No, Labor Did Not Make “Progress” In Government

RESIGNING her seat ahead of the 2016 election, Anna Burke — in a jab at Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull — cited “progress” made by Labor; Australia is poorer, in more debt, more divided and less civil after the Rudd-Gillard years: issues mishandled, unions put above the national interest, and money flung at whatever might buy votes. Most Australians were treated as irrelevant. Labor’s only “progress” was to instil decline in its country.

It send an unmistakable message when the rats start to desert a sinking ship in droves; the news yesterday that former speaker and Labor MP Anna Burke will vacate her seat of Chisholm, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, brings the tally so far of lower house Labor MPs either departing or likely to depart Parliament at the imminent election to five, with Victorians Alan Griffin and Kelvin Thomson confirmed as leaving, and New South Welshmen Jill Hall and Laurie Ferguson likely to follow suit.

One wonders how many more of the ALP’s 55 MHRs will decide they’re on a ticket to nowhere under Bill Shorten, and also bail out.

But this morning’s article tackles a couple of issues in one consolidated post, compromised as I have yet again been this week for time to write and publish articles, and Burke’s announcement that she will quit next year provides a nice segue into what was wrong with Labor in office, and why — if the Coalition can finally get its misfiring communications and strategy apparatus functioning properly — any claim to adequacy or competence by anyone associated with the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years should be easily dismissed as the fiction it is.

First, one will say something nice about Burke: her politics are not my cup of tea of course, and she comes from a contingent — union hacks — that is far, far too heavily represented within the parliamentary ranks of the ALP across Australia. Even so, she made a reasonable fist of her time as Speaker, and certainly went some way to restoring some decorum to that office after the farce made of it by the appointment of Liberal turncoat Peter Slipper, although her party remains culpable for sacrificing the respected Harry Jenkins to make way for Slipper in the first place.

It was a deal, to buy a vote, that is so indicative of the mentality of “modern” Labor — more on that shortly.

But as both The Australian and The Age are reporting, a characteristic shitfight and carve-up (between competing rival unions, of course) will determine Burke’s replacement as a Labor candidate, and the highly marginal seat of Chisholm — resting on a margin of 1.6% as it is, and with Labor set to be deprived of Burke’s personal vote, estimated at between 3% and 5% — deserves to fall to the Liberal Party simply on account of the ALP’s insistence on installing union hacks into parliamentary sinecures: the practice is insidious, and voters in Chisholm have an opportunity to signal they are not a convenient rubber stamp for some idiot from Trades Hall.

Yet inadvertently, Burke has handed an opportunity to the Turnbull government to renew its assault on Labor’s abysmal record in office under Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, and their cretinous Treasurer, Wayne Swan; what was meant as a cheap shot at Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott — a jab about them presiding over “the reversal of much of the progress Labor had made while in government” — opens the door to a blistering Coalition assault on the ALP’s credibility and competence, should the government’s spin boffins prove up to the task.

In the wake of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) delivered by Treasurer Scott Morrison yesterday — showing a $26 billion blowout in forecast deficits over the next four years — such an attack is not only justified, but highly appropriate, given the vast bulk of the problem being wrestled with by the Turnbull government is in fact the result of the utter incompetence of Rudd, Gillard and Swan, and the mess they made of governing the country.

Let’s stop to consider the “progress” Ms Burke might be attributing to that terrible Labor government, whose only rival for the mantle of the worst in Australian history is the one it appeared modelled on in so many respects: Gough Whitlam’s.

Was it the wholesale capitulation to the union movement in not just abolishing the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws — honouring an election commitment in the process — but instituting a regressive, inflexible, union-dictated industrial framework that invited criminal union misconduct (through the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission), deterred businesses from hiring, and made the Keating government’s 1993 industrial relations overhaul (itself decried as regressive) look moderate?

Perhaps it was the abolition of the Pacific Solution, throwing open Australian borders and encouraging people smugglers to send hundreds of boats containing thousands of people flooding toward Australia with the signal this country had become an international pushover; the resulting human tragedy — well over a thousand deaths at sea — is one the ALP remains very heavily culpable over, and for which no meaningful contrition has ever been shown by the Labor Party. Nor is it ever likely to be.

It could be the “compassionate” Labor approach to asylum seekers Burke is alluding to: at the cost of tens of billions of dollars and the direct result of the Rudd government’s termination of the successful Howard government policy, hundreds of children were placed in mandatory detention; just this year, Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Trigg — a known socialist — delivered a biased and factually inaccurate report on children in detention, blaming the Abbott government for the incarceration of those kids. Never mind the fact no child was placed into detention under the Liberal government, or that 90% of those detained on Labor’s watch had been processed and released: putting kids into detention then was an investment in the ALP’s gutter politics now.

Could it be the job-destroying (and largely useless) carbon tax Julia Gillard explicitly promised not to introduce, then went ahead and legislated anyway? That measure was an impost on business and on households, and the paltry compensation offered to households was far outweighed by the slug that was added to already rocketing energy bills. If true progress is measured in the difficulty inflicted on people’s ability to pay for essential services, Labor delivered in spades.

Labor in office — like most governments across the world — was blindsided by the Global Financial Crisis, and Australia hit a second time by the collapse in world commodity prices — which commenced on the ALP’s watch.

