UK Election: Tory Landslide All But Certain On 8 June

A SURPRISE General Election in Britain is certain to gift victory to Theresa May’s Conservative Party, and will as reliably hand Labour its worst loss since 1935; whilst strengthening May’s hand in negotiations over the UK’s exit from the EU has been given as an ostensible pretext, this election is about poleaxing an opposition led by an irrelevant radical socialist and extending the Tories’ hold on office. On both counts, it will succeed convincingly.

It’s an unexpected post from me this morning, as I try to juggle other commitments and obligations with the desire to maintain a regular flow of comment through this column, but if anything could shake a spare hour free to publish something, my favourite political hobby-horse — electoral politics in the United Kingdom — is just the thing to do it.

By now many readers will know that over the past 36 hours, an extraordinary political heist has been engineered by British PM Theresa May; after nine months in office marked by incessant refusals to call an election, and guarantees that the House of Commons would run its full term until 2020, Mrs May has — against a backdrop of 20-point leads over Labour across most reputable opinion polls, and in the face of pleas from her MPs to capitalise on the apparently sunny electoral weather the Tories currently enjoy — called an election for 8 June after a seven-week campaign.

I have held off posting for an extra day pending the result of a vote in the House of Commons, which was needed to set aside the Fixed Terms Act insisted upon by the Liberal Democrats as part of their price for installing the Tories (then led by David Cameron) in office after the inconclusive election of 2010; that ballot was carried overnight in the Commons by a 522-13 margin, removing the only hurdle Mrs May faced in calling a snap election.

Remarkably, the opposition Labour Party — facing annihilation under the pointless leadership of widely disliked radical socialist Jeremy Corbyn — voted for the motion, and frankly, there is something abjectly pathetic about the sight of lemmings lining up to leap gleefully over a cliff. More on Corbyn and Labour shortly.

But first things first: for fellow junkies of British politics, the Telegraph is publishing some excellent rolling coverage that can be accessed here; a small selection of other content can be accessed here and here — we recommend The Spectator as the best boutique source of coverage during the campaign — whilst an excellent consolidated psephological resource I’ve grown well acquainted with over the years, operated by YouGov’s Anthony Wells, is a handy reference point and can be found here, but of course there is plenty of other good material in the market (or keep an eye on my Twitter feed to see who I’m following and what I’m reading from the UK @theredandblue).

I’ve struggled a bit to think of the last time an incumbent government looked as unassailably certain to smash its opponent into a thousand little pieces as Mrs May’s does.

Margaret Thatcher’s landslide in 1983 comes to mind, as does the re-election of Ronald Reagan in 1984; closer to home, it’s hard to ascribe the same upfront inevitability to John Howard’s 2001 and 2004 triumphs, for the Coalition spent much of 2001 looking like losing, and started the 2004 campaign trailing in the polls. State governments led by Labor in Queensland in 2001 and  Victoria in 2002, and by the Liberal Party in Western Australia in 2013, are perhaps nearer the mark.

But the Conservative Party begins this election campaign, on average, nearly 20 percentage points ahead of Labour once the various individual polls are examined and aggregated; in Britain’s first past the post election system, this lead — rounded to 43 to 26 — suggests a thumping Tory victory if replicated on 8 June, and it should be observed that 43 to 26 amounts to a better position than that recorded by Mrs Thatcher in 1983, which resulted in a 144-seat majority and almost 400 seats (397 in fact) in the 650-seat Commons.

Where the polls are concerned, the Tory position ranges from 38% in yesterday’s Opinium survey (which almost identically replicates the actual result of the 2015 election) to 46% from ICM and ComRes. The Opinium poll yesterday is the only survey tabulated in the past ten weeks by any of Britain’s five major polling houses to find Conservative support below 40%, and it will be a sobering fact for anyone looking for a Labour victory to know that at every election since (and including) 1992, opinion polls have consistently overstated eventual support for Labour whilst understating the Tory vote.

So far in 2017, just five of the 36 published opinion polls on Westminster voting intention have found support for the Conservative Party below 40%, and none have found the Tory vote at levels at or below the 37% that delivered a slim majority two years ago. By contrast, just four of those 36 surveys recorded Labour travelling better than the 29% it recorded in 2015, and of those, three found the improvement to be a solitary percentage point.

In other words, Labour is set for the belting of its life: worse than 1983, and worse than anything it suffered in the 1950s; I’m looking at the Tory win of 1935 (which saw Labour emerge with 154 seats in a 615-seat House of Commons) as the benchmark for expectations, although  the 1931 election, which was even better for the Conservatives (470 seats), looks a bit silly in terms of a precedent this time. I do, however, think the Tories stand an excellent chance of recording a 400+ seat haul on 8 June.

The pretext offered by Mrs May to justify the election — that a stronger and renewed mandate would in turn strengthen Britain’s hand at upcoming negotiations over the UK’s pending exit from the European Union — is easy enough to accept, but only on the surface; the truth (as her opponents noted yesterday) is that even with their present slender majority, the Conservatives have faced no parliamentary refusal to trigger the “Brexit process,” and that EU bureaucrats are likely to be just as hostile toward the British position irrespective of whether Mrs May holds office with a majority of 15 or 150.

The real reasons for this election are more base, and not particularly difficult to divine.

Cameron must have been unable to believe his luck two years ago, when the defeated Labour Party chose as its leader a radical socialist of the far Left whose 32-year parliamentary career had thitherto been entirely spent on the backbench; the Tories must have been even more disbelieving when the new opposition leader chose, as his shadow Chancellor (the equivalent of a shadow Treasurer in Australia) another arch-Leftist with decades of experience in the political wilderness, John McDonnell. Both men are, among other things, apologists for the IRA, with little discernible connection or relevance to mainstream British society or to the majority of the people living in it.

One abortive attempt to get rid of Corbyn last year by rebellious Labour MPs had the unintended consequence of strengthening his position; another attempt has been rumoured ever since. The temptation to lock Corbyn in place with an election date has clearly proven irresistible to Mrs May and her strategists, who — unlike their Coalition counterparts in Australia last year, where Bill Shorten was concerned — will now “do” Corbyn properly in such a fashion as to kill him off as a political force altogether.

Even on this point, Labour is proving to be the gift that keeps giving; faced with a slaughter, Corbyn has made it known he plans to remain leader after the looming massacre on 8 June. That event can only be exacerbated by what is already becoming a stream of Labour MPs, flatly opposed to Corbyn’s leadership and disgusted by the direction in which he has taken their party, who are refusing to stand again in their seats — and offering free, vicious and very public character assessments of their leader on the way out the door.

May, like Cameron before her, has been the beneficiary of an economy that has proven surprisingly robust; for much of the past five years the British economy has been the fastest growing in Europe, and at one point was the fastest growing of all OECD nations (including Australia). Predictions of a sharp downturn in the aftermath of last year’s successful referendum to leave the EU have consistently failed to eventuate, although with a growing number of economists forecasting a downturn in the next 18 months (which, to be fair, would affect the rest of Europe as well), going to the polls now rather than in three years’ time makes sense: especially when there are other factors, such as the EU negotiations, which can be used to provide the veneer of legitimacy for doing so.

With the Scottish Nationalist Party’s stranglehold on Scottish seats showing little sign of being broken (apart from an outside chance of Tories picking up an extra couple of seats north of the border), Labour’s scope to make gains at all is severely limited; in a region that traditionally provided a bedrock for British Labour, it currently polls just 10% in Scotland: a situation once unthinkable.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives’ grip on the country appears so unshakeable that I’ve seen credible modelling to suggest the Tories may be on track to win a string of seats in coal mining areas in northern Wales — an outcome, if it eventuates, that was once as unthinkable as Labour being wiped out of Scotland — and if they can take seats from Labour in the Midlands and major centres outside London (Birmingham, Manchester, even Sheffield), the Tories’ victory on 8 June will be a massive one indeed.

