22 May 2014

Looking for a second chance

Working on newspapers, you're writing to a certain length, often very brief pieces. You tend to look for easy forms of humor - women can't drive, things like that. That's about the level of a lot of newspaper humor. It becomes a form of laziness.

- Tom Wolfe
Before last year's election Tony Abbott not only had the gall to not only make promises for this term of parliament but the next, or what he called "our second term". He assumed he would win government because the press gallery waved him through, and also polls. He assumed his government would get a second term because every government since Scullin has, and because there has traditionally been a residual loyalty to political parties that has limited the size of swings against them.

It was an article of faith at this blog that Abbott was so hopelessly contradictory that he'd never get into office at all, and never mind the polls. Having been mugged by reality it should surprise no-one that I'm death-riding Abbott but it is only fair that this blog continues to treat polls outside the last week of an election campaign as a waste of time. I wanted to believe this article by Waleed Aly but he has come to (almost) the right conclusion in the wrong way.
For now the popular focus is on whether or not Abbott can recover; whether this will be the fortnight that ultimately relegates him to a single term.
Now the popular focus is on how we got ourselves done over by this dickhead whom the media said wouldn't be this bad. Now the popular focus is on how we reverse the doing-over; there are opportunities here for Labor and for Clive Palmer, but not Bob Katter nor Malcolm Turnbull nor even Christine Milne. Whether Tony Abbott lives or dies is of no importance but to the press gallery, whose assurances gave Abbott's the weight they would have otherwise lacked.
But in truth there are bigger questions here, and the Coalition faces a conundrum far tougher than merely figuring out how to win the next election. And it’s a conundrum created well before last Tuesday.
Promising. Given Aly's well-received and earnest disquisition on the nature of conservatism you'd think he would go into the reasons why Abbott's government is starting to implode. He kind of does, but not really.
The reason the government broke so many promises in this budget is simple: the promises they made from Opposition were wildly contradictory ... A platform like that was always going to have its day of reckoning.
Quite so. It's a real pity that the press gallery, and other journalists covering public affairs, didn't pick up on this. To do so might have returned a government that was policy-capable but personally and factionally riven, and where it and the press gallery were daily reinforced in their mutual disdain. Aly too could have explored this before last September, but he didn't.
The tragedy is that Abbott didn’t need to do it.
Oh but he did. The only alternative was some sort of drawn-out examination of what it means to be conservative (or even liberal) in 21st century Australia, which would not necessarily have seen Tony Abbott as leader. He staked everything on shutting down debate and publicity-seeking stunts, and damn it if it didn't work.
He is the Prime Minister today because Labor had descended into an unelectable mess.
This is to confuse cause and effect.

Labor did introduce policies that were not only popular but well-considered. They did what conventional wisdom would hope from a political party in government, consulting with stakeholders, making decisions and then selling, selling, selling. Abbott did not engage with those policies as policies, he rejected even the most basic premises necessary for a public debate. What Abbott did was throw policy babies out with Labor bathwater, pooh-poohing them on the basis of fiscal cost and Labor credibility.

Labor couldn't win a game where the rules of consultation and evidence-based policy counted for nothing, or only ever counted against them, which explains why they didn't. This is what Bruce Hawker never understood, looking for a new form of words when the old ones counted for nothing.

In this, Abbott was assisted by journalists who were (and are) ill-equipped to deal with policy issues. Their experience of policy was (and is) long, earnest and dull tomes written by public servants. They have no training or interest in policy issues, and do not engage with stakeholders except to extract "grabs" (quotations), which they do not examine but which acts as filler for their output.

