28 January 2015

Tom Switzer's blues

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

- Gimbel/Fox Killing me softly

When I first read this article I thought Switzer was pitching for Peta Credlin's job.

When I read it again it looked as though Switzer was explaining and covering for his mate Abbott, who (like him or not) occupies a job for which he is not suited and not capable. Switzer is hoping to set a high bar for any who might be in a position to displace, or even replace Abbott. He is, however unwittingly, highlighting Abbott's inadequacies: killing him softly while appearing to defend him. Deft work, that.
Sometimes a little straight talking among mates is a good idea. That's especially true when your mate runs the country.
You'll note that this advice is printed in the newspaper - and in the non-Murdoch press at that - rather than being communicated directly mate to mate. If Switzer had wanted to talk to Abbott directly, neither Murdoch nor Fairfax correspondents in the press gallery would ever have found out about it.
Even Bob Hawke says he's a "not a bad bloke".
Is that the same Bob Hawke who said, during the election campaign, that Abbott was a nutcase? Who gave him an earful at Whitlam's funeral?

The following paragraphs are basically Switzer reinforcing his credentials as a friend of Abbott. In times of stress people are quick to see a public statement like this as piling-on - et tu, Switzer? - so he has to do a bit of tip-toeing here around delicate sensibilities and load on the praise with a trowel:
As Prime Minister, Abbott has been courageous and right to advance his belief in border protection. He spoke for Middle Australia in doing so - including many ethnic minorities who support a tough stance against boat people to help boost public confidence in an orderly, large-scale legal immigration policy that serves the national interest.
When you refuse to process applications and return people to certain persecution and death, you can't claim that as orderly. Many people have come to this country from places where demagogues blame foreigners for more problems than they cause, and they are accommodating rather than validating a badly-run and self-defeating policy.

Still, Switzer got where he is by getting along. Abbott and his increasingly skittish supporters are the audience for this tosh. It is not intended to be useful information on how you are governed, dear reader.
Virtually every Liberal and conservative I know agrees that Abbott is in political trouble and that he needs to get back on the policy offensive.
But it is the policies themselves that are offensive, and the ideological monoculture of the party can neither conceive of a new direction nor concede fault with the current trajectory. Switzer's very praise for his mate and his policies limits his scope of action. All that stuff about gradual, incremental change (see below) seems to go out the window once the arse falls out of the polls.

This is a delicate moment for the government and its supporters such as Switzer. They risk falling victim to the old syllogism:
  • We must do something!
  • This is something!
  • Let's do this!
Every Liberal and conservative is in the same boat. New ideas and directions are urgently needed, but to suggest any implies criticism and dissatisfaction and - look, why don't you just go and join the ALP or the Greens if you're going to go to water when things get a little tough, you wimp!
... like guests at the last party on the Titanic, his office seems oblivious to imminent disaster.
They're not oblivious. They are demonstrating their loyalty in the same way they always have, batting away any and all criticism and getting on with it.

Any member of the PM's staff who started developing and expressing bright ideas would be excoriated for grandstanding and disloyalty - by people like Tom Switzer, who would also be responsible for preventing Abbott from strangling the miscreant(s) with his bare hands:
  • When Abbott worked for John Hewson, he briefed against his leader.
  • When Downer stumbled as leader in 1994-95, journos transformed Abbott (a junior backbencher) into a "senior Liberal source" who briefed against his leader.
  • When Costello started getting uppity about Howard, Abbott briefed against him. When Costello accuses Abbott of being an "economic illiterate", this is really what he's upset about: Abbott could have played the decisive role in easing out Howard, like Graham Richardson had with Hawke.
  • Abbott briefed against Nelson and Turnbull.
Abbott knows how the backroom briefing game is played. The idea that he'd suffer anyone else playing it against him is crazy.

If Abbott's staff were ordered to put an extra charge on medical visits, they'd do that. If Abbott's staff were ordered to bury the Great Barrier Reef beneath mine tailings, they'd do that. If Abbott's staff were ordered to turn up to a drinks party aboard a cruise ship (Perfectly safe! Largest ever!) and make light conversation, they'd do that. Any staffer looking out a porthole and pointing at the looming iceberg, or eyeing the path to the lifeboats, would have someone like Switzer or Credlin sidle up behind them and hiss: "it's not your job to do that!". The idea that such people are letting Abbott down is bullshit.

I've had my say about Peta Credlin and so have others, but three things have to be said about getting rid of her. First, as Bernard Keane pointed out, Abbott can't get rid of her without looking (even more) like Murdoch's puppet.

