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Is the PM going the full Tony?

As parliament resumes Monday, spectators discover an oddly familiar negativity and intellectual vacuity, not to say a little madness, perhaps even a re-run of that Abbott-era day time TV classic “good government”.

Is it just because Newspoll puts the parties each on 50 per cent, two party preferred? Peter Dutton warns the press: “The prospect of Bill Shorten leading the country is now in play.” Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce calls it a “wake-up call”. Has Turnbull’s mob dropped its bundle on its first dud poll result? Surely not.

Could it be policy? Never. “Modest, incremental reform” as a killer of a Liberal platform. It just reeks of passion and excitement.

Yet something is seriously awry for Scott Morrison to stand up his pal Ray Hadley at 2GB on Monday. Ray understands. Being PM or Treasurer is harder than it looks; wanting the job and being able to do the job are not the same thing, he says. Thanks, Ray.

Is it Gorgeous George Christensen reading members a text on “penis tucking”? No, that happens at Tuesday’s party room meeting. Morally aroused George claims he clicked on a Safe Schools link to a link to a link on another website which linked to an “adult services” site and that this proves that safe schools grooms young people for paedophiles.

The Queensland MP’s homophobic shock tactic gets the PM to promise to review the program. Assisting Gorgeous George are Senator Cory Bernardi, Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz, Tasmanian MP Andrew Nikolic, Western Australian MP Andrew Hastie and Queensland Senator Jo Lindgren who worry, they say, it could be disguised funding for “minorities”.

Bernardi is moved to decry a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism behind the program but not even George can explain what he means. He’s shocked to hear such language from Cory. The ANZACs didn’t die for rainbow posters in class rooms.

Is the Monkey Pod collective holding a wok-around-the-clock policy stir-fry? No. But there is a hint of monkey madness afoot amidst the cherry blossoms abroad. Veteran cultural warrior, elder statesman and US pet “Tamagotchi” Abbott waits until Saturday to sumo-wrestle China out of our Pacific hot tub. We may trade with China, but Japan is our one true love, he sighs.

Speaking in Tokyo, after a banquet of scientifically killed whale, in his own typically resonant but opaque tribute to Kabuki, Abbott praises Japan and Australia’s “special relationship because it’s not based simply on shared interests, but also on shared values”.

A Kabuki touch also informs Abbott’s view that Turnbull’s “biggest challenge will be to retain popularity … once he has a credible narrative of his own”. He could have said everybody hates you even when you stand for nothing but he did promise no sniping. The non-sniping, supportive analysis will be published by News Corp soon.

None of these rich pickings from a week in a Turnbull Government at work are the cause, however. A fish rots from the head down. Monday’s whiff of the past is our PM aping his predecessor. It is unbecoming and wholly unconvincing but the PM is going the full Tony.

Even his flatulent speech slows as he wanders aimlessly through a week, his only plan to bag Labor’s plot to destroy us by changing negative gearing rules. Is he rattled or has he been rolled? Whatever the cause it’s contagious.

Before week’s end, many MPs race to follow him downmarket. Optimism is swapped for shock and horror. Evidence-based government is nowhere in evidence as the government’s right wing tail wags its mascot junkyard dog. A fear vibe goes viral.

By Wednesday, Cory Bernardi is heckling Bill Shorten during the opposition leader’s conference on Safe Schools, “at least I’m honest, Bill”. And “you are a fraud”. The program seeks to encourage acceptance of difference; protect children from homophobic bullies.

Bernardi wants Tony Abbott back as Prime Minister. Badly. So too do the twenty MPs whose dinner with Abbott this week helps keep talk of a fantasy comeback alive and doubtless nurtures the latent lair in Bernardi.

“At least I’m not a homophobe”, Shorten fires back, lowering further the tone or “raising the Tony”, in a week of ridicule, name-calling and a massive government vote-buying defence spending spree masquerading as national security and patriotic duty.

“I don’t see it as a choice,” Defence Minister Marise Payne tells Leigh Sales, on Thursday’s 7:30 Report when asked why her government is borrowing to spend up to $150 billion to acquire and run twelve new submarines at $12.5 billion a pop over thirty years while denying schools and hospitals the $80 billion they need to keep open today.

Payne does not explain why the cost is now three times the estimate of the government when Tony Abbott was PM. The new vibe helps Payne assert a moral relativism that sweeps defence spending out of scrutiny.

Payne isn’t asked to explain why there is no case for this number. It is just a target from the 2009 White Paper which has just been repeated. We can’t crew twelve subs and Defence probably could only deploy six. Nor is she asked about the consequences of a likely winning Japanese bid tying our defence policy to that nation at the expense of any independence in the Pacific.

