18 September 2013

Who's who and what's what

The press gallery reporting of the Abbott government ministry (the very phrase still rankles) has been poor, to say the least, and that bodes ill for the quality of reporting we might expect from it over the years ahead.

First, the generalities. The reason why the make-up of the Coalition ministry does not reflect the glorious diversity of Australia is because the Coalition parties don't. The average age of Liberal Party members is over 65. They remember an Australia run by white men, they tend to preselect white men, and Tony Abbott promised a return to John Howard's Australia. What did you expect? Abbott's frontbench is 80% the same as it was in opposition.

Anyone who is surprised by the gender and ethnic makeup of the Abbott ministry is a fool. Anyone who confects surprise in the hope of making political reporting more exciting than it is really doesn't know anything about politics or journalism, and to persist at both in that state is doubly foolish. When you get to something wilfully stupid like this, you just despair.

Not only is there only one female minister in the Cabinet, but that minister - the Foreign Minister - is the one most likely to miss any given meeting of Cabinet. Annabel Crabb is right when she says Julie Bishop is nobody's token, up to a point. Julie Bishop rose through the ranks of the legal profession, won the safest Liberal seat in Perth and fixed the wreckage of aged care policy left by her hapless namesake Bronwyn. Then she entered Cabinet (coincidentally, the point at which Julie Bishop was dragged out of her depth is also the point when Crabb began her career as a parliamentary theatre reviewer), where it all fell apart in every sense but the titular.

The whole idea of the Gillard government's education reforms was to address the utter failure of Amanda Vanstone, Brendan Nelson, and Julie Bishop in that ministry. They should've made more of that; when Bishop, Pyne and other senior Liberals insisted before the election that the way schools are funded now is perfectly adequate, someone should've asked Bishop to explain the current funding system. The response would have made Jaymes Diaz look like Rudd at his most programmatically specific.

Julie Bishop is, like most of us, a foreign policy moron. This blog has been down on her silly lecturing of Indonesia. While it's true that Greg Sheridan has also pointed this out, the fact that he and she have been on junkets to Sri Lanka and formed similar glowing judgments of that country's government shows that it takes one to know one. The real reason she survives as Deputy Leader is because none of the leaders she served view her as a threat. Press gallery journalists have no excuse not to know this. The Indonesians in particular will leak to them, but will they have the wit to use them against Bishop?

We're poorly served by our new foreign minister and she hasn't even been sworn in yet. That's what's missing from Crabb's piece. That, and the fact that her clumsy segue into Mirabella shows one of her starkest limitations: her imaginative failure. Just because Mirabella isn't in the Cabinet, it doesn't follow that no other woman can be. In Crabb's world it doesn't follow that any woman not even in the Parliament today might make a good and useful cabinet minister. If the options aren't on the table, according to Crabb, they aren't options. Watch Crabb rhapsodise about Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker.

This brings us to another hard truth that the press gallery can't face up to regarding Abbott. Good old Tone the media tart is a thing of the past, and the journos don't believe him when he says he wants a break from having to front them. Mirabella isn't out of Cabinet because she made an announcement - she's not in Cabinet because she lost a safe seat. If you think Twitter is down on her, go and talk to the Liberals in what are now the two or three most marginal Labor seats in Victoria. Press gallery is too lazy to go there and they don't have Twitter accounts, but the anger is both real and valid.

The minister who's next most likely to miss Cabinet meetings is the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb. Abbott's office can't stand Robb because he doesn't back down when they yell at him. He will be one of the better ministers in this government, sifting through the legalistic and ceremonial bullshit to get to the essence of the deal. He will probably help industries you mightn't expect in markets you mightn't expect. Robb is the first Liberal Minister for Trade since 1956 and only the second one ever. The Nats/Country Party have traditionally clung to the portfolio jealously, and stuffed it up; witness the dead hand of Black Jack McEwen (bloody Indi!), or Doug Anthony trying to jam his bloodied toe into the closing door of 1970s Europe, or Mark Vaile simpering before the Americans to land an empty "free trade agreement".