Second, getting rid of her will be more important to this government than reshuffling its ministers. Very few of them will be able to develop, implement and defend their own policies in the absence of Credlin, let alone do so in any coherent way.

Third, Abbott's defence against misogyny accusations rest pretty much entirely on his relationship with her. His accommodation of her reproductive issues, his ability to defer to and mix it with a strong, intelligent and capable woman, rest on her central role in his professional life. Rudd, Howard, Keating, Hawke, Fraser, and Whitlam did this by bringing their warm and clever wives to the forefront (well, Jeanette Howard made John look warm by contrast, and that was the main thing).

Margie Abbott's relationship with her husband is stilted and awkward, a throwback to the beard that was Sonia McMahon or the resentful Bettina Gorton. Tony Abbott tries so hard to present as the 'daggy Dad', the self-assured but unthreatening man, that Tim Mathieson was. If Abbott dumps Credlin when the going gets tough and appoints some bloke like Switzer or Murdoch castoff Chris Kenny, he'll be a schmuck.

Abbott's staff are loyal to a fault: Switzer's slur notwithstanding, that's the way he likes it. You can understand why the government is keen to legislate so that all managers and employers have compliant, even docile, staff like them.
Still, one fundamental question must be asked: and it is not simply about whether Abbott will survive as Liberal leader and Prime Minister. It is whether there is any politician of standing in our country who understands what has to be done to govern us in our poll-driven political culture and noisy 24/7 media and internet era; and if so, whether he or she will have the ability to do so as the economy shows serious signs of contraction.
All that stuff about polls and internet is not just reactionary revulsion to modern technology, but to democracy itself.

The idea that you not only have to see things as they are and develop policy responses, and convince people to come with you, and keep on doing that, is Switzer's real issue. Abbott's core problem - his refusal to believe that you have to explain yourself, fully and honestly and continuously, to citizens who vote and pay taxes - is not one Switzer can help fix. It's why he has refused Liberal preselection in safe seats: sooner or later Switzer will just roll his eyes and declare "that's just how it is!" and start ad hominem jeering at those who want more and better than he and his mates can offer.

Remind you of anyone? The idea that Tony Abbott has any mates, and that Switzer is one, should be less of a surprise by now.

Switzer is also seeking to imply that anyone who would replace Abbott - from within the Liberal Party or beyond it - must prove themselves, as Abbott never did with the widely-held but groundless assumption he'd be better than Rudd or Gillard.
There is complacency in the community, a widespread assumption that, because Australia has not suffered a recession in nearly a quarter century, the good times will roll automatically. But as any seasoned economist will tell you, we are living beyond our means.
Look at the satisfaction levels under Howard, after about 2003 but before Workchoices. Look at the satisfaction levels under Rudd before the GFC slapped everyone out of it. That's what "complacency in the community" looks like. Tony Abbott never had those levels of satisfaction complacency and never will. Neither would Bishop or Turnbull.
The economy faces serious challenges, such as weak productivity, falling terms of trade and an ageing population, which will threaten living standards. And if the economy does not undergo a new wave of reform to help insulate ourselves against the next bout of market contagion, we are storing up big trouble down the road.
Seasoned economists are flat out defining labour productivity across the economy, so nobody would expect someone like Henry Ergas to do so. All agree labour productivity beats capital productivity. Labour productivity is the joint responsibility of employees and managers, while capital productivity is the province of managers alone; quibbling about penalty rates starts looking somewhat petty.

In terms of falling terms of trade - all that busywork around 'free trade agreements' seems wasted, unless keeping Andrew Robb out of the country is somehow productive. Maybe we're just selling the wrong things, and policy settings propping up low-value exports over higher ones does us fewer favours than the incrementalists might hope.
To his credit, Abbott appears to recognise this reality. His government's first budget sought to address fiscal repair and growth reforms. But the measures were poorly explained and amounted to broken promises.
Abbott put in place the wrong measures. Nobody in Australian politics has more experience in dealing with the media, and in writing and delivering speeches, than Tony Abbott: if he couldn't explain those measures and why they were necessary, perhaps it just can't be done.

