Turnbull Apology Misdirected, But Another Election? Lunacy

THE RE-EMERGENCE of caretaker PM Malcolm Turnbull yesterday was welcome, if tardy; even so, his speech — in effect, a pitch on health — was a case of “too little, too late” given an election was held on Saturday. Negotiations with crossbenchers should be conducted privately, not in the glare of public scrutiny; but claims by Bill Shorten that Turnbull is about to call a fresh election are fatuous, and should be dismissed as a characteristic delusion.

The hand-on-heart mea culpa delivered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday — that he accepted full responsibility for the poor Coalition election result and the campaign that produced it — is difficult to take particularly seriously; after the spectacle of the unhinged rant he chose to perform before the country after midnight on election night, Turnbull had been conspicuously quiet on Sunday and Monday, and whether he likes it or not, his reappearance yesterday will convey the strong impression that he only acted when he did after two days of searing public commentary and the very clear message that even teetering on the precipice of defeat, some of those within his own party remained too angry with him to offer anything but criticism.

I will come back to that point toward the end of this article.

But first things first: another day into the great unknown which, for the second time in six years, sees election “day” set to stretch indiscernibly into the future, it is still very difficult to say what the eventual outcome will be; the most credible estimates of the final make-up of the House of Representatives suggest 73 Coalition MPs (-17 on 2013), 72 Labor (+17), three Independents (unch), one Green (unch) and one NXT (+1) is the likeliest outcome in a hung Parliament, but at this point, nobody really knows.

What does look increasingly certain, however, is that the Coalition has technically lost the election, failing to secure a majority of seats in the lower house; and with the recriminations beginning in earnest over the campaign run by veteran insider Tony Nutt, the performance turned in by Turnbull, and the non-existent contributions of several ministers from Turnbull’s moderate faction — to say nothing of the fact the Coalition proved incapable of communicating anything constructive to the electorate — it lends further weight to the judgement editorialised in this column yesterday that the Liberal Party (and the country) would be better served by going into opposition than by attempting to continue in office.

One thing I remain absolutely convinced of is that if this government attempts to remain in office now — and especially under its current leader — then by the time the Senate has had its way with it, it will meet its grisly end in a humiliating electoral belting when next it goes to the people; this view does not necessarily reflect my traditional opposition to Turnbull as Liberal leader (although his value in that capacity, or the lack of it, has been laid bare by Saturday’s developing result) but rather the opinion that a creature like Turnbull, suffocated by the tightness of the numbers and unsuited to the stifling and unceasing pressure of leading a minority government, is simply not a recipe for anything other than eventual defeat.

Would Tony Abbott have lost the election? Without hesitation, I say “yes,” although (and we will never know) the “Mediscare” lie from the ALP is one he would have ripped gleefully to shreds, where Malcolm’s limited (but accurate) declarations that it was “a lie” were at best completely ineffective against the onslaught.

But by those who resolved Abbott would lose and lose badly Turnbull was presented, and held up, as “a winner,” which — based on the discussions we are now having about the election outcome — he most certainly is not.

Turnbull’s statement today (at least two days overdue as it was) was remarkable for the apparent posturing it sought to undertake on health policy; his open canvassing of changes to the Coalition’s stance on Medicare — whilst emphatically reiterating the brazen lie inherent in the “Mediscare” campaign — clearly leaves the way open for any continuing Coalition government to back down on freezes to the Medicare rebate and other measures that might arguably compromise bulk billing rates if implemented, but it raises the question: why?

Why is Turnbull apparently pitching to crossbench MPs (whose final number, and identity, are not yet clear) for a continuation in office in public when there isn’t even a result to be negotiating around?

Why, if the modest savings measures the Coalition sought to extract from Medicare in a desperate attempt to partially plug the hole in the federal budget are so expendable, were promises of rescinding cuts and the like not placed before voters last week or earlier (when they might have influenced the election outcome) instead of after the horse has well and truly bolted?

And why, in making a half-eloquent case yesterday against “Mediscare” after the event, couldn’t Turnbull have attacked this stinking turd from the ALP with some gumption when the government’s fate was still to be decided at the ballot box?

Turnbull is an enigmatic beast; as readers know, I had some dealings with him many years ago, and despite some differences (it was during the republican debate) you couldn’t help but be impressed. But as a politician? The sad truth, and it isn’t meant as a personal affront, is that politics simply doesn’t appear to be Malcolm’s strong suit.

Even though what he had to say yesterday wasn’t strong enough to have carried the arguments during the cut and thrust of an election campaign, it was vastly superior to what he produced during that period. But it was too late. Too little, too late.

And “saving” his government now — just for the near-certain, foreseeable reward of utter annihilation within three years — doesn’t make any sense.

Meanwhile, little Billy Bullshit — still a thoroughly unsuitable candidate for high office, only now with a bigger, fatter head — has had the arrogance this week to be undertaking a “victory lap” of some of the electorates Labor has seized from the Liberals; the hubris and chutzpah of this insidious specimen apparently knows no bounds.

Not content to have sanctioned the bald lie that was “Mediscare” — all the other porkies emanating from the ALP over the past few years notwithstanding — Shorten’s latest pronouncement is that Turnbull is just itching to “rip the cord” and race off to a fresh election for the House of Representatives.

Unlike some of Shorten’s other fantasies, it’s not clear what he thinks this sort of drivel might achieve; anyone with a rudimentary understanding of electoral behaviour knows — in the context of what happened on Saturday — that another election now would simply gift Shorten a stack of extra seats and with them, a majority to go with the one Labor and the Communist Party Greens will command together in the Senate. Irrespective of the merits or otherwise of a minority Coalition government, nobody is going to make Shorten a gift of an undeserved parliamentary majority even if the Coalition’s end destination from the 2016 election proves to be the opposition benches.

There might be finger-pointing going on in Coalition ranks, but wanton suicide isn’t one of the courses of action under consideration in any quarter of the party. But Shorten, who seems to have trouble with reality to the point he has to invent circumstances to suit him — so much so that rank dishonesty is a disturbingly recurrent theme — will apparently stop at nothing in his delusional quest for the destiny he thinks lies beyond the gates of The Lodge, even if it is as thoroughly ridiculous as this.

And this brings me back to the question of the Coalition’s own pursuit of continuity in office — whether advisable in the medium term or not — and the (understandable) conversations that have already begun in trying to analyse what went wrong, what the causes were, and who should be blamed for it.

The argument that the Coalition should remain in office at all costs to stop Shorten and his goons trashing the country altogether is a compelling one…but only until the landscape that would confront it, which I outlined in considerable detail yesterday, is adequately considered and digested.

I hate the idea of Labor in office; I hate the thought of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister in Australia. I dread the damage it, and he, would inflict upon it if the high tax, high debt, high spending platform to throw money at every target it believes can be bought is implemented.

But as I said yesterday, there is more than enough evidence of minority governments (and specifically, ones that became minorities in the circumstances the Coalition would have) available to know that defeat might be repelled by a few years, but it would almost certainly not be avoided.

Either way, we will keep an eye on what’s going on this week: and tomorrow, barring anything Earth-shattering arising from the ongoing count or any of the goings-on of key players on the political landscape, I actually want to talk about Pauline Hanson and the other splinter groups of the far Right that descended on this election. Whilst I have little nice to say about them, their collective success in garnering votes on Saturday is also something the Liberal Party is going to have to confront.

But in closing, I want to make reference to the “warning” issued by Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday, who suggested that whilst the government was trying to negotiate its survival with the likely crossbench, those on the Coalition side should refrain from any public criticism.

Brandis — hardly a voter favourite, with his taxpayer-funded book collections, his declaration that free speech meant everyone was entitled to be a bigot, and his surprising inability to clearly articulate the government’s metadata laws to reassure an anxious public worried about its privacy — should know better than anyone, as an acolyte of Malcolm Turnbull and as a member of the senior leadership team that has just presided over the technical defeat of a first-term Liberal government for the only time in the party’s history, that politics is a vocation in which one lives and dies by the sword: which, right now, is poised against the government’s barely beating heart.

I don’t think the government should be fighting to remain in office after an election loss when to do so means a much greater defeat three years’ hence; but given George is obviously across the minutiae of these matters, I’ll publish any comprehensive refutation of the arguments I outlined yesterday that he cares to provide.

It can’t be any fairer than to allow both sides of the case to be heard, but something tells me a phone call from George to arrange it isn’t something I’ll need to find time for when I return to my office later this afternoon.

 

Libs Better Off In Opposition Than Minority Government

AS FALLOUT from Saturday’s election continues — and with counting set to resume — the prospect the Coalition will lose its majority in the House of Representatives is growing; with an even less hospitable Senate than the one dissolved before the election, a leader whose authority has been obliterated, and considering history, the Liberal Party would be better served going into opposition than trying to survive the quagmire of minority government.

