19 July 2015

Reclaiming George Christensen

George Christensen has been a Queensland Nationals apparatchik all of his "life". He was a staffer for former Dawson MP DeAnne Kelly, then set up "community newspapers" that were designed to raise funds first and distribute news second. In 2010 he won Dawson, knocking off the Labor MP who had replaced Kelly. Christensen's racist, sexist and antisemitic student jottings had come to media attention in the campaign, but Abbott shrugged them off and therefore so did our fearless media.

It's a mistake to assume, as many commentators have, that Christensen is some out-of-control maverick who is addressing the racist Reclaim Australia rally and that there's not a damn thing Tony Abbott can do about it.

Whenever the media narrative has gone against the government, Christensen runs interference. He comes out with a wacky idea that garners media attention, allows him to bag Labor, and then shrug off government deniability because hey, he's just a backbencher:
  • While the government was micromanaging ABC TV and approving coalmines in prime agricultural land, George wanted to cane ice dealers. He doesn't know or care whether the measure works, but he's keen for some spanking because it draws attention away from whatever ails the government.
  • When the government was being caned over the TPP, Christensen pretended to stand up for sugar farmers. The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement of 2006 explicitly excluded sugar, and so will the TPP, but Christensen looks like he's doing something by kicking against a closed door.
  • The proposed coal loader at Abbot Point is in his electorate. The jobs created in building and operating it will be for his constituents - or at least he hopes so, which is why he's so against FIFO agreements that have done little for the economy in his electorate. As demand for coal declines, Christensen blames environmentalists for killing his dream rather than question whether it was a dog of an idea in the first place.
  • His electorate contains little of the pretty and accessible parts of the Great Barrier Reef - except for the Whitsunday Islands, which are tightly held and cater to a select market that mostly lives far from Dawson. This is why he's not going into bat for tourism jobs over coal; tourism providers are few and small and less generous to Christensen's campaigns than coal people.
  • Christensen is desperately holding the line that same-sex marriage must be a matter of Coalition policy - and that policy must be to oppose it - rather than allow a conscience vote, which would see it get up.
  • He was a vocal supporter of stripping Australian citizenship from those accused of terrorism.

Christensen is a government whip, which means he helps develop parliamentary tactics and enforce Coalition unity on the floor of the House. Mavericks don't get or keep jobs like that. He is not some freewheeling dude from the far north who goes where the northern winds take him: he is a careerist suck who does what he's told.

By standing with violent racists, and being careless about the effect this has on his community, Christensen displays a low regard for the people he represents. This isn't the first time he's done this. During the 2015 Queensland state election his most significant contribution was to bandy about a cartoon of now-Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk naked, on a wrecking ball, similar to Miley Cyrus' video for her song of the same name. Labor won the state seat of Mackay at January's election, and in the other state seats within Dawson there was enough of a swing to rattle poor George. Again, he hopes that the votes he attracts from boofheads will exceed those he turns off.

He is more than happy to win ugly. After the next election he will almost certainly become a Coalition frontbencher, whether the Coalition wins or loses, provided he keeps his seat. No other Coalition MP is as effective in diverting attention away from the beleaguered Speaker right now. Christensen is not a diversion, he is Abbott's main game. When he and I were in the NSW Young Liberals, Irfan Yusuf was regularly wrong, but this piece is a mixed bag.

Yusuf is right here:
Brisbane's Courier Mail reports Christensen declaring he will defy even the PM's orders and attend the rally.

Reading through the 24 pillars of the Reclaim Australia manifesto, I couldn't help but wonder why Abbott would object. There is a call for "[t]he right to exile or deport traitors", which I guess is akin to Abbott's original call for people engaging in terror-like activities to be stripped of their Australian citizenship even if it was their only one ...

The ideology of Reclaim has a distinctly supremacist feel to it. But in case you thought it was fringe, the reclaimers are singing from virtually the same rhetorical and policy songbook as the federal Coalition on cultural and security matters. Despite trumpeting separation of religion and state, Reclaim's manifesto mentions Christian values and rights numerous more times. How often have we heard Abbott and his ministers lecture us on how Australia has a Christian heritage?
You'll note that there has been no order from Abbott to Christensen not to attend. Christensen is not defying any instruction, nor would he ever do so.

Yusuf is wrong here:
... Tony Abbott held the opposite view. He regarded multiculturalism as a fundamentally sound and inherently conservative social policy. Abbott was one of the few frontbenchers who refused to join the chorus of Muslim-phobic and migrant-phobic hysteria around issues of citizenship and national security. In addresses to various audiences, Abbott recalled what it was like for him and fellow Catholics during previous decades when Catholics were demonised.
Abbott has never known what it was like for Catholics to be demonised. He was risking nothing by spouting what conservatives like Bronwyn Bishop regarded then and now as wishy-washy ecumenical kumbaya nonsense. He was reaching out to a broader base in the Liberal Party that enabled him to knock off both Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey, and have people declare before the 2013 election that he's actually quite a decent and sensible fellow who will be moderated by the demands of office.

He was, in short, gulling people like Irfan Yusuf: too dumb to realise they've been had, too proud to admit it. The entire press gallery is in the same boat, realising that Abbott is doing a lousy job as PM but not daring to admit he was never up to it - and that their assertions to the contrary were simply wrong.
Abbott is a victim of the far-right.
Oh, please.
A former staffer of his walked out to join Pauline Hanson.
David Oldfield was the last man in Australia to regard Tony Abbott as insufficiently right-wing. Even people who like Oldfield regard him as a special case.
Abbott and his allies worked hard to ensure One Nation was made accountable for financial irregularities.
They went beyond the law, Hanson and Ettridge were pardoned. Yusuf is a lawyer and knows not to confuse a quashed conviction with one that remains in force. That case should have informed those who profess to be shocked, shocked at Abbott's lack of respect for legal processes and common-law rights.
... Abbott's quite brilliant manifesto Battlelines ...
Let it go, Irfan. It was navel lint rendered into words.

