For Whom The Bell Tolls: ALP MPs Jump Ship

FOLLOWING this week’s replacement of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister by Kevin Rudd, Labor MPs are dropping like flies; walkouts from the ministry are almost at double figures, with many opting to leave politics altogether. It is mostly childish, and exposes others to a charge of extreme gutlessness.

Over the next few days — as Kevin Rudd’s regurgitated government takes firmer shape — we will be speaking in greater detail about the direction Rudd seems to want to head in, and how he’s shaping up.

The early portents are hardly promising; his insistence Tony Abbott’s policies would ignite a war with Indonesia being an irresponsible and petulant hint that despite his protestations to the contrary, he hasn’t learned anything in the three years since he was first deposed.

But tonight I want to take a look at those who deposed him, and — more importantly — things that were said about Rudd subsequently, particularly around the time of his failed leadership challenge of February 2012.

The one aspect of any return to the Prime Ministership by Rudd that was always going to be entertaining to watch was the kids in the sandpit packing up their bats and balls and going home, with some — petulantly — ensuring they could never return.

And so, as the days pass, it has increasingly proven.

In actions guaranteed to assist Tony Abbott to rip Rudd apart a second time as Prime Minister (and remember, had Abbott not taken him down in the first place, Rudd would never have been vulnerable to a coup in 2010), Labor MPs have expended a great deal of hot air talking about what a dreadful piece of work Rudd is.

He’s not a Labor man. He has no Labor values. He’s a maniac. He’s a psychopath. On and on it went, all gleefully stored in the Liberal Party vault for use in the runup to any election Rudd might subsequently lead Labor into.

Such an election is now approaching, and the first shot out of the locker has proven potent. For those who haven’t yet seen it, check this out.

With no irony intended, the chickens seem to be coming home to roost; and whilst not meaning to revisit the deliberately farcical effort from Liberal HQ earlier this year (OK, all right…you can view it here if you haven’t seen it) it seems clear that the queue at Labor’s exit hatch will take longer to clear, even now.

The latest departure is Climate Change minister Greg Combet; having resigned from the ministry immediately after Gillard’s loss of the leadership on Wednesday, he has added today that he will not contest his Newcastle-based seat of Charlton at the coming poll.

Combet’s retirement is said to have been coming for several months, although his support for Gillard was open and it is no secret he has little time for Rudd; even so, Combet himself admitted that the leadership change was “probably a catalyst” for his decision to quit.

I thought we would quickly run through who’s resigned from what thus far, and who — by omission — is glaringly obvious.

  • Julia Gillard — dumped as Prime Minister, retiring from Parliament
  • Stephen Conroy — resigned as ALP Senate leader and from the ministry
  • Craig Emerson — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Stephen Smith — serving as Defence minister until election, retiring from Parliament
  • Greg Combet — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Peter Garrett — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Wayne Swan — resigned from ministry, contesting parliamentary seat at election
  • Joe Ludwig — resigned from ministry, remaining in Senate
  • Nicola Roxon* — resigned earlier 2013 from ministry, retiring from Parliament

So far, names such as those of Tanya Plibersek and Kate Ellis – trenchant Rudd critics whose continued presence in any Labor ministry would appear grossly hypocritical at best — are mysteriously absent from the gaggle of MPs refusing to serve under Rudd.

Finance minister Penny Wong — a staunch Gillard supporter — is not only remaining in the ministry, but has accepted election as the ALP’s Senate leader, replacing Conroy; and Jenny Macklin, another Gillard supporter (and someone this column has a fair bit of time for) simply wishes to remain in Parliament and do her job as a minister.

Overall though — what a cesspool.

And as obsequious and contemptible as Rudd might be — and if anything, the free character assessments so freely offered by his colleagues collectively amount to a massive understatement — he is probably entitled to the clear air the stampede out of the ministry should give him.

Which is why those who were happy to engage in a character assassination of Rudd whilst he was on the backbench should probably now take their own places there as well.

Swan — a surefire loser in his own seat of Lilley under Gillard — has, curiously, announced his intention to stand again; to me this smacks of the lowest form of pusillanimity conceivable: Swan was to some extent the leader of the pack against Rudd, and now Labor has hope of stemming the anti-Labor tide, Swan is going to try his luck at the polls.

