27 January 2015

Earning your pineapple

As I've said before, when Tony Abbott gets into trouble he will reach out to his base on the far right, and that's why he offered Prince Phillip the knighthood.

Only right-wingers can even discern what Prince Phillip's service to Australia has been.

When he married the then Princess Elizabeth in 1947 the State of Queensland presented 500 cans of pineapple to the happy couple. They must have assumed they were like other war-battered Poms, in need of food aid but reluctant to fork out £10 to come over and work for it. The medallions of the different levels in the Order of Australia look a bit like thin cross-sections of pineapple.

She has earned her pineapple, or at least been gracious about it - but has he? To ask such a question is to demand accountability, and since when has Tony Abbott been about accountability (oh, you thought because he asked all those questions in opposition ...)?

The award was designed to get lefties upset, as Adam Brereton notes, and only when lefties are upset do people like Tony Abbott know who they are and what they're about.

Abbott's natural base consists of reactionaries, people who define themselves by what they're against. They have no ability to distinguish between a passing fad and a substantial shift. They will hunt for evidence to support clean coal or wind turbine syndrome, but ignore that supporting climate change or vaccinations.

This is why Abbott is rubbish at the normal daily tasks of being Prime Minister, announcing this and opening that in the name of slow and steady progress. It's as though all these things happen in the normal course of government without intervention from people like him, taunting lefties and rewarding supporters.

Insofar as the Abbott government even does policy development, here's how it works:
  • Should we lock up asylum-seekers? There are plenty of conservative reasons not to do so, but does locking them up upset lefties? Therefore, asylum-seekers get locked up.
  • Should we protest Australian citizens being executed, or locked up without charge, under foreign judicial systems? There are plenty of conservative reasons to go through the correct channels of registering a protest (and maybe even securing a reprieve), but does this upset lefties? Therefore, Australian citizens get executed or detained without charge.
  • Should we increase taxes on those who benefit most from government decisions, in the same way that political parties extract donations from companies who benefit from those decisions? Again, what upsets lefties - placing the burden on working people, cutting penalty rates and pensions - so that's what happens.
  • Should we treat disabled Australians as full citizens, as envisaged under the NDIS? There are plenty of conservative reasons to do so (standing on one's own two feet, as it were, not to mention cost savings) - but I ask you, does abolishing support for disabled people upset lefties? Senator Fifield's assurances that the government is committed to the NDIS should be seen in that light.
  • Some people think Senator Eric Abetz is politically suicidal by seeking to alter the workplace relations system - but he sure is sticking it up those lefties!
Lefties propose and conservatives dispose. Now you have the thought patterns necessary to understand conservative government.

On the night before the 2013 election, he defined his program for government by negating his accusers, saying whatever needed to be said; the Lance Armstrong of Australian politics.

It happened before then, too. He didn't understand why Gillard could negotiate her way into government in 2010 and get legislation through a hung parliament. He couldn't, and still can't understand why Senators outside the major parties will neither bend to his will nor be won over by his smarm.

When Barack Obama made his historic speech to Parliament about the US pivot to Asia, Abbott did not rise to the occasion as a putative Prime Minister; but he did go the niggle on lying and carbon tax. Nobody had any right to expect better from him - nobody inside the Liberal Party, nobody in the press gallery, no swinging voter, nobody at all. The insiders all knew what he was like. They just underestimated their ability to cover up for them.

Experience should count for something. Mark Kenny is an experienced and senior political reporter. Yet, once again Mark Kenny shows himself to be a gibbering dupe with this:
It is telling that Tony Abbott believes the strongest argument for his continued leadership of the Liberal Party, the Coalition, and the country, is the dysfunction of his enemies, to wit, Labor's self-inflicted Rudd/Gillard debacle from 2010.

It is a further mark of Abbott's personal problem however, that even before the political contest has been fully joined for the year, he is having to field questions on his own longevity in the job, his grip on power.
It's the same mark, Mark.

Knighting Prince Phillip doesn't raise "fresh doubts". It shows that Abbott's detractors were right, and that his supporters - and those who believed them - were fools.