Five state of the art $2.5 billion hospitals could be built for the cost of just one sub subsidy. But it’s not just a troubling priority, it’s a huge blind spot in government industry policy. Submarine building, like all defence spending, involves massively expensive industry subsidies however many Australian flags you cloak it in.

Having closed down Australia’s car industry the government scrambles to tip buckets of money into an industry just because it is marked “defence”. Few Australians will benefit.

With $31.8 already allocated to be spent this year, defence costs taxpayers dearly for little direct return . Much of the money spent goes into overseas companies’ coffers. The extra $29.9 billion defence spending over the next ten years, just announced, will mostly benefit US multinationals, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Raytheon.

Happily, national security enthusiast and Victorian wool-grower, glad-handed Dan Tehan is to be Minister for defence materiel. Multinational reps high five each other. He’ll look after them. So, too will extreme right winger, Tasmanian Andy Nikolic who cruises into Tehan’s old job as chair of the joint intelligence and security parliamentary sub-committee.

Nikolic caused a stir last year when he claimed that civil liberties should be suspended given the national terrorist emergency Australia faced.

Not all observers are enthused. Electric Frontiers Australia is concerned that the former brigadier’s “hard-line” views on national security issues and his “apparent disdain” for civil liberties suggest that he is unlikely to bring a balanced and objective perspective to the work of the committee. Perhaps such critics wilfully miss the politics of the appointment.

Butch does not sit easily with the PM’s original image. Turnbull MKII is an alarming, if not dangerous, departure from his previous hit role as Mr Slick, an urbane inner Sydney sophisticate, equally at ease with an international finance deal or a bloodless knifing. This week, the Member for Wentworth is a hard act to swallow. He achieves a bad parody of a PM who frequently parodied himself.

“Vote Labor and be poorer” one of Turnbull’s turgid slogans of the week appears to be, sadly, a bad Abbott.

Tax reform has collapsed under its own inertia. A skittish backbench has jumped on the table with everything on it causing its collapse . Little remains of any economic policy let alone a tax reform program. Much as Turnbull loves to point out how his love of rail differentiates him from Abbott, states who expect infrastructure funding for railways must give up money for something else.

There is no new money. No new plan. Even the PM’s wimpy negative re-gearing is under attack from the same MPs who put the kybosh on the GST. They shrewdly outsource the people’s voice. Private consultants are engaged to make a case to the PM.

Liberal and Labor swap routines. The Government acts the role of a beleaguered, badgering opposition reduced to beating up the threat of Labor’s tax plans. Labor, it screams, would send the economy into “free-fall” in a time of dire national emergency.

Gone now is his pose of enlightened rationality and vision. The member for Wentworth speaks slower, reaches lower as he unleashes his inner junkyard dog. It is not working. Turnbull cannot hope to reproduce all the slavering, captious, capricious negativity of his predecessor, a politician who in 2012 blocked Rudd’s Malaysian solution in order to create a build-up of boat people to enhance his own campaign.

Turnbull could never proclaim himself Minister for Women to show his macho contempt for the principle of gender equality and to symbolically re-enact the injustice and the exclusion the portfolio seeks to redress.

Nor should he try. The PM is ill-advised to continue his bad copy of a dodgy Abbott original. Why rebuff those who were captivated by his earlier cameo roles? Articulate, sophisticated Super-Mal wowed us all with his urbanity and vision; his difference from Abbott. According to the polls. Yet in parliament this week he mimics Abbott as if his life depends on it. King Canute spots a rapidly rising red tide.

“Labor will ruin us all”, he rants. If we don’t ruin ourselves. Like all bad actors, he is oblivious of how close he is to ludicrous incongruity; self caricature and travesty. His credibility, legitimacy and authority suddenly look very flaky.

It is a bid to bolster the PM’s rapidly diminishing authority over a deeply-divided party, a last-ditch attempt to boost his prospects in an election he knows he must call before 11 November, an election which he is being pressured to hold as early as he can, even risking a double dissolution. Not that all his strays come to heel. Indeed, some seem encouraged.

Gone, all gone, is the PM’s positivity. His airy promises of innovation evaporate. It is out with reason and in with the politics of fear. Evidence based government and respect for the electorate’s intelligence are abandoned in favour of a scare campaign around Labor’s proposal to reduce tax concessions for property investors. Yet the campaign soon falters.

He said they would fall. She said they would rise. Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer pops up on the Seven Network’s Sunrise show mid-week only to contradict her PM’s claim that Labor’s proposed changes to negative gearing would “smash” house prices “like a wrecking ball”.

The government’s new fear-mongering is clearly a work still in progress. Capital gains tax is now also only a definite maybe. Turnbull tells the house Monday there are “no changes planned” before being forced to admit the next day that his government was looking at getting superannuation funds to pay more CGT.

We will all be ruined. Labor’s proposed changes to negative gearing rules will cause prices to rise. No. Our houses will become worthless overnight. OK. It will be bad, anyway.