The one potential cloud on the horizon in terms of the scale of their win — some unforeseen, colossally destructive (albeit unlikely) campaign gaffe notwithstanding — lies in the dozens of seats the Conservatives won from the Liberal Democrats in 2015; many of these sit on razor-thin margins, and a lot of them were harvested from regions (Devon, Cornwall, Somerset) that long remained good for the Lib-Dems (and the Liberals before them) when the rest of the country abandoned them. Should the Lib-Dems win a solid number of these seats back, it will obviously dull the magnitude of the Tory triumph: not enough to stop it, but perhaps just enough to deny Mrs May the invincibility enjoyed by Mrs Thatcher after 1983.

With seven weeks to go, I will aim to include comment on the British election as we go: as well as keeping an eye on what’s happening here in Australia, and on that score, I should be back within the next day or so.

But if ever there was a case of the planets aligning perfectly for a jaunty field trip to face the voters, Britain’s Conservative Party enjoys exactly that: and whilst it’s never over until the votes are counted, a huge win for Mrs May and the Tories — mirrored by defeat and humiliation for Labour — are in no way in any doubt.

If anyone wants to take a shot at me for making such an unqualified and unilateral prediction, just hold off until 9 June. I’m sure, on that day, you might have second thoughts about doing so.

 

Abbott, Credlin May Be Bitter, Angry, Hypocritical – But They’re Right

MUCH HAS been made this week about “interventions” by Tony Abbott in Turnbull government affairs, including criticism the former PM is bitter, wants to be a wrecker, and that he is damaging the Liberal Party; Abbott doesn’t have to damage the Liberal Party: under its current leader, it is doing that itself. Abbott and perennial sidekick Peta Credlin may be angry and bitter — rear-view mirror hypocrites, even. But like it or not, they are also right.

As I have said time and again, I really don’t like writing articles that are critical of my own party; even so, this column is predicated on candid comment — not churning out sycophantic Liberal Party propaganda — and when the party itself looks well placed to finish the job started at last year’s election, and gift government to Labor in 18 months to two years’ time, there is nothing “loyal” or “on message” about keeping quiet.

Especially when I’m horrified at the thought of what a Shorten government can and would do to Australia. Especially when I desperately want my party to clean up its act and succeed.

I’m in a position that, depending on your outlook, could be seen as either an opportunity or highly compromised; on the one hand, and whilst unaligned within the Liberal Party, my natural inclination is toward the conservative side of the party: not the “far Right,” where people are obsessed with prosecuting anyone connected with abortions, or vilifying even law-abiding moderate Muslims in a campaign to run the whole lot of them out of Australia in order to remove extreme elements who should never have been allowed to enter in the first place, but the mainstream conservative Right — a position reflected over years of successful government and typified by the likes of John Howard, Peter Reith, Alexander Downer, to some extent Peter Costello, and (with an eye to his performance as a minister) Tony Abbott.

But on the other, there are increasing numbers of Turnbull people — moderate Liberals — entering my orbit; they passionately argue that leaving the present Prime Minister in his role is critical, and that he and the people surrounding him — be they ministers, senior advisors, or staff — are “good people,” or “top quality people,” and once again, certainly on a personal basis and with a couple of exceptions, that is also correct.

The problem derives from the fact that not only did Malcolm Turnbull — not really a creature of the Liberal Party at all, weighed against both the complexion of the rank and file membership and the philosophical and policy settings of its 12 successful years in office under Howard — plot and scheme to knife the predecessor who both returned the party to office in a landslide and frittered away the authority of that mandate through misdirected priorities, loyalties, and a policy program aimed squarely at hurting its own constituency, but he has in the 18 months since that event presided over his own government that has been mediocre, timid, and incapable of advocating a cogent comprehensive policy blueprint or exhibiting the bottle to implement one (or virtually anything else).

There is an article appearing today in The Spectator Australia that reads like a carefully detailed itinerary of everything that is wrong with the federal government under Turnbull; it is a surgical — and virtually unrebuttable — itemisation of “75 weeks” of what to the outsider gives every appearance of an almost deliberate strategy to throw away the authority of government (and government itself) through inaction, torpor, mediocrity, directionless, and plain old-fashioned gutlessness.

It echoes the utterances of Abbott himself during the week — which provoked a shitstorm of enraged media activity from the Turnbull loyalists, as well as from conservatives like Matthias Cormann — in which he proclaimed that the Turnbull government risked “drifting to defeat” and observed that attacking Bill Shorten was one thing, but that defeat would inevitably come unless we got “our own policies right:” precisely the sentiment articulated in this column a week ago.

And we now have former Abbott Chief of Staff Peta Credlin (who was demoted from the same role by Turnbull as opposition leader) — continuing to use her media platforms at Sky News and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph to try to rehabilitate her own image before a public audience — arguing that the Liberal Party is “in deep trouble” and that Abbott’s interventions amount to nothing more than “trying to help.”

Are Abbott’s renewed outbursts against his successor a case of sniping, undermining and exacting a measure of vengeance? Probably.

Are Abbott’s policy prescriptions — abandoning the Renewable Energy Target, abolishing S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, and a raft of other measures he failed to tackle as Prime Minister — hypocritical when judged against his own performance as leader? Quite possibly.

And is Credlin — seething over Turnbull’s ascension, and driven by a need for retribution at the same time she tries to hoodwink the men and women on the street into believing she was the greatest thing the Coalition under Abbott had going for it — motivated more by vanity and sour grapes than truly accepting her mistakes? Almost certainly.

Yet it is one of those uncomfortable realities that even if you subscribe to all three of those contentions, Abbott and Credlin are also — incredibly — absolutely correct.

When discussing the performance of the Turnbull government (or, particularly, what is wrong with it) it does seem we cover the same ground in almost the same terms; there is a good reason for that — the problems are glaringly obvious, as they were under Abbott himself, albeit for different reasons — and it is a source of tremendous frustration to watch Turnbull and his minions apparently determined to piss away the opportunity to build a lasting, competent administration that might eventually boast some kind of record of achievement.

Columns like mine — and others like them, up to and including some of the mass-circulation regulars in metropolitan dailies — are too easily dismissed as being published by crackpots advancing personal agendas that are “off message” with the official party line: they can be as “off message” as they want to be in my view, for the Liberal Party’s message during this incarnation in government (and it’s a criticism readers know I often levelled at Abbott and Credlin, too) is the wrong message altogether.

If Australian people want commitments to high renewable energy targets, carbon taxes (of whatever description), fealty with climate change alarmism that can’t conclusively prove whether the “change” is cyclical or man-made, international conventions to cut emissions, unquestioning tolerance of Muslim immigration (with a head-up-the-arse denial of the creeping effects of militant Islam), a refusal to abolish 18c, a refusal to make meaningful attempts at achieving widespread economic reform, smaller government or lower overall taxes, they can and will vote for the ALP or the Communist Party Greens.

This we know as fact: the ALP under Bill Shorten campaigned unapologetically on all of those things, and more, and the overall vote for the Left rose by a couple of percentage points at last year’s election as a result.

But what we also know as fact is that a considerable majority of the Australian public do not actually want these things at all; the overwhelming movement away from the Liberal Party at last year’s election was to the assortment of fringe parties springing up to its Right, not to Labor or the Greens: the so-called “million lost votes” that went directly to One Nation, the ALA, the Liberal Democrats, Family First and others, which might next time partially flow to Cory Bernardi’s hard Right outfit, and which transferred almost as a bloc to Labor on preferences — not from any willingness or inclination to endorse Shorten, but from a total refusal to endorse Turnbull in any way, shape or form, and to attempt to ensure he lost the election as “punishment” for his overthrow of Abbott.