Abbott could only ever be defined against his enemies: more right-wing than Turnbull, more cocky and jocky than Rudd, more steady and traditional-family-oriented than Gillard. He could never be defined in any other, positive way. Attempts to project Prime Ministerial qualities on him were always doomed, saying more about those doing the projecting than about Abbott himself.

Abbott hasn't shrunk, he's being rightsized. Ignore those who think Abbott has time to get his act in order, like this or that, covering their embarrassment at talking him up in the first place.

Instead, go look up at the night sky and see the twinkle of a star that died years ago. Pull a fish out of water, and watch it try to push the reset button. Now compare those activities to the behaviour of the Abbott government, and pity those who are overly impressed by powerless raging against the dying of the light.

People like Abbott have been reactionaries since their university days: simply spitting the descriptor at them makes no difference. Instead, understand how:
  • weak reactionary behaviour is as a motivator; and
  • little can be done when such people occupy office; and
  • they fight tooth and nail to stay in a position where they dispose regardless of what might be proposed. To be in a position where they neither propose nor dispose underlines their irrelevance.
Can the press gallery help you understand that? Not really. They don't understand it themselves. Every instance of public policy bloody-mindedness is so jarring in contrast to their apparent personability one to one, which stymies effective reporting. This is the whole idea from the government's point of view, and press gallery journalists deserve all the respect due to willing tools.

The press gallery should evaluate how we are governed, and alternatives to how we might be governed. Members of the press gallery have a privileged role, like the members of parliament on whom they report. With privilege comes responsibility: to their loyalty is to their audience above maintaining their contacts or sucking up to their employers. Journalists like to point out how few primary votes Senator Muir received, but more people voted for him than voted in any member of the press gallery.

As an exercise in determining whether or not Tony Abbott and his Coalition team were a suitable government for this country, we can see that Kenny and all of his press gallery colleagues failed to do their jobs. This diminishes them and will, ultimately, diminish their privileged role inside parliament.

How much of a privilege is it to simply note this empty gesture or that? Is it even valuable work? Is all that busy-busy really important or does it distract you from what's really important - and if so, how would you know? I often give the rough end of the pineapple to the press gallery, but if you gave them anything more juicy or productive it would be a waste.


  1. Insightful example of the term reactionary. The idea that Abbott is about opposing what he doesn't like explains actions that seem inexplicable. You seem to understand him more than most, have your met him or worked with him in the party? Very interesting.

    1. Yep, I knew him in the '90s and thought he was overrated then

  2. Brilliant. Although I think you are a bit mean about Sir Phil. As David Pompous Arse Flint notes, Sir Phil does it all on a voluntary basis, no pay, no superannuation...only a measly 3/4 million per annum in allowances and an all expenses paid lifestyle.

    I mean, get a grip, this bloke is a real contributor to Australia, working his fingers to the bone in a number of important roles. The British Monarchy's own official website reveals some important info. Its database lists Prince Philip as patron, fellow or member of 44 organisations and charities in Australia, among them the Australian Carriage Driving Society and the now defunct Sydney University Tiddlywinks Society.

    But seriously, a very good piece about Abbott and how he ticks. Having grown up in his electorate and observed him over many decades I think your analysis is very insightful.

    As for the press gallery, you have, again, nailed it. How Kenny, Maley etc etc fail to see the fact that their performance is simply abysmal is beyond me. Day after day, they focus on meaningless minutiae, opining loftily on leadership ( a topic which, as noted before, they have NO insight, having never run as much as a chook raffle in a pub themselves).

    Yeah ok, I will admit to getting a little laugh seeing all the new "leadershit" stories, but that laugh is short lived as it is yet more of the same crap that highlights their sheer laziness..............and refusal to apply any grey matter to analysis of policy and issues of substance. On and on it drones, ad infinitum. They appear to have the collective memory of a flea. Rough end of pineapple well deserved, if only they would notice!

    1. The ground on which Professor Flint justified the knighthood isn't wholly implausible. Were it not for Prince Phillip's financial sacrifices for the sake of Australia, he could well be a wealthy man by now.

