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Liberal Party Redux, or What Were They Smoking?

How can normality return to Australian politics? Paul Dellit has found a simple answer.

No treatise upon the evolution of Liberal Party philosophy, no eminence grise in tweeds delivering weighty history laden insights as he taps the ashes from the bowl of his pipe, no long-winded reminiscences from an aged pub seer – none of these are required to understand how the Liberal Party came to be flailing about in sick dog’s breakfast.

The stomach-turning circumstances in which the Liberal Party is now mired have their origins in more recent political machinations. Before these events began to unfold, the two major political parties in Australia, Liberal and Labor, occupied the centre right and centre left segments, respectively, of the political spectrum.

Enter from stage right, John Winston ‘Broadchurch’ Howard. He was a ‘practical’ political leader, prepared to embrace any view, any prejudice, any tactic, including downright lying (as long as it could not be traced back to him) when it served his political purposes. Before he gained the Treasury Benches, we had all thought the major political parties, post the White Australia Policy, had abandoned overt redneck racism as a political stratagem. But JW’B’H used it to ingratiate himself with ‘Hansonites’ and his ‘Howard Battlers’ whom he fired up with the prospect of them losing their jobs to these ‘unAustralian’ refugees.

Enter from stage left, Kevin07. He had form as a successful political apparatchik. And he also had a kind of innocent nerdish charisma. It worked well for him, and he knew it worked well for him because he could see it every day in the polls and in the vox pops. He loved being popular. It was his drug of choice. And he loved being right. In fact, he was the only person he knew who could do things as they should be done. He didn’t have anyone in his Cabinet who had his credentials as a successful political apparatchik, so if he wanted things done right, he would just have to do them – almost all of them – himself, and he did. ‘Delegation’ was not in his management dictionary. Bottlenecks started to appear. Mistakes began to occur through inaction. The polls started to turn down. Climate policy was one of his now most unpopular, so he decided that it would have to be sacrificed. It went from being ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time’ to a victim of K07’s need to be popular. Labor had begun its poll-driven slide to the centre an possibly beyond.

Enter from under the floorboards, ‘Beaconsfield’ Bill Shorten. Bill had been a union apparatchik’s apparatchik. He and three of his sidekicks engineered the K07 coupe. Anyone without a personal agenda might have arranged a delegation to be sent to see K07 to give him the option of changing his ways to avoid losing the leadership. But K07 was not afforded that curtesy. He was unceremoniously dumped, Gillard was installed, and ‘B’BS went around backgrounding the Canberra press gallery that he would be the next leader of the Labor Party.

The Gillard interregnum was brief, but deep and meaningful. It returned Labor, briefly, to the centre left and introduced a number of long overdue landmark policies founded upon social justice principles. Gillard’s capacity to negotiate her policies through a hung Parliament rubbed salt into K07’s lacerated ego and spurred him on to launch one of the most relentless white-anting campaigns in Australian political history.

Enter, tripping, from stage far right, ‘Accidental Captain’ Tony ‘The Pom’ Abbott, Esq. in December 2009, pushed into the limelight because both the lead actor and his understudy had forgotten to learn their lines. ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq. didn’t know much about this policy business but he knew what his supporters didn’t like and how to attack it, particularly if was female (unless it was rich female and hadn’t practiced birth control). Attacking females was what he was majored in at Uni.

Exit from stage centre left, Ms. Gillard under heavy fire from K07 and ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq.

K07 had hardly made it onto the stage again before ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq. made his triumphal entrance on a deus ex machina of lies. And while all this was happening, ‘B’BS, unnoticed before, or anytime since, slid into the Labor leader’s chair. Following the same moral compass that guided him to the Labor leadership, ‘B’BS has so far exhibited the same predilection for thoughtful policy formulation as ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq. All of his energies are taken up with tracking the polls and working out what catch phrases accord with current poll sentiment.

And so to the thesis of this article.