This distinction sits at the very heart of what is wrong with the government in its current configuration, and is why Turnbull is spectacularly and singularly unsuited to leading it: his initial burst of public support in reputable opinion polls was only ever going to translate into votes and seats if he went to an election immediately, before the hardened lefties who spent the Abbott years cheering him on woke up to themselves, remembered they’d prefer to vote for Labor or the Greens than a caricature-like imitation hailing from Point Piper and armed with tens of millions of dollars — and jumped off the Turnbull cart as enthusiastically as they had leapt upon it as a way of “sticking it” to Abbott.

Whenever I say to any of the Turnbull adherents in my midst that I have a high personal opinion of Malcolm, I’m met with deep scepticism and doubt: if I truly believed that, the story goes, I’d be enthusiastically rooting for his success.

Which I periodically do of course, the rare times he kicks a goal, or lands a blow against the repellant Shorten: regular readers know I give credit where it is due. In Turnbull’s case, it is warranted all too infrequently.

But just as I like some Labor figures personally (Joel Fitzgibbon and Mark McGowan spring quickly to mind), I’d never vote for them in a pink fit: the principle is identical.

And if Turnbull really is the greatest Liberal leader of all time, but has simply failed to hit his straps and carry the country with him, what does that say about the hand-picked cabal of people guiding, advising and strategising for him?

That’s not a question any of them want to answer. At such a juncture, it all becomes the fault of Abbott, Credlin, and the press.

Of course it is.

And of people like me who refuse to blindly toe the line, or get “on message,” or refuse to parrot the propaganda of a ship that is sailing on a one-way ticket to nowhere.

Of course it is.

Whether Turnbull’s group likes it or not, or admits it or not, the vast bulk of the electorate (to say nothing of a probable majority of the Liberal rank and file) despise Turnbull, and it doesn’t matter what those who have worked with him, or those of us who have otherwise had dealings with him and like him, think otherwise: Malcolm is a widely disliked figure who most people do not want as their Prime Minister.

This is no endorsement of Shorten (who, with more than a single IQ point, would ever give one of those?) and it does not automatically follow that such a position is a call for Abbott to be restored as Prime Minister.

Indeed, I have never advocated an Abbott return either publicly or in private, and it would take more than a few accurate comments in the press on his (or Credlin’s) behalf to convince me otherwise.

But the Coalition right now is beset, in no particular order, with a leader who will never win another election; a “policy” program (for want of any better description) that is very thin, very narrow, and hardly a comprehensive template for governance; is saddled with a Turnbull/Labor/Greens formulation on social issues and climate change that is complete anathema to voters who would ordinarily incline to vote Liberal; exhibits no idea, inclination or ability to contemplate broad-brush, sweeping reforms that are desperately overdue (for example, a company tax cut — whilst necessary to stimulate employment — is not “tax reform,” and is just another band-aid to look like it stands for anything at all).

It is lumbered with people responsible for mass communications, political strategy and parliamentary tactics who are clearly completely and utterly clueless: for if they weren’t, and especially with the likes of Shorten to contend with as an opponent, the government would be 10-15 points ahead of the ALP in the polls and generating a deep reservoir of public goodwill for itself.

It isn’t.

Even this week’s decision by the Fair Work Commission — an ALP-created entity stacked with Labor appointees — to modestly cut Sunday penalty rates has been squandered as an opportunity to ram home the benefits to the Coalition’s core small business constituency, and to hang Shorten out to dry for opposing them as a union puppet who would prefer to see jobs destroyed rather than created.

To Credlin, I say that whilst my trenchant opposition to her as Chief of Staff may have softened, a better approach might be to gather those like-minded, able folk who are desperate for the Liberal Party to succeed (be they inside or outside the Canberra bubble) to forge and set out comprehensive plans for government, a comprehensive strategy to implement them, and a realistic strategy to get rid of Turnbull and replace him with someone who might be up to delivering on it: to this extent, my door is open.

To the Turnbullites, my suggestion would be to forget about trying to drive conservatives out of the party — for what that is doing is already destroying it — and to rule a line under 18 wasted months by moving to incorporate the same solutions in office as those any putative replacement might be inclined to enact if they are able to dislodge Malcolm and again, my door is open.

There are plenty of good, astute people in and around the Liberal Party who simply want it to succeed; they want it fixed, they want it to function, and (distinctions about conservatives or moderates aside) they don’t really care who does it, so long as the job is done. Those people are largely shut out of the party’s inner sanctums — often for petty, adolescent, and/or ancient reasons that defy common sense and sanity today.

But to ignore the reality of the predicament Turnbull and his mates have spent 18 months steering the Coalition into is every bit as destructive as their increasingly strident denunciations of the man he replaced — the merits or otherwise of that action aside — and one thing that can be stated with brutal, and deadly, candour is that if left merrily to their own devices, Turnbull and his crowd will engineer the mother of all election defeats that will hit the Liberal Party like an atom bomb when next it ventures out to face the people.

It will make 2007 look like a blip. It will make 1983 look mild.

And the most damning aspect of that is that most of the carnage will have been inflicted not through an embrace of Shorten and Labor, but by fucked-off Coalition voters determined to punish Turnbull heavily by the only means available to them: the ballot box.

The motives of Abbott and Credlin this week may be dubious, questionable, their arguments hypocritical, and their actions selfish in the extreme.

Like it or not, for once both of them are absolutely right.

It remains to be seen how those positioned to do something about the problems they have identified respond: whether this takes the form of the Right manoeuvring to replace Turnbull, or the Turnbull crowd finally waking up to itself and realising it has almost pissed the entire game away.

But the clock is ticking, and with almost a third of what was always going to be a truncated parliamentary term gone, the time for any of them to do something concrete to fix the problem has almost passed: if, that is, Turnbull hasn’t already pushed the Coalition beyond the point of no return in the estimation of the voting public and, most importantly, the Liberal-inclined voters without whom the government is finished.

Time will tell. It always does.

The only certainty is that if nothing changes, defeat at the next election is guaranteed. On that count at least, Abbott is dead right.

Victoria: In Any Other Job, ALP MPs Would Be Prosecuted

TWO ALP MPs caught misusing an allowance for rural members to maintain second residences in Melbourne are lucky they don’t work in the private sector; a blatant collective rort of $140,000 would, in other circumstances, expose them to prosecution for theft, fraud, conspiracy, and God knows what else. The episode is further proof of a rotten Labor regime presided over by a pusillanimous Premier, operated solely to benefit militant union thugs.

Lest any smarty utter the words “Bronwyn Bishop” in a comment, I note at the outset that not only was this column scathing about her flagrant waste of some $5,500 on a helicopter trip at the time — an amount repaid in full, however grudgingly — but that the episode (rightly) cost Mrs Bishop her position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, her Liberal Party endorsement for her electorate on Sydney’s North Shore, and her political career.

And I say this because once again, members from the ALP — this time, specimens from the contemptible, union-controlled junta that infests the Treasury benches in Spring Street — have shown that when it comes to the blatant rip-off of public monies for personal benefit, any outrage perpetrated by a Liberal MP invariably pales in comparison to the kind of rorting the self-entitled minions of the Labor Party seem to engage in until or unless they are caught.

Most readers will have by now heard that Andrews government Speaker Telmo Languiller has been forced to resign, and make restitution, over $40,000 he improperly claimed for maintaining a second residence outside his electorate, which wasn’t in Melbourne at all; this development yesterday was swiftly followed by the deputy Speaker, Don Nardella, also falling on his sword over a $100,000 claim against exactly the same allowance — when neither his primary residence, nor the secondary address he made the claims for, were anywhere near his electorate at all.