    2. The same editorial was published on The Age website but allowed comments. One person suggested Abbott could be a scriptwriter for Monty Python. I replied that, should it be found that Abbott has not renounced his British citizenship, that gig wouldn't cover the amount he'd be forced to pay back.

      I linked to a related post on Independent Australia, and, in an aside, asked Kenny how his ridiculous bromance with Tones was going now.

      Of course, my comment was not published, even though others' were much more offensive. This suggests that:

      1. MSM will not link to any indie media site for fear of demonstrating their own inferiority.

      2. Journalists and their editors, like politicians, can never admit they're wrong, for fear that their genitals will shrivel and fall off.

    3. Nonsense, Pia.

      The only "servicing" Phil ever did was on the Queen and Elder covered that re the Pineapple remark.

      Seriously, it was scathing and funny while also carrying some interesting speculation as to how politics goes in Australia at this time. It is evidenced indirectly in thelatest imbecility from Qld Nat George Christensen, re Qld Opposition Leader Palaszczuk

      p. walter

    4. not wholly implausible? Please explain,,,

      How is that? As a member of the Greek Royal family, which received the royal order of the boot a LONG time ago?

  3. Thanks for that. You have given me a new perspective on his behavior and the LNP as a whole.

  4. Lachlan Ridge27/1/15 9:11 pm

    Just a typo note in para 16; "he" should read "her". Freud would have something to say about that.

    Apart from that, your restraint and avoidance of schaedenfreud at this time is remarkable. As a long time follower of this blog - the best writing on Australian politics in decades in my long experence - you have shown to be right about the press galery system and understand modern reaction and conservatism better than any I have read or heard. You deserve a knighthood.

  5. VoterBentleigh27/1/15 9:33 pm

    This is close to my view about how Mr Abbott operates. Within this context, the ALP and other parties have been right not to take the bait, to make themselves a small target and to allow Mr Abbott to self-destruct and take the Coalition with him. The trait of Mr Abbott that the media have not yet cottoned onto is that he appears to have no willingness for self-examination, so he'll never admit fault or change; he's the king of denial.

  6. David Flint supporting Abbott says it all.
    What a pompous, supercilious twat he is.
    Even Gerard Henderson thinks Flint is a pratt, which in the world of right wing sycophantia must mean something.

  7. While I agree with your analysis, I would like to point out the sheer obliviousness of Abbott and his close circle of advisers to the Dukes lifelong commitment to various traditional (as in non-economic, non-sexual-habits) conservatism. I've been writing this in a number of places yesterday and today, so may as well here as well.

    On the wikiquotes page that people have been turning to in order to find a hundred gaffes to chuckle over, there is a massive section given over to extracts from speeches on the environment. And some pretty profound ones at that. I have heard at 3rd hand how closely he was involved in their writing (yes he had a speech writer, but he directed those speeches and sought out occasions to give them).

    The DoE has since the 1950s been an ardent (somewhat Jeremaic) propagandist for the environment, in a manner totally removed from the more common green hippiedom but one in the European intellectual tradition including Uexkull, Lorenz etc. By the time of his marriage, he was already an intimate of and follower of Peter and Philippa Scott's profound ecothinking

    Now, the DoE was given a Hassablad camera for a wedding gift. He looked at the Antarctic wildlife through the powerful lens of that camera while on his honeymoon cruise, and realised how profoundly humanity was mucking up the world. So he became the prophet of Green doom he is. In fact he has taken his speeches and expanded them (well, supervised the editing) into several books - especially the Environmental Revolution and A Question of Balance.

    Funnily enough (and so obviously does the PM not understand his man) in that last book, he discusses the problems of being an activist in his very public position and how difficult it has been fo rhim to get his message out.

    So he utterly deserves an Australia Day honour because he has been working quite hard for longer than most people have been alive on possibly the only problem that matters - saving the species from imminent destruction. But I don't think Abbott would agree with that.

    Some selections:
    1969 - " Wildlife — and that includes everything from microbes to blue whales and from a fungus to a redwood tree — has been so much part of life on the earth that we are inclined to take its continued existence for granted...Yet the wildlife of the world is disappearing, not because of a malicious and deliberate policy of slaughter and extermination, but simply because of a general and widespread ignorance and neglect."

