22 March 2011

The blind leading the naked

Nobody really thinks Tony Abbott would be better off if he embraced beliefs about our future economic growth that he doesn't really support. He's not big on basic economics, so the idea of decoupling economic growth from growth in carbon emissions is clearly too hard.

This piece was originally going to be a tongue-in-cheek rightwing rant about how Tony Abbott should ditch all pretence at moderation, how he should affirm that climate change is crap and that refugee boats should be pushed out to see regardless of the danger to human life involved - mainly because I'd love to see Abbott be honest for a change, and I'd love to see the rightwing bluff well and truly called. Nobody is being fooled by the various evasions, token gestures and outright bullshit that Abbott and other Libs are trailing behind them. This is your big chance, Liberal rightwing - don't let it slide by in a drizzle of well-let-me-say-this.

Instead, there was this. Niki Savva was slightly less nasty this week (not one mention of Julia Gillard's make-up, even though it's probably made from petrochemicals!). She substituted it instead with a less pointed sarcasm against the world generally, but she still brought bucketloads of stupid.
IF Tony Abbott could only embrace the new global religion where belief in climate change is obligatory and in God optional, then he would spare himself the punishment of its spawn, the New Inquisition, and be better off politically if not spiritually.

The whole idea of claiming climate change is a religion rather than a science implies that there is no objective, provable truth about climate change, or that if there is it is obscured by the very institution that would preach it.

I don't know who "the New Inquisition" is and neither does Niki Savva. To rub her nose in her own pseudo-realism: I know that Muammar Gaddafi is killing people who don't support him, but I am not convinced that the Chairman of the IPCC is doing likewise.
The climate change religion purges dissenters.

You can't be purged if you were never really part of the religion.
Listen to the language of these latter-day evangelists: "I believe climate change is real; I have always believed climate change was caused by human activity; I believe Australians agree that climate change is real; the Australian people voted for me knowing I believe climate change is real; the Liberal Party, in the modern age, climate change deniers ..."

That was Julia Gillard, in case you couldn't tell.

Gillard is hardly the only person who recognises both that a) you can have economic growth without emissions growth; and b) if that's what you want for Australia, voting for the Liberal Party will do more harm than good. I still say, drop the pretence and say it loud and proud: vote Liberal if you think climate change is crap.
The Prime Minister does not believe in God, although the muscled-up caucus God Squad, as fellow MPs call the right-wing grouping that staged a mini revolt recently, sustains her.

That's the difference between the Labor God Squad and the Liberal one. Liberals have lost preselection because they're gay, or they are philanderers, or because they don't believe in church intrusion into aspects of social life (such as schools, medical procedures, etc). Plenty of Labor people with the same attributes have slipped through their party's processes unscathed. They then get into Parliament and sneer at the Liberals for being run by religious zealots: SA Labor Senator Linda Kirk is the only exception to that rule I can think of. The men who can make this stick, men like Joe de Bruyn and Senator Don Farrell, are not young men; those who might be expected to take over from them, Tony Burke or Mark Butler, might toe the factional line behind closed doors but they are not going to pole-axe a colleague for personal reasons (e.g. sexual preference), like the Liberals do.

Speaking of Tony Burke and climate change: Burke is the Minister responsible for the Bureau of Meterology. Cardinal George Pell criticised the head of the Bureau, Dr Greg Ayers, calling him "unscientific" and claiming "I spend a lot of time studying this stuff". Burke has a responsibility to stand up for Ayers and repudiate Pell, but I bet he shirks it.

See what happens when you mix climate change and religion? Let's drop that rubbish right now.
Abbott on the other hand, who readily professes his faith in God but was unable to tolerate the strictures of the seminary, finds it hard to be so unswerving in his belief in scientists. They are, after all, only human.

So are voters, Niki. So are you. So are economists, and a good many of those who commission filler for The Australian.
The Coalition was deeply divided on the issue, compared with only mildly divided now. Abbott did not express his unease at that meeting and in fact had been quoted in The Australian the day before effectively urging his colleagues to fall into line. It was only later that day across the border in regional Victoria his inconvenient little truth popped out.

He was guest speaker at a community forum at the home of the Beaufort Crows to help out the newly selected candidate for the seat of Wannon, Liberal up-and-comer Dan Tehan.