Yet the tens of billions of dollars thrown around by Rudd and Swan was poorly targeted, inefficient, wasteful in the extreme, and probably had little to do with keeping Australia out of recession: the mining industry, still going gangbusters, largely took care of that.

But Labor had a solution for that too: a mining tax that cruelled investment in Australia’s minerals and energy sector, and which had the practical consequence of helping other resource-rich countries in Canada and South America to encroach on and capture markets that had helped underpin the record boom this country experienced, and which probably contributed (I emphasise, contributed: you can’t blame Labor for everything) to the collapse now being experienced by the very same resources sector.

And when the fall in commodity prices came, Labor was too shortsighted to correctly measure its likely scope (something the current government has also proven guilty of), but unlike the current government, Swan — with the imprimatur of Rudd and Gillard — went on spending money like a drunken sailor.

In that vein, maybe Burke was mindful of the vast increases in spending, on pet Labor projects, that occurred on Labor’s watch.

Yet the simple fact is that within four years, Australian public sector debt is now set to reach $600 billion — 30% of GDP — where just eight years ago it was zero (or -5% of GDP in fact); what is scary is that in just eight years, this country has gone from being the envy of the rest of the world for its sound budgets and prudent management to being halfway toward the 60% to GDP debt ratio that marks the lower reaches of the basket of Eurotrash economies that sit in varying degrees of economic strife, and some of those are close to ruin.

Unless someone gets a grip on the situation in this country, there is only one way to go: and despite whatever vapid bleating to the contrary that emanates from the ALP after two years in opposition, the problem is one entirely of its own making.

Billions of dollars to fund Gonski “reforms”? No worries.

Billions of dollars to boost health funding? No worries.

$24 billion per year (scheduled for a decade after Labor was likely to lose office, of course, to distance itself from the damage) for a National Disability Insurance Scheme? Piece of cake.

Billions of dollars annually to “top up” superannuation accounts for low-income earners? Small fry, nothing to it.

On and on it went, and about the nicest thing that can be said of any of this is that the ALP was prepared to permanently shackle Australia to hundreds of billions of dollars in borrowed money to fund worthy-seeming but entirely unaffordable social programs that just happened to be heftily skewed towards its own electoral constituencies.

The reality, of course, is that it was an open secret whilst Gillard was Prime Minister that Labor, faced with likely defeat in 2013, was hellbent on “booby-trapping” the federal budget and went to great lengths to render it unmanageable to a Liberal government; this “strategy” casts a pall over the rectitude of any of Labor’s social initiatives, and this, coupled with the wholesale obstruction and confrontational, class warfare-inspired rhetoric it has indulged itself with under its present “leader,” has demonstrated that whatever else the ALP might be accused of, being a responsible party of government with Australia’s national interest at heart is not one of those things.

If you have $100, you buy $100 worth of stuff with it; some debt might be manageable, or indeed prudent. But the endless and bottomless debt pit into which Labor legislated Australia is unforgivable. It doesn’t matter what the individual measures were, or how worthy they may have been. If you have $100 every year, and every year you spend $130, then sooner or later you are going to go broke. But permanently spending $130 every year when there is only $100 to spend is the ALP’s legacy to this country.

Labor in office had a long list of intended victims, and it wasn’t confined to “the rich” (although any household earning $150,000 per annum was served notice that “rich” is what Labor thought it was): but families, small businesses, self-funded retirees, the Defence Forces, single mothers, the mining industry…on and on it went. Anyone in these groups was the enemy as far as the ALP was concerned. They were treated as the enemy. If you belonged to any of the groups on the ALP’s hit list, life became an awful lot harder during those six dreadful years.

If Labor thought it could buy you, however, that is exactly what it tried to do. In many cases, it scarcely bothered to disguise the fact.

That isn’t “progress,” and it isn’t even fit to be called “a government” in the proper sense of the word, but if Burke is concerned by attempts to unpick the damage this incompetent, doctrinaire and reprehensible legacy has wrought, then her judgement is sorely wanting.

Today, Australia sits at a crossroads, with rocketing debt as a direct consequence of its dalliance with Labor in power; employment growth is sluggish, and businesses are reticent to hire as a direct result of Labor’s workplace laws; the country is committed to hundreds of billions of recurrent dollars it simply can’t afford, and couldn’t afford when those measures were legislated; and any attempt to fix the situation with piecemeal spending cuts spread as widely as possible to mitigate their impact is screamed down as “cruel” or “unfair” by the very band of charlatans that created the problem to begin with.

Morrison fell right into the trap yesterday: a scattered band of spending cuts to deal with falling government revenues, impacting on frontline health service delivery and some suspiciously semantic-looking revisions to measures such as welfare arrears collection, gave Labor more fuel to blather about slashing welfare and education and health spending whilst doing very little to redress the problem at all.

To be fair to Morrison, until or unless the Senate is overhauled at an election and/or through changes to the voting system that elects it to stop people with a tiny handful of votes getting elected and holding the country to ransom, meaningful attempts to fix the damage Labor inflicted on this country are as good as pointless.