For those out of the loop, and particularly interstate readers, some coverage may be accessed here and here.

I’m not going to comment at great length today — I will be back later this afternoon to belatedly discuss some of what has happened this past week in the federal political arena — but whichever way you cut it, these developments are (or at least, should be) disastrous for Daniel Andrews and the government we also said, at the time it was elected, was likely to turn out to be a fiasco.

How right we were: and how lucky for Andrews, for now at least, that the state Liberals seem unable to land a telling blow against his government.

Perhaps — after the terrible loss of life on Bourke Street last month, and now this — that might finally start to change.

To fully appreciate the scope of this latest outrage (and again, for the benefit of readers interstate), a little geographical orientation is indicated.

Languiller — the member for Tarneit, about 25km west of the Melbourne CBD — has been claiming for a second residence so he could live in Queenscliff, on the surf coast about 80km from Melbourne on the Bellarine Peninsula, despite maintaining a “primary residence” in Footscray about 6km from the CBD: it goes without saying that any second residence Mr Languiller wished to maintain at Queenscliff should have been of the “holiday house” variety funded solely from his own pocket.

Nardella, by contrast, represents the electorate of Melton, a dreadful and thoroughly awful speck of Melbourne’s outer western suburbs about a third of the way to Ballarat; even so, Nardella doesn’t even pretend to deign to dwell among those whose votes he takes for granted every four years — his primary residence is in the Bayside suburb of Mordialloc, about 25km south of the CBD (and about 10-15 minutes further out from the city than where I live), and the “secondary residence” he has saddled taxpayers with a six-figure bill for is in Ocean Grove, almost literally a stone’s throw from Languiller’s joint at Queenscliff.

In other words, the “secondary residences” these gentlemen have pocketed money from the taxpayer to fund — under an allowance always intended to help rural and regional MPs maintain accommodation in Melbourne for use during parliamentary sitting weeks — were a total violation of the intention of the allowance. Apparently, the defence was initially offered that as guidelines did not stipulate a “second residence” had to be in Melbourne, no wrongdoing had occurred.

Closing that loophole should be the first item on the notice paper when Parliament next sits.

In Nardella’s case, it is hard to see how any sane or rational individual could have conjured up even the most remotely plausible justification for his actions — even if solely for the benefit of the voices in his head — for his case is arguably the worse of the two misdemeanours, and impossible to validate on any realistic basis.

But to suggest the amounts of $40,000 and $100,000 respectively were at best fraudulently procured, and worst a blatant case of theft from the public purse, is no overstatement at all.

Had Languiller and Nardella been employed in the private sector and stolen those amounts from their bosses, they could and probably would be facing a string of charges including theft, fraud, conspiracy, embezzlement, and hefty jail terms to boot.

As it is, they will likely face no consequences at all, save for the loss of the ministerial component of their salaries; nobody should feel sympathy or compunction over the fact both will repay the monies illicitly taken, and nobody should think they have been unfairly dealt with or that their feeble justifications are in any way adequate. If repaying the money they should never have taken causes either or both hardship, nobody should care less; if they find the ridicule and embarrassment they now deservedly suffer to be too hard to handle, they should thank their lucky stars nobody is likely to institute criminal proceedings against them.

Frankly, they ought to be thrown out of Parliament for their trouble: and for a Premier who made so much of the Liberals’ predicament prior to the 2014 election, when the vote of miscreant Liberal-turned-Independent Geoff Shaw was the difference between a functional Victorian Parliament and a gridlocked quagmire, Daniel Andrews owes it to the people of Victoria — based on his own purported standards and “principles” — to lead the charge against two of his own, and move the expulsion motions himself.

He won’t, for one thing Andrews truly lacks is a spine. Another is a sense of decency, wherever actions rather than words are called for.

Coming so soon after another disgraced Andrews government minister “resigned” after it emerged he had been using a taxpayer-funded chauffeured car to transport his dogs between his two houses, this is a terrible look for Victorian Labor, and one compounded by the fact that Police minister Lisa Neville was allowed to survive in her post by Andrews after the grotesque tragedy on Bourke Street just weeks ago when she should have been sacked on the spot.

When you add in the bullying of another minister out of her post for refusing to kowtow to the line dictated to Andrews by the militant, hard-Left United Firefighters Union, as it sought to take over the Country Fire Authority, this government is looking very grubby indeed; and when it is further recognised that the common thread through all of the arrivals, departures, lack of action and vacillating over getting rid of people is a constant of union webs and links, it makes Andrews look weak, pusillanimous, and pathetic.

The loss of two more ministers (if you count the Speaker and his deputy as such) for what boils down to common theft in anyone else’s language means the Andrews government has, in a little over two years, lost three Cabinet ministers, the Speaker and his deputy, for the total loss of five ministers from a starting line-up of 25: 20% of the Andrews government wiped out in less than two-thirds of its four-year term.

As I predicted it would the day after it was elected, this state Labor government has proven to be rotten to the core, and sometimes in ways nobody could have expected.

With more than 18 months to go, and with “interesting stories” circulating about the activities of some of Andrews’ other closest cohorts, it remains to be seen just how far the rot can spread — and how long before opposition leader Matthew Guy can turn what should be a political slam-dunk into any kind of lead in reputable opinion polling, let alone one that might win him the next state election.

 

Quick Wrap: Attack Is Great, But Useless Without A Plan

TONIGHT’S POST is a short piece to reconfirm yet again that I have not disappeared, but merely continue to operate at a million miles per hour; even so, there is a Newspoll due out later this evening (and I will get to it if I can), but a vicious and brilliant attack against ALP “leader” Bill Shorten by the PM will count for nowt if not followed with proper policies — and other things have been afoot that we will allow to percolate a little further.

I am heartily sorry for the break over the past week and a half, but revenue-generating activities (and the airport) have intervened to thwart us; after a lightning in-out trip to Canberra on Thursday to attend to an urgent business matter — in a week bookended by weekends during which I worked almost the full four days on a project I’m launching with one of my other hats on — I’m now contemplating three interstate trips over the next nine days, beginning with an in-out run to Sydney tomorrow, and scarily enough that tally of return flights is likely to grow. So whilst I apologise for the absence, I ask regular readers to bear with me.

Indeed, there is a Newspoll due for publication in The Australian later tonight, and if I can get to it before I head out to Tullamarine by 6am tomorrow I will; if you don’t see it, you’ll know the clock has beaten me.

But it will be interesting to see the picture this survey paints in terms of the Turnbull government’s fortunes, for last fortnight’s offering was (as readers could probably tell) very close to the point in my view at which Turnbull, and possibly the Coalition in this phase of holding office, passed the point of political and electoral no return.

It was cheering (and I mean this sincerely, given my trenchant criticism of Malcolm Turnbull) to see the PM rip into Labor’s alleged “leader” last week in brutal and uncompromising terms; Bill Shorten isn’t merely the least appropriate figure ever fielded by either major party as a candidate for the Prime Ministership, but is a vindictive, lying and downright obsequious piece of work to boot.

I don’t go along with the school of thought that has found its way into mainstream press analysis that “the troops” should take heart from this one-off piece of vitriolic savagery from Turnbull; the fact is that the “sycophantic parasite” Turnbull painted Shorten as should have been torn into so many pieces by the Coalition over the past four years that even a sparrow should be having trouble filling its beak with one peck.

In other words, Turnbull merely did what he should have been doing for the past 18 months — and what Tony Abbott should have been doing for two and a half years beforehand.

Whether the onslaught against Shorten continues remains to be seen; Parliament sits again next week, and it’s the way of these things that such attacks are invariably made from the safety of parliamentary privilege. But whilst destroying Shorten might amount to a case of “be careful what you wish for” — he could be replaced by someone more adept at selling a convincing, and honest-style, message — nobody on either side of politics can claim with credibility that Shorten adds any value whatsoever to Australian politics.

