21 March 2012

Running out of options

This blog has long held the position that Tony Abbott hasn't got what it takes to become PM. It's increasingly clear that Team Abbott are letting the side down too. What's not yet obvious, however, is that there's little that can be done to help the Coalition present as a credible government.

When Peter van Onselen runs out of story ideas - a disturbingly frequent occurrence - he gives a big shout-out to his buddies on the Liberal backbench. I was happy to set this aside until Alastair Drysdale weighed in on the same theme.

Alastair Drysdale was a senior member of Malcolm Fraser's staff and acts as a bridge between the Liberal Party and the Melbourne business community. It's true that the Melbourne business community does not have the national pre-eminence it once had, but it's equally true it ought not be dismissed out of hand; brash parvenus of Perth have much to learn from their Collins Street cousins about getting things done behind the scenes. Drysdale is not your stereotypical ex-staffer who loves to see his name in the paper and he would no sooner appear on Q&A than on a float in the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. He does not speak until and unless he has something to say, and after he has spoken the conversation changes. There is a strong correlation between him making a statement about public affairs (e.g. that a given Liberal leader is no good) and that statement being manifested (e.g. that leader being rolled).

What both men miss about their call for Abbott to reshuffle his front bench, is his fundamental weakness. Howard taught Abbott that reshuffles earn you the enmity of those who feel demoted, which is not outweighed by gratitude from those who feel promoted. Abbott cannot admit to anyone but himself the essential truth of Drysdale's statement:
At the moment, [Abbott] doesn’t have the team or structures in place. He’s got the sound-bites and 'look at me' TV pictures on track but not any underlying sense of economic competence.

His front bench economic team is threadbare at best. They frequently offer confusing, contradictory and nonsensical sounding messages. They lack sense of purpose.

Treasurer in an Abbott government would be Joe Hockey, with Andrew Robb as finance minister. Industry minister would be Sophie Mirabella.

Based on experience and past judgement this is not a team to lead the grind of nuts and bolts economic management.
There is a brutality and a finality beneath that understated prose: those are words not chosen lightly. Had the media treated Abbott in the same way that they treat the Prime Minister, he would have been peppered at every one of his picfacs over the past week about these comments, with commentary about how weak Abbott is within his party's organisation, LIB SPLIT SHOCK etc.

Robb and Mirabella are Victorians. After Drysdale's comments they may as well pack up now. Robb has made a series of statements over recent weeks where he appears to contradict his leader or express frustration with some aspect of Coalition policy, but stops just short of doing so. During the 1980s and '90s the past master of this was John Howard (but only when the Liberal Party was led by someone other than John Howard). Kevin Rudd did this to Gillard until 27 February. Robb last embarked on such a campaign when Malcolm Turnbull was on his last legs, but unlike then it looks increasingly like Robb is off on a jag of his own. Abbott may have a reshuffle forced on him if Robb keeps going the way he has.

Mirabella was operating at full throttle before this came to light; her absolute best was never good enough, but now with her worst following her around like a bad smell she is pretty much finished. The Liberal Party will have to dump her or face defeat. Even in her weakened state Mirabella has strong networks throughout the Victorian Liberals and she'd fight any such move ferociously, but the Libs have to replace her.

Labor will not win Mirabella's seat of Indi in the foreseeable future, but if Victorian Labor were not run by oafs it could do a bit of mischief.

A few years ago the Victorian state government proposed to build a water pipeline from the Murray River to metropolitan Melbourne, which was stoutly resisted by locals. Networks of activists in that campaign may be dormant but not necessarily extinct. Combined with recent developments in Murray-Darling water allocations and methods for organising rural communities against coal-seam gas, and you have the potential for an independent to garner a sizeable vote in Indi. A candidate who could pull this off would have to be the sort of person that rural conservatives could vote for without feeling that their interests were being compromised: Tony Windsor has done this for the past twenty years, and Bob Katter has done it for longer.