Why did Tony Abbott make promises that were bound to be broken? Remember all that stuff about the trust deficit being more important than any economic metric? This goes to the judgment and responsibility of a man of whom Switzer thinks more highly than most.
Add to this the malaise within the political system, which a hostile Senate exacerbates ...
Again this revulsion for democracy, and the lack of wonder why Abbott is less successful in getting the agenda through than Gillard.
What to do? The Productivity Commission review into workplace relations could provide a circuit breaker for the government.
Or not. To reform the workplace relations system, we need a government that won't screw us over on other cost-of-living issues, and which distributes both upsides and downsides of sovereign risk more broadly than this lot.
Abbott is not a true believer in free markets. He is instead a traditional conservative, someone who likes to do things in settled and familiar ways.
That's nice. The challenge for the nation is not to adapt to Abbott. The challenge is for him to adapt to it. Between him becoming Liberal leader and the 2013 election Abbott's supporters, including Switzer, convinced us that Abbott had in fact made this adjustment. They lied.
As our mutual friend Christopher Pearson was fond of saying, Abbott, given the choice, prefers incremental and consensual change to the large and radical variety.
But he hasn't been given the choice. John Curtin was a pacifist who led the country through war. Bob Hawke was a union leader who saw union membership plummet. Christopher Pearson might have been given the choice to live as he pleased, but Tony Abbott was not.

The nation will not adapt to him, and nor will he adapt to the nation. One of them must go, and I nominate Abbott to go for the sake of the nation rather than the reverse.
But Abbott is also conscious that policy changes are justified when the circumstances change. And to prepare for a downturn, he must instinctively believe in a new wave of reform.

In that light, he should reduce burdens on the public purse, including jettisoning an overgenerous paid parental leave scheme. Stop subjecting employers to cumbersome regulations on penalty rates and unfair dismissal. Embrace individual-negotiated work contracts that were once a godsend for small business. What he has to do is convince the people that such plans are practical and that his government can deliver them.
Abbott has to convince people what should be delivered, and he can't do that: not one to one with individual Senators, not with voters at large, not with anyone.

Tom Switzer is a public servant, employed by a university and by the ABC. He has no real idea what it is to be in the private sector. If cumbersome regulations were so cumbersome, if work contracts were such a godsend, business would have fought harder for them. The absence of business from defending Workchoices in 2007 should have awoken the Liberal Party to the necessity of unsupported reform.

Why must Abbott fight for a policy he doesn't believe in, and that nobody will defend when it comes to the crunch? This is the question Switzer begs.
In his important book Triumph and Demise, Paul Kelly laments that a reforming PM cannot succeed in this country given the decisive shift in the system and malign culture against needed change.
Kelly has been doing that for 40 years, describing reforming PMs and then declaring what he has described to be impossible. What a funny old man he is! He also gave a job to the otherwise unemployable Tom Switzer at one point, too.

Having a joined-up policy agenda doesn't make you some sort of egghead. It just means that all your policies reinforce each other: you can be a bit looser with working conditions if you have health and welfare safety nets, if you make it easier for people to retrain and upskill, and if you don't drive up unemployment.

When you say one thing and do another it confuses people. They/We become hostile if you deny you're playing people when you are, when you so lack confidence in your policies that you have to lie about them.
But the low standing of the government and its prime minister in the polls is an advantage: there is nothing to lose by taking risks with public opinion when it comes to promising a radically different approach to the economy.
Gillard took the same approach until Labor decided to 'save the furniture' and turf her. If Abbott did what you propose he'd be gone by Easter, replaced by a smarmy do-nothing like Bishop or Turnbull who'd "restore the Liberal brand" with a cosmetic approach.
So the Liberals will be best served by keeping Abbott as leader until the next election.
Switzer hasn't made his case. Having failed to explain current policy, Abbott cannot be expected to take on more contentious policies. How do you expect it to explain, justify, and refine a whole new set of policies that proved too hard for John Howard?
They would do well to move irrevocably back towards their erstwhile commitment to a deregulated environment in which enterprise and prosperity will flourish.
Knocking off penalty rates is a disincentive, and a measure requiring a lot of work for little reform gain. Until you understand that, save your arguments and your fancy words like 'erstwhile' for the university common room.
But they must also construct a more substantial rhetoric than the social media gibberish that increasingly defines public discourse. In other words, take a leaf from John Howard's playbook, have a conversation with the Australian people and show the Coalition is better prepared than the clueless Labor opposition in dealing with the coming economic downturn.
Switzer really hasn't learned anything at all from 2007. I thought that the Liberals wouldn't return to government until they had learned those lessons, and though I was mistaken learning the lessons remains important.

Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy in 2007. It was easy for Howard to ignore them, and easy to imagine him having more trouble with social media than Abbott is having now. Switzer has no answers: why are we even listening to this guy?