Leave him where he is and his opportunistic, hypocritical, populist style wreaks pandemonium on the ability of the government to govern; permit him to win an election, and the sum total of his behaviour to date adds up to the highest-taxing, highest spending, highest debt government Australia will have ever seen in which violent, militant union thugs run roughshod over democracy and the general public. A Shorten government would burn through the economy like a nuclear blast, with the likely impact of tax rises and ill-considered changes like abolishing negative gearing contributing to a hefty recession, and so even if it makes the next election even more winnable for the ALP, it is in the national interest for Bill Shorten to be driven out of the Labor leadership (and, preferably, Parliament too) at any and all costs.

Credit where it is due though: Turnbull has finally laid a glove on the imbecilic opposition “leader.” More of the same, hopefully, will follow.

A surer bet is the apparent decision by the government, from Turnbull down, to suddenly champion the consumer where essential services are concerned; what one British MP once described as “all this Greens bullshit” has led to the farcical situation whereby electricity and gas are now almost priced beyond the reach of ordinary households to afford — and what there is available to them to consume isn’t even a reliable supply, as the uselessness and unfitness for purpose of renewables to generate constant baseload power has been laid bare after a summer in which much of the country has experienced extreme heatwaves for months.

Perhaps the penny has finally dropped — perhaps — that government in Australia is not a vocation in prosecuting the trendy crusades of the smug left on climate change, Muslim immigration and “gender fluidity” (whatever the hell that is), but is in fact an obligation to govern for the people who live here in order to improve, and maintain, the standard of living they are accustomed to enjoying.

I have been blunt over the years that with Australia accounting for less than 1% of global emissions, the moves to price cheap, inexhaustible coal out of the energy mix in this country is tantamount to a criminal negligence against its citizens; even if you accept human emissions are responsible for climate change — and I don’t, for I think it’s puerile to use 150 years or so of data to make ridiculous pronouncements over millions of years of history — there is literally no difference Australia can make to the overall global emissions load.

Yes, clean up industry and yes, wherever possible, make smoke stacks belching shit into the air a thing of the past, but not at the cost of ordinary families being slugged with $500 bills every three months to turn the lights on.

Even here, I think the safest bet is to simply wait and see.

For whilst I have been implacable in my insistence over the years that Turnbull isn’t, wasn’t and won’t be the ideal candidate for the Prime Ministership, my personal view of him is very high indeed (even if I don’t hold some of his mates in the same warm esteem); if there is some way Malcolm can not only deal himself back into the game, but carry the millions of lost conservative votes back into the Coalition tent with him, nobody will cheer him on more loudly than I.

I do think such a storyline, however, remains improbable in the extreme.

But now experimenting with hard policy as a way to cut the cost of living on utility prices, maybe a flutter of success (and a flicker of cognisance in the opinion polls) might finally induce Malcolm to do what this column has been calling for over a period of months: to outline a program of comprehensive reform (however difficult the Senate might render its execution) on taxation, industrial relations, welfare and education reform, along with a sweeping program of cuts to Rudd-Gillard era spending programs and a severe cull of federal public servants, and — most importantly of all — a hard-hitting and efficacious communications and political strategy with which to sell it — not the festering, pustulent crap with which the Coalition has approached matters of mass communication in office for far, far too long now.

Of course, a poor Newspoll result might render any talk of tentative upswings entirely redundant. We will see.

I am off to watch the ghastly ABC talkfest that is #QandA, which tonight features Attorney-General George Brandis as the chief token Liberal amid the usual stacked panel of pinko sycophants and Australia-hating left-wing filth.

It should at least prove a more edifying spectacle than last week’s all-out brawl between the cringeworthy Jacqui Lambie — whose credentials, based on her performance last week, as the stupidest person ever elected to an Australian House of Parliament are well and truly intact — and Muslim activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

For once Lambie was right, although her apparent bogan tic of terminating every sentence with “that’s BOOLSHITT!” wore very thin by the end of the show: even so, the suggestion by Abdel-Magied that Islam is a “feminist” religion, and that criticisms of Sharia law are based “in ignorance” when women, children and babies are routinely raped and slaughtered under regimes predicated solely on the strictest possible interpretation of Sharia law, well and truly deserved the tsunami of condemnation it elicited in the mainstream press and in social media this week.

I’m the first to draw the distinction between moderate Muslims and Islamic extremists — something the far Right refuses to acknowledge even exists, and which the Left roundly dismisses as “racism” and bigotry” — but the simple truth is that graphic videos of women being raped and/or beheaded by Muslim men, in some cases apparently with the sanction of the Islamic states involved, are readily available online and are more than enough proof that if anyone is delusional, it’s the young Abdel-Magied who has had the benefit of a free life in Australia, not the sisters she dishonours with talk of “feminist” Islam.

After all, if her words contained a grain of truth, there would be no women from Muslim backgrounds in Australia (or any other free country) at all: life would be too good where they came from to abandon.

So let’s dispense with the nonsense that the ABC is in any way impartial or factual by providing a platform for such views, and condemn whomever approved the expenditure at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the taxpayer-funded field trip to Muslim countries for Abdel-Magied that was — and let’s call it for what it was — an attempt to curry favour with yet another minority group whilst the interests of the majority, who largely pay for such ridiculous trifles, are ignored.

 

Bernardi Can Kill The Liberals, Non-Labor Government, And Himself

ANY GUTLESS FOOL, knowing they can’t win a lower house seat, can “start a party” by standing in the Senate and rustling preferences to bolster single-digit support, but it takes a special kind of cowardice to do it by deserting a party that six months ago delivered up a six-year term. If Cory Bernardi leaves the Liberals to do just that, he stands to kill off the Liberal Party, the prospects for non-Labor government in Australia and, eventually, himself.

It’s a short post from me this morning: I suspect we will be returning to this theme very soon, and possibly as soon as tonight.

But the apparent putsch by Cory Bernardi to desert the Liberal Party to set up his “Australian Conservatives” party — fortified with cash from mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, if media reports are to be believed — seems set to occur very shortly, and as much as readers know I despair the inability of conservative forces in Australia to get their shit together, this is simply not the way to go about it.

(I emphasise, conservative forces: not whack-job right wing garbage almost exclusively focused on Muslim immigration, abortion, and vilifying homosexuals en route to stopping gay marriage — a measure I don’t support either).

Thanks to the endlessly updating speculation that filled large portions of yesterday’s press, we know Bernardi will likely stand alone if he walks out on the Liberals: the likeliest fellow travellers in any defection — Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz and Queensland MP George Christensen — have both ruled out joining their colleague on the crossbenches, for now at any rate.

Anyone seeking their five minutes in the limelight can try to start a new “party” by running for a Senate berth, armed with the knowledge they could never assemble a majority in a lower house electorate, and using a strategy of preference harvesting to bolster single-digit direct support; we’ve seen it time, and time, and time again.

But it takes a special kind of cowardice to use the money, resources and manpower of another party to secure a fresh six-year Senate term, and then “start a party” by biting the hand that fed you and walking out.

Bernardi, to be clear, is a creature of the Liberal Party, whatever he suggests to the contrary: he has been the president of the SA division, a vice-president federally and, of course, a Senator in SA for some years.

And the idea that walking out on the party that gave him a profile and a career will somehow empower the millions of frustrated voters looking for genuine action on mainstream conservative policies is fatuous, to say the least.

The Liberal Party has its problems — and we have explored them at great length in this column — but nothing a change of leader, a sweeping cleanout of the ranks of its advisers, a few astute preselection changes and some backbone wouldn’t fix.

