No Republic: It’s Time To Dump Turnbull As Prime Minister

IN 15 torrid months, Malcolm Turnbull has squandered stellar polling numbers, wasted six months on incoherent “tax debates,” let senior conservatives twist in the wind and almost lost an election. Enough is enough: incapable of governing, Turnbull has turned to the issue that cost him his leadership in 2009 — carbon pricing — and his repugnant signature policy, a republic. The Liberal Party must cut its losses, and cast this abysmal leader adrift.

In making Malcolm Bligh Turnbull leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister on 14 September last year, in a daylight ambush against a sitting but deeply unpopular incumbent, even Turnbull’s most ardent acolytes must have known — in their heart of hearts — that there was a reasonable prospect their man would have to be replaced, and sooner rather than later.

With Turnbull now publicly contemplating timeframes to revive his repugnant signature policy — a republic in Australia — that time has arrived.

This column, whilst hospitably disposed toward Turnbull on a purely personal level, has been flatly and resolutely opposed to his return as Liberal Party leader ever since his eviction from the post in December 2009 and, if brutally candid, was never in favour of his ascension to the position in the first place.

We said as much back in February last year, when former PM Tony Abbott was about to survive the “leadership challenge by an empty chair,” and were unequivocal about the fact that Malcolm Turnbull was no solution as Prime Minister.

It is a matter of record that reluctantly, and with deep regret, this column withdrew support for Abbott over his obstinate refusal to jettison his divisive, counter-productive Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, some months afterwards, and it is a matter of history that his refusal to do so was ultimately responsible — in part, at least — for triggering the second, successful move on his position.

But at no time did we regard Turnbull, in any way, as a suitable replacement — anything but — and in fact, many of the risks this column warned were implicit in a Turnbull Prime Ministership have materialised to almost deadly effect.

The flood of new support Turnbull was supposed to bring to the Liberals never arrived; be it for the basic strategic mistake of failing to go to an immediate election, or the disinclination for lefties who genuinely like Turnbull to actually vote for him, the landslide victory many of his adherents believed Turnbull would deliver remains a fantasy.

What did arrive in its stead was a return of the flawed judgement and political tin ear that fatally tarnished his initial stint as leader; from botched reshuffles to the kind of elitist posturing (green tea and craft beer, anyone?) that is such a turn-off to the vast majority of voters outside the chardonnay-swilling latte belts of inner-city urban areas, it became readily apparent that Turnbull hadn’t learned much in six years away from the Liberal leadership.

The failure to call an election for December 2015 is, with the benefit of hindsight, (although we said so at the time) the pivot point for the Turnbull government’s fortunes; facing the charlatan Bill Shorten, whose leadership was to all appearances fatally damaged by the Heydon Royal Commission — and who was set to be dumped by his colleagues if he didn’t take the face-saving path of resignation — Turnbull was spooked out of a December election following the AFP raid on the home of key lieutenant Mal Brough: the episode let Shorten off the hook, and allowed the ALP to take heart.

And as sure as night followed day, the Liberal Party’s “march toward a return to opposition,” which we also warned of last February, duly recommenced.

The wild, bold, hysterical lashing out (typified by “Utegate” during Turnbull’s first stint as leader) was replaced with a form of stupefied inertia and the utter aversion to any kind of risk at all, as Turnbull wasted the first half of this year on an excruciating “reform debate” over tax that was neither a debate, nor led to any meaningful advocacy of genuine reform.

During that process, Turnbull hung his Treasurer (and putative future leadership prospect) Scott Morrison out to dry, with Morrison’s long-term political future perhaps terminally compromised by his association with various half-baked tax proposals that were floated, allowed to be savaged by Labor, and hastily withdrawn; this was not conducive to the exercise of political authority, nor a posture of political strength in difficult parliamentary conditions, and it weakened the government significantly.

The reforms made to Senate electoral process, whilst admittedly an incremental improvement, were piddling, and extracted at great cost to the government in terms of what little goodwill it enjoyed from the Senate crossbench: that most (but not all) of the antagonised crossbenchers were re-elected constitutes an ongoing potential source of trouble.

But the campaign ahead of elections on 2 July was turgid, ineffectual, and a downright fiasco; it enabled the resuscitated Shorten to run rings around the Coalition. Had Shorten not overreached in the final ten days with his brazen “Mediscare” lies, it is likely Labor would have won.

As it stands, victory by a single seat is hardly a triumph of which Turnbull, nor the government generally, can be proud: reduced to three seats and a third of a percentage point more than Abbott achieved in 2010, it is difficult to argue the Coalition retains any kind of clear mandate at all.

There have been botched reshuffles and ministerial scandals — the latter largely the consequence of the former — as Turnbull’s defective judgement and wide vindictive streak toward conservative Liberals has seen the government pay the price for the wrong people being elevated (or retained) on the frontbench; even now, there are political liabilities (George Brandis, take a bow) who continue to enjoy ministerial office purely on account of their fidelity to Turnbull when their political performance dictates otherwise.