When he returned to the Prime Ministership in 2013 Kevin Rudd had the conversation, but nobody believed him - his credibility was shot. So it is with Abbott. No further reform is possible under Abbott, not going back nor going further. Whether fast or slow, whether far-reaching or incremental, whether you feel pleased or sad or angry, Abbott is out of reform momentum. He's out of credibility. He's out of time.

How do you convince a Coalition backbencher who's worked their way up to a marginal seat to commit career suicide? Just because Switzer has shirked that challenge it does not mean others must be as blithe as he is. In many cases (e.g. Indi, much of Queensland, places Tom Switzer can't imagine), Labor are the least of this government's problems.

Surely a true conservative would be better working to limit the scope of Labor initiatives than actually proposing and selling and defending changes generated in-house. Switzer has feelings about the country that few others, including his mate Tony, share. Switzer can't be bothered engaging with the mob because he knows there's nothing in his proposals for them/us - not even in the enterprise stuff that sounds really exciting to self-hating public servants.

Whether the flag is blue or white, Switzer doesn't really care so long as he can cock a leg at the base of the flagpole. Same applies to Abbott, it's why they're mates. He wants to help his mate but he can't. Switzer has put the best case possible for Abbott, but in doing so has made him less flexible, and shows his mate is hiding an agenda that is not only unpopular and harsh, but half-baked.


  1. Superb post. Why indeed should we listen to Tom Switzer, privately educated and with a lot less experience in life than he thinks he has. Your comment "and convince people to come with you" is most apt; I think you are right, the libs and Abbott in particular just can't believe that the electorate won't just take you on trust; well not forever in any case.

  2. Hillbilly Skeleton29/1/15 12:05 am

    And so it goes with these 'erstwhile' Conservative 'mates' of Abbott who are now all trying to give him the career-saving advice they think he needs.
    Problem is, Tony Abbott doesn't think he needs their advice, the Captain of the 'SS Team Australia', as it sinks beneath the waves (but at least it has no barnacles on it presumably), believes he knows all and sees things better than them. The exact same sort of self-belief that has commanded their fealty since their days together as the 'Boys Brigade'(with all the religious overtones that that name implies), at Sydney University running rampant against the 'Leftys'-those of us with a mind to want to preserve the barn because it served a good purpose, metaphorically-speaking, as opposed to the barnstorming Abbott's penchant to burn it down simply because 'Leftys' liked it(as you alluded to in your previous blog). I hope that wasn't too esoteric a way to put it, but that's how I feel.
    Which brings me to Tom. Why he's such a fanboi that he has even managed to wrangle a sinecure at Tony's old Alma Mater, Sydney University, which must give him frissons of thrills every time he thinks about it! However, as with much of Tom's life, he appears to have gotten there not on merit but via grace and favour connections. Just like his hero! I mean we all remember the stories about Tony getting willing dupes to do his Law and Economics assignments for him, while he ranged and raged around the University terrorising 'Leftys'...and women, from his base at St John's College. What jolly japes! Except for the fact that they were juvenile in the extreme and not really the way you would expect a mature adult to behave. However, as it was a brutally effective way to decimate your enemies it engendered respect amongst the shallow and superficial types. Like the Tom Switzers of this world.

    As are Tom's analyses on just about any topic I have heard him talk about. Not deserving of respect, but shallow and superficial. As is the one you have highlighted here.

    For it is a fact that needs to be highlighted that Tom Switzer is a goose. He just absolutely fails to see that the solution to the nation's problems about which he interminably opines here, that is, the end of the Mining Boom, and then what?... Isn't WorkChoices 2.0 but was looking us all in the face, like the goose that laid a new golden egg for us, in the form of Labor's National Broadband Network plan and Renewable Energy push into the technological and manufacturing areas that would have provided an economic solution to the problems that Tom says ail us now!

    Which Tom's hero is very proud of himself at having just destroyed in double-quick time, since he became elected!


    What to do about it? And them? That's what I haven't been able to figure out an answer to yet, as it's the Toms and the Tims and the Tonys that have the spotlight, and all they are using it for is to go on an ideological frolic, paying no heed to the consequences out here in the real world, and pushing and pushing and pushing their agenda. Then, when that doesn't work, finding new and creative ways to try and push it anew, as Tom is here.

    Problem is, they're wrecking the joint, my beloved country, as they go about their business, for business. And it's breaking my heart.

    1. Don't forget that other Tim who is on his own ideological plaything with an upcoming press club address in February going on and on about Freedom!