But Labor, which rigged the Senate in 1984, won’t have a bar of that either: the present mess suits it, for cynical reasons that could hardly be described as honourable.

There is a school of thought that the government should slash income and business taxes to stimulate economic activity, the thinking being that revenues would rise overall as more people found jobs and paid taxes, and as more businesses were started; I would bet London to a brick that were Morrison to send a bill through Parliament that duly cut and simplified taxes, it wouldn’t just be torpedoed in the Senate, but that Labor would be leading the charge against it.

Very simply, you can’t win whenever Labor is around the place these days; the only party it believes is entitled to run this country is itself, and it has shown time and again over the past 20 years that it singularly and flagrantly disregards the will of the public whenever that message is that someone else should form a government.

We wish Burke, and the rest of her colleagues who are packing up their toys and leaving the sandpit, all the best in their retirement — whatever they choose to do — but any reference to “progress” under the Rudd-Gillard government is based on a false and deeply defective premise.

Left unresolved, the mess the ALP made of running Australia will plunge this country into decline. The signs abound already. And that’s a hell of a price to pay for self-obsessed, partisan, spiteful incompetence.

Labor, as I have observed in these pages over the years, should be ashamed of itself.

It won’t be. Well all know it won’t be.


AND ANOTHER THING: The article from The Australian states “the 49-year-old who has held the seat of Chisholm since 1998, when she wrested it from Liberal Michael Wooldridge…”

She did not: Burke won Chisholm as a vacant seat; Wooldridge, who had been the member for Chisholm since 1987, transferred to the adjacent, safer Liberal electorate of Casey in 1998 before retiring from Parliament three years later. Some effort to ensure basic facts (and idiot-simple points of electoral history) are correct would be well indicated on the part of some of those masquerading as any kind of repository of political knowledge within the journalistic fraternity. I have refrained from picking this sort of thing up for too long — if “political correspondents” don’t know their briefs, we might have to start holding them to account here. These rudimentary errors of fact are too common in both the Murdoch and Fairfax press. It isn’t good enough.


No Apology: David Hicks Is An Embarrassment To Australia

FORMER GUANTANAMO BAY inmate David Hicks has had his conviction in the USA for terrorism-related offences overturned — on a technicality — and now demands an apology from the Australian government over the “injustice” he “suffered.” No apology or recompense is owed to this self-confessed jihadist conspirator who sought to fight against Western interests. Simply stated, Hicks remains a traitor and a national embarrassment.

A quick piece from me this morning, with the weekend soon to enable us to explore issues closer to home and in more depth; in any case, where David Hicks is concerned, the moral case isn’t difficult to make succinctly even if legal wrangling in the matter continues for another decade yet, or longer.

And legal wrangling — perhaps, this time, in an attempt to extract money from the Australian government — seems certain to ensue.

Hicks’ conviction over terror-related offences was formally quashed in the US yesterday; the reason — far from any exoneration, or findings of error in judging the wrongdoing of Hicks, or anything else that might absolve him of culpability — amounted to nothing more than a technicality, with the conviction set aside because key material in the case was found to have been filed late.

The same bleeding heart voices who, 15 years ago, bellowed about “bringing Hicks home” and railing against “imperialist” US military forces who held Hicks for years without trial are now already barking into the wind again, with the Communist Party Greens demanding “an apology” from the federal government over its purported failure to bail Hicks out back in the early 2000s, and ALP mouthpiece Bill Shorten likening the episode to “an injustice” and calling on the Abbott government to act: which is tantamount to the same thing.

Either way, acceding to this kind of demand would open the government to hefty claims for compensation that are neither merited nor warranted.

His lawyer, Stephen Kenny, told the ABC — that outrage factory more attuned to indulging the whims of chardonnay drunks than to advancing the causes of national security or observance of the law — that Hicks is “innocent,” and that it will be the end of people referring to him as “a terrorist.”

As Piers Akerman notes in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph today, it most certainly won’t.

Whatever the his legal status in the USA and Australia, it remains the case that Hicks trained with proscribed terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda, spent time with terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, and was an enthusiastic participant in jihadist campaigns against Western forces that included those of Australia.

Filed out of time, perhaps, he had pleaded guilty to charges of assisting terrorism and to fighting alongside terrorist insurgents in Afghanistan.

As Piers notes, he is on record as repeatedly having boasted of a desire to murder Americans, Jews, and anyone who is not of radical Islamic belief, views backed up with an alarming catalogue of anti-Semitic and anti-Western rhetoric based on the advancement of a fundamentalist and violent terrorist culture.

We could waste more time and space republishing the insidious and treacherous details of Hicks’ reprehensible misdeeds, but there is little point.

His conviction has been quashed — that is the legal side of the matter — but in terms of the terrorist activities he participated in and the atrocities he therefore sought to commit and advance, he not only remains acquitted of none of them but in fact remains an admitted party to these vile acts.

To now suggest he is owed an apology (or worse, some form of compensation) is tasteless, and suggestions to this end by Shorten, Greens leader Christine Milne and others who masquerade as responsible participants in the governance of this country is in itself no less an outrage than the evil deeds Hicks left our shores to participate in.

He is not “innocent” and he remains — in spite of whatever spin some may seek to put upon it — a confessed terrorist.