An hour late, Abbott walked in while Tehan was addressing the 120-strong crowd.

Most of the questioning was about climate change - not hostile, just your usual laconic country Australians wanting to know why Australia was acting and why it was acting ahead of most of the rest of the world.

Australia isn't acting ahead of the rest of the world, and Abbott had a responsibility to point that out. Which Liberal MP would do anything but laugh when told by Tony Abbott to show some discipline? He also had a responsibility to not get sucked into every rip and downdraft going, to truckle to whatever crowd he is addressing: climate skeptic when talking to Alan Jones, mealy-mouthed climate convert to Tony Jones, and yet he's a conviction politician.
The polls would have to drop a long way before any serious rumblings emerge against Abbott.

Rubbish. The leader should lift the party. Abbott is dragging the Liberal Party down. People want to vote Liberal but under Abbott, they just can't.
There is no threat to his leadership now except the threat Abbott poses to himself.

What about the fact that he is all that stands between Julia Gillard and political oblivion? He is like one of those bad guys in bad movies who ties up the plucky heroine, puts her on the path to certain death (e.g. strapped to a conveyor belt leading to a bandsaw), and then laboriously explains the whole plot, which gives her time to escape, foil the plot and cap it all off with a witty remark. Abbott has to go.
"We should take precautions against risks and threats, potential ones, as well as actual ones, but I don't think we should assume that the highest environmental challenge, let alone the great moral social and political challenge of our time, is to reduce our emissions."

The story here is not that climate change science is not yet settled: the story is that the strutting Hamlet we call our Opposition Leader is a flake. It's time to give up on the guy. What, then, is "the great moral social and political challenge of our time"? The Waratahs' front row?
Liberal MPs were gobsmacked. Two weeks ago Abbott instructed them to stick to the economic arguments against a carbon tax and avoid environmental debates.

There he was doing the exact opposite. "God knows what happened there," a frontbencher said.

Why were they gobsmacked? Do they have no memories at all? Do they not know that nothing is more typical of the man than flaky, don't-do-as-I-do anti-leadership? It might be a breach of "media discipline" but it's not at all untypical of Tony Abbott.
Economic arguments will determine the fate of the carbon tax.

Nah, I reckon it will be politics, quid-pro-quo and a lather of bluster on the side. Only people who spent too long in the eyrie of the Treasurer's office go for this ├ľkonomie ├╝ber alles stuff.
Almost 13 years ago, the GST package proposed the abolition of 10 taxes and promised $12bn in tax cuts. In 2007, the Coalition went to the election with $34bn in tax cuts fully paid for, no strings, and still got done.

The former was part of a coherent reform package, the latter was utterly disconnected from any reform at all. Lesson: first reform, then compensation. A government that offers compensation without reform is bribing its executioners. Niki Savva, being a doyenne, missed that lesson and is lecturing people from a position of extraordinary self-delusion.
To quote Amanda Vanstone, $5bn won't even buy families a sandwich and milkshake.

Five billion dollars would do wonders, you idiot - and it's a misquote (the original amount was $5). For a population of 22.3m, it's $224.22 a head - from whence does Madame Savva get her sandwiches and milkshakes?
A halfway decent treasurer could double that without imposing a new tax or raising a sweat.

Are we talking a tax take, or a tax cut? Are Australians overtaxed or undertaxed these days? Is it easier or harder for Treasurers to put taxes through Parliament when they have stonking great Howard-style majorities, as opposed to a minefield of pushme-pullyou arrangements with independents? Can you imagine Peter Costello dealing with Adam Bandt or Tony Windsor without losing his mind, and in such a context would Niki Savva's opinion be worth any damn thing at all?
Abbott has to convince Australians they will be worse off if a carbon tax is enacted, not that climate change is not real ...

But to accept the latter is to be a bit more accommodating about the former. To reject the latter proposition is the only way to get up the head of steam necessary to bury the former. Abbott knows that, surely.
... remember that climate change helped destroy John Howard, Brendan Nelson, Turnbull and Rudd ...

Because they all minced around it, like Abbott is doing now. The story is right there, Niki, slapping you in the face - and if you'd been in journalism as long as I have you'd see that. Abbott is in the departure lounge, all dope and no more rope, and here's you giving him advice on the mot juste.
Maybe both, depending.

