Wannabe Cretin: Turnbull Spares Australia Rudd Embarrassment

THE CABINET BRAWL over Kevin Rudd’s pitch as Secretary-General of the UN was grotesque; but it fades to irrelevance beside the embarrassment this narcissistic megalomaniac might cause if merrily sent on a global “look at me” tour with official sanction. Treacherous, psychotic lunatics are not export goods Australia should cultivate. By instructing Rudd to tell his story walking, Malcolm Turnbull was right: whatever criticism ensues.

If corrupt, disgraced former WA Premier Brian Burke had got it into his head, perhaps on account of his stint as an ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See, to seek the role of Secretary-General of the United Nations, would there be any kind of clamour — from anywhere — for the Australian government to “back the Australian candidate?”

Of course there wouldn’t be, and whilst I note that unlike Burke Kevin Rudd has never been charged with or convicted of official misconduct, in some respects Burke might make the more suitable candidate: and that is a judgement that takes some considerable lowering of comparative standards to be able to arrive at.

A judgement that should have been immediately rendered, however — rather than squibbed by a brawling federal Cabinet and handballed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for a “captain’s pick” — was belatedly delivered yesterday afternoon, with the announcement that the federal government would not formally endorse (and thus support) Rudd’s maniacal quest to take charge of the United Nations; better late than never.

But the only argument of any logical soundness at all for the Turnbull government to do so (and it’s a very poor one at that) was that he’s “the Australian candidate;” even a cursory glance at his alleged diplomatic achievements, and his malodorous record over decades in personnel “management,” is sufficient to conclusively judge Rudd an advertisement for Australia that should never be aired at all, let alone permitted to grace the widescreen of the global stage.

By contrast — as has been noted in the mainstream press over the past day — had it been a question of an ALP-aligned nominee such as Kim Beazley, the current conservative government would in probability have (rightly) endorsed him without reserve. It’s a very salient point.

There has been an orgy of comment erupting in the mainstream press since the announcement of Turnbull’s decision to let Rudd twist and dangle in the wind — from both the usual anti-Coalition suspects (the ABC, Crikey, Fairfax) as well as those organs of the press that are usually friendlier to the Coalition from the Murdoch stable — that, distilled to its essence, suggests Turnbull has been petty, biased, vindictive, and just plain nasty.

On the face of it, perhaps he has. But a decision of the kind Rudd has attempted to manipulate Turnbull into is not one to be determined on the basis of trivialities, and whether any or all of the puerile insults being flung at Turnbull ring true or not, the decision he has ultimately made is unquestionably correct.

Has Turnbull been “rolled” by conservative MPs within his party room and/or Cabinet? I doubt it. Are those conservatives able to claim a very big triumph in the washout from this, given their near-complete hatred of the man they have just seen nobbled? You bet your life they are.

And stories about the diminished authority Turnbull now possesses — like today’s Editorial in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail, which fatuously asserts the decision to veto Rudd delivered a “brutal blow” to Turnbull’s leadership — will, by virtue of the abjectly pathetic Coalition election campaign and the correspondingly pathetic result it produced, burst forth on every conceivable issue until either a further electoral pronouncement is made on Turnbull in three years’ time or he leaves his post in the interim.

But the simple truth is that Cabinet was asked to consider on its merits a request from Rudd for Commonwealth sanction and resources to pursue the Secretary-Generalship of the United Nations as an official Australian candidate, and in this sense, nobody could argue the outcome ignored considerations of merit.

It couldn’t have ignored Rudd’s idea of international diplomacy, most infamously encapsulated by his outburst against the Chinese some years ago as “rat fuckers.”

It couldn’t have ignored Rudd’s idea of personnel management, which over decades of involvement in Australian governance — openly or behind the scenes — has been manifest in a scorched Earth policy with a trail of broken careers in its wake, from seasoned senior Queensland bureaucrats in the early 1990s to an endless procession of burnt-out staff through his Prime Ministerial office, and right down to his abuse of a junior female RAAF aide that reduced her to tears for no better reason than he objected to the refreshments available on a short VIP flight.

It couldn’t have ignored the volumes of evidence of his methods in dealing with those with he is charged with working most closely; a little trip down memory lane appears below for those interested in such tawdry details.

And it surely couldn’t have ignored the fact that if Rudd were to become Secretary-General of the United Nations, that body — supposedly the peak forum of the international system — would have at its head an individual once thrown out of a venue in New York that provided sexually explicit entertainment, heavily inebriated, for “inappropriate conduct.”

The reality, as difficult as it might be for Rudd and those voices in the press who deign to continue to root for him, is that there is nothing to recommend the former Prime Minister for such a plum posting, and with the imprimatur of the Commonwealth to boot.

Anyone who knows — directly or second-hand — exactly what Rudd is like knows, deeply, how flawed and irretrievably unsuitable he is for the United Nations post; those of us who have variously characterised him as psychotic, psychopathic, narcissistic, cretinous, egomaniacal and/or a pathology case do so not to be petty, or nasty, or any of the insults now being flung at Turnbull, but because it is in fact true.

Just in case there is any doubt on this point, Rudd, chillingly, saw fit yesterday to validate virtually every criticism his detractors have ever levelled at him, releasing private correspondence dating back almost a year between himself and Turnbull that purported to show Turnbull had reneged on a deal to support him.

The Rudd release of private communications is, in itself, an appalling act of poor faith and a breach of trust, which is only worsened by the fact Turnbull himself warned Rudd months ago that neither he, nor Cabinet, would back him for the UN post: a development that surely supersedes any previous assurances, but a detail Rudd conveniently saw fit to omit from his jaundiced fit of pique yesterday afternoon.

If nothing else, Rudd’s actions underline the entrenched treachery and bastardry his old colleagues at the ALP have accused him of for decades.

Some of those past colleagues — most notably, former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally — have had the integrity in recent days to remain honest in their assessments of Rudd, with Keneally’s suggestion her pet dog would make a better candidate probably an insult to the dog only on account of it being likened to Rudd in the first place.

Others, however — led by alleged leadership prospect Tanya Plibersek, who has never hid her contempt for Rudd in the past, but has seen fit to engage in the same petty politicking she accuses Turnbull of, claiming Rudd was an outstanding candidate vetoed by the Coalition to settle a vendetta — ought to be ashamed of themselves.

In the end, Turnbull explained his decision by saying that in his judgement, Rudd was not a suitable candidate “for that particular role,” which is an understatement.

The prospect of this supreme egotist turning up in corridors of power across the world, demanding meetings with officials and government leaders off the cuff, throwing God knows what insults around at Australia’s most powerful international partners in unguarded moments near microphones or listening ears (and throwing all manner of tantrums whenever things don’t go to plan) is a nightmare scenario Turnbull is right to dissociate his government from.

And that’s just where Rudd’s campaign for the position is concerned. Imagine the embarrassment Australia might be subjected to if he succeeded.

If there is merit at all in the prospect of Kevin Rudd as Secretary-General of the United Nations, let the vanquished candidate now reflect that really, what happened yesterday might be the fault of nobody but himself; if he is qualified at all for that post — a point of obvious conjecture — perhaps he might consider that the gleeful and/or oblivious alienation of people he indulged himself with for decades just might have come at a price.

There can be no room for sentiment, and no entertainment of shades of grey in what is a black-and-white proposition.

There are too many question marks over Kevin Rudd as a candidate for a high-profile position of global governance to make the risk of endorsing him worth any benefits (real, perceived or imagined) he might deliver, and specious arguments that he should have been supported simply because he is Australian must be dismissed as the juvenile claptrap they are.