      You can't get more obnoxious selfish and shallow than the gay lobby's new fanboy.

      A man of walking contradictions.

      Respect me and partner Ryan to get married with my weird clique of gay friends but trash everyone else with hate speech

    2. It's a truly bizarre situation. Even my circle of friends, who have only the most cursory interest in politics, knew what a disaster Abbott was going to be. It didn't take much to realise this.

      Yet we have this group of people who call themselves professional political observers but still, despite all the years of evidence, cannot comprehend that Abbott is unsuitable to be our PM.

      Perhaps it comes down to the fact that they also label themselves as Tony's mates. Maybe it was just a matter of simple faith for them that Abbott was going to be a good PM and this led them to abrogate their most basic responsibility of analysing what Abbott was saying and offering before the last election.

      It's strange because in fact the whole country never displayed such faith in Abbott. As Waleed Aly reminded us recently, the 2013 election was far from being an overwhelming victory for the Coalition or a tick of approval for their many contradictory policies. Considering what an absolute shambles the ALP had offered us it was very telling that Australians were clearly pinching their noses and voting for the Coalition with a great deal of reluctance.

      All of this seems obvious to everyone except Tony's mates and the great shame for us is that they seem to be such a large percentage of our media. I guess the next question is not so much what now for Abbott, but what now for his mates?

  3. The loss of the liberal party in Victoria is a great wake up call for all of them Andrew..

    Time for them to eat humble pie and take a good hard look at themselves and their tea party mantra.

    We need a new movement in Australian that's a genuine left party.

    Greeces election result is a good time for our own political class to start another party that represents the left in Victoria

    The liberal party has died a slow death in that state.

  4. Thanks once again Andrew for providing us with a bit of old-fashioned journalism. How I miss it.

    It astounds me how some prominent political commentators parade their so-called friendship with Abbott. Greg Sheridan is always banging on about student days with Tony. Bolt considers him a friend. Shanahan writes of the PM in warm, familiar terms and now Switzer is addressing his mate Tony in the pages of the press.

    I cannot remember that happening in the past. I find it hard to believe that in former times a newly elected PM would have been so arrogant as to have invited favoured journalists to celebratory post-election drinks on the lawns of Kirribilli. I was amazed that so many accepted that invitation.

    And now the pack is howling for blood. Credlin's. Ditch the Witch. All will be well if Credlin departs bowed deeply under a sack of shame, disappointment, mis-management, cock-ups, broken promises and anything else they can cram into the bulging bag of broken dreams. Go now Peta. Go! Only then will our boy Tony, our good mate Tony dazzle us with his brilliance and still our beating hearts.

    Neil Chenoweth believes the Murdoch Peta-tweets reflect the wishes of his editors and not the other way round. I would not be surprised. I don't know if it matters now. What is of importance is that Abbott is snookered. As Bernard Keane has observed if Abbott dispenses with Credlin then he will be seen as acting on the direct orders of a Murdoch. If he stays with her he will be ferociously criticised for not fixing up his supposedly dysfunctional office.

    Ah the P M O. Those three letters now conjure an image of a dark, shadowy place where people speak in whispers so as not to disturb the long-haired woman in ocelot stirring a cauldron in the corner.

    Such rubbish.

    The problem is the PM and his team and their total inability to handle this country's problems because they lack the creativity to abandon worn-out, discredited ideological obsessions which compel eternal conflict with the people of this country.

    1. Just read this comment: a beauty.

    2. Bushfire Bill29/1/15 1:29 pm

      "It astounds me how some prominent political commentators parade their so-called friendship with Abbott. Greg Sheridan is always banging on about student days with Tony. Bolt considers him a friend. Shanahan writes of the PM in warm, familiar terms and now Switzer is addressing his mate Tony in the pages of the press."

      He's gone feral. I realized it when The Australian started writing him imploring letters. He's not listening to anyone, anymore. He's always loved being the stirrer, the bomb-thrower. But he's always been able to put on a cheeky grin and get his apologies accepted by adoring fans, right from when he was a kid. But not his time.

      The punters have elected at best a student politician, too concerned with putting one up the opposition than concentrating on his job. Now he's got a whole nation to antagonize and tease, the only way to stop him is with a political bullet to the brain. Who in the Libs has the guts to rid us of this pest before he does any more damage - REAL damage - to the nation with his brain farts and 6-minute policies?

