For almost a year, it has been clear that Clive Palmer will be influential in deciding what legislation passes in this parliament and what does not. Profiles of Palmer before and since the last election in traditional journalism outlets focused on:
- His girth
- His robotic dinosaurs
- Whether or not he is entitled to call himself 'Professor'
- Whether or not he is entitled to call himself a billionaire, given currency fluctuations etc
- His proposal to build a cruise ship in China and call it Titanic II
But if there's one thing journalists love more than a story, it's being distracted from it: Palmer played them all for mugs in having them write the same, bemused and faintly patronising article. They barely managed to spell 'Bjelke-Petersen' correctly let alone wondering what Palmer learned from him.
Who knows what Clive Palmer wants? Well, Darrin, isn't it extraordinary that such a mystery has made its way to the centre of Australian politics without being properly examined? Isn't it an indictment of all of the lazy fools in the press gallery that they are only now grappling with such a question?
They say you shouldn't negotiate with terrorists, but trying to bargain with an agent of chaos is proving downright impossible.No editor should publish an article starting with "they say", an opening even more asinine than "so". Besides, Darrin, how many deaths would you say Clive Palmer is directly responsible for? I thought Maxwell Smart cleaned up all those agents of KAOS anyway. This, along with the bold-text lead-in, has all the makings of a stupid article.
It was always going to be tough, but today was the day the circus really came to town.If the game is so important why be distracted by a circus? If you're really busy, like undertaking terrorism negotiations, you don't have time for circuses.
The town is Canberra and the game is important. The repeal of the carbon tax.
A mixed metaphor isn't just some linguistic faux pas. It's a sign that you aren't really thinking about what you're looking at, what you're reporting on, or even those to whom you're reporting. Like people who write for The Australian, Darrin has chewed up his opening paragraphs with bullshit. It's taken him a while but he has finally got to the point of his article: the price mechanism for carbon emissions.
The carbon tax was electoral poison for the previous Labor government and despite the theatrics from a fortnight ago with Clive Palmer and Al Gore, all of the signs indicated it would be repealed [last Thursday].There's more to carbon pricing mechanisms than that, but to be fair to Darrin it has been covered elsewhere. It is a pity, however, to regard this issue in such a limited fashion.
It's been toxic for our politicians in responding to it, but Darrin is wrong to refer to it (even allowing for yet another clash of imagery) as electoral poison:
- Two elections ago, both the ALP and the Coalition proposed taxes and other market-based penalties on carbon emissions. It is one of the great what-ifs of Australian politics were the Greens to have supported the Rudd-Turnbull ETS proposal in 2009.
- At the 2010 election both the Coalition and the ALP sent mixed messages on carbon emissions: Abbott had failed to put up the absolute denialist position that had won him leadership of his party and Gillard failed to put a clear policy forward.
- In 2013, Abbott again failed to put up an absolute denialist position, rendering his carbon tax repeal unconvincing, and Rudd failed to be convincing about anything, rendering the effort of putting him back into office a waste of time.
If the 'signs' tell you one thing, and the reality went against the 'signs', then the reliability of the 'signs' should be called into question: but not in Canberra, where you can blame reality for not living down to your predictions and keep your predictive abilities intact.
However, in what can only be described as chaotic scenes, the Senate instead voted down the Government's attempt to kill-off the carbon tax once and for all, thus robbing Prime Minister Tony Abbott of a much-needed political win.The man was elected into government with a handsome majority and enjoys the trappings of office; this remains true today. Again, can the repeal of the carbon tax only be regarded as a political win/loss for the incumbents? Was it really a 'robbery', an illegitimate denial of something to which the government was entitled? Is this the first government that has lost a vote in the Senate, or suffered some sort of political setback?
If the government will not lose office as a result of this vote, how much of a setback is it really?