Turnbull would have been criticised over this whichever way he jumped, and just as those peddling mock outrage today are shining a light on how this government will be treated in the immediate term, the opposite call on Turnbull’s part would have been disastrous.

It would almost certainly have elevated Liberal leadership ructions, for a start; but more importantly, it would have left this country exposed to unquantifiable embarrassment at the hands of a volatile and self-consumed psychopath in a context Australia could ill afford any opprobrium or rancour Rudd managed to generate along the way.

It was only half in jest I suggested Brian Burke might be less unsuitable than Rudd; after all, Burke at least was civil, and not just in front of a camera.

A narcissistic lunatic is not the kind of commodity Australia needs to export to the world with a letter of introduction and a blank cheque.

Whatever else people might think of Turnbull, he was dead right on this.

 

 

Ruddwatch: World Needs “Kevin 747” At The UN Like The Pox

IT WAS KNOWN almost a decade ago that Kevin Rudd’s real ambition was to be Secretary-General of the United Nations; this column has never hid its disdain for the UN, believing it obsessed with meddling in member states rather than its charter to maintain peace. Even so, the moronic Rudd — with pointless meetings, unruly temper, and gratuitous travel — is not what the world needs. Any official sanction of his bona fides for the post is lunacy.

Today’s article isn’t so much an opinion piece per se, but a trip down memory lane — with a little help from YouTube — for it amazes me just how short some people’s memories can be, and where Kevin Rudd is concerned, the propensity for time to “heal all” and wipe away the recollections of his defects and shortfalls is a dangerous and salutary lesson in just how easily people are prone to forget.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, I have been at pains over the years to note in this column that political figures of opposing political stripes to my own are still, first and foremost, people; that expression of grace is difficult to concede in certain cases, and near the top of any list of those for whom it is impossible to harbour any concession of the kind sits one Kevin Michael Rudd.

Right from the start, there were those who grasped the fundamentally ridiculous nature of his claim to government in Australia; right from the earliest days of Rudd’s tenure as Prime Minister, the rumours of his eventual grandiose ambition to run the United Nations — providing a global platform on which he might parade the pomposity and histrionic bombast Australian voters quickly wearied of once he had been elected — spread like wildfire.

And right from the start Rudd became, aptly, a figure of ridicule.

Those with short memories will have forgotten how he not just alienated but enraged his Labor colleagues; his temper and ego are the stuff of legend in political circles, and his noxious and destructive approach to matters of governance was such that a large portion of the ALP caucus swore that if he ever returned as Prime Minister once he had been dumped that not only would they refuse to serve in his ministry, but that they would leave Parliament altogether — a threat many of them made good on after June 2013, when he orchestrated the overthrow of Julia Gillard to reclaim what he saw as rightly his.

For those who have, indeed, forgotten, here’s an aggregation of the sentiments of the Labor caucus of the day. It isn’t what you would call edifying.

Who could possibly forget the Rudd decree that climate change was “the greatest moral challenge of our time” or the shameful performance he turned in at Copenhagen late in 2009, as he strove to be the international face of some kind of agreement to deal with this menace, only to fail abysmally? Who can forget the stories of his brutality as a “leader,” abusing his ministers, tearing shreds off young service personnel on RAAF flights, and systematically leaking and backgrounding against his colleagues to undermine them?

Those of us with very long memories recall only too well the mess he created in Queensland — as the state’s top public servant under the government of Wayne Goss — before be entered Parliament, as a vicious crusade was embarked upon to fire not just those senior public servants who owed their positions to National Party cronyism of the 1970s and 1980s, but also to target politically unaligned (or, wisely, silent) individuals whose only crime was not to make vociferous expressions of fidelity with the ALP during the “dark” years of National Party oppression that preceded Goss’ regime.

We also remember the complete consequent mess made of the Queensland public service, with that state’s health bureaucracy rendered dysfunctional, and scores of sacked National Party appointees rehired in their old roles on expensive contracts when the penny dropped that the chosen ALP appointments Rudd oversaw simply weren’t up to the jobs they were given, and that unless those with real experience of running Queensland were brought back into the fold, the disaster Rudd’s “management” of the Queensland government created would in fact have become a cataclysm.

The huge swing to the Coalition at the 1995 state election was, apart from a few seats affected by a toll road Goss wanted to build, almost entirely built on a backlash from public servants: and to this day, I can’t think of another instance anywhere in Australia where public servants have voted en masse and as a solid bloc against a Labor government. It was an achievement of sorts, and one in which Rudd’s handiwork was everywhere.

Now, Kevin Rudd — who once famously described himself as “an out-of-work diplomat” — is showing signs of making a serious attempt to replace outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose term in the post expires late this year.

Perhaps mindful of the fact support from the continuing (Coalition) government may or may not be forthcoming, Rudd is said to be working solus to try to secure the post through his own contacts, and no wonder: who could possibly have forgotten the billions of dollars doled out on Rudd’s watch, over a single weekend in 2009, to buy off various countries in support of his government’s campaign to have Australia elevated to a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council?

Yet disturbingly, there are reports today that Foreign minister Julie Bishop will, in fact, consider providing official backing to any push by Rudd to go to the UN if he formally requests it.

Such support cannot and must not be provided, for the cretin Rudd is something the wider world needs like the pox.

Many, it seems, have forgotten the Rudd brand of diplomacy, brown-nosing to Chinese leaders to their faces and showily refusing audio translation of their speeches to highlight his Chinese language skills, whilst calling them “rat fuckers” behind their backs.

And it beggars belief that the kind of wit and wisdom exhibited toward foreign leaders by Rudd behind the scenes, replete with contempt for his audience and filled with malignant animus, could have ever been overlooked.

We will keep an eye on Rudd as this issue develops: in some respects, it’ll be quite like old times.

But the bottom line is that Kevin Rudd — despite the shortfalls of the United Nations, which are many, and the inappropriate activities it engages in that have nothing to do with preserving military peace whatsoever — is perhaps the most unsuitable candidate on Earth to lead an organisation whose primary purpose is the preservation of order and the maintenance of global peace.

Right now, the world faces increasing instability and growing threats of military conflict: the plunge in relations between Russia and the West to Cold War levels of iciness heads that list, of course, but there are other threats wherever you look. The perennial problem of North Korea and its ongoing development of nuclear weapons capabilities and the accompanying bellicose threat to launch them on the US, South Korea, Japan, and God knows who else. The tinder box that is the Middle East. Russia’s perceived designs on the Baltic states, as well as the ambition to annex other Soviet-era satellites, after its march into the Crimea provoked no consequences of significance. Perpetual tensions between India and Pakistan, or between Israel and all of its neighbours. On and on the list goes. One misstep, at the wrong time and over the wrong issue, could set off a chain reaction.

In this sense, the last thing anyone would characterise as “a resource” to deal with these threats is Kevin Rudd: abusive, egomaniacal and incendiary, Rudd’s penchant for strutting the world stage and lecturing people — to build his own profile, irrespective of whether anything is ever achieved — would simply place another match into the box.

It doesn’t matter that some characterise Ban Ki-moon as ineffective, ineffectual, or lazy; it doesn’t justify putting an insidious and volatile specimen like Rudd in his place when the opportunity to replace him falls due.

Just when you think Rudd has finally gone away, back he comes with a vengeance.

There is obviously a long way to go in this issue, and as it develops, we’ll keep watch, but the final word today goes to another old Liberal Party commercial that dates from just after Tony Abbott replaced Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in late 2009.

The Liberals got this right; the reality soon dawned on Rudd’s ALP colleagues; and I think the more time that has passed since then, the more it has dawned on a very large contingent of the same voters who were hoodwinked into electing Rudd in 2007 in the first place.