Many years ago the basis of outrage from the Left centred on the fact that Hicks was held in Guantanamo Bay for years without charge, but in a fraught security environment in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the US and an ongoing threat against Western interests that has proven, with time, to be an enduring one, such an argument is only viable if it is to be accepted that those who are known to seek to destroy the security of ordinary people going about their business ought to be permitted to roam freely to plot and commit their obscene objectives unhindered.

Those who advocate for Hicks now — the likes of Shorten, who holds himself out as a candidate for the Prime Ministership, or Greens leader Milne, whose pious sanctimony apparently finds no grounds in decency or reason — ought to be ashamed of themselves.

David Hicks is a national embarrassment. He is a disgrace to Australia. His freedom should be reward enough for the overturn of his conviction and he should consider himself lucky to have benefited from the technical error that made it possible.

Beyond that, this country doesn’t owe Hicks a thing. He should be told to tell his story walking.


Political Flashback: Straight Answers To Straight Questions

IT WAS THE FEISTIEST and bitterest rivalry in conservative politics in Australia, and on 5 September 1985 it seemed that John Howard had prevailed over Andrew Peacock after a botched attempt to replace Howard as deputy Liberal leader resulted in his ascension to the top job. Of course, this episode simply raised the curtain on several years of simmering, seething hostility. But in defeat, Peacock exhibited a candour that few politicians deploy today.

I must apologise for yet another of my little stints on walkabout; my world has had me preoccupied with other matters this week, and these have kept me from finding time to post. Indeed, with just such time available tonight I’ve spent it snooping around YouTube looking for old curios, and having found “something interesting” thought I’d publish some comment on it whilst working out, over the next day or so, where we’ll pick the present day conversation back up.

I did one of these flashback pieces once before, talking about the surprisingly gracious speech former Prime Minister Paul Keating made upon conceding defeat back in 1996; it got a lot of reader attention at the time (and still has “bursts” of topicality, based on the metrics I can see as the administrator of the blog), so I will be very keen to see what people make of this. If there is demand for the “flashback” idea I’m happy to do them, but only once in the proverbial blue moon: too many would turn the column into a history book rather than a discussion forum providing comment and analysis on what’s going on in the world of politics.

But my little hunting trip tonight (or, to be more exact, this morning 🙂  ) took me to the press conference given by former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock in the aftermath of his resignation on 5 September 1985 and the subsequent elevation of his deputy, John Howard, to the leadership on the same day.

The reason I have decided to share this and talk about it (and readers can access the clip here) stems from the candid, fluent and direct approach Peacock deployed in the face of heavy questioning by journalists, and the rather ironic fact that subsequent events showed the sincerity of some of that candour to be…well, a little less sincere than his emphatic statements might otherwise have suggested.

The thing that I find worth revisiting in the context of an ongoing discussion of Australian politics, some 30 years later — and in some ways like the Keating piece — is the degree of directness in Peacock’s remarks, and the contrast it provides with the sort of thing we might expect from senior politicians (of all political stripes) today.

There is no obfuscation, or a hiding spot constructed from the repetition of idiot-simple phrases that make little sense; Peacock takes each question and — as can be best expected of a politician at all — answers them, and answers them meaningfully.

If we were to reflect, with total honesty, how many of the current crop of MPs in senior roles would do so as eloquently?

Younger readers might not recall Mr Peacock — the so-called “Colt from Kooyong” — acknowledged by friends as a polished political performer, and by critics as a one-trick show pony; either way, this media conference is an accomplished performance, and whatever Peacock’s shortfalls might have been when it came to questions of substance over style, credibility in the harsh glare of a press pack was never one of them.

Personally — despite his status as a Liberal moderate — I liked Peacock enormously, and supported him over John Howard throughout their rivalry; the Howard who eventually became Prime Minister in 1996 was of course a vastly different (and changed) entity to the awkward, sometimes tentative and downright unpopular Liberal leader who battled through the mid to late 1980s. “Mr 18%,” the now-defunct Bulletin magazine once headlined him, with the mocking subtext “Why on Earth does this man bother?” in reference to the abysmal personal approval ratings Howard routinely recorded.

The emphatic, persistent and genuine-seeming declarations of support Peacock pledged for Howard, that Thursday afternoon in Canberra, were exactly the right noises to make, and struck all the right notes; Peacock’s unconditional public offer to serve Howard was accepted, with the latter appointing him shadow minister for Foreign Affairs: a portfolio he held in government under Malcolm Fraser, and a role that to this day evokes memories of the affair he once had with American actress Shirley MacLaine, who famously declared that she would give the then-Foreign Affairs minister “a foreign affair he would never forget.”

Even so — and despite the commanding farewell performance as leader in 1985 — politics is politics; and the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Of course, as time wore on it became clear that the rivalry with Howard was far from resolved despite the suggestions of Peacock that day; in fact, shortly before the 1987 federal election Australians had a graphic glimpse of what Peacock really thought of Howard, and readers can reminisce about that, too, by clicking here. (Just don’t play this second clip with small children — or prudes or wowsers — in earshot).