In my article yesterday — suggesting his poor election showing meant that Malcolm Turnbull was finished as Prime Minister, and all but calling for his resignation — I relayed the anecdote of a handful of private conversations with well-placed Liberal Party identities across the country last week, in which I observed that it might be better for the party (and the country) in the longer run if we lost what at the time was the imminent election; now the smoke from the figurative nuclear blast of Saturday’s vote is beginning to clear, it seems those remarks might have been even more prescient than I realised at the time.

For the second consecutive day, Australians have waited in frustration to learn the results of their handiwork at the weekend; just as this effort could still see the Coalition emerge with a majority in its own right in the lower house, it now seems clear that’s just as likely that it won’t.

In my view (and this has nothing to do with my historic support or otherwise for Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull or anyone else), in some respects it doesn’t really matter if Malcolm manages to fall across the line with 76 of the 150 seats for the barest of majorities: it is clear that what little authority he had as Prime Minister — if, indeed, he ever had any at all — has been smashed to pieces in a stunning electoral rebuke that might not in the end prove sufficient to tip the Coalition from office, but which is more than adequate to show that Turnbull does not command support from the voting public in his present office.

If the government somehow manages to scrape through to a majority, the desirability of retaining Malcolm Turnbull’s services as Prime Minister is now an idiocy that will remain the delusion only of the most naive remaining members of the Liberal Party’s moderate faction, and of those on the political Left who last year drove Malcolm’s polling numbers to stellar levels of absurdity despite their utter disinclination to vote for him: a phenomenon we can now recognise as a fact in the aftermath of Saturday’s election.

But if the government falls short, as seems increasingly probable — winning perhaps 73 or 74 seats, more than the ALP, but insufficient to command outright control of the House of Representatives — the Liberal Party would be best served going into opposition instead of attempting to cobble together a minority government.

I say “the Liberal Party” as opposed to “the Coalition” because, thanks to his overthrow of Tony Abbott and the residual historic enmity felt towards him by the National Party, Turnbull’s flaccid electoral performance has probably turned the junior Coalition partner into just another unreliable variable were Turnbull to unwisely continue in his post.

Turnbull’s ranting, almost deranged post-election speech at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel — for which he kept the country waiting until well after midnight, despite the clarity hours earlier that no definitive result would be forthcoming — has, it has become clear in the 48 hours since, done nothing to underline his credentials as a viable ongoing candidate for the Prime Ministership.

He was right to rail against the ALP over its so-called “Mediscare” campaign, but with that sole exception, the speech was a graceless exercise in lashing out against everything and anything that could be blamed for an unspinnable election debacle.

The “Mediscare” campaign was unleashed fully a fortnight prior to polling day; it is an indictment on the hand-picked stuffed suits who formed Turnbull’s election war room, and upon Turnbull himself, that none of them — with time aplenty and adequate resources — could lay a glove on it, let alone puncture it.

I believe “Mediscare” was little more than an exercise in electoral fraud, and it is fitting the Federal Police are to investigate it; I should add that if former Treasurer Wayne Swan — not content with having left the nation’s balance sheet in an unparalleled state of disrepair — thinks bringing up his offspring to believe that lying to millions of Australians is somehow clever, or something to be proud of, then he is even more deserving of the contempt non-Labor types have for years levelled at him.

“Mediscare,” it transpired this morning, was the “brainchild” of Swan’s 24-year-old daughter, Erinn, who works for Labor in Melbourne. Frankly, and irrespective of whether the AFP even formalises its investigation, the Swans have invited upon themselves only deep shame, the tawdry profit the exercise conferred upon the ALP notwithstanding.

But I digress.

The Liberal Party is at its best when it embodies what it was established to deliver: mass-based policies that reflect the best of liberal and conservative traditions that are aimed at advancing the lot of all Australians, rather than pandering to sectional interests and obsessing over minorities as the Left in this country is invariably wont to do.

It’s why the Howard government was so effective, and so durable; living standards and national prosperity have rarely risen more sharply than they did during the Howard years.

By contrast, the slogan the Abbott government was initially elected on — hope, reward, opportunity — at least talked the talk, even if it singularly failed to deliver: largely on the basis of a hostile Senate that refused to allow it to govern.

And today, the party confronts the prospect of an even more destructive Senate — whether in majority or minority government — and the very real prospect that the upper house will prevent it from implementing its agenda at all.

The early estimates of the composition of the new Senate are for 30 Coalition seats (-3), 27 Labor (+2), 9 Communists Greens (-1), 3 Xenophon (+2), 2 Jacqui Lambie Network (+1), 3 Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (+3), plus Derryn Hinch in Victoria and one more Senator whose identity remains at the mercy of preference flows. Those numbers could move, of course, but only very slightly.

The only “class” in the new arrivals to the Senate is Hinch; Lambie’s only discernible positions are to attract as much attention for herself, whilst masquerading as the champion of groups that eschew association with her, and whilst causing as much damage to the conservatives as she can; Hanson — that great agitator who is so adept at whipping up resentment about problems she claims to act on without ever advocating rational or workable solutions — has long been known to hold grudges and has already been alienated by Turnbull, who told a national television audience that she had no place in political circles in Canberra.

Nick Xenophon is, of course, a more reasonable beast do deal with, if left-leaning; a quick back-of-envelope tally shows that even if the Coalition were to carry the Xenophon Senators and Hinch in 100% of cases, and if we assume the final Senate seat went the Coalition’s way, it would still be wanting for four additional votes to get anything through the Senate, ever: and when the only places those votes could come from are Labor, the Greens and Pauline Hanson, the scope of the problem any Coalition government will now face in the Senate becomes clear.

If we add, for the hell of it, Hanson’s votes, the bottom line is that Labor or the Greens still must vote with the Coalition at 100% of Senate votes for bills to pass. After the vicious and dishonest election campaign we have witnessed, the realistic prospects of that are remote indeed; and even if Coalition bills were to be permitted to pass, the likelihood is that the amendments needed to secure support would emasculate them so badly as to render persisting with them pointless if the objective is to deliver truly Liberal measures through Parliament.

Labor and the Greens claim that Abbott and Turnbull were terrible negotiators with the Senate; the fact is very simply that they didn’t want to be negotiated with at all. Lambie, for the little she is worth, now wants to be consulted on all legislation before it is even presented to Parliament — a position one suspects is at least partly contrived as an attempt to humiliate Turnbull (or whomever leads the Coalition) into a grovelling relationship that she alone is in control of.

So let’s be clear: the Abbott-Turnbull government faced hell in the last Parliament; this time around, it would be worse.

In the past 50 years, across federal government and the states, there has only ever been one instance of a minority government formed by the Coalition parties that was followed by an outright election win: Colin Barnett in Western Australia, elevated from opposition into minority government in August 2008 and re-elected in a landslide in early 2013.

In that time, no other minority conservative government — starting with the government of Angus Bethune in Tasmania (1969-72) through to the Napthine government in Victoria in 2014 — has ever been re-elected (and if readers know of any examples to the contrary prior to the late 1960s, feel free to note these in comments).

And the only governments to have moved from majority to minority status in that period to have been re-elected at all, albeit to an additional term in minority, are the current Labor government in South Australia and the Labor/Greens government in Tasmania of 2006-2014.

In fact, incoming Labor governments who take office for the first time in minority seem to fare much better than their conservative counterparts, with the ALP in Queensland (1998 and perhaps again now), SA (2002) and Victoria (1999) all going on to be thumpingly re-elected at the subsequent election; there is a very real risk federal Labor could follow this pattern if allowed to govern now, although based on the likely impact of its policies, I highly doubt it.

But the point is that if the Coalition goes into minority government this week, it will almost certainly achieve absolutely nothing on account of the state of the Senate; and if historical precedent is any guide, it will almost certainly face electoral annihilation at the election presently scheduled to occur some time before mid-June in 2019.

The National Party — known to have been ready to break the federal Coalition, largely as a result of disillusionment and latent anger stemming from Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party, by the time Tony Abbott became Liberal leader in late 2009 — has already achieved a numeric strengthening of its position on the non-Labor side of politics as a result of the 2016 election; Turnbull has shown a tin ear where the concerns of the Nationals’ constituencies are concerned to date, and it takes little imagination to foresee circumstances in which Coalition relations might become problematic against a backdrop of tight numbers and under the same autocratic figurehead from the inner-Sydney latte establishment Turnbull’s pitch is primarily fashioned for.

And this brings me squarely back to Turnbull.

Does anyone seriously believe this entitled, patrician symbol of upper-class fancies has the temperament or the inclination to knuckle under to the dour grind that minority government would impose upon him? Even with the whacking 30-seat majority he inherited from Abbott, it is well known that the absence of a Senate majority was a great frustration to Turnbull; for a man used to making decisions in business and simply making things happen, such a methodology was impossible in the last Parliament. In the coming one, it will be even more so.