    1962 - "For conservation to be successful it is necessary to take into consideration that it is a characteristic of man that he can only be relied upon to do anything consistently which is in his own interest. He may have occasional fits of conscience and moral rectitude but otherwise his actions are governed by self-interest. It follows then that whatever the moral reasons for conservation it will only be achieved by the inducement of profit or pleasure."

    91970 - "It is frequently more rewarding merely to ask pertinent questions. It may get someone to go and look for an answer. If you get a silly answer, which can easily happen, you can return to the charge with even more telling effect. Whatever happens, don't give up and don't despair. Results may not be immediately apparent, but you may have touched a receptive chord without knowing it. Even the most unsympathetic and unenlightened politician, industrialist or bureaucrat begins to take notice when a lot of people write about the same subject."

    much more there - Abbott can't have realised this.

    So instead of laughing, I have been telling people he deserves it for this work over decades

  8. I may have posted the same bit a couple of times as I couldn't get it to take

  9. At the risk of running a "no true scotsman" argument, I think I should add that I believe the distinction between reactionary and properly conservative.
    Reactionary = opposing change for change's sake, holding on to power and money for the sake of a love of power and money, defining self by looking at what changes others want to make, and opposing it outright. This is your characterisation above, and I concur

    Then there is a kind of quasi-Burkean conservatism that would like to hold on to good things (from Blue Whales, Opera and the independence of New Zealand down to country dances and mum's Marmalade recipe) against the forces of entropy.

    A lot of mischief (I think) has been made by bundling up Burke with Hayek, because Burke placed property ownership as central, and Hayek placed property ownership at the basis of wealth-creation as a good. As Chris Hitchens put it "If modern conservatism can be held to derive from Burke, it is not just because he appealed to property owners in behalf of stability but also because he appealed to an everyday interest in the preservation of the ancestral and the immemorial."

  10. Thankyou Andrew for reminding me about the canned pineapple. I wonder if the Queenslanders sent stacked packs of crystallized cherries to pop in the centre of the golden circles?

    The pineapple tale was a quaint tale from faraway when ladies wore hats to go to town. The Abbott bequest of a knighthood to a royal consort belongs to those times, hence the hilarity.

    Kevin Andrews, another mid 20th century man , staunchly defended Abbott's action yesterday and said PNG had bestowed an honour on Philip. I wonder if he was referring to the penis gourd given to him by a tribe who worship him as a god?

    You are quite correct Andrew, TA will never change. He cannot. As you write he defines himself by who he is not. He is perpetual turmoil, always opposing sometihing.

    I guess the energy of Gladiator Tony must have dazzled some commentators who mis-read it as keen intelligence, commitment and courage. In other words, they thought they were witnessing the raw qualities of leadership.


  11. As you, and others have pointed out, this is all student politics writ large. A stage where many politicians begin learning the craft - but this mob never left that crude state behind.


    Because they have been cosseted, pampered and sponsored all their lives. The end result of privilege and the Old Boy's Networks. Always told they were better than the rest of us, destined for greatness.

    The ultimate irony is that history will remember them - but not for great deeds, only for incompetence and shrivelled nastiness.

    As they seem hellbent on re-introducing Workchoices to an electorate struggling with high unemployment and falling real wages, it seems unlikely that we will suffer two terms, perhaps the damage can be limited to the Australian psyche - At least 3 terms in the wilderness might be enough to allow the LNP to reconnect with Australia.

    1. Well said, Rob.

      This is a University debating team pretending to be a government.

      - Joe

  12. Laughing like a drain.

  13. Thanks Andrew. Where does Matthewson get the 'six months' from, I wonder? The anniversary of that other famous "knifing?"

  14. Andrew - this is an enjoyable article, but there may be a further dimension to explore regarding the PM's idiosyncratic revelling in public ignominy. He seems to select these "cilice" and enjoy applying them to various parts of his political anatomy. Such practices might better be suited to the seminary safely behind closed doors. I notice Christopher Pyne has similar tendencies. They clearly revel in self inflicted harm under public gaze. This may be a Catholic thing, a snippet out of a bad Dan Brown novel, but it is surely lost on the punters at large.

