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In front of six flags

While the spill motion two weeks ago was a point of interest across all demographics of Australian life, it has now morphed into something far more critical. Far from a handful of backbenchers calling for a vote on the leadership of the Liberal party, now practically everyone from anonymous cabinet ministers, shock jocks, business leaders, the man in the street, to some of Tony Abbott’s staunchest media allies, have joined the chorus.

This week, the second in the series of “good government”, senior ministers were sucked into the vortex of blunder, bluster and bedevilment, all trying desperately to get the ship back on course. But the more they tried, the more they failed.

The first week of “good government” began with what sounded like contradictory comments from the PM and his treasurer about the budget. Then came mixed messages about the future of the 1.5% levy intended to pay for the dumped Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

Then came Kevin Andrews and the Submarine fiasco, followed closely by the latest unemployment figures that revealed a 12 year high of 6.4%.

ruddock That led to a debate about job losses and Abbott’s brain snap reference to the holocaust. By the end of the week, chief whip, Phillip Ruddock had lost his job.

By any measure you would think that a time-out would be called for and the government take a few weeks off to think about their tactical manoeuvring. Maybe they did take a minute or two, but what we have seen since shows an extraordinary lack of judgement on the part of somebody and nothing remotely like good government.

The second week continued where the first one left off when the Prime Minister’s attack on Human Rights Commission head Gillian Triggs turned out to be the mother of all boomerangs.

As HRC head, Triggs comes with some pretty impressive qualifications and experience. As lawyers go, there are few who could hold a candle to her. But it seems this minor detail didn’t stand in the way of the cretins in the government camp who dreamt up the plan to bring her down.

While her five year term doesn’t expire until 2017 the government decided it wanted her out now. Her ‘Forgotten Children’ report, a damning indictment of two governments on the treatment of refugee children in detention, had upset the delicate sensitivities of conservative propriety. It prompted Abbott, Brandis and others earlier this month to carry out a coordinated plan of attack to get rid of her.

In terms of monumental stuff-ups, it was a classic. Not only did they not think it through, but their approach was so poorly considered, so bullish and pugilistic, it resulted in knocking themselves out. They could have just taken it on the chin and accepted the reality of it. They could have pointed out that the number of children in detention now is considerably less than when they first gained office. If they did that, then all they had to do was promise to do better.

triggs But no, they decided on a full frontal attack upon the person of Gillian Triggs. Both Abbott in the lower house and Attorney General, George Brandis in the senate let fly with a vitriolic outburst accusing her of bias and expressing a loss of confidence in her. Even Ian MacDonald took a blind swing. He said he had never read the report because he knew he would ignore it. Clever stuff, Ian.

It would appear, as they blustered and berated their way in parliament, that they never considered such an assault might backfire. They seemed more interested in the damage they could sustain. But when it was later revealed that Brandis had sent his department secretary, Chris Moraitis to broker a deal that would see Triggs employed somewhere else, the assault began to unravel.

Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police for a possible breach of the law. Julie Bishop then became embroiled in the farce for an answer she gave in parliament and the matter became the story of the week for all the wrong reasons.

An opportunistic Malcolm Turnbull took the high moral ground and focused on the children. The resulting media coverage portrayed the government as a dysfunctional rabble.

So what does Abbott do? He deflects to the issue of national security in front of six flags. He tries to garner support by warning us of the threat of terrorism. Like we didn’t already know? Why six flags? Who knows? I suppose six flags looks more serious than the usual two.

I suppose they might have highlighted the threat of something immanent. But there was nothing in his security speech about which we were not already acutely aware. Perhaps Abbott thought it was worth a crack at deflecting from what was yet another “ragged week”.

Whatever is passing through the mind of this man right now, he must realise his tenure as prime minister is all but over. My guess is, he still doesn’t understand why. Little wonder the leadership question was the main story over the last two days and is likely to be so for the start of next week as well.

While the PM watches the cricket in New Zealand with John Key, who knows what his senior ministers are planning for Monday.


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  1. RichardU

    If the Australian flag was our national comforter, under Abbott, it seems to be losing its potency.

  2. Phi

    John, the alternative you suggested with the government taking the Forgotten Children report ‘on the chin’ and pointing out that numbers in detention were less now than when Labor was in government misses the important fact that the length of time that the children are held in detention has increased and continues to increase under Abbott’s tragic regime.