If Labor and such an independent as described above could get a combined vote of about 45%, exchanging preferences tightly, it could force Mirabella to a vote of around the same size (if she wins >50% of the primary vote, preferences don't matter and she's back in), and preferences from other candidates decide the result. That's where things could get very, very interesting in Indi, much more interesting than that seat has been in a long time.

The Liberals can forestall the above scenario if they dump Mirabella in favour of the sort of candidate who can tap into the sorts of networks I've described above, and secure >50% of the primary vote for themselves and the Liberal Party. Mirabella will fight like a Kilkenny cat against a single opponent, inside the Liberal Party or out; but against a broad-based multi-front movement that can't be split she is finished.

Joe Hockey isn't a Vic and can thumb his nose at Drysdale to a far greater extent than can the other two. Hockey is sound and knowledgeable on corporate regulation but not on other aspects of the economy. In a match-up with Swan, the incumbent Treasurer holds his own by the fact that he's more measured and across his brief while Hockey tends to overestimate the value of the points he's able to score.

Van Onselen makes a nice point about pay for shadow ministers:
Abbott has been neatly wedged by Special Minister of State Gary Gray. While media attention was on the Kevin Rudd challenge, Gray quietly did a deal with Abbott allowing his oversized shadow ministerial line-up to receive a pay rise without being forced to abide by the legislative rules that it be no bigger than the government's ministerial team.

The independent tribunal awarded shadow ministers a $45,000 annual increase in their take-home pay, with a proviso that the size of the line-up should be no larger than that of the ministry. Julia Gillard leads a team of 30 ministers, Abbott's shadow ministry numbers 32.

That could have left Abbott with the awkward duty of informing two of his frontbenchers they were the least deserving of the pay rise and would not be getting one.

It sounds like the kind of situation Labor might like to force on Abbott, but Gray was thinking longer term. By granting Abbott a one-off exemption so his full shadow ministry could collect the pay increase, Gray has made it difficult for Abbott to reshuffle his line-up at any point between now and the next election. If Abbott promotes so much as one MP, he not only needs to find someone to demote, [but] he will also have to dock two others a slice of their salary.

So instead of presenting the Australian public with the best alternative team at the next election, a $90,000 annual payday for two undeserving, under-performing shadows is contributing to Abbott's decision not to improve his team.
It's tempting to name who you'd turf from Abbott's frontbench and who should go into what portfolios, but ultimately it's unproductive. Here we come to the central problem of both Drysdale and van Onselen in calling for a Coalition reshuffle: it isn't enough.

What the Coalition needs are shadow ministers who can rethink the issues within their portfolios from first principles, work out why policy responses from not only Rudd and Gillard but also Howard haven't met the mark (accepting the reality that the 2007 election meant a public rejection of Howard), and work out what government can do as part of the solution. Coalition fans simply assume that their side has the talent to be able to do that, and they are mistaken.

When the Gillard government reshuffled twice in the last three months, I expected shadow ministers to step up and force their agenda onto newbie ministers. In particular, previously high-profile shadow minister for health Peter Dutton should have taken on Tanya Plibersek as soon as she was appointed. He should know that portfolio well enough by now to set off one land mine of neglect, waste and maladministration every day, making Plibersek look reactive and hunted and adding to the Labor-incompetence theme. Instead, Plibersek has taken to her new portfolio looking calm and in control and making a few big announcements to stamp her authority as Minister for Health. Plibersek has already taken a few shots at Abbott and it is only a mater of time before Dutton wanders blithely into a confrontation with her and gets eviscerated. Shuffling Dutton away from Plibersek won't be enough; that policy area requires a rethink.

When the Gonski Report was released into school education - the most far-reaching investigation of its type in forty years - shadow education minister Chris Pyne should have a better response than a few dot points about bringing back the cane or teacher unions, or chasing the silly Kevin Donnelly equality-of-outcomes phantom around. A reshuffle won't be sufficient; a rethink is required.