  15. Abbott must be a bit disappointed that the reaction of the left to the DoE's knighthood is hilarity and mockery rather than the frothing rage he was hoping for.

  16. Well, you're preaching to the converted-from-childhood here.

    More recently, though, I've noticed a trend amongst this government's supporters to invoke "the Left" for everything they disagree with. Sometimes they can't agree amongst themselves what "the Left" or "Leftists" stand for, though they're it sure involves coffee and inner-suburbia, and simply assume to speak on behalf of the 'mainstream' against the 'Left'.

    I also note, with little irony, that Miranda Devine's recent article mirrors Murdoch's tweet about Credlin to a creepy extent.

    - Joe Fitzpatrick

    1. Her Master's Voice.

      What else would you expect?

    2. What are you surprised, Joe? Undevine is a sock puppet.

  17. And he hired one of the most right wing reactionary and racist ABC journos. as his chief of staff.

  18. You have Abbott bang to right.

    I was in my later days at the ANU when Abbott was at Sydney - back then the universities were fairly small, but the active student organisations were also in pretty close touch. So I heard a lot about Abbott, and have no difficulty seeing the "adult" in what I knew of the (very) late adolescent.

    Something I have also observed over the decades is his complete lack of understanding that any lack of success (read: disaster) might be attributable to some personal limitation on his part. That, of course, points to some interesting and obvious psychopathologies, which also means that he will continue making completely and utterly stupid decisions - all under the guise of "captain's calls" - because he has a tin ear.

    The other thing I've observed is that he really really likes going the biff: if there's combat involved (even if it doesn't mean laying Joe Hockey out), that just makes it so much more fun. Unless, of course, he's the object of the biff (the misogyny speech, for example).

    So, he lacks judgment, and he gets his jollies from punching other people's lights out.

    If he were a four-year-old and I his mother, I know exactly what I'd do.

    Unfortunately, we voters don't have that opportunity.

    Still, I must admit to more than a little quiver of Schadenfreude, waiting to see what happens next.

  19. Anonymous@28/1/15 1:20 pm

    He seems to select these "cilice" and enjoy applying them to various parts of his political anatomy.

    has hinted at something that Michael Galvin at IA has expressed much better than I could:

    Abbott Agonistes is no ordinary politician. He will not suffer through this long, slow crucifixion like Rudd and Gillard did, albeit in their different ways.

    It is conceivable, on some bizarre level, that he will actually enjoy it. As outlined above, and unlike most mature people, Abbott will never be able to see that it is his fault. When he departs the political scene, it will be the public that did not live up to his expectations, not the other way round. It will be just as he blamed the faults of the Church for leaving the priesthood — the church let him down, he wasn't the problem. Isolation vindicates him; general consensus unnerves him.

    The political destruction of Abbott in the coming months is much to be hoped for and almost a certainty. But because he is like no ordinary politician, it will be a fascinating and very unique spectacle to watch.

    1. The Opus Dei/self flagellation thing..I think Miranda Devine is one of these warped, demented medieval types, also.

      In the meantime, we are discovering that Julie Bishop has just been in the states, like a servile bedpan remover, getting further marching orders from Rupert Morlock.


  20. Spot on....emotionally stunted adults who are still in that University mode....

    That reminds me of Tim Wilson et al..

    Same silly route with the I.p.a brats...

    How do we stop this cycle of the professional politician?

  21. Anyone who thinks that Abbott, Abtetz & co have the skills, nous, temperament - whatever to prosecute a change to IR laws and to take their case to an election is happily dreaming.

    The IPA and BCA may want, but it isn't going to happen with ol' passion fingers in charge. And, can you imagine Abtetz selling work choices rebooted? Why, he's got such winning delivery with his weird robot voice and crazy far right ideology.

    Thanks for the link the Miranda Devine piece - the only time I read her is when you link. It's almost an anthropological exercise delving into the Daily Tele. Wow, people actually think that Abbott is the "best hope we have". Scary.

    Thanks for a really good article.