  3. CMMC

    I think they were the flags of the States, NSW, QLD, VIC,TAS, SA,WA.

    Territory flags don’t count, apparently.

  4. flohri1754

    Seems like the next important date and time to watch is Monday, 2nd of March at 5 P.M. in Parliament House …. though it would oh so “juicy” if the curtain came down on Sunday, the 15th of March ….

  5. joffa230

    The six flags were to make him feel at home, six flags = 6 union jacks

  6. Opaline

    I guess we might think of the resurrection of Turnbull as immanent.

  7. Ross

    What are the odds on the ultimate humiliation for our Tony, being knifed by a single, barren ex lawyer woman.
    If only Bishop. J. was a ranga.
    Oh the irony, be still my beating heart.

  8. David

    i will never ever forgive Abbott/bishop/Brandis/MacDonald/Sullivan for their utter filthy gutter attack on Professor Triggs. it was as low as it can get, right alongside what was hurled non stop at Julia.
    However now we have the spectacle of Labor under Shorten agreeing for the most part with Brandis Metadata Bill. Is Shorten leading in phases? Defend prof Triggs. agree with Brandis. There is a rebellion brewing over Labors stupidity in there continual good act , bad act performance.
    Billo whoever is advising your lot, dump the bastards. otherwise Turnbull will devour you, nearly half the population are not unhappy with the prospect of his becoming PM.
    if you can’t handle the job, stand aside for Albo, he carries far less baggage
    This is being widely spread and read on Social Media.

    Dear Bill,
    I’m writing to ask WTF are you thinking in supporting the meta data retention laws.
    This will be nothing but another gross waste of money, and all the evidence from countries that have tried a similar approach shows little if any benefit, in the areas that are cited as the reasons for them, and the truth is that we stand to lose infinitely more than we stand to gain. The reality is that the security of the “stored” data cannot, repeat CANNOT be assured, but what can be assured is that if there is a way that criminals can access and use that information for their own self interests and personal gain, they will! And by supporting this decision, you are not only opening a pandoras box of civil rights and privacy violations, but are in fact complicit in facilitating this very predictable future criminal activity which, as sure as night follows day,will occur.

    This is not what the vast majority of R&F and supporters want from you, and when there’s so many free kicks handed to the ALP from Abbott and his cronies, that just go wanting, why are you giving back to him another policy victory, that will only add to the already burgeoning cost of living and civil liberties pressures, and do nothing for national security, but make us more nationally… “insecure”?

    What we want is hard questions about their unfair and counterproductive policy direction, and tangible points of difference between the ALP and the LNP that can be sold to the swinging and undecided voters, by way of good public policy, vigorous opposition to the destruction of Labors legacies, and the erosion of our civil rights for the sake of dubious, at best, claims by the ideologically driven rabid right. What we DON’T want is just another bloody “Me too” to Tony Abbott’s “Team Australia” crap!

    You are the leader of the ALP that has a proud tradition of fighting for the rights and needs of the sick, the aged and vulnerable, and the ordinary working class people, of which there are many more, than those of the ruling classes.

    We need an ALP leader that will fight for us, our country, our way of life and our future, not the US of A and global corporatisation. If you can’t or wont, fight for what matters to the grass roots supporter base, of this once great Labor party, then stand aside for someone who will!

    My father was a member and treasurer of a local Western Sydney branch, and I have been politically aware, and supported Labor since before I could legally vote, but am finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile my support for a party that seems hell bent on self destruction, as they move inexorably further to the right of centre.

    I’m one of very many bloody angry, and if you don’t change direction, soon to be disaffected Labor supporters.

    I can only hope that you will listen to, and take notice of the massive groundswell of R&F and supporter anger, and reverse your support for this gross stupidity.

    Cheers Grrrr 😡

  9. Roswell

    Awesome letter, David.

  10. john o'callaghan

    The latest news is Abbott will miss Parliament next week,he is going into hospital for an operation to remove some sharp steel objects from his back and is not expected to recover.”