The decision is a major setback for Abbott who desperately wanted to "axe the carbon tax" as one of the first decisions of the new Senate.Actually, Abbott said it would be the first thing his government would do last September. Then it was pushed forward to the sitting of the new Senate, which took office on 1 July; it isn't clear why the government waited nine whole days until last Thursday, but now it has to wait again. Cheer up: young unemployed people will have to wait six months to receive unemployment benefits, and if the government had to wait another six months would it be so bad? Such income as it does raise will be handy for the budget deficit, and we'll see what effect it has on actually abating carbon emissions.
Government MPs were extremely keen to push the recent budget firmly into the rearview mirror.There's a question there as to whether you have to live your life according to what government MPs are keen to bring about.
Again we have another mixed metaphor: you don't push anything into a mirror. The rearview mirror on a vehicle is not for idly watching things receding into the distance, but to identify things coming toward you that might not be visible from the front or the sides. Notice how Darrin's mixed metaphors make it harder, not easier, to understand what he's on about.
The sticking point in the end was a PUP amendment to guarantee that the savings from the carbon tax repeal by energy producers, gas producers, and electricity producers would be passed down the line to consumers.It's stupid that the government could not have seen that coming. That was the essence of its pitch to voters. The press gallery are stunned that Palmer is holding Abbott to Abbott's own promises. The mechanism for ensuring price cuts were passed onto consumers should have been built into the bills, or kept in reserve - the fact that the government was caught unprepared is not an indictment of Palmer but of the government. It makes it looks as though consumer impacts of the carbon tax were somehow beside the point for this government, rather than the main game.
The Government couldn't buy it, citing possible constitutional problems in allowing the Senate to pass an amendment relating to taxation.The Senate can pass amendments relating to taxation, Darrin, it just can't initiate them.
The Government's Leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, said [last Thursday's] dramas amounted to a technical glitch.He would say that, wouldn't he. The fact that the Coalition hasn't got this policy through is largely his fault. There is a real story to be told about Coalition activists being disappointed in Abetz, and him being less than adequate for the role he occupies - but oh no, let's focus on Palmer, given that we don't really understand him:
So instead of the next few days basking in the afterglow of a major victory, the Government will now get to spend the weekend working on a set of amended bills to present to the House of Representatives on Monday.Aww, diddums! Have you ever had to work across a weekend to get something done for Monday, dear reader? I have, and I didn't have Darrin moaning on my behalf about how dreadfully unfair it was.
And the media chatter over the next few days will focus on the Government's tactics and therefore its competence. This is clearly a bad look for a team already struggling with form that wouldn't look out of place in a bright yellow jersey in Belo Horizonte.Oh no, another metaphor.
The Coalition is not competing for government, in the way that the winner of the FIFA World Cup is (as yet, and at last Thursday) undecided. The Coalition does not quite have seven members on their side for every one against, but it's a far cry from the balance of the previous parliament. Even so, this government has shown itself to be the ultimate in fair-weather sailors: it cannot manage any political situation which has not been comprehensively sewn up in advance.
To continue Darrin's metaphor, Brazil will not get another crack at the Cup next week: it's over for them. Is it really over for this government? As someone who predicted this government would not get as far as it has, do I dare ...?
The form of the German team coming into the FIFA World Cup was known far better than that of Palmer and his party to last Thursday's vote. There was no nonsense about dinosaurs or academic titles or whatever: they were taken seriously, their strengths and weaknesses were analysed closely and dispassionately, and for all the journalistic blather about 'shock results' the fact is that the German team have been - and may yet be - worthy winners.
It is a failure of journalism for Clive Palmer to be so poorly understood.
And therein lies the rub. No one, including the Government, knows what Palmer wants.The idea that the government does not understand one of its political opponents is risible. This government is either going to be blindsided every damn week, or else they are going to learn some lessons and adapt accordingly. The latter is more likely (to some extent) but the tension of watching the stuffed shirts who run this government get over themselves will be palpable.
One thing is for sure. The early signs are that this Parliament will be just as chaotic as the last.But we know how untrustworthy those 'signs' are, right Darrin?
When Tony Abbott was puddling around in student politics, Clive Palmer worked in the office of Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. In the lead-up to the 1983 Queensland state election, the Liberals split with the Nationals and voted with Labor to create a parliamentary Expenditure Review Committee. The National Party's campaign director at that election was Clive Palmer: he knows how to mess with Liberals.