    3. Anon, they lack the imagination to develop the policies, and rely on those clowns to sell it for them. This is what happens when you outsource policy and downplay its importance. When you insist that anything can be sold, and that you can sell anything, you end up being hoist on that petard as the government is now.

      Bill, the Liberal Party knew what he was like, and so did the media. Both institutions failed the people, who took their assessment as though it was more considered than it had been. Anyone who replaces Abbott will be boxed in to the same approaches - Turnbull might chafe at this more than Bishop, but either will go along with it. Anyone within the Liberal Party who stood up to him would be marginalised.

    4. And Andrew I think you would agree, as I am sure most who gather here would also do, that it is terrifying to remember that the shortcomings of this government will have repercussions for all of us.

  5. As I posted in a comment this morning (but which probably won't be published.... again):

    "our poll-driven political culture"

    Yes, yours Tom. Try swapping political culture for real culture and you might start to learn that, most of the time, no one outside your Party Room/Press Gallery circle jerk gives a rat's arse about the polls.

  6. Excellent demolition of Switzer's smug self pity, Andrew. The scapegoating has begun, and the other goats are nervous.

  7. "learning the lessons remains important", this statement seems to be at the core of the problem for the Liberal Party. Reaction to Workchoices showed how far the Australian people were willing to compromise and yet the party still thinks it knows better and has the free market answers to economic problems. They know this, thats why why lie about what they will do and what they are doing, they know it is unacceptable. It is almost a contempt for reality and democracy. Where do they go from here? Are there moderates who understand their own country in the party?

  8. Why anyone would take them seriously now is beyond me...

    Look at the political appointment of the New Human Rights Commissioner in an I.P.A hack

    Ideologues have destroyed any vision of decency in the party...it's full of lobbyists and careerists

    Josh Frydenberg was a breath of fresh air and showed empathy at the recent Holocaust commemorations...I was impressed.

    He and Ed Husic are the next generation of leaders and vision.

    Anon is right...those discredited obsessions will continue with a gay human rights commissioner that wants a free market utopia ....having a Reagan picture in your bedroom speaks volumes about the younger gen of liberal leaders....bizarre.

    Spot on with your analysis there...hate laws and Freedom Fries agendas are embarrassing to our civil and sophisticated country.

    1. Josh Frydenberg was a breath of fresh air and showed empathy at the recent Holocaust commemorations . . .

      I most certainly hope my local fed MP showed empathy on that occasion. As for being "a breath of fresh air", ummm, er, I don't think so. To quote Mr Elder only last month:

      Unfortunately, we've got Josh, who has glided through life with a superficial charm designed to disguise his boredom with detail. He's an errand boy. Nobody wants this guy in the trenches when it gets tough, and this is one tough job. He doesn't complement Hockey's weaknesses, he compounds them.

      He was in charge of not one but two of Abbott's so-called bonfires of red tape. Rather than do the hard work of identifying and costing (politically as well as economically) counterproductive regulations, Frydenberg slapped together a whole lot of straw men that impressed nobody but press gallery journalists. It was lazy stuff and this blog has had it in for him before he was first elected.

    2. Yep, good 'ol Josh. Not too much compassion for actual, real, living Australians though, eh?

      Great article. Switzer has written his 'mates' eulogy.

  9. It is truly hilarious to read Switzers public letter to his mate, which masquerades as objective opinion. To suggest that Abbott has to get back on to the "policy offensive" is even more laughable, the Lib/Nats never had much by way of policy. All they had was a pamphlet, and a manifesto that put most of its focus on legislation/policy that it would REPEAL.

    Whether any pollie can know what to do in a poll driven, 24/7 media cycle is an interesting point, but most of the media should be treated with the contempt it deserves. The media is simple a circus, which, as you say, spends its time "jeering" at just about everything. This is now the norm, and today we even see Bolt and the bitter and twisted Sheehan jump on the round-about. We have a media pack drunk on their own power, with none of the constraints of journalistic integrity that may have once applied to their work. In fact there is little presence of "journalism"....all we have is a long line of opinionators. Worst part is that few of us have any reason to respect their opinion. There is an angry blood lust that pervades the coverage. Is this born from sheer narcissism and a belief that they themselves know how to run the country? Is the anger related to the tentative nature of their jobs in an industry that is collapsing at the seams?

    Abbott was a key player in setting the dynamics that now plague him, so it is hard to feel any sympathy for him. As Rob Oakeshott noted at the end of his career, ugly Australia has been let of its leash. He also pondered whether there is any way back, but who knows the answer to that!