I don’t think there is any public mood for the retention of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister — in majority or otherwise — and if there was, the Coalition would have secured more than 50% of the two-party vote. As things stand, the likely eventual result will be that it didn’t. Yet even if it does, Turnbull’s personal satisfaction ratings across reputable polling were averaging in the high 30s before Saturday’s election, and if it is good enough to claim Abbott had no legitimacy on that basis (as many, including those around Turnbull, did three years ago) then it is good enough to apply the same criteria to Turnbull now.

If the Coalition somehow ends up with a majority, then a new leader might help restore its standing, for Turnbull still has some way further to fall in public estimation to fully descend to the depths of opinion he was held in by the time he lost his leadership the first time: and as sure as night follows day, with his authority destroyed by the election result and his government on its knees, he will almost certainly continue that fall.

But if the choice is between forming a minority government — under Turnbull or anyone else — or opposition, then the better choice would be to gamble against Labor being re-elected in 2019, and to go into opposition now, for the one certainty I am prepared to predict is that if the Coalition tries to govern in minority, it will be decimated next time it goes to the polls.

Three years in opposition would allow it to anoint a young-ish leader for three years, and let him or her grow into the post — my choice would be Victorian MP Josh Frydenberg — whilst Labor under Shorten finds that its promises add up to nothing but contradictions, and that implementing them is a recipe for guaranteed electoral doom.

The Liberals could use their time in opposition to finally clean out their support structures, replacing nepotistic and entitled staffers with people who, on merit, would bolster the party’s prospects rather than fatally compromising them; in turn, the time could also be used to develop not just a comprehensive slate of credible reform policies, but also the tactical and strategic mechanisms with which to sell them.

It was put to me in one of those insiderish telephone conversations last night that allowing Shorten to become Prime Minister — and allowing Labor to legislate a program that would be disastrous for Australia — would be irresponsible, and that the Liberal Party had a duty to prevent it occurring at all costs.

However, if the only way to do so is to take up the cudgels of minority government for three years, the Liberal Party will be blown away at the end of it anyway: and Labor will, later rather than sooner in that instance, go ahead and legislate whatever it likes; probably over multiple terms in office, rather than the single term a minority Shorten government might plausibly be restricted to now.

And were the Liberals to go into opposition now, they would face the opportunity of an election in 2019 not merely poised to regain government, if the time in the wilderness is used to best effect, but to do so at an election that will include a half-Senate election, with the attendant prospect of whittling away some of the most undesirable crossbench Senators by way of the doubled re-election quotas they would face.

We will know in the next few days where the ongoing count of votes is headed, and at that time it will be appropriate to speculate further about the likely course of events.

But if it’s a choice between governing in minority and the opposition benches, the opposition benches are probably the best choice right now: for the long-term future of the Liberal Party, for its ability to deliver sound and prudent governance for all Australians when it returns to power, and — ultimately, and not least — for Australia itself.

I encourage all readers, but especially those with links to the Liberal and National Parties, to canvass these scenarios with those in a position to make final decisions on such matters should it become necessary to do so within the coming days or weeks.

 

Inconclusive Election Result Signals The End For Turnbull

THE LONGEST campaign in Australian history has spawned an inconclusive result that will take days to sort out; Labor has made steep gains and the Coalition steep losses but at close of counting there is no outcome, which will be a hung Parliament or a narrow Liberal win. Either way, Malcolm Turnbull is finished: those committed to sound conservative governance who have been sidelined and/or silenced must now have the courage to act.

After an interminably long election campaign has come an interminably long night: in front of the TV, on the phone and on various communication channels on my computer. I am still heavily affected by the respiratory infection my son generously brought home a week ago, which means I shunned making an appearance at the local Liberal celebrations in my electorate of Goldstein. But really, aside from a few quiet chats on the sidelines, it’s hard to say I missed very much.

What passes — for now — as the result of the 2016 election is a disgrace, and amounts to a complete indictment on the Liberal Party: on the cabal of ancient and time-serving henchmen who run it, on its ill-suited leader, on a large proportion of the pool of advisors who presumably helped shepherd the government into such a debacle, and on those who preceded them and proved unable to run an effective administration under the leadership of Tony Abbott.

But it is also an indictment on the ALP (and we will discuss this theme many times in coming months, I’m sure), for a precedent now exists for an opposition party to not merely run scare campaigns based on discussion papers or leaked memos and the like, but to spend election periods fomenting mass panic and fear of its opponents on the basis of absolute and total fabrications.

The so-called “Mediscare” reached its ugly zenith (or more correctly, nadir) yesterday, as thousands of voters awoke to find SMS text messages from “Medicare” claiming it was about to be privatised by Malcolm Turnbull, and that time was running out to save it. It is appropriate, as Turnbull flagged in his keeping-the-seat-warm speech just after midnight, that the AFP will investigate this disgusting tactic, which is tantamount to a fraud, and quite possibly a misuse of telecommunications systems under the Crimes Act as well.

But the fact “Mediscare” was able to take root at all, let alone run for almost a fortnight virtually unimpeded, rather neatly sums up everything that is wrong with the Liberal Party and its dubious campaign capacities; it had forewarning of the kind of tactics Labor would use (think emergency services workers accosting and assaulting voters at polling booths at state elections in Victoria and Queensland) and, with many days in hand before polling day — an eternity in campaign time — it failed utterly to puncture an obscenely duplicitous and arrant lie in the battle for the minds of voters, let alone manage to lay so much as a glove on it at all.

At the close of counting last night, the ABC’s Antony Green — aided by the predictive algorithmic software that partly offsets the incomplete vote count — found the Coalition on 72 seats (down 17 on notional figures after last year’s partial redistribution), Labor on 66 (up 9), the Greens unchanged with one, “Others” unchanged overall with four, and seven undecideds.

There is a case being bandied about by senior figures that owing to its superior postal vote and pre-poll campaigns, most of those undecided seats would fall to the Liberal Party and with them, a clear majority, but I think the inherent smugness behind this is fanciful.

In most of those undecided seats, Labor already leads by up to a couple of percentage points; in the seats the Liberals are ahead, the margins are so narrow (often 50.0% when rounded to the nearest hundredth of a point) that it is a heroic assumption to believe they are in the bag.

But even if the Coalition wins just four of those seats to form the barest of majorities in the 150-member House of Representatives, the fast-clarifying and likely composition of the Senate will make the obstruction faced by Abbott look like a dream scenario by comparison, and in any case, the Great Messiah — recruited to the Prime Ministership for the millions of extra votes he would bring, and for the dozens of backbench Coalition MPs whose arses he would keep in Parliament — has instead proven, as suspected, to be a multi-million dollar dud.

This column has exercised enormous restraint since September last year in not simply criticising Turnbull for the sake of criticising him; whilst I have never been a supporter of his in a leadership context — a view that is validated by the apparent election result — I took the view, as readers know, that he had to be given an opportunity to prove his bona fides (or not, as time has proven).

Going into an election more than 30 seats to the good of a discredited opposition and coming out, at best, with a one or two seat win is not a victory on any reasonable criteria.

The attempt by Turnbull in his midnight speech to liken this election to the 1998 result, and to harness the respect (and respectability) of the Howard government in so doing, is fatally flawed in one irrefutable sense: Howard’s near-death experience in 1998 came after he risked (and spent) almost all of his political and electoral capital on a series of reforms that have underpinned the solid performance of the Australian economy for most of the years since then.

Indeed, that near-loss experience directly followed a campaign to legitimise the overhaul of Australia’s ramshackle indirect taxation regime, delivering a GST, welfare increases and significant personal income tax cuts. It was a root-and-branch overhaul of the tax system that perhaps didn’t go as far as it should have, having regard to the political realities of the day, but it equalled in scope and importance the Howard government’s own waterfront reforms, or the floating of the Australian dollar undertaken by the Hawke government, for its long-term significance.

By contrast, the notion that a modest corporate tax cut bundled up with a regressive taxation slug on high-income, self-funded superannuants amounted to a “clear economic plan for jobs and growth” is, and was, preposterous.

That “plan” came after almost six months of fucking around with weightier, more significant reform options — labour market reform, further structural tax reforms involving GST changes, and the half-baked, hare-brained scheme to give the states income taxing powers — which were all rapidly discarded after being allowed to float for just long enough to capture public attention and convey the impression of a lot of activity but not a lot being achieved.

The classic “look busy, do nothing” posture adopted by lazy employees in all walks of life that we have all had the misfortune to run across at some time or other.

And the double dissolution itself, allegedly secured on the need to “restore the rule of law in the construction sector” as Turnbull reiterated in the small hours this morning, was fought on anything but, with the government’s proposals to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and ancillary measures being relegated to the occasional output of a junior minister that failed to attract adequate press scrutiny, let alone amount to selling the initiatives at all.