Kelly O'Dwyer is smarter and harder-working than Jamie Briggs, who came from a similar staffer background and entered Parliament before the last election replacing the ministers for whom they worked. She built her profile via the media whereas he worked behind the scenes. She missed out on a frontbench gig whereas Briggs didn't. I knew Dennis Jensen had no hope of anything once he started shooting his mouth off in the media. As with Howard, the worst thing you can do if you care about an issue and want the PM to address it, is to go to the media.

O'Dwyer made one of the cardinal mistakes in politics, a newbie error: never go on telly unless you have something to say (and no, talking points do not count as "something to say"). She was widely disparaged by people who follow politics closely for acting as a relay-station for what are clearly the thoughts of others, and poorly-considered thoughts at that. Keeping up the media availability would be a mistake - the next time she should appear on the media she should have something to say as a result of her own hard work and investigation, and should have cleared it with the relevant minister without merely being an echo of that minister. It is possible that she may not be elevated to a job befitting her talents until the Abbott Government has almost, or completely, run its course; this need not be a bad thing.

Compare O'Dwyer with Josh Frydenberg, who entered Parliament after her and who is again another ex-staffer. The deep humus of this blog has plenty to say about Frydenberg and what a sillyhead he is, yet in Liberal circles he has a reputation as a thinker, while she's just a talking head.

Both O'Dwyer and Briggs - and you, dear reader, for that matter - are smarter and harder-working than Peter Dutton. His contribution to this government's victory is zero. He did no work on policy or campaigning and should not have received so much as a cracker from Abbott. All Coalition arguments about merit and against quotas fail in the slack-jawed face of this utter waste of skin. As Minister for Sport he will spend the coming parliamentary term swanning around next year's One-Day Cricket World Cup here and in NZ, as well as the FIFA World Cup and Olympics in Brazil.

He will do bugger-all about ageing in a nation with a steadily-ageing demographic - one largely responsible for this government being elected at all. He will not even have the wit to fuse sports and health in some way, in a country with such an obesity problem. He is ill-served by having Fiona Nash as Assistant Minister. His successor as Shadow Minister for Health should be able to mess with his head pretty easily, if not claim his scalp.

The one thing Dutton will do is impose boards on hospitals. Studies show local hospital boards do nothing to improve health services, nor to improve the cost per delivery of services, nor tailor health services to local needs. We already know what this government thinks of studies and proof and facts, don't we. Local health boards will be stacked full of busybodies, lurk-merchants and resume-polishers, thanks to Dutton.

Among the many important issues about which Dutton will be doing bugger-all is disability services. One of the central ideas behind DisabilityCare is to deliver the same services for less money. Whether setting it up or abolishing it altogether, this area needs energy and vision - yes I know Dutton is palming this off to Mitch Fifield, I said energy and vision. Fifield is a grey bureaucrat who might keep some obscure corner of government from getting into the slow media, repelling journalists through his sheer dullness, but the wrong person to build anything and reach out to people. The right minister could be so successful that Labor would have trouble convincing future voters that it was their idea - Fifield is not that minister.

Matthias Cormann, like Stephen Conroy, doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks of him. He is the perfect counterfoil to Joe Hockey, who deep down wants people to think he's a good guy. When it came to the Gillard government's regulation of financial planners, Cormann showed both his mastery of detail and the ability to advocate dumb policy with a straight face - two rare and indispensable qualities for this government. It is Cormann who will snarl at aggrieved stakeholders about the need for budget cuts. The whole nation will think he's a prick, and he'll look like one until the entire WA government starts to implode (Cormann is largely to blame for the WA state government being like that), at which point he'll look like a doofus. Hated and smart is OK for a senior politician; hated and clumsy is political death.