I could go into plenty of other areas where the relevant Coalition spokesman has failed to lay a glove on their opposite minister. When Alastair Drysdale says Turnbull should be forgiven for not abolishing the NBN, he is basically showing that the business community isn't as opposed to it as the parliamentary Libs are making out. The Coalition threw away more than a decade in opposition by opposing Medicare, and they could end up doing the same with not only the NBN but the economic and social possibilities it facilitates if they aren't careful.

What the Coalition has done instead of rethinking is to unite around the idea that the Howard government represented the best government this country could have, which is why their policies tend to simply call for a reversion to the status quo of 2006 and be done with it.

Van Onselen is wrong to simply assume that Kelly O'Dwyer and Jamie Briggs are qualified to be senior shadow ministers just because they did a bit of work experience in the offices of Costello and Downer. They (and other ambitious backbenchers) should use the experience they have gained, contrast it against recent developments since 2007, consult more widely than they have so far, and come up with some new but measured ideas in some key policy areas that demonstrate their fitness for a shadow ministry. To rely too heavily on Howard government experience is to fall into the trap Abbott has fallen into, that the last two election results were clerical errors that can be rectified rather than sea-changes to which the Coalition must adjust.

They should, but to be fair to O'Dwyer and Briggs, the reason why they haven't is because any attempt to do so would be a direct attack on the shadow minister in that portfolio who is busy aligning him- or herself to the polestar of Howard government policy. To imagine what that must be like, look at the generosity and equanimity that Peter Costello showed in 2005 toward the ideas on taxation put forward by newly-elected Malcolm Turnbull, and multiply it by orders of magnitude generated by fear, insecurity and spite. The Coalition is in an intellectual lockdown from which only electoral defeat can free it.

Look, I love Drysdale's idea of Turnbull and Sinodinos in an economic policy duumvirate. They would fizz with ideas and put Swan and Wong on the back foot. What Labor would do eventually is learn to work around them, and that's where the trouble starts.

Imagine the reshuffle that Drysdale envisages had already happened. Imagine that you were putting together a business delegation to discuss a few issues with the Coalition as they prepare policy for the coming election, and you don't have a lot of time. Who do you go and see - Turnbull and Sinodinos, with whom business can be done - or that ex-seminarian who never really grew up and who can't really come to grips with issues except in a look-at-me publicity sense, with his chief of staff shrieking away like Mrs Rochester? You wouldn't be fobbed off with a cup of tea hosted by Kelly and Jamie.

Once you understand that, you understand Abbott's problem. The business community will tell him that he needs to get serious about economic policy, and that Hockey-Robb-Mirabella is nobody's idea of serious (Hockey to Industry, maybe). For Abbott to comply would mean unleashing forces he can't control, forces that would belittle and marginalise him - and I haven't even started on how (or whether) Abbott could deal effectively with the wounded feelings of those three.

Turnbull and Sinodinos would monster Swan and Wong a few times in their respective Houses of Parliament. The press gallery would love it and confuse it with the main game.

A Turnbull-Sinodinos duumvirate would attempt to dictate policy to all shadow ministers. Big-spending ideas would be shredded by those two. They would attempt to go over their heads to the leader, who would shrug and say there was nothing he could do. Occasionally the leader would assert his authority by countermanding them, but it would soon pass and the duumvirate would reassert control over proceedings. Abbott would find himself less indispensible than Turnbull-Sinodinos.

Neither man would be able to deal effectively with local warlords like Bernardi or Cormann, or the hold they have over pollies focused on their preselections. The first elected office Arthur Sinodinos ever held was NSW State President of the Liberal Party, and to that end Briggs and O'Dwyer are well ahead of him in a personal understanding of politics (Sinodinos refers to voters as "punters", bless him). We saw what Turnbull was like as leader, impatient with pettiness; but while patience is a prerequisite for all other learnings, it isn't a substitute. Once Swan and Wong figure this out and direct their attack onto those who resent Turnbull and Sinodinos, the frailty of the seemingly formidable Drysdale proposal becomes clear.

Mind you, Turnbull would be much better at dealing with billionaires than Abbott has so far.

