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Mal’s Coalition cascades into chaos

By Ad Astra

When we posted How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy? on The Political Sword in April it seemed as if Turnbull’s administration of his Coalition couldn’t get any worse. We were wide of the mark! Now he sits apprehensively and indecisively on his house of cards, on tenterhooks lest he lose his balance, praying it doesn’t collapse.

That piece was written as the 2017 Budget was being prepared. Scott Morrison was warning us about what we might be in for. Knowing that debt would increase, he tried to butter us up with talk of ‘good debt’ (spending on infrastructure) and ‘bad debt’ (recurrent spending on, for example, welfare). With his credibility in the doldrums, it is doubtful if anyone listened, let alone believed him.

The April piece on TPS began:

Who will ever forget the insults, the slurs, and the slander that the Coalition heaped upon Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan as they managed the economy through the Global Financial Crisis and beyond? They were depicted as children playing games in their political sandpit with no idea of what they were doing, making one catastrophic mistake after another.

Remember how the Coalition boasted that the children should get out of the way and let the adults take over, insisting as they did that they were the experts at economic management. So convincing was the rhetoric that the electorate believed them and has consistently rated them as superior to Labor in economic management in opinion polls.

Recall the ‘debt and deficit disaster’, a mantra with which they assailed Labor for years. Remember the ‘intergenerational debt’ they accused Labor of accumulating.

Since their election in 2013 they have had their chance to show their much-vaunted expertise under the skilled management of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, and then Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, with Mathias Cormann a consistent shadowy presence. How have they done?

We know how they have done – appallingly. The Coalition’s incompetence and mal-administration is now legend.

Here are some contemporary facts:

Wages growth is the weakest on record, dating back to the late 1990s. Underemployment remains high with an increasing trend towards part-time work, creating the “gig” economy.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe warns that record high household debt and record low wage rises are constraining consumer spending and hurting the economy.

The economy is under performing and will continue to do so through 2017 and beyond.

Stephen Koukoulas summarized the situation in The Guardian as follows:

Based on the performance of the economy since the last fiscal update in December 2016, the budget is likely to confirm that this is a big-spending, big-taxing government with a strategy for continuing budget deficits and rising debt as it funds some of its pet projects.

It is all but certain that government debt will remain above 25% of GDP in 2017-18 and the forward estimates, meaning the government will be the first in the last 50 years to have spending at more than a quarter of GDP for eight straight years.

At the same time as spending is entrenched at high levels, the tax to GDP ratio is set to exceed 23% of GDP for only the eleventh time in 50 years. Tax revenue is growing solidly, in part in line with the expansion in the economy.

It is also close to certain that the level of net government debt will be projected to reach 20% of GDP, up from 10% when the Coalition won the 2013 election and the highest since the 1940s when the war effort boosted borrowing to record highs.

At as 30 June 2016, gross Australian government debt was $420 billion. In June 2017 the Turnbull government breached the $500 billion mark, (expressed alarmingly by some economists as half a trillion dollars) thereby doubling the deficit it inherited from Labor. Gross debt is projected to exceed $550 billion this year. Morrison is hoping to recoup some of this in this year’s budget with his $6 billion tax on the banks, but still intends to give a $65 billion of tax cuts to business!

We all know that housing affordability is worsening, locking out of the market young folk who do not have wealthy parents. The Coalition refuses to do anything about this as it sticks to negative gearing and the generous tax concessions around capital gains, thereby perpetuating the advantage moneyed investors enjoy over the young.

And as for the NBN, it continues to be a hybrid, copper-dependent mess that is not delivering what business needs, is rolling out far too slowly, and eventually will cost more than Labor’s superior FTTP design. It has been an Abbott/Turnbull debacle from the moment Abbott instructed Turnbull, then communications spokesman, to ‘Demolish the NBN’. Will it ever recover from that?

Need I give you any more evidence that our nation is steadily going backwards under the mal-administration of our economy by the Turnbull government?

Image from the Sydney Morning Herald

On top of all this financial ineptitude, we have witnessed chaos writ large as Turnbull and the fractious conservative right squabble about how to handle the issue of same-sex marriage.

The chaos intensified when a postal ballot that will cost $122 million, was chosen. Astonishingly, the ballot won’t be carried by the Electoral Commission, but by the Bureau of Statistics, which has shown that it can’t carry out even a routine census proficiently. The High Court will decide if such an arrangement is constitutional. How the ABS will conduct the ballot is a mystery, as it’s a statistics-gathering organization. Long delays are likely before we will know the outcome of yet another Turnbull government stuff-up.

Then, as if that shemozzle wasn’t enough, Turnbull and his ministers have become entangled in the dual citizenship fiasco. They have been quite unsure how to handle it, and woefully inconsistent in their approach. Turnbull was only too ready in his characteristically sarcastic style to lampoon the Greens after Scott Ludlum and Clarissa Waters discovered their dual citizenship and resigned. “It shows incredible sloppiness on their part” bellowed our PM in parliament. Now, with several of his own ministers, no less the Deputy PM, the Deputy Leader of the Nationals, and his Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science all caught up in the saga, Turnbull’s barefaced inconsistency has been exposed. Canavan has been excluded from ministerial duties, while Joyce and Nash are permitted to continue as if nothing had happened!