To make those changes would take great effort, hard work, the making of enemies and the termination of the careers of many vested interests; the reward, however, would be to restore the Liberal Party to its role as the mainstream conduit for conservative sentiment that I passionately believe informs the outlook of a majority of the Australian electorate.

In recent years, this connection between party and base has certainly become strained, to put it most kindly; the present occupant of the federal leadership wears a heavy share of the responsibility, but he is not alone: the risk-averse advisors, the state Liberal Parties filled with deadwood and/or factional hacks, and the perennial desire to offer all things to all people — meaning the party actually ends up pleasing nobody, with the leaching of its support the most tangible consequence — have all played a part.

I note that Bernardi, despite his position on the backbench, has remained largely mute in terms of mass communication where any cogent conservative agenda is concerned; it’s hardly a state secret to advocate for a proper slate of conservative policies in government, and the inevitable conclusion is that no such platform is in the offing.

And it is dubious as to how many of the 50,000 people he has “signed up” will follow him if he walks out on the Liberals: as I noted some time ago, I too signed up — to keep an eye on what Bernardi was up to — and no doubt a fair slab of that 50,000 bloc was doing the same thing. Continue reading

Just Mad: Pauline Hanson’s Garbled, Incoherent “Plan” For Australia

FOR someone who’s had years to get her story straight — if, that is, she was ever serious about solving problems she whips up fear and discord around — the agenda Pauline Hanson has unveiled to fix Australia’s alleged ills is a garbled mishmash of contradictory, populist thought bubbles that would do untold damage to this country. It underlines the fact that on matters of consequence, One Nation is just mad, bad, and downright dangerous.

Today’s article deals with a subject — Pauline Hanson — that is a perennial headache, an enigma, and a national embarrassment sprinkled with tiny kernels of justification; that said, the position of this column is (and always will be) that Hanson and her One Nation party, which attracts extremists, nutcases and ordinary folk who are fed up with mainstream politics in equal measure, must be neutralised and defeated at all costs.

Regular readers know that one of the central criticisms I have levelled at Hanson (who I know personally) is that she has always been adept at identifying “problems” — Aborigines, Asians, Muslims, single mothers, dole bludgers — but when it comes to offering “solutions,” Hanson has traditionally had nothing meaningful to say.

Until now.

I have read the rather generous profile piece being run in the state-based Murdoch mastheads today (and one in The Australian, too), in which Hanson outlines a manifesto (for want of a more suitable term) to “fix” Australia that — to be completely blunt — is a recipe for laying waste to it rather than rendering any remotely beneficial change.

Perhaps we should have been content to let her rail on about “problems,” and forget about seeking the “solutions” that might have spared her the criticism of being just another empty-handed troublemaker, content to foment paranoia and discord, whilst selling little more than snake oil and baseless prejudice.

Either way, the onus is now on the major parties — and the Liberal Party in particular — to systematically dismantle Hanson’s program and to show, unequivocally, that far from saving Australia it would, in fact, virtually destroy it.

Before we get started, I should remind readers that this column did in fact call for the Queensland LNP to strike a preference deal with One Nation for the looming state election (see here and here); whilst I stand by that call, it should be in no way construed or misrepresented as an endorsement.

Whether you like it or not, a disproportionate number of Coalition votes are fuelling the rise of One Nation, in the same way a disproportionate number of Labor votes fuelled the growth of the Communist Party Greens; whilst One Nation is a very different creature to the Liberal Party, the two are closer than One Nation is to the ALP, in the way Labor and the Greens are similarly closer than the Greens to the Liberals. It is high time the Coalition focused on discrediting the relationship between Labor and the Greens, ensuring as many One Nation votes as possible return to it on preferences, instead of self-immolating over the issue and becoming paralysed by inertia as a consequence.

But let’s be fair: Pauline Hanson has apparently done as this column has demanded, for the first time in almost 20 years of milking votes and electoral funding from a brazen dog whistle to every redneck idiot in the country, and put some policies on the table.

Let’s see how they stack up.

The 2% EzyTax proposal she apparently pins her economic credibility on is a stinker that has been doing the rounds of those looking for something jingoistic and idiot-simple to flaunt as “tax reform” for decades; I’ve seen it surface, for example, at the fringes of the Liberal Party repeatedly during 27 years as a member.

This silly notion — that literally every transaction of money should attract a 2% tax impost — may or may not lead to a zero-sum equation where total government revenue is concerned, or even yield more revenue; I’m not an economist and even if I was, I don’t have access to the kind of modelling that would provide a ready answer.

But some of the consequences are so blindingly obvious that anyone with a skerrick of understanding of economics — which Ms Hanson and her cohorts clearly do not possess — could foresee them.

In the short term, the effect of this policy would be to convey the appearance to consumers that their disposable incomes had rocketed; after all, income tax would fall to 2%, and GST would be abolished.

This would fuel a boom in imports and a steep hike in the inflation rate, as consumption ballooned; as consequent price growth accelerated to facilitate profit growth, wages would follow suit, locking in the kind of prices-wages spiral that afflicted the Australian economy during the Whitlam years and arguably took a decade to unpick.

In turn, this would leave the Reserve Bank with no choice but to start moving official interest rates steeply higher in a desperate attempt to choke the life out of an unsustainable price-wage-consumption bubble; and the effect of that would be to trigger a vicious contraction in the property market — perhaps inducing a recession — which would see potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs (to say nothing of the hard-earned wealth of Australian workers) lost.

Higher interest rates would also send the Australian dollar sharply higher, again mitigating against economic growth, this time by making Australian exports much more expensive.

Eventually, the adjustment — one way or the other — would be carried through.

But the permanent effects of this policy would be to devalue the savings of the ordinary people Hanson claims to want to help: every time they took money out of the bank, 2% would be added to the withdrawal; every time they deposited money, 2% of it would disappear. Whilst I support GST being extended to everything except healthcare, education, retail banking and housing, it is a paradox that most of those cheering Ms Hanson on are typically opposed to these basic services (and food) being taxed: under her policy, they would be.

With GST abolished, 2% EzyTax would make the states more reliant on Commonwealth handouts, not less, which in turn would make Commonwealth-state relations even more confrontational, and render the two tiers of government more inclined to playing each other off for partisan gain than they already are.

And all of this is merely represents the most obvious adverse effects of 2% EzyTax. There are bound to be countless others. Is this the kind of tax policy a modern, advanced, first-world economy should countenance? I suggest the answer, resoundingly, is “no.”

For a politician purporting to want to roll back the role of the state, Hanson offers other policies that are oxymoronic, to say the least.

She wants couples to be forced to lodge pre-nuptial agreements with the Family Court before they can marry: a ridiculous, unjustifiable imposition that in any case will cause the marriage rate to drop like a stone, in turn fuelling even greater burdens to befall the Court and the welfare system as de facto relationships are easier for people to walk away from, leading to a potential spike in single parent payments, protracted family law litigation, and the like.

(Speaking of children, these agreements are supposed to cover, in advance, arrangements for managing children that result from marriages. Just shake your head and invest in a pack of tarot cards: the reading will have as much chance as any other mechanism of getting that particular piece of silliness right).

She would unapologetically mire Australia in a reputation for sovereign risk, forcing foreign companies who have bought infrastructure assets into compulsory divestiture; it is unknown what Ms Hanson proposes to pay these companies to acquire them, but it’s a fair bet it would be a discount to their fair market value — compounding the dreadful reputation as a place to do business she openly advocates shackling Australia with.

In any case, government debt — another Hanson priority — would need to blow out exponentially in order to fund an acquisition program that would likely run to trillions of dollars.

With no sense of irony, Hanson claims she would offer a taxpayer-funded program to get young Australians into apprenticeships, apparently ignorant of the fact such schemes have existed for many years.