Arthur Sinodinos is effectively Minister for Tax and Regulating Big Companies. It's complex and there are no real winners, but this is his chance to develop skills he doesn't have in actual politicking and dealing with the dumber journalists. Nobody doubts Sinodinos can handle the backroom nitty-gritty - hell, Julia Gillard could do that. If Sinodinos really is the complete package let's see him do the grassroots stuff without being able to invoke the authority of the PM's office. Abbott is also feebly trying to signal to Howard that he's his own man; let's see how long that lasts.

Kevin Andrews belongs in the bin with the rest of them, but for one factor: he is the conduit between the Liberal Party and the broad but largely obscure movement of Catholic conservatives. What Andrews lacks as an administrator of the common weal, or as a media performer, he more than makes up for as a tactician while keeping hidden conservative Catholic motivations and support. Next time abortion or euthanasia or gay marriage resurface as issues, it will be Andrews who does the behind-the-scenes work for this government to quietly but unequivocally suppress them. Andrews will do the dirty work to scupper the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, on which a smart opposition would raise hell.

Andrews, through Joe de Bruyn, is the backdoor channel into the ALP; when Liberals bag unionists, you can be sure they do not have de Bruyn in mind. Andrews was such a crap Workplace Relations Minister because he was so conflicted. In his current role he isn't conflicted, but he will be furtive. His shadow minister should be alert to his lack of attention to detail and avoid getting sucked into culture-war themes unless there's gross waste involved.

The reason why there is a Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC is not some tokenistic "Minister for Anzac Day". Next year is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. 25 April 2015 will be the centenary of the landings at Anzac Cove, and any Australian government would be into that up to its eyeballs; this stuff will not organise itself. In much the same way, there were ministers for the Olympic Games before and during the 1956 Melbourne Games and the 2000 Games in Sydney.

The fact that said minister is the non-entity Michael Ronaldson is not at all comforting. Veterans' affairs is too hard for him. Normally a sinecure, the fact that (for the first time since the 1960s) there are kids at school today whose fathers have been killed at war means that the portfolio needs careful management, if not reinvention. It involves more than patronising old diggers; the push for better mental health and disability services will be driven largely from this portfolio, whether or not the "all in good time" ethos of this government allows it. Young men of working age who got bent out of shape in Afghanistan won't be brushed aside by half-witted Liberals like the Vietnam vets were. Ronaldson should be an easy target for a shadow minister on top of his or her game.

Chris Pyne will persecute the culture war and knows his Adelaide honk annoys people; the correct way to deal with him is not to engage but to simply dismiss him as a know-nothing. He can handle being disliked but not having his bluff called. Sussan Ley will be a cracker of a minister; I pity her shadow, and she will not be able to help showing up Pyne. Michael Keenan is talked up by Liberals but I suspect he is full of shit; a shadow who goes him hard and early might rattle him.

Paul Fletcher was outed today as the genius who foisted an internet filter on Malcolm Turnbull, and the rest of us, on the day before the election. That should have ended his career; it has certainly ended the 'promising' aspect of it. The sillier members of the press gallery tout Fletcher as some sort of ICT policy genius as the basis for doing so gets more and more flimsy. Lumping him as Malcolm Turnbull's parly sec is cruel to both men, unless Turnbull has the sense to lump Fletcher with things like having to erect metal boxes in every street.

Ian Macfarlane thinks he has to be a spruiker for industry. That's what lobbyists are for; maybe he's making an early pitch for such a job. The former spokesperson for farmers has gone full circle in support of the frackers. If he really gets going he will hollow out the Nationals and give rise to dozens of Windsor-McGowan-style independents at the next election, which will finally end the Whitlam-era idea that the outer suburban seats determine government.