The mining billionaires Palmer, Rinehart and Forrest have been generous to the Coalition. It's facile to claim that they are buying compliance from the Coalition, but it is true that the Coalition has volunteered to promote their interests in public policy terms by promising to wind back the carbon price and the MRRT. In politics, if someone's going to stand up for you then you are obliged not to make them look stupid for doing so.

First, Palmer, with this mad nonsense about the CIA and the Greens or whatever. The Coalition look like absolute turkeys for throwing their lot in with someone like that. If there's still anyone who thinks that Abbott's lead is so impregnable that he can shrug this off, look at how Gold Coast United were lauded early in their career, then look at what happened to them.

The only thing that could possibly be explained by a Greens-CIA link is something that has long puzzled me: how all those old Marxists proceed straight to the board of Quadrant without pausing in the broad and fertile grounds of moderation.

Then there's Rinehart, whose family travails fit the Museum of Broadcast Communications' definition of a soap opera: the patriarch (Lang Hancock, though dead a vivid larger-than-life presence), the matriarch (Gina), the good child (Ginia), the bad child (Ginia's siblings), and in-laws (Barnaby Joyce and Alby Schultz). Yer Rudd-Gillard kerfuffle cannot and does not compare to that. If Abbott had either sense or guts he would have carpeted Joyce and Schultz and whoever else, and told them to stay well clear of that business.

Then there's Forrest, a man who doesn't pay tax and complains about the prospect of doing so. The mining tax is so popular that even Michelle Grattan has to admit it.

Abbott must be stupid to stand up for these people. He couldn't help himself.

Swan snookered Abbott into this position. Swan was accused of playing at "class war" in his article for The Monthly but he was actually playing at another game entirely, one guaranteed to be far more effective in the contemporary context. Where he attacked someone, Abbott had to defend them. Because Abbott defended them, he took responsibility for all their wacky antics.

Swan didn't attack the big mining corporates that aren't embodied in individuals because that would have been old-school class war. Labor has learnt that lesson: losers like Calwell might shake their fists at BHP but winners like Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard don't need to. Any wacky personal traits by senior people at those companies are not so obvious, or compensated for by other more normal qualities.

The billionaires don't have a support base that they can swing behind the Liberals; the Liberals already have the support of those who make the billionaires possible. Politicians need billionaires more than billionaires need politicians. The fact that the Labor base might rally to a ALP Treasurer who sticks it to rich people is a bonus for Labor, but Tony Abbott is stuck with a political Tar Baby.

What Abbott should have done was tap his forefinger against his temple and say "if Wayne Swan thinks Clive or Gina or Andrew are the biggest threats to this country, they're mistaken". Cut to an image of one or more of those people handing over a big cheque to a worthy cause, saying "Mr Swan would rather I wasn't here supporting you. He thinks it's better if I was funding his pink batts habit". The article would have rebounded on Swan, and Abbott would be more flexible than he is. Oh well.

Again, this is a judgment call by the Liberal Party. They do not have the strategic infrastructure either to compensate for Abbott's shortcomings, nor to enhance his positive qualities (such as they are). They want to bring back 2006 rather than bring on 2016. Gary Gray and Wayne Swan - two supposed bit-players, not a patch on Labor luminaries of old apparently - run rings around him. They want this guy to be Prime Minister even though he just can't flick that switch. The worst thing a politician can do is run out of options, while Abbott's whole life has been about nailing himself to a particular spot and hoping his determination will compensate for his lack of sense.

39 comments:

  1. This is what we should be seeing in the media.

    Good effort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I second that.

      Delete
  2. "Turnbull and Abbott would monster Swan and Wong a few times in their respective Houses of Parliament. The press gallery would love it and confuse it with the main game."

    I think you mean Turnbull and Sinodinos.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Breath-takingly brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  4. “Any wacky personal traits by senior people at those countries are not so obvious, or compensated for by other more normal qualities.”

    Companies not countries?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would have thought the main reason not to give Turnbull the Shadow Treasury is that he would make Abbott look even worse than he does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He'd be like the Queen, a figurehead - ironic really.