There is no detail offered around the notion of offering manufacturers tax incentives “to create Aussie jobs (sic),” but I would note that a) jobs presently filled by immigrants on 457 visas are typically jobs that others refuse to take, and that more to the point, b) the deleterious effects of Ms Hanson’s broader economic “vision” are likely to be so dire as to substantially reduce the base of potential employers in the first place.

Hanson says she would cull the number of politicians in Australia. How? As “Prime Minister” she would have no jurisdiction over state or local governments, and there isn’t a syllable in her announcement advocating, say, the removal of state governments and a streamlined two-tier system of governance.

Readers know I have advocated a referendum to abolish the “nexus” imposed by S24 of the Constitution (which dictates the House of Representatives be roughly double the size of the Senate) in order to reduce the number of Senators and increase the number of electorates in the lower house to enable better representation of a growing population, but this kind of complex argument appears beyond the capacity and/or inclination of Ms Hanson and her cohorts to attempt.

In other words, any move to implement this one-liner of populist nonsense is likely to bog down in constitutional litigation, a constitutional crisis, or both.

Limiting immigration is a classic calling card of far-Right entities appealing to base prejudices on the fringe of the electorate that raise more problems than they solve. With an ageing population (and fewer people to pay the taxes that support government expenditure), Australia relies on its immigration program for its viability. We do not have the critical mass of the 320 million people of the United States, or even of the 65 million people in the United Kingdom, but we do have a population that is rapidly becoming top-heavy with old people. A more credible proposal would be to alter the immigration mix to achieve a heavier emphasis on skills and less emphasis on family reunion, but even this straightforward distinction appears to be too much for Hanson and her party to draw.

And of course — as a token sop to racists (yes, racists) — full head coverings (read: the burqa or niqab) would be banned. I don’t like the sight of people covered from head to toe either. But this pledge, rather than ranking well down the pecking order of One Nation’s priorities, is in fact a headline act near the very top of the bill.

Ms Hanson wants a Royal Commission to determine whether “Islam” is a political ideology or a religion; this half-arsed suggestion is perhaps the greatest attempt to hoodwink the gullible and the stupid in this country in some time.

It fails to draw the distinction between militant, radical Islam (which aims to destroy the liberal democratic societies of the West) and more moderate, orthodox strains of Muslim doctrine (whose adherents don’t want to hurt anyone, and simply want to be left alone). Yet once again, the idiot-simple appeal to bigoted lunatics appears to hold more sway at One Nation than any attempt to prosecute a nuanced, finely argued case, separating extreme elements from the harmless, and coming up with constructive ways to deal with the former whilst leaving the latter well enough alone.

Hanson says she would introduce an identity card to end welfare fraud: not to stamp out identity fraud, which costs Australia billions of dollars per year, but to single out welfare recipients and to brand them all as bludgers and criminals who are on the take. In practical terms, this means those doing the wrong thing will simply have more hoops to jump through to get their welfare cheques (and as surely as night follows day, they will be prepared to jump through them).

There are indeed those who are rorting the welfare system to the cost of both working Australians and of those genuinely needy people who can’t help themselves, who might get more assistance if the Commonwealth wasn’t also supporting the indolent and the unmotivated. But this measure will not make a shred of difference (aside from adding to compliance costs) and, as I said, the real scourge of identity fraud would be relegated to an afterthought.

Apparently, One Nation wants to build more dams, railways, and ports. With what? After its compulsory asset acquisition program bankrupts the federal government, and sources of private sector capital flee Australia in panic, there won’t be any need for railways and ports because the country’s trade relationships will have been destroyed.

As for dams, which I support, good luck with that. After all, if One Nation can’t make a sensible case for anything else Hanson says it is advocating, there is no foreseeable way it can engage the Greens in a fight over damming rivers and come out on top.

On and on it goes; we could be here all day, if the blowtorch was applied to every aspect of this mad, bad, dangerous “vision” for Australia’s future, which in any case is nothing more than a step-by-step recipe to destroy the country Ms Hanson claims she wants to “save.”

Her adherents will lash out at my remarks, claiming they are just a manifestation of the “panic” sweeping major parties that are scared of her; I simply say that the points I have made are merely the tip of the iceberg in any concerted, rational, fact-based smackdown of an agenda that is lunatic in nature and a guaranteed way to wreck anything in its path.

And of course, the articles I’ve linked from the press today contain a healthy dose of the victim mentality on which Ms Hanson invariably trades; she’s had knockdowns. She’s been in prison. They haven’t beaten her. She’s got up again. They can throw everything at her. Blah, blah, blah. The irony is that nobody has ever really subjected Ms Hanson to the full force of a frontal assault over everything she stands for because until now, there has rarely (if ever) been a package of “solutions” put forward by her to take aim at.

Now, however, she has presented a much bigger target for her opponents to attack, and attack it they must: for these ideas are nothing short of ridiculous, and constitute a very dangerous delusion indeed about how this country works — and how the issues that face it can be managed.

It is true that Australia has problems, and readers have seen me repeatedly advocate a program for moderate, mainstream conservative solutions that would be difficult enough for a proper conservative government to implement in the face of irresponsible populism and blather from the likes of Bill Shorten and Labor, but which in any case are vastly more realistic and practicable than anything included in Pauline Hanson’s plan.

I have said before and will say again that Hanson herself isn’t a bad person; I genuinely think she means well. But she is very limited in both her ability to grasp critical issues and comprehend the ramifications of what she proposes, and whether she likes it or not, her voice — and the message of One Nation — are forces of destruction and conflict, rather than agents of anything positive or useful.

The agenda she has unveiled is nothing more than a garbled mishmash of contradictory, populist thought bubbles that would inflict great damage on Australia’s institutions of governance, its economy, its standing in the world, and on Australian society itself.

Hanson has had decades to get her story straight, and if this is the best she can come up with, perhaps it would be better for all concerned if she slunk off into retirement like so many people of her age are doing.

Certainly, the very supporters looking to anyone who will listen to them would be best served if she and her party simply disappeared. It is just one more irony among many that her own supporters stand to be the hardest hit by the policies she now says she will pursue if ever (God forbid) she is elected to a position from which to implement them.

In the final analysis, One Nation is just mad: the Hanson announcement this weekend sounds a clarion call to all parties to tackle this menace once and for all, and to drive from Australian politics a scourge that has been permitted to fester and ensconce itself as a legitimate offering for far too long.

“Sorry” Or Not, Trump Was Justified In Reaming Turnbull

AS YOU SOW, so shall you reap: these words should ring in Malcolm Turnbull’s ears like a klaxon siren after his entirely justified international humiliation by Donald Trump; having barracked for Hillary Clinton and made no secret of his disgust at her defeat, Turnbull’s refugee deal with Barack Obama, after that defeat, was tantamount to a poke in the eye of the new US President. “Sorry” he may now be, but Trump was within his rights to lash out.

There is one angle to the fracas over Malcolm Turnbull’s fraught telephone call with Donald Trump this week — over the equally contentious prospect of carting asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island off to the United States for resettlement — that every mainstream media commentator I’ve seen or read has missed, and it is an instructive one.

I should apologise to readers for my disappearance over the past few days; three days interstate and a heavy day yesterday back in Melbourne conspired to disrupt the renewed conversation we have been having here, and whilst I have stayed abreast of political goings-on, it has been a little frustrating to be unable to find the time to comment.

But I have followed, with interest, the increasingly embarrassing debacle that was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first telephone conversation with the new US President; to say Turnbull has come off second best is something of an understatement, and whilst some — like Daily Telegraph columnist Laurie Oakes — are trying to pump up Turnbull’s tyres, suggesting the PM “stood up” to the President and showed him his “mettle” — the reality is that being made to look a fool to a global audience by willing media is something Turnbull could (and should) have avoided.

