MAYBE BECAUSE I follow these issues closely; maybe because it’s my party, whose interests are dear to my heart; or maybe because I have people prepared to talk to me “quietly,” but I found last night’s hysterically hyped, so-called “expose” on leadership trouble in the Liberal Party on the ABC unremarkable: a trivial distraction from more serious political matters and — for those moved by such things — the issues driving leadership unrest at all.
Aside from the perennial objective to inflict damage on the Liberal Party (and upon Prime Minister Tony Abbott especially) it was difficult to ascertain much of an agenda behind the ABC’s Four Corners programme last night; certainly there are a handful of noteworthy points to make but on the whole, this was an unexceptional effort, with its capacity to damage the government mostly confined to a rehash of material already in the public domain.
First things first: for those who missed Four Corners last night — if for no better reason than to keep abreast of material pertaining to federal politics and the Abbott government — the episode, quaintly entitled “House of Cards,” can be viewed through this link.
Yet even that title — which may, for those drawn to making such spurious links, be seen as a jab at Abbott’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, who is said to be “addicted” to the US version of the classic political drama — probably over-eggs the “sensational” material it purports to envelop.
I am commenting on this today because the prevailing political mood warrants it, but anyone looking for new insights into the travails of the Abbott government last night is likely to have been disappointed.
There is nothing, in truth, that Four Corners covered that in any way broke new ground.
It covered Treasurer Joe Hockey’s dreadful 2014 budget: certainly a driver of the government’s parlous political plight, but there’s nothing new there; we’ve discussed it at length over the 10 months since it was delivered, and I stand by my assessment of it as the worst federal budget ever delivered by a Liberal Treasurer. But people already know these things.
It highlighted the frustration within the government around the insidious micromanagement and pathological control wielded by Credlin, although little was offered even here that comes as a surprise to anyone.
And in fact, about the only “hook” this programme dangled to drive the ABC’s ratings was the phrase contained in a text message from the Liberal Party’s federal Treasurer, Phil Higginson, who characterised Credlin as the “Fourth Horsewoman of the Apocalypse,” and whilst I like the analogy and its reference to the catastrophic consequences the Credlin “model” of management stands to inflict on the Liberal Party electorally if not terminated, this is hardly a fresh perspective either.
Still, there were a few points to draw from the programme that could be seen as curious, depending on how conspiratorial you like your politics.
Like the tepid presentation of Malcolm Turnbull as an alternative to Abbott as Prime Minister, thrown into contrast by Four Corners‘ glittering depiction of Turnbull rival and alternative leadership prospect, Foreign minister Julie Bishop.
Like the camera footage of Hockey refusing to be interviewed or to comment on record for the programme: there can be little doubt Hockey was a primary target for embarrassment by this show.
Like the parade of Abbott government figures speaking glowingly of Bishop, where none were similarly featured in relation to Abbott or (tellingly) Turnbull: you have to wonder whether the ABC has gone cold on its beloved Turnbull in retaliation for the Communications minister enacting modest cuts to the ABC’s exorbitant and bloated budget.
And the Earth-shattering assertion that attacks on Credlin and her husband, federal Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane, were aimed at Abbott’s leadership should only surprise people who are ignorant of internal frustration over Abbott’s refusal to remove his detested Chief of Staff, and the clear conflict of interest posed by a husband and wife team jointly running the parliamentary and organisational wings of the party.
But there were other attempted strikes on the government that simply fail to cut ice.
The bulk of the footage featured of protest over Hockey’s budget was based on the Australian Council of Social Service, and the student protest rabble Socialist Alternative: neither of which could be construed as friends of the Liberal Party, and both of which can confidently be expected to be outraged at the party irrespective of what it says, does, or whether or not it even holds office.
The use of South Australian Liberal turncoat MP and political whore Martin Hamilton-Smith, to seek to damage the government over the construction (or otherwise) of submarines in the Festival State, was a tacky inclusion that carries no credibility at all.
And even the oft-repeated assertions that Abbott as Prime Minister remained “in crisis,” or that he was on “thin ice,” and other similar formulations of the same sentiment should surprise no-one; after all, it has been repeatedly noted in this column and elsewhere that unless Abbott was prepared to dispense with Credlin, a growing contingent of his MPs would seek to overthrow him in order to get rid of him themselves, and last night’s programme — replete with individuals either making explicit statements to Four Corners to that effect or doing so though file footage — changes nothing.
I have been emphatic in my view that most of the Abbott government’s problems could be solved by the replacement of Credlin and the dumping of Hockey — along with some old-fashioned hard work — and I stand by that assessment.
And I’m not particularly enamoured of Loughnane either, and I don’t think it would hurt the party to any noticeable degree to move him on, too, to make the break between the Liberal Party, the Abbott government and its ghastly so-called “power couple” complete, and total.
But anyone looking for anything new, salacious, or even authoritative from the ABC on Four Corners last night is likely to have been disappointed: which, to be sure, is the only reaction the programme merits.
AND ANOTHER THING: As we slept last night (on Melbourne time, of course) someone in Denmark made what was the 200,000th visit to this site since I began publishing this column just under four years ago; with traffic currently running at 10,000 visits per month and growing — and running at or above average levels recorded during the federal election campaign in 2013, it seems 2015 is set to be another year of solid readership growth.
I thank all readers for their interest, participation, and their loyalty: we may not express views to everyone’s taste and I am resolute about my political conservatism over and above anything done in the Liberal Party’s name, but I like to think we call things the way we are here, and I greatly appreciate the fact people want to know my thoughts on issues in our polity as they occur.