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It’s all about events and timing, Tony

Many years ago, in the 1950s a reporter once asked the then British Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan what he most feared politically. MacMillan replied, “Events, dear boy. Events.” The same answer applies for what determines a government’s standing with the electorate. To both questions, however, I would add, “Timing.”

For a government that campaigned relentlessly on debt and deficit, the Coalition could not have picked a worse time to beat their drum. After just three months, the electorate is beginning to see through their shallow thinking, their thinly veiled deception and their all-at-sea management style.

Should we be surprised, therefore, that Abbott’s popularity is on the slide?

No, it was always going to be thus. Even his own people were split on his electability. The bottom line was always that the electorate never wanted him. But, such was the Liberal Party power brokers’ disdain for Malcolm Turnbull that Abbott was, by default, the only alternative to ousting Labor. Initially, it wasn’t much of a choice but then events changed things. Abbott’s god heard his prayers; Labor handed him so many free kicks and own goals that he seemed to blossom. Labor so self-destructed that even Christopher Pine would have won had he been given the default job.

But, and here’s the thing, Labor wasn’t ousted for bad governance of the country, just bad governance of itself. So, once they were gone, public scrutiny of a more intense kind immediately focused on Abbott and, as was to be expected, he failed the test; he is not measuring up. His clumsy management style has been exposed. He is devoid of charisma, flair or natural appeal. He is embarrassing the nation with his stilted speech, his inept door-stop comments and general awkwardness. Worse, he has Malcolm Turnbull waiting left of centre. Worse still, a perfect storm of economic data is gathering offshore which will hit landfall over the next 18 months and spread across vast areas of the economy like a trough, like a depression. It is happening already and it is making a second term for the Coalition look increasingly shaky.

Which brings us to Abbott’s only worthwhile minister, Joe Hockey. Joe is on a hiding to nothing. No matter what he does over the next three years, the economy is going to be in worse shape in 2016 than it is now. By his own admission, rising unemployment, ongoing deficits that may continue until 2024, slow growth, possibly no growth, revenue write downs and a reduced output in the resources sector with no offsetting uptake in the non- resources sector, means his brow will be doing it tough for some time to come. All this was evident in his Mid Year Economic Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) speech delivered to the National Press Club on Tuesday 17th December. It won’t be all Joe’s fault, although he has already made a sizeable contribution with his 9 billion dollar grant to the Reserve Bank. But when the Press Club questions came thick and fast from journalists who knew their stuff, he wasn’t able to dodge much. He knew that to gloss over the real position would back him into a corner and as much as he tried to blame Labor, he knew that wouldn’t wash; not with the Press Club. What made it worse for Joe, as journalist after journalist tried to focus on the future not the past, neither he nor stablemate Mathais Cormann were up to showing any economic vision beyond the mantra, “We’re going to fix it.”

So what advice could I give Joe right now?

“Time to stop the belly-aching and do something, Joe. You know the state of our finances. The forward estimates, in case you didn’t know, are just that. They reflect the direction we are heading if we allow the present budget estimates to go the course. But you are the Treasurer, Joe. You can change that. Goodness knows you made such a belly-ache about it before the election. So, do something! If you’re not happy about it, change it. Stop being such a wuss and take some action. You said you would get rid of the waste . . . okay, do it. For goodness sake, either shit, or get off the pot! But, for Christ’s sake, stop blaming Labor.”

But even a pep-talk of this nature won’t change anything. Joe is screwed on every level.

Mark Riley from Channel 7 reminded Joe of Tony Abbott’s previous references to the Rudd Government spending like drunken sailors and suggested if that were the case then the Howard government must have spent like paralytic pirates. Joe deferred to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann who gave a brief resume about the virtues of the Howard years, unaware that, in doing so, he was reminding the guests and the viewers of the vote buying, bucket load of money Peter Costello had to splash around and how well he wasted it. The main body of the MYEFO will be scrutinised thoroughly over the next few weeks and much of the devil in the detail will be sifted out for further questioning later. But the overall outlook is grim. Hockey defended forgoing 7.3 billion in revenue from the Carbon Tax stating that its abolition will increase economic growth. They wish! The prospect of continuing our 22 years of uninterrupted growth are looking decidedly shaky.