Whatever else is going working for the Turnbull government, its own cabinet is confused about the PM’s new attacking vibe. The Turnbull who promised evidence based policy and decision-making is now swinging from the same branch as the monkey-pod messiah, Tony Abbott whose absurdly alarmist warnings that Whyalla would be wiped off the map and that a lamb roast would cost $100 under Labor’s carbon tax brought him well-earned ridicule but his campaign helped trash Labor’s hopes .

So far Turnbull’s lowering of his act has only encouraged Bernardi and Christensen and others of the right wing whose participation looks more like upstaging than sharing. Channelling Tony Abbott has won Turnbull no new supporters, brought no greater unity. Their own bizarre preoccupations can only expand to fill his policy vacuum and have damaging consequences. No amount of defence White Paper and reference to external threats can distract us from his lack of effective leadership.

Who needs an opposition? Turnbull is trashing himself and his brand as he flails about wildly at a small target. Experts suggest that Labor’s negative gearing changes might reduce house prices one or two per cent. It is a poor base upon which to build an entire campaign or even part of a campaign.

As he loses control over the right and as he is seen to propose fewer and fewer real policies, the PM’s strategy could deal a serious blow to his re-electability. But it does offer a great invitation to the Monkey Pod nutters to get in on the act. Expect a carnival of chaos as a PM who can’t even lead his party tries to lead an election campaign.

David Tyler blogs at http://urbanwronski.com. He is a regular writer for The Tasmanian Times and has had work published on Independent Australia.

 

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19 comments

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  1. olddavey

    “The Queensland MP’s homophobic shock tactic gets the PM to promise to review the program. Assisting Gorgeous George are Senator Cory Bernardi, Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz, Tasmanian MP Andrew Nikolic, Western Australian MP Andrew Hastie and Queensland Senator Jo Lindgren who worry, they say, it could be disguised funding for “minorities”.”

    So this is where we’re headed!
    Please, can we get Donald Trump to run the LNP, he’s got more brains in the end of his dick than this bunch have in their tiny minds.

  2. Matters Not

    David Tyler that is a great article. You understand what is going on and in some depth. Congratulations.

    Re the public record and the ‘lamb roast’ with its $100 price tag, I believe that claim was down to Barnaby. Not that Abbott refuted same.

  3. Michael Taylor

    And it was good to see the claim that the Libs killed off the car industry go unchallenged!

    That may change, at the tick of the clock.

  4. Michael McKew

    Splendid analysis of of our current political morass,David.Thanks for your sagacity.

  5. mark

    an absorbing article,plenty of food for thought,thanks.mark

  6. Rob031

    Marvelous article David Tyler. Well done.

  7. Deidre Zanker

    Great article

  8. Jimmy

    Please somehow get this article out to the public.
    The general pop needs to see the facts not all garbage in our newspapers and current affairs.
    Well done David.

  9. McKew

    The government did not close down the car industry in Australia. It was closed down by the International owners of the 3 multinational companies as it was no longer competitive to build cars in Australia, partially due to the incredibly generous wages paid to Australian workers having been negotiated by labour when in government to reward their supporters.

    No amount of further propping up by the government would have saved that industry. What are the unions doing to find alternative employment for displaced workers, some of whom are members of their union?It was only a matter of time before the wages paid in Australia being excessively higher than anywhere else in the world would cause the problem to explode.

    The comment that few Australians would benefit from having a well funded secure system of defence is extraordinary. All Australians benefit from keeping our country secure.

    Many Australian industries and workers will receive some of the defence dollars which will be of direct benefit to those workers and indirect benefit to our economy generally.

    The government has committed itself to engaging local dockyard workers in the construction of the proposed fleets and will give favourable consideration to the contract to engages the maximum local content in the build

    The article mentions the Liberal party’s failure to support Rudd’s Malaysia solution. Apart from the fact that Malaysia had no facilities to look after the pathetically small number of refugees to be sent there in exchange for a whopping great number of refugees to be received by Australia, the High Court gave its opinion on the proposal.

    It was one of Labour’s silliest suggestions and deserve the fate received The less said about labour’s proposal to reduce tax concessions for property investors the better as far as the Labour Party is concerned. It is a well-established fact that supply and demand determine the price of anything on the open market and such applies to the property market. By denying investors the privilege of tax deducting losses on existing home purchases you reduce the number of buyers by approximately 42%. With less buyers and more sellers the inevitable happens, which is prices must fall.

    In relation to new properties (just or to be built) there will be a concentration of more buyers than sellers, which can only have the effect that the price of such properties will skyrocket and make it less affordable for first-time buyers totally defeating the Labour Party objective. Not all first time homebuyers wish to buy an experiment, particularly bearing in mind the risks associated with buying off the plan in the case of home units.