Let Rudd play his games, and busy himself killing time, by all means: but there is no case for him to become Secretary-General at the UN.

If the government provides Rudd with any kind of endorsement, or support — either openly or behind the scenes — for hit pitch to replace Ban, it will be a very large black mark against the Turnbull government indeed.

Stay tuned.

 

Gay Marriage Debacle Will Cost Abbott

ALREADY REELING from the fiasco over former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and a travel rorts scandal that seems to be damaging the government far more than the opposition, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s maladroit shenanigans over the fraught issue of gay marriage stand to cost him dearly: if not to signal the end of his leadership once and for all, then to perhaps seal a historic defeat for the conservative parties after a single term in office.

Sorry, sorry, sorry…firstly, an apology to all readers for disappearing for the past few days; not only has my heavy schedule impacted my ability to post as often as I would like, but Tuesday night saw me cause the diversion to Sydney of a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne with a medical issue.

That issue — after an uncomfortable night in a Sydney hospital — seems to be resolved, but as ever with these things, it’s a reminder to look after those around you, and to remember things can change in a flash: and I beseech you all to take care of those close to you, and if you were on that flight and I inconvenienced you, then I am very apologetic.

But back to our discussion…thanks to my iPad I was nonetheless able to stay abreast of what has developed over an explosive 48 hours in Australian politics, and where the fraught issue of gay marriage is concerned I think it entirely possible that we may well have entered the final days of the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott.

Let’s be clear: readers know that from a liberal perspective, my view is that gay people should be free to do as they please (provided — just like the rest of us — they’re not hurting anyone); as a conservative, I am inclined to the preservation of the traditional definition of marriage, and of the competing strands of philosophical thought it is the latter that prevails where my overall opinion is concerned.

Even so, as former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen might have said, there are ways and means of doing things; and just as Abbott, his closest colleagues, and the advisory pool of alleged tacticians and strategists around them have botched so many other things since the Coalition returned to office two years ago, it now seems they have completely botched this.

It is important to remember, at the beginning of my remarks today, that at roughly the same stage of the last term of Parliament — and as opposition leader — Abbott arrived at a carefully nuanced position designed to kick the problem of dealing with the gay marriage issue down the road and out of sight, lest it impede his ability to win the looming 2013 election.

At that time, Abbott claimed that the Coalition party room as it was then constituted had gone to the 2010 election promising to maintain the traditional formulation of marriage spelt out in the Marriage Act — that marriage in Australia consisted of the legal union of one man and one woman — and that the matter would be reviewed “if it again came before Parliament in the next term,” meaning after the 2013 election.

Few would attempt to argue that gay marriage has not, once again, landed before Parliament for its consideration.

Yet now, the Abbott formulation has changed: according to the crafty but slimy position enunciated this week, the Coalition — it is now claimed — went to the 2013 election on a platform of traditional marriage, and that any change to the Marriage Act is now a matter for the next Parliament: the one due to be elected by the Australian public at some point in the next 12 months or so.

In other words, anyone holding Abbott to a literal interpretation of his remarks on this subject is perfectly entitled to conclude that the formulation used in 2012 to avoid the gay marriage issue is, well, being used again to avoid it now on the basis it may be dealt with after another federal election.

And in turn, a public vote — if the Coalition is returned, naturally — will be held; not in conjunction with the election, which would be cheaper as an electoral exercise, and after a possible vote in Parliament on gay marriage which has also received the “kick it down the road” treatment from the Prime Minister and his people.

Some may be surprised to learn that as an opponent of legalising gay marriage I am nonetheless mortified by the tactics that are being used here; in some respects the issue itself — gay marriage — has nothing to do with it, but rather amounting to yet another highly disturbing exposition of Coalition politics at its hamfisted worst: the only variety this government, stewarded by those duds to whom Abbott remains stubbornly and misguidedly loyal, appear capable of executing.

But indefinitely killing off issues any way possible — especially those that have an indisputable but unquantifiable level of rising community support, the disproportionate noise emanating from some quarters notwithstanding — is not the way to govern in a liberal democratic country; yet Abbott and his cabal appear to have determined to do precisely that.

On this occasion, a “Coalition position” has been decreed: surely, even where the confines of party discipline are involved, the Liberal and National party rooms should have devised their own separate positions. But by including the Nationals in a “Coalition position” in the knowledge National Party MPs are overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage, the eventual vote in Parliament has effectively been rigged to secure a predetermined result.

I don’t actually have a problem with the concept of Cabinet ministers being required to resign if they want to vote against the government and support a gay marriage bill (or, indeed, to vote against an agreed Cabinet position on any other piece of legislation): this is, after all, wholly appropriate, and goes to the heart of the principle of Cabinet solidarity.

The problem is that I don’t think, on what is effectively a conscience matter, there should be an agreed Cabinet position at all: all MPs from all parties, should a bill to legislate for gay marriage come before Parliament, should be entitled to vote according to his or her conscience.

Ironically, were a conscience vote to occur, such a bill would most likely be defeated anyway, but by forcing Coalition MPs to vote against to make that defeat a certainty merely means the issue will return to the agenda the moment the Coalition is ejected from office — and once a Labor/Greens government, far more inclined to allow the measure to pass, is elected.

When that happens, Abbott’s stonewalling and tackily clever footwork will have been for nought and in fact, will probably only have served to push some waverers across the threshold to support the change purely as a reaction to the tawdry way it has been repeatedly kicked down the road to date.

I should also observe that binding Coalition MPs to vote a gay marriage bill down is every bit as objectionable as Labor, as per the wont of wannabe leader Tanya Plibersek, contemplating binding its own MPs to vote in favour, and is every bit as deserving of contempt and ridicule.

Members of Parliament are elected to govern, not dodge issues; if there is one criticism of the Abbott government above all others that I would make from its conservative flank it is that very little has happened on the watch of this government, and that much of what has actually been done has been botched. Spectacularly mishandled. As I said earlier, it is getting to the point the actual issues are secondary to the mechanisms with which they are being dealt. And the latest formulation on gay marriage is an object lesson in precisely the kind of thing I’m talking about.

This article from The Australian rather neatly sums up just how much grief the Coalition has inflicted on itself; only when it is noted that two-thirds of the government frontbench sits outside the “Against” grouping can the full extent of the stitch-up to boot the gay marriage issue at least two years further down the road that has occurred be realised.

In the meantime, the “unified” Coalition position comprises no fewer than seven completely different positions on the issue — and one overriding directive to vote against it for the duration of this term of Parliament. It scarcely smacks of “good government,” let alone any coherent kind of response.

I think that if a “people’s vote” — be it an indicative plebiscite or a referendum — were held, the “yes” lobby would get a nasty shock: Australians are essentially conservative folk who might vote Labor governments to power from time to time, but at heart we’re a naturally cautious lot who are inherently wary of anything more than incremental change — and legalising gay marriage is far from incremental.

But there you have it: a “people’s vote” it will be, until or unless either a re-elected Coalition finds a pretext on which to kick it down the road another three years, or a Labor government just legislates it. As a conservative opposed to gay marriage, I’m horrified by the way this has been handled. And as I have argued previously, as opposed as I am, this issue demands a conscience vote, not some cynically stitched-together fix.

But there are bigger issues at play here, and at some point soon (perhaps over the weekend) I intend to do an umbrella piece on the Coalition’s state of political health, which on any criteria is far from robust; I had in fact started working on it on Tuesday night as I waited to board my flight back to Melbourne — and as I shared at the outset, that particular journey didn’t end where, or when, I expected it to.