Another Queenslander, Graham Perrett in the highly marginal seat of Moreton, is another who has been flushed out as a fraud; his threat to immediately quit Parliament and cause a by-election were Rudd restored to the Labor leadership (seemingly to bring the government down) has amounted, predictably enough, to nothing.

And it warrants mentioning that of the 102 Labor MPs who voted on the leadership on Wednesday night, 45 voted for Gillard; by my reckoning — taking into account the nine who have left the ministry already, and including the odious Roxon, that leaves another 32 potential tantrum throwers to go.

Politics is politics, and what has transpired this week is mild compared to some of the things that this country has seen over the years.

But the ones who were all talk and no action when it really came to it are symptomatic of a culture that, in the end, stands for very little.

And the continuing torrent of resignations — and be assured, there are more to come — will simply feed the perception that far from taking steps to get its house in order, Labor remains little more than a directionless rabble at the mercy of competing whims and egos.

*Nicola Roxon included on account of her vociferous and vehement anti-Rudd outbursts despite the fact her resignation from Parliament was announced earlier this year.

Undemocratic Thuggery: Labor Commits To Ignore Election Outcome

With the Government’s hated carbon tax now less than three weeks from taking effect, the ALP has promised to do everything it can in opposition — after the next election — to prevent the repeal of the tax. Such a stand is breathtaking in its arrogance, and sets a very dangerous precedent.

An article by Greg Sheridan in yesterday’s edition of The Australian — quoting Climate Change minister Greg Combet from ABC Radio — nails Combet firmly to the mast in highlighting what can only be described as a worryingly belligerent philosophy on Combet’s part that, if implemented, would amount to a flagrant disregard for democracy by the Labor Party as a whole.

Before we rip into it — and, for the record, into Combet — I should point out that there have been hints of this approach to the carbon tax from Labor and from for some months. The fact Combet now appears to be doing interviews, presenting this proposed course cogently and from an apparent position of organisational readiness, heralds a new phase in the ALP’s planning for opposition.

Which, if this is any indication, is exactly where Labor is headed.

Combet’s grand plan on the carbon tax in opposition — which he has as good as formally committed the Labor to, given the breadth of the strategy he has been outlining and the wide public means by which he has done so — is that if the ALP loses the next election, it will combine with the Communist Party Greens in the Senate to ensure the carbon tax is never repealed.

In other words, to hell with an election result.

To hell with the mandate of a new, popularly elected government.

And to hell with the legitimate wishes of the Australian voting public.

Shanahan reports that it wouldn’t matter what mandate a Coalition government might have to repeal the tax;┬áCombet has committed Labor to whatever obstruction it can provide in the Senate, up to and including forcing a double-dissolution election on the issue.

Claiming that an election loss would not alter Labor’s “principled position on a carbon price,” Combet is quoted from his interview on ABC Radio, saying “In politics you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in. And this has been Labor policy for years now. Having a price on carbon, through an emissions trading scheme arrangement. That’s what we’re implementing.”

Just as readers should not be surprised — after all, the most dishonest government in Australia’s history may as well continue on to become its most disreputable opposition for good measure — nor should people feel threatened, bullied, or disempowered.

We all know the story; 89% of Australians cast their votes in 2010 for parties (including Labor) that were not offering “carbon pricing” as a policy; indeed, the ALP and its contemptible leader explicitly promised that no such tax would be implemented.

And having prostituted her government to a few Commies to hold onto office, Gillard reneged: not only would there be a carbon tax, but the Australian public — having voted against such a measure once — would be given no further say by Labor on the issue.

The Liberal Party has promised to give people a say, and to abolish the tax if elected. And should the Liberals under Abbott win — and win in the landslide that seems to be coming — no political figure in the country could credibly make the claim that a mandate to remove the tax did not exist.

(Never mind about any alleged difficulties in doing so; that is a matter for another discussion on policy in the future).

Now, the ALP seeks to nullify that too, and to say to people, in effect, that they can vote for whoever or whatever they like, but they — the MPs from the Labor Party, in conjunction with those fruit cakes over at the Communist Party Greens — would decide what they were given in return, irrespective of who formed the government to public had voted for.

This is dangerous ground, on so many levels.

Firstly — and most obviously — for the ALP to make this sort of stand over an issue it lied about so flagrantly, after losing an election over it as seems certain, betrays a complete contempt for democratic process.

