26 November 2009

Smoking ruins

Suicide Squad Leader: We are the Judean People's Front crack suicide squad! Suicide squad, attack!

[they all stab themselves]

Suicide Squad Leader: That showed 'em, huh?

- Monty Python Life of Brian

Mere election defeat is not enough for the Liberal right: we've seen that at state level. The Liberal right would not be happy until they get annihilated. Within a few months of losing office in 1983, Malcolm Fraser was history for the Liberal Party (and now he's not even that): John Howard is far more pervasive, and his half-life will be with us for generations. I always thought they had to work Howard out of their system, and I thought Turnbull was the means to do that - and so it has come to this. The show aint over until Götterdämmerung, baby, so strap yourself in and take the ride.

Not that they have anywhere to go. The Liberals rely on their counterparts in the UK and US for direction - John Howard and Peter Costello still cite Thatcher and Reagan as key influences. The US Republicans are bankrupt and bereft and the UK Tories have committed themselves to a bunch of policies position statements press releases on the environment and other matters that make Turnbull look like Dick Cheney.

The Minchin right were always going to go the sook when they realised that they weren't going to have things their own way. What forced this issue to a head was not Turnbull's high-handedness: what brought this on was Turnbull's commitment to change. If Malcolm Turnbull seriously committed himself to listening and reconciliation, Minchin and Abbott would be completely stuffed. If Bob Hawke could get off the grog to become PM, it was entirely possible for Turnbull to get over himself.

While their commitment to the greater good of the Liberal Party, the nation and the environment is questionable, Minchin and the other Suicide Squad members can't be faulted for self-preservation through bastardry. Their real trick was to con others into thinking that their best interests were served by doing likewise. Idiots like Sophie Mirabella and Michael Johnson have done the Liberal Party a favour by departing, but people like Brett Mason or Andrew Robb have simply been conned.

The reason why this article is a self-serving drizzle of piss (and sloppy journalism) can be seen from the pic at the top of the article: to the right of Andrews and with Tuckey squarely behind them, a little world of stupid unto itself. The Frontier Economics model is no more substantive as a Liberal alternative than was Peter Shack's health policy in 1990. If you're going to spike the ETS, have something to offer in its place: muddied waters and complacency just won't cut it.

Turnbull offered a real opportunity for Tony Smith to grow up. Smith was Costello's gofer, press sec and general dogsbody, and he has absorbed Costello's mannerisms to the point where he had become a cipher. If Costello had been a pharaoh, Tony Smith would have been killed and mummified for Costello to take into his afterlife. Instead, Turnbull put Smith onto his frontbench, and the only significant thing Smith did in return was to quit. Pinocchio moved from being a puppet to a real boy, but not Tony Smith - he will be a pissant all his life.

It would be fair to describe the ETS as a dog's breakfast if only it were as substantial or as nutritious, and if there were some creature dumb enough to lap it up. But it's better than nothing, and nothing is the only alternative if you knock Turnbull out. A united Liberal Party would be able to turn the focus back on the inadequacy of the ETS - but not only is it the only policy response to carbon and Copenhagen standing, it's going to become law - before Christmas, after Christmas or after the next election. The Frontier Economics thing is going the way of The Things That Matter.

There has been a lot of wishful thinking that the Liberals' inability to come to terms with anthropogenic global warming is like the Labor split of the 1950s and '60s - it isn't. Some have involed the centenary of Fusion to claim this is the end of conservative politics in this country once and for all - it isn't. The historical parallel is with the Libs' implacable hatred of Medicare throughout the 1980s and '90s. As soon as they got over themselves, making Medicare a neutral issue and denying the stick for Labor to beat them with, they became electable again.

As soon as the Liberals get over themselves enough to stop hating the ETS, and develop a serious policy that takes the next step forward to a post-carbon energy future, they'll be electable again. That won't happen this week, it won't happen before the next election, so all you can do is dust off your fire plan and hope for the best.


  1. Great stuff.

    I'm not so sure the ETS is better than nothing, but you're right about Liberals cooking up a nuclear storm. Another great way to commit suicide.

    Omfg Libr1llz p0wned1!111
    GTFO nuke!

  2. Andrew E said:

    The historical parallel is with the Libs' implacable hatred of Medicare throughout the 1980s and '90s. As soon as they got over themselves, making Medicare a neutral issue and denying the stick for Labor to beat them with, they became electable again.

    Spot on! The L/NP wrestled with public health for a decade. But it was obvious that the electorate supported it. So they fell into line after all. I have predicted that Turnbull will stay the course and that the Liberal Party will not split, indeed will recover.