    Reading Switzers crap about how Abbott recognises "reality" is pretty nauseating. He simply doesn't. He is tone deaf to new economic and social challenges and is simply driven by an out-dated ideology. It is all the same old, same old. It is premised on falsehoods such as the idea that there has been a wage explosion in recent years. Conservatives, by definition, seek to maintain the status quo, and this does not lead to policy that can include reform such as economic transition.

    The emphasis by Switzer, and the government itself, on the challenges posed by the Senate is simply laughable. As you note, the Gillard Minority government was able to actually NEGOTIATE outcomes. This bunch lack that capability, choosing instead to attempt to bully others into submission, just as they mocked and bullied their way into office.

    It is very depressing that we appear unable to have any kind of rational discourse on the economic, environmental challenges that face us. As you note, anyone who tries to do so is howled down, in the interests of a news grab and serving the 24/7 media cycle.

    Sad days indeed.

    1. Mocked and bullied their way in govt....

      Interestingly that Rosie Batty was the Australian of the Year sitting alongside an pm who hit a woman at University
      Sweet ugly irony there...

      She should start with the ugly sexist culture of the liberal party itself and work her way to Chris Kenny from Sky News

      Such nasty tossers in this strange culture of politics

  10. Sorry but oner little quibble Andrew,
    Richo had nowt to do with Hawke leaving indeed Keating told him to... off

    1. Eventually (1994), yes, but not at the time (1991).

  11. I hope they do come up with a "plan" on how getting rid of penalty rates and awards will be so good for everyone.
    They will have the golden turd trifecta then: shitting on education, health and workplace reform.
    I can't see Abbott or Hockey surviving past June, unless the 2015 budget contains a LOT of sweeteners.

  12. i can not picture abbott on the back bench

    1. I can.

      Bloody slaughter is the image that comes immediately to mind.

      As some other stupid right-wing fart once said, Bring it on!

  13. Switzer is begging an awful lot of questions there.

  14. Thank you Andrew, you have saved my brain from some complex gymnastics.

  15. Hillbilly Skeleton points to the trajectory of the thread starter: Lack of life experience (psychosis?).

    Switzer and co are cotton-wooled SS- type lebensborn, so dislocated from reality that only the brainwashing since birth can determine their next stumble.

    This conditioning pivots on an idea of born to rule and some strange idea that they have the right to sit in judgement on others, to poke at them like cattle with electric prods, as if they were lab mice provide for the indulgence of unnatural pathologies.

    Cuckoo's Nest, anyone?


  16. When the unhinged like Bolt turn against you it makes me feel quite sorry for him

    The right really like to eat their own

    Such selfish wankers they all are...makes me sick.

    You're a beacon of light in the noise of spin and shallow propaganda.

    1. "The right really like to eat their own"

      Then lets set a place at the table and hand them the salt and pepper. It can only be good for the country.

  17. "The problem is the PM and his team and their total inability to handle this country's problems because they lack the creativity to abandon worn-out, discredited ideological obsessions which compel eternal conflict with the people of this country."

    An excellent assessment. Thanks for posting!

  18. I have never understood why so many get so hysterical about people coming by sea to seek asylum, it's a legal right signed up to by Robert Menzies when everyone came across the seas.

    it's not unusual to come to an island by sea, people in their millions do it every year and we boast that 833,000 other people came by sea last year without being noticed.

    Why the hysterical nonsense about using refugees as border protection when they mean one small island is being police while 60,000 of shore line is ignored?

    Not one lazy media scumbag ever asks.

    1. Not to mention that it costs the nation $5bn each year to incarcerate and torture a few thousand wretched people, that the lazy scumbags in the media also don't ask about.

  19. There will be some that spend the rest of their lives lamenting on the lost opportunity that the Australian electorate threw away when they turned on Abbott but in reality the Australian people never did. They never had that election. The demise of this government was brought on by the simple problem that they had no plan other than to lie and deceive. Then they panicked when the press started applying the pressure that social media was successfully doing. In their juvenile naivety they never thought it could happen to them. They were unprepared and it paralysed them all. The funny part is that some of the cheerleaders in the press were still barracking even though the race was lost!

  20. Switzer is just a junior version of or Gerard Henderson/Piers Akerman,
    all fluff and no substance.
    He is a knob polishing sycophant of the first order.

    And on the subject of workplace reform, union membership may be at an all time low now, but watch the growth when the attacks on pay and conditions start being proposed.
    That's the trouble with the ideologising right, they never learn anything, they are to busy trying to please the MSM journalists who helped them into office.