Secondly, it sets a dangerous precedent: whilst the numbers in the Senate may be exercised in any way those who hold them see fit, even governments that have faced hostile Senate majorities in recent years — Howard from 1996 to 2004, Hawke and Keating for 13 years, Fraser in his last term, even Whitlam — have been permitted to pass the bulk of their legislative agendas, and certainly those aspects of them that were key to the platforms upon which they were elected.

What happens if a Labor opposition decides to block every bill introduced into the Senate by an Abbott government? Who is the legitimate arbiter of what is acceptable if the judgement of the people is unilaterally discarded, as Combet proposes to do?

But thirdly — and most importantly — what Combet has committed the ALP to bears no semblance whatsoever to the way government in this country runs; it is also, perversely, a twist of the knife in the backs of the unionists and battlers Labor claims to represent, trashing as it does such basic tenets of representative government for which the ALP fought as hard as anyone to establish in the first place.

Some of us in the blue corner of Australian politics half-wish the ALP implements such half-baked strategies when it makes its deserved return to opposition next year, as the self-inflicted damage on the Labor Party would be diabolical; by the same token, we also half-wish they don’t, because the potential for chaos and instability such moves would unleash in Australian society is unacceptable, and not something that should be inflicted on Australians in any circumstances.

Especially not by an aggrieved, humiliated band of democracy-smashing thugs masquerading as a parliamentary opposition, which is the status to which Labor apparently now aspires.

There is a relatively straightforward solution: if Queensland and Western Australia return the Coalition four of the six available Senate spots next year as seems increasingly possible, and if the Coalition retrieves the third Senator it dropped in each of SA and Tasmania in 2007, then it will hold 38 of the 76 Senate positions heading into government — 39, and a majority, if the DLP Senator opts to support the Coalition in government.

It remains to be seen whether Labor in opposition would carry out Combet’s threat.

But I certainly wouldn’t put it past them and, frankly, I wouldn’t expect them to try anything less.

Whether they do or not, the point remains that Combet’s remarks and his endorsement of them as Labor policy signal an ominous shift in the ALP’s political outlook, and it should alarm any interested person, be they to the Left or the Right, that a philosophy of political doctrine that would sit well under the leadership of Brezhnev and Andropov in the USSR is now being adopted by the Australian Labor Party.

The fact it sits well, and always has, with the Greens needs no further comment.

If the end result of Combet’s posturing on behalf of the ALP over the carbon tax is a double-dissolution election, the consequences for his party will be dire to the point of devastating.

But I think the real question this entire issue raises concerns the Senate, the way it is elected and is constituted, and the manner in which it discharges its constitutional brief.

And it’s an issue we will revisit in the next few days.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for that “principled policy” of the ALP, as articulated by Greg Combet; the Labor Party of 2012 and principles of anything other than the self-serving variety, uttered in the same sentence, are an oxymoron indeed.

Then again, the sun may rise in the west tomorrow…who’s to know?

 

“Clean Energy Future:” A National Disgrace

Yesterday’s passage of enabling legislation for the Gillard government’s carbon tax creates a dangerous and contemptible political precedent; the behaviour of the bills’ sponsors, meanwhile, has been nothing short of disgraceful.

It’s a victory, sure enough: a victory for deceit, sleight of hand, electoral fraud, and for forces seeking to disenfranchise the Australian public and to pick at the threads that are the fabric of democracy in Australia.

And at the end of the day — stripped of silly rhetoric and slogans such as “Clean Energy Future” and similarly ghastly catchphrases — all it really enables it a tax.

There now exists in Australia a precedent for its elected representatives to openly and blatantly rescind specific and explicit promises made prior to an election in its immediate aftermath, proceed accordingly, and to then openly conspire to deny the people democratic recourse.

The esteem in which politics and politicians are held in this country — never a deep reservoir at the best of times — has taken a colossal hit as a result of this entire, sordid fiasco.

Of especial concern is the apparent conspiracy between Communist Greens and ALP politicians to combine their numbers in the Senate after the next election to block any attempt by a new Liberal government to rescind the measures legislated yesterday — in flagrant defiance of any mandate such a new government might have.

