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Cormann’s Calamitous Capitulation

By Ad Astra

There is no doubt about who was behind last week’s move to displace Malcolm Turnbull. It was the ever-vengeful and habitually destructive Tony Abbott, who from the moment Turnbull toppled him in 2015, set about doing the same in return. He will have gained some satisfaction from the party room’s decision – Turnbull is gone.

But it would be naïve to believe that he was a lone ranger. Peter Dutton was in it up to his eyeballs. He was to be a proxy for Abbott, ready to do his bidding.

Behind this vicious duo was a cluster of conservative malcontents. Dissatisfied and angry that Turnbull was too progressive, too resistant to conservative ideology, they saw no option but to eliminate him if they were to advance their agenda. Dutton was joined by hardline assistant finance minister Michael Sukkar, doing the numbers for him; Greg Hunt, running as his deputy; Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, Abbott loyalist Angus Taylor, and James McGrath, Michael Keenan, Alan Tudge and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

But so influential was finance minister Mathias Cormann, who remained loyal to the PM for a while, that he was regarded as the ultimate kingmaker. And that’s what he turned out to be as he deserted his leader. More about his treachery later!

Backing this motley crew was the Murdoch mob, who via his print outlets, TV and radio stations were pushing the Dutton line. Chris Uhlmann, of Nine News, an astute political commentator who learned his trade at the ABC, castigated The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, as well as 2GB hosts Alan Jones and Ray Hadley, for their conduct. He singled out Sky News in particular. “Sky after dark has been running a campaign against Malcolm Turnbull… at the moment it is turning Liberal National Party voters into One Nation voters and they are not coming back…with friends like Sky News, Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t really need any other enemies.”

While it has been known that Murdoch has been playing the political kingmaker game here and overseas for decades, his influence has never been as overt as during this leadership battle. 2GB’s Alan Jones admitted on 7.30 that he had directly contacted MPs and urged them to change leader.

In an opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald: Cancer eating the heart of Australian democracy, Kevin Rudd tore into Tony Abbott with this indictment: ”…the entire energy of this giant wrecking ball of Australian politics has been focused on destroying his opponents…of all modern politicians, Abbott is sui generis. His singular, destructive impact on national politics cannot be underestimated.” For his trouble, he was attacked by Murdoch journalist Sharri Markson who called Rudd’s piece “a quite disgusting outrageous attack”

The reaction of the media to these accusations has been telling. Guilty as accused, and livid about being blamed, media luminaries lashed out in defence of their interference, and in support of their favourites. In the Weekend Australian of 25-26 August, Janet Albrechtsen rudely castigated Malcolm Turnbull, laying all the blame for the leadership chaos at his feet. In a nasty opinion piece, Richard Alston did likewise. Chris Kenny joined the fray. Niki Savva was more balanced when she wrote: “The coup against Turnbull had all the subtlety of a chainsaw massacre”. Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan were characteristically more moderate in their assessment. It was clear though that the media had been deeply involved in the political process, and was incensed at being exposed and called out.

Turnbull really didn’t have a chance with Abbott, Dutton, and their noisy gang baying for blood, and their media spear-throwers targeting him, but he might have survived had it not been for the treachery of a few who were previously his loyalists. This piece highlights the disloyalty of one man – Mathias Cormann.

This man has been an integral part of the Turnbull strike-force ever since he was elevated to Finance Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate. I have written about him several times, notably in The Tale of Two Daleks where I described his behaviour, as well as that of his co-Dalek, Scott Morrison. I labelled them DC and DM. I suggested that they were carefully programmed each morning: to talk quickly, as if firing verbal bullets; to talk loudly; to talk incessantly; to repeat their words over and again; to talk over their interviewers, and ’never take a breath’; to avoid answering questions they didn’t like’; and to answer such questions with “I don’t accept your characterisation”. The media office guaranteed that such tactics would make it impossible to ignore them, impossible to escape them. DM became a champion at talking loudly, smothering any attempt to stop him. In contrast, DC was quietly spoken in his typically Germanic way.

Whether one liked him or not, one had to admire his ability to stay on message and regurgitate reliably and repeatedly the words he was programmed to utter. It was impossible to trip him up. Knowing this, his interviews concluded with his shrewd ‘Got you, didn’t I?’ smile.