What press gallery journalists understand is "message discipline" (where politicians use the same phrases and positions in interviews, press releases, parliamentary statements, and other forms of political communication) and its absence (e.g. the backgrounding that undermined Julia Gillard in favour of Kevin Rudd, or outbursts by Coalition 'mavericks' like Senator Ian Macdonald or Dennis Jensen). Waleed Aly thinks that Abbott is departing from some high point of principle in order to wallow in contradictory and self-defeating policy; the fact is that contradictory and self-defeating policy is all there ever was, or is, to this government.
Abbott had the freedom not to promise a set of contradictions. He had the freedom to keep his options open and perhaps even to tell us some budgetary truth.
Rubbish. The Coalition took a decade to develop a consistent response to Hawke and Keating, and that included being stuck with Medicare. In terms of "budgetary truth", Ross Gittins shows why neither Hockey nor Abbott could go there.

What you are seeing in the Abbott government is the sort of thing that happens to all jerry-rigged constructs; it looked fine so long as experienced people didn't look too closely, but was bound to collapse on the poor buggers who trusted (and who wanted to trust) the experts.
He told us budgetary fantasy as though he hadn’t given a moment’s thought to what would happen after the election.
He hadn't. What he managed to do was convince members of the Coalition that he and his team would be clever enough to work it out once they got into government. He also convinced many members of the press gallery of this ability, who have all seen more than a few budgets and governments come and go, yet chose not to scrutinise Abbott's jerry-rigged construct too closely. They can only cover up their wilful blindness by pretending the government's stumbles were not obvious before the election, or (as Aly does) that it's all down to unfortunate choices on Abbott's part.

For new readers of this blog: I knew Abbott was bullshit and said so at the time. This is why I call bullshit on the press gallery and political commentators now, and why anyone who objects to such effrontery can and should piss off.
The result is that he brought the Coalition to government with a mandate for almost nothing. Repealing the carbon and mining taxes, sure. Stopping the boats by whatever militant means he could conceive, yes. Paid parental leave, arguably.
Aly is right here ...
But what else? Nothing on education, nothing on middle class welfare and especially nothing on industrial relations. In short, nothing that might help repair a budget in “crisis”, real or imagined.
... but wrong here:
  • Abbott and Pyne promised to match Labor on education, which is one of those pre-election facts that excuse-makers for the Australian media need to and do overlook.
  • In terms of middle-class welfare, there was a whole campaign by Abbott and the Murdoch press to persuade us that people on over $150k were doing it tough.
  • On industrial relations - there was plenty on "productivity", and given the disdain for ICT and education as means to boost this, "industrial relations reform" is pretty much the only scope for action left. You'll note that Labor people who attempted to question Coalition policy in this area at the time were simply accused of "scaremongering", and that such accusations kyboshed further investigation by the traditional media.
You've gotta do what you can, I suppose.
But with this budget, the government was behaving as though it had the most monstrous of mandates.
Waleed Aly has been lectured, and delivered lectures, on politics at uni. He knows that a government with 90 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives has a mandate all right, and that governments do things that may have escaped attention before the election. This is why you don't elect a government with "message discipline"; they're hiding something, and because the press gallery generally lacks investigative skills it can't tell us what they might be. Aly's earlier definition of what this government's mandate is/isn't was less than adequate, and is out of line with the government's own definition.

Abbott got where he is by being bold, yet here his boldness put him at a disadvantage rather than the advantage to which he is accustomed. Aly can't explain why this situation is different if he sticks to his line that Abbott had options, that he could have done better. Abbott's jerry-rigged, hang-the-consequences approach to the budget are the same as his approach to everything else in public life (heads up: they'll be his same approach to next year's budget).
The reason the government’s reckoning has been so brutal is not merely that the public clearly thinks the budget zeroes in mercilessly on the most vulnerable. It is that it seemed to come from nowhere, without the government even bothering to convince us of the virtues of this approach first.
There are four core conservative beliefs which are coming to the fore in the way that Abbott and Hockey sell this budget. It is a shame that Waleed Aly, of all people, skates past them and treats them as somehow puzzling.

First, that people somehow know they have overindulged themselves, and accept that the day of reckoning must come. The Coalition believe that all their scaremongering about Labor debt and irresponsibility, every day for years and years, has made this case. They are surprised that it hasn't been made, and that the debate can move on. This failure gives rise to deep questions about the utility of "message discipline", and of the operating models for the press gallery and the Australian media more broadly.