      Delete
  6. Excellent stuff - but I think you mean Alastair Drysdale, not Gordon Brown's bushy-eyebrowed Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Funny how the li erals come here to defend the oarty of no and nothing
    Thankyou andrewyour the only jouno i read thesedays, thank goodnesd new media are starti g to grow

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anna Phylaxis22/3/12 10:10 am

    Great piece. Indi isn't about to fall, as you say, though it's worth noting the 2PP results over the past three elections as given on the AEC website. 2004 swing to the Liberals of 5.59%; 2007 a swing against of 7.1% (rather more than the average) and in 2010 an admittedly much smaller swing, but still against the Libs, of 0.75 - which given the circumstances of the election and the nature of the seat speaks volumes. And anecdotal evidence suggests the unfortunate business with the member's private life has not endeared her to even the most conservative members of the local country clubs. They would, of course, die in a ditch before voting for the ALP, but a charismatic independent could indeed cause some mischief.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Anna,you know Sophie acknowledges she is disliked within the Indi branch structure. Certainly her personal style, if that's the word I want, is at odds with the old-school conservatives who run things around those parts. As for the Staffordshire Terrier aspect of her parliamentary and public performances, I think they try to look the other way

      What's to like, one might ask?

      Delete
    2. That suggests that when things move in Indi, they will move quickly.

      Delete
  9. I hope that prospective indies for Indi read and act upon this!

    ReplyDelete
  10. "shrieking away like Mrs Rochester" lol!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Re: Marxists to Quandrant, I like Rundle's take: http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/12/19/rundle-the-war-decade-the-enlightenment-armed-and-101-uses-for-a-dead-hitchens/

    ReplyDelete
  12. Andrew, I think Swan and Wong have got the measure of Turnbull and I reckon they know enough about Sinodonis to neuter him.

    I don't think Turnbull is leadership material any more than Abbot; he just seems saner. But he is tainted by the Grech affair and now by his opportunistic savaging of the NBN and by allowing himself to be manipulated by Abbott so he could get his backside on a shadow ministry seat.

    He's done nothing to convince me that he's any fitter to be LOTO than Abbott, let alone PM.

    He's the same old arrogant, hubristic Turnbull with the same old lack of political nous and judgement.

    Frankly, the Parliamentary Liberal party is a talent Sahara; a situation for which Abbott must take responsibility.

    He is a Howard era dinosaur, inflexible and incapable of looking at the present, let alone the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I disagree that Grech is the sort of thing that will dog Turnbull forever. All experienced politicians have a brush with political death from which they tend to learn. Turnbull's main weakness was that he wasn't a team player, and he has demonstrated that he is one to the point where he is the most substantial post-Abbott option. You're right about Abbott though. He's a dinosaur but doesn't realise he is already extinct.

      Delete
    2. I always got the feeling that Turnbull was the Liberal version of Rudd. Someone generally liked by the public but detested by the party structure.

      However, unlike Rudd, Turnbull does actually have the ability to formulate coherent policy.

      Delete
    3. Show some balls anon and use your real name... you gutless prick. You must have bee taking lessons from elder, gillard and those wankers in the federal labor government.

      Delete
  13. "If he doesn't do it soon he'll lose an opportunity to shift ground without suddenly changing tack and startling the horses."

    I wonder if Dennis is annoyed his advice is ignored?

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/tony-abbotts-challenge-is-to-accentuate-the-positive/story-e6frg6ux-1226080861751

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dennis spent 2007 insisting that Howard's poor polling would turn around, like watching a parachutist drop from a plane and waiting for the chute to open. Only when he came close to the ground could you see that there was no parachute, everyone except Dennis that is, and he was in denial about the result. I haven't taken Shanahan seriously since and I'm only sorry that the Oz thought it was a good idea to let him hang around.

      Delete
  14. Zuvele Leschen22/3/12 10:38 pm

    Andrew has requested some feedback from me, as a former ALP candidate for Indi, so here goes.

    Firstly, background: I've been involved in every campaign in Indi since 1996, either as a candidate or a member of the campaign team. I've stood against SM twice, and achieved the highest 2PPs for Labor since the accidental election of a Labor member pre WWII.