See, only doyennes can write shit like that. Anyone else, and it's just empty nonsense.
Any other doubts he should keep to himself.

I doubt Tony Abbott will and should be Prime Minister, and I'd tell anyone. He's a clown and must never govern us again: that's the only political story you need to tell. Nobody who had any genuine respect for religion would compare it to climate change, and the reverse is true too.

Niki Savva has no sense, no nous and no respect. Because she talks nonsense, and her head looks like a fist draped in puff pastry, it is imperative she stays off the telly too.

Update 23 Mar: Tony Abbott is finished.


  1. Great analysis Andrew, except Abbott is not a clown he is a dangerous sociopath.

  2. No, if he were a dangerous sociopath he'd be more self-disciplined. He's a clown.

  3. Nice re-reading of the article, but I think you're giving it way too much credit. I read it as pure sarcasm, a puff piece couched as a bit of "counsel from a friend" for Tony.

  4. It's worth reading Frankfurter's little book On Bullshit to put Abbott in context. Howard (for example) cared about the truth - even when he was being dishonest, he knew the difference between truth and falsehood. Abbott is a bullshitter. He doesn't care about the truth.

  5. Clowns don't come within one seat of winning an election after one term in opposition.

    Whatever delusions are coming from your extreme narcissism Elder, it is not all about you.

  6. You're right about Frankfurter's book, David.

    Anon3, clearly they do. I notice you haven't pointed out the delusions, or had the guts to put your name to them.

  7. John Bignucolo23/3/11 6:11 pm

    I don't know Andrew, ditching all pretence at moderation, affirming that climate change is crap and that refugee boats should be pushed out to see regardless of the danger to human life involved (when translated to American) worked well for the Republican, nee Tea Party in the recent US midterm elections. The Republicans won back control of the US House of Representatives with a healthy majority, several Senate seats and governorships across the country.

    We share a similar media culture, dominated by News Corporation and a journalistic mindset predicated on he said/she said false equivalences. If Tony Abbott went full Tea Party tomorrow, the Australian would follow in heartbeat with rest of the conservative commentariat, and News Corporation close behind. The ABC would also join in, if only to go along to get along.

  8. It looks like his only hope now, John.

  9. I agree with Andrew, people should be open and proud of their views, not try to hide them if they think they're unpopular. Abbott should be unapologetic about not believing in human-induced climate change or wanting to push refugee boats back to see. Many may not agree with him, but he'd at least be honest. If that then wins him votes and an election, then that's what truly reflects Australia, as ugly as some may find it.

    I think political correctness has done us a disservice. Humans are still animals, we have instinctive and primal reactions to things and we're frequently illogical and emotive. We need to recognise that rather than subscribe to this post-modern idea that we're all capable of being, well, Vulcans (pardon the Star Trek analogy).

    As a gay man, I have no problem with people being homophobic. It's their right not to like gay people or to feel uncomfortable around them. As long as that doesn't translate into negative actions towards gay people I don't care. But these days it's social death to admit you're not comfortable around homosexuals, so I spend my life surrounded by straight men all asking how my partner is and acting like they're completely OK with me, but I note tell-tale signs of body language or omitted social indicators (often that they have no idea of) that show that they're really uncomfortable around me. I hate that. I mix with a couple of guys who are big enough to make it clear they don't like my sexuality, they are civil and I respect them for their honesty and their strength to state their position and I don't create awkward situations by inviting them over for a BBQ. The need for dishonesty to maintain social harmony is stifling, we should be big enough to be able to coexist with people who don't share our political, cultural, sexual, religious or moral values.

    So I say to Tony to shout his religious and other views from the rooftops, because since he's taken the leadership of the Libs he's sublimated what are some deeply held views, and I cannot respect him one bit for it. Because at least he actually believes in something, something that I can't really say about Ms. Gillard.

  10. Meanwhile he's now proudly appearing with angry right wing protesters holding up signs proclaiming Julia Gillard to be a bitch.

    Prime Ministerial? Doubtful. This is getting beyond Latham-esque.

    I'm feeling pretty grateful towards Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott right now. They were all that stood between the Office of the Prime Minister and this utter, utter cretin.

  11. As far as I'm aware, the people who wrote Abbott's preferred religious text were also human, as, I presume, were all those who taught him about it. What's Savva's point?