And the faulty apparatus Turnbull inherited from Abbott — the inability to sell a message to the public, the ineptitude of Coalition “strategists” and “tacticians,” the inability to fatally wound the imbecilic and unelectable Shorten, even after the union Royal Commission — continues even now to misfire unretarded, with the government incapable of turning even a victory (like getting its union accountability legislation through Parliament) into any kind of momentum-builder with the general public.

But it is the traditional Turnbull agenda — gay marriage, carbon taxes (of whatever variety), and a republic — that is the most insidious aspect of his unsuitability to be Prime Minister, and this agenda has, since the narrow escape on 2 July, now fully filtered back onto the Liberal Party playlist: and this agenda will cost the party dearly unless fundamental and drastic change is now taken.

Gay marriage has been allowed to become a political football in Australia for far too long; as regular readers know, the liberal in me says gay people should do as they like (provided, like the rest of us, it doesn’t hurt anyone else) whilst the conservative in me resists on the basis marriage is at its genesis a religious institution that has never incorporated same-sex unions.

Even so, the only way to resolve such a fraught issue would appear to be to allow the public to decide; I actually think the French have the right idea on this, whereby all couples get the same legal union, and then those who choose to solemnise the act can do so in a religious or civil ceremony. The churches shouldn’t be forced to marry gay couples if they don’t want to. But this whole issue has been squibbed, with the task of getting a plebiscite through the Senate beyond the capability the Turnbull junta. Should same-sex marriage be legalised in a vote of Parliament on Turnbull’s watch, it is likely to inflict enormous damage upon the Liberal Party politically as the direct consequence of a fundamental breach of faith with its core support base.

A couple of weeks ago — like a kid in a lolly shop, unable to contain himself — Turnbull sent another future conservative leadership prospect, Josh Frydenberg, out to fly the kite of “a different kind of carbon pricing” in the form of an “emissions intensity scheme;” at a time when electricity bills continue to rise, and Victorians face average further increases of $100 per household next year thanks to the closure of the Hazelwood power station, this was obsession and lunacy masquerading as “vision.”

When the inevitable public backlash hit social and mainstream media channels like a tidal wave, Turnbull left Frydenberg to twist and dangle in the wind: just like he did to Morrison earlier in the year.

But desperate for an agenda, desperate to respond to naysayers and the critics, desperate to find favour from someone, somewhere — desperate, in fact, to be seen to be doing anything at all — Turnbull unwisely chose to use an address last night to the 25th anniversary function of the Australian Republican Movement to dust off the rancid old cheese of “a vision” for an Australia with an “Australian Head of State.”

Readers can access indicative coverage of this odious call to arms from today’s press here and here.

Never mind this change was roundly defeated at a referendum 16 years ago; never mind reputable public opinion polling shows support for retaining the monarchy surging, particularly among younger voters; and never mind the fact that there is no substance whatsoever behind the blather and hot air about Australia “growing up” and “taking its place in the world:” nobody suggests New Zealand or Canada are somehow immature forelock tuggers — and neither is Australia.

And of course, never mind the fact that the billions of dollars it would cost to turn Australia into a republic would achieve precisely nothing of any economic, political or social value; it wouldn’t fix problems with Aborigines, the immigrant community, the poor, small businesses being priced out of their markets by rising costs, or the woeful state of the federal budget, which continues to haemorrhage almost a billion dollars per week.

No, in the world of Turnbull, this mad, bad, lefty trifecta — gay marriage, carbon taxes, and a republic — is something he was and is determined to pursue at any cost: even, in the case of a republic, at the risk of destroying the stability of the entire system of government Australia enjoys under its present constitutional arrangements.

No republican has ever provided a persuasive argument about how life would be better for ordinary, hard-working Australians were the Crown to be dispensed with; no republican has ever offered a convincing reason why fixing the real (and growing) socio-economic problems facing this country should be brushed aside to enable the expenditure of billions of dollars chasing a stupid Nirvana that doesn’t even exist.

Australian Head of State? Look no further than the current Governor-General, or to most of the past ten of his predecessors: this entire nonsense is built on a false premise.

But be all of that as it may, this column made it very clear a year ago that it would take a “wait and see” approach to Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister — as much from loyalty to the Liberal Party as from any genuine desire to see him succeed — and even as it quickly became apparent Turnbull simply wasn’t up to the job (as long suspected), we were gracious enough to describe that approach as more “wait” than “see.”

Well, I think we have seen enough.

If Malcolm Turnbull contests another election as Liberal Party leader, the Coalition will be slaughtered; it isn’t enough to rely on the abhorrent nature of the opposition “leader” to get the government across the line again, and after more than a year in the role it is clear Turnbull peaked in his first few weeks in office. In any case, it seems unlikely he can skewer Shorten from this point if he hasn’t already managed to do so.

