03 March 2015

Julie Bishop is not running for Prime Minister,

No, she isn't.

In 2007 the press gallery nominated her as a 'dark horse'. Later that year she supposedly could have left federal politics and become Premier of WA. In 2008 she was a 'compromise candidate' between the terminal Brendan Nelson and the bumptious Malcolm Turnbull. By 2009 her cheer squad in the press gallery were becoming embarrassing: they still insisted that somehow she would rise above the Turnbull-Abbott-Hockey scrum and clinch the top job (Abbott did that because you can only win a race if you are actually in the running).

Now Phil Coorey is flogging a dead horse on the assumption that this time, no really, Julie Bishop is actually going to give up all that travel and busywork, give up the relatively private life of the senior-but-not-Prime Minister, and become leader of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party. Bullshit.

Abbott is dead; even Liberals who have known no other leader know this. They doubt Turnbull will be an effective Liberal Prime Minister and can lead them to victory in 2016. Bishop looks like a compromise candidate (yet again). Bullshit. Coorey's sources are bullshit, his judgment is bullshit, his article is bullshit - but don't take my word for it:
With the matter on hold indefinitely due to a rebound in the polls for the Coalition and an uptick in Tony Abbott's fortunes, senior Liberals believe lead contender Malcolm Turnbull stands to lose over time due to an increasingly vitriolic campaign being waged against him by the Liberal Party's arch-conservative base.

MPs report being flooded with emails from what they believe is an orchestrated campaign involving the Christian right and other similar groups, attacking Mr Turnbull over his position on issues such as gay marriage.
Rather than just reporting all that without examining it, as Coorey has, let's do the work he gets paid to do. The Christian right has no real base in this country, less so since they blew so much of their treasure and credibility over their don't-question-just-submit defence of child molesters. Nobody is going to lose their seat over support for same-sex marriage to someone who doesn't support it; if you're going to be obsessed about polls, look at levels of support for same-sex marriage rather than against. Take almost any Christianist position and its capacity to shift votes becomes clear.

MPs' offices get spammed by different groups from time to time over different issues. If Coorey knows anything about politics, he should know that. Consider the last parliament, where the then government was on a knife-edge in a way this government isn't; they held an actual vote on same-sex marriage, and you can bet the Christian right were over-egging their numbers then, too. Coorey should be comparing now with then and seeing if the assertion stacks up.
Ms Bishop decided last week that if the leadership was spilled, she would run for the top job rather than be part of any ticket, sources said.

This decision was made after she was approached by colleagues eager for her to form a ticket with Mr Turnbull in a bid to force the issue "sooner rather than later".

"Julie said: 'I won't be on your ticket. If it comes to a spill, I will run'," a source said.
You can take my utter, utter contempt for anon-source journalism for granted. Yes, Coorey is protecting his source for the sake of maintaining relationships in Canberra that lead to ... um, what exactly? There's nothing it those relationships for his readers, still less when the data retention laws come in (about which Coorey is pretty sanguine - it's not like he does any investigative journalism anyway).

The worst thing about that anonymous quote, however, is that Coorey is being played. So are his more credulous readers, and the clowns at AFR who deemed this good enough for their dwindling readership. Here's why that story is bullshit.

If poor old Phillip Ruddock was such a threat to Abbott's leadership that he had to be pole-axed, you can imagine how the Downfall-style Abbott bunker would regard a serious charge from Bishop. There would be a flurry of half-baked articles in the traditional media about how Australia's foreign policy has no real narrative, how it's a long way from the "Jakarta-centred" policy Abbott promised, and how nobody in Washington, Beijing, or the Lowy Institute can make head nor tail of what Bishop is about. He would demand that the party room chose her or him, and it would choose him because it did so just last month.

If Bishop had any real clout in the Liberal Party she would never have stood for the more egregiously sexist attacks on Gillard: she would've had Mal Brough's guts for garters over that "big red box" caper for a start. If she was PM material she would have responded to Gillard's misogyny speech more effectively than anyone on that side of politics did. She would not moderated the attacks on Gillian Triggs - that attack was so ferocious because Abbott's whole life has been about being a spokesperson with a consistent message, and Triggs spoke out of turn. That's why criticism of Triggs focused on timing and lazy assumptions about her work under the previous government, assuming that everyone in government is bound by the media cycle and not daring to question her command of facts. There would be more women, and more Western Australians, in the ministry than there are. Danielle Blain should now be Federal President of the Liberal Party, not the fatuous and complacent Alston.

That's what real power looks like: taken, not received with a simper. A senior political reporter must understand power, its exercise and its absence - not just passing on tittle-tattle, like Coorey is here.
Conservative commentators once critical of Mr Abbott but now keen to save him have begun piling on the communications minister, accusing him of undermining Mr Abbott and even leaking information to which he is not privy, such as secrets from Cabinet's National Security Committee.
Is that accusation even sensible? How can you leak a document to which you don't have access? Hang on - perhaps the Foreign Minister is a member of the National Security Committee, and therefore be able and even motivated to ... not that I'm making accusations. I'm not in a position to know - but a chief political reporter is.
Neither Mr Turnbull nor Ms Bishop agreed to representations from the backbench to force the issue this week, by either resigning or challenging Mr Abbott.