But, back to Tony. The buck will stop with him. In 2016 he will likely have to account for 6.5-7% unemployment, a lack-lustre private sector, a serious Terms of Trade deficit, a national debt of around $600 billion, no surplus in sight and a less than encouraging world economic outlook. The numbers will bury him. And in addition to all of this, we still don’t know what we don’t know. Both Hockey and Cormann made repeated references to the Contingency Reserve, a provision for expenditure not yet fully costed. How then could they budget for it? It doesn’t matter. Future events and their timing will take care of that. The only bright light: interest rates will still be low . . . but that is something we can blame Labor for.

As much as all politicians will tell us that being in opposition sucks, some on the government side would be thinking that it would have been better for the Coalition to have lost the election in 2013 and watch Labor manage the economy to a point where a far more devastating electoral wipe-out would result in 2016 than occurred in 2013. But, that’s the thing about politics. It’s all about events and timing.

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  1. MM

    Great article! Sorry to nitpick but I have to say that it’s “wuss” not “woos”.

  2. Gail T

    They have now skilfully and deliberately SUCCEEDED in DESTROYING AUSTRALIA’s Prosperity UNTIL such time as LABOR WINS AGAIN.
    XMAS spending figures and post XMAS job losses from slow retail are inevitable.
    HOW LONG will it TAkE before they completely SELF DESTRUCT??

  3. Michael Taylor

    Thanks MM. I’ll fix it.

  4. John Fraser


    I can't understand why everyone is accepting of the 6.5-7% unemployment figure.

    Since Joe "don't know" Hockey's MYEFO report was done the unemployment figure has already gone up.

    And I don't see that stopping any time soon , with "Slick" Abbott's gang and their ideology.

    People are already accepting that things are going to get worse and they will spend less.

    So merry xmas … Hockey has given Australia a self fulfilling prophecy.

  5. Joe Banks

    Poor Joe will just have to face up to raising taxes. But you can rest assured it will not be at the top end of the income scale.

  6. Matters not.

    Great article. But sorry to nitpick.

    in the 1950’s a reporter

    Why the apostrophe? Yes I know it’s a plural but using a plural doesn’t require an apostrophe, does it?

    Is it a possessive? Well it would be if the 1950s was followed by a noun such as ‘era’, but it isn’t. It is here used as a noun. A plural.

    Please explain.

    But it matters not. However it certainly is not an error that would be tolerated in the MSM. Just sayin …

  7. lawrencewinder

    Nice article but, I think a tad on the generous side. Economically, I think this country will be devastated.
    It all comes down to what you mentioned and that was “vision”. Abbott’s character in the controlling factor in that. Then, if we look at the Corman’s, Bernardi’s, Ciobo’s, Brough’s, Pynes’ Cash’s, Brandis’ and Abetz’s et al, of this rabble the vision “thing” is decidedly bleak and it will make no difference if “Rabbott” gets rolled in six months and Turnbull is the office boy for the BCA & IPA, the aforementioned still sit there.
    One thing they do well though is to clear the “grey” areas… one is seeing with a simpler clarity.

  8. Brian

    Personally I find this government the most egalitarian in living memory. They’ve managed to rob, offend, insult, confuse or scare shitless virtually every member of the population. Something for everyone’s stocking. Even Santa would be impressed. Actually Joe would look good in red. Tones as the Grinch in green lycra of course. Merry Christmas, fellow sufferers.

  9. John Fraser


    @Matters not.

    Reading the MSM might improve your punctuation but it will not improve your knowledge of Joe "don't know" Hockey's speechwriters plagiarism of Rush Limbaugh.

    Absolutely no acknowledgement when the quote "No country has ever taxed its way into prosperity :

    News Corpse is still running with it and most likely expect Aussies to think that Hockey came out with something profound.

    "Murdoch and Abbott lied to Australians".

  10. John Fraser



    I know this will probably be painful but have a look at Joe "don't know" Hockey towards the end of his Press Club address, when he is taking questions from Journalists :

    Hockeys head goes up and down (yes) when he talks about Labor and his head goes side to side (NO) when he talks about Coalition policies and how they are going to keep their promises.

    Joe "don't know" Hockey being that conflicted cannot last.

    And thank you for the Youtube clip.

    Repeated here :

  11. jasonblog

    Thanks so much for an excellent read.

    Just a couple of points.