The transaction costs of any mid-term leadership change must be weighed against the realistic scope for such a change to provide the opportunity for political improvement; in this sense, I believe it is absolutely pointless for the Liberal Party to continue with Malcolm Turnbull unless it is resigned to a lengthy stint in opposition.

I am mindful, of course, that many of the problems that were meant to be solved by the last Liberal leadership change — strategy, tactics, mass communication, policy rigour — remain unresolved, and any further change now simply must be accompanied by a wholesale overhaul of the Liberal back of house once and for all.

But the Turnbull agenda — fuelled by the Turnbull style, which in turn is code for simply alienating conservative voters who constitute the great silent majority in Australia — is a guaranteed recipe for defeat: those voters who want it will vote for Labor and the Greens, and so will a great many usual Coalition voters (even if through preferences) in disgust unless the Liberal Party reconnects with its base.

The Turnbull experiment has been a failure, and its continuance will condemn the government to the electoral doom that seems its likely fate in about 18 months’ time.

Whilst offering no opinion at this time as to whom the replacement should be, it is time for Liberal MPs to act: and to rid the party of the scourge of a Turnbull leadership that has plagued it, in actual form or in the shape of a stalking horse, for almost a decade longer than it should have been permitted to.

 

No Thanks: States’ Republic Call An Empty Populist Charade

THE LATEST IDIOCY masquerading as hand-on-heart nationalism kicks off what might be an interesting week this week, with all state and territory leaders — bar WA’s Colin Barnett — signing a so-called “declaration of desired independence” with the aim to end the link to the monarchy and declare Australia a republic; the move is empty, cynical posturing that is likely to fail, but could do irretrievable damage to this country were it to succeed.

This morning’s article was a toss-up between this issue and the renomination of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott for Liberal Party preselection in his seat of Warringah; we will come back to Abbott (and the repercussions of that) this evening, although I am mindful it may be just about time to see some reputable opinion polling as the silly season draws to a close — and if any of that comes through in the meantime, we may have to juggle.

But the “declaration of desired independence” signed by most state and territory leaders — calling for Australia to abandon its links to the British monarchy and declare itself a republic — is the sort of banal drivel that might be expected from people who literally have better things to do with their time, and I say that in full cognisance of the fact that Liberal Party identities in New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are parties to this empty piece of absurd populist posturing.

First, depending on preference, readers may access mainstream media coverage from either the Murdoch or Fairfax stables.

Having covered off on this in the past it’s hard to know where to begin today, so utterly devoid of credibility is the rehashed, reheated, recycled bullshit being squirted afresh by the Australian Republican Movement; dispassionate consideration of the facts of this matter — made with a brutally realistic judgement of the behaviour of people and politicians, rather than some pie-in-the-sky feelgood claptrap and a national singing of Kum-ba-ya — shows the adoption of republican government in this country to be unattainable at best, and downright dangerous to its stability and security at worst.

And no, it has nothing to do with whether you love or hate (or couldn’t care less) about the Royal Family, although with the high visibility and prominence of a large band of popular younger royals, combined with the instant accessibility of social media, it must terrify the ARM that pro-monarchist sentiment in generations Y and Z is running a country mile ahead of support for a switch to a republic among those younger Australians.

In other words, there’s a degree of “it’s now or never” about this.

Traditionally — starting with Paul Keating in 1992 — the idea of a republic in this country is floated by Labor Party politicians facing extreme electoral difficulties as a diversionary tactic; of course, since Keating put the issue on the agenda almost quarter of a century ago, many Liberal Party figures have leapt onto the bandwagon as well. But even now, whenever there’s an attempt to reheat the souffle, it is almost invariably an ALP personality (or someone aligned with the Left) who kicks it off.

So it appears to be now, with most of those behind the so-called declaration being from or aligned to the ALP; the move has the explicit support of embattled federal Labor “leader” Bill Shorten, and if ever there were a Labor figure in diabolical electoral trouble, it is he.

This latest move seems to be an attempt at implicating Prime Minister (and former ARM head) Malcolm Turnbull in a fresh republican plot. To date — and to his credit — Turnbull has resisted the temptation.

It is difficult to see how the conspirators believe they can succeed; after all, there was a referendum just 15 years ago that was convincingly defeated; it is neither possible nor advisable to keep having referendums (or non-binding plebiscites, as is the case here) with the eventual ambition of smashing opposition by wearing it down into resignation. Yet this seems to be the tactic, despite (as The Age records) opposition to the move now commanding an outright majority in reputable opinion polling.

And there is a deadlock among republicans that I can see no way through: the so-called “direct electionists,” compelled in 2000 to vote on a model that featured a President selected by the Houses of federal Parliament, opposed it as “the politicians’ republic,” whilst the so-called “minimalists” who advocated it (and it seems current ARM chief Peter FitzSimons is one of them) have historically appeared to heed at least one argument of monarchists in that the office of a directly elected President would inevitably become politicised — and for a politician to wield the power the Constitution confers on the Australian head of state would be downright dangerous, and would threaten the political stability (and even the security) of the country.