And on 9 May 1989 that rivalry boiled over again, as Peacock and his lieutenants executed a snap coup against Howard to return to the Liberal leadership: the man of style — the “great campaigner,” who had run the Hawke government surprisingly close at the 1984 election, just 21 months after the Fraser government has been tossed out — was deemed likelier than his colleagues to lead them back into office than the man of substance.

And Peacock might have become Prime Minister in 1990, too, had a handful of his mates opted not to appear on the ABC’s Four Corners programme shortly after the 1989 coup to brag, admitting to the treachery and outright lying they had engaged in to terminate Howard’s leadership. The episode left a permanent taint on Peacock’s second stint as Liberal leader, and probably destroyed much of the momentum he might otherwise have generated heading into the first of three “unloseable” elections fought by the Liberal Party in the early 1990s.

In any case, this performance — the dignified, direct and graceful performance after relinquishing his position to a detested political foe — is, to me, an illustration of the finery and sophistication that once characterised our polity, and is nowhere to be found today.

What do readers think: is there room for this kind of thing, or is the use of simple slogans as battering rams a crude but much more effective way to operate? And with the benefit of three decades since the event, was Peacock worth the hype, despite his two election defeats, or was the Colt from Kooyong simply a prancing show pony with nothing more to recommend him?

I’ll be interested to see your thoughts. And later today, I’ll be back with something on retail issues pertaining to current events.


Who Cares If Schapelle Corby Is Released On Parole?

FRANKLY — and there’s no need to be diplomatic about this — who cares if Schapelle Corby is released on parole from an Indonesian prison? A convicted drug smuggler who tried to implicate many, many others in her crime, and who has cost the Australian taxpayer dearly in her demands on government resources, is a criminal, not a hero. Her release demands raised eyebrows, not celebration, and Corby should be treated with the contempt she deserves.

I’m not going to apologise for the fact that I couldn’t care less about Schapelle Corby; the stupid woman is lucky to even be alive.

Her arrest in 2004 and subsequent conviction on charges of attempting to smuggle 4.2kg of marijuana into Indonesia, hidden in her boogie board bag, was newsworthy at the time in my view purely on account of the fact she represented the latest in a long line of Australians who tried to do the wrong thing in a foreign country and got caught.

In the course of her trial — and during the years after the event — Corby lashed out and tried, and failed, to implicate Qantas, the Australian Customs Service, the Australian Federal Police, and other individuals and agencies in a desperate attempt to deflect blame from herself.

And whilst she may still maintain her innocence, nobody — apart from her family — has uttered a syllable to suggest she was wrongly convicted.

This case alone is evidence enough of the merit in proclamations from the Abbott government that if Australian citizens get themselves into trouble overseas, there is a limit to how much assistance will be forthcoming from the Commonwealth: government efforts on Corby’s behalf have cost hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars over the past ten years, and that money would be better spent delivering services to law-abiding citizens, cutting taxes, or in the post-ALP era, repaying government debt.

Any idiot knows (and I use the term advisedly) that to take drugs into most south-east Asian countries is to invite a death sentence. That is the law in countries where trafficking drugs is a capital offence. Corby, with her 4.2kg stash of dope, clearly wasn’t bringing in a couple of joints to while away her time on the beach.

It is unfortunate, if it is true, that Corby developed complex and deep-seated psychiatric problems during her incarceration at Indonesia’s notorious Kerobokan Prison, and it is to be hoped that she received treatment for these problems and continues to do so.

But the point must be made that any adverse consequences Corby has suffered during her time in jail are the result of her crime, not the fact she was punished for it: to listen to much of what the Corby family and their advocates have had to say over the years, anyone would think the act of punishment itself was some kind of injustice that they should not have been forced to deign to tolerate.

“Almost 10 yeas she has lived here. One and a half years for parole,” sister Mercedes Corby told the media pack outside the prison earlier today, as if this statement itself was some kind of damnation on the fact her sister was punished for a crime she committed, to which I simply say — again — that Schapelle Corby is lucky she didn’t pay for her actions with her life.

There is nothing wrong with a collegiate spirit of national unity and a sense we all stick together in this country; after all, Australians are remarkably fair and tolerant people — it’s one of our characteristics — and we do have a finely attuned sensitivity to injustices, especially when perpetrated against those within our midst.

But on any measure of decent standards it is impossible to feel any sympathy for Schapelle Corby; in the final analysis, she is a drug mule and an international criminal who was caught, tried and sentenced in accordance with the applicable law in Indonesia, where she was apprehended.

Significantly, there have been no allegations of undue cruelty levelled against Corby’s Indonesian captors by either her family or their representatives.

And if it is true that media outlets have jostled to win the right to shove million-dollar PR contracts in Corby’s face for the right to be “the first with the exclusive” of  the story of her time in prison, it is to be hoped that Attorney-General George Brandis SC moves swiftly, under proceeds of crime legislation, to confiscate the money and recoup some of the costs the taxpayers of this country have incurred on her behalf.

Who gives a rat’s rectum whether Corby is getting out of jail five years early? She is a criminal deserving scorn, not adulation.

She is a drug trafficker and an international felon, not a hero.