It’s an outrage — indeed, this entire exercise has been outrageous; it has nothing to do with the environment, will do nothing to lower emissions of pollutants, and will make absolutely no difference whatsoever in the wider world generally.

It is just a tax.

The phrase “Clean Energy Future” is simply the latest in a long series of slogans by which Julia Gillard has conducted her tenure as Prime Minister (“moving forward,” anyone)?

It is psuedo-emotive gobbledygook aimed at shanghaiing those who don’t think about these matters into a belief that the government is doing something positive and constructive, which it isn’t.

But Gillard government ministers are as much in on the act as the dear she herself. “Now we can commence building our clean energy future,” proclaimed Climate Change minister Greg Combet in a press conference shortly after the bills were passed.

Really, this sort of rhetoric is skin-crawlingly cringeworthy.

Still, for what it’s worth, let’s look at this policy on its (dubious) merits.

It will apply to only the top 500 industrial polluters; there is a swathe of exemptions, industrial protections, and various bribes to buy off certain interest groups (including consumers) who stand to be adversely affected by this new measure.

It strikes deliberately and forcefully at Australia’s minerals and energy sector — an act of economic lunacy, given that sector is single-handedly holding Australia out of recession at a time of poor (and worsening) global economic conditions.

And its effects in reducing global pollution — if any — will, by the government’s own figures, be so infinitesimal as to be virtually non-existent.

This is about revenue, pure and simple; revenue to fill to holes in the government’s budget, revenue to pay the interest on the pile of commonwealth debt it has racked up, and revenue to fund a raft of utopian and inappropriate measures promised to the Greens in payment for their parliamentary support.

And bugger the consequences.

Now that a carbon tax looks set to start on 1 July next year (although that remains an “if” given there is time for plenty to happen in the meantime, including an election), it must be said that such a development poses challenges to all three of the main political entities.

For Gillard and Labor — already destined to fight an election with grave questions of honesty and probity and trust hanging over them — they will also need to demonstrate how they will respond when the inevitable price-gouging, profiteering and so forth begins.

Mere reassurances of action by a watchdog should be correctly interpreted as meaningless. If anyone doubts this, just rock on down to the local service station where — despite the Australian dollar being roughly 10% higher on world markets than it was prior to the GFC, and despite the price of oil being roughly half what it was at that time — the price of petrol is virtually identical.

There are challenges for Tony Abbott too; it is undeniable his opposition to the carbon tax has resonated in the electorate, but his promise to abolish it may prove difficult on political grounds.

The Coalition would need to win the Senate to do so; the only states in which they might win four of the six available Senate seats at the next election are WA and maybe — maybe — Queensland.

Even then, Abbott’s best position would be to negotiate with the Independent Senator from SA and the DLP Senator from Victoria, and possibly a WA National — hardly an overtly winning hand to play.

And even then, there would be the politically tricky (and mean-looking) problem of removing compensation measures along with the tax; I suspect some sort of deal involving leaving those measures in place in exchange for a five-year (or similar) abandonment of indexation of those payments may broadly be attempted.

Alternatively, a new Liberal government might (legitimately) point to a hostile Senate, and give up.

And as for the Greens, who are now beginning to attract the type of scrutiny they should, their standard practice of promising everything to everyone, with no accountability, and trying to appear a harmless haven for protest votes, is going to be far more difficult to maintain.

And speaking of the lunatic Greens, their antics yesterday reveal just how dangerous, devious, and counter to Australia’s welfare they really are.

Already any pretence of moderation has been abandoned; many Greens, including Brown, have already decreed that their new legislation is inadequate, goes nowhere near far enough and is flawed, but that there remains scope for “much more to be done” and that they can “build on” what the Senate passed yesterday.

And Brown — not merely content with his legislative win over the nearly 90% of the electorate that voted against both his party and these measures — resorted to typically absurd and grandiose claims, such as yesterday’s events being a win not just for the citizens of Australia, but for all the citizens “of the planet.”

What rubbish.

Indeed, the Russians and the Chinese, the British and the Indians, the Americans and the Canadians — indeed, any country either not pursuing emissions trading measures or retreating quickly from plans to do so — are already laughing at Australia from behind their hands, in the fascinated disbelief that a developed country like ours would commit such a ridiculous act of economic self-immolation.

But then, Bob Brown and his lunatic band of pinkos don’t live in the real world anyway.

What do you think?