17 December 2009

Is Arthur Sinodinos full of shit?

Probably not in general terms, he was a figure of substance within the Howard government and remains influential in business, government and Liberal Party circles. That, however, doesn't explain this. Nobody else is going to shirtfront Arthur but in this case he's making a lot of assertions that don't make sense, so it falls to me to make a citizen's arrest under the Emperor Has No Clothes Act.

So far the polls have not moved but that gives Abbott plenty of runway. It is unlikely that people have made up their minds about him.

If the polls were ever going to move in response to the new leader, they would have done so by now. In NSW, there has been no poll movement following the election of Kristina Keneally; this is proof that she's a dud. Federally, there has been no poll movement for the Libs following the election of Tony Abbott; anyone who "dare[s] to dream of winning the next election" is delusional.

It is absolutely the case that people have made up their minds that Tony Abbott must not become Prime Minister. He can have as much "runway" as Marwoto Komar but he's not going to make it.

The phrase loyal opposition is to him [Abbott] an oxymoron.

The phrase "loyal opposition" refers to the idea that one can oppose the current government of the country without being disloyal to the country itself, its institutions, its head and its people. If he's going to be disloyal to the country as a whole in a quest for power over it, then stuff him.

No quarter will be given and none is expected.

This would be fine if the ALP really was as soft as the Liberals would like to think they are. Again, in NSW the Liberals long assumed that Bob Carr was a cream-puff long after he'd left a trail of blood and devastation behind him through the ranks of the NSW ALP. He beat them four times, five if you count 1991. Abbott has positioned the Liberals within range of Labor's guns; Turnbull's support for the ETS was only ever a gambit and Labor was not prepared for where he'd take the game from there. Abbott has little room to move tactically and strategically. He couldn't even knock Jenny Macklin off her perch when she was practically begging to be relieved of an office for which she has no talent, aptitude or sense.

Next minute he will flick the switch to serious thinker, including on thorny topics such as indigenous disadvantage.

Abbott has no credibility on indigenous disadvantage. As Health Minister he cut $1.5b from indigenous health programs. Like his old boss John Hewson, Abbott can point out the weak points but can't convince people he has the strength to make things better.

He is sustained by strong beliefs and is comfortable in his own skin. He is offering the electorate a contest based on character and not polling or research. Like all guerillas, he has the luxury of picking and choosing when and where to attack. Governments prefer to get their opponents in the open and blast them away. In Abbott's hands, incumbency is a negative as government decisions create new targets for the opposition to attack.

All of that could also have been said for Mark Latham in early 2004. Liberals looked on in amazement when Labor chose Latham to lead them, and couldn't believe their luck; nobody should know this better than Arthur Sinodinos. Fans of Abbott's rootin', tootin', no-quarter approach are starting to understand why Labor turned to Latham, even if they don't see they are bound for the same fate. The trick is to convince people that the Liberals would do a better job, and Abbott can't do that.

Abbott is about avoiding cost increases and reducing costs for families.

No, Arthur, he isn't. He only says that in the hope that it wins votes, but nobody will believe him and the Liberal vote will collapse.

New taxes on wealth or the family home will be dead on arrival.

Rudd will run further faster away from any such proposals, leaving Abbott to mutter about socialism and wish that Labor was in fact out to tax everything that moves. Another example of the Libs hammering the wrong target - like the way they go on about law-and-order and state level with Labor governments happy to see and raise them on that issue, and ignore the whining of civil rights advocates.

Rudd cannot typecast [Abbott] as a "free-market fundamentalist".

No, but he can and will typecast Abetz and other senior members of the Opposition in that way, enough to show that the Opposition must not be returned to government.

Abbott's musings on re-regulation of the banks are opportunistic and principled.

Nobody seriously believes he would deliver on this.

Abbott views industrial relations not through the Left-Right divide but the prism of small business. He will protect it along with farmers, independent contractors and the self-employed. This should also play well in outlying states and industries such as mining.

Yeah, small businesses like mining companies. There are fewer than 15,000 coal mining jobs in Australia, Arthur, and you'd be surprised how many of them vote Labor and are members of the CFMEU. Likewise, playing to disgruntled farmers won't win back many any seats lost in 2007.

It also covers his flanks in the debate on micro-economic reform.

What flanks, and frankly what debate?

What about the manicured grassroots in safe urban Liberal seats? Abbott probably calculates that they will vote for him anyway if he looks competitive, whatever their reservations on specific issues such as climate change.

To "look competitive" he actually has to build an alternative government, which would assume a greater sense of responsibility than which Abbott is capable. If you're going to take power within the Liberal Party on the basis that the grassroots were ignored, you can't then ignore them - especially if you're bent on sacrificing your marginal seat members. Where exactly is the Abbott Constituency, those people who will only vote Liberal with Abbott out front? There was a definite Howard Constituency, as you know Arthur; but there is no more one for the incument as there was, say, a Crean Constituency.

Your job, Arthur, is not to describe the Abbott phenomenon: that's for Abbott himself and for the Grattans, Annabel Crabbs and Malcolm Collesses of this world. Your job is to describe how realistic their positions and assumptions are, which was the value you added to Howard's office.