  11. tet02

    The most important fact is that these children are in detention at all, never mind the length of time. It’s like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, perhaps it would be cheaper to keep them on decommissioned navy ships. We could call them detainee hulks, as opposed to prisoner hulks.
    But concerning those incarcerated in these offshore detention centres, the fact that they tried to come by leaky boat and jump the queue mean they are stuck in these places forever or is there still a chance that they may be allowed into the country? If the only holdup is their refugee status being checked by our intelligence agency, the fact that its taken over a year to check these children’s status speaks volumes about their intelligence. I’m not sure how much it costs per refugee per year to keep them in detention, but I’m assuming it would be more than what an unemployed person gets. So why cant families be moved into some of the regional areas that are fast turning into ghost towns, under the proviso that they check in at the local police station daily, weekly whatever, and cant move away to a suburb in Melbourne or Sydney for 5 years. Maybe the money they spend would breath a bit of life back into these places, and perhaps it would help with their assimilation into our ‘barbies and beer Aussie kulcha’, then maybe our ‘fearless leader’ wont be so scared of them.

  12. Terry2

    Seems to me that the ball is now in Turnbull’s court and he needs to mount a challenge while the numbers are in his favou – and while Rupert seems to be favouring him. If it doesn’t come off then he goes to the back bench and retires at the next election and gets on with his life.

    Another possible alternative is for Abbott to cut a deal with him: back off now, retire at the next election and you get ambassador to the USA – Beasley has had a good innings, time to move on.

    Third alternative is for Turnbull to do nothing and wait for Abbott to completely stuff up but timing for the budget and next election won’t assist him and he risks falling into the Costello wilderness : not really an option.

    Any others ?

  13. Jexpat

    CMMC wrote “I think they were the flags of the States, NSW, QLD, VIC,TAS, SA,WA.

    Territory flags don’t count, apparently.”

    Nope, those are six federal flags. Anything else might be deemed to “promote diversity.”


  14. stephentardrew

    Great Letter David.

    Abbott: dead man walking.

    Turnbull: big danger for Shorten.

    If you can’t sand the heat Bill hand over to Albo.

  15. Loz

    Many people are ashamed of this country due to the governments imprisonment of children and adults. To imprison people and to give them no hope for the future is torture. Then to berate and disparage Professor Triggs who is shedding light on this travesty is further proof of their vindictiveness. .

  16. Jexpat

    “Turnbull: big danger for Shorten.

    If you can’t stand the heat Bill hand over to Albo.”

    My understanding is that under the new ALP rules, as a practical matter, Shorten would literally have to step down himself.

    At the time of his appointment, it was hard not to laugh (actually, many of us did laugh) at Labor’s games, considering all the fuss the drummed up about giving the rank & file a say, and then with 30,000 some odd rank & file having their say 60% – 40% for Albo, the faceless men, through their influence on their representatives in the caucus, STILL put Shorten in.


  17. David

    Interesting thoughts Terry. i suspect the backbenchers and some Ministers now have their eyes and thoughts firmly on the polls and they will be getting internal polling from their electorates, which are saying ‘trouble’. I have it on very good authority ie a jurno, Pyne is very much on the nose in Conservative Sturt.
    A suspicion that Turnbull, if he takes over from Abbott and calls a DD, soon as he drags the pools back, will destroy many of the Libs.
    As for the Nats, who would know with the dilburys that send that lot to Parliament 🙁

  18. Loz

    Many people are ashamed of this country due to the imprisonment of children and adults. To imprison people and to give them no hope for the future is torture. Then to berate and disparage Professor Triggs who is shedding light on this travesty is further proof of this government’s vindictive and bullying representatives. .

  19. David

    Jex for that very reason, the right faction determined to get the ‘traitor’ Shorten into the leadership, regardless of the feelings of the great majority of the ‘paying rank and file members’ I have no confidence in the game Shorten is playing. He is inconsistent, hot and cold and frankly after his about face treachery re Julia, a snake in the grass.
    If that upsets his fan club here ‘tough’

  20. Keerti

    It was weird to read the australian this morning, a lone supporter amongst the wolves was sheridan who’s strangely forced piece seemed to me saying something like, “although abbott sounds like an A….. he’s a nice guy really. A pre-obutuary perhaps?n Shouldn’t be long now….