Howard lowered the moral tone of the Liberal Party so far that it energised the far right wing neocon ideological nut jobs into believing they had a shot at the title. This elevated Abbott from his previous ‘joke candidate’ status to someone whose name could legitimately be placed on an internal Party ballot paper. After cycling through centre right incumbents Nelson and Turnbull, who were leading the Liberal Party back to an unequivocal centre right position, Abbott declared his candidacy and won only because of a stuff up in the arrangements between Turnbull and Hockey which were expected to see one of them win. After so much leadership instability, the Liberal Party was forced to rally behind Abbott’s solidly right wing banner.

Rudd set the Labor precedent for placing polls before principles which inevitably allowed Labor to drift to the more politically advantageous centre, and on some issues to the centre right. When the apparatchik’s apparatchik, ‘B’BS, settled into the leader’s chair, he found that all the necessary preparations had been made for him to slip into his poll-watching comfort zone and inevitably again allow the Labor Party to drift towards the centre. And when it became apparent to all that Abbott was a serial liar who routinely broke election promises, was incapable of competent management and was bent on implementing a hard right wing agenda which was putting him and his party offside with the electorate, ‘B’BS put his feet up and began writing zingers to go with each ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq blunder. Furthermore, it has emerged that when you have a dim witted, ‘away with the fairies’ ideologue leading, his followers are just as likely to stumble and fall. ‘B’BS is spoilt for choice. If this keeps up past the middle of this year, ‘B’BS will be able to sidle into power with lots and lots of zingers and no more than a few populist policies to show for it, which is just the way he apparently likes it. I truly hope I am 100% wrong about this and about him. I hope I have to eat my words.

So, the Liberal Party is stuck with a leader who rivals Billy McMahon as their worst ever because Howard legitimised men of the political leanings of ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq.; then Labor made it almost political suicide to dump incumbent PMs; and ‘B’BS’s drift to the centre and centre right of the political spectrum has left the Liberal Party with no where to go but the far right in company with the Tea Party and people who can see Alaska from their upstairs bedroom window.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, where the Australian mainstream live, it seems that, absent a volte-face in the political demeanour of ‘B’BS, perhaps the only immediate hope of Australian politics returning to some semblance of morality is if the Liberal Party makes the Hobson’s choice of replacing ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq with a sentient being who has true centre right convictions. This would force the Labor Party back to its natural home at the centre left, with policies to match. We can but hope.

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30 comments

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  1. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    For the conceivable future, I will align the political circumstances of Qld with Greece.

    Both have been involved in political upheaval. Both are ejecting politically repugnant governments. Both have made their constituents hope that there is redemption for their socio-economic circumstances.

    If both succeed, which I suspect will be the case, they will serve as great role-models to the rest of us in Australia and the world for wiping clean the slate of kleptocratic control on everything, almost even the air we breathe, so to turn everything on its head, and then the benefits, opportunity and innovations come from grassroots people again.

  2. miriamenglish

    I hope we Queenslanders eject Newman and his abhorrent policies, but I wouldn’t count my eggs before they hatch. There are a lot of people who believe the crap they are spoon-fed on the mainstream media. Sad, but true.

    I think they only way to change politics is for the people to vote the Greens in. Labour, in taking up the centre-right position in politics has forced the LibNats into a cartoonlike extreme-right-wing position. I don’t think this will change until Labour can be brought to a rude awakening by showing them that they need to respond to the people’s real wishes, as opposed to the mainstream media’s fear-driven caricature in the polls they currently form their “platforms” around.

    Voting a government in that genuinely puts simple social responsibility first would shake up Labour and hopefully reset Australian politics to a more normal arrangement, with Labour scrambling to serve their disaffected left-wing traditional voters who’d deserted them. Then the LibNats would hopefully, to everybody’s great relief, fall back to the centre away from craziness of tea party policy that seems to hold a fascination with right-wingers, like the ring did for Gollum, and with similar afflictions on the character of those involved.

  3. CMMC

    I think Abbott was initially gobsmacked when he won leadership against Turnbull, and was uncomfortable in dealing with Rudd.