That point should not be ignored or downplayed, and anyone who fatuously claims “oh, they’d never do (insert undemocratic outrage here)” is kidding themselves.

A directly elected President would be a conflict with, and a rival power centre to, the elected government of the day and to Parliament as an institution: and before anyone starts rattling on about 1975, the reserve powers wielded by an impartial figurehead to resolve a constitutional deadlock between the Senate and the House of Representatives — precisely as the constitutional architects foresaw — would not have been used, say, had the Whitlam government held office under an overtly ALP President.

The consequences of that, at a time the government could not appropriate Supply in the Senate and at a time of national social and economic chaos, would have been disastrous.

But really, this stunt — and that is all the “declaration of desired independence” is — hardly merits the trouble of mounting complicated constitutional arguments to shoot it down.

First, it was signed by eight people — eight — out of a country with 25 million people in it, and elected to represent as they may well be, their views on such a critical issue of national importance are no more valid than the other 24.9 million or so living here.

Secondly, one has to wonder why this is such a pressing issue at a time the country’s expenses are running well beyond its income, and have done now for several years; with half a trillion dollars in Commonwealth debt (a figure that grows dangerously close to $1tn once the gross liabilities of the states are included) and no inclination of the entire political Left to even countenance genuine solutions to restore national finances to a sustainable position, the fact its servants can find the time and energy for this is an indictment on them.

But really, the kind of statements — and blatant intellectual dishonesty — being trotted out over this are almost childish.

Thanks to the Australia Acts passed by the Whitlam and Hawke governments, this country is already fully independent of Britain; the British Parliament no longer wields any power to directly determine in the interests of Australia or its people, save for those who still retain UK citizenship; and whilst nobody in the republican cart cares to acknowledge it, Australia has had an Australian head of state now for 50 years: the Governor-General, an office which has been held by Australian-born appointees continuously since 1989, and of whose past 11 appointments 10 (stretching back to and including Lord Casey in the 1960s) were Australian-born. The exception — Sir Ninian Stephen (1982-89) — was a dual national who came to Australia as a child, and who served in the Australian Army in World War II. Only a pedant would suggest Sir Ninian was “a foreigner.”

Significantly, the monarch is a ceremonial figure only, acting on the advice of his or her ministers — including those in Australia — and has no power to amend or reject legislation in this country; and where the spectre of 1975 is invoked, that particular ghost is easily vanquished by the hard, cold fact that Sir John Kerr acted on his own initiative, but in full accordance with the Constitution, to dismiss the Whitlam government: the Palace, whilst reticent in its support, was only informed after the event.

Still, that precis of facts hasn’t stopped the likes of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews making stupid statements like “it’s time to stand on our own two feet, on paper and in practice,” or Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk claiming — with no sense of irony — that it’s “about time our country (was) led by one of our own,” when in point of fact, it already is.

In my view, the entire thrust of the republican offer is based on the cultural cringe and anti-British bent of the hard Left — not all of its advocates necessarily fit that description, but it’s where it originated — and it’s noteworthy that so many of the most prominent advocates for a republic just happen to be Irish Catholics who, of course, have their reasons for hating England, but such prejudices have no place in this country.

(I could add — tongue-in-cheek — that their own anti-discrimination and racial vilification laws prohibit it, but that would hardly be sporting).

But to whatever or whomever you ascribe responsibility for the republican movement, its only appeal is an emotional one, not one based in facts, logic, or consideration for the consequences.

An Australian Head of State (when we have one now). Being led by one of us (we already are). Time to cut the apron strings (which were cut 30 years ago). Time to stop tugging the forelock (what?). Time to do away with a foreigner as Head of State (in any meaningful sense, there isn’t one).

On and on it goes, mindlessly ignorant of the fact that were the republican “dream” to become reality, this could quickly become a very ordinary place to live.

Anyone who trusts Australian politicians to behave soberly and responsibly when imbued with the absolute mandate of directly elected presidential power has a mental problem. Let me just say to those on the Left, you know the hated Tories you reckon are so incompetent, reactionary, dangerous, etc etc etc? At some point they will win the Presidency and they might just act unilaterally. What will you do — bring the unions out onto the streets to overthrow the government?

Naturally, more conservative voters don’t need to be warned about either the dangers of handing their opponents absolute power or of gifting it to their own. There are checks and balances in the present system that would be forever destroyed by abandoning current arrangements. Once they’re gone, no politician will vote them back into existence. And once the monarchy has been abandoned, it is unlikely we would ever be welcomed back into the fold.

Don’t point to the US as an advertisement for the use of presidential power; that country has more problems than we have here.

As I have opined in the past, none of these so-called republican nationalists are running around the world maligning Canada, or New Zealand, or any of the other countries who retain the Queen as the ceremonial head of a constitutional monarchy as the best form of government.

And as FitzSimons points out, 32 of 54 Commonwealth countries have become republics during the present monarch’s reign. An awful lot of those, which he conveniently fails to mention, are social and economic basket cases. There goes that justification as well.