  21. David

    I have always thought both of them were an inch away from being closer than hetro mates

  22. Kyran

    With respect, Mr Kelly, you forgot to mention the 17 odd month’s of (apparently) bad government, before this good government turned up!
    I have been listening to RN most of the day and its been hilarious. Tones, in New Zealandia, is saying there will be no spill, cause he’s heard nothing. He sacked Ruddock for his incompetence in not letting him know about the backbenchers. The new whip must be terrified!
    Then came various alleged ministers saying “this is a media beat up, we just want to get on with government”. By their own admission, they have not been able to do that to date! It seemed prophetic that the Aus batting line up collapsed, on one of the smallest grounds in the competition.
    I share Loz’s view, and note that most posters don’t appear to be Shorten fans. I still don’t think they will do anything until after the NSW election. Hopefully, Shorten will turn up at some time. Definitely becoming a fan of Sir Scotch’s theory, 30 Independents. Take care

  23. Bilal

    One of the most stupid legacies of Rudd is the fact that John Roskam’s mate Bill Shorten leads the Opposition and it will be hard to ditch him. Although Eureka Street Jesuits are OK, the Abbott, Shorten, other Liberal and National front bench Jesuit educated members are poisonous to our way of life. That Albanese was defeated by the caucus tells us what to expect from that ALP front bench when Shorten is elevated to the Queen’s Prime Minister.

    Abbott is, hopefully, already a footnote in a very short term government.

  24. David

    Kyran it will take Shorten to realise he is so unpopular he decides to go quietly, which he wont, or the hireachy outside the political wing, tell him quietly to clear his desk and PO or they will ensure he does (on the quiet of course).
    Trouble with my beloved Labor, they like to have their scraps publicly.
    The favoured one, Albo will never push, he is too clever, he knows his time will come. and he will be a bloody awesome leader and PM when it does. Anthony IS Labor

  25. Kyran

    Distracted by an email from my sister about a traffic jam in Canberra.
    “A driver is stuck in traffic in Canberra, nothing is moving. Suddenly, a man knocks on the car window. The driver rolls down the window and asks “What’s going on?” The response is “Terrorists down the road have kidnapped Abbott, Hockey and Pyne. They are asking for $10mil ransom. Otherwise, they’re going to douse them with petrol and set them on fire. We’re taking up a collection.” The driver asks “How much is everyone giving, on average?”. “Most people are giving about five litres”.
    Hey David, should I have made Shorten one of the motorists or one of the hostages? Take care

  26. David

    Oh Kyran I suspect you know the answer to that 🙂 Incidentally road kill is a sad commentary on modern day living

  27. Kyran

    I suspect the MSM would report it as “a roadside BBQ”, or some cartoonist would caption it a “Rhodes side BBQ”, or maybe “Rhode kill”. Sorry, I get distracted easily. I’m hoping the metadata stuff hasn’t happened yet. My previous post might get me board and keep for a few years. (You went for hostage, didn’t you?)

  28. DanDark

    “When the IPA talks about individual freedom it is referring to the freedom of individual capitalists and materialists to pursue their dreams at the expense of everyone else. You will notice how the IPA plans for the NBN, the ABC and SBS play into the hands of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose father Keith (later Sir Keith) helped launch the IPA in 1943.”

    IPA agenda to re-shape Australia

    “But if Abbott is going to lead that change he only has a tiny window of opportunity to do so. If he hasn’t changed Australia in his first year as prime minister, he probably never will.

    “Why just one year? Whitlam’s vigour in government came as a shock to Australian politics. The Coalition was adjusting to the opposition benches. Outside of parliament, the potential opponents of Whitlam reforms had yet to get organised. The general goodwill voters offer new governments gives more than enough cover for radical action. But that cover is only temporary. The support of voters drains. Oppositions organise. Scandals accumulate. The clear air for major reform becomes smoggy.”


  29. khtagh


    “Rhodes side BBQ”, “Rhode kill” Funniest thing I have seen in ages, still laughing..

  30. Jexpat

    Kyron wrote: “I… note that most posters don’t appear to be Shorten fans.”

    Hopefully, my post above isn’t included in that category, as it was aimed at process, not substance -and shouldn’t be construed as either an endorsement or detraction of anything Mr. Shorten has said or done- or not said or done.

  31. David

    Jex so when Mr Shorten does or says anything of substance, I can then construe you will endorse what is said or done, or not, depending on what is said or done, if anything at all is considered doable or said.