It was sensible of Abbott to drop the useless John Cobb from Agriculture. On every bit of public policy affecting agriculture over the past six years - beef to Indonesia, wheat sales, NZ apples - John Cobb managed to stuff it up and had to be rescued by Abbott's office. No press gallery journalist noted Cobb's ineptitude, preferring instead to let Barnaby Joyce complain about foreign-owned farms (Joyce can be quite sanguine about British and US interests owning farms; less so about Chinese and Filipino interests, for reasons no press gallery journalist has thought to explore). Now Joyce is well placed to do something about agriculture policy, but it isn't clear what - like Abbott himself, Joyce is like the dog that's caught the car he chased so ardently, and now he has to drive it.

Why was Warren Entsch dumped as Chief Whip? Along with the dumping of Senator Ian Macdonald from the front bench, you might assume that Abbott has something against far north Queensland. This is going to make it hard for the government to demonstrate that it's big on developing the deep north.

Eric Abetz will be rubbish at negotiating outcomes in the Senate. He's a culture warrior who'll beat up on enfeebled unions (except de Bruyn's, of course), devoting maximum energy to the irrelevant, assuming that everybody works in fulltime jobs within stable organisations with secure employee benefits. The Coalition message on workplace relations is all over the place, thanks to this gimlet-eyed knucklehead who hasn't had a new idea since the 1980s. He is both a liability for this government, and utterly irreplaceable.

Greg Hunt has so hollowed out his credibility that I hope he chokes on his reward. Scott Morrison never had any, and the rest of the Cabinet aren't worth their own weight in bottle-tops. Warren Truss didn't join the Nationals in order to build freeways in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Smart lawyers will run rings around Brandis, who won't have the good grace to admit his own mediocrity and try being affable instead. Brandis fancies himself as a champion of traditional freedoms but he has nothing to say and less to do on the subject; a tough, smart Senate should eviscerate him.

When a new government comes to office the administrative arrangement orders set out which minister is responsible for which legislation, and which departments. It's seriously wonky, but a) the market for that is bigger than you might imagine and b) there is much in that for political journalists to use in assessing ministers' performances. There are thousands of soon-to-be-unemployed public servants who understand these, and a few will be able to explain what they mean. Do you think the press gallery will reach out to such people? Me neither.

Labor's putative front bench are both younger and more experienced than this ministry. Consider two smart, hard-working and effective pols from NSW: Tanya Plibersek and Marise Payne. Plibersek has six years' ministerial experience, including a stint in Cabinet - even if Payne matches that record, and I wouldn't be surprised, she will still be five years older than Plibersek. At some point press gallery journalists will opine that 'the government is tired' and/or 'the opposition is invigorated', because Labor will offer greater relative experience, diversity, and youth.

Whenever a conservative writes a "w(h)ither Labor?" piece, it's almost always an attempt to mask a feared weakness in conservative ranks. This is why halfwits express their amazement that social media treats Abbott with similar contempt to that which the slow media showed Gillard. This is no exception. The internal democracy of the ALP seems very important to those within that organisation, and is neither here nor there to those outside it like Matthewson and me. Rudd was destabilising because he would never accept no for an answer, and neither would his acolytes. It may be that whoever loses the Labor leadership contest white-ants the winner, but it may also be that the loser turns his energy against the Coalition. It's hard to tell from this angle and Matthewson just looks like she's painting Labor in the worst possible light. She should leave that crap to Chris Kenny, or Mark Kenny, or any other member of the Kenny family really.

This government won with less than the thumping majority it had hoped (those pollsters who predicted Rudd and Bowen would lose their seats can just fuck off, and stick your statistical excuse-making). The lack of women and diverse personnel in this government has all but killed the honeymoon effect enjoyed by newly-elected governments (the best commentary on this is Tim Dunlop's article, because it's about Abbott and those who voted for him rather than those who didn't).

At the very point where this government starts the It's Worse Than We Thought pantomime and starts making Hard And Unpopular But Necessary Decisions, along will come the new Labor leader saying that it doesn't have to be this way. That's when the trouble will start for this government. They seriously assume that the opposition, in parliament and out, will let them get on with it with only the kind of quiescent embarrassment that people inside the Coalition who had doubts about Abbott showed toward him.