One idea I have heard — either the codification of the reserve powers in the Constitution or their excision from it at a referendum as part of the transitional arrangements — merely underlines the view that as tear-jerking and heartwarming as some of the republican rhetoric might be, there are some very sinister undertones to the actual intentions behind those barbed words and what they seek to achieve.

And very soon, Australians might just be in line to get a little more bang for their buck, and gain a real advantage from being a Commonwealth country sharing a common monarch; British Prime Minister David Cameron, a Tory, is set to retire within the next couple of years — not wishing to serve either a third term in the post, or all of his present term to enable a successor to become established — and his likely replacement, current London mayor Boris Johnson, is preparing to institute a system of free people movement initially between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand: the idea is that as Commonwealth countries, citizens of each will be able to live and work without restriction in the participating countries, with the scheme only open to those countries who share the common monarch.

The proposal opens opportunities to Australians of all ages and from all walks of life that they wouldn’t otherwise have (except in New Zealand) as well as building on economic and trade links. Want to live in Canada for five years? Want to live and work in London if you’re over 32? If you don’t have citizenship of those countries, then good luck. And it wouldn’t hurt to see more Canadians and British folk spending time here, either. We don’t know everything — the fact yet another republican debate is starting proves it — and as a country of migrants, we can hardly shun economic immigrants who want to work and contribute, and from whom we might actually learn a trick or two as well.

Refute that, Peter FitzSimons.

I think the arguments in favour of constitutional monarchy and against “feelgood” republicanism are watertight anyway, but should Johnson succeed with his plan (and I’m told the other contenders for the Conservative Party leadership are on board with it too) there’s a very big extra bonus to be had from keeping things just as they are.

So no thanks: to the ARM and its current band of snake oil salesman, tell your story walking. We’re not interested. And frankly, this so-called “declaration of desired independence” isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on, let alone acknowledging it as anything more than a stunt, a charade, and a pretty empty one at that.

 

Arise, Prince Sir Philip Of Australia: Even Monarchists Have Limits

THE BIZARRE DECISION to confer a knighthood upon Prince Philip is one of the most ridiculous acts of indulgence by any government in many years where official honours are concerned; this column believes fervently in constitutional monarchy, and welcomed the restoration of so-called “knights and dames” under the Order of Australia. There is a place for elite honours in Australia. The award to their newest recipient, however, is a farce.

It’s hard to know what’s worse: a Prime Minister making a mockery of what had hitherto been a creditable and worthy attempt to restore knighthoods at the apex of Australia’s honours system in the face of spirited republican opposition, or the ageing idiot on whom he has chosen to squander the credibility of the entire enterprise.

Make no mistake, the decision to bestow an Australian knighthood upon Prince Philip is a ridiculous and truly bizarre act of sycophancy that lends credence to Tony Abbott’s detractors where the honours system is concerned and threatens to render the entire category of honours untenable.

I have always been staunchly and resolutely a constitutional monarchist — not through any particular affection for the royal family per se, mind — and whilst I do not intend to open the debate over the monarchy or a move to a republican model of state today, I reiterate (to underline the point) that I believe a system of parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy is far and away the very best system of governance available to this country.

Even monarchists, however, have limits.

When so-called “knights and dames” were reintroduced last year, Abbott got the tone exactly right simply on account of who was included in the first batch of recipients: new Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, his predecessor Quentin Bryce, and former NSW Governor Marie Bashir.

The award made to Air Chief Marshall and former Defence chief Angus Houston today (now Sir Angus) also constitutes an appropriate acknowledgement of fine service to Australia given over a period of decades.

But a knighthood for Prince Philip?

The appointment is understandable only when considered against the backdrop of a tradition of heads of state being appointed to all the top classes of honours that apply within their realm.

But Prince Philip, whilst consort to the Queen, is not a head of state: he is an embarrassment, to the UK and to Australia, to the royal family and now, it seems, to Abbott.

Were he not married to Queen Elizabeth it is debatable as to whether Philip would find himself in demand at all; and to underline the point, British newspaper The Independent has helpfully published a chronicle of the errant Prince’s gaffes over a period of decades.

Obviously, there is little to recommend the award on a personal basis.

Maybe this honour was rationalised on the basis that at 93 years of age, the Prince wouldn’t be around long enough for the hullaballoo to linger; or perhaps Abbott — renowned as a devout monarchist, which in many respects I have no quarrel with — has simply taken too licentious and indulgent an approach to this particular conviction, and made an appointment that offers nothing to merit it.

Once again, questions need to be asked about the role of the Prime Minister’s Office and how this appointment was allowed to stand; at best, Abbott has made a “captain’s pick” that will generate more controversy around his Prime Ministership at a time he can ill afford it, and at worst it shines the spotlight on his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, whose oversight of the operation of the Abbott government has won her no plaudits with a huge chunk of the Liberal Party, and on whose behalf Abbott has gone to extraordinary lengths to shield from the fallout from what can only be described as spectacular mismanagement on a spectacular scale.