Yet with the mutterers muttering over Abbott’s leadership even before this latest bickering and indulgence over gay marriage — even if orthodox wisdom suggests it’s too late in the parliamentary cycle to switch leaders — the events of the past 48 hours are scarcely going to cool things down; in fact, there are credible suggestions doing the rounds of a Julie Bishop-led ticket with Malcolm Turnbull as deputy and Treasurer. Should such a ticket firm into a serious prospect (and provided, of course, Malcolm is genuine about any stated preparedness to limit his ambition to service as deputy Liberal leader) then Tony Abbott might yet find himself under the real threat of losing his job.

Readers will recall that when the Liberal leadership appeared in play back in February, I backed Bishop as the most credible replacement option in any leadership change and the likeliest to lead the party to an election win — and if push comes to shove, I still do, even if she’s a moderate and I’m a conservative.

The simple fact is that there’s only so long the numerical support of the dominant Liberal Right can be counted on to continue to back Abbott in the face of a repetitive cycle of botched initiatives, own goals, thoroughly inept communication and media activities, and abysmal political strategies and tactics.

At some point, one of these snafus is going to represent a trigger point for the hardheads of the Right abandoning Abbott and seeking out an alternative leadership arrangement that, whilst not perhaps comprised of its own people, is at least palatable and can be supported as the price to pay for a return of cohesion and political effectiveness.

At least if Abbott is rolled, some of the incompetents who have “led” government activity behind the scenes will find their careers in politics terminated, which is no more or less than they deserve.

I don’t think gay marriage is an issue that will ever swing the result of a federal election on its own, but the way this has been handled could alienate enough additional ordinary people to do so: after all, nobody would accuse this government of having deft political touch, or silky skills where its relations with the broad community are concerned.

At some point, something is going to signal the beginning of the end for Abbott — either sooner, at the hands of his own colleagues, or later, at the hands of voters at an election next year.

If the disgusting circus over Bronwyn Bishop’s travel entitlements wasn’t enough to do it, this issue just might be. And were it to prove so, the irony — given the staunch and active opposition to gay marriage that has marked much of Abbott’s time as Liberal leader — would be an exquisite one indeed.

 

Libs: Late In The Day, The Mutterers’ Muttering Is Pointless

SIX MONTHS after seeing off a threat to his leadership and with an election due to be called in less than a year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is again confronted by subterranean muttering over the prospect of replacing him to better the government’s standing and gain re-election. Such a move would reek of panic, with questions over potential replacements and one arguably not ready. For better or worse, the Liberals are stuck with Abbott.

It’s a matter of record that for many years — since well before I ever thought to start publishing this column — I have been a resolute supporter of Tony Abbott’s, and when he first became Liberal leader almost six years ago, mine was the only voice among my close associates who held that Abbott had the potential to make an excellent Prime Minister.

If we jump forward to the failed putsch against him earlier this year, readers will recall that I had grown so alarmed by the prospect that Abbott — excessively influenced and appallingly served by the advisers assembled around him — would lead the Coalition to an ignominious first-term defeat that I went so far as to call for him to resign.

Yet that was then, and this is now; six months can be a long time in politics, and certainly during that period this year some things have changed and some have stayed the same.

The one thing that seems to have remained the most constant about Abbott and his government has been the dreadful service given by the cabal of supposed tacticians, strategists, communications people and other alleged resources employed in the name of effective, competent, politically shrewd government. More on those later.

But it’s hard to believe that just a month ago, serious subterranean discussion was rampant about the Coalition’s prospects for calling — and winning — a snap double dissolution election against a Labor Party bereft of anything but failed, rejected and recycled policies, and “led” by an individual whose utter vacuity and opportunism was finally registering with the voting public.

To say nothing of Bill Shorten finally being revealed, unequivocally, as a liar prepared to say literally anything in furtherance of his own delusional ambitions and/or to try to cover his tracks where his treacherous handiwork is concerned.

The Abbott government, to that point, had its residual problems, to be sure; but a reasonable public reaction to its second budget, along with Shorten being seen to be at risk of imploding under the dual strains of the Royal Commission into the trade union movement and the heavy damage inflicted upon him by the ABC’s The Killing Season docudrama, made the prospect of a quick election for both Houses of Parliament — with the hapless Shorten marooned in his present position, whilst every objective indicator suggested the public simply couldn’t countenance him as their Prime Minister — seem an enticing, almost irresistible, enterprise.

Not now.

The simplistic explanation for the mutterers again muttering lies in the ungodly (and entirely self-inflicted) brouhaha the government has weathered during the past month over the fallout from Speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s outrageous and unjustifiable travel expense claims being made public, and whilst this is certainly the issue that appears to have brought the whispering over Abbott’s leadership back out into the open, the seeds for this latest outburst of discontent were also arguably responsible for the last, for the fact is that very little — aside from some deserved bad weather for Shorten — has changed since February.

I want to share two articles that appeared in yesterday’s press: this piece by Phillip Coorey in the Australian Financial Review, which succinctly sums up the Coalition’s plight as it stands; and this, from veteran political journalist Laurie Oakes, who — writing in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph — makes it clear, based on his usually impeccable sources, that blame in the latest round of leadership unrest bubbling away in the Liberal Party is being sheeted home to Abbott directly, and to a stated lack of judgement that belies the fact little was learnt from his “near death” experience in the Liberal party room six months ago.

Irrespective of what has brought the Liberals to this point (and I’m not going to trawl through the various factors at great length), the time for any change to occur at all where their leadership is concerned was, in fact, when some elements in the parliamentary party sought to do precisely that back in February: it is too late now.

With a federal election for the House of Representatives and half the Senate due to be called* less than a year from now, the illusory recovery in the Abbott government’s political stocks has vanished, and whilst there has been a surprising dearth of quality opinion polling in the past fortnight, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what it would likely have found: that the government has taken a big hit with voters over the Bishop affair, and for all of the other reasons that were glossed over after the budget and off the back of Shorten’s woes, the chances of an election win any time soon (or at all) are no better than they were at the start of the year.

One of the advantages of being completely shut out of any position in the Abbott government by the junta that runs the Liberal Party behind the scenes — aside from the fact that when the electoral debacle that seems increasingly likely to befall it happens, I will be completely untainted by their shocking ineptitude — is that I can read the public mood unaffected by the disease of insiderish blindness with which Canberra seems to infect the self-important and the delusionally incompetent; the times I reference this point is certainly not from any perspective as a “victim,” for it turns out I’ve been spared the prospect of being fatally damaged, politically, by those whose careers should end if the Liberal Party falls from power after a single term.

And I raise it now because it’s not hard to see how we could be once again at this point: Shorten and his problems may very well have secured the Coalition a second term, albeit a term won through good luck more than good management; the second term may or may not materialise, but whether it does or not, it will not be the result of any astute judgement on the part of the cabal at the epicentre of the Abbott government in Parliament House or the Liberals’ federal secretariat in Canberra.

The uproar over Bishop, as I have now said repeatedly, is not some common-or-garden travel rorts scandal that will simply die off and go away; rather, it comes at a point the public at large is absolutely fed up with unjustifiable largesse and excess of MPs on the public purse, and the failure to recognise the difference is an indictment on those whose advice is relied upon and trusted by the Prime Minister.

In turn, the “simply stand firm” mantra that has once again been followed — the idea that if the hatches are battened down, the storm can be ridden out provided nobody buckles or goes weak at the knees — represents a serious misreading of the public mood that is costing votes, even after Bishop agreed to resign as Speaker.

People wanted decisive action — the removal of Bishop or, at least, the promise to do so as soon as the House of Representatives reconvened — and were instead served a terse and condescending justification of her actions by Bishop herself, followed by a clearly insincere and grudgingly offered apology, and fawning entreaties from Abbott to the effect Bishop was “contrite,” “chastened,” and appeals for her to be shown sympathy when the public mood was for her to be shown anything but. And her resignation, of course, came far too late to retrieve the government’s position, or to neutralise public anger at what had been an unforgivably indulgent waste of taxpayer cash.

