking point as the cheap coal that could power Australia for centuries is taxed and punished and de-incentivised to the point it costs twice as much to use the power it generates.

Spending — always a core activity of Labor in government — was allowed to balloon to the point the country sits $300 billion in debt, a figure that will rise to some $670 billion by the end of the decade unless serious remedial surgery is enacted on Australia’s finances.

The national economy has ground to a halt, with unemployment — a lagging indicator — now inching toward 7% for the first time in 15 years, and business and consumer confidence at historic lows.

And now, someone has to fix up the ungodly mess Labor has created.

I thought I would run something of a background article tonight, given Labor yesterday refused to allow the repeal of the carbon tax to pass the Senate.

Its conduct in doing so mirrors other action it has taken since the September election; in short, wherever the Abbott government has sought to legislate spending increases, Labor has allowed the bills to pass; wherever it has sought to cut spending, Labor and the Greens have blocked the legislation and defeated it.

The ALP and Greens promise to do the same thing in relation to the mining tax: a measure that promised to raise more than $2 billion per annum, but which to date has raised some $430 million in three years.

And that tax has all sorts of tear-jerking emotive goodies tied to it: the so-called Schoolkids Bonus, an allowance for the children of deceased war veterans, and a government top-up to low-income workers’ superannuation funds are just a few.

To attempt to safeguard its class warfare-inspired policies, the ALP resorted in government to what is little more than moral blackmail. How can you repeal payments to the parents of schoolkids? How can you deprive the poor of their superannuation payments? How can you take money from the families of dead servicemen?

Very simply: there was never any money to pay for these things, and Labor knows it. Borrowing billions — residually — from China to fund them is not an option.

It is now a fact (proven in the courts) that the ALP in government actively sheltered criminals to protect its hold on government.

Now in opposition, it seeks to continue this trend, as the party refuses to sanction or co-operate with a Royal Commission into corruption and criminal conduct in the union movement.

Other cases involving Labor figures are already before the courts; more will follow.

And Labor simply refuses to acknowledge or accept that it lost an election last year, substantially as a direct result of the conduct in government we’ve only really skimmed over here, seeking to obstruct and prevent the government from doing what it was elected to do, and to put Australia back onto the solid footing that the governments of Rudd and Gillard kicked out from underneath it.

No policy since WorkChoices has ever underpinned such a clear mandate for a subsequent government to remove it: Gillard promised there would be no carbon tax, introduced one as a sap to the Greens, and the opposition under Abbott at times in 2011 and 2012 campaigned on nothing else but its promise to repeal it.

Abbott will probably succeed in abolishing the carbon tax when the new Senate is constituted in July; if he doesn’t, then the second defeat of the enabling legislation will set up a trigger for a double dissolution election that can be called at any time until April 2016. Such an election — with the Liberal case buttressed by countless other instances of Labor obstructionism — is one the ALP would lose very heavily.

The beast the Labor Party has evolved into since it lost the 2004 election in a landslide has been a gradual construct, but as I said at the outset it is wont to lie, to favour its mates and inflict terminal blows upon those who dare question it, and to purchase favour from the corruptible at virtually any cost.

It also refuses to allow anyone else to govern.

It goes without saying that the ALP is probably very proud of itself; for slogans and spin and sheer deception it is without peer, and as a political institution in its own right it is fast approaching the point of being rotten to the core, despite the faux bravado and chest-thumping posturing.

Blocking the repeal of the carbon tax was probably the stupidest political mistake made by any political party since Rudd abolished the Pacific Solution.

For a party that has spent a decade making stupid political mistakes on the basis of a false premise — the licence to do whatever it likes on the back of the WorkChoices debacle — that’s no small achievement.

But if the ALP doesn’t wake up to itself now, it won’t take a double dissolution to see it butchered when next it faces the public at a general election.

 

As a footnote, we talked about Labor attempting to go down this path 18 months ago; I see since posting this article the 2012 piece has attracted some traffic — so to make it easier to find, that article can be accessed here.

 

 

$7 Billion Carbon Tax Proven A Charlatan’s Ruse

THE NUMBERS ARE IN: Labor’s carbon tax — trumpeted as a “clean energy” regime that would banish carbon pollution — has succeeded, in its first full measurable year of operation, in cutting Australia’s emissions of carbon by just 0.3%; it did however succeed in reaping $7 billion in tax receipts to swell government coffers, and whilst this might have put a band-aid on the federal budget, it was, literally, money for nothing.

One of the greatest — and most basic — skills of the charlatan and the fraudster is to ensure that they don’t get caught; to foist their bullshit on their unsuspecting victims in the reasonably confident belief that nobody will ever be the wiser.

Speaking of Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, I have been reading an article in today’s issue of The Australian that rather illustrates the fact that when it comes to pulling off a convincing hoax in the name of “clean energy,” neither of them are all that clever after all — irrespective of what either of them might utter to the contrary in front of a mirror. Or each other.

