After surviving what he describes as a near death experience on Monday, Tony Abbott with feigned penitential self-indulgence, declared that Tuesday 10 February was the beginning of good government. With tempestuous dexterity he decided that all the previous ideological wrong he had committed on the Australian people would be overlooked. A new start would take place the following morning.
Well I’m all for forgiveness. “Let’s celebrate” I said to my wife. She was as equally delighted with the prospect of good government as I was. Lunch and a bottle of Merlot was in order. We were both so happy that overnight the Prime Minister had had a near death experience that convinced him good government was not only possible, but necessary. And with a quick fix personality transplant it would be accompanied with good leadership.
What a waste of a bloody good bottle of Annie’s Lane, Clare Valley, it was. It became apparent the next morning that the good government we had become so excited about was indeed premature.
It seemed there was some confusion as to what Tony Abbott had promised the South Australian senator Sean Edwards. Was it a promise for the subs to be built-in SA, or was it just a ploy to get his vote in the leadership spill?
Good government had made a less that conspicuous start. A bewildered Defence Minister, Kevin Andrews, could not shed any light on the difference between a tender and a “competitive evaluation process”. The PM in a fit of calm reassurance and good governance suggested that if Labor was in power the subs would be built by Putin or Kim Jong-Il. The fact that the latter was deceased seemed irrelevant. The conspiracy theorist in me somehow thinks that the Japan Trade Deal and building the submarines might be interwoven.
On top of that the Prime Minister for good government and the Treasure wishing for it, were singing from different hymn sheets as to policy and future budget direction. Hockey seemed to be saying that good governance required that the existing policies of hitting the poor to help the rich was indeed good governance, where as the Prime Minister was suggesting that political expediency was good government at work.
And after much controversy and public disdain they cannot tell us whether the Medicare co-payment is in or out. Good government necessitates the explanation of policy, not the absence of it.
On Wednesday there were 40 youth leaders in the gallery for question time. “What must they be thinking”, I thought? The Speaker and the Government have turned Question Time into a disservice to the Australian people. Is this what he means by good governance? By this stage I had given up that good government was remotely possible from this lot.
The following day in an answer to a question, the Prime Minister repeated his oft-repeated lie that “every family in Australia” had received $550 as a result of the repeal of the carbon tax. And silly me thought that lying wouldn’t be necessary now that we had good government.
In another display of good government (or in this case bad government), Government members walked out on a reply speech by Bill Shorten to the “Closing the Gap” annual report. The Government became outraged when he dared to suggest that the $500 million taken from “Closing the Gap” programs should be reinstated, suggesting that he was being blatantly partisan. When Tony Abbott raised matters of local political controversy in speeches during visits by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Queen, and President Obama . . . they sat in muted silence. Perhaps they thought, that’s good governance. Anyway, Indigenous leaders clapped the speech while the PM suggested they should take on more responsibility. “He’s good at that”, I thought.
Then on Thursday we had the Prime Minister’s hysterically belligerent reaction to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) over its damning report into children in detention, saying it should be ashamed of itself for conducting “a blatantly partisan politicised exercise“. A good government might have taken a more considered and diplomatic approach to a report they have had since November. However, Abbott made it clear his government would continue to shoot the messenger Gillian Triggs, who seems to be the target because she is a trifle upset about the way in which successive governments have treated our fellow human beings. He said we should all be grateful for the job Scott Morrison had done. “Goodness”, I thought; I hope he didn’t include me.
Abbott’s behavior since his declaration of good government rather reminds me of the tennis player whose only reaction to adversity is to hit the ball harder when thoughtful measured dexterity is what’s needed. Or the boxer who brings on his defeat quickly by being more aggressive than the fight requires.
He then followed that up in question time with that word never to be used out of context. As if his week hadn’t been bad enough he uttered the word holocaust when he attacked Labor over some deplorable jobless figures:
“There was a Holocaust of jobs in Defence industries under members opposite … that’s what there was,” he said.
He certainly apologised very quickly but good government wasn’t being backed up with good judgement. His performance in question time was that of a punch drunk man desperately trying to impress his followers with his pugilistic acerbic tongue, rather than sagacious intelligence.
That wasn’t to be the end of it. He then went on to openly talk about two males facing terrorism charges. Comments that prominent lawyers said were highly likely to prejudice their cases. In an effort to inflame the terrorism debate both Abbott and Minister Dutton, in what I assume is their version of good government principle, used low rent grubbiness to say the two men in question entered Australia under Labor’s watch.
His week wasn’t made any better when US think tank ‘Council on Foreign Relations’ declared him “the least competent leader of any rich democracy and appears unaware of how poorly he comes across at world events.”
“Abbott has proven so incapable of clear policy thinking, so unwilling to consult with even his own ministers and advisers, and so poor at communicating that he has to go,” wrote the CFR senior fellow Joshua Kurlantzick, a US specialist in south-east Asian politics.
Maybe good government by the captain of team Australia might right the ship.
If this wasn’t serious it might be considered funny. At a time in our history when the benefits of a never to be repeated resources boom have come to an end and new ideas are needed to re invigorate our economy. When some of the economic revenue answers stare us in the eye and new green industries await good government approval. When science, education and technology can provide many of the solutions. When indeed what is required is not only good government but good leadership we find ourselves being led by a man who has never really grown up.
When our voices are silent against unfair, deceitful and dishonest government we get what we deserve.
Good government was just another lie by an incompetent lying fool.
PS. For those who think this piece might be a little sarcastic for their taste I give an unconditional guarantee that is fully intended.