Turnbull himself has given every indication of campaigning like a patrician gentleman whose entitlement to the office was assured; most days during the campaign, I am told, he had sit-down luncheon engagements with old friends and cronies from his business contact book when he should have been pressing the flesh with ordinary punters in places like Southland, Westfield Parramatta, and the Queen Street Mall.

He looked uneasy meeting people and distinctly uncomfortable on the stump; the times he did speak at any length, of course, he waffled and blathered and missed the mark.

And when the time came to land the killer blows on his opponents, Turnbull was nowhere to be seen; reasonable proxy hits were effected by the likes of Finance minister Mathias Cormann, but Turnbull himself simply seemed to hesitant to strike. It is not a criticism Howard or Abbott would ever attract.

But the foundations for what happened yesterday were laid late last year, by Turnbull’s own hand; two ministerial reshuffles led directly to a string of foreseeable and avoidable scandals that blunted the fresh momentum with which the leadership change had, admittedly, imbued the government; yet even before that momentum had been stymied — and before the downhill run that continued almost all the way to polling day had commenced — Turnbull had the opportunity to go to a pre-Christmas double dissolution election, his personal ratings and the Coalition’s stocks at stellar levels, that he declined to take.

It was, as I foreshadowed at the time, a potentially fatal political miscalculation: and so it appears likely to prove.

The poor result in Turnbull’s own home state of New South Wales is at least partly attributable to members of his own moderate faction within the Liberal Party — emboldened by the change of leadership, and determined to press their new-found advantage home — embarking on a spree of attempted assassinations at preselection tables for Liberal-held seats across the state, and whilst almost all of these lunatic acts of political seppuku were thwarted, the damage was done.

Queenslanders never warmed to Turnbull the first time he was Liberal leader, and it seems they haven’t warmed to him now; it is no surprise that after NSW, Queensland is the state offering the best prospects for Labor to win seats: a point underlined by the fact all of the seats at risk to Labor are either outer-suburban Brisbane electorates, or located up the coast in regional Queensland. The government may, indeed, hold some of those that last night seemed gone. But it will lose several, and once again, the damage was done.

But the obscure admission from Liberal panellists on both the ABC and Sky News last night that nobody in the party had foreseen the vicious anti-Liberal swing in Tasmania puts the arguments about campaign professionalism and leadership beyond any doubt; in a statewide swing of almost 10% to Labor, the Liberals lost all three of the five seats it had held on the Apple Isle. One — Andrew Nikolic in Bass — was reportedly popular throughout the state, and had been earmarked as a potential future minister. Instead, he lost Bass to some no-name ALP candidate on a swing of 10%.

The example is a telling one.

I’m not going to spend any time talking about Bill Shorten this morning — there will be ample time for that later, if not as soon as later today — for that is a separate set of arguments altogether, and for now it is sufficient to observe that Australia will not be burdened by that particular shitbag as its Prime Minister: at least, not before another election, if he survives as opposition “leader” once the electoral dust has settled.

And we will, of course, track the ongoing election count, and discuss and analyse the ramifications of further results as they are finalised.

But the uncomfortable truth for the Liberal Party, even as the prospect of a (very slender) majority remains a live one, is that if the party doesn’t fix itself — and quickly — then within a few short years, a long and bitter winter will have set in.

Early next year, a state election in WA is likely to see the Liberal government there — elected with a thumping majority in 2013 — booted out of office; in eight weeks’ time, the CLP (Coalition) administration in the Northern Territory is similarly likely to be booted out of office.

In the aftermath of the federal election, the state election I suspected Annastacia Palaszczuk might have pulled on in May to complicate Turnbull’s election planning will almost certainly be called in an attempt to capitalise on the slight lift in ALP fortunes federal voters have delivered; the LNP’s new leader, Tim Nicholls, is excellent, and this column campaigned robustly for his elevation as a candidate who could retake government in the Sunshine State and arguably run a more durable administration than Campbell Newman did.

But the timing of this state election, at least, is in the hands of the Premier, before terms become fixed for a set date in October every four years, and should Palaszczuk pull the trigger at the right time and against the backdrop of a suitable alignment of the political planets, there is a real risk Nicholls could become the collateral damage of the process.

And with state elections due in March 2018 in SA and Tasmania, nobody is betting on the Liberals winning the former; in the case of the latter, and notwithstanding the thumping endorsement it received in 2014, the Hodgman government would have to look at yesterday’s Tasmanian result and be unnerved by what it sees.

That leaves the Baird government in NSW — which also contributed to the bad result for the Coalition yesterday, with its poorly timed slate of council amalgamations — and Graham Quirk’s recently re-elected civic administration in Brisbane, as the only continuing Liberal presences in office anywhere of note around the country.

In the lean, miserable decade the Coalition endured in the 1980s and early 1990s, it had been Joh Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland and Nick Greiner in NSW at various stages as the sole bulwarks against a sea of state and federal Labor outfits.

The problem with the government that emerges from yesterday’s debacle is that it will have little authority under a tarnished and diminished leader — whom some also describe as politically illegitimate — and no control over the Senate, meaning nothing of consequence (and certainly not the “clear program” Turnbull talks about) is likely to be accomplished.

And that, with an eye to electoral behaviour and the probable reaction of the Australian public to a second-term government that it perceives doesn’t do anything, is likely to invite an belting when next the federal Coalition submits itself to public verdict.

In other words, the gloom of the lean, leaden 1980s is once again threatening to swamp the Coalition.

Much of the blame must be shouldered by Turnbull and, if he refuses to accept it, be sheeted home to him: whilst the cabal of hand-picked servants Turnbull installed around him when he became Prime Minister share the responsibility, the unvarnished truth is that over the past ten months this has indelibly been Turnbull’s government, run Turnbull’s way, and he has led it to the brink of extinction.

It may very well be the case that there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian, but as Turnbull will quickly learn, one entity to which this vapid slogan does not apply is the government he currently leads, which will endure an even rockier passage through the coming term of Parliament than the Abbott government did in the last.

I’m not going to speculate today about replacements, timetables, or specific courses of action, but in recording such an abysmal election result — with nothing of substance to even justify the carnage, which Howard had well and truly in hand in 1998 — the Prime Minister is finished politically.

Those capable and connected Liberals — sidelined and/or silenced, as they have been forced over a decade to watch in horror as their party has become little more than a pale imitation of the Labor machine it rightly pillories — must act, and organise for the proper reform of the Liberal Party and a cleanout of the key people who keep making the disastrous decisions that have wrung the electoral lifeblood from it, if there is to be any chance of it again becoming the vehicle for genuine, mainstream liberal and conservative governance that was so effectively deployed under Howard.

As I suggested to a couple of senior Liberal associates last week, it might be better if Turnbull lost this election, and so it has proven: its authority destroyed, its majority eliminated and its program virtually non-existent, the Coalition must now forge ahead for three years under a leader who has been executed by voters and in the face of a recalcitrant Senate just salivating at the prospect of an easy kill.

There’s never been a better time to drastically reform the Liberal Party: and just as a fish rots from the head down, it’s best to start from the top.

 

Election 2016: Be Honest About The Alternative, And Vote For The Coalition

WITH A DAY before polls open, The Red And The Blue today endorses the Coalition and states its reasons (and reservations) in doing so; the government of Malcolm Turnbull is not perfect, and his leadership is not a change we supported. Yet punishing the Liberal Party for elevating Turnbull would elect Shorten; the disaster Labor offers — and the unfit candidate for high office Mr Shorten is — puts the choice at this election beyond question.

There are those who will look briefly at this column — at my membership of the Liberal Party (which I love), at my openly-declared conservatism, and at the fact I provided not just a ringing endorsement of Tony Abbott three years ago, but of the various state Liberal Parties who have contested elections in that time — and conclude that an endorsement of Malcolm Turnbull today would, as a matter of course, be issued.

In fact, I have spent a considerable amount of time during 2016 contemplating not issuing an endorsement today at all; unsupportive of Malcolm Turnbull at the time of the leadership change last September and still to be convinced of its value now, I have been intermittently dismayed and appalled (as regular readers know) by what has passed for governance this year against a backdrop of scandal, indecision, poor political tactics, and reticence to take a risk.

This election, to use a cliché, actually matters; to carry the platitude a step further, it is no exaggeration to say that in 2016, Australian voters confront the most important choice at the ballot box since 1975, when the Whitlam government had taken the country to the brink of ruin and was prepared to defy the Constitution to avoid the matter being resolved by the people, or even 1949, when a Labor government’s aim to entrench the slither of socialism through a program of bank nationalisation was decisively and properly rebuffed by the voting public.

To decide who should govern Australia for the next three years, it is necessary to look back to 2013, and to the six years of ALP government that preceded it.