Mr Turnbull has emphatically rejected suggestions circulating internally that he sought to recruit Ms Bishop to run as his deputy.

There is little appetite elsewhere in cabinet to pursue the issue as a result of both the polls and the fact that it was agreed after the last spill attempt three weeks ago to give Mr Abbott a fair go.
Those three pars are where Coorey's story dies.

The Liberal Party is not going to elect Julie Bishop as its leader. It simply does not do unmarried, childless, lady lawyers from Adelaide. The idea is to drag things out for Turnbull and give time to Morrison, as I've said before.
The steam went out of the issue on Monday following the publication of the latest monthly Fairfax/Ipsos poll, which found the Coalition had closed the gap on Labor by 6 percentage points and now trailed on a two-party preferred basis by 51 per cent to 49 percent.
That's just bad writing. That poll showed the Coalition trailing 49-51; had the polls been 51-49 they wouldn't have been trailing at all. Which do you think was bullshit - the 49-51 poll, the 43-57 poll, or both? Sadly, Coorey is so compromised and so bereft of information sources not available within Parliament that he cannot call bullshit on polls. He has been a slave to polls as the prism through which all policy and policy must be viewed.
...MPs believe a combination of the two polls has killed of any further move against Mr Abbott until at least after the March 28 NSW state election and most likely well beyond the May budget.

MPs who want to see Mr Turnbull succeed believe that the longer the issue drags on, the more damaged he is likely to be by the campaign against him ...

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison stood to become either Treasurer or deputy leader had there been a change three weeks ago and remains integral to the outcome of a future move. "He's in a sweet place at the moment," said one MP, given Mr Morrison stands to advance regardless of who replaces Mr Abbott.
And once you see Morrison as the beneficiary of any delay, the real story becomes clearer to everybody but Coorey. Bishop has been deputy to both Turnbull and Abbott. She doesn't have to choose between two versions of the past. Her whole career has been about shaking off inconvenient events and moving relentlessly forward. As Prime Minister, you can't do that - you have to be consistent and not just flit hither and yon as moment-to-moment tactics require. That quote from Bishop about dying asbestos victims that so appals people is just another example of situational ethics.

If Bishop became Liberal leader, public debate would go like this: Labor would bring up her record and that of this government, while Bishop will roll her eyes and complain "Can't we talk about something else?". This is the very reason why she won't, of course.

The mere fact that Julie Bishop is the most viable alternative to the current leader is the reason why the current leader is safe for now. Bishop's offer (assuming Coorey's source is something more than a complete fabrication) is not a promise for the Liberal Party, it is a threat. History shows the prospect of Bishop as leader seems to vanish once an alternative becomes clear. Once Morrison has the numbers people like Coorey will once again stop talking about her as a potential leader. The fact that he has been sucked in again to this non-story does not reflect well on Coorey, nor on those who employ him, nor on the other press gallery sheep who look up to him.

How, then, do you assess the Foreign Minister? Traditional media outlets have outsourced their foreign policy expertise to people like Hugh White or the Lowy Institute, convinced that nobody wants to know about foreign policy and that competence in this area is not worth cultivating amongst journalists. As poster-boy for incompetent foreign-policy journalism, Greg Sheridan blew it with Bishop and never recovered. By contrast, Michael Bachelard showed as Indonesia correspondent what Australian foreign policy looked like from Jakarta's perspective. He couldn't do that job alone.

The press gallery should be stung by its negligence letting Rudd and Abbott through with little critical review of what they would have been like as PM. If Bishop was really a candidate for the Prime Ministership there should be a welter of articles on what she's like in seeking out information, how she handles being told what she doesn't want to hear - and all that other PM-related stuff which those who've seen PMs come and go up close should be fully across.

Instead, the press gallery allows itself to be played by Bishop. She has cultivated the vapid Latika Bourke, discussing policy while jogging so the journalist can't make notes (not that Latika would or could even do policy, anyway) and insisting that the only interviews she will do have to contain as much emoji as possible. It would be fine to accept Bishop corralling the media into the trivial if this were some sort of reprieve from serious policy discussion. If you've spent day after day chewing over, say, the implications of the ASEAN Free Trade Area for Australia, what's a bit of harmless fun? When emojis and handbags are pretty much the sum total of your analysis, if not your understanding, of the Foreign Minister - then it is bullshit, hopelessly inadequate, and a fair description of where the press gallery is at regarding Bishop.

If I was more savvy than I am, I'd love the fact that Bishop is into emojis and would pooh-pooh grumbly worry-wart stuff like the above paragraph. Fuck being savvy, it's no fun pretending clowns and rogues are more compelling than they are. My family and friends are much more fun than watching the Foreign Minister dumb down public debate; all I want from politics and media is information on how we are governed. When precious little such information is available, and when journalists insist on their right to be gamed (and to game their readers) it isn't me as a consumer/citizen who has failed. It isn't the Foreign Minister who has failed, either - she has maintained her powerbase without overreaching. She's seen what happens to lady Prime Ministers and has managed to convince everybody but Phillip Coorey that it isn't for her.