One member of the Queensland parliamentary press gallery at that time was Malcolm Farr. He should be able to describe Palmer better than this. The government that Palmer was promoting back then was deeply corrupt and inadequate to the job of running that state, something the 'fourth estate' should have twigged to and exposed; the Fitzgerald Commission was scathing of the media for failing their public duty to the people of that state. Farr's employer, the Daily Sun, lost credibility to the point where it closed down and Farr's career should have gone down with it. Instead, he landed a job within the Murdoch realm and drifted onwards in journalism. Like Fairfax's Tony Wright, Farr has been in the Canberra press gallery too long to have any fresh ideas yet not long enough to be a 'doyen' like Paul Kelly or Laurie Oakes.
CLIVE Palmer is belting the Government around the Senate and Tony Abbott is looking vulnerable.(The pronouns in the second paragraph refer to Abbott. Surely you don't need a subeditor to identify a subject after so long writing professionally.)
But far worse for him, he is looking impotent.
Mr Abbott is being bullied by a ragtag group of crossbench senators learning on the job but mobilised by Mr Palmer, a canny student of power politics.Abbott is not being bullied. Stymied, maybe frustrated - not not bullied. There are ten times more Coalition Senators than PUP Senators. Where is the physical violence, the sledging (and who has the worse record of that behaviour, Palmer or Abbott)? Has Palmer alleged that Abbott's recently deceased parents died of shame? Clearly this is a silly thing to say, worthy more of Piers Akerman than the normally more measured Farr.
When the Government wins a vote in the Upper House, Mr Palmer ensures he gets some of the credit.In less than two weeks Palmer has the measure of Abbott, while Abbott doesn't know where to start when it comes to Palmer. Both Howard and Rudd would have had their Senate leaders' guts for garters if they had stuffed up to the extent that Abetz has - Farr knows this, and yet can't bring himself to report it. The composition of the Senate has been different to that of the House for a generation, and yet experienced press gallery reporters act all surprised when the Senate votes differently. This is a structural weakness in the way our politics is reported; as a senior reporter Farr bears responsibility for that.
When the Government loses a vote, Mr Palmer makes sure the Government gets all the blame.
Voters expect Governments to get things done and could quickly decide Mr Abbott simply can’t do his job should his agenda continue to be frustrated in the Senate.By this point in Julia Gillard's Prime Ministership, Malcolm Farr had pretty much written her off.
(Clive wore a flanno at the press conference)No he didn't. A 'flanno' is a shirt made from flannelette; the shirt Farr refers to is a checked cotton number similar to the ones that Malcolm Farr wears on the ABC's Insiders. What else are you wrong about Malcolm?
The PUP senators and others on the cross bench will eventually vote to remove carbon pricing but the process will be messy and reflect badly on the Government.This government will look like it is not across the details. This is because it is not across the details. After four decades at the heart of conservative politics, if the Coalition does not understand Clive Palmer then what does it understand? About as well as Malcolm Farr understands words like 'bully' and 'flanno' and 'fourth estate'.
Then there's this sorry effort. The man who made his career insisting that someone other than Julia Gillard paid for Julia Gillard's renovations twenty years ago basically admits that he's a busted flush:
"Axing the tax" applied to Labor's two most "pernicious" imposts, the carbon and mining taxes. The former worked so well it became the economy's job-killing wrecking ball and python squeeze all at once. The latter raised virtually no revenue to pay for billions in new spending justified against its projected growth.The carbon tax was never a "job-killing wrecking ball and python squeeze all at once". This was Coalition hype swallowed only by gullible people, including those inside the press gallery. Sometimes politicians say things that aren't true, Mark - you can have that for free, and you'll only be a proper journalist once you realise that and your reporting improves accordingly.