After all, the government has proven incapable of communicating a message, incapable of selling its initiatives, and those initiatives (more usually than not) sit completely at odds with the best interests of the country, what might reasonably be regarded as tough but politically saleable, or both.

In that sense, the knighthood given to Prince Philip is entirely understandable. And that, of course, is an indictment.

I don’t think today’s announcement will do much to breathe life into the republican movement — it’s more likely to go down at Australia Day barbecues around the country as a sad joke, no more — but it comes as little surprise to note that Labor “leader” Bill Shorten has leapt on the republican bandwagon very publicly in the past 24 hours, and he no doubt sees Prince Philip as the revolting new spearhead of the Left’s renewed assault on the monarchy and on Australia’s very institutions of governance.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating first championed a transition to a republic in the early 1990s at a time the ALP had absolutely nothing of substance whatsoever to offer the Australian public — and in this regard Shorten is merely emulating Keating’s lead: the difference, of course, it that Keating was a substantial and formidable figure in his own right. Shorten is nothing of the sort. But that’s a story for another day.

Be all of that as it may, however, the real problem with giving Philip a knighthood is that it’s a symptom of what is wrong with the Abbott government and, specifically, how decisions are made and “sold.”

Once again, Credlin comes into the frame; the micromanagement and control she is known to exercise over government decisions, communications, media activity and personnel issues is universally known, and so too is the resentment and anger it is generating inside and outside the parliamentary ranks of the government.

It is neither acceptable nor tenable to wield the degree of power and control over the government that she does on the one hand, and refuse to accept responsibility for the consequences that flow from it on the other; at the very, very least, Credlin — if worth a pinch of the proverbial as an adviser — should have prevailed upon her boss not to make such a ridiculous, bizarre, and downright embarrassing appointment as the knighthood handed out to Prince Philip this morning.

It underlines the uneasy but developing reality that Abbott — loyal to Credlin to the point of accusing those who criticise her of sexism and misogyny, doing himself no favours in the process — is far less secure in his leadership of the Liberal Party than he might think and than some might like, and that the dysfunctional PMO has yet again served him very poorly: this time by failing to act as a brake on one of his more wildly buccaneering but ultimately counter-intuitive flights of fancy.

I think we’re nearing the point where either Credlin goes and her rubbish — the malfunctioning administrative and political structures she has overseen — is thrown out with her, or Abbott has to go to enable her removal; there is a Newspoll due out soon, and if its message for the government is poor, then the pressure on Abbott and his chief of staff will ratchet up that little bit further.

Still, it is Australia Day, and Abbott has the newly-minted knight of his choice to present within his realm.

Arise, Prince Sir Philip of Australia!

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so damned cringeworthy.

What a farce.

 

Finally! Peter Cosgrove Named Australia’s 26th Governor-General

PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott has confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in Australian politics of recent times, announcing that retired General and Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove is to become Australia’s 26th Governor-General; Cosgrove is a standout candidate for the role, and his appointment is to be heartily applauded. The restoration of decency to the office, and respect for the institution it represents, is long overdue.

Confirmation today of the appointment of Peter Cosgrove as Australia’s 26th Governor-General since Federation is to be welcomed, applauded, and even celebrated; this is the highest office in the land, and Cosgrove will take up the role in March with the best wishes and support of millions of Australians.

It is difficult to think of a better — or more suited — candidate as Governor-General at this time than General Cosgrove, who will replace Quentin Bryce when her (extended) tenure comes to an end in March; with a fine record in Australia’s military, business and charitable sectors, Cosgrove brings a broad depth of experience to this role backed by a reputation for competence and a tradition of integrity and probity of service.

Significantly, Cosgrove — a committed constitutional monarchist — is unlikely to rock the boat as his erstwhile predecessor ultimately chose to do; whilst the nature of Australia’s institutions of governance may or may not evolve and change over time as dictated by the will of the people, in accordance with the Constitution, those institutions demand the respect and impartiality of those who serve them and this is especially true of the office of the Governor-General.

It is regrettable that Quentin Bryce — a prominent Labor figure and social activist of many years’ standing prior to her first vice-regal appointment as Governor of Queensland by the government of Peter Beattie — opted, in the end, to sully her tenure as Governor-General by making direct interventions into the realm of partisan political politics.

I have opined in this column previously that political appointees to this office over the decades — Liberal and Labor alike — have forged a surprisingly distinguished tradition of service in the role, however questionable their suitability may have been regarded at the time or however dubious the motives of their Prime Ministers in appointing them.

In seeming to seek to provide vice-regal imprimatur to the causes of gay marriage, affirmative action and the republican movement, Bryce lowered her colours and trashed any value her time as Governor-General may have represented; I have said in the past — and prior to her regrettable foray into active politics — that despite her background her tenure in the office was one of distinction.