In Labor folklore, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan are revered, deified, and touted as men who saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis that so ravaged the economies of many of our partners across the world, from which some may never recover; the reality is that the mining boom — then still in full flush, despite Swan’s best efforts to kill it with a tax — was responsible for doing that, and whilst any injection of monies into the economy clearly stimulates economic activity, it is doubtful whether Australia would have entered recession at that time had Swan and Rudd not acted with a stimulus package.

Whether it would or not, the fact is that the “need” for stimulus and the lure of the pork barrel soon provided cover for the single greatest program of economic vandalism in this country’s history; over the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, taxation receipts increased by an average of 7% per year.

Yet over the same period, government debt — which sat at zero when Labor was elected in 2007 — rocketed to $300bn by the time the ALP was ejected from office, as spending on social programs, electoral bribes to key constituencies and goodies for Labor’s union buddies were doled out with reckless abandon; these borrowings were in addition to some $40bn in surpluses that had been banked into two sovereign wealth funds by former Treasurer Peter Costello, monies that were gone a matter of months into the ALP’s term as it flung money at everything and anything it believed might vote for it whenever it next faced the polls.

Of course, by the time Labor left office in 2013, the GFC — or at least, the worst effects of it — had passed Australia by.

But in an unprecedented exercise in self-interest and through the indulgent gambling with the national interest to invest in future political profit, the ALP had, quite openly, booby-trapped the federal budget before it was defeated: legislating tens of billions of dollars in additional annual social spending that was designed to render the nation’s finances unmanageable by a Liberal government, with the objective of contributing to the first-term defeat of such a government on the pretext of its economic “incompetence” and the inability to balance the books.

This spending — on disability services, on funding to minority communities, on handouts to low income earners, and on other sensitive targets — was contrived to make any Liberal government seeking to rescind it appear cruel, nasty, or even evil.

And to compound the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd investment in the ALP’s own future, Labor during the current term of Parliament has resolutely blocked every measure presented to the Senate that sought to reduce spending, but has voted to pass every measure that sought to increase it, in an unbelievable agenda of sabotage firmly aimed at putting its own interests squarely ahead of Australia’s, and of the Australian people.

It surprises nobody, of course, that Labor has also spent three years making shrill declarations of the “incompetence” of the Coalition in failing to balance the budget — asseverations that simply do not withstand scrutiny, in light of the behaviour of the Labor Party — for its misuse of a Senate majority, held jointly with the Greens, was always a critical element of the strategy to short-circuit a Liberal government within three years.

There are those within and beyond the parliamentary Left, whose defence of these tactics has been to suggest the Coalition was “unable” to negotiate effectively with the Senate; the fact is that Labor, the Greens, and the hate-filled Palmer United Party that controlled it determined that there would be no negotiation at all, and to the extent there was, any outcomes that were delivered would worsen the state of the budget and fuel Labor’s 2016 election case.

Well, here we are: with government debt now sitting at half a trillion dollars and still spiralling, the responsibility for this outrage rests not with the Coalition parties that have been prevented from cleaning up the mess, but with the same party that created it in the first place — and which was happy to see the gushing red ink continue to flow in the happy knowledge that if the strategy paid off, and Bill Shorten were to be elected tomorrow, it would be taxpayers rather than those who created the mess who would be left to carry the can.

It is a reprehensible legacy from a party that gained, in the 1980s, the economic credibility it had never enjoyed; ever since the election of the Howard government in 1996 and with increasing speed, Labor has sought to disown its mostly fine record of achievement under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, to the point the ALP today more closely resembles the economic train wreck the Whitlam government developed into, and whose legacy it sought determinedly to recreate under the stewardship of Swan as Treasurer.

It says something for the capacity of Labor to manage the economy that for the only time in living memory, the last Labor government introduced a tax that not only raised no revenue, but nonetheless contributed heavily to driving investment in the minerals and energy offshore whilst compounding the effects of the end of the mining boom. It was an abjectly pathetic achievement.

A disturbing warning sign now exists at the Labor Party of today, which promises to introduce a slate of new taxes totalling a horrific $102bn over the next decade, but to spend the lot — and then some — to the extent that the already-haemorrhaging budget deficit will continue to balloon, and despite the extra revenue from Bill Shorten’s mad tax grab, will still add a further $16bn to the national debt ledger during the same decade over which it is collected.

This is no way to run a country; it is no way to provide for Australia’s people. At some point — long after the careers of today’s power-obsessed Labor MPs and their Trades Hall masters are over, and after those individuals have departed this world — today’s young people will inherit the responsibility those reckless specimens eschewed, and even if Bill Shorten loses tomorrow, there remains the very real risk that the next generation of Australians will endure sharply lower living standards as a direct consequence of the behaviour of the ALP over the course of the past decade.

The fact is that in the Australia of today, risks and challenges are everywhere we look.

Military threats in distant parts of the world that could spark global conflagrations: Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Islamic fascism in the Middle East. Nuclear lunacy on our doorstep in North Korea. Regional expansionism in Asia through China. Labor, with a fine record under Hawke on the international stage, sought to equip Australia for the security challenges of the 21st century under Rudd and Gillard by emasculating the defence forces. Rudd, in particular, retains the delusion today that he should speak for Australia on matters pertaining to world security at the United Nations. As with its obsession with electoral power at any price, Labor still acts from self-interest in this field rather than the national interest.

Economic threats in a world that has grown complacent, and stagnant, after decades of post-war success: across the Western world, overblown state sectors suck increasing amounts of money from liberal democratic economies, the effect of which is compounded by constantly increasing wage growth even as productivity falls and economic output stagnates; Europe, the USA, Japan, and other key partners Australia stands with are all afflicted by the condition, which is simply summarised as sitting on their laurels rather than continuing to struggle and fight for improvements.

The cultures of dependency and welfarism have exploded across the West — including Australia — as “compassionate” democratic societies invent new and grandiose pretexts upon which to shovel more and more largesse upon their citizens; the end destination is the basket case zone comprising the bankrupt and moribund economies of Europe, which “modern” Labor has done so much, so deleteriously, to attempt to emulate in this country since the Howard government’s defeat.

And an obsession with “rights” and a prioritisation of minorities over the majority of the population has become a mainstay of political life throughout the Western world, as the illiberal and socialist agenda of the “modern” political Left has sought to restrict freedoms, curtail dissent, and dared majorities to rise against it under the threat of being labelled, vilified and destroyed as bigots, racists, homophobes, and troglodytes.

On every one of these counts, Australian Labor has taken the anti-Australian position: this is not to say its causes are entirely without merit, or that the interests it advances should summarily be stifled.

But just as this agenda has hijacked any ability to mount cogent arguments in favour of sound governance — after all, no “losers” can ever be created by government under the narrative of the Left — it is reprehensible to accept that it should be tolerated for the base reason that other priorities are simply rendered too difficult to pursue.

Labor deserves to pay a price for its complicity in the creeping advance of this culture, and it deserves to pay it heavily tomorrow at the ballot box.

That is not to say, of course, that the Coalition is without fault: quite the contrary.

Conservative voters are entitled to be angry, and to remain angry, at the manner in which former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was removed from his post; this column remains convinced, however, that had he remained in office, the Coalition would lose the election tomorrow — or whenever it might have been held — on account of the irreconcilable deficiencies in strategy, tactics, communication and policies the government was welded to pursuing under his leadership.

It is true that the Coalition does not boast a record of tight economic management: the reasons for this have been clearly set out earlier in this article, and blame can and must be apportioned to the ALP and its insidious “leader,” Bill Shorten, for the failure to correct the damage it should have never inflicted whilst in office.

And it is certainly true that in changing leaders a year ago, the Liberal Party lowered itself to the level it has spent years berating and goading Labor for; political parties are free to change their leaders whenever and however often they like, and there is no such position as an elected Prime Minister. But the Coalition has made merry with this point for too long in the past, and it cannot expect the ALP not to follow suit.

As far as a program for reform — actual, genuine reform — neither party is in a position to proclaim it offers comprehensive solutions, despite whatever outbursts to the contrary either may offer.

To distill the choice to its essence, this election — and who people should elect — comes down to which party is most likely to prudently steward Australia through the next three years and, ironically, an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the leaders.

A very hostile Senate seems certain to be elected, to replace the very hostile Senate that has been dissolved: this might provide Labor with the argument it can deliver what it promises, as it is likely to control the upper house with the Greens, but the problem is that what the ALP offers is a program that should not be legislated by any Senate — hostile, compliant or otherwise.

A hundred billion dollars in new taxes, shadowed by an even greater amount of spending, is not what Australia needs today; in placing such madness on the table at a time of budget weakness and facing uncertain economic times, some gratitude should be expressed that Shorten and his cronies have given advance notice of their intention to simply resume the same program of vandalism that their predecessors engaged in between 2008 and 2013.

