Goebbels Gaffe: Distasteful, But Abbott No Worse Than His Critics

TWO WRONGS do not make a right, and the use of personalised Nazi slurs in Australian politics is, on balance, a practice best avoided. Yet the depiction of ALP “leader” Bill Shorten as “the Dr Goebbels of economic policy” is no worse than similar smears used against Tony Abbott, and other Liberals, by Labor: including by some who now feign outrage. The thrust of Abbott’s remarks, however — that Shorten is a bullshit artist — remains accurate.

Having long been active in Melbourne’s political and business circles, it probably comes as no surprise that I have a number of associates and cherished close friends who are Jewish; yet even if this were not so, I have never had any time for anti-Semitic filth, and I make no defence of others who see slurs against Jews as an acceptable form of discourse.

Yet when Prime Minister Tony Abbott got himself into trouble earlier this year over his use of the term “Holocaust” to describe an employment crisis, this column remained silent; that word — replete with its evocative imagery of the evils inflicted on the Jewish people during World War II, and rightly so — has plenty of other applications in the English language that ostensibly have nothing to do with Jews at all. Do we associate “a nuclear holocaust” as a smear against Jewish people? Of course not.

And given prominent figures on the Left have seen no bar to the use of “holocaust” themselves, I opted not to dignify the hypocrisy with comment.

But Abbott today finds himself under fire again, this time for his description of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten as “the Dr Goebbels of economic policy,” and whilst this description is tasteless (and would perhaps best have been avoided), it has been blown out of all proportion by Australia’s outrage industry, sections of the Left-leaning press salivating over anything it can turn into indignant attack material against Abbott, and by the Labor Party — including some of its MPs who it seems have chosen to hurl stones at Abbott from their brittle glass houses.

Abbott’s comments, made in the context of remarks from Shorten in 2012 that the Gillard government had “brought the budget back to surplus” — the deficit continues to stand at some $50bn annually, with Labor under Shorten explicitly refusing to allow savings measures aimed at redressing it to pass the Senate — sought to portray the Labor “leader” as a propagandist, a snake oil salesman, and a bullshit artist.

Shorten is certainly all of those things, and more.

But I think the invocation of Third Reich imagery — on all sides of politics — is, whilst perhaps mostly not the hanging offence the sanctimoniously aggrieved political opportunists might suggest, nevertheless a practice that should be summarily dispensed with.

Even so, the most outraged of Labor’s MPs — shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC, also Jewish — had neither the right nor the standing to profess offence, having himself accused Abbott of “Goebellian cynicism” four years ago, over the latter’s campaign against Labor’s carbon tax.

Federal Labor has been free with its Nazi portrayals of both Tony Abbott and others in the Liberal Party for many years, as this report in today’s Herald Sun evidences.

And anyone who has studied politics at an Australian university knows that interaction with even Labor’s youngest and greenest acolytes quickly uncovers a narrative of all conservatives as “Fascists,” and the ALP’s use of Nazi insults is an old story, not a new one: a ready example is Labor’s decades-long likening of former Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen to Adolf Hitler personally — a practice that continues many years after Joh’s death — and routinely saw Labor protests in Queensland featuring collateral portraying the Queensland Premier with swastikas, dressed in Nazi uniform, and other examples of the conduct is now seeks to decry.

Its demonisation of Campbell Newman was enacted, in part at least, on exactly the same basis.

Can I just say that whilst throwing Nazi insults at each other is a practice that our politicians would be best served avoiding, the assumption of some moral high ground by the ALP is every but as repugnant as the words it seeks to crucify Abbott over: were we to catalogue every Nazi insult levelled publicly against conservative figures by the ALP, we would be here for a very, very, very long time indeed.

And that doesn’t make it right either.

Tony Abbott is of course no saint and, like anyone else, comes with his faults.

But I am getting really tired of beat-ups in the national press, seeking to crucify him over relatively trivial incidents, as often as not aimed at the Prime minister from a position of utter hypocrisy, and all concerned with the destruction of a Liberal Prime Minister at any cost.

Any genuine regard (in this case) for the sensitivities of the Jewish community Labor purports to express outrage on behalf of is, as best, an afterthought: not least when the likes of Dreyfus have been guilty of throwing the very same taunts at their opposite numbers when it has suited them.

Yes, Shorten is a complete bullshit artist; only an idiot would pay any attention to the story he seeks to peddle. Yes, Abbott could have better chosen his remarks, and it’s not the first time such an observation could be made of the Prime Minister: he hasn’t needed to invoke the spectre of the Nazi Party to attract controversy in the past.