First, a little history.

Back in 1992, the Conservative government of UK Prime Minister John Major — itself freshly re-elected in a result that probably owed more to the thumping majority won by Margaret Thatcher in 1987 it was defending, and to the fact its Labour opponent was Neil Kinnock, than it did to any great enthusiasm within the British electorate — leapt into the fray during that year’s presidential election in the US, making no secret of the fact it wanted George H. Bush re-elected, and going to great lengths to ensure that that message received extensive coverage by the US press.

The outcome, as everyone knows, was nothing of the sort; Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton beat the elder President Bush handsomely (thanks, in part, to the votes drained off by billionaire Independent candidate Ross Perot). Clinton went on to serve eight years as President — in a reign many credit his wife, Hillary, as the “real brain” behind — and during which controversy and scandal were never far from the surface.

(It is during this period that my own deep contempt and dislike for the Clintons developed; not because they were from the Left, but because they gave every appearance of being a law unto themselves: an entitled mentality that remained evident up to and beyond Hillary Clinton’s own failed presidential bid last year).

Even so, in 1997 — as Major again faced British voters, this time against a resurgent “New” Labour Party led by the telegenic but vapid Tony Blair — the Clinton administration, always happy to hold a grudge and to act on it, returned fire at the Conservative Party in a concerted endeavour to make sure it got the British government it wanted to work with. Labour would have convincingly won the 1997 election in Britain even without the endorsement and star power Clinton showered upon its campaign, but it hardly takes a rocket scientist to deduce that Clinton’s opinion counted for more in the UK than Major’s did in the US, and Major and the Tories were trounced.

This story is instructive, for it contains a sentiment that I think has changed very little in decades, if not centuries: nobody tells Uncle Sam what to do, or not do; from the War of Independence to the two World Wars — the second of which America was dragged into by the ambush attack at Pearl Harbour in 1941 — and to the Cuban Missile Crisis and more recently, its domestic politics, the bottom line always ends up being the same. America makes up its own mind.

What many people forget, too, is that prior to 1941, the US was quite content to dwell in splendid isolation, and leave the rest of the world largely to itself: this could offer a clue to why, after decades of global military activity over the past 75 years and being co-opted by most of the free world to act as its guarantor, the independent, isolationist message of the Trump platform resonated as strongly as it did. In short, it was a pitch for America to return to a more traditional view of itself.

The reason I relate both the Major-Clinton anecdote and the nature of pre-1941 America is because I think Malcolm Turnbull has probably emulated the former, and been complicit in an attempt to disrupt the latter.

Before last year’s US elections, Turnbull made it clear — crystal clear — whose side he was on; Hillary Clinton was “an old, personal friend” who “Lucy and I” looked forward to welcoming to Australia “as President.” Turnbull anticipated that “President Clinton” would be “a very good friend for Australia.” He was less vocal than some about his distaste for Trump before the election, but as the result became clear, the saccharine acknowledgement Turnbull gave of Trump’s victory failed to mask his obvious and real disgust that his “friend” had lost.

In an age of ceaseless, instant media coverage (and in a time political bunkers across the world receive news in real time, analysing and studying it to determine precise intelligence conclusions) Turnbull’s unabashed rah-rah antics on Clinton’s behalf were never going to escape the attention of the Trump team.

And in turn, the deal for 1,250 processed refugees to be resettled in the United States — formalised with Barack Obama, after the result of the election was beyond doubt — was only ever going to be interpreted by the Trump machine as a poke in the eye: an arrogantly mischievous attempt to lob a grenade into the incoming administrations’s plans that would explode in the new President’s face.

Turnbull himself might not have thought of the deal in such terms, but it beggars belief that Obama (and the Clinton team, which was reportedly involved with planning it) would have regarded it as anything else.

It was, to use the vernacular, the action of a smartarse.

There has of course been a tremendous amount of reportage over what was said and what was not said in the course of the conversation on Thursday between Trump and Turnbull.

What has not been contradicted by either side, despite wild accusations of “fake news” informing some of this coverage, is that a) Trump regarded the refugee settlement arrangements as a “dumb deal;” b) that Trump claimed that countries across the world were “taking advantage” of the USA, and that this had to stop; c) that Trump berated Turnbull, saying (among other things) that the call was the “worst” of his four calls with world leaders that day, including Russian leader Vladimir Putin; and d) that the call abruptly ended 35 minutes short of hour scheduled for it almost immediately after the refugee deal had been discussed.

As an incidental observation, characteristically fatuous remarks by opposition “leader” Bill Shorten — that Trump should have shown Turnbull more “respect,” and that he shared Australians’ sentiments that “petty playground bickering” and political point scoring must stop — deserve to be contemptuously dismissed as the hypocritical and opportunistic blather that they are.

And some readers of this column (and others who follow me on Twitter) may accuse me of hypocrisy in going down this track, too, for I was trenchantly critical of Hillary Clinton during the election campaign, and whilst not a Trump supporter, was resolute that the only result her candidacy merited was defeat. To those people I simply note that this is an opinion column, not a news service; the bulk of the opinions here are guided by my knowledge of and instinct for electoral behaviour. My sense was that beyond the Democratic Party’s citadels of California and New York, there was little appetite for Clinton among Americans. Once the votes were counted, that judgement proved correct.

But Turnbull is the elected head of government in a country very closely allied to the United States, and — like Major in 1992 — had drawn attention to himself for making it very clear to the Americans who he wanted to work with, and who he didn’t.

In this sense, what happened on that phone call should surprise nobody, but if ever there was a time one of Trump’s increasingly famous outbursts of belligerence was justified, this was it.

I tend to think that if it plays its cards correctly, the Turnbull government will find “better weather” in henceforth dealing with Trump: the President has vented, as they say these days, and there is a sense that having blown off a head of steam, the heat in the issue has been dissipated — whatever the eventual fate of the refugee resettlement deal turns out to be.

Indeed, there are some conciliatory overtures emanating from the Trump camp now the dust has settled a little. If Turnbull seriously wants to work Trump, now would be the time to draw a line under the refugee deal once and for all, for it never looked like anything more than a cynical stunt cooked up with a lame duck in Obama that was more about causing trouble for Trump than with achieving anything particularly noble or constructive.

But the fallout from the Thursday telephone call closes the circle on yet another in a long line of spectacularly inept political judgements on Turnbull’s part: having campaigned for Trump’s nemesis relentlessly and given every appearance of deeming her defeat despicable, the Obama refugee deal episode simply meant that the reaming he got from Trump by telephone was inevitable, entirely to be expected, and completely justified.

The real damage to Turnbull will be in the eyes of the Australian public, which already holds the PM in dim regard and will interpret what they have seen and heard of his discussion with Trump as weak, subservient, and a failure.

In this sense, I think Denis Atkins from the Courier Mail has it about right, saying that the Trump call will prove to be the curtain-raiser on a very, very difficult year for Turnbull.

That sentiment, however accurate, is probably the understatement of the year, although we canvassed the same point here last week.

I’ve heard whispers from different places (places, plural) that Turnbull’s papers are stamped, and that the push is on to get rid of him by Easter, or before the budget in May at the latest. The sticking point seems to be who to replace him with. If Turnbull even wants to see the year out, the time it takes the forces lining up against him to coalesce around a candidate represents the amount of sand that remains in the hourglass.

The first Newspoll for the year is imminent. It will find the Turnbull government faring badly, registering the seventh of “30 losing Newspolls” Turnbull used to justify knifing Tony Abbott. I don’t think Turnbull will last the year, or anything approaching it. But more fiascos like the Trump call will simply hasten what is now almost inevitable.