Expected savings from dismantling a complex institutional web of carbon pricing architecture have proved illusory.Is it surprising that one could be enthusiastic about motoring? Is it surprising that Muir is a motoring enthusiast? Is it surprising that Muir votes with PUP sometimes and not others? Is dismantling a web, partly or wholly, costly in all sorts of ways not visible from Canberra? What a funny piece this is. it ends badly for Kenny though:
Thanks to Clive Palmer's Senate trio and his on-off bloc including the surprising motoring enthusiast Ricky Muir, major pieces of that architecture will remain.
The dominant characteristic of the new Senate is unpredictability. Fault lines run in every direction. If the path of these clearly mandated changes is so contested, what can we expect in the case of budget nasties like the GP tax that were never even mentioned?Dunno Mark, maybe ask a journalist. Kenny is like a drunken poker player at the end of a long night flopping his poor hand of cards on the table and admitting, "I've got nothing", but without the good grace to leave the table. The Sydney Morning Herald could go the way of the Brisbane Sun if its reporting continues to plumb these depths.
While Darrin Barnett has been clueless, and Malcolm Farr and Mark Kenny have been pathetic, the prize for all-out crazy goes to Harto's piss-boy, Simon Benson:
POLITICIANS like to indulge a folly that Australian voters always get it right on election night.It's a folly, yet Benson fell right into it. I remember Liberal staffers of my acquaintance saying this to me, and it's bullshit - politicians and journalists don't get to second-guess the voters in a democracy, the voters are sovereign. Maybe that's what they are trying to do with polls and focus groups, keep one step ahead of the voters - but I'm yet to hear of an election where that qualifier 'usually' applies, where the voters 'got it wrong'.
At the heart of this misconception is a crude and fanciful logic that the will of the majority can produce only a single outcome — which by definition has to be the right one.
This is ridiculous.
The fact is that, unless there is a hitherto unrevealed mystery behind the collective ambition of the electorate to turn the senate into a political asylum, the Australian people got it wrong last September.
The government lost a vote in the Senate. Get over it, Simon. The Democrats and Harradine used to regularly trip up better governments than this one.
Based on the theory of voters being right, what has been witnessed in just one short week suggests that Australians elected to simply transfer the chaos and insecurity of three years of minority Labor government from the lower house to the senate.That 'theory' is what I like to call democracy, Simon. We thought Abbott could handle a bit of horse-trading - clearly he can't, and he'll have to learn or be replaced with a government that will. I don't think he can learn: the fact that Abbott spent budget night drinking with Simon rather than either/both touching base with Palmer supports that.
The crossbench of the senate, which now consists of 18 independents and minor party MPs (the 10 Greens), has asserted its new authority over the government in ways that Tony Abbott failed to anticipate and in a manner which has many in the Coalition horrified.The election was last September, Simon. It's now July of the following year. Maybe they, too, were misled by a dumb, lazy media. Maybe they're not as good as you and your Murdoch colleagues said they were.
Not only have Palmer and his minions refused to honour commitments to support the government’s repeal of the carbon tax, they have punched a further $10 billion hole in Joe Hockey’s Budget, turning a budget emergency into a $50 billion fiscal calamity.If you're going to all that effort to put a budget together, why not a bit of old-fashioned politics to make sure you have a majority coming with you? Isn't this basic? Why the violent imagery, Simon - doesn't that just remind everyone of Barbara Ramjan and make us resent the fact Abbott is in government at all?
At the start of the week the Coalition was confident it would be able to drop the guillotine on Labor and the Greens to ram through a vote on the repeal of the carbon tax by Tuesday lunchtime.Of course not - Palmer isn't a Senator. The fact that the government doesn't understand a senator elected almost a year ago - and thinks an insult is the way to build a relationship with that person - is telling. So too is the lack of a sense of urgency in the delightful phrase "Tuesday came and went, as did Wednesday and Thursday" - lovely if you're talking about a walk through the forest, negligent if you're talking about voting through a government's legislative program.
Tuesday came and went, as did Wednesday and Thursday.
The carbon tax remains.
Abbott hadn’t factored in the possibility that at least one of the new senators might be, in the words of one Coalition minister, “completely stark raving mad”. And they weren’t talking about Palmer.