In other words, the government responded to the travel rorts scandal in the most provocative fashion possible; and having poked everyday voters in the eye when they in fact wanted Bishop’s head at the earliest opportunity, its authority to pursue Labor Party figures (read: Tony Burke) for similarly unjustifiable outrages is very severely diminished.

But of course, the travel rorts fiasco merely brings the government’s other failures this year into sharp focus.

Its complete aversion (or inability) to outline a meaningful reform agenda, especially with the looming opportunity to secure an electoral mandate for properly articulated and developed policies: the Coalition gives every indication it is so frightened of pathetically populist attacks from Labor and is so incapable of any meaningful response to them that it simply declines to bother; and even the suggestion of marginal and incremental change from the Productivity Commission in the area of labour market reform has already sent government figures scuttling for cover at the first sign of the predictable — and vapid — ALP onslaught.

The budget, arguably key to the recovery in the Coalition’s political stocks, that nonetheless wasn’t sold as extensively as it should have been and which, in terms of the messages emanating from the government, has been all but forgotten.

The failure to reintroduce a swathe of measures to the Senate to acquire double dissolution triggers: right now, the only such trigger the Coalition holds is for the abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (and even that is constitutionally debatable, secured as it was through initial rejection by the pre-July 2014 Senate and subsequently by the new Senate constituted on 1 July 2014).

Nowhere to be seen are measures like the Registered Organisations legislation that would enforce greater accountability on the unions, for example, and the only other measures said to be slated to engineer another trigger are Christopher Pyne’s university reform bills — the one thing guaranteed to generate virtually endless bad press for the Coalition.

Yet aside from anything else, the whole point of a double dissolution is to subsequently pass legislation that has been blocked twice by the Senate: but if the government doesn’t allow the legislation to be blocked twice at all, it can’t be passed at a Joint Sitting.

So much for the government’s “reform” program.

The debacle over the ABC’s #QandA programme, around which a sensible dialogue about the need for reform at the ABC could have been constructed, but which instead was so mishandled as to make the government look like a petulant child throwing a tantrum.

Even the decision to do an about-face and allocate a significant slice of the $89bn contract to build new submarines for the Navy smells; the idea of buying local is of course appealing, and protecting Australian jobs is a worthy objective of any government.

But when South Australian Defence shipbuilders are more expensive than foreign competitors who are able to deliver a better quality product, there is no commercial case to award them contracts; just as governments have an interest in promoting local jobs and industry, they also have an obligation to realise value for money — especially where such expensive purchases are concerned. The decades-old debacle of the Collins class submarines should have been instructive in preventing the government from falling into the trap.

But even as an electoral sop to South Australia and a political salve for the Coalition there, this was a waste of time and money; there are two — perhaps three — Coalition electorates at risk in any electoral backlash in South Australia, which isn’t much to justify an $89bn pork barrel being thrown around, when the Coalition is on the nose in Western Australia (up to five seats at risk), was never fully embraced in Victoria (four seats), and has fully a quarter of its MPs seated in Queensland, which turned on the conservatives savagely at a state election in January.

I could go on. The list of reasons the Abbott government is again staring down the barrel is endless. Some of its MPs are right to be restless, and the blame for it lies squarely at the feet of Abbott and some of the advisers he is so blindly and misguidedly loyal to — Chief of Staff Peta Credlin first among many.

But I would argue that the time to do anything about it by changing leaders is gone.

This close to an election, any leadership change will be rightly viewed by a cynical electorate that the government has spent most of its tenure provoking as an act of desperation.

And in any case, the three prospective replacements — Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison — all come with potentially fatal drawbacks.

Turnbull as Prime Minister would almost certainly see the government haemorrhage votes on its conservative flank to fringe entities such as Family First, the DLP, or even Jacqui Lambie’s abhorrent outfit; whilst some might calculate those primary votes would return to the Coalition on preferences, it’s a fair bet in the current climate that many of them wouldn’t: and as we’ve discussed many times in this column, there is no case for Malcolm Turnbull to ever serve as a Liberal Prime Minister of Australia.

Bishop, whilst to my mind the best option on offer, provided she’s teamed with a deputy from the Right — my local MP Andrew Robb being the best choice, provided he isn’t sent to the US as Ambassador to make way for Credlin to enter Parliament — comes with questions over how she might perform; on the positive side is her stellar performance as Foreign minister, whilst on the negative, nobody can deny she struggled as shadow Treasurer under Turnbull when he was opposition leader. Was this indicative, or merely a stumble in her development as a top-level, senior Cabinet-quality MP? A desperate elevation to the Prime Ministership isn’t really the forum for people to find out.

Meanwhile, Morrison — perhaps the most consistent performer over the span of the Abbott government’s tenure in office, with no disrespect to Robb and Julie Bishop — still only has eight years’ experience in Parliament, and less than two as a minister; and whilst I’m certain he will make an excellent Liberal Prime Minister one day, right now I don’t think he’s ready.

In any case, were Morrison to replace Abbott now and still lead the Liberals to defeat next year, the party would have destroyed its only logical option for leadership renewal. There is nobody apart from Morrison with a long-term claim on the Liberal leadership as things stand right now, and whilst that will change (and Josh Frydenberg’s name is mentioned by some, with justification) the simple fact is that burning Morrison now will leave the Liberals with a paucity of options if they are defeated.

Whether some of its MPs like it or not, the party is stuck with Tony Abbott — at least, win or lose, until the next election is out of the way.

A better course of action would be to persuade the Prime Minister that the structural change he has thus far singularly refused to make in his government must finally be embraced: jettisoning ministerial deadwood (Kevin Andrews, Ian Macfarlane, Eric Abetz, Peter Dutton); promoting the best junior ministers and/or backbench talent, increasing the number of prominent women in the process (Frydenberg, Michaelia Cash, Sarah Henderson, Christian Porter, Angus Taylor, Kelly O’Dwyer, Bridget McKenzie); moving Hockey out of Treasury to somewhere less politically sensitive; to consider restoring Mal Brough to Cabinet on the basis of his proven ability as a minister under John Howard; and getting rid of Credlin as part of an overhaul of his office that places greater emphasis on actual tactical and strategic nous and the ability to sell Coalition messages, and which abandons “loyalty” as the pretext for persisting with structures that are hastening the government along the path toward opposition.

Whilst you can never say never, it’s a fair bet Abbott won’t come to such a party any time soon.

A couple of weeks ago I had a chat to one of my contacts (who might be said to be “adjacent” to the circle of insiders I so frequently criticise, rather than a part of it) and we agreed — without argument — that after the travel rorts fiasco, the Coalition politically was back to where it was at the start of the year, and that in the context of any election this year, we were “fucked.”

There is no reason for anyone on any side of the political spectrum to think differently, and no case for government insiders to make to suggest that this brutal assessment is in any way in error.

Indeed, the government’s apparatus for communication remains so deficient that it would be unable to articulate the intention to purchase sex in a brothel. I’m sorry if that’s just too crude an analogy for some readers, but it’s true.

Short of an implosion over at the ALP, it’s hard to see the Coalition souffle rising a third time, and the government somehow falling across the line at an election late next year.

But a change in the Liberal Party leadership isn’t the way to go about achieving it: in fact, such a move would merely make defeat more likely.

Whether they like it or not, Coalition MPs are stuck with Tony Abbott now. The impetus is on those who seek change to find some way to make the present leadership arrangement work.