    So I know my onions, Indi wise.

    Indi is winnable. I thought so before Mirabella was the member, and I still do. What I also recognise is that it isn't easy; far more resources would need to be thrown at a campaign here than the ALP would be willing to commit (and those resources would probably be better used winning other seats).

    That it's more winnable, however, than many would think is bourne out by Mirabella's own actions - she commits far more resources to retaining the seat than it merits on paper. And her primary vote has gone backwards by 10% since she was first elected.

    It is not, however, winnable by an independent (and yes, I would say that. But I have reason on my side)!

    The seat is very large and fragmented - no one media outlet, for example, covers it all. What may be a burning issue in Wodonga may be of no interest whatsoever to someone in Benalla. Similarly, someone everyone in Benalla knows is a complete non entity in Wodonga.

    (This has been demonstrated on a number of occasions, where well known local identities have been seen by their local communities as shoe ins because of their popularity but have made no impact in the rest of the electorate - e.g. Don Chambers in the 2001 election, Bill Hill in the Benalla by election).

    Further, the group Andrew identifies as a possible springboard for an independent to work with Labor simply wouldn't. It was largely run by Liberals, with Mirabella very prominently campaigning for them and involved in organising protests etc. and was as much an anti Labor group as a community movement.

    It also didn't have much impact on the federal vote, partly because it was a local issue (two or three of the local booths showed any demonstrable effect on the vote, and only by a couple of percentage points) - interestingly, three Fed Libs campaigned strongly on the issue and all of them recorded larger than average swings against them, suggesting that their preoccupation with it may have actually cost them votes.

    So, to wind up this dissertation on my pet subject: Indi is winnable by Labor, if all the winds blow in the right direction, and a respectable amount of money is committed to the campaign. (At present, Labor is outspent at least 25 to 1 - which makes the gains made quite impressive, in terms of bang for bucks).

    It's winnable without Mirabella's help (demographics tell us that), but there's no doubt she does her best to make the task easy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zuvele, as somebody who grew up in Indi let me say that I admire your commitment and persistence. It can't be easy to continue to campaign in an electorate which so unthinkingly re-elects the likes of Mirabella and Bill Tilley!

      You are 100% right about the diversity of the electorate, and the redistribution makes this even more striking. Indi's new boundaries extend all the way down to places like Flowerdale, which is 75 kilometres from Melbourne and 254 km from Wodonga, and there are no electorate-wide media outlets except for the national media. Incidentally, the same reasoning makes it extremely difficult for independents to win in the regional divisions of the state upper house - you can't win solely based on your popularity in your home town, and it's too expensive and time-consuming to campaign across the entire electorate.

      I suspect it will be another decade before the demographics of the electorate change enough to put Mirabella at real risk. One thing that might help is if treechangers continue to move to the electorate's southern fringes.

      Delete
    2. Thanks very much Zuvele.

      In terms of the swings in recent elections Indi reminds me of Bennelong, where I live; John Howard began his political career in one of the safest Liberal seats in the country but ended it with a deficit. Thanks for the insight into the pipeline campaign. The fragmentation of the electorate is interesting too.

      rgmerk's point about money and time tend to indicate that someone who would seriously threaten Mirabella would need both an established presence in the area and plenty of money, i.e. not someone inclined to vote Liberal. Tony Windsor's political career began when he lost Nationals preselection, quit the party and ran as an inndependent, and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that something similar might happen to a disaffected Lib.

      Re rgmerk's final point: if the Liberals decide to replace Mirabella a lot of Zuvele's hard work could disappear.

      Delete
  15. I always thought that Turnbull was given the job of attacking the NBN precisely because it is a good, popular idea, thus damaging Turnbull's reputation. That's the theory, anyway. Seems to me most people realise his heart's not really in it and he's just doing his job.

    Your comment about Abbott not realising he's extinct sums it up. The cracks (and cranks) appearing in the Coalition show that they're finally getting it now, too.