Second, that people somehow accept the authority of Big Daddy to come in and set things right. If you dismiss the credibility of the previous government it follows that the credibility of its opposition must be higher than is healthy for any group of politicians; the Coalition basked in the credibility radiating from the press gallery and came to believe it, and can't quite believe it's gone. Abbott still tries his folksy homilies and winky refusal to get caught up in other people's dramas, but though Aly notes it doesn't work he can't really explain why. This failure gives rise to deep questions about abuse of trust, not only for politicians but also for the co-dependent media.

Third, conservatives can't tell the difference between a fad and a fundamental shift. They assure themselves that all will be well when they don't really understand what's going on. The idea of the "dole bludger" is a 1970s idea, arising from times of full employment which are long since past. Chances are you know someone who's unemployed and/or who's likely to become so, and they are probably not out surfing or smoking dope. As far as Kevin Andrews is concerned, people wouldn't know about dole bludgers unless Alan Jones and Neil Mitchell told them (see authority, above). In the 1970s nobody was taking money from dole bludgers to give to Lang Hancock, no matter how much he bellyached; today his daughter plays a lesser public role, but the flow of money has been successfully reversed.

Fourth, Waleed Aly has written extensively about multiculturalism and different voices defining what it is to be Australian.

It's traditional for the Finance Minister to do the media rounds in selling the Budget - certainly Penny Wong, Nick Minchin and Peter Walsh were lifters-not-leaners in this regard. Yet, though he was active in pre-budget media, less has been heard from Senator Matthias Cormann than one might expect. Nobody, apart from Abbott and Hockey, is more across the Budget, yet Cormann is relegated to wonky interviews out of prime time where he appears in the media at all. Always be suspicious when a media tart goes to ground. Why is the Finance Minister so conspicuously absent in the wake of the Budget?

Cormann has used his leaden Belgian accent to denounce opponents as "economic girly-men" in the manner of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Canberra Times cartoonist David Pope draws Cormann with a red light where his right eye should be, like the eponymous character from Terminator. A tough-guy persona is usually no disadvantage in politics and it works for Cormann among WA Liberals. However, a Budget is all about the values and priorities for Australia; Australians resent foreigners messing in such debates, and even the Royals tiptoe gingerly around them. Cormann is Australian, by law and in spirit, but not in the accent of his speech. The government is not using Cormann to full effect because they feel his accent would detract from the message they are trying to get across.

Joe Hockey, a man who just wants to be loved, is obviously gutted by the hatred for a work that has gone out under his name. By contrast Abbott cares too little: suck it up bitches, I'm king of the castle. They need someone who knows this budget inside out, who's not a softie but who's not completely insensitive. They need someone like Labor's John Faulkner. Maybe Kelly O'Dwyer or Little Jimmy Briggs might step up in future years, but none are ready now. What they've got is Cormann.

They're not using him because that relentless, carefully cultivated Terminator persona is the exact opposite of what this government needs right now. Again, what looked like a strength is now a weakness for this government, and again Waleed Aly (nor any other commentator, to be fair) isn't explaining why.
The political calculation here is obvious. This was the tough, axe-wielding budget you get out of the way early in your first term, banking you will have plenty of time to win people back.
Again, there comes a point where the oft-used gambit fails, and we are clearly at the point where the axe-wielding budget has joined the ranks of dead tactics.