    When Gillard challenged and won leadership the Abbott front-bench believed that somehow a State Labor gimmick was at play; ‘Put a sheila in as leader for damage control’.

    Abbott and the Ugly Right of NSW, and the IPA, really thought their scorched-earth topography of society was appealing.

  4. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I think you’re correct, CMMC.

    The Far Right Tea-Party-esque style of the rabid Abbott LNP Government, has assumed that normal, sane Australians would condone the ugly Right of NSW/Qld, the IPA, and Tea Party style everywhere.

    Now, they have learnt that that ain’t the case.

    Aussies have better standards than that.

  5. miriamenglish

    Huh… I just noticed it is not spelled “Labour”, but “Labor”. When did they adopt USA spelling, I wonder.

  6. M-R

    I have said to anyone I could pin down long enough to listen to me that I consider John Howard to have turned Australians into what we now are – whingers and extremists (in the less dramatic sense). I have always hated that little shit; and I still do.

  7. miriamenglish

    Yeah. Howard played up people’s worst nature. He had a real talent for bringing it out and feeding on it. A truly repellent creature.
    He was hated in his own party too. I still laugh when I remember that they called him “that lying little rodent”.

  8. M-R

    How suitable then, Miriam, for him to be Mr Rabbit’s Svengali.

  9. stephentardrew

    Vee Von Son.

  10. Michael Taylor

    What an interesting night in politics.

  11. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    I think Tony’s hubris matches that of Howard and he will not see that the Queensland result has any connection with him – after all, he stayed away during the campaign so he could not have influenced its outcome, could he?

  12. stephentardrew

    We are happy chappies.

    Killed the beast.

    One to go.

  13. David K

    “miriamenglishJanuary 31, 2015 at 9:04 pm
    Huh… I just noticed it is not spelled “Labour”, but “Labor”. When did they adopt USA spelling, I wonder.”

    1912

  14. Matters Not

    I was wrong! Wong! Wrong! Too pessimistic by half! And by a significant margin.

    What a surprising result.

    Newman/Abbott have been ‘fuc#ed’.

    In my own electorate of Sandgate the ALP got 61% which is a pity for me, given I will now not be able to lampoon the local member.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Hurly burly puddin’ and girly….Jane Prentice is dumping on Tony Abbott on the ABC. She just said his speech on Monday will be a make or break for Tony. “We can’t continue as we are” Wow!

  16. DanDark

    One Term govs seem to be a norm now, All politicians should be aware of ” electronic graffiti” flooding cyber space
    because of AIMN and all the folk who contribute articles on here and other courageous outlets
    the truth about the ideological neo liberals like Naptime, Cant Do Cambell and Toxic Tony
    has and is being exposed for the fraud they and their toxic policies are to our communities,
    society and our self as a country and how we work in harmony with the world
    Bye Bye Tony….

  17. stephentardrew

    Swan talking about demonising deficit and debt.

    Good sign for the next federal election.

    He may well take up the challenge with the party.

  18. DanDark

    Wow yep, I am watching the her tooooo, Wayne Swan is enjoying this slaughter of the LNP
    Last I heard Tones was peddling his bike to Tasmania across the Bass Strait 🙂
    Its that no sense of direction thing he suffers from LOL

  19. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well done, Queensland on your defeat of the neocon Newman Government on 31 January 2015.

    Enjoy tonight for tomorrow you need to start planning your policy reforms and how you will reverse all of the Newman LNP Gov’s reprehensible political manipulations.

    And don’t forget your friends in the Greens, the Australian Progressives and the sane political voices of other minor parties and Independents.

    Together, your Alliance can bring great social justice reforms. law reforms and innovative policies that meet the needs and expectations of all echelons of society, especially the grassroots people’s.

  20. sstino

    Thanks Paul for this outstanding analysis.

    Could you maybe have gone back a little further tho?