Labor assumes it will be able to go in hard over its two big strengths, education and health. The loss of government federally, and in four states with two more to come, suggests this would not be a good idea. Because nobody is listening to the opposition anyway at this point, it would be silly to expect them to feint and invite Abbott to engage them on their favourite issues. The opposition should meet this government where they're at, and shirtfront them on the things they care about. The government is all over the place on the economy; it should be possible to get in their faces before they can develop a narrative.

One of the central beliefs animating the Liberal/National base is that Canberra is full of shinybum bureaucrats cooking up plans to raise taxes and generally screw the country. Part of the reason why you so often see Abbott on a bike is to reassure the base - a man riding a bicycle is not trying to break anyone's business model. When Abbott said before the election "I've got a plan", I was waiting for the rejoinder "but he hasn't even got a clue", which never came. A few hard, early blows portraying Coalition figures as having been in Canberra way too long will sting.

The central problem facing this government is that its "all in good time" ethos will start to look complacent. Peter Hartcher has unwittingly admitted that this is a vacuous government, and that it doesn't yet know what aspects of its negative campaign are to be retained or dropped. This makes it enormously vulnerable, but not necessarily in the tu quoque way Hartcher seems to assume. This country has an enormous future provided the Coalition are prevented from applying their bonsai techniques to the mighty potential for social, artistic, and economic outcomes. When polls turn against this government the dopier commentators will assume that they are driving its decay, when in fact they will be reflecting it.

If you don't know why you're in government (other than for its own sake, or for the lurks) you won't be there long. Labor has to learn that lesson, but so too must the Coalition. Guess which is most receptive to learning hard lessons, has nothing to lose that it doesn't value, and has more time and more energy up its sleeve. Guess which is complacent and risk-averse, and confuses debate with dissent. The press gallery literally have a box seat in observing this new government, which isn't new to them; but they just can't tell what's going on.

28 comments:

  1. If you want a proper analysis of the current political situation, this is the place to go.

    I can only hope the ALP reads this in detail.

    Your articles are necessary reading for anyone wanting the detail behind the fluff we get in the MSM.

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    1. As long time member of the ALP, I can say that I do, and so do others I know.
      Always thoughtful work.

      Delete
    2. Hi guys...!! A.L.P et al

      Wink wink...;)

      I would love to see Tom Elliot have a stint in politics...(yes,son of John)

      A hipster liberal and unlike his father, isnt a conservative bore and quite liberal for a liberal..

      No more f...en bloody staffers please.

      Jason Yat Sen Li types out of the blue blooded box...yes, you reading this blog sir!!

      Smirk ;)

      Delete
  2. Kevin Ekendhall ex (Melbourne Ports) will be one to watch!!

    Thoughts on gay liberal candidates for the future Andrew?

    Agree that Ms O Dwyer has evolved...

    Ms Mirabella has left the building however it has left a bitter sweet taste in the mouth for all these feminist commentators..

    Please...crap is crap!!

    Chris Kennys son has blasted his fathers rant against The Chaser team.

    Lol!!

    If only Bolts son would tell his old man to f...off!!

    Standing ovation on another fine entry but dont patronise your readers with that smarter and working harder line...

    Not cool

    ;)

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    1. Seen many promising candidates, suspect they will have to let Abbott and his trolls state explicitly that a vote for them is more of this.

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  3. Good article, Andrew. Abbott's first press conference (and didn't they make a big fuss that it took him a week to hold one) must have been extremely disappointing for the Coalition, they would have been better off doing a full-on media blitz, "hit the ground running" in that first week as it would have distracted from the lack of women in cabinet announcement. When the media had nothing else to latch to onto they went straight for the glaring weakness in the cabinet composition, the number 1 thing the Coalition brains trust would have been trying to deflect attention from.