The objectives of the Coalition might be more modest, but at the same time, they do not come with a $100bn price tag: and in any case, with the experience of the past three years to guide it, the government can be expected to approach the Senate more carefully during the next; no such restraint can be anticipated from the ALP, whose only instincts are to borrow, and to tax, and to spend, with a total disregard for the consequences provided its own election can be guaranteed.

This is certainly not what Australia needs today.

I say to those nursing their anger over the dumping of Abbott to look at Bill Shorten, and to vote for the Liberal Party; I understand and accept that Malcolm Turnbull is not to everyone’s liking (and remind them that I campaigned against his ascension for several years) but when compared to his opponent, Turnbull is a veritable saint.

In Shorten, we see a union thug, a liar, a self-obsessed narcissist, and a man whose “vision” extends no further than a delusion that the Prime Ministership is his destiny.

Shorten has been prepared to say and do, literally, anything to win this election; but like any liar, or bullshit artist, sooner or later the conflicting stories told to different people at different times collide with each other, and Shorten has been caught out: and so today, the only palpable reason he offers voters to elect the ALP is the blatant lie that the Coalition would privatise Medicare.

As I remarked recently to an upper house Liberal MP in Victoria, Shorten’s has been the most dishonest election pitch I can remember in the past 30 years.

It should not, and must not, be rewarded with the keys to The Lodge.

I should emphasise that this is an imperfect choice, and that neither party has truly enunciated a vision (for want of a better word) to electrify the public mood or to excite confidence from the electorate.

Yet the pitch that has belatedly emerged from Turnbull — despite wasted months and wasted opportunities — around lower taxes, greater incentive, sounder public finances and more secure public services is more credible than the snatch-and-grab agenda of the ALP, or the prejudices and resentments it seeks to fuel as it plays sections of the community off against each other for its own petty partisan profit.

And so — with reservations — this column recommends all Australians vote 1 for their local Liberal and National candidates in the House of Representatives; we beg readers to vote for the Coalition in the Senate, to mitigate against a (seemingly inevitable) rerun of the gridlock and obstruction that saw government grind to a halt in the last term of Parliament; and to those resolved to vote for a minor party or Independent, we respect your decision — but recommend, in all cases, that your Coalition candidate be placed above both the ALP and the Greens as you complete the full allocation of your preferences.

In fact, so insidious — and so blatantly at odds with the best interests of this country — is the Labor platform set out for voters to judge tomorrow, we also recommend (in defiance of the official Liberal Party position) that the Greens be placed ahead of the ALP in every lower house seat in Australia, to amplify the defeat Shorten deserves to suffer.

Tomorrow’s election is important, and an unprecedented amount of reflection has been required to arrive at the recommendation I offer readers today.

Don’t punish the Liberals over Tony Abbott. Don’t reward Bill Shorten for his duplicity and self-interest, and his disregard for anything more than the getting of power.

But above all, elect the party that best aligns with what Australia needs today: and however imperfect or flawed that party may be in the eyes of some, the Coalition is nevertheless the more deserving of a term in office at this election.

 

A Timely Reminder: Bill Shorten Is Not A Leader

THREE DAYS from an election he is almost certain to lose, Bill Shorten is thrashing around in desperation — saying literally anything he thinks will frighten voters into voting against the Coalition — in a mad lunge for power designed to achieve his delusional lifelong “destiny” to be Prime Minister: and little else. With the passage of time, people can forget who it really is they are dealing with. Tonight, we offer them a timely reminder.

Near the end of one of the most uninspiring and visionless election campaigns seen in Australia for some time, I think it is safe to say there will be a lot of let-down people in this country on Sunday morning, irrespective of their political stripe; terrified of upsetting the delicate relationship with the conservatives in his party, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has offered a tepid and limited agenda that will do little to redress the critical structural problems that are becoming endemic in the governance of the Commonwealth — and this, combined with an upper house campaign likely to cede, rather than gain, ground — probably means that most of Turnbull’s offering will never be legislated anyway.

Bill Shorten, however, is a different proposition altogether.

It used to be the case in conservative eyes that despite political differences, the Labor Party produced leaders worthy of the title and deserving of cross-party respect; even the ones who never made it — the Beazleys, the Creans, and even the Lathams of the ALP — were decent and thoughtful individuals dedicated to what they believed in and to what their party stood for (even if, from the other end of the political spectrum, many of us thought they were wrong) and who could rightfully claim to have upheld traditions of public service that befit those elected to perform it.

About a decade ago, this fine history was shattered — perhaps irrevocably — with the ALP leadership becoming the plaything and the preserve of faceless factional thugs and other hoodlums with no known connection to the national interest; from the imbecilic cretin Kevin Rudd (with his coterie of adolescent advisers and his vile, abusive, micromanaging narcissism) to shyster and union cat’s paw Julia Gillard, nobody could accuse Labor of producing leaders in recent years who merit and/or warrant public respect.

But Shorten — currently lying to Australia for all he is worth about some fictitious Liberal Party plot to privatise Medicare — takes the biscuit.

Shorten’s goons actually had the temerity to complain in social media last week that the panel for the ABC’s lamentable #QandA programme — the week he appeared on the show solus — was “stacked” because three of the five panellists were not fully owned, completely controlled mouthpieces of the ALP and/or the wider Left; “ABC bias” was the catchphrase, and aside from the fact host Tony Jones could be seen as automatically squaring the ledger 3-all, the idea of the ABC (and of that God-forsaken programme in particular) ever exercising wilful political bias toward the Coalition ranks as the dumbest pronouncement on Australian politics this year to date.

The reason I raise this story is because organising squads of goons — to hit social media, or to turn up as rent-a-crowd ballast at ALP-sponsored demonstrations to provide “community” support, or to rig the questions at a Labor members’ forum on his way to securing the leadership against Anthony Albanese in 2013 — is not a mark of a leader.

It might make Shorten adept at organising people and persuading (or forcing) them to do what he wants them to do: this is not leadership.

And in every aspect of Shorten’s performance of his duties as “leader” — the lies, the distortions of opponents’ words and statements, the bloody-minded obstruction, and the fantasy of his entitlement to the Prime Ministership — this lack of leadership has been palpable, tangible, and is likely to prove the ultimate difference between Turnbull being re-elected or losing on Saturday evening,

Tonight’s article is intentionally brief; I want to share with viewers a very short trip down memory lane, to the last (and only) time any serious attempt was made by the Coalition to tear away the myth of Bill Shorten the “leader.”

Clearly, there are many things I could add — as I have in the past few days, and will likely also do in the next — but the problem with fast-moving 24/7 media cycles these days is that all too often, things get swept away in the rear view mirror: and rather than them never be seen again, the proper use of certain materials is to ensure they are recycled, placed once again before the target audience, and repeated whenever appropriate.

With Bill Shorten expecting to become Prime Minister on Saturday, now is indeed such a time.

I would like to urge readers to not only spend the three minutes reacquainting themselves, through the video posted this evening, with Shorten’s dubious rap sheet since entering federal Parliament, but to consider distributing it throughout their networks (along with this article) to ensure that as widely as possible, this message on the dreadful specimen masquerading as a suitable candidate for the top job in Australian politics is heard, shared, and recirculated.

If Turnbull indeed wins this election — as consensus now indicates he will — it is to be hoped the ALP can break with the dubious “modern” tradition it established a decade ago of identifying the least electable shitbag in its midst, and making him or her the leader of the party: I might be archly partisan, and it is true I oppose the ALP with every fibre of my being. But I wouldn’t mind having an opponent led by a decent human being for a change. The tone of my critiques would temper considerably were it to occur.

But I have heard, like everyone else, that Shorten thinks he should be given a second chance to win for Labor if he goes down, as expected, on Saturday; the national interest will be well served if his political career is instead terminated altogether in three days’ time, and to this end, let’s all get busy — and start spreading the word.

 

More Lies: Bill Shorten Nails His Own Coffin Shut

THE ELECTION RESULT is all but a foregone conclusion now, with an increasingly rattled Bill Shorten seemingly unable to make a case for office based even remotely in fact; not content with the fairy story of a Liberal plot to privatise Medicare, the ALP “leader” has resorted to selective misquotations of the Prime Minister and cynical exploitation of gay couples in a “defining moment” that sounds the death rattle of Labor’s election campaign.

For something a little different, I’ve been contemplating recording a video comment at the end of the week to actually talk to readers about some of my final conclusions before polling day, but as fate would have it — and as readers with germ distributors children in their households will understand — a vicious ear and sinus infection that struck late on Sunday night has temporarily left me half deaf and unable to speak without sounding half drunk (or at least, that’s how it sounds to me at present). If the antibiotics I’m on clear the worst of it in the next day or so, we may indeed have a conversation on Friday; and if we can, it might be an opportunity for a more interactive comment and discussion forum on election eve (which was the thinking behind the idea in the first place). Stay tuned.

