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It can’t go on like this

In August 2015, with the Abbott government in disarray and a few weeks before Malcolm staged his coup, Laura Tingle wrote an article in the AFR which she could publish again tomorrow. It forcibly underlines how nothing has changed under Malcolm Turnbull and begs the question of how long he can survive.

The following are her words from 2 years ago…

It has been a noisy, out-of-control week in Canberra: the Liberal Party has imploded over same-sex marriage, the government has announced a farcical climate change policy, the credibility of its trade union royal commission has been shredded (insert citizenship woes instead). But in the hallowed space of the cabinet room, and even in the Parliament, it’s been much quieter.

Ministers reflect on the painfully thin agenda before the cabinet: thin in subject matter as well as substantive submissions. Parliament has not been overwhelmed by major legislation to debate.

A meeting of the National Security Committee of the cabinet has, however, recently asked for a list of national-security-related things that could be announced weekly between now and the election.

How much scrutiny has gone in to these “announceables” is unclear.

National security being the new religion, it’s a bit rude to ask any questions, to the point where senior ministers insisted during a bid for funds by a national intelligence agency some months ago that the “bean counters” from Treasury and Finance be kept out of the room.

Bombing Syria. Messing with the constitution to get a political outcome on same sex-marriage. These are now the playthings of a prime minister so desperate, so out of control that he is overseeing the complete surrender of proper governance to day-to-day tactics.

The problem is that it isn’t even working for him. Every issue that is running in politics at present is highlighting the bitter divisions, or policy confusion, or both, within the government.

Cabinet ministers are publicly brawling over the appropriate legal vehicle, and timing, for deciding the question of same-sex marriage. Attorney-General George Brandis dismissed Scott Morrison’s suggestion that there should be a referendum, and was publicly backed by two other senior ministers. Six MPs indicated they would cross the floor to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

Coalition MPs recognise that Tony Abbott’s suggestion this week that the issue of same-sex marriage issue should go to “the people” was a purely political gambit to get it off the agenda short-term, shore up his support with conservatives in the party room, and bury it all together long-term.

But the glaring tactical flaws in this idea – the belief it would both stop the debate and could somehow stop same-sex marriage being an election issue – are so spectacular that even some of those close to Abbott are scathing.

Then again, the Prime Minister is now at war with his own party. His tactics are as much directed at his colleagues as his political opponents. He was quite happy to allow a party room debate to take place that saw 16 of his ministers argue against his position on same-sex marriage.

It’s not just on issues of social policy, however, where things have gone off the rails.

The government continues to announce policies that are long on columns of smoke, large in cost and short in detail.

Last week, the government announced it was spending “$89 billion” on “a strong and sustainable naval shipbuilding industry”.

This week, the government announced a climate change target that overwhelmingly relies on policies that have not yet been announced but which the government says can reduce our carbon emissions by 26 per cent by 2030 at a cost of $60 billion, compared to its claim that Labor’s policies (also not announced) to cut carbon by 40 to 60 per cent would cost $600 billion. (Shades of Morrison’s lies about the cost of Labor’s tax reform.)

If you hang around in Canberra long enough, you start to recognise the point where a government has become terminal, where the death spiral is irretrievable. It’s got nothing to do with the polls, or leadership rumblings.

It’s the point where the sheer stupidity of its decisions is so obvious, so craven, so contradictory, that everyone involved – ministers, backbenchers, the opposition, the media, voters – just know it can’t go on like this.


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  1. diannaart

    It’s the point where the sheer stupidity of its decisions is so obvious, so craven, so contradictory, that everyone involved – ministers, backbenchers, the opposition, the media, voters – just know it can’t go on like this.

    Yet PHONy has increased support according MSM polls – people are enjoying watching the disarray, just as the British do with Brexit and the USA with Trump.

    No, it cannot go on, but I feel the loony bus still has some mileage to go before it stops.

  2. leighton8

    Yes, agree, this circus can’t continue for much longer.