The traditional media has failed its audience and those it covers, and on this issue it's doing so again.


  1. Spot on Andrew.
    JB is a flirt. MT will join Peter Costello and Andrew Peacock as glamour has-beens-who-never-were and TA is keeping the seat warm for Morrison. Pretty much how I see it. I depress myself.
    Yet the media as you make clear time and time again, persist in telling us fairy tales.
    Malcolm is diminishing before our eyes and not only because of the diet. The cartoonists who put him in a top hat have caught it. Sometimes the topper is Sir-John-Kerr-askew, other times it casts the sorrowful silvery head into deep shadow. I am reminded simultaneously of a cocky W.C. Fields and a whey-faced Stan Laurel going to the church to marry his meaty-armed landlady.
    Sorry Malcolm, it is not going to happen.
    So Abbott is safe at the moment. He looks as energized as a man without a long-term plan should look. Another successful scrap. Another day.
    Meanwhile Morrison awaits.

  2. Ah... Latika Bourke, the world's most expensive microphone stand. I'd forgotten about her.

    Can't wait until Morrison becomes PM. As I've said before (perhaps here), Australia's standing in the world will go off the scale when the PM can't attend any international meetings for fear of being arrested and deported to The Hague.

  3. I floated the idea of Morrison for PM past my wife. If you've seen the reaction videos of baby's sucking lemons you know the face she pulled!
    A hard right PM thats competent at pushing his agendas is a very scary thought.

  4. the above is may be why I have given up reading anything they write
    i learn more about politics from the ordinary people down to earth
    on soc media good advice to a junos if your young think about another career?. because i say social media is where we will find out most news word of mouth like the days before radio.

  5. I'm not so sure Malcolm will go quietly in to the night. He's there because he wants to be PM. He's stayed there because he believes he still has a chance at that. If he decides that he's out of time and chances, and he moves to gamble the lot, it could get quite interesting.

  6. My favorite Sideshow Phil article was when he was flown to Nauru by Lyndsey Fox and then failed to write one word about what he saw or heard there. He is a highly regarded tool.

  7. Bishop is a classic journey woman, floating through federal politics as the perennial support act for whoever is leader at the time, with due loyalty, natch. That she appears competent is a remarkable reflection on the staggering incompetence of her LNP peers, Brandis. Pyne etc. But she would be hopeless as PM, no ideas, no details, no vision, Bishop was successful corporate lawyer for the big end of town, perfect fodder for a current generation LNP political hack.

    1. She's pure hack, Anon, unadulterated by any skerrick of vision.

  8. A fundamentalist Christian as p.m.???

    Lordy, lordy...God help us all.

    Excuse the very bad pun but that's how I feel.

    I just watched a very interesting interview with Kevin Rudd today on N.I T.V's Awaken with Stan Grant

    Thoughtful and insightful as always with Stan Grant.

    Why the bloody hell are they shutting down this fantastic channel??

    If you get a chance Andrew , watch it on online.

  9. Joe Fitzpatrick5/3/15 4:25 am

    JB is a fascinating character, even if she is unable to warrant any serious political discussion.

    The shamelessness with which she has sought to create the role of Australia's Big Sister by actively undermining her own capacity to come across as irrelevant unless she's being emotional (stern, caring, bemused) is breathtaking. Russia? Angry emoji. China? smiley sunglasses emoji. Those are actual f&*@ing quotes from a published interview with Buzzfeed. Indonesia? Presumably a sad emoji. The Security Council? Black fitted jacket and a death stare.

    This isn't a serious politician, it's the girl from that song by Cake.

    1. I think she's trying to emulate Hilary Clinton and be cool....

      Sorry Ms Bishop...you're a heartless corporate lawyer who has no effect on her boys club colleagues. ..the eye roll says it all!

  10. Spot on about Bishop. A lightweight and vapid MP who seems to understand her job as lots of travel and meetings, and not much actual thinking. The best example of her insignificance and lack of clout is the gutting of her portfolio budget. DFAT has been butchered and chunks of her budget have been handed off to other ministers. Nothing demonstrates weakness more than seeing one's portfolio budget get rolled at cabinet.

    Australia has suffered some insufferable foreign ministers in recent years, and our foreign policy, standing and reputation reflect them.

  11. Yet again, another Coorey FAIL. I gave up reading the SMH because I couldn't read anymore of his drivel, only to then have to give up the AFR because he moved there (and was replaced at SMH by the similarly ridiculous Mark Kenny.

    If only Fairfax could hire political reporters of the same quality as a number of its economic commentators!

    It is incredible that these "journalists" have remained so oblivious to the well justified criticism of the crap that they write. Why call them "political correspondents"? A more appropriate title these days would be "leadershit correspondents".

    They are angry, lazy and of limited intellect. Groan.

    1. But the polls, Pia, the polls!!!

  12. Observing Josh Frydenberg on Q and A next to Miriam Margoyles reinforces the notion of your analysis of him Andrew.

    Not very bright but the charm offensive can win you a spot in this government.

    He's such a bloody selfish careerist.