And two wrongs certainly do not make a right.

But in the final analysis, this — like Abbott’s “job holocaust” remark — is little more than a storm in a teacup, and what currently passes for political discourse in this country serves it badly enough as it is without cynical ALP MPs trying to create major political controversies from such trifling errors as Abbott made yesterday.

Everyone should grow up, smarten up, and move on: and leave the Nazi jibes out of the political arsenal, where they have no place anyway.


Headless Chooks: If It Weren’t So Serious…

THERE’S a new TVC out today from the Liberal Party, and it’s a beauty; good for a laugh, but stripped of the mirth it’s actually a pretty sad reflection on the Labor Party and what passes for government in its current form. And, yes, if it weren’t so serious, it’d be funny.

If there’s one aspect of election campaigning in which the Liberal Party has had it all over Labor in the past ten to fifteen years, it’s been in the quality of its television commercials; it’s an area in which the party’s output has evolved into a major strength, with its hard-hitting and precisely targeted messages.

Late last night the Liberals released their latest TVC, and after I’d had a bit of a giggle over it I realised that it really is an indictment of the Rudd-Gillard government that something like this neatly sums up, in a pinch, everything that has been wrong with six years of Labor in office.

And it’s sad that a cartoon featuring the Oktoberfest Chicken Dance — of all things — is an apt descriptor of any federal government in this country.

Readers can view the TVC here.

I’d make the point that as much as was wrong with the Whitlam and Keating governments in the end, it’s difficult to imagine either of those gentlemen allowing the situation to arise whereby their governments could so readily be caricatured using headless chickens.

Certainly, Whitlam had Rex Connor, who acted against the law and against the specific directives of his Prime Minister, and Jim Cairns, who was more interested in his secretary than in his job; Keating had Brian Howe, whose escape from a testing press conference into a cupboard must rank as one of the most cringeworthy and symbolic moments in recent Australian political history.

And those divisive, inept governments, in turn, did considerable damage to Australia economically and — despite their self-congratulatory rhetoric about “social justice” — fostered deep resentment within the silent majority of Australians, with their emphasis on minorities and elites at the expense of the mainstream.

But even then, it speaks to just how bad this government is — indeed, I believe the worst in the country’s history, and far worse than Whitlam’s and Keating’s — that its track record can so easily and so farcically be pilloried.

The message of the “Headless Chooks” is deadly accurate.

If it weren’t so serious, it’d be funny. And if that’s the out-take from someone like me, what sort of message is this government sending to our friends around the world?

A visit to www.headlesschooks.org.au is also well worth a look, to meet “the chooks.”

See you all a little later…

Political Advantage From People Dying? Labor Finally Goes Too Far

Pursuant to my article yesterday, asylum seekers and illegal boat arrivals continue to dominate political discourse; finally — with one ill-advised, incendiary and rancorous remark — the Labor Party’s moral posture on these fraught issues has been obliterated.

I can’t call it a debate; the Coalition position has been consistent ever since the arrival of the MV Tampa in 2001 signalled a determination on the part of the Howard government to deal with illegal asylum seekers, unauthorised boat arrivals, and people smuggling generally once and for all.

And it did: the boats — and their pitiable cargo of trafficked human beings — stopped coming, and the scum who trafficked them were stopped in their tracks.

Bleeding hearts, chardonnay swillers and the Communist Party Greens were outraged. How dare people be locked away in mandatory detention, or issued Temporary Protection Visas? How dare Australia send people to places like Manus Island or Nauru?

The fact is that the Pacific Solution worked; it stopped the boats, genuine refugees who came by boat were granted — once their claims were processed — asylum in Australia, and deaths at sea virtually ceased.

ALP Parliamentary Secretary Mark Dreyfus scraped a new low in political standards today, accusing opposition leader Tony Abbott of “(seeing) political advantage in people dying” after Abbott refused to entertain any further talks with the Gillard government aimed at a compromise to find a bipartisan solution to the asylum seeker problem.

And why wouldn’t Abbott refuse?

As I wrote in this column yesterday, Abbott and his Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison have been shrewd to avoid being sucked into a trap: the overtures of “bipartisanship” from Labor are simply an endeavour to spread the political pain from this issue, and thus neutralise it; there is no reason whatsoever for Abbott and the Liberal Party to agree to anything of the kind.

Let those who criticise Abbott reflect that in a little over a year from now, he is likely to win the Prime Ministership in a crushing electoral victory; to do anything other than he is doing now would be to trash — in advance — whatever credibility as Prime Minister he may have on immigration policy.