And the only potential positive from the sycophantic media attention Corby has received to date (and will continue to receive) is the prospect that if just one brainless young idiot looking to make fast money on Asian drug beats thinks twice about emulating the likes of Corby, the so-called Bali 9, or any of the other members of a shameful list of Australians caught and punished for trafficking illicit drugs in south-east Asia then perhaps the unbearable amount of coverage inflicted on the general public will have achieved something.

The imminent release of Schapelle Corby is newsworthy, but no more. Attempts to martyr her deserve to backfire. This is not a class act. This is not a fallen princess. This is one of the grubbier specimens our country has produced, who wasn’t as clever as she thought she was, and who failed to get away with doing the wrong thing.

And that — at the end of the day — is exactly as it should have been.

Our Call: Peter Cosgrove Should Be Australia’s Next Governor-General

THE MURDOCH PRESS is reporting the Abbott government has all but finalised the appointment of former Defence chief and war veteran Peter Cosgrove as Australia’s next Governor General; we believe General Cosgrove is — quite simply — the standout candidate for this appointment by a wide margin, who will restore some much-needed dignity to the office of Australia’s Head of State.

I trust readers have had an enjoyable and safe Christmas with their families, loved ones and friends; as ever, life goes on, and to that extent I will be posting during the so-called silly season: at times on less time-specific subjects of interest to me that I am sure readers will also find engaging, but also on issues that arise on the way through — like this one.

Most readers will know I have long been an advocate for General Cosgrove’s appointment as Governor-General even if, admittedly, that view has been expressed through the prism of whom I do not support for the role: namely, the Right Honourable John Winston Howard.

(For those who are new to our discussion, however, you can view here and here to see what I have been on about).

The Murdoch press — whose journalists, let’s be honest, would know — is reporting today that Cosgrove’s appointment is more or less a done deal: yet to be formally recommended to Buckingham Palace for approval, it appears Cosgrove is nonetheless ordering his affairs in preparation to assume vice-regal office on the recommendation of Tony Abbott.

This column gives its wholehearted, enthusiastic and unqualified support to the appointment of General Cosgrove to the post; a fine career in the military, public service, business and the not-for-profit sectors uniquely qualifies him to serve at the apex of Australia’s system of governance.

Importantly, it is said the appointment carries Howard’s imprimatur which should, in equal measure, mollify those who believed Howard himself should have been called upon to serve as well as silencing those political critics who have argued a deal existed with Abbott for Howard to be appointed — a suggestion that, frankly, defies reality.

I am particularly pleased — as the son of a veteran of the Vietnam War — that one of his number is set to be recognised in this manner; some will find it a small point, but I believe veterans of that conflict have never been properly acknowledged for their service, and in this regard I think the consideration is a significant one.

But to be brutal, General Cosgrove’s arrival at Yarralumla should also trigger the restoration of some decency and dignity to the office.

It is ironic that someone like Quentin Bryce — a highly partisan and often controversial Labor lawyer and social activist prior to her time in vice-regal life — should have mostly served in the post with some distinction.

Unlike some of my conservative cousins elsewhere, I have never believed she faced a conflict of interest on the basis her son-in-law — ALP “leader” Bill Shorten — was firstly a government minister under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and now opposition leader; if anything, that conflict (if it really existed) fell to Shorten to resolve, on the simple basis Bryce was in place in her role first.

But Bryce’s outburst, in one of the Boyer lectures she delivered for the ABC, that Australia should become a republic was an outrage, and completely destroyed any claim she may have had to legitimate respect for either her tenure as Governor-General or for the manner in which she has discharged her duties, which is rendered derelict by her remarks.

(Should he be prepared to accept the honour, I have no problem with the call by Australians for Constitutional Monarchy for Cosgrove to be knighted upon confirmation of his appointment, either).

Her remarks on the fraught political issue of gay marriage in the same lecture series, openly advocating legislative sanction of the measure, were reprehensible.

The post — despite a history of being filled with political appointees — is traditionally apolitical, and that tradition has surprisingly been upheld even by some of the most controversial political appointees to the post.

And someone like Bryce would have fully understood the inappropriate nature of her remarks on that occasion, and should have exercised the self-control to desist.

There are also lingering questions surrounding the Heiner Affair in Queensland from the early 1990s that Bryce may be called upon to address that place a question mark over whether she should ever have been elevated to such a prestigious position of governance in the first place.

Indeed, we believe she shouldn’t have been — be that to the Governor-Generalship or to the governorship of Queensland prior to that.

I know many of my readers — whether they sit on the Left or the Right — will probably see me pushing an agenda I have pursued in this column for some time, and for that I make no apology.

I simply think General Cosgrove is — to put it stereotypically — the only choice for the post of all the names that are under consideration, and if the news is correct that his appointment is a virtual formality, then so much the better.


Good Riddance: Rudd Ends 25 Year Reign Of Terror

HISTORY will record that Kevin Rudd destroyed arguably the best Prime Minister in Australia’s history at the ballot box, and arguably the worst through subterranean machinations inside the ALP; there is little of merit to otherwise remember his time in public life, which — thankfully — is at its end.

As recently as Monday, it seemed all too clear that the cretinous, posturing Kevin Rudd was resuming his antics and games to begin yet another assault on the Prime Ministership, no matter how unlikely or wildly unrealistic.