So it came as a nasty surprise when he turned out to be a disloyal turncoat as the leadership saga unfolded. Within hours of standing on the right hand of his leader declaring his loyalty, he turned up, pale-faced, with co-conspirators, the bearded Mitch Fifield and the loquacious Michaelia Cash, to front the press to inform us all that they had formed the view that Turnbull no longer enjoyed the support of a majority of the party room, and therefore they were withdrawing their support. They insisted that the party room must now make a decision about Turnbull’s leadership. Cormann was sure Dutton had the numbers, and looking after his own skin, decided to join him. This was a pivotal moment. Turnbull’s leadership was thereafter doomed. Subsequently, Cormann walked with Dutton along the corridor to that fateful party room vote.

Afterwards, we found that Cormann, the numbers man in his day job, had badly miscalculated. Dutton did not have the numbers; his backers could not count. Had Cormann made a call to Turnbull’s supporters, they would have told him so, and history would have told a different tale.

Writing in ABC News, political editor Andrew Probyn confirmed this: ”There was a moment last Thursday night when blood-curdling horror flashed across Mathias Cormann’s face. He had realised that his best mate Peter Dutton didn’t have the numbers to become prime minister after all…the normally unflappable, inscrutable political professional had the look of someone who’d gladly commit murder. Mathias Cormann doesn’t like to lose. This was a horrible realisation for the Belgian-born powerbroker who had put his honour in the guillotine by walking away from Malcolm Turnbull, just hours after publicly pledging loyalty to the besieged PM.”

Cormann’s honour was destroyed in a minute of madness, a minute when he realized that his behind the scene plotting against his leader to advance his own cause had failed spectacularly. His calamitous capitulation had shredded his credibility irrevocably.

Those of you who missed the unfolding catastrophe can read about it here:

Cormann can thank the generosity of his new leader that he retains his positions, despite his disloyalty.

But he will be forever diminished in the eyes of those who once respected him. Colleagues will look at him askance, as an untrustworthy person willing to replace loyalty with self-interest. He will be treated as a pariah.

We will do likewise. Mathias – you’ve lost us.

This article by Ad Astra was originally published on The Political Sword.

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  1. John Hermann

    I completely agree with this assessment. Nevertheless, it remains unclear to me why the plotters, wreckers and backstabbers have been restored to cabinet positions within the new Australian federal government. The treacherous backstabbing of a popular prime minister reminds me of the assassination of Julius Caesar (or at least the version presented in the Shakespearean play), with Cassius played by mad monk Abbott and Brutus played by the terrible twins Dutton and Cormann. Possibly our new PM Scott Morrison thinks he can stave off future plotting against him from the looney tunes wing of his party by throwing them a few cabinet positions, in the hope that it will keep them all busy and out of his hair. Unfortunately this party is now a Frankenstein amalgamation – of wings so different in disposition and beliefs that any hope of reconciliation seems unrealistic and unlikely. However remember that the ever-appeasing Malcolm Turnbull decided to keep Dutton, Cormann and Cash inside the tent (although relegating Abbott and Abetz to the back bench, and sending Hockey overseas as an ambassador). And look where that miscalculation got him in the long run.

  2. New England Cocky

    “Et tu, Madhatter Konmann?” The quick knifing of Turdball by Konmann, Morriscum et al is too easily explained as a school yard backstabbing political murder by kiddies who should know better.

    WE must ask the question “Who benefits from political chaos in Australia?”

    Obviously, arms manufacturers in the USA (United States of Apartheid) pushing the line that keeping the general population in fear discourages interference in the rip-off deals made by foreign owned multinational corporations stripping natural resources out of the country with little, if any, financial benefit for Australian citizens.

    Obviously coal mining interests as they pursue a fighting retreat from the future of alternative energy sources displacing them on the very expensive and inefficient national power grid at home, and the coal exporters as they con the pliant NLP misgovernment with promises of financial gain for the unelected political hacks who control pre-selection if only the misgovernment will shell out $1 BILLION to build them a railway that the miners do not want to build for themselves. Socialise costs, privatise profits.

    Obviously the about 300+ multinational corporations exploiting the lax Australian taxation laws that have been designed to benefit international investment over the best interests of Australian voters, so that the corporations pay little or no tax in Australia.