The other thing about this is that it assumes a political environment where there are only two dimensions to go, where a swing away from the Coalition can only be a swing toward Labor, and that support swinging back is as easy and natural as it was in swinging away. With the rise of independents, Clive Palmer and others, a decline in support for the government is less a swing than a shattering of something brittle and irreplaceable. Abbott is by nature an oppositional figure, an iconoclast; how will such a man win back support for an incumbent government? Culture-war wittering simply isn't working, but it's all Abbott has.
So it’s not that the Coalition cannot be re-elected in 2016. It’s that now it can only be re-elected via a parade of sweeteners. Precisely what these could be is unclear. For John Howard it took the form of family benefits and tax cuts. Abbott has already trashed the former, and might find the latter difficult in the short term if he really cares at all about the budget. Whatever Abbott finds, it will go against the course he has charted so far.
He's trashed his credibility. Admit it, he's buggered. Let us have no more jibber-jabber of second terms, 2016 and all that.

Abbott's a tough guy or he's nothing. The Senate looks set to maul the budget, ripping out the savings while leaving the costs in place, leaving the government looking dithery. Abbott won't look dithery. Cormann won't look dithery. It will be Hockey who looks dithery, especially in the face of unexpected events like a Chinese downturn or comatose consumer confidence.

This is what John Howard's budgets were like in the 1970s. Howard could only salvage his reputation by broadly supporting the reforms of the Labor government which saw him replaced as Treasurer, but because he made harsh reforms bipartisan Labor went easy on Howard until his silly comments on race meant they couldn't save him. Hockey is not the next Prime Minister, but does that mean he's finished?
... Abbott might already have brought his government’s reform phase to an end. What industrial relations policy, for instance, could he possibly risk taking to the next election? How well placed is he to hold a mature debate on raising GST revenue? ... Abbott simply has no political capital to spend on these things.
Abbott doesn't do drawn-out consultation. Abbott does high-intensity, short-term, pig-in-a-poke stuff. State governments will lose $80b starting in five weeks unless GST is jacked up fast; 'mature debate' my arse. It was silly to pretend he would be different just because other politicians are.
Labor need only rail against Medicare co-payments and petrol prices, now.
Everyone and no-one is in favour of lower petrol prices, but Labor are pretty reliable when it comes to a public health system. They should have implemented it in the late 1940s (and Menzies would have left it in place if they had), but twice since then they came out of opposition and built a national public health system. Chances are they will do so again if they have to.

Labor should frame the $7 co-payment as a red-tape imposition on small business. This would mess with Liberal heads and only their rusted-on supporters would laugh at it. GPs are not renowned for Labor sympathies but a focus on their corner of the medical profession is long overdue from a policy perspective, and would give that party a grass-roots focus it currently lacks.
Abbott’s conduct in Opposition meant he came into government with little mandate. His conduct in government ensures next time around, he won’t be able to seek one.
The Liberal Party as an organisation should have thought of that. The whole idea of modifying the leader's stances is not to bring him down a peg for its own sake, but to give a government longevity through flexibility. This is the job for which people like Brian Loughnane get paid. The prospect of contributing to this once enticed hundreds of thousands of Australians to join the party. This is the sort of thing that Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull could once have been relied upon to do as a matter of course, but those guns are silent. This leaves Cory Bernardi and Frydenberg puddling up the shallow end of the political gene pool, but it's taken many choices over many years to lead the Liberals to this bereft, infertile place.

The press gallery won't wave Abbott through, but given that they can't distinguish policy gold from policy mud they will only focus on personality and stale ideas (blaming you and me and the pollies for the low standard of debate, never themselves). The residual loyalty that has limited the size of swings has almost gone; as with floods and bushfires, extreme political events are becoming more regular (but still shockingly unexpected, apparently).

For the Liberal Party, Abbott has done his job; like one of those creatures that lives only to reproduce, having won his election and with no real policy commitment Abbott may now be discarded. They had a challenge to develop post-Abbott (or meta-Abbott) flexibility - but the win was enough, so stuff them as they try to reap the whirlwind.

This doesn't inversely mean that Shorten is assured of becoming PM, but his negotiation skills are streets ahead of Abbott's. Shorten is better suited to the current and anticipated political environment than Abbott. It is becoming clearer why the Federal ALP caucus voted against their membership to install Shorten. As hung parliaments become the norm (and the decline of the major parties leads to no other conclusion), the accumulated knowledge of those journalists and pundits who know only huge majorities will quickly become redundant.