If you want to get away with this kind of thing, you need to cover your tracks: and that means not being found out after the event.

Figures from the Department of Environment show that carbon emissions for the 12 months to September 2013 fell by a paltry 0.3%; to put this in context, total emissions for the same period were 542.1 million tonnes, and it doesn’t take a Nobel laureate to comprehend that the reduced volumes this figure represents adds up to an emissions cut of two-tenths of diddlysquat.

This column maintained at the time of the carbon tax debates that the so-called “clean energy” bills legislated by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan in 2012 were a hoax; that the tax would have little or no beneficial environmental effect and that it was a revenue grab, pure and simple: and in fact, I drove quite a few regular readers berserk by ramming that message home, forcefully and consistently, for months.

Those who accused me of legislative ignorance and/or of failing to comprehend the nature of “emissions abatement schemes” — and you know who you are — are not the readers I expect we’ll hear from by way of comment this week unless to accuse the rest of us of further inability to comprehend the grand carbon control strategy, although you never know.

The thing that stands out for me in The Australian‘s report is that emissions from electricity generation — working backwards from the published reductions in emissions from electricity generation of 11 million tonnes — account for less than 40% of total carbon emissions during the period in question: readers may recall that to listen to Gillard and the sanctimonious leader of the Greens, Christine Milne, the whole “carbon pricing” regime was primarily aimed at electricity generation, and that component and the reduction in emissions from it are minuscule indeed.

The other aspect of this is that of the 11 million tonnes the DoE figures report was cut from generation of electricity, almost half of that was attributable to what is euphemistically termed “reduced economic activity” — in other words, businesses hit by the carbon tax that have shut down, or consumers hit with the usurious power bill hikes the carbon tax ushered in who have gone without heating and cooling, or perhaps even sat around in the darkness from time to time.

Yes, it was a progressive government indeed that came up with such a brilliant success of an environmental policy. Excuse my sarcasm, but Gillard, Swan and Milne all had the nerve to present this — with straight faces — as a reform, and one they demanded recognition for to rank alongside the economic reforms of the Hawke/Keating and Howard/Costello governments.

Hawke, Keating, Howard, Costello…and Gillard and Swan? I don’t think so. Despite what they utter publicly, I don’t know too many Labor types who privately think so either.

The carbon tax was a hoax, pure and simple, and in light of the official figures The Australian is reporting on, it’s safe to say it’s been an expensive hoax at that.

The alleged reputation of Gillard and Swan as economic “reformers” looks considerably more tarnished this morning.

Not to withhold acknowledgement of the relative successes of the policy, however, it should be noted that carbon emissions from rubbish dumps fell 0.3%, which ought to give home owners some comfort if they’re heading off to the tip this weekend. The odds on their landfill cooking the planet have officially lengthened a bit.

The carbon tax did, however, succeed in raising $7 billion, and I concede that its abolition will mean $7 billion more Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey will need to find as they shortly set about redressing the $60 billion annual budget deficit that is the real economic legacy of the ALP.

But that $7 billion is money that was taken out of the economy anyway; little wonder the economic environment is at best lukewarm, with consumer confidence and spending barely better than stagnant, unemployment inching higher, and business investment — particularly in the mining sector — not exactly a booming measure since the carbon tax was introduced.

In fact, in terms of the damage the carbon tax has already inflicted on Australia’s economy, that $7 billion is likely to drastically understate its impact: how much additional money from consumer spending, business investment, firms hiring staff or other activity that may have otherwise washed through the system is an intangible amount, but it’s fair to assert it would be significant.

In other words, Labor under Julia Gillard, aided and abetted by Wayne Swan, achieved a rare double.

On the one hand, they introduced an economy-killing tax that the likes of Abbott were ridiculed for describing as such at the time; certainly it pulled in $7 billion, but at an incalculable cost in terms of how much more value was lost to the economy. And it didn’t actually achieve its objectives, to be frank: the revenue sugar hit has proven the start and end of it — as predicted.

And on the other, it’s not inappropriate to raise the subject of Labor’s mining tax; unlike the carbon tax it more or less failed to raise any revenue, but it did succeed spectacularly in frightening off investment in Australia’s minerals and energy sector, and the country will continue to pay the price for that for some time to come.

“Sharing the benefits of the boom,” Gillard and Swan chortled. The end result of their endeavours may yet be a recession.

But not to be deterred by introducing a tax that raised no money, Labor still clings stubbornly under current “leader” Bill Shorten to its commitment to spend the predicted but non-existent proceeds on billions of dollars of electoral bribery items. Money the Treasury never saw. Even by Labor’s typically incompetent standards, the entire episode has been a monumental cock-up.

At the end of the day, the whole flawed proposition that a tax could rip billions of dollars from the economy, slash carbon emissions, and not damage the health of the country’s economy has been exposed today as a ruse, a hoax, even a scam.

The charlatans Gillard and Swan — Milne too, given the carbon tax was her price for propping the other two up in government — would be well advised to stay out of sight today.