 

*I am well aware that constitutionally, the Abbott government could defer an election for some months beyond the 7 September anniversary of its win in 2013; political reality, however, dictates that the greater the delay beyond that point, the greater the risk of a public backlash — and the greater the message of fear and desperation, in the face of possible defeat, such a delay would communicate to the public.

The constitutional vagaries of election timing are of little interest to ordinary voters, but any delay would be leapt upon and exploited gleefully by a Labor Party unready to govern, but obsessed with power to the exclusion of all other considerations.

 

The Dangers Of Deifying Drug-Trafficking Scum

FOLLOWING the executions of drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, a grotesque and sickening phenomenon is taking root in some sections of the Australian community as the deceased duo are eulogised, feted and — insidiously — revered. Opinions on the death penalty are one thing, but this pair peddled and profited from a scourge that kills far, far more youngsters than the two grubs shot for their crimes on Wednesday.

Those who follow me on Twitter will have probably seen, in the course of the past week, that I have been called all kinds of things for my stout refusal to buy into the bullshit surrounding the executions of recidivist drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in the small hours of Wednesday morning; about the nicest thing someone called me was “a heartless prick — even by degraded Tory standards,” and believe me when I say that some of the names I was called (by people since blocked from interacting with me on Twitter) were unprintable.

Suffice to say, the “C” word was deemed by more than a few to be aptly descriptive of both myself and my views.

I have found myself talking in this column quite a lot of late about standards: standards of decency, of governance, and standards in ordinary society and around our communities, and it really does bother me that not only do accepted standards seem to be breaking down, but the people responsible for breaking them too often seem to be people who should (and perhaps even do) know better: parliamentarians, educators, legal practitioners, clergymen. The list goes on.

Yesterday, one of my favourite columnists — Sydney Daily Telegraph writer Piers Akerman — published one of the best articles I’ve seen on the subject, and I want to share it with readers this evening; just as I have talked extensively about standards when I have posted here lately, I have also been forced to regularly make apology for missing a day or two once or twice per week on account of my other (revenue generating) activities.

There are other issues I’d like to cover before the weekend is out, and I am acutely conscious of the amount of time we have spent on a couple of worthless criminals who no more deserve to be remembered by the community than they deserved the excessive and costly expenditure of resources squandered by the government on their behalf.

People can, as I have now said a number of times, support or oppose the death penalty as they choose; in that vein some of what has been said, written and/or done in the name of Chan and Sukumaran is perfectly acceptable, and — whilst I disagree — is more than appropriate as a platform from which to advance anti-capital punishment arguments with a tangible case to point to by way of reference whilst so doing.

But all of this has, regrettably, gone far beyond mere arguments over the legitimacy of capital punishment; rather, there seems to have been a concerted attempt to immortalise and elevate Chan and Sukumaran in death beyond what they were in life — a filthy pair of repeat offenders trading in the misery and destitution and broken (or lost) lives that collectively constitute the trail of destruction blazed by the illicit narcotics that were their stock in “trade.”

Piers spoke of the infection of NSW classrooms by this insidious disease, with the words “merciless,” “barbaric,” “futile” and “weak” posted on the electronic billboard of the Castle Hill High School, where the principal and her teachers apparently took it upon themselves to advance a particular position over the Bali Nine executions after students “expressed horror” about them.

By way of justification, principal Vicki Brewer claimed “a number of students felt like they had a relationship with (Chan and Sukumaran) because they had seen them on TV and seen their parents and families,” to which I can only respond that of course they did: of course these kids would feel a bond of sorts with convicted drug traffickers under the tutelage of an education system awash with the reprehensibly negligent left-wing objectives of a majority of the staff who “teach” in it, where the emphasis placed on personalising and advancing a political agenda is given far more weight than course content and other quaint concepts such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and a factual version of history undistorted by socialist perversions and bias.

And before Piers wrote about them, I’d heard about the “scholarships” being offered by the Australian Catholic University in the names of Chan and Sukumaran specifically for international students from Indonesia, so the pair could “live on” constructively whilst raising awareness in Indonesia of “the sanctity of human life:” these fully paid four-year scholarships would be awarded on merit, and weighted against the completion by candidates of an essay on — you guessed it — the sanctity of human life.

I actually hope no-one applies for these scholarships: the whole idea, let alone forcing Indonesian kids to write an essay in effect opposing the policies of their own country in order to skip four years of tertiary study invoices is patronising, condescending, and once again looks like Australia waving its finger at the rest of the world and demanding its position be accepted simply because we, in Australia, deign it to be so.

Zero applicants would be the uptake rate the ACU deserves for such an arrogantly demeaning and wilfully insulting sleight to Indonesian kids who had nothing to do with the executions of Chan and Sukumaran.

But the aspect of this I really wanted to focus on was the message being conveyed to impressionable young minds; teachers and university academics seem content to hold Chan and Sukumaran up as the victims in the whole tawdry catalogue of their criminal endeavours, whilst others whose lives have been wrecked or ended by the drugs they peddled — to say nothing of the families of those people, who invariably get left to carry the can and pick up the pieces — are ignored.

Quite aside from the obscene disrespect for Parliament that candlelit vigils conducted by Australia’s most senior political figures at that institution exhibited, these kids were sent the unmistakable message that even if “drugs are bad” (to use a South Park idiom), in some respects it’s OK because the attention and resources and political clout of an entire country will swing behind you if smuggling them through countries with a harsher penalties regime than ours lands you in trouble — and onto death row.

The nation’s allegedly best and brightest entertainment figures will come out in support of you, recording and posting meaningless statements of support that falsely blame everyone else on your behalf, but which make you look like a hero who has been grievously wronged.

Apparently a shrine to Chan and Sukumaran has been assembled in Sydney’s Martin Place, adjacent to the actual memorial to the victims of the Lindt Cafe siege there last year; aside from the utter disrespect to those innocents who were needlessly hurt and/or killed by the brutal actions of a “lone wolf” Islamic terrorist, no international drug kingpin can or indeed should have any monument erected to themselves simply because they were punished, and much less because some people disagree with the fact that that penalty was a capital penalty.

Yet everywhere you look, evidence of the calls for Chan and Sukumaran to “live on” and to “be remembered” is everywhere, and why? There are some who believe they were “completely rehabilitated,” and for all I know, after ten years in prison, they might have been.

But as we have observed before, Australia — with its relatively lax approach to custodial sentencing, penalties and parole — has a long history of releasing “rehabilitated” characters into the community merely to see them reoffend, often with desperately tragic consequences that could and should have been averted by keeping dangerous criminals behind bars in the first place: and for all the kindergarten-standard pictures Sukumaran could paint, or the religious “conversion” Chan ostensibly embodied, nobody could guarantee that had they ever been released they wouldn’t simply revert to type.

There has been a plethora of pictures and stories about Chan’s wife, Feby — whom he married two days before he was executed — all written from a “poor Feby” perspective, and these have appeared across the full spectrum of media outlets in Australia irrespective of what partisan stereotypes might otherwise apply to them: Feby was a victim, you see, because the evil Indonesians shot her husband (the storyline ignores the fact this was due to occur at the time of her marriage) and because the cruel, heartless government didn’t do enough to get Chan and his equally undesirable accomplice off death row.

It’s all bullshit.

Feby is no more a victim than Chan and Sukumaran; this pair of disreputable specimens knowingly, deliberately and repeatedly flouted laws in Asian countries to smuggle heroin, fully cognisant of the fact that if they were caught they were likely to be executed.

Chan, especially, was the ringleader and key figure in a cartel that recruited students and other young travellers to transport heroin by swallowing condoms filled with the drug before boarding commercial flights: completely cavalier to the risk of one of them bursting in transit and instantly killing the person who ingested it.