The curious thing from a Labor campaign that was always based on “smart” answers and being just a bit too clever — or arrogantly cocksure of itself — for its own good is that until less than a fortnight ago, it seemed increasingly likely that however improbably and however distastefully, Bill Shorten would end up moving into the Prime Ministerial suite next week.

In some respects this isn’t surprising at all; the Coalition has spent three years unable to manage its budget measures through the Senate, unable to sell any kind of message to the wider electorate, and unable to puncture tactics used by the ALP that have variously been opportunistic, shabby, duplicitous, and wantonly destructive, gambling with the welfare of this country in pursuit of a naked obsession with power for its own sake.

I make no apology for labelling Bill Shorten “a lying prick” in this column on Monday, for that is precisely how he has chosen to conduct himself; personally (and like millions of other Australians) I am absolutely fed up with the ethical debasement and entrenched dishonesty that too often passes for political debate these days — with the Labor Party the chief proponent of this dubious art — and with Shorten, despite serious competition for the mantle from the likes of Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard, being the worst perpetrator of it of the lot.

On what planet — on what planet, for goodness’ sake — would any decent (and rational) individual solemnly declare that the Coalition intended to privatise Medicare — a monolith that is inadequately funded despite record real levels of expenditure on health, would constitute a dreadful and unacceptable risk proposition for any serious investor in healthcare assets, and which loses about $10bn per year?

The only reason to do so — and it plumbs the depths of irresponsibility coming from a man purporting to be fit to lead Australia — is to frighten shitless the poor, the very sick, the very old, and the helpless: the very people Labor, and Shorten especially, claim to act for.

Shorten knows that there is not an atom of truth or fact to his shrill claims about what the Coalition would do to Medicare, and as I observed yesterday, the possible privatisation of the payments system that forms part of Medicare (which is ancient, outdated, sorely overdue for replacement and close to dysfunctional) does not in any way substantiate nor legitimise the ridiculous and reprehensible statements Shorten has been making.

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke — whose government introduced Medicare in the first place — lowered his colours this month by agreeing to buy into Shorten’s bankrupt politicking on the issue, and any Labor person who genuinely thinks their “leader” is onto something ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Will it shift votes against the government? Some, almost certainly, yes, and that’s the truly offensive aspect of this episode: people who’ve been scared by Labor (be they gullible, stupid, or just downright terrified) will support the ALP for the base reason of an utter lie told to them by people they believed they could trust.

But without bogging down on Medicare, even Shorten found a new low to plumb yesterday, with his presentation of a “defining moment” in the campaign that was no more than showing an ability to cut and paste words together to form whatever sentences and/or messages are desired.

It was, Shorten cheerily told the National Press Club, the “gaffe that marked the end of the Prime Minister’s credibility:” a statement attributed to Malcolm Turnbull that what political parties say they will support and what they do in practice are two different things; and one of those breathtaking displays of chutzpah from Shorten, this time trying to crucify Turnbull over the exact sin he is guilty of committing himself — rank dishonesty and the inability for anyone to be able to trust him.

What was missing was the rest of the Turnbull statement.

“You have seen the Labor Party has opposed many measures of ours at which they have subsequently supported or subsequently changed their position on. The best-known of those is obviously the School Kids Bonus, which they made an iconic issue and launched petitions and campaigns and said they were going to fight all the way to election day to restore it and then did a very quick backflip on that.”

Shorten, in the past week, has taken to rhetorically asking voters, “who do you trust?” in attempting to frame his case for office.

The numbers on his election costings don’t add up — an inconsistency he simply waves away — despite the level of debt in this country rightly troubling an increasing proportion of the electorate, engineered as it was by the ALP in the first place.

The magic pudding equation of how spending can be ramped up, whilst failing to raise taxes or cut other spending sufficiently to pay for it, and whilst paying down Commonwealth debt — all of which Labor insists it will do — is an algebraic anomaly for which Shorten has no answer; its costings discredited and its own admission that the national books would deteriorate under its management are paid trite lipservice by the assertion that in a decade’s time (the political equivalent of the never-never) everything will be all right.

Who do you trust? The answer, almost certainly, is not Bill Shorten.

And just to cook up a diversion, Shorten has taken to trying to out-Green the Greens on gay marriage, claiming the first piece of legislation a Shorten government tables would be a bill to legalise the measure. But this — apparently being used as a last-gasp stunt to save a couple of seats in inner-western Sydney from the Greens’ clutches — is unlikely to resonate with the majority of the electorate either, which is just as fed up with being marginalised whilst minorities are feted as it is with being lied to.

There now seems to be a consensus that despite throwing everything at winning this election (however dubious the calibre of that effort), Labor will lose on Saturday; it is a judgement I have been cautious about endorsing until just these past few days — I thought Malcolm was dead in the water two weeks ago — but whilst Turnbull hasn’t exactly given Australians a clear and tangible set of reasons to re-elect him, the efforts of Shorten to shoot himself in the foot in recent weeks transcend anything Malcolm might, or might not, have done.

I’m not suggesting the Liberal Party will be an especially deserving winner on Saturday, despite my decades-long membership of that fine organisation; a timid and confused period under a new leader has produced a timid and decidedly thin election agenda against a backdrop of scandal and disarray, which has been advocated during a campaign seemingly designed to ignore (or wish away) the most important issues the country faces and at times appearing contrived to actually throw the election away.

And I’m not suggesting Malcolm Turnbull will be re-elected in particularly robust shape — the likely nightmare scenario of an equally unworkable and wilfully obstructive Senate to the one it replaces will be but one symptom of the lack of voter enthusiasm for the government — although the result in the lower house, whilst now almost certain to be an outright Coalition win, could yet fall anywhere between a simple majority of 76 of the 150 seats or something approaching a landslide: there are three days of campaigning, and scope for everyone on all sides to stick their feet in their mouths, to go.

Either way, Shorten has gifted the Prime Minister a win: that’s the bottom line.

For the Coalition’s agenda — thin as it may be — is infinitely preferable to the scorched Earth outcomes that would result from any serious attempt to implement the half-baked platform being peddled by Shorten, and I think the electorate has realised, if sullenly, that reality: add in a few poor judgement calls (like admitting Labor would legislate the very budget cuts it spent two years flatly blocking) and a bit of bad luck in the form of world events likely to drive domestic sentiment behind the sitting government (the “Brexit” vote in Britain), and Shorten is as good as cooked.

And when it comes to the would-be Prime Minister of Australia deliberately misrepresenting his opponent in the fashion Shorten did yesterday, that is another lie; the sin of omission is just as bad as an outright untruth. The accusations Shorten have been making against the Coalition have been disgraceful, but his attempt to frame Turnbull as a liar by deliberately misquoting him borders on defamatory.

It should surprise nobody, of course, for Shorten — since the day he became opposition “leader,” if not years or even decades earlier — has repeatedly demonstrated that there is no depth to which he will not descend, nor no low too low for him to plumb, in his obsessive quest for power and self-advancement.

Yesterday was a “defining moment,” all right: it was the time Shorten managed to nail his own coffin shut.

Pray for Shorten’s sake that the final few days of the campaign are mercifully swift; his party, if it is a repository for any intelligence whatsoever, will do what it had initially determined to do in November once the election is out of the way, and toss Shorten overboard. Nobody will miss him when he has gone.

The responsibility — and the blame — for electoral defeat on Saturday must be sheeted home to Shorten, and to Shorten alone.

In the meantime, any further utterances from the Labor camp — and particularly from Shorten himself — should be recognised for what they are: the death rattle of a campaign that remained alive for longer than it deserved to, and which amounts to no more than the desperate ranting of an outfit well aware that it faces imminent, and certain, defeat.

Nothing shocks me in politics, and very little surprises me these days, either. But it never ceases to amaze me just how low the ALP can sink, and once again, Shorten has demonstrated that the ethical crevasse into which he has sucked his party is a bottomless abyss indeed.

 

A Paper, A Poll, The PM And A Prick: It’s Over…And Just Beginning

INELEGANT it may be to say so bluntly, but Bill Shorten is a lying prick: and this candid assessment of the ALP and its pathetic “leader” is, finally and belatedly, the reason it will lose Saturday’s election — possibly very badly. It is an indictment on the Coalition that it should have fallen to a newspaper to enact a rudimentary demolition of its electoral rival: and whilst Malcolm Turnbull will win, retaining government should be the least of his concerns.

“If a man tells you that a mountain has changed its place, you are free to believe it; but if a man tells you he has changed his character, do not believe it.”

— Arabic proverb

It’s one of those ironies that having rounded the straight into the final week of the election campaign, I finally have time to publish content in this column more regularly; and whilst we’ve missed a lot of the campaign here in terms of the day-to-day goings-on of the objectionable circus that has this time passed for an election campaign, there is a sense afoot that anyone who might have tuned out for the past seven weeks would have missed very little at all.