    Andrew, do you take requests? Crazy Clive's rant about overseas funding of bodies got me thinking about the IPA. In particular, who funds it from overseas? And why is the ABC committed to giving the IPA carte blanche to attack the government every day? Tim Wilson's every utterance is simply: 'The government is rubbish.' It baffles me why the ABC think this man has anything of interest to offer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon, I thought I'd covered Clive's rants above, The IPA seems to be the representative of "the right" and "balance" for butt-coverers in the ABC, and I love how the IPA won't defend other features of "the right" when you push them.

      Delete
  16. Alphabajangodelta24/3/12 1:23 pm

    What we have seen over the last 6 months is Labor returning to a more strategic mode of politics. Rudd thought big ideas could carry the government and that clever use of opinion polls was the only tactic that needed to be used. We're now seeing politics returning at a more conventional rolling structural level. It started with Labor shoring up parliament and since with the attack on billionaires, and the small business tax relief. Most of the media have missed this shift because they focus either on the personalities and melodrama. Structural politics is much harder to do but ultimately more effective. Howard was the expert as he was able to disguise it as sensible policy. The Abbott Liberals have little capacity for such strategy with either a obsessive obstrucionist focus on 'no' or divided over weakly construed policy positions. Coal seam gas, small business tax rates, parental leave... The only person who in the Libs who seems to be doing any kind of hard work is Turnbull - his essay on Sovereign Wealth Funds for example is among the best by any member of either side of politics. Once the focus of public debate turns to questions of policy and the political economy thereof the liberals are stuffed. They will need Turnbullto fix this but he will face the cruel irony of being put in charge of a party that is inchoate and unable to mount a credible case against Labor.

    ReplyDelete
  17. >>Tony Abbott will never be Prime Minister of Australia.
    You gotta be joking... U must be living in a parallel universe! Didn't you predict a NLP drubbing in the QLD election. With your demonstrated intelligence gathering and analysis skills, I am surprised you even know how to get on the internet. I challenge you, Elder, to publicly commit (I know that is a foreign concept for you left wing morons) to NEVER EVER blog or publish anything ever again if Tony Abbott becomes prime minister. I guess you r too gutless to do this because like the federal labor govt, you are a pretender with an exceptionally low IQ who is incapable of original thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I stand by that prediction, I use my real name, and suspect that intelligence is something you're lacking on top of everything else in your sad, pointless life. You can shove your challenge back up your arse and see if it can find any of the guts you also lack.

      Delete
  18. Your comments about Abbott and the Liberals are mostly valid, they are a disappointing B Team. However you conveniently overlook that they are running against the most incompetent and disliked government in living memory. The Libs could run Idi Amin and still walk it in. Socialist Nirvanas are not economically sustainable, just look to the upcoming disasters in the US and Europe, or is being reduced to running the printing press an acceptable ideological position?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The Libs could run Idi Amin and still walk it in" - rubbish. They won't make it, their structural weaknesses mean they will not make it to the next election.

      "Socialist Nirvanas are not economically sustainable" - no they aren't, but your comment makes no sense in the current context.

      Delete
    2. Unknown has an interesting take on socialism if he thinks the economic woes in US and Europe are caused by an attempt to establish 'socialist nirvanas' Suggest he might like to read 'Griftopia' by Matt Taibbi and revise his opinion (wash his mouth out with soap). AE I enjoy your writing and am in awe of your energy and knowledge of the topic but as I've said before (and have no reason yet to revise the opinion) much as it grieves me 'Toxic Tony' still looks like next PM to me.
      The masses to the north and the west seem to have decreed it and although there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth thus will it come to pass.

      Delete
    3. Doug: you're old enough to remember 2001, right? http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/let-me-remind-you-its-2001-john-howard-is-facing-disaster-20120402-1w8nl.html

      Delete
  19. Sinodinos is well respected by wealthy Greeks and the left

    Ms Mirabella isn't

    The parties dont know how to deal with the middle classes of 2 and 3rd gen and Sinodinos is perfect for that demographic

    ReplyDelete