    Was just checking today …. Abbott held down the Prime Minister’s job for 1 year and 362 days …. Turnbull has held the brass ring for 1 year and 339 days …. just hoping that Turnbull can hold onto the job for at least 24 more days in order to keep Abbott as the shortest serving PM for the last 43 years or so ….. hang on Malcolm!!

  3. Jaquix

    Amazing how nothing has changed in TWO YEARS – even with a different PM. Indicates it’s not only the leadership in question, but the whole ethos of the Liberal/National party coalition, and quality of individual govt MPs. In fact the situation is much worse now due to 5 pollies referred to the High Court to have their eligibility tested. Plus a 3 part case against the postal survey itself is before the High Court. Chaos reigns. Exactly what Turnbull warned us about – if we voted Labor!

  4. etnorb

    Sadly this inept, lying, ridiculous so-called Liberal party & their Country party cousins could not organise & run a chook raffle! They go from one blunder to the next, getting even further into the hole they have dug, with nothing to show for ANY thing they have done or tried to do whilst supposedly running the country. They go from bad to worse every day, cannot wait for the next Federal elections to see this bloody rabble consigned to the rubbish dump of opposition. It is all ANY of them deserve!

  5. Peter F

    Yes we have succeeded in having chaos without the ‘risk’ of a Labor government.

  6. Harquebus

    “it can’t go on like this.”
    You got that right.

    In my opinion, the failure of politics stems from political and economic ideologies that are not suited to the limitations of the 21st century.

    With the next failure and the one after that and so on because, they all will fail, should be interesting.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Success is measured one step at a time on the road to a destination we will never reach

  8. Andreas Bimba

    But does the general public see the government as being disfunctional, probably not when most don’t read newspapers or watch the TV news and most of those that do mainly access the corporate oligarchy’s propaganda. Even the ABC and SBS have been intimidated by budget cuts and the appointment of right wing neoliberal propagandists.

    At election time the corporate oligarchy’s well funded smear campaigns against Labor and the Greens will kick in, the Liberals will have a fabulously well produced advertising campaign that would make poop look like gold and the Nationals with all of Gina’s donations will once again appear like they once again represent regional people, at least during the election campaign.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Only those upstream Andreas

  10. jimhaz

    Well the LNP has proven that one cannot negotiate with terrorists – those terrorists being the emboldened far right wing brigade, the Mr TNT Abbott and his squad and Gina’s Schutzstaffel.

  11. Ill fares the land

    Unhappily, “we” are to blame. I don’t necessarily mean you (I don’t think it’s me, but I could be wrong), but society as a whole.

    We have allowed our descent into a selfish and alienated culture that applauds populism; prefers belief over facts; is full of people who are in love with the sound of their own voice and “thoughts” (hang on, I sense yet another “opinion” coming on!); a culture where our media, be it online or paper, is full of drivel (the same small quantity of actual news just recycled over and over – probably at least a dozen times a day). We are convinced that the world is watching us, when in truth, the world, for the most part, takes way less less notice of us than we like to think. But we still obsess over the look at me accoutrements, having bigger cars (and they are getting bigger still now we are importing SUV’s and “utilities” from the USA – the world leader in “bigger makes me better” and cars made for boofheads), bigger houses, drinking more trendy boutique beer and wine, eating in ever more “trendy” restaurants, wearing bigger watches, watching bigger and bigger TV’s and building special rooms to house them; bigger and bigger barbecues and ever more elaborate and expensive outdoor entertaining areas, outdoing our friends and acquaintances with bigger solar systems (a big dinner party topic with middle-aged men all trying to out do each other), more and more exotic holidays (bragging rights are worth a lot when it comes to holiday talk). A world where the bulk of the media and online space is devoted to the verbal and intellectual diarrhoea of the new rising class – the opinionistas. In Adelaide, the Advertiser is truly a shocker as papers go, but a third of its articles are “rants” disguised as “news”. Where every second TV show, especially on free-to-air is a reality TV show and with shows like “Operation Repo”, it takes but a moment to realise how utterly vile the characters are – and they are “real people” remember. The rich getting richer and the increasing disenfranchisement of the poor.