And both Chan and Sukumaran, as was shown in previous reports of their offending prior to their capture in Indonesia, conveyed highly developed contingency plans to subordinates in the event they were apprehended — and these, too, called for the murder of law enforcement officials in certain circumstances if the imperative to abscond unimpeded made such actions unavoidable.

So if we want to talk about the sanctity of human life and Chan and Sukumaran in the same sentence, let’s have some perspective: they certainly had no care for such a concept.

I understand that arguing that because Chan and Sukumaran had little respect for human life might grate with those opposed to the death penalty, and let me assure those readers that it’s not the sort of tit-for-tat argument they suspect.

But what I am saying is that Chan and Sukumaran were bad to the bone, rotten, evil and I believe irredeemable creatures who fooled enough people in their time in prison to elicit the sympathy and support of a contingent in Australia that accepted their “transformations” at face value and that — just like the national shame of the Prime Minister, opposition leader and other senior political figures lighting candles to drug traffickers — is an indictment when it comes to the signals and messages being sent to impressionable young people supposedly learning right from wrong, and finding their own ways in life.

What a terrible example. What a horrible precedent.

Australians should not revere Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, but curse them; they should not hold them aloft as fallen heroes, but instead spit upon their graves.

In the mad rush to capitalise on the opportunity to decry the death penalty, too many influential people have made the mistake of instead building this murderous duo up as heroes, and in seeking to make a case on the former have instead encouraged the deification and worship that goes along with the latter.

This is not the act of a rational, mature, civilised society, and as much as those who choose to may rail against capital punishment and the executions that occurred in Indonesia this week, no-one should lose sight of the fact that Chan and Sukumaran were filthy gnomes who, directly and indirectly, profited from ruining and ending far more lives — and inflicting far more misery — than the penalty they paid with their own.

The fact they knew their enterprises could end with a bullet through the heart, before they even started, should act as a substantial counterweight to the imbecilic idea they are worth remembering at all, or celebrating, or teaching kids a story in which the purveyors of evil are the victims of the world around them.

They are nothing of the kind. Chan and Sukumaran were human filth. It’s a reality that does not preclude arguing against capital punishment, but of course too many people appear to lack the basic intelligence to draw the distinction.

No Friend: The Real Truth Behind The Bali Nine Executions

WHETHER YOU AGREE with the sentences carried out on Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran today, the Prime Minister is right to recall Australia’s ambassador to Jakarta; behind the campaign to “save” the pair lies an unpleasant reality that has been laid bare by their executions: under its present leadership at least, Indonesia is a dubious friend of Australia at best. We would do well to recalibrate our approach to our northern neighbour.

This has been a divisive and distasteful episode whichever way you cut it, and the executions of recidivist drug traffickers has seen proponents of the death penalty find much common ground with the secondary positions of those who oppose it, and others who eschew capital punishment find succour in other points made by those who advocate that sit below the headline positions of each.

With support for capital punishment in Australia (I believe) growing, irrespective of the executions that took place in Indonesia this morning — one only has to take stock of the outpouring of sentiment whenever a recidivist criminal on release rapes or murders someone else, or the residual outrage against the likes of Julian Knight and Martin Bryant, and other pieces of shit like them — the entire saga, if nothing else, probably suggests it is time for a serious debate over the issue domestically even if such a conversation results in no change to our own system of penalties and sentences.

But distinct hints of an unpleasant reality have emerged throughout the Chan/Sukumaran case, and particularly since the change of government in Indonesia last year, that Australia would be most unwise to ignore.

I’m not going to catalogue anew my arguments over Chan and Sukumaran today; they can be accessed (for those now morbidly concerned with them) here, here and here.

And the offensive, idiotic, brainless stunt yesterday by members of Australia’s acting community that we ripped into late last night, whether you agree with or oppose capital punishment, probably served as a provocation to Indonesian officials that did more harm than good, and whilst we will now never know if a last-minute reprieve might have been secured for the pair, the reprieve given (literally) at the death knock to a Filipino national due to be executed with them shows the possibility was certainly alive in the minds of the Indonesian leadership.

My point in writing this morning derives from the simple fact — evidenced in how events have played out in the Chan/Sukumaran case — that under its current leadership, it is difficult to see how Indonesia can be regarded as a friend to Australia, and if some good can come from their deaths is should be the recognition that the controversy surrounding the Bali Nine has laid bare a cavalier disregard in Jakarta for Australian interests, and this ominous fact is one that should prompt a rethink in Canberra over how we approach an undeniably crucial strategic relationship.

Whilst generalisations invariably contain exceptions, and whilst not all of the traffic in the relationship between the two administrations has been a one-way street, it is no exaggeration to assert that Indonesia has ignored and snubbed the federal government, refused to open communication channels between its President and our Prime Minister, and at times has appeared to revel in the pursuit of administering a regime of justice that the Australian government has consistently and forcefully opposed.

I don’t have the time this morning to spend a great deal of time elaborating on the point; life goes on, and today I’m very busy, and in any case it scarcely seems decent to labour the point.

But this is an unpalatable reality that transcends whether you agree with capital punishment or not; the signs of total Indonesian indifference to the priorities of Australia (unless they coincide with Indonesia’s) has been clear for all to see in recent times, and it follows plenty of other examples of it that have had nothing at all to do with the fate of condemned drug traffickers sitting on death row in Kerobokan prison.

Whether you agreed with the bipartisan position advanced by Abbott, his Foreign minister Julie Bishop, and supported and endorsed by Labor, the fact remains that Indonesia has thumbed its nose at Australia — to the extent, that is, that it hasn’t simply ignored us.

And the fact it chose to commute the sentence of one convict from the Philippines at the last possible moment simply must be interpreted as a signal of Indonesia’s real priorities in the region and its contempt for Australia, however much it might have been a bona fide show of justice in its own right.

The fracas over ASIO surveillance of Indonesian figures — conducted on the watch of the Rudd government, but expediently used by Indonesia to pick a fight with an Australian government of a completely different complexion — is another example of what I am talking about.

And its threats, simply distilled, to unleash a “human tidal wave” of asylum seekers toward Australia if, in short, our government didn’t stop making trouble and noise over Chan and Sukumaran’s sentences is yet another.

These are discussions to be had in full, of course, at another time and when passions and tempers and emotions have all cooled, and when I return this evening (time permitting) it will be to talk about something unrelated to Indonesia that I have “held over” for a couple of days.

Yet have that discussion we must: for the growing frostiness in relations between Australia and Indonesia is unmistakable.

It would be unwise to assume that that country, under the regime presently in charge of it, is friendly to Australia, or even a friend at all: and whilst better weather will no doubt come in the fullness of time, as others come to power in Jakarta who are possessed of a different outlook to Joko Widodo and the interests that back him, this increasingly evident reality will pose problems for the next few years at least that those who shape our policies toward regional neighbours would be ill-advised to ignore.

 

 

“Mercy?” Moronic Video A Final Insult In Name Of Chan, Sukumaran

BALI NINE ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will almost certainly soon be dead, with capital penalties for drug crimes to be carried out after midnight; but an imbecilic video featuring supposed luminaries of Australia’s arts fraternity is a final insult to those who think the narcotics trade is insidious, and those who ply it evil. This puerile stunt — saturated in ignorance — unjustifiably politicises a reality in which no-one wins.

Let’s be honest about something: anyone who supports the death penalty — as I do — certainly doesn’t think what is about to happen to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran is some sort of euphoric triumph, a victory of right and might over evil, or some vindictively based get-square that will leave those opposed to it somehow reeling and wallowing in the miserable depths of some irretrievable defeat.