If I had to describe a sitting Senator as “completely stark raving mad” - and I profess to no psychological qualifications - pop-eyed and wild-tongued Eric Abetz would get my vote. Simon Benson can't see it, there's no telling him.
It should have come as little surprise that Palmer yesterday reneged on a promise of only two weeks ago to support repeal of the carbon tax.Well Simon, a) you weren't reporting it (once again, the press gallery can only predict things after they've happened) and b) he hasn't reneged, he's said he's still open to abolish it and negotiations are continuing on that basis.
The role of the senate is to act as a house of review and a mechanism by which parliament can keep checks and balances on the government.And this is what's happening here, no? The government has been checked in the Senate, by a man dressed in a checked shirt (not a flanno). Ben Oquist isn't on the lobbyist register for the same reason that Peta Credlin or Tim Wilson aren't, and because you don't bother name-checking lobbyists visiting ministers and other parliamentarians why even bring it up?
According to the parliament, the constitutional role of the senate is implied as thus: “The requirement for the consent of two differently constituted assemblies is a quality control on the making of laws. It is also a safeguard against misuse of the law-making power, and, in particular, against the control of one body by a political faction not properly representative of the whole community.”As opposed to Tony Abbott having control of the Senate? Have you been taking constitutional law lessons from George Brandis?
We are now faced with the very outcome the constitution sought to guard against, namely one person, Clive Palmer, has control of the senate.
What Australians may not yet realise is that the new government is also a hung parliament — by virtue of Palmer directing senate outcomes from the lower house.It's been ten months since we voted, Simon. Hung Senates are pretty standard in Australian politics, and it's not clear how you get to be National Political Editor without realising that.
... the senate has become a cesspit of self-interest.Senator Muir voted against what would appear to be the interests of his party, and this somehow represents self-interest? A mining billionaire had senators vote to retain a tax that costs him millions, yet that's self-interest?
It isn't self-interest. This government lacks attention to detail. Here's another example. Start reporting what happens, rather than flying off the handle or admitting you can't do your job.
Michael Gawenda's thoughtful piece on contemporary politics and media deserves more examination than it will get here, and it doesn't even refer to Palmer. Even so, in attempting to get to the nub of this government's unpopularity Gawenda misses an important point:
The far more likely explanation for the government’s poor opinion polls and for the fact that Tony Abbott is deeply unpopular is that people feel that they have been fooled. They saw Abbott relentlessly pursue Gillard for her broken promises. They heard him say many times that he would never break a promise he made to the Australian people. They did not believe when he came to power, he would break even more promises than had Gillard.Gawenda overlooks the fact that the Coalition was not properly scrutinised by the media. They treat the shortcomings of this government as surprising, when they were eminently foreseeable and worth investigating well before last September. Professional journalists and tough-minded editors should have been offended by Abbott's evasions and lack of detail, and the all-too-sudden conversions on key issues like education funding and the ABC, reversed once the election was over. The Abbott government holds office because the media failed to do its job. The media fooled the people about how bad the last government was, and conversely made this government out to have been better than it has proven to be.
The press gallery should have done its homework on Palmer - and Abbott's capacity to deal with him - to a much greater extent than it has. It should not be surprised that Abbott's tactical incompetence of 2010 are being repeated here - indeed, Abbott's competence in dealing with those who do not have any formal obligations to him should have been questioned pointedly and regularly. The fact that the supposedly hapless Gillard government won every vote against Coalition strategists like Abetz and Pyne should have forced a reassessment, which might have put a more nuanced choice to voters at the last election.
If the imprisonment of Peter Greste didn't make the press gallery lift their game, what will? Their risk of suffering his fate is negligible, but you'd think all their gob-taping and selfie-taking would inspire journalists to exercise what freedoms they have. Greste seemed to have done more research on the convoluted politics of Egypt than Simon Benson or Mark Kenny have done with the Australian Senate.
Do not believe the press gallery when they are suddenly surprised by events in Canberra - they are almost all dumb, lazy people failing to understand what their jobs are and doing them badly. We are all worse off for that.