    So, what sort of politicians do you think will be drawn into modern politics and which we will elect? Stop and think – it is precisely those above trends and more that have led us to allow utterly incompetent, corrupt and corruptible liars and cheats into politics. We put them there and they behave as you would expect them to behave in a world where three-word slogans dominate political debate (have you noticed now how every time Turnbull opens his mouth, he utters the phrase “keeping Australians safe”). Sure, it is a relevant and topical issue, but it is the mindless repetition that is most staggering to behold. What sort of people would the numpties like Dutton, O’Dwyer, Abetz, Abbott, Brandis and Sinodinos (the list is much longer) surround themselves with? How does a little scumbag like Dastyari get into and get promoted in politics? Well, we shouldn’t be surprised that they will want even more idiots into the ranks.

    The Trumps and Hanson’s are exactly the product of decades of neo-liberalism, the obsessive and relentless “me” focus and what we have allowed the world to become – they peddle fear and convince us that they understand our fear and can make those fears go away, when in truth, they are exploiting that fear solely to enhance themselves and their fragile egos. But we listen to the tripe they spout.

    Our politicians pretending they care about climate change and playing games with emission reduction targets, but ridiculing attempts to increase investment in renewable energy sources and trying to convince us we need yet more coal mines. They screech about how much we pay the unemployed and demand cuts, but pay themselves a DAILY allowance to travel to Canberra that is more than a unemployed person gets in a week. And they overwhelmingly use that allowance to fund a Canberra rental property owned by their spouse. They know the damage done by negative gearing, but a twerp like Cormann has, I believe, 5 rental properties.

    I can proclaim we should all wake up to ourselves, but I fear that we have passed the point of no return and we are doomed now to a inept and corrupt ruling political class. I pray I am wrong.

  12. Ken Butler

    Nailed it with railway spikes! Secured with a sledgehammer!

  13. totaram

    I am a little tired of repeating this, but here goes. It can go on like this because they are continuing to carry out the IPA agenda, in spite of various hiccups along the way. Just by way of example, here is the latest (I won’t put in a link to avoid problems):

    “First the government abolished us.

    And now they’re trying to push through reforms that will tell us how to spend your donations.

    The proposed reforms include mandating all environmental charities to spend 25-50% of their funds on direct environmental remediation, such as tree planting and weed control. As you know the Climate Council is a research, education, communications and advocacy organisation. We have no experience or expertise in environmental remediation. ”

    etc. etc.

    So you still think these guys are clueless? They jolly well know what they are doing. It might just not be to your liking, but who cares?

  14. townsvilleblog

    In other words the ridiculous extremist right wing faction of the Liberal Party still rules over the moderates with the extremist ideology continuing to drive working people into poverty at a rapid rate. Even the right wing Bill Shorten looks like a communist compared to this extremist right wing mob. As a Murdoch paper once shouted at it’s readers “Kick this mob out”!!!

  15. Andreas Bimba

    Yes ‘Ill fairs the land’, we collectively are to blame. Even though the democratic process has been heavily slanted in favour of the Conservatives by corporate money and power, our appalling mass media, the political indoctrination of two generations in our private and some public school madrasas and our crappy two party system that destroys smaller parties; we as a people have not entirely but significantly degenerated into apathetic, ignorant, wasteful, fearful, xenophobic, hateful and self obsessed prats.

    When Julie Gillard, the ALP and the Greens were vilified so unfairly by the Conservatives and the right wing media, and enough of the electorate believed such utter crap, the game may well be over and we will continue further down the path to corporate oligarchy and eventually corporate totalitarianism even if every so often we vote in a Labor government that on current trends lacks the will or courage to take on the big end of town.

  16. lawrencesroberts

    If we get the other set of “grown ups” back in power will things pick-up or will it be a continuation of the class war in a vindictive manner.

    The whole expensive charade is rather like a surreal play. They should all be wearing bright clothing, medals and other decorations. The system is broken and I doubt that any of these jokers can fix it. Government by electric plebiscite would be a damn site quicker and cheaper.

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