Waleed Aly should see the predicament the Coalition is in and call it, rather than letting the headline do it for him. It is not true that Abbott had other courses to take the nation or his party in other than the one he took. The traditional media have no right to be surprised by the intellectual and moral poverty of this government, having observed it up close and being complicit in its current predicament. That said, I have no doubt the surprise is genuine, but to be honest it induces contempt rather than sympathy.

This sort of thinking arises from a discredited media insisting that the public give it more credit than it is due, and a government which is doing likewise. Aly's pulled punches and unconvincing excuses are symptomatic of too much time in the declining media - no good can come from that.


  1. Simply excellent Andrew. In particular I really liked how you used the Lib slogans of the day back at them.

    The Libs never really thought this one through did they? All they wanted was to get back in power through fair means or foul, and as you have so often stated, did not do any policy work while in opposition. Considering Abbott's oppose-at-all-costs stance and a complete inability to negotiate, this is not going to end well for the current government. I predict he will be replaced by the end of the year as there is no clear way the government can get out the mess they have made with him still around. Indeed, I don't think they can get out of this mess at all as they don't have much choice for who will replace him. In the public eye, their credibility has been shot and now it's a matter of counting the days...

  2. Andrew...

    Waleed is a popular lecturer here in Melbourne and a very smart man.

    Give him credit!
    He has a very healthy ego.

    He writes about Multiculturalism as a
    man who has been the subject of
    nasty racism towards him and his
    lovely wife Susan. (A sociologist that's
    highly respected.)

    They have been subjected to some very nasty attacks as moderate Muslims.

    Do you see any baggage at all from him?

    No...! He's smarter than half of the interviewees he stings on his radio show , exposing the holes in their arguments.

    What's the equivalent in Sydney?

    After viewing the protests at Sydney University with some very brutal behaviour by thuggish policemen towards students..an investigation should be conducted.


    1. Thanks Repugnant,

      The comments above relate to one article. I agree, he's very good on radio and nasty racist attacks are always abhorrent.

    2. Thanks for your reply Andrew.

      Just to clarify, a paragraph was missing in my post .

      My argument was disjointed as a result.

      Cheers ;)

  3. Your criticism of the press gallery is unrelenting and uncompromising which is a good thing. To be fair to Aly, he is not the worst of them by any stretch.

    He may be guilty of blindness like the rest but at least he tries to have a different perspective to the rest. Idiots like Hartcher and Grafton have been writing the same articles for years

  4. His daughters situation isn't creepy at all for those trying to spin it that way.

    He's allowed a scholarship to be purchased for his dimwitted daughters as he slashes education.

    That's a creepy father who is a great man of character?


    Would Malcolm Turnball do this when he has the financial means?

    I think not!

    You're right...an idiotic man of contradictions.

  5. Andrew great article - I always read here but rarely comment. Do you see this as the beginning of the end of the Liberal Party or are we closer to the end full stop? I'm thinking of the ICAC that began as ALP bashing and has gone on to snare the Liberal Party in a heap of scandal .We now have reports of Russel Broadbent accepting donations from a known crime figure (today's Age) and the hint of John Howard accepting a 'bribe' (donation to the party) to allow the said crime figure to remain in Australia after a deportation order was made against him. If this becomes more public and with other possible revelations to come I really don't see how the Liberal Party can reclaim any integrity or respect.

    1. I think what will happen to the major parties is a bit like those longterm forecasts for the sun, where they reduce in size without necessarily disappearing. The Liberal Party today, like the UAP of the 1930s, is the party of big business; the idea that this powerful force would allow itself to be disenfranchised politically is rubbish. In the foreseeable future itand Labor will have to negotiate power with smaller parties, and I think Labor is better equipped to do that. But, I've been wrong before.