    I’m not so sure Turnbull is waiting in the wings. What appears to be the power structure of the Libs i.e. Loughnane, Credlin, Bernadi (i.e Nick Minchin), Rinehart, Murdoch don’t appear to have any time for him. He’s probably a bit too moderate and, dare I say, liberal for their liking. I have a feeling they – the Liberal Party generally – may be more inclined to go with Joe Hockey. Joe has a number of weaknesses, melodramatic histrionics being one of them, but who knows it may be a case of cometh the hour cometh the man. Whether it be Hockey or Turnbull Australia needs somebody who is aware of a sensible middle ground.

    Abbott was hell bent on a divisive, regressive, mean-spirited and nasty agenda. Over the course of my life I have probably voted more for Liberal than Labor. More often than not local factors within my electorate influenced my decision as much as anything. But a turning point for me came during the Howard government years and the politicising of Asylum Seekers and the Iraq War. I felt what happened was illegal, inhumane, and undemocratic. There appeared to be a greater need to pursue corporate profits than looking to uphold any sense of Australian decency or justice.

    Abbott and Murdoch scare the hell out of me. As a result of their declaration prior to the last election that they wanted to destroy the Greens I decided well if they detest them so much that is obviously the party for me.

    Abbott’s agenda is one of fundamental insecurity. There is something essentially fearful and scared about what he is doing. Fear and insecurity tend to underpin most instances of authoritarianism. A feeling of losing control so he has to take control harder and more brutally. A fear that his identity and self-worth are not that substantial but are rather fragile and vulnerable. His attacks on environmental laws, agencies, and climate and ecological science tends to suggest that he would rather remain ignorant of life and therefore live in denial of death. Tony Abbott wants certainty in a volatile and dynamic world. He wants a firmly established hierarchy so as to believe that will remove the doubts of a random world.

    Perhaps Tony Abbott can learn something from Charlie Chaplin

  12. DaveinPerth

    If TA’s numbers continue to head south (hard to imagine they’re doing anything but), maybe Malcolm will take on a new gloss with LNP backbenchers faced with oblivion?

    Turnbull could rightly say that he was acting on party lines previously, and now the party lines have changed under new management. Australians generally support a price on carbon, FTTP NBN, NDIS and Gonski. Turnbull could announce a newfound coalition acceptance of these measures, and still placate the Nats with all sorts of rural bribery (all they care about), still go and do some union bashing to keep the business community happy, and run mild defecits for the next 12 years of his prime ministership.

    If he kept the MRRT, he wouldn’t even HAVE to run defecits. It’s just about to start paying big dividends. (Hence the Coalitions fear of it.)

  13. Matters not.

    John Fraser re your assertion:

    Reading the MSM might improve your punctuation …

    John, I very much doubt same.

    As for quotes from the US and that particular and peculiar political discourse, there is a mountain of ‘evidence’ that this ‘stealing’ of slogans been going on for years.

    Try ‘working families’ as a good example.

    But I agree, in general terms.

    Why ‘debate’ when one can ‘tweet’?

    Shakes head.

  14. whatismore

    Thanks John -good article.

  15. CMMC

    I have said this previously, the Abbott regime don’t care about how WE perceive them, smartypants Lefties as we are, but even folk who get their news from Mark Riley from Channel 7 are considered bohemian radicals.

    Their audience, the people they are “on-message” with, are the talkback-radio demographic who are informed by a process similar to the way pellet dispensers feed battery hens.

  16. John Kelly

    Yes, I agree CMMC. But, the extraordinary proliferation of blog sites and alternative news media outlets that have risen up over the past 5 years have so unsettled main stream media outlets like the talkback-radio demographic, that those very people are now scanning the bloggers and alternative news outlets to gather material for their programs. This means that the alternative media is making a difference and helping to better inform those very pellet fed battery hens.

  17. Ricky Pann

    Maybe he can adopt a brain now 🙄

  18. Paul Raymond Scahill

    It does appear “Joe” as though you have cooked your goose (Xmas is coming the geese are getting fat) bit like “Joe” . Forgotten the rest as they talk in a forgotten currency, very much like the LIEbrals, anyhow good luck to you in cleaning up the mess that never existed.

  19. Gar Mater

    Must say when it was obvious that bad economic times were on their way I was quite pleased that it also looked like it would be Rabbit who would be (failing to) handle it. Suck on that, lying incompetent power hungry mongrels.

  20. Pingback: My first thought on hearing the news of the hostage situation in Sydney’s Martin Place this morning was ‘those poor, terrified people and their anxious families. What a horrible thing to happen!’ and then slightly irrationally (because fear can be i

  21. Pingback: Hockey and Cormann Blindsided | olddogthoughts

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