In fact, it’s very sad; and whilst I have neither sympathy for Chan and Sukumaran nor a problem with the punishment they will shortly receive, they have families and law-abiding friends who no more deserve the grief and notoriety and disrepute the pair have brought them than those families who lost loved ones to the insidious scourge of narcotic drugs deserved the terrible fate Chan and Sukumaran sought to inflict on them, wilfully and for profit, and for which they will shortly pay with their lives.

There are no winners here, and to be blunt, any last-minute reprieve that seems certain not to eventuate would do nothing to resurrect the countless souls lost to drug overdoses and the rapes, murders, violence and other savagery that goes hand-in-glove with the drug trade.

It wouldn’t actually do Chan and Sukumaran much good either: it would martyr the pair, even if they lived to tell the tale, and turn them into a precedent case milked by any Australian whose stupidity landed them in comparable circumstances at some later date. In fact, they would probably (and ironically) regret the fact of their escape for the rest of their lives.

And it would do nothing for those seeking for decency and proper standards to be upheld and spread through the community, and one of the most offensive aspects of this whole saga as far as I am concerned is that this pair of specks of human filth have been feted and treated as virtual saints by Australia’s government, with pathetically abject and grovelling appeals to Indonesia to dispense with its own form of justice for no better reason than a sweeping generalisation that “we don’t support the death penalty in Australia,” and that contention is one I would very much like to see tested at a referendum at some point, for I believe support for capital punishment in Australia carries a clear majority of the voting public with it.

In short though, and to reiterate the point, there are no winners here.

Still, one contemptible band of death penalty opponents has chosen today to make a half-arsed, last-ditch stand, and rather than take aim at Indonesia, its President, its legal system and so forth, it has chosen instead to unjustly politicise the imminent executions of Chan and Sukumaran with a directly political attack on Tony Abbott that, in turn, is indisputably predicated on nothing more than lies and bullshit.

Headed up by allegedly the finest acting talent Australia has produced in Bryan Brown and Geoffrey Rush, this four-and-a-half minute diatribe is a moronic rant whose sole objective is to use the capital penalties meted out in and by Indonesia to damage Tony Abbott, and runs counter to the gargantuan (and in my view, excessive) efforts that have been made by the Prime Minister, Foreign minister Julie Bishop, and what appeared to be a bipartisan endeavour with the ALP to get Chan and Sukumaran off death row.

At least one person associated with this unimaginable stupidity must have seen the folly of their actions, for the footage was taken down from video sharing site Vimeo late today.

But someone had the foresight to upload a copy of it to YouTube first — where it has been viewed by tens of thousands of people in less than a day, and attracted about 80% disapproval from those who are registered on YouTube and who passed judgement on it.

Here’s the video; I urge everyone to watch it. It is blood-boiling, sanity-challenging, fact-defying cretinism.

“Fight for our citizens?” It is because Abbott, Bishop, and everyone else in the parliamentary claque have so exhaustively done exactly so that I have been critical of the time, effort, resources, money and diplomatic capital that has been devoted to the interests of two drug peddlers to the detriment of the wider Australian community.

“It’s time to fight for our boys, Mr Abbott,” one participant declares, apparently oblivious to the fact Abbott has done exactly that too.

One aspect of the attack suggests that if Abbott had “courage or compassion” he would “get over to Indonesia and bring these two boys home.” How? Walking onto foreign soil and arbitrarily abducting prisoners held under the law of that sovereign foreign country is an act of war, no less: assuming, that is, whomever undertook the abduction actually made it in and out again without being shot themselves, a defensive course of action the Indonesians would be perfectly entitled to take.

Perhaps the actors and their gaggle of parrots would like Abbott to declare war on Indonesia to “show courage.” What a brilliant thought…

“Grow some balls,” is not the sort of advice an ignoramus in international law ought to be dispensing to the Prime Minister, but it’s all here.

I’m not going to pick the whole thing apart, line by odious line — people can watch, after all — but about the only constructive suggestion this arrogantly bombastic effort makes is that Abbott physically go to Indonesia: and I would counter that given its President, Joko Widodo, has stoutly refused to even speak to the Prime Minister by telephone, showing up in person and demanding an audience is likely to see him left standing on the steps of the presidential palace, humiliated before a hungry international press pack, and achieving nothing.

Then again, seeing Abbott humiliated in such a fashion — despite the unbelievable lengths to which his government has gone to try to have the condemned duo’s sentences commuted — is probably high on the wish list of the bunch who made this film.

And in any case it is, now, too late — and, conveniently, it was already too late by the time this thing went live, too.

But whoever the idiot in the video was that suggested Abbott somehow confer diplomatic immunity on a couple of hardened, recidivist, big-league international drug traffickers as a way of secreting them out of Indonesia, I can only shake my head. Ignorant doesn’t begin to describe it. Dangerous either, for that matter. These people purport to be intelligent individuals. But their effort with a camera and editing software, in this case, suggests the complete opposite to be the case.

I have said enough about Chan and Sukumaran; whether you agree with their fate or desperately dispute the suitability of their sentences, or support the death penalty or its abolition, and whether vengeance or compassion or punishment or forgiveness is your watchword, the time for an outcome that does not feature their execution by gunshot appears to be at its end.

But every person who participated in that video — from Rush and Brown down — ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Very few commentators — whether for or against the death penalty — have sought to politicise this matter in a partisan fashion; I have been careful, too, not to present this in Liberal vs Labor terms, for it is nothing of the sort.

It is true that I think efforts to persuade unreceptive Indonesian officials to alter the death penalty have gone on for too long and, indeed, have gone too far; it was obvious, months ago, that Indonesia had determined to be resolutely impenetrable where pleas for Chan and Sukumaran were concerned, and so it has proven.

If anything, Australia — its government, its opposition, community leaders and individual citizens — have gone too far simply on account of the grotesquely slavering and fawningly sycophantic flavour these efforts have taken on in recent weeks: and this, far from persuading Indonesia, has probably only galvanised its opposition to any form of clemency and hardened its resolve to give no quarter in making public examples of the pair as part of its crackdown on (and execution of) drug smugglers apprehended on its soil.

In fact, I have to wonder whether the announcement this morning that Chan and Sukumaran would be denied their choice of religious counsellors to witness their execution is somehow a response to such a notion; certainly, this was a brazen and wanton act of cruelty that I find horrific. I might be in favour of capital punishment, but that particular decision by the Indonesians today was brutal, heartless, and unnecessarily inflammatory, given the passions and competing interests that are at stake.

Those who made that video have sought to lie, mislead, and deceive; no sane or rational person could do anything other than laud Abbott and his government for their efforts, and it is telling that for perhaps the only time in years, Shorten-led Labor and its MPs have not merely supported the government, but commendably walked in lockstep with it.

But one bunch of grubs on the Left — unable to control themselves on the endless, senseless quest to destroy Tony Abbott without principle, without proof, and using literally any pretext to do so without compunction — nonetheless has taken it upon themselves to sink the boot into the Prime Minister publicly, at a time they must have known was far too late for anything further to be done, and in a way that will merely compound Australia’s humiliation in Indonesian eyes on account of the excessive effort that was invested in the quest to get Chan and Sukumaran off death row in the first place.

The real offence in what they have done is to those who have been adversely touched by the drug trade in some way, for their filthy little hick flick won’t damage the Prime Minister.

And so — whether you think Chan and Sukumaran should be executed or not — this is just one final insult contrived in their names.

There might be no winners from their deaths, but these grubs have ensured the episode will remain that much more painful — and divisive — than it had to be, and for much longer than it should be, once the sounds of gunshot are replaced by deafening silence in a few hours’ time.