  6. Kelly O'Dwyer has little chance of promotion in the current iteration of the Liberals, no matter her ability, because she is female.
    Little Jimmy B is not bright enough, but his gender and wearing the right shade of tie will see him advance well beyond the peter principle.

    1. What about Tim Wilson?

      A professional politician that is a gay liberal which ads some diversity amongst the conservatives...they accept him!

      Many in the know think he's a smart guy albeit his interesting shenanigans outside of politics. ..ahem.

      Jamie Briggs is dimwitted and embarrassing to watch on Q and A.

      Andrew, are you o.k?

      Can't you see the lightweight in that guy?

    2. I wish Waleed would enter politics and I'm sure he's been approached by the major parties.

      He would make a significant and thoughtful contribution to our public service..

      Jason Yat Sen Li is a true star!

      Watch that space.

      When Jamie Briggs equates
      Charlotte Dawson as being
      successful Andrew, , that's his
      calibre of women?

      C'mon Andrew, you can do better than that mate!

  7. It's healthy for Waleed Aly to be criticised intelligently. I like his show and I like his articles, and find him intelligent and engaging, but I, too, am irritated by the aspects of his thinking that are superficial and, to be frank, self-satisfied. You meet very intelligent people all the time whose strength and weakness is the same, or very nearly the same: their intelligence, and their satisfaction with it. Waleed Aly often strikes me as a person whose easy comprehension of a subject makes for great interviews and illuminating explanations but for some relatively superficial analysis at times. Someone of his gifts should be occasionally told, nah, you can do better.

    1. John U..

      I think he has pressures to be part of the Insiders club and not there to rock the boat too

      Please correct me if I'm wrong, but he was discovered by Tom Switzer (a liberal)

      That's the kind of tokenistic Muslim those guys like!

    2. I listened to an interview with Dr Carmen Lawrence with Waleed and she gave him a run for his money.

      He can be outsmarted!

  8. Great read! An intelligent and interesting analysis of an intelligent and interesting article. A Friday morning treat.

  9. An excellent analysis except I don't believe Mathias Cormann is Australian "in spirit". He is a Jesuit-educated, devout economic rationalist who was raised in the German-speaking sector of Belgium and spoke hardly a word of English when he migrated in his early 20s. His meteoric rise in politics would probably have been impossible outside WA. Living in that booming hick state and profiting mightily from it is what has shaped Cormann's distorted views of what is "Australian".

    1. Cormann has clearly made a commitment to this country. His politics aren't mine or yours, but there is no doubt he is participating in this country's political system in the manner in which it was designed to operate. The fact that he is a senior member of a mainstream party, and that many Australians broadly agree with him, proves the point I am making here.

    2. Anon..

      That sounds bigoted to me.

      Is Mr Obama too black for you to accept him as an American?

      Ugh ugh

      What nonsense to even consider his status as being a true Australian!!

    3. Anon, Corman can be as Australian as he want's to be. Sure - his view of Australia is different to mine, but I reckon it's pretty ugly when we start judging people by some measure of Australianess.

  10. Abbotts minders will put him away for a while. He will be able to rehearse stuff so that he doesn't look or sound more of a dickhead than he already is.

    Then our comatose peanut gallery will spruik how Abbott is "back on message" and has control of the "narrative". They will continue to wave him through and continue to slumber.

    1. I admire Ms Credlin for having the tenacity and stamina to polish him and become palatable for the masses.

      That woman will go far me thinks.

  11. I have been in Australia for 40 years and Australian citizen for 38...but still have an accent. There's goes my chance of becoming Finance Minister..Oh well....

  12. Its good to see someone who can actually write an article present it in such an objective no nonsense manner . I read waleeds article a few days ago , I have always enjoyed his stuff always, but at the time I did feel that the article in question was a bit insipid , sort of not wanting to offend anyone , lack of vigour style like he was toying with vauge ideas . Your article is good it tells it as it is and this is what we need . Thanks for the great insights

  13. Andrew, what do you think is going to be the "sweetener" offered to, well... pretty much everyone that isn't the in the 99% that has been shafted in the budget, in two years time.
    Sadly the voting public seem to have very short memories and prolonged apathy and barring a recession I think the Government will at least limp to full term.