    Obviously powerful persons pursuing personal vendettas, against PMs who stand up against them or their particular peccadilloes. Think Trumpery …

    I see many similarities between this event and the well documented Dismissal of the Whitlam ALP government where CIA organisation joined with a GG, two High Court judges and a grazier to evict a democratically elected government in the name of democracy.

    Then again, the first Rudd spill was orchestrated by then Senator Mark Arbib, a regular visitor to the US Embassy, and now Morriscum, a committed member of the Hillsong Church (salvation by credit card), long suspected as being the bolt-hole for CIA insurgency within Australia.

  3. Ad Astra

    John Hermann
    If Morrison thinks he can stave off the mad members of his motley crew by offering them token positions, he is a deluded as was Turnbull, who found that the road to appeasement led to a dead end, as it always does. He never learned that if you appease bullies, they will demand more, as indeed the conservative rump did, over and again.

    Throwing Abbott and Joyce a bone is a minor concession compared to handing Cormann back his Treasurer and Senate House Leader role, and Dutton his Home Affairs post (minus Immigration and Border Protection). These guys will now try to upend Morrison at the earliest opportunity. Morrison is a naïve fool; his verbal diarrhoea will likely render him oblivious to his surroundings – he has a profoundly deaf Tin Ear. (For more about the epidemic of Tin Ear in Liberal ranks, read ‘Get over it girls’ today on The Political Sword: )

  4. helvityni

    Scheming, plotting, political high drama, Oz style; for a couple days there was no need for me to turn to my almost daily Nordic Noir on SBS…
    Mal has disappeared to NY, but Tones, Dutton and Julie are still here; will there be more episodes…

    This mess started with Abbott, when will it ever end…?

  5. Ad Astra

    New England Cocky
    Your conspiracy theory has a ring of authenticity. There are always capitalists in the energy sector prowling behind the play, ready to take advantage of the circumstances brought about by their co-conspirators, in this case now skulking on the government benches fingering lumps of coal.

    The coal barons, here and in the US, are powerful, wealthy, influential, and ready to put their hand in their bulging pockets to fund their political stooges. The Koch brothers, owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the United States, are immensely influential in the US. They fund Donald Trump bountifully! Their influence does not stop there.

    We would be naïve to believe that we are immune from such conspiratorial influence.

  6. Peter F

    @helvityni: ‘This mess started with Abbott’ I agree, it started around ten ears ago. Abbott became Opposition leader in 2009.

    I don’t think he realises just how many people see him as he really is. Perhaps this coming election he will find out.

    As Henry 2 said “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”, resulting in followers of Henry murdering the Bishop. I would not advocate that as a solution, but voting might achieve the desired result.

  7. Ad Astra

    It will never end until Abbott and his co-conspirators, along with Morrison, Dutton, Cormann and Co. are out of parliament. They are poisonous. They inject their venom into their adversaries. They are concerned only with their own power and position.

    My cherished hope is that at the next election, the people will eject them, as could happen to many of them who are now sitting in marginal seats, terrified by disastrous polling numbers. Only a complete flush of these venomous people from their seats will rid our nation of their malevolence.

  8. PeterStevenson

    I wonder if Corman will blame Labor for this conspiracy. From now on whenever a journalist or a reporter interviews a Liberal politician who blames the Labor party for their indiscretions they want to remind them that it would have to be FOUR Prime Ministers ago. I believe that this might put an end to the blame game.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Speaking of blaming Labor, Dutton says his opponents are just trying to damage him and he is compiling a list of all the visa interventions asked of him by Labor MPs. He will never understand that it isn’t the people he lets in who are really the problem – it is those he excludes as I tried to point out on his facebook page.

    “The issue of the au pairs was brought up well before the leadership spill as you are well aware. I don’t think it was the granting of those visas that is the controversy until it is compared to the people you have knocked back – the children on Nauru in desperate need of medical attention, the Afghani interpreter that helped our armed forces for example. It would be really good if you stopped being so continually defensive and just started listening and realising the contrast stinks. It’s not about attacking you – it’s about the heartless way you have treated others.”

    These people are so self-focused that they don’t get why people are upset. Stop blaming others all the time!!