That cannot be said of it now; regardless of the elegance with which Bryce conducts herself publicly, or the crisp, polished communication style she deploys, she has shown herself to be just another political grub devoid of timing, sense of occasion, or indeed any comprehension of what constitutes acceptable standards of conduct required of the office she has held — or, it seems, what does not.

Gen Cosgrove comes to the office of Governor-General at what is likely to prove a time of great change for the institution he will now represent; already, it is well known publicly that Prince Charles is taking on the bulk of the public commitments of Her Majesty the Queen, and will continue to assume more of her workload behind the scenes as he prepares to become King. Her Majesty is now 88 years old, and whilst the subject was once regarded as unspeakable, it’s an open secret that government and Palace officials are preparing for a succession in the monarchy, and perhaps sooner rather than later.

In this regard, it is critical that the representative of the monarch is an individual of unimpeachable character at a time when stability and continuity is likely to be required. Gen Cosgrove satisfies those criteria.

And in fact, at 66 years of age, Cosgrove embodies the very youngest end of a generation that might have any direct memory at all of living under a monarch other than Elizabeth II, who ascension to the throne in 1952 ushered in a reign currently standing second in duration only to the 64-year rule of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901; it may be the historic nature of this appointment today will run far deeper in retrospect, in years to come, than might be apparent now.

Cosgrove’s appointment is for five years, running from March this year until early in 2019, and is believed to have received the Queen’s assent at the weekend.

Some monarchists will be bitterly disappointed today that former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard isn’t the man at the centre of this announcement.

As a conservative and a monarchist I understand their views and to some extent sympathise, but I cannot stress strongly enough that as much as Mr Howard may be qualified to serve as Governor-General — indeed, the role could have been tailored to him, such is the fit at face value — he is too deeply political and polarising a figure to represent an appropriate selection to the office, and I encourage those who may have hoped for his appointment to get behind Gen Cosgrove. He is a fine candidate for the role.

To those readers of republican bent, I appeal to you to embrace Gen Cosgrove in his new vocation; if there is one thing Bryce has shown, it is that the office of the viceroy can be warmly accepted (even if, admittedly, largely by fellow travellers of her social agenda), and for long as there is a role for a Governor-General in this country it will continue to be filled by a fine Australian. Cosgrove is certainly that, and deserves the support and affection of his peers.

And to those warriors and spivs of the ALP, operating in the unscrupulous and ethics-free spirit of smugly attacking anything and everything even indirectly associated with Tony Abbott — just because they think they can — get a grip and wake up to yourselves for once, and leave Cosgrove alone: it’s one thing to try to force-feed the voting public a steady diet of lies where domestic politics is concerned, but another altogether to take aim at the structural edifices of the system itself. Quite simply: Don’t. The only people impressed by your antics, at the very best of times, is yourselves.

It’s a shame to even dignify such people with a mention on what is a great day for Australia. But the tactics they used to destroy Peter Hollingworth were never deployed against William Deane or Quentin Bryce, and they should under no circumstances be revisited now, just because Cosgrove is Abbott’s appointment.

I am delighted that — finally, after years of speculation — Cosgrove has been appointed to that office which sits at the apex of Australia’s system of governance. I am sure he will discharge the role with distinction, and I congratulate him heartily on his appointment as Governor-General today.

God Save The Queen!

 

Gay Rights, Republic: Pull Your Head In, Governor-General

IN A FLAGRANT abuse of office, Quentin Bryce has made an inappropriate, tacky public foray into politics, using a lecture series convened by the ABC to advocate gay marriage and a republic. The Governor-General has shown cavalier disrespect for the sovereign, and compromised her position.

It is an utter disgrace that a serving Governor-General should opt to intervene in issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with her role, let alone divisive matters that politicise what is and should always be a strictly impartial role at the apex of Australian governance.

Yet for someone who was a social activist as a prominent Labor figure prior to assuming vice-regal office it comes as no surprise, not that that excuses or justifies her actions.

Quentin Bryce has used the last in a series of lectures orchestrated by the ABC to outline “her vision” for a country “where people are free to love and marry whom they choose and where…(a) young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first Head of State.”

To be clear, my remarks today have nothing to do with my positions on the issues the Governor-General has raised, although readers will know that I am opposed to both and have outlined my reasons in this column several times in the past.

Very simply, Quentin Bryce has politicised what is an apolitical post, and for that she deserves contempt.

Providing vice-regal imprimatur to contentious social issues probably sounds like a brilliant idea to a socialist, but that’s the point: it’s the one office in Australia that “has no opinion.”

The views of Quentin Bryce on these matters is irrelevant, although the reaction from predictable quarters is an object demonstration of the irresponsibility of airing them.

Communist Party Greens leader Christine Milne was quick out of the blocks, taking to Twitter to express her congratulations “for strong advocacy of marriage equality, a republic and an ethic of care. Real leadership.”

The former Labor Premier of Western Australia, Geoff Gallop — now chairman of the Australian Republican Movement — used the speech as his cue to declare that it was time to revisit the issue of “an Australian head of state.”

But Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer — also a republican — was, properly, more circumspect, declaring “It’s highly unusual for a currently serving Governor-General to advocate for a republic.”

Quite.

It is not indelicate to point out that since her appointment as Governor of Queensland in 2003 and subsequently as Governor-General in 2008, Bryce has been content to pocket millions of taxpayer-funded salary dollars as the representative of the Crown.

It is entirely reasonable to therefore hold her to the consequent expectation that she would adhere to the clear convention that her offices should not interfere in political issues.

Past Governors-General have done so; even Labor appointees such as Bill Hayden and William Deane performed their duties admirably and with distinction, although Deane had a mildly controversial reputation at the time for his advocacy on Aboriginal disadvantage.

By contrast, however, Bryce has revealed herself as nothing more than a grub.

As I said at the outset, my remarks have nothing to do with my own stand on the issues Bryce has elected to interfere in, and they don’t.

But the principle of the independence of the Governor-General has been violated in a calculated and deliberate fashion, and for that Bryce should be condemned.

Her comments do not legitimise one side of the debate on such issues o’er the other, nor invalidate the contrary position.

But the reactions from elements campaigning on the same side of those debates shows why the convention of independence exists at all: now, they will parade and trumpet Bryce’s intervention as the provision of official sanction where none should exist — either way.

There is, not to put too fine a point on it, also the issue of disrespect for the monarch who remains — irrespective of the wishes of some to the contrary — Australia’s head of state.

For its part, the institution itself maintained the admirable neutrality that Bryce clearly lacks the self-discipline or principle to display, saying in a statement that “in response to any questions about the future of the Monarchy in Australia, Buckingham Palace has always maintained that this is a matter for the people of Australia.”

Which is how it should be.

In closing — and to address any charge of hypocrisy that readers opposed to my views might level — I should point out that my remarks in no way disrespect the office of the Governor-General.

In my view, its current occupant was an unsuitable appointee who was also an inappropriate selection as Governor of Queensland, and I said so on both occasions at the time (and had this column been in operation in 2003 and/or 2008, I would have published remarks to that effect here then too).

Bryce has shown, by her contempt for conventions of appropriate conduct as the holder of that office, that she is not entitled to any respect: indeed, I look forward to her pending replacement by a more suitable candidate.

It is because of my respect for the office that I make the points I do here, and the sooner Bryce ceases to sully it, the better.

 

Future King: Duchess of Cambridge Gives Birth To A Boy

BUCKINGHAM PALACE has formally announced the birth of a son to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; the future King was born at 4.24pm, London time (1.24am Tuesday, AEST) and will be the third in line to the throne to become King of Australia.

The palace said in a statement:

“Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4.24pm. The baby weighs 8lbs 6oz.

“The Duke of Cambridge was present for the birth.

“The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news.

“Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight.”

May we simply say that we extend our heartiest congratulations and best wishes to William and Kate, and to express our delight that the future King has arrived safely and well.

This entire event has been punctuated by the ridiculous, however, with the ubiquitous Fleet Street press pack providing coverage on details extending right down to the stains on the pavement outside the St Mary’s Hospital in London.

Indeed, comment from so-called “royal watchers” overnight (Australian time) has ranged from such lofty themes as an attempt to turn the event into “the people’s pregnancy” (get the sick bucket) to a “debate” over whether Pippa Middleton’s bum would appear “and steal the limelight.”

Some people have nothing better to do, even when being paid to do it…

All that said, however, we are absolutely delighted at the news of the royal birth, and look forward to the formal introduction of the Prince publicly — and learning his name — in coming days.

In the meantime it is to be hoped the Duchess enjoys rest and a speedy recovery from the childbirth she has experienced, and that all of Her Majesty’s loyal subjects share the joy of this exciting news.

God Save The Queen!

BREAKING: Catherine, Duchess Of Cambridge, In Labour

A WARM summer day in London is set to be a little warmer today, with news a short time ago that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, has entered hospital in the early stages of labour as she prepares to give birth to this country’s future monarch. The Red And The Blue is delighted at this news.

It’s the development a loitering press pack in London has been waiting on for weeks; Buckingham Palace figures have confirmed that the Duchess travelled by car to St. Mary’s Hospital in central London very early this morning, British Summer Time (about 4pm Monday, AEST).

The child will be the first for Kate and Prince William since their marriage two years ago, and the child will — like William — some day be the monarch of Great Britain, Australia, and many other countries around the world including New Zealand and Canada.

Changes to succession laws made by the present Conservative government in the UK (and mirrored by reciprocal legislation in Australia and its states) to abolish the ancient law of primogeniture mean that irrespective of its gender, the child will some day become the monarch.

We wish to minute to William, Kate and their respective families our very best wishes at this special time, and look forward — with the rest of Her Majesty’s subjects — to learning the identity of the newest member of the royal family in the next day or so.

God Save The Queen!