Indeed — as we discussed in what now seems destined to be the last of our “Ruddwatch” segments — it appeared Rudd had metaphorically returned to the well, revisiting the very issue on which he had launched his bid for parliamentary office back in 1996.

But last night, in a statement to the House of Representatives, Rudd announced that he was resigning his seat of Griffith, and thus from Parliament, bringing down the curtain on a political career that began 25 years ago as the Chief of Staff to then Queensland opposition leader Wayne Goss.

I was initially surprised to receive the news shortly after the announcement; after some reflection I’m not really surprised at all. Either way, however, Rudd has unquestionably made the right call, and to some extent should be commended for doing so.

The allusion to the French Revolution is fitting; easy parallels can be drawn between Rudd and Robespierre, one of the central figures of those troubled years in France.

One prosecuted a reign of terror with open vigour; the other did so in all but name.

Yet by the time Rudd came to be adopted as Labor’s candidate for its “safe” seat of Griffith in 1996, “a name” was certainly something Rudd had made for himself in Queensland: as Director-General of the Office of Cabinet, Rudd was widely accused of botching reform of the Public Service, and was later accorded the moniker “Dr Death” on account of blame for mismanagement of the state’s health bureaucracy widely sheeted home to him.

On Rudd’s watch — and as Queensland’s public service was purged (I use the word advisedly) of National Party-aligned bureaucrats inherited from the Bjelke-Petersen regime — many careers and livelihoods were ruined; and once the known National Party adherents had been cleaned out, the purge extended to others: personally sympathetic to Labor but outwardly rigidly neutral, many silent but diligent time-servers who had survived the National Party regime fell victim to its successors.

There remains the perennially unresolved blight of the Heiner Affair from that period as well, and in time Rudd may be compelled to answer questions on the record in relation to that sorry episode of government malpractice.

I contend that the parliamentary career of Kevin Rudd is, mostly, unspectacular; certainly it will be remembered more for what should best be forgotten than for any meaningful or constructive achievements.

Almost from the day he arrived in Canberra, stories of his undermining of Labor leaders began to spread: Kim Beazley, then Simon Crean, then Mark Latham, then Beazley again.

Latham — for his faults — recognised Rudd for what he was — a disruptive, destructive influence with endless ego and ambition. But Rudd entered Parliament as one of Labor’s “best and brightest,” and through rat cunning, his undeniable intellect and the good fortune of timing, eventually seized the leadership of what would prove an unwilling party.

Rudd’s victory at the 2007 election will likely prove the zenith of his career; yet even this is largely the result of forces beyond his control: facing off against an ageing Prime Minister, insecurely seated in a marginal electorate, who passed up the opportunity to retire a hero was an almighty stroke of luck. A $13 million war chest, provided by unions to fight an unpopular suite of laws in WorkChoices, was another.

But to the extent the win in 2007 had anything to do with Rudd at all, it was for the wrong reasons; 2007 was the first Australian election won off the back of cheesy slogans that extended no further than their component words. Kevin `07! An Education Revolution!

Rudd loyalists will argue that his Prime Ministership will be well-regarded by history for his apology to the so-called “stolen generations,” and for his government’s “stewardship” of Australia through the global financial crisis.

It remains to be seen, however, whether anything meaningful was achieved at all by Rudd’s apology; and far from doing the country a favour during the GFC, Rudd and his Treasurer — the obsequious Wayne Swan — set Australia on the path of massive and inefficient public expenditure, underpinned by colossal external borrowings, that has seen the country rack up hundreds of billions of dollars in debt that will take years to repay.

Rudd probably should have gone quietly into the night following the brutal midnight massacre inflicted on his leadership in June 2010.

But the megalomaniac that Rudd is retreated, regrouped, and renewed old pastimes of undermining his leader — an enterprise which, against all odds, saw him reclaim his cherished Prime Ministership earlier this year, albeit for all of about ten weeks.

We have discussed — many, many times — everything that is wrong with Rudd, and to do so again now would seem unduly repetitious. Still, for those who simply can’t resist, here is a little golden oldie, replete with some great links to other articles and clips.

One of the more enjoyable trips down memory lane where thinking of Rudd is concerned.

Yet it is also a salient article to link to, given Rudd has alluded in his resignation speech to the “slings and arrows” of his parliamentary career, and the effect they have had on his family: and to this I simply say that if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

I don’t think too many people will miss Rudd now that he is going.

Certainly not his party, which (despite restoring him briefly as its leader) has made little attempt for years to disguise the fact that it can’t stand the sight of him.

Rudd’s departure does the ALP a massive favour; it removes an unruly destabilising force from its ranks, and gives the continuing party room clearer air in which to operate: even if new leader “Electricity” Bill Shorten is determined to foul that air anew with his rigid insistence on sticking to the discredited Labor agenda so recently hurled from office.

As I said in my brief teaser piece as news of Rudd’s resignation spread, I have less time for Kevin Rudd than perhaps any other figure currently associated with the ALP, and there are quite a few Labor types — both directly and indirectly — that I have reason to despise.

Reasons far removed from simple partisan preference, just for the record.