  32. Jexpat

    David: people tend to comment on the substance as it arises- or is reported.

    In that respect, Shorten has a problem in that, unlike the former opposition leader, his statements don’t get the lead on ABC and Triple J “news” feeds and so on in the rest of the media- as in: 15 second intro: the government announced _____(fill in the blank) policy that does _______ (brief summary). 60-90 second spot: Tony Abbot sez: ____________________________.

    Some commentators have claimed that this is representative of a “small target” strategy (which may often, but certainly not always be the case). Some go even further, paraphrasing in one way or another Napoleon’s advice: never interrupt your enemy while he’s making a mistake.

    My own view is pragmatic- the entirety of the Liberal party is dysfunctional and destructive to their own constituencies; the Nationals have been caught out in this- and we’ve seen the results of the disconnect, especially in Victoria. If (or when) Mr. Shorten tries to emulate their policies “lite,” then at that point, he and the equally difunctional right wing factions will need to be called out- as many posters have been anticipating and doing.

  33. Kyran

    DanDark, your post troubled me, so I went looking. Mr Whitlam first went to parliament in 1952, and became LOTO in 1967. He started canvassing ideas for government in 1969, listening to what people thought. Out of that, he formulated policy which took three years to develop. He had the likes of Cairns, Uren and a bloke by the name of Button (To name a few). My recollection of the campaign was “It’s time”.
    “Whitlam’s vigour in government came as a shock to Australian politics.”
    But not to the public. Regrettably, the “temporary cover” only lasted for a few decades. And now, we have to start again. Take care

  34. DanDark

    Kyran, I have been “troubled” since this Slime minister and his henchmen got into power 18 months ago
    Its time…again to stand up for our people or we are stuffed I reckon, we are being governed by a pack of men and women who are Abbottsolutly bonkers…..I remember the happening seventies well….

  35. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Labor is almost as much on the nose as the Coalition. They instigated offshore processing and while they were getting children out of detention faster than have the now government, the children should not have been there in the first place.Humanity and compassion are supposed to be traits evident in Labor. Currently that is not so.
    As noted by tet02, the refugees could be settled in rural locations which are currently being depopulated and engaged in developing projects for the renewable energy market (we have massive areas entirely suitable for solar power generation) or in agriculture. Most refugees settled in this country have contributed to its development at significant levels. Currently holding them in detention is a massive drain on the public purse.
    There is no need for a terrorism scare and metadata legislation – which sooner or later will be abused to our cost. There IS need for action on domestic violence but since TA is a misogynist, notwithstanding having Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year, that would have to be activated by Labor.
    Labor needs to be heeding the excellent advice available on economics and making sure that everybody understands that government debt is not always bad, that selling off assets is seldom a good idea, that building infrastructure, like the Snowy Mountains Scheme, lays the foundation for future benefit and above all that a realistic RET and a program for rapid development of renewable energy sources is an urgent necessity.
    Labor needs to move back towards the left.
    It also needs to put a stop to the appalling interplay between the two major parties. Anthony Albanese is more passionate than Bill Shorten and, I suspect, less likely to kowtow to the coalition in the name of bipartisanship over, for example, security.
    Tanya Plibersek is impressive and should be either deputy or treasurer.
    Labor is at least as guilty as the coalition of not listening to the people. I wonder how many of them follow the excellent articles posted on the AIM Network?

  36. Pingback: In front of six flags | THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN

  37. eli nes

    abbutt head of australala used his twin skills of driving the negative questions the media asked gillard who struggled with answers that required time way beyond the 5 second breakfast grabs(remember for a couple of weeks she had the media saying ‘price’ not ‘tax’ which would have killed one of abbott’s trilogy but no back up no explanation of direct action tax) and, the very effective ploy of answering any media questions with statements against gillard. Little billy has chosen not to use that method to attack the PM and has not only personally avoided the breakfast shows but has left comments to mark latham. Sadly the electorate still is ignorant of labor’s AAA and they are confident it is due to tony abbott. Why, billy, why??? If there is no movement on debunking the coalition’s economic credentials?? QED the abbottless coalition will get a second term.
    Who thinks labor is ready for the tax shetered copper man or the asbestos woman?????

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