    I think they'll muck around with superannuation and offer some tinkering to oldies benefit cards or some such.

    1. It doesn't matter. If 'sweeteners' worked, Howard would have been re-elected in 2007 (and not just in his seat). Nobody will trust them if and when they are offered.

  14. In absolute lockstep with your observations, there was Fran Kelly on Trioli-Rowlands (lovefest) ABC News 24 this morning still unable to come to grips with the simple fact that Abbott is not a PM's bootlace, nor Hockey a Treasurer's handkerchief (no matter how much he has to use his own), that there is no-one in the Coalition Cabinets up to their current job.

    Name one Federal Minister who is any more than 60% capable of the job-title they hold? You can't.

    They are all, from Abbott down (sideways?) Howard's Thirds and Fourths, the also-rans who simply hung in there, and, pitched into power, have no idea and no real hands-on experience to call on - and where they do, Abbott Hockey Bishop(s) Dutton Truss... all that is revealed is incompetence and ideology (mnemonic as speed-reading with as little substance).

    They are the 60 Per Centers, and a country stutters and stumbles in the hands of such. But they can do so much wilful damage with their wilfully determined ignorance.

  15. Andrew - I think the problem is you expect too much from politicians and journalists. In theory, we should have a decent press gallery, keeping them honest. But the reality is it’s not going to happen as Australian’s are reaping the consequences of their apathy. If you have a look at the resumes of the big names in Canberra, vast majority have no life experience, politics is all they know. Look around the Canberra bubble and all you will see is wall to wall knob polishers and narcissists. Journalists are mere Remoras eking out their mutualism existence.

    The reason why the Abbott government is a policy free vacuum is because we are talking about career politicians whose existence is power for power’s sake. Nothing else matters. So really do you think politicians want to concern themselves about making things right after years of suffering the wrongs of the real world? It’s not like any of them have toiled in their own business for years where a slow burning desire has built up in them to make things better. And do you think journalist really care either? That shit doesn’t sell papers and if papers don’t sell how do you think they are going to get a 30 second slot on Sunrise? So for a journalist who has just spent the GDP of a small African state on getting their teeth straightened and polished for their weekly TV appearance, there are more important things to get right than a well-researched article on the benefits of the NBN or Gonski. Like laughing at Kochie’s dad jokes. Personally I don’t think Abbott is all that fussed on whether he keeps the PM post. For him, he has made it, he has won and his name will always be etched in the history books as Australia’s 28th Prime Minister. The fact that he has trashed the LNP brand is merely collateral damage. Yes I’m sure he would like to have another term but I don’t think it’s the be all and end all for him. That is why he looks like the dog that has caught the car, he doesn’t know what to do with it.

    Also I think you assume that if the LNP slide continues that the party will knife him. We all saw how much of a bunch of typical bully guys they really were during the death throes of the Howard Government. Howard knew they were all a bunch of snivelling, pathetic cowards and he stared them down successfully. I don’t see anyone in the current crop who would have the fortitude to knife a current sitting Prime Minister. God forbid that their ethics and morals might jeopardise their ability to maintain power.

    1. I'm not the problem here, buster. I am right to expect more and better from the press gallery, given their access and privileges, and to hell with them when they congratulate one another for living down to their low standards.

      Howard had a more thorough knowledge of the Liberal Party than Abbott does. Howard was tougher and smarter and better entrenched than Abbott is, which is why your parallel doesn't work. Now go back and read a few old posts on this blog and stop telling me how to suck eggs.

  16. my memory serves me very well, I refuse to read those that praised abbott before the election, considering how it turned out as most of us in cyber world predicted they have to know at least I want be reading them after the election.

  17. Waleed Aly is a man of many talents.

    He's also in a band called Robot Child.