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    1. I agree. They'll put so much work into dampening things down that they won't be able to ramp it up when they need to

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  4. Right wing intellectual is an oxymoron, Andrew this is one of your best pieces. How do you feel about the small dessicated coconut being taken out of his coffin as whip?

    There is a hard lesson for both parties in the last election. Only 69% of the primary vote went to major parties in the HOR and 67% in the senate. In SA only 49.6% of the primary vote went to the two major parties and three non major party senators were elected.

    Millions was also spent trying to destroy the Greens and minor parties and that scored 16 non major party senators and a massive swing towards Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt when they stood on principals instead of selling out.

    Now our dumb arsed MSM are carrying on about stopping the boats as if that is a rational goal for an island nation to ponder and as if we have some world wide ownership of the oceans and seas and the legal right to stop people.

    They refuse to understand that what is being talked about is a crime against humanity.

    But stop ranting about Rudd, they hated him because he stood up to the spivs, the chancers and the likes of Joe De Bruyn and Paul Howes.

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    1. Hear, hear! )

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  5. Casablanca19/9/13 2:29 am

    The two key documents are:

    Administrative Arrangements Order made on 18
    September 2013 – RTF 292KB | PDF 142KB

    Ministry list – 18 September 2013 – RTF 180KB |
    PDF 44KB

    Downloads here: http://www.dpmc.gov.au/parliamentary/

    NDIS and Aged Research & Services have been taken out of Health and kicked across to Kevin Andrews' portfolio of Social Services. Andrews also administers the Paid Parental Leave Act, 2010.

    The indomitable Jane Halton, Secretary of Health, will soon have Dutton's measure.

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  6. VoterBentleigh19/9/13 8:04 am

    We were discussing your accurate comments on Andrew Robb, our federal MP, at breakfast this morning. Andrew Robb is a true-believer in right-wing capitalism and has a first class degree in economics, unlike the vacuous ideology and lesser economic credentials of the new Prime Minister. Andrew Robb is more likely to deliver trade for Australia because he has an ideological interest in developing and delivering conservative policy, unlike either Julie Bishop or the Prime Minister. Having attempted to become deputy in 2007, it would appear that Robb would like to be running the show and Keating would have more respect for Robb than the new Prime Minister, because Robb could articulate an ideology - even if it is hard right.

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  7. One thing I don't understand is why Sinodinos doesn't seem to have the epithet "former Obeid business associate". Surely he more "tainted" by that than Julia Gillard's AWU associations of 30 years ago?

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  8. Enjoyed this piece. Was reassured, as a casual observer at least, that much of what I might describe as impressions of the true picture of Abbott's shiny new government being a rather tarnished resurrection of a tired and shabby old one are largely factual. Only requires the equally faded figurehead of J.W.Howard as G.G. to complete the ensemble.

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  9. Andrew,
    Filling the Vacuum- Howards Legacy
    The policy and talent vacuum that you delightfully sketch for us is presumably a legacy of Howard's ruthless evisceration of talent, ideas, and debate from the Liberal party.
    Ironically the hollow vacuum might be the salvation of the "Abattoir" rather than its downfall.
    Having no real idea about how to progress economic reform for its key constituency - business will fill the scintillating vacuum with its own agenda very rapidly. The real ministers to watch are probably the ones who act as a successful conduit to business. No need to formulate policy -just import it.
    Abbott already has the model -don't say too much -let others do the thinking -copy ideas -popular press does the broadcasting (and quite a bit of the "policy /agenda shaping" too)
    As for all the other areas - progressive reform -judging by successive election outcomes punters don't seem to care that much do they?
    Abbot's key weakness- "the vacuum" will ironically turn out be his greatest strength....
    remember...
    Bullshit baffles Brains....

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  10. Andrew, thanks for the Good Oil link - could you explain a bit more about what's happening ATM in WA? News to me that Barnett's about to get poleaxed, and I had no idea that Cormann played such a looming role on the organisational level in that state.