If it helps, I thought Phillip Ruddock was a decent and principled person. You just have to admit you were wrong and move on.
If Abbott does give the order to the federal member for Dawson not to attend this rally, it will sound almost hypocritical.
Yes it would. Abbott is the dog that is not barking. It's part of the pattern, established with those entitlement rorts referred to earlier, where this government does what it pleases and is accountable to no-one.
... discussions (or lack thereof) on national security in Australia are rarely conducted in a sensible manner. Phillip Adams recently wrote in the Weekend Australian: "The current liturgy chanted in unison by ministers prime and junior in the Gregorian manner, including Stop the Boats and Death Cult. They are not designed to encourage discussion but to end it. To drown out doubt, debate, calibration, nuance and context."
This takes us back to George Christensen. He started out doing PR for a backbench MP, merely passing on decisions that had already been made without his input. He did not get where he is today through Socratic dialogues or pondering deeply the changing nature of society. He got where he is by managing how the media report on decisions that have already been taken, decisions that are irrevocable, decisions that need not be explained persuasively and with an emphasis on shut up and do as you're bloody well told. He got where he is by pandering to boofheads, and by being one.

Christensen may be right in thinking that sexist, racist crap plays well in his electorate. Abbott, as Prime Minister of the nation, has wider responsibilities. To focus on Christensen is to let Abbott off the hook, once again, which is how he got there and why he gives great hope and succour to worms like Christensen.

Christensen is a generation younger from Abbott but cut from much the same cloth. They were never fearless investigative journalists, but could be relied upon to pad out an already established conclusion, or create a diversion as required. Abbott is playing a double game and Christensen is happy to play along. Calls for Abbott to rein in Christensen are calls to a sense of decency that the current Prime Minister lacks, and did not ever have (no, Irfan, never). You can't persuade such people, but you can vote them out and stop assuming they might have anything useful or constructive to say. Vote for people who engage on important decisions that are yet to be taken rather than look-at-me stunts and diversions.


  1. Has anyone else noticed how Fairfax papers deny their readers the opportunity to comment on columns like that?

    And if they do, they refuse any comment that links to an external site... which means that readers who have not stumbled across blogs like this one may never realise how poorly served they are by mainstream media.

    1. Fairfax rarely allows links to external sites, in comments or in articles. You could say that's their right, but that would be a very narrow view.

    2. audioio, Present company excepted, I have found it's far far better to ignore the bottom half of the internet. Fairfax comments usually lead off with a liberal hack(er) running interference, then 90% of the followups are poor sucks who don't know they have been gamed. Best ignored.

  2. Gosh. George on the front bench. Now there is a thought.

    Of course George was able to act like the defender of free speech and democracy and nationalism and decency and common sense and the Sunday roast at mum's and the Boxing Day test and pinstriped suits and blue ties and good ole Aussie val-yews because he was always going to speak at the rally on behalf of his approving leader.

    Never mind that some of the good folk who rally under the Southern Cross have swastikas inked on their heads. They are not Nazis. What are they then George and Tony?

    Paul Keating once observed that Abbott had united the extreme right of the Liberal Party. He was absolutely right.

    You are on the money with BB too.

    I wonder where it will all lead?

  3. I'm not familiar with this Irfan guy's column's, but this quote...'Abbott and his allies worked hard to ensure One Nation was made accountable for financial irregularities.' Holy crap, what kind of mental gymnastics did he manage, to come to that conclusion?
    Abbott went after One Nation for one reason only, to stop them as an electoral fratricide threat - to halt the hiving off of the crazies and hard right LNP voters. That was core reason, and it was Abbott's imitative and job - he put a far greater effort into that than he ever did into his Health portfolio. In fact, that hatchet work is all I seem to really recall Abbott doing with any enthusiasm and gusto in his entire time in Howard's cabinet.
    Abbott went in boots first to protect and maintain his party's electoral umbrella over the far right nutters back then, and he certainly wants to keep them on board now, he just needs some one else - Christensen - to do the dirty job of courting them these days.

  4. McKenzie and Mccormack, maybe canavan or Chester are getting promoted for the Nationals.George is running interference but he is not front bench material.

    1. In Abbott's Australia, he may well be.

    2. McKenzie and Chester are from Victoria, increasingly irrelevant to the Coalition. I'll give you Canavan, and McCormack if he doesn't get ambushed by an indy, but otherwise Christensen is doing everything he needs to do. I'm with you, QO.

    3. George might not be front bench material, QO, but I'm flat-out thinking of any of Abbott's front bench who are.

    4. Chester is already a parliamentary secretary, gives away he is being considered

  5. Perhaps beef producers in Christenson's electorate will realise what his campaign against Muslims generally and in particular against halal certification means for their main markets. They might vote with their pockets.
    Rais, Thornlie WA.

    1. I doubt it. The lack of understanding of cause and effect demonstrated by many Australians is terrifying.

  6. Yes and the Reclaim Rally in Victoria attracted similar characters...with no m.p's in sight like Christenson

    Your analysis is correct. ..Sydneys liberals are indeed a very different breed Andrew.

    It's political suicide to do that in Melbourne with a very strong Jewish /Greek /Indian Community amongst many other groups

    He's the student political pig who never grew up in my opinion. ..the I.P.A's far right wing cousin.