But in one last, delicious irony, Rudd is ultimately the victim of his own scheming bastardry: the leadership “reforms” he instituted to entrench himself in the Labor leadership have been retained, making it virtually impossible for him to undermine his way back to the leadership now, and to seek public redemption at the ballot box.

As Robespierre met his end at the blade of Madame Guillotine, Rudd has been summarily chopped by his own party.

In the final analysis, Rudd is simply a cretin: an obnoxious, dishonourable, self-obsessed megalomaniac, to whom the only value of other people is the benefit he can extract from them to further his own advancement and perpetuate the deluded myth of his own superiority that he has allowed to fester for far too long.

This imbecile will be remembered neither as a great Prime Minister, nor a revered one; simply an over-ambitious dickhead whose estimation of his own importance, in the end, far outweighed any meaningfully useful service he ever rendered.

Others may be kinder to him; I simply call it as it is.

Yet oddly, I wish Rudd no ill as he now slithers into overdue retirement: let the man nurse his grievances and lick his wounds from beneath his rock, and away from prying eyes.

Good riddance.


Cosgrove Could Be Governor-General Under Abbott Government

RESPECTED former Fairfax journalist Michelle Grattan has posted an article this evening, reporting that retired General Peter Cosgrove would be the most likely nominee as Governor-General if the Coalition wins the approaching election; of all candidates, I think he is the best to be appointed to the post.

Obviously we have discussed this subject in the past, and especially in the context of former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard as a replacement for incumbent Governor-General Quentin Bryce; readers may have been surprised to learn of my opposition to such an appointment, but the rationale for this is hardly out of character.

My articles on John Howard and the Governor-Generalship may be viewed here and here.

I’m not going to talk at great length on the matter tonight, but it becomes topical again in the context of reports across the mainstream press today regarding Labor figures — and especially a raft of defeated state Labor MPs — being appointed to plum roles in government departments, the diplomatic corps, and on the boards of various QANGOs.

Addressing the concern in an interview today on Sky News, opposition leader Tony Abbott said that “the Coalition reserves the right to reconsider appointments that are made by this government well in advance of those appointments being taken up…what we can’t have is a situation where an outgoing government attempts to reach out from the political grave to make decisions far after its political death.”

Abbott said he was making the point generally. But there are also fears in Coalition ranks that having extended Bryce’s term by six months until March 2014, the government could attempt to either renege on the extension or — more likely — to appoint her replacement well in advance of the expiry of her term and prior to leaving office.

One point I should like to make on the issue of Labor appointments at this late stage in the political cycle is a very simple one indeed.


The merits of any appointees Labor may or may not be elevating to some of the prime roles being talked about isn’t the point here; what is more important is that executive positions are not a retirement scheme for the Labor Party, and should not be used to stack the ongoing executive arm of government with ALP stooges prior to a hefty election loss.

In this regard Abbott, in my view, should emulate former Queensland National Party Rob Borbidge, who — prior to the 1995 state election, and campaigning against a toll road between Brisbane and the Gold Coast — made it publicly known that any contract entered into by the then Goss government for the construction of the road or related services would be invalidated if the Coalition won the election and deemed to be void.

That should, today, apply to Labor appointees generally.

But in the case of the Governor-General, it would be improper for the ALP to do anything of the sort; should Bryce’s term indeed end in March, there is likely to have been a change of government ahead of the announcement of her successor.

And even if it doesn’t end in March, the original term was scheduled to end in September; which means that with Gillard entering caretaker mode in early August, the decision should at the minimum be made jointly should an announcement be made before polling day.

Even so, assuming Bryce runs her full term, it seems there are now two serious names under consideration in the event of a conservative win at this year’s election.

Howard, for reasons we have covered in this column at length, is not a suitable candidate.

The emergence of Cosgrove’s name, however, in discussion of the matter would seem to be the logical choice.

As Grattan points out, the “very well-regarded former military man” would be an uncontroversial pick.

There have of course been other respected names touted as potential Governors-General; most notable among these has been Cosgrove’s military colleague and former Defence Force head Angus Houston.

Interestingly, however, none of the names that have been publicly discussed so far have been put forward by the Labor Party, which makes me wonder for a moment — but no more — whether it is pursuing Paul Keating for the post, given his vehement anti-monarchism, the potent symbolism to the republican Left of such an appointment, and in light of his recent re-emergence in comment on national and international affairs concerning Australia.

(I should add that someone as politically outspoken as Keating is as unsuitable for the role as John Howard for the exact same reasons — although in Keating’s case, the appointment of an arch-republican would be as untenable as it would be absurd).

Grattan’s sources within the Coalition put General Cosgrove, rather than Howard, as the likely choice.

And on that note, I would simply say that I am delighted: and if others think the same way, would encourage them to say so in whatever forum they can.

The Grattan article, in full, can be accessed here.

A little democracy in such matters might well do more good than harm; I believe very strongly in the system of constitutional monarchy, but it doesn’t hurt to examine candidates for vice-regal office that are popular as well as eminently suited to the role.

It could even enable modernisation to occur in this aspect of our system as well; republicans might not accept they can’t destroy the system, but one way they could reconcile to it would be to combine the office with a well-vetted candidate who has broad, and popular, appeal.

And to forget the dangerous nonsense about “minimalism,” or electing a President.