There’s a Newspoll out this morning; The Australian is carrying a poll that shows the Coalition leading Labor after preferences, 51-49, for the first time in months; it shows both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition “leader” Bill Shorten regarded as far more unpopular with voters than popular, and shows the clear but unconvincing lead Turnbull has maintained on the “preferred PM” measure remaining intact.

And that’s about all anyone needs to know about Newspoll today; some of the other polls concur and some still suggest a Labor lead, but just as we said a fortnight ago — when Shorten finally confessed that in order to try to fix the federal budget, a Labor government would have to adopt most of the very savings measures it has flatly opposed since the 2014 budget — the election was probably won or lost the minute Shorten’s press conference ended, and I now believe that in Shorten’s case at least, the losing hand was the one he had attempted to play when the reality of a possible election win collided with the utter crap he had spent nearly three years spreading across Australia.

We already knew Shorten was a liar, and we knew it because he was humiliatingly forced into admitting as much when the ABC’s excellent documentary The Killing Season called out inconsistencies between various (and varying) public accounts he gave at different times where loyalties to successive leaders he knifed in the back during Labor’s last stint in office were concerned.

But since obtaining the ALP leadership in October 2013 (by using union strictures to bind the votes of MPs to override the wishes of grassroots Labor members, almost two-thirds of whom rather astutely didn’t want him), Shorten has had the temerity and the gall to criss-cross Australia, lecturing about “fairness,” masquerading as some paragon of principle, when his words and his actions really constituted nothing more than another colossal set of untruths.

Lies about the parlous state his party left the country in when it was kicked out of office. Lies that untrammelled, profligate spending — doling out wads of the folding stuff to anyone Labor thought could be bought — was responsible and sustainable. Lies about the motives — real, perceived or (almost invariably) fabricated — of his political opponents. Lies about the supposedly pristine state of his beloved union movement, the purity of which is somehow divorced from the pending procession of dozens of his old buddies through the courts to face prosecution on charges arising from a Royal Commission.

Yet just as Shorten tried to assure everyone that he had changed — and that he wasn’t proud that he lied when he was a minister in Julia Gillard’s government, until he sank the dagger into her — his narrative (which might more fittingly be termed a diatribe) has exuded dishonesty, duplicity, and the clear intention to take voters for a ride.

Perhaps the naked lust for power, or some half-baked undergraduate delusion of a “destiny” to be Prime Minister, were just too strong to resist the temptation, but one thing nobody could accuse Bill Shorten of during his term as Labor’s “leader” is being entirely honest.

The thought bubble of perhaps privatising the payment transaction system — just the payments system — that is part of Medicare does not equate to a policy to privatise Medicare altogether: but this is what Shorten has explicitly claimed during weeks of disgracefully misleading campaigning.

His negative gearing policy — lauded by Labor and the shithead trolls it marshals across social media as an end to the “rort” enjoyed by rich people, and which will get the snouts of “piggies” in the property industry and on millionaires’ row out of the trough  — in fact contains a provision that will allow the richest Australians to continue to negatively gear, even on new investments in existing housing stock, writing their losses off against capital gains when they sell their assets in order to (you guessed it) minimise their tax bills: in other words, anyone with deep enough pockets to carry the losses rather than writing them off against their income tax each year (as the 75% of investors earning less than $80k per year do) can negatively gear property until the cows come home, locking those on modest wickets out of the market and permanently tilting the market in favour of the “rich” Shorten claims to despise.

We now know he lied about a large proportion of Joe Hockey’s 2014 budget for two years: suddenly announcing Labor would honour a fair slice of it does not change that fact, and any debate on the political merits of that budget are in fact irrelevant; if those Australians who listened to Shorten for so long vote for him, Shorten’s admission means he will hit them with exactly what he promised he would prevent them from being hit with.

There is no attempt to reconcile how hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending is consistent with a budget deficit already running at $50bn per year that Labor’s own figures now admit will worsen by $16.5bn over four years if its policies are ever implemented.

He deliberately misled voters in late 2013 — when Hockey moved to abolish Labor’s $300bn debt ceiling (itself a stunt to force an incoming Liberal government to be frustrated in the Senate when seeking funds to pay for the recurrent spending Labor left behind) — announcing that the Liberals “were putting debt up to $500bn” when all they were doing was ensuring Labor’s legislated spending, which Senate numbers meant the Coalition had no chance of repealing, did not have to become a daily shitfight for the Coalition to have to prosecute.

Ironically, federal debt has indeed now reached $500bn, as the direct result of the spending traps Labor itself legislated into the budget. But Shorten and his cohorts can’t be honest about that either; they were absolved of all responsibility the day Labor went into opposition, apparently.

It is an indictment upon the Coalition — after a wasted start to the year, and a largely wasted election campaign — that it fell last week to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph to finally smack Shorten down; depicting the Labor “leader” as a liar, and highlighting even more of the dishonest and duplicitous offerings that have emanated from the ALP cabal for years, the Tele belatedly did what the Coalition should have been doing almost three years ago: but never did or, to the extent it tried, its attack was misdirected, poorly framed, and completely ineffective.

BILLY BULLSHIT…at the eleventh hour, Shorten was kicked to pieces over his “principled” positions: the damage from this slapdown will endure longer than any of his vapid promises. (Image: Daily Telegraph)

For the past couple of weeks, luck has been running the way of the Prime Minister — not that he has created any of it, despite his exhortations to do precisely that at the Liberal Party’s campaign launch yesterday.

In fact, Turnbull and Co can probably count themselves as very lucky indeed, for as recently as ten days ago it seemed the election might have slipped from their grasp, and the fact it appears instead to now be a question of how much they will win by owes far more to the actions of others than to any positive movement on the Coalition’s part to present a compelling case for victory.

And there’s the rub.

I think — where the House of Representatives is concerned — that Malcolm Turnbull will now win.

Whether by a sliver or in a canter remains to be seen, for there is still ample time for things to happen between now and polling day.

But winning an election in the lower house really isn’t good enough; not least when a double dissolution for both houses is underway, with the stated objective of “sweeping the current crossbench” out of the Senate, and on the necessary issue of legislating reforms to union governance that have barely rated a mention since Turnbull was granted his election for both houses by the Governor-General.

Even if the Coalition wins a reasonably solid majority in the House, it seems almost certain that it will barely improve its 33 spots in the 76-member Senate, or even go backwards: armed with potent issues to fight on and faced by the least suitable candidate for the Prime Ministership placed in front of voters in at least 50 years, we’re talking about a very poor overall result.

So poor, in fact, that the Coalition may not even be able to bother with a Joint Sitting to legislate the union governance measures it would have won mandates for not just once, but twice: it might simply not have the numbers across the two chambers to win the required votes.

Such a “win” — perhaps as bad as falling across the line in the lower house and going backwards in the Senate — would do nothing to resolve questions posed repeatedly in this column over whether Turnbull is “a solution” as Prime Minister or not, for the hard truth is that he has wasted half a year this year and will have been re-elected to do very little indeed.

At least the thin Coalition program is one that has been placed before voters upfront, however; the pathetic exhortations of Shorten in asking “who do you trust?” — as if stealing lines from John Howard might somehow force people to respect him — are oxymoronic when weighed against the rest of the claptrap he has offered as “leader.”

And whilst it has taken a vicious attack by a Sydney newspaper to belatedly make the rudimentary political attack on a completely unelectable candidate for high office, there is no guarantee the second term of this Coalition government will be any more effective than the first: for all of the same reasons, including poor tactics, inept communications, and a Senate determined to destroy it in defiance of its mandate at literally any cost.

There isn’t even a guarantee Malcolm will make it through a full three-year term as Prime Minister, although in saying that I should point out that such a prospect for uncertainty is merely the “new normal” in Australian politics, not some wish for Turnbull to meet with the same fate as his three most recent predecessors.

But governing — seeing it now appears certain that task will again fall to the coalition — will be no easy feat.

At the start of the final week, I see a Coalition win and a Labor “leader” in line, quite deservedly, to be humiliated. If it comes to pass, Shorten will have only himself to blame. His colleagues should feel no compunction in terminating his political career next Sunday morning.

Barring some miracle, retaining office is now the least of Malcolm Turnbull’s concerns: and having paid scant attention to the Senate until yesterday (by which time it was almost certainly too late to have any meaningful impact on voting for the upper house) there are already some in Coalition circles prepared to privately concede that this is one election that it might be better to lose, for the coming quagmire is one it alone will be blamed for — irrespective of what vandalism Labor and the Greens, perhaps in cahoots with Nick Xenophon and/or the insidious Jacqui Lambie, subsequently get up to on the floor of the Senate.