    The obvious problem for the Labour Party is that they do not have anyone with any experience in business or property affairs and have too many trade unionists who have never done a days work.

    The party does not seem capable of reviewing its policy in light of the facts that have been clearly enunciated by the Prime Minister about the faults of their policy.

  10. Möbius Ecko

    You bet Turnbull is doing the full Abbott.

    Interview out and about today and he answered every question by attacking Labor and Shorten, even bringing up the alternate PM blab, just as Abbott used to do.

    As hard as the reporters attempted to get Turnbull to answer questions on his policy and stance, he kept going back to attacking Labor and Shorten. Close your eyes and imagine a stammering almost inarticulate voice and it was Abbott answering the questions. The only thing Turnbull would say about his policies was that they were carefully thought out and planned, unlike Labor’s of course. Again Abbott to a tee. Even being out and about for staged photo ops, Abbott again.

    He even raised the proven furphy of Labor getting rid of negative gearing in the past that supposedly caused the housing market to crash so much they immediately reinstated it. What is it with Liberals and their revisionist history writing?

    2½ years and they are still thinking out and planning policies without tabling any major reform.

  11. Michael Taylor

    Mobius, like Abbott, Turnbull is carrying on like a leader of the opposition.

  12. Neil of Sydney

    And it was good to see the claim that the Libs killed off the car industry go unchallenged!

    That may change, at the tick of the clock.

    To my surprise someone beat me to it. What it shows is that subsidies without any matching performance increases do not work. It looks like workers and management just gorged themselves of the free taxpayers money. They ended up making cars nobody wanted to buy.

    There needs to be an inquiry why cars sales crashed from 25% of the market before the 2007 election to just 10% of the market just before the 2013 election.

  13. Michael Taylor

    Looks like the clock just ticked over. ?

  14. Möbius Ecko

    Crystal ball Migs, and much better than Howard’s cracked one we oft talked about at Tim’s place.

  15. Möbius Ecko

    So McKew why is this government looking to sending refugees to Malaysia, and of course there’s the spectacularly failed Cambodia experiment. Millions given for nothing in return.

    As to the car industry it would now be profitable under the current low Australian dollar. Strange how you don’t mention that.

    So you like right wingers want Australians to work for near slave wages, which in turn would collapse our economy. What short sightedness, and all for the greed of few who milk everything out of the economy and give little back.

  16. mars08

    Yes, there should be government inquiry into why the car market contracted at about the same time as the sub-prime banking crisis started making headlines. It’s a mystery really…

    [/sarcasm]

  17. Matters Not

    Mckew, you have all the talking points down pat. But you really are ‘light’ when it comes to analysis (BTW, you are somewhat ignorant when it comes to history. In Australia it’s the Labor Party.) As an aside, is this Neil under another moniker? The ‘logic’, or lack of same, seems familiar.

    Let’s start with subsidies for the ‘car industry’ across the world and of course when it comes to ‘subsidies’ we need to include both ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ assistance. Further the ‘economies’ of scale need to be considered as well. Here’s a few facts.

    When you compare Australia to a few other key markets, our direct subsidies are dwarfed by those overseas.

    For example, in the United States, the Bush and Obama administrations allocated $US80 billion to direct assistance under the Automotive Industry Financing Program. This included rescuing automotive firms’ financing operations, such as the General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). There were also debt guarantees. Treasury notes that it has recouped almost $US51 billion of the $US80 billion allocated to the program.

    An extensive New York Times investigation found that Chrysler received at least $US1.4 billion since 2007 from 14 grants in 3 states. GM received $US1.77 billion from 208 grants, while Ford was awarded more than $US1.58 billion from 119 grants

    But what about the European Union.

    The European Union also heavily subsidises its industry.

    Most recently, considerable French subsidies have been announced for “green” or electric vehicles. And in 2009, Germany introduced a €5 billion “cash-for-clunkers” scheme.

    EU countries have also employed state aids extensively from the 1980s, like investment aids, export credits and insurance, corporate rescues, research and development contracts, and direct cash injections into public and private-sector firms. National governments also provide (overtly or covertly) discounted loans or (sometimes unlawful) subsidies to firms.

    Perhaps you could nominate a car manufacturer, selling in the international market, which doesn’t receive any government assistance? I could go on but let me give you the results of a ‘fact check’.

    by international standards, annual assistance to the Australian automotive industry is relatively modest in raw dollar and per capita terms

    As for the rest of your claims, they will be subject to another post at another time.

  18. Ruth L

    Another blogger in the same league as Kaye Lee.Well done David and AIMS.

  19. Neil of Sydney

    As to the car industry it would now be profitable under the current low Australian dollar

    If that was true local car sales would be increasing. I think we would have heard about it if that was happening.

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