The same goes for business. The ever-shrinking pool of corporate donations will follow the opinion polls and Abbott will be careful to mend fences.

If money follows the polls then the Liberals are buggered. If you were on a corporate board you'd have Mr Abbott to lunch as a matter of courtesy, and listen to him describe cutlery as namby-pamby and elitist. Then, you'd send a donation to the ALP to keep in sweet with Senator Arbib.

Abbott's best chance to staunch any voter leakage to the Greens is to polarise the electorate by providing a clear alternative to Labor.

No, that will make it worse. The Green vote will increase in Liberal areas, which may not matter in the House but in the Senate it will be the difference between a state electing one or two Green Senators, and the failure of the third candidate on the Liberal Senate ticket.

... early response to the global financial crisis ... kitchen table concerns ... higher living costs ... education ... Hospitals ...

Yep, all Labor shortcomings, all examples where Abbott can't make the case that the Libs would be better and stronger.

In government, Abbott wanted to take over the state public hospitals.

Would that have made them better, or worse? Given the result of the 2007 election we'd have to conclude it's less than the gamebreaker you might hope for, Arthur.

Abbott is not a great proponent of states' rights ... He supported the takeover of Launceston hospital by the feds in 2007

It was the Mersey Hospital in Latrobe, Arthur, and the people who live and worked there chucked out the Liberal MP.

genuinely believes in devolving decision-making to the community on health matters.

There are two issues here. Firstly, a Commonwealth takeover from the States makes this less likely, not more so. Secondly, as Health Minister Abbott listened to the community and made RU486 available, was in no way responsible for the Pan Pharmaceuticals debacle, and did a great job on educating Australian healthcare professionals to meet the skills shortage in health was high-handed and non-consultative with the full backing of the then PM. Where is the evidence of Abbott's acceptance of community consultation on healthcare, except for narrow and compliant stooges like Rosanna Capolingua?

Interestingly, a substantial proportion of women in a recent Newspoll survey indicated they have yet to make up their minds about Abbott. Here lies an opportunity for him. He should do a series of considered speeches through next year.

By "considered" do you mean "a complete departure from the kind of stuff he's been coming out with throughout his career"? Do you take the chance that he'll drop some sexist clanger that causes that suspension of disbelief to fall like a sword of Damocles?

Do not expect an early election; the voters would be cynical and Rudd needs to do Abbott slowly, jump on any evidence of policy flakiness to seed doubts about Abbott's fitness for office.

At last, a piece of sensible commentary! I knew you could do it Arthur.

Abbott has been in parliament for 15 years and served as a minister and leader of the house.

Kim Beazley had done all that and more, so what?

Nor will Joyce be an easy a mark. He is a higher primate who learns from experience. He is already moderating his utterances.

Until next time. He can't "moderate" his position on climate change and other key issues without backing down. A great description of Joyce being rattled and prone to gaffes is described here:

Barnaby Joyce is a fascinating interview subject. He is invariably affable and cheery but as the interviews wear on, he tends to become exasperated. His befuddlement renders the pinkish hue of his complexion into a scarlet, almost vermillion tone, little specks of spit collect around the corners of his mouth and his nose turns cherry red.

These physiological changes are signs that the interview is about to leap into the realms of entertainment and that soon will follow what we political pundits like to refer to as the “money shot”.

Besides, is it too much to expect more from a government minister than to be a "higher primate"?

Rudd has to be the steady hand on the tiller. He must make a virtue of his alleged nerdiness to paint Abbott as lacking substance. He should emphasise his command of issues but engage the public in a way he did not do with the emissions trading scheme.

And Rudd is in Copenhagen gathering tips and tricks from the leading politicians of the world to do just that. Abbott, meanwhile, is lolling around Sydney talking about his chest-hair.

The ascension of Abbott has tilted the odds in favour of more pre-election sweeteners.

It follows the whole narrative of reaping the rewards of saving the country from the GFC, and would have worked had Turnbull stayed in.

Abbott has targeted the economic stimulus package for savings. Expect Labor to pressure him to go further. Rudd needs to take the high ground on the budget and craft a narrative around future challenges, including the ageing population, the looming commodities bonanza and the conservation of resources.

Expect Abbott to be unable to match this combination of fiscal prudence and expenditure on the needful and necessary. That will be the telling difference, Arthur.

... expect to see more of those budgie smugglers.

A triumph of self-indulgence over political prudence. As I said earlier it didn't work for Debnam or Baillieu.

TONY Abbott is the Spartacus of Australian politics.

Yep: caused the Romans a bit of bother for a little while but they killed him eventually, routing his supporters and using their very corpses as proof of the power of the incumbents. Abbott's preference for martyrdom over victory should worry Liberals more than it does: it's another example of his callow lack of responsibility.

Why would Arthur Sinodinos write a piece he must surely know to be false? To keep his hand in and show that he's not a part of some bygone age, and to show that his loyalty is greater than his current capacity for cool judgment. When a party is hell-bent on self-destruction there are no prizes for being smart before the event, at least not publicly. His responsibility is not to churn out twaddle like this but prepare the triage team for the inevitable disaster.

No comments:

Post a Comment