    He lectures, gets away with doing The Project/ a.b.c, is bilingual and rocks it!

    He needs constructive criticism at times...you're right!

    His wife is one very lucky lady.

  18. Good article as always Andrew,
    It's also sad that none of our journalists are challenging the assumption that the states can compensate for the $80 billion dollar drop in health/education funding by raising the GST. A quick read of the government document "Report on GST Revenue Sharing Relativities 2012 update" (found here https://www.cgc.gov.au/attachments/article/43/2012_Update_report.pdf ) shows that the states total GST estimate for 2012-2013 was $51 billion. To compensate for the drop in funding, the states GST component would need to rise to $131 billion. This would mean the GST would need to be raised to 25.7% (!).
    The sad thing? I found the data and did the maths for that in under 15 minutes, yet none of our press gallery seems to be able to do basic research and simple maths..

    Also, while your disdain for polls this early in the term are well known (and shared as they are all based on if an election was to be held a week ago, which is a provably false premise), it is worth noting that there are many in both parties and the press who are fully paid up members of the cult of the holy poll. To these faithful, when the leaders popularity is lower than the parties popularity it is a sign that the leader is dragging the party down and the talk moves to finding a new leader. Given that the budget is almost certain to be blocked in its current form and given Mr Abbots "crash or crash through" style, I think his position is starting to look tenuous.

    1. DaveM, the $80b is over ten years, you need to add that to your calculation. By my calculation, it would have to go up to 12%. To be honest, I'm not sure I disagree with raising GST, as long as income tax rates for the poor are significantly lowered in compensation. It's pretty low in this country, and it's harder for the rich to evade GST. I'd want to perform some in depth analysis before I agreed to support it, which I haven't done.

      But I don't think the $80b in cuts is necessarily about GST, I think it's likely to be about privatisation of health and education. For example, changing the way interest is charged on HELP (how I detest that acronym) is the first step in privatising it.

      Chrisopher Pyne, putting the "N" into "CUTS"

    2. Thanks for the reply Ro. I was feeling a little puckish when I wrote that and deliberately made the oft repeated assumption that the $80b was all coming out this year (after all, that's how the media is portraying it right? :-)) And hear you are, you pointed out my error politely, and gave a corrected value. No name calling, no blame, just honest facts. I guess this means that I have a better chance of being employed my Murdoch than you (to my shame).

      You're probably right about the privatization thing as well, the coalition does seem overly fond of a health system run more like the American model, despite the obvious flaws.

  19. Abbott is talking again about a DD says the Guardian.

    Is he foxing or does he see a new election as a way of salvaging his pride if he loses it. Brave Tony Puts Country First sort of thing.

    I think there is every chance Abbott will go to a DD. Very few believe

  20. Continued:
    Sorry the text froze so I had to send it off ...
    Where was I?
    I just think Abbott has lost his authority and he will see a DD as a way of salvaging some pride.

  21. Andrew I posted this on Twitter today "Labor should frame the $7 co-payment as a red-tape imposition on small busines.This would mess with Liberal heads" http://t.co/ven7AXu5G1 It's been retweeed many times. Hopefully people have read your article before retweeting. It was excellent. Thank you. Sorry didn't add your twitter tag. Couldn't find it at the time . Anne @sacarlin48

  22. Andrew...

    You should consider coming to Melbourne and doing a gig at The Wheeler Centre?

    The coffee is great here in Melbourne and we're nice people.

    Consider it!

  23. Great article Andrew,
    I look forward to them always.
    Your 'streets ahead' comment on shorten made my day!

  24. I just stumbled on this blog, it is both well informed and hilarious. I love it, and just wasted far too much time looking at previous posts. I like the key premise here a lot - our media landscape is a barren wasteland in which neither editor or journalist does anything to foster an informed public. If only the writing in this blog was actually in our published media - sure it's partisan, but god forbid Australia, it's informed. Now that was all very complimentary so will try and think of something critical to add later...haha