  21. Andrew, you were right. Abbott has never been an Australian PM, and never will be one either.

    He may well hold the position of leader of the HOR majority Liberals, and have a letter of appointment from the Governor General, but these technicalities do not make one into a leader.

    In Abbott's case, the markers of power simply highlight his inadequacies, like some malevolent child wearing his parents clothes and barking squeaky orders.

    When you're as useless as Sir Joseph Cook, like Abbott is, you need to be recorded as an interregnum, not a reality.

  22. Switzer is a complete tosser. He's been taken on as the ABC's token right wing loon, a sure sign that his opinion and judgment aren't informed by even a modicum of intellectual rigor.

  23. I went to Uni with these cocooned young liberals ten years ago....so up their own gluteus maximus...

    They think they're GODS and they think that everyone watches Sky News...

    Switzed is weird to watch on t.v...he has this strange weird smirk...no empathy or even a sarcastic tone to it at all.

    Purely shallow and very class conscious to the extreme in my observations of Tim, Toms etc

    Scary times ahead if you're poor.

  24. Great analysis Andrew - as always.

    While some say there is no consistency to what Abbott & "the team" are doing this isn't true. They are focused at dismantling as much of the communitarian / social infrastructure that we have built over the hundred years. This is based on 2 simple ideological principles (if you can call them that). 1) the private sector is always better that the public sector at doing things - so when Medicare is shown as the best model in the world they need to abolish it because it does not accord with their "reality". Or if public school kids do really well at Yr 12 results - throw more $ at the private schools. And 2) the private sector (read rich mates) should have free reign over any place they can make money. So if the ABC is crowding out Rupert - slash its budget. These 2 principles guide almost every decision they make. Was it Keating who said "when you change the government you change the nation." Lets change the government so we can keep some of what makes Australia a reasonably fair country.

  25. Andrew, I'm usually not a huge fan of Waleed Ali & I seem to recall you dissing him for his so called sophisticated "view from no-where". But I think he may have scored the MSM article of the week in the SMH entitled "The PM's woes started earlier than you think."

    What do you think?

    Better late than never, but as you say the MSM should have been writing this stuff ages ago. They're either stupid or compliant.

    1. I read that - and I put the same question to him as to other commentators, where was he *before* Abbott became PM, or even Liberal leader?

    2. I resented the "earlier than you think" bit. A lot of us have been aware of Abbott's obvious flaws as a potential PM (belligerence, negativity, lack of interest in policy, etc. etc.) for some time. For our pains we were lectured by the commentators for being out of touch with the "Real Tony" and/or that he'd "grow into the job" or that we just "didn't get" Abbott.

      Now we are getting those same commentators lecturing us on "what's wrong with Tony" with the full benefit of 20-20 hindsight.... and still telling us that we didn't get it

      Give me strength!

    3. Joe Fitzpatrick31/1/15 7:36 pm

      My immediate reaction was that it was an attempt to say, "I told you so" without actually ever having said anything of the kind.

      Also, it ended with a gratuitous and misguided swipe at twitter/social media as jeopardising democracy which was - of course - neither supported by any thorough research or explication.

      I'd recommend Tingle's article instead ... though it seems I have a bit of 'thing' for her journalism right now.

    4. "..where was he *before* Abbott became PM, or even Liberal leader?"

      You know the [possibly apocryphal] story about Nikita Kruschev and Stalin?
      At the Congress of the CPSU in, from memory about 1956, Nikita was blasting Stalin's record, detailing his crimes and brutality.
      A voice came from the audience:
      "What were you doing while all that was going on"?
      Kruschev glared at the audience peering past the lights and shouted:
      "Who said that"?
      He repeated "Stand up, whoever said that"
      Still silence, no one standing up.
      "That", said Nikita "is what I was doing."


    5. The Kruschev anecdote is interesting, Fred, but it's a false equivalence. None of the fearless tellers-of-truth-to-power in the Press Gallery were at risk of getting disappeared into a Gulag if they pointed out Our Tony's unfitness for the job. Might've lost their jobs, but that happens to all of us. Fuck 'em.

    6. You're right of course DI[nr].

      fred aka hd

      BTW Seen this?

  26. Disappointingly with Tom Switzer, Radio National continues with baffling 'middle-aged-male-umbrella-format' roll out - so very dull, so very mediocre

  27. Letting you know that I just wrote a longish post and clicked on preview only to see my post disappear into the void. Is this a temporary situation so you can vet my post or do I have to start again?