    PJK should not get off so lightly, especially when talking about narcissism and centre right tendencies. I know these will be fighting words for many, and I do acknowledge the great reforms of the Hawke-Keating Labor governments from Medicare and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme to the wages accord through to land rights and the environment. But the combination of compulsory super and middle class welfare which created the housing bubble has done much to increase inequality in Australia . And while breaking the monopoly of the banking cartel might have been a good move, declaring open season for mortgage lenders went too far.

    Applying your logic, perhaps Keating’s gradual drift toward the centre right might have made room for Howard?

    As a statesman I still hold Keating head and shoulders above any of the current crop (right up there with Gillard.) I miss his acerbic wit. He was always entertaining to watch and I really wish they’d publish a book of his collected insults. But lets keep things in perspective.

  21. Jexpat

    A shout out to Queensland:

  22. Anon E Mouse

    Gillard was most concerned with the polls, more so than Rudd.

    When I spoke with her in 2002, when Beazley was ALP leader of opposition, she made it very clear that ‘the polls were all that mattered’. She told me that Howard was very driven by the polls and it worked well for him – she admired the way he adapted to the polls. This was after I had a go at her for Beazley and Labor being so me-too and poll driven.

  23. Anon E Mouse

    Newman’s loss in Queensland tonight makes me more convinced that we will be facing a Federal election in the middle of the year.

    I urge Labor to ready itself for an early election.

    The LNP will be much wiser at the Fed level, and will heap dirt on Shorten just after the election is called – when it would be almost impossible to change leader if needed. Shorten needs to really consider if he is the best for the job.

  24. Jexpat

    “Newman’s loss in Queensland tonight makes me more convinced that we will be facing a Federal election in the middle of the year.”

    I’m not following the logic here.

  25. Möbius Ecko

    Surely Anon E Mouse Newman’s loss highlights the folly of an unpopular government going to an election early?

  26. Hotspringer

    Things are looking good here in Queensland with 44 seat to Labor so far.
    The above article expresses my feelings about our political scene, I would only like to add the ALP’s slide to the right came before the little gerbil Howard. The neoliberal dogma of deregulation and privatisation came to us with Hawke and Keating.

  27. Paul G. Dellit

    Thanks sstino. And I agree with the points you make. For all the remarkable qualities PJK, Gillard, et al have brought to bear, they are, in the end, flawed humans like the rest of us, as Anon E Mouse points out, and thanks to you too.
    P.S. I have to use the middle G because there is another Paul Dellit

  28. brickbob

    Great piece of writing Paul and very witty,you have that rare ability to write an informative article combined with real satire.””’

  29. Anon E Mouse

    My reasoning for Abbott calling an early election may be highly intuitive but it goes as follows. Perhaps it shows that I am cynical and look at things expecting total ruthlessness.

    Shorten as ALP leader is ahead of Abbott by default. Many Labor supporters are not impressed with him.

    Abbott is a proud git, and would find it more appalling to be sacked, or knifed, by his own mob than to get elected out – particularly if they can (and they are quite capable of) demonise Shorten during a very short election campaign. A short campaign would not allow leadership review for the ALP. If Abbott, who is totally ruthless and immoral, could win another election his pride would be sated.

    If Abbott enlists the likes of Women’s Weekly to run a piece on alleged rape victims not getting justice, featuring a certain interview, Shorten would have little chance to defend himself during a short election campaign.

    Abbott, I suspect, will call an election before his own mob can boot him out.

    I hope I am wrong, but I believe the ALP needs to be ready to come out of the corner fighting at any moment. Leadership is an issue to my mind, but also candidates need to be selected and start creating a profile in the very short term.

    The LNP and Abbott need to be decimated at the next election.

  30. diannaart

    Excellent summary and additional comments – yes, PJK and Hawke earned a nod for their incursion into economic rationalism (remember when we called it that?)

    I too hope to eat my words and wind up completely wrong about B’BS.

    I know one thing for sure – we will soon find out about more truth than we may be able to handle.

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