    It infuriates me when I hear Morrison say these are people not files. What about the children on Nauru who have just been numbers for their whole lives?

  10. Ad Astra

    Peter F
    Abbott has no insight into his own malevolence, and he never will. He still believes he is the one to lead the Coalition, that he knows the winning strategies, and that he can beat Labor against all the odds. Facts, figures, opinion polls, political commentary, public opinion, reason and logic are irrelevant to him. His entrenched belief in himself and his superior political judgement is irreversible. There is no hope of him changing; no mea cupla will ever pass his lips, he is beyond any reasonable hope of reform.

    We should forget him, but with him lying in wait like a cobra waiting for his opportunity to strike, we should not for a moment believe that he has gone away, or that he will ever retreat, no matter what circumstances may unfold. He will remain a persistent evil in our politics, a malevolent force, a vengeful and malicious leftover from a long gone catastrophe when the stars aligned to hand him power.

  11. Ad Astra

    Kaye Lee
    Dutton is another Abbott. He has a profound case of Tin Ear. He will never understand why people are so caustic about his behaviour as Immigration Minister. Like Abbott, he has an entrenched belief in the correctness of his position in accepting au pairs but rejecting asylum seekers in desperate need of admission to Australia, many needing urgent medical attention. There is no cure for his Tin Ear or his entrenched beliefs.

    For more about the prevalence of Tin Ear among Liberals, you may care to read today’s piece on The Political Sword: ‘Get used to it girls’:

  12. Matters Not

    Dutton promoted his leadership ambitions by claiming that he would sandbag a loss of Queensland seats. That he holds Dickson by a mere 1.6% (after being the local member for 17 years) suggests that he is prone to over rate his appeal.

    In the days before the last election Dutton donated $50 000 to party funds. A sizeable sum. Yet he wasn’t aware of other donors and how much a particular one contributed both before and (especially) after the French au pair’s exemption. Hilarious.

    Hopefully, this time we (GetUp) will get him.

  13. Ad Astra

    No doubt Cormann and Co. will try to lay off the blame for their predicament on Labor, no matter how preposterous their assertions. Reality, truth, facts and reason are irrelevant to them.

    What they need to realize is that the people who no longer slavishly support them, do not believe a word they say. They know they are liars for whom truth no longer counts. They laugh at them; deride their pathetic attempts to deceive, and look upon them as pariahs.

    While public regard remains abysmal, they have no hope of redemption in the eyes of the electorate. They are oblivious to the stark reality of their miserable position and the low regard the voters have for them. Blind and deaf, they amble aimlessly hoping for a redeemer to rescue them. None will come.

  14. Ad Astra

    Matters Not
    My cherished hope is that Dutton, who sits on a miserable margin in Dickson, will be well and truly wiped out at the next election. No fate can be too bad for such a person – only electoral oblivion will do.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Ad Astra,

    Re the article on PS – I am hesitant to say this in case it sounds like victim blaming, but women in the Coalition have not only tolerated the bullying behaviour and endorsed it by their acceptance, some of them have actively embraced the strategy. Who could forget Michaelia Cash’s ridiculous screeching tirade about the sisterhood knifing one of their own. Sophie Mirabella and Bronwyn Bishop stood in front of the ditch the witch signs. Sophie Mirabella cat-called across the chamber to Gillard “You won’t need his taxpayer-funded nanny, will you?”

    They are more than happy to regurgitate the “blame Labor” spin. Julia Banks even did it saying she had received bullying from both sides. Perhaps that is true (there were citizenship issues) but it deflects scrutiny from the miscreants to some sort of “they all do it” generality.

    They have taken the first tentative step in mentioning some general sort of accusations. If they want to make change, then Coalition women have to start naming names and lodging official complaints.

    I absolutely do not mean to imply they deserve what they get. I am saying that that no-one should have to tolerate the workplace bullying that is rampant in Canberra. They are strong passionate women or they wouldn’t have made it to parliament. They must know that empowering bullies, even by silence, must stop.

  16. Max Gross

    Cormann is Belgian, not “Germanic”

  17. totaram

    “Mathias – you’ve lost us.”