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    1. My understanding is that Barnett fell apart after the election and the only alternative in Buswell. Suspect there will be more on this theme now that the Feds can't keep a lid on it.

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  11. What an interesting article. I am glad I am not in your firing line. Fantastic article and agree with so much of this. Labor Party take note. Media needs to also take some responsibility for ineffectual reporting.

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  12. Tim,

    Sinodinos has just sold shares in his Water Holding company that he has with the relative of the Obeid family...

    No scrutiny in the media to my knowledge thus far..

    Lol!

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  13. I suspect Abbott and Co. will lay low and pick off low-hanging fruit in order to convince the public that they can be effective. However, once push comes to shove and the "no promises, no excuses" mantra comes back to haunt them, expect their Cabinet to come out gnashing and snarling. They are in power now and intend to live in they way they have been accustomed.

    I would not expect any sort of change from the media unless the Coalition really start getting on the nose. They've been bone lazy for yonks, sales are still tanking, they somewhat use social media but refuse to give it any credibility - until they are given a redundancy cheque they will not wake up.

    I think for the next three years we will be seeing the channelling of Howard and the blind instructions of moguls.

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  14. Not entirely clear what you meant by "He is ill-served by having Fiona Nash as Assistant Minister."

    Nash crossed the floor on the carbon sink issue, and supported removal of the minister's veto on RU486. So I can only conclude she could serve Dutton some curry he may be ill prepared to ingest. Or did you mean something else?

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  15. The aspect of the Coalition that most concerns me is the paucity of talent. Other than the few you have mentioned, most have not demonstrated any capacity for thought at all, merely reaction to someone else's thought. Which therefore leads me to the suspicion that most will govern by rote which is not the way to give direction in a rapidly changing world. It's all very well and good to have principles but they must be tested continuously to be at all effective and I don't see many on the Government benches who fit that bill so therefore government by rote it will be carried out by idealogical warriors who are well past their used by date.

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  16. Seriously someone....

    Give this man a tv or radio show!!

    Something like a Jon Stewarts Daily Show!!

    There is a plethora of comedy material in the government for the next five years or so!!

    @#%&*&%

    ;)

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  17. As I remember it from David Marr's (and colleague) book about Tampa and Children overboard, Jane Halton played a nasty role in doing the then government's bidding and keeping things hidden. She might play a similar role for Dutton in keeping his failures out of sight.

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  18. While hawkishly watching the whole bloody ceremony of swearing in the ministers.....

    A lonely figure was not really mixing it with the gang..

    Malcolm Turnball.. the outsider??

    Credlin et al were lovely littly darlings working the room but Mr Turnball was that guy not with the family..

    The black sheep of the family was contemplating how silly these people really were....

    Cool.!!

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  19. Parliamentary theatre pieces indeed, I've been wondering how the hell to describe Crabbe and Maley-style puff pieces for years. Easy targets though these days when there is so much more sinister afoot. Thanks for the insight into the Klan. Wondering what good will emerge from this complete farce of a government and fourth estate but at t the same time appreciate that hope and faith are still available to me, as hope and faith are but luxuries of the fortunate.

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  20. Love your work, Andrew.

    Minor glitch, I think:

    "Mirabella isn't in Cabinet because she made an announcement - she's not in Cabinet because she lost a safe seat."

    .. perhaps should be:

    "Mirabella isn't out of Cabinet because she made an announcement, she's out of Cabinet because she lost a safe seat"

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  21. I think that Tony Abbott May be my PM in the same way John Howard Because I am in the upper quintile of income, throughout the Howard years I was showered by largess, I could hardly turn around without being offered a tax cut or tax break, and yet what I wanted him to do was help Australia as a whole,the disadvantaged, the environment, asylum seekers, not well-off people like me (he didn't of course, because none of those things are "deserving").

    I fear Abbott will be my PM too.

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