The sticking point seems to be the adherence — I would call it slavish, without irony — by the government to its so-called “Malaysia Solution;” let’s have a quick review of that half-baked plan.

It calls on Malaysia to take 800 of our asylum seekers in return for 4,000 of their “processed refugees;” Australia would abrogate all controls, screening and standards over the people it would consequently be obliged to admit to this country.

It obliges Australia to pay Malaysia some $300 million for the privilege of a 5 to 1 swap that serves the interests of Malaysia far better than it does of Australia.

It is unimaginably short-sighted — there’s neither mention nor debate about what happens after boat arrivals 801 onwards are supposed to do.

It formalises the outcome for those asylum seekers who get to Malaysia — legitimate refugees, queue jumpers and less desirable types alike — to bypass several other countries in which they could resettle, and get to Australia instead.

And it has been ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.

Shall I go on?

The “Malaysia Solution” represents a deal struck by the government with Malaysia — which knew the Gillard government to be, proverbially, over a barrel — in the wake of the equally ill-conceived “East Timor Solution” which the East Timorese had never heard of when it was announced.

The “Malaysia Solution” offers no disincentive either to people smugglers nor their customers; if an asylum seeker happens to be at least the 801st arrival, there’s an excellent chance they’ll never set foot on Malaysian soil anyway — and so the whole thing starts again (although I’d wager the ALP is betting it may be back in opposition by then, should such a scenario ever arise).

And whatever else the Labor Party says it proposes, or will concede to the Liberals, it is a stated non-negotiable that the government will not agree to anything that does not include the “Malaysia Solution” at its core.

In light of all of this, it’s no wonder at all that Abbott and the Liberals refuse to negotiate with the government; indeed, they should be commended for that exact refusal. As Abbott said on Fairfax radio this morning, there is no point in negotiating just for the sake of negotiating.

But the comments by Dreyfus, implying that Abbott sought to gain politically from drownings at sea, are so insidious as to barely warrant comment.

Yet I do so on account of the fact that Dreyfus has betrayed the true spirit of Labor’s approach to this issue: carry on like a petulant child, and then — when things don’t go to plan — get really, really nasty.

On one level, though, Dreyfus is right: these matters directly concern and affect people’s lives in an actual sense; not to resolve these issues is to virtually guarantee more asylum seekers will die en route to Australia.

Which is why the Liberal Party position is the principled stand, and the Labor position flawed on just about every level imaginable.

Despite my political differences with them — and those differences, obviously, are considerable — I refuse to believe that the vast majority of Labor’s federal MPs are anything other than decent well-meaning people, even if they are wrong.

Even if a small few show themselves up from time to time to be Neanderthals and grubs, as Dreyfus did this morning.

And I would point again to the Greens, Labor’s supposed coalition partners, and simply ask why the government can’t deal with them? Why does it have to be the Liberals who must capitulate to the ALP and its useless policy, when they have their very own coalition partner at hand?

The answer lies in the fact that really, at the end of the day, the agenda of the parties of the Left is as much about denial of the Howard government and its legacy as it is about anything rational, practicably useful, or remotely constructive.

And as much as Gillard likes to rattle and drone on about “getting something done” (there’s another of those descendant slogans of “moving forward” again), if she simply got on and did something — with the support of her party’s ally, the Greens — there wouldn’t even be a continuing debate.

But there would certainly be a policy failure, and one that couldn’t be wiped on the Liberal Party as collateral, and it is this which motivates the political conduct of the Labor Party on this issue as it seeks to avoid yet another strike against its record in government.

And so, on the one hand, we have a policy that worked effectively as intended for seven years until it was abolished; the reinstatement of the Pacific Solution carries a guarantee of Coalition support in Parliament to bring this issue to conclusion.

That policy is opposed by Labor and the Greens for no better reason than the fact John Howard presided over it.

On the other hand, we have this half-baked, unworkable, impractical and downright naive “Malaysia Solution” which will do nothing in the longer run to resolve the boat/asylum seeker issue.

And now — courtesy of Dreyfus — the Coalition may be even less inclined to bail Labor out than ever; for it is one thing to retrospectively vilify a Liberal ex-Prime Minister simply for winning four elections, but it’s another matter altogether to effectively accuse the presumptive Liberal Prime Minister-in-waiting of welcoming the deaths of asylum seekers in the name of political profit.

It’s pretty sordid stuff. Not edifying. Not stylish at all.

Suddenly — as it has on account of so many other issues the Gillard government has mishandled — Labor’s job to fix this mess got that much tougher today.