    Seriously, Ad Astra, did he ever have us? Not me for sure. I haven’t looked into how he is a german-speaking Belgian, (until now) but I have noted that he is perhaps the only person with a foreign (non-english) accent in the coalition. This means he came to Australia too late in life to adapt his accent (age 24 it seems from Wikipedia). How did he manage it? A party of crypto-fascists which found Turnbull “too leftist” even when he bent over backwards to accommodate their every loony wish, would surely have needed strong credentials of some kind to allow Mathias Cormann into the fold. Being an intelligent person, compared to some of the really dimwit people in the coalition might have helped. His being a catholic might have helped too, but other neoliberal/neofascist credentials would be needed. Or simply an ability to cosy up to the “donors” of the coailtion. Some digging into his past is in order.

  18. helvityni

    totaram, if you have a problem with Cormann’s accent, what is your take on Pauline’s way of speaking…. Any problems with her?

  19. New England Cocky

    @MN: I look forward to being able to tell my grandchildren that at the 2018/2019 Australian Federal election I worked to expunge Benito Dutton, the worst fascist racist Liarbral politician, from the Australian Parliament. It will rank with my other political victories of assisting Tony Windsor (Ind) into New England and both Richard Torbay (Ind) and the late Bill McCarthy (ALP) into Northern Tablelands.

    Women supporting Adulterers support National$.

  20. Terence Mills

    There is an opportunity for Dutton or the new immigration minister to exercise some discretion to a young woman and her baby held in detention in Melbourne ; this is an extract of an article in Crikey concerning their plight :

    There is a baby in detention in Melbourne. She has spent the entire five months of her life under guard in immigration detention with her mother Huyen.

    I see her when I visit there on weekends. I also see the baby’s father and Huyen’s husband Paul visiting them, as that’s the only way he can see his wife and daughter.

    Paul has a visa and a job but his visa does not cover Huyen who has not been allowed to leave Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) while her current legal process is underway. The baby is a dependant connected to her father’s visa. But her mother is in immigration detention. So there is a baby in detention.

    This is a baby born in Australia but can only claim citizenship under current legislation if at least one parent is an Australian citizen or permanent resident then the child will automatically acquire Australian citizenship. It seems from this case that Dutton and his crew are a long way from exercising any discretion in their favour and seem to want to prevent either parent gaining citizenship, maybe they need the intervention of a Liberal party donor.

  21. Ad Astra

    I thank you all for your further comments.

    It seems that a universal desire is for the odious Dutton to lose his seat at the next election. His unimaginable nastiness and bigotry render him unsuitable for any public office. Even the police force would hesitate to take him back.

    What service could he offer his community? Only the most demeaning job would fit the bill.

  22. Diannaart


    Unfortunately, Hanson’s accent is considered ‘acceptable’ Queensland Whine.

  23. totaram

    Helvityni: I don’t have a problem with Cormann’s accent. I am surprised that the Coalition, who talk so much about “Australian Values and One Australian Culture”, don’t have any problem with it. They are after all, very much like a schoolyard gang. Any accent of a “native English speaker” (there are lots of them) is probably more acceptable in Australia (for obvious historical reasons) than the accent of someone whose native tongue is not English. People with these latter accents are very rare in Australian politics, in case you haven’t noticed.

  24. Andrew J. Smith

    Cormann was a Belgian citizen of German ethnicity. He once said on ABC RN LNL with Phillip Adams, that Penny Wong and he spoke of party attitudes. These were non English speaking b’ground &/or different looking couldn’t be trusted with electorates hence, the Senate for them.

  25. totaram

    A.J Smith: Ha, ha! Penny Wong “sounds” Australian but doesn’t “look” Australian, while Mathias Cormann “looks” Australian (white skin, Caucasian), but doesn’t sound like one! Tells you a lot doesn’t it?

  26. SteveFitz

    And there’s more to tell – I’m bitterly disappointed in the calibre of those in the Liberal Party and I don’t see a man among them – Women excluded. This country was built be real men and women, nation builders, prepared to fight and die for higher ideals, for freedom and democracy and a fair go for everyone.

    Have a look at them:

    What happened? Where did the real men go? The family men, men with integrity, men prepared to stand up for their women, stand up for what was right and stand up for what was best for their country. Men now lost in time and look at what we are left with. I think the real problem is that these so called males in the Liberal Party have no idea what a man should be.

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