All the time Turnbull is fighting a guerrilla war with the hard-right agitators in his party room, who threaten him with retribution unless he follows their dictates. He is so shackled, hog tied, clapped in irons – use whatever metaphor you like – that he is rendered impotent strategically, administratively, politically, and as a leader.

The voters continue to be unimpressed. We have now had the eighteenth Newspoll in a row where the Coalition trails Labor, this time by eight points: 54/46. If this trend continues, by February of next year Turnbull will have passed Abbott’s infamous record of thirty bad polls in a row, Turnbull’s raison d’etre for upending him.

“Mal’s House of Card”. Cartoon by Simon Benson, The Daily Telegraph

Essential poll shows the same result. Turnbull’s satisfaction score continues on its poor trajectory, now minus 20. The Guardian features images from the Essential Report that illustrate Turnbull’s dilemma graphically.

Now that the Coalition sees defeat coming at election time, worried that Shorten’s “inequality” meme is biting, Mathias Cormann was sent out to launch a panicky attack on him in a speech at the Sydney Institute.

Writing in The Age in an article titled: ‘Socialist revisionism’: Mathias Cormann’s doomsday warning of ‘success exodus’ under Bill Shorten, James Massola says: ‘Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has painted a doomsday scenario of Australia under a Shorten government, claiming a “cocky” Labor leader is relying on the politics of envy to propel him to the Lodge as people forget the failures of socialism. In an extraordinary speech …Cormann charged Shorten with making a “deliberate and cynical political judgement that enough Australians have forgotten the historical failure of socialism” and exploiting the politics of envy’, even describing Labor’s policies as akin to communist East Germany.

Need I go on further to convince you of the widespread paralysis that is afflicting Mal’s Coalition? You may care to remind yourself of what we published in April, just four months ago, in How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy? To do so click here.

The piece concluded:

The unavoidable conclusion is that this ‘adult’ government is economically incompetent, driven by its conservative rump, quite unable to see its way through the nation’s economic difficulties, incapable of analyzing the economic situation, inept at deriving solutions, bereft of planning ability, and hog-tied by ideological constraints. Moreover, it is so unutterably arrogant that it cannot see its ineptitude. And even if it could, would it be capable of doing anything about it?

As a substitute for informed opinions, all we get is self aggrandizement and platitudes from Turnbull, and a torrent of meaningless drivel from the Coalition’s two motor-mouthed financial Daleks: Morrison and Cormann.

How has it come to this with the adults in charge?

Has the situation improved? You be the judge. Click here.

What is your opinion?

How do you assess the Coalition’s performance?

Can it regain traction before the next election?

This article by was originally published on The Political Sword.

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  1. Jaquix

    The liberals have failed on just about everything. They’ve certainly not lived up to their own highly inflated opinion about their abilities, DNA and achievements. They have become clowns. Taking it in turns making outlandish claims about Bill Shorten and Labor. Turnbulls “Bill Shorten is the most dangerous left wing leader we’ve seen in generations” kicked off the comedy show, followed by Cormann, Morrison and Bishop all chiming in with Reds under beds, Stalinist, east German, treacherous, etc etc 19th Newspoll due out again this week – the trend has been consistently downwards for them from right after the July 2016 election, Labor has lead all the way. No use letting Turnbull off the hook because of right-wingers in his party. They were there when he took over. Truth to tell, he just doesn’t have what it takes.

  2. Glenn Barry

    Great article.

    I believe that the future will see key Coalition members, Abbott, Hockey, Turnbull, Morrison Cormann et al. utterly reviled and despised by a distinct majority of this country, for good reason!

    That is…if they aren’t already…

  3. Pete Petrass

    This article needs to go national, in all the press in the country to drive it home to all those Lieberal supporters who believe the spin from the government. Or better yet give all the figures to someone like Ms Sales to put, one at a time, to Turnbull, Cormann or Morrison and demand a response on each. It will require a special edition of the show because it will be lengthy.
    From my point of view (not being any sort of economist) I keep seeing figures of ballooning debt and record spending and still wondering where all the money is going???

  4. Möbius Ecko

    You really have to laugh at him.

    Just a few days after Turnbull talked to the WA Liberals in WA, putting shit on Shorten and Labor at every turn and saying only his government has a solution for WA, they voted to form a WAxit committee.

    Yet another practical demonstration of Turnbull talkingwaffling a lot and nobody listening.

  5. wam

    too long for labor to read cut it down to a twit oops tweet or two?

    wow glen no dutton???

  6. Michael Taylor

    What an outstanding article, Ad astra. Just brilliant.

  7. Bob Johnson

    Who put it in Tony Abbott PM’s head that the NBN should be castrated?
    Who is the financial backer and propaganda saviour of the Abbott/Turbull axis, using his Newscorpse to relentlessly pursue policies that promote his financiak gain.
    Who benefits from the sabotage of the NBN, the weakening of Media Ownership laws, the demonising of ICAC commisioner, the constant undernining 18c civility laws against racial intolerance in the media, and the corrosive attacks on the ABC, etc etc.
    Who runs the only national newspaper at a huge financil loss each year promoting IPA and LNP propaganda, that suddenly receives $30 Million from A grateful Govt. with not a word of explanation?
    Why, its none other than Rupert, character assassination expert and his remotely operated shock jock clones.
    The political cancer on Australian politics is alive and well and living in America, playing with his new toy, Donald Trump!

  8. paul walter

    I applaud Ad Astra for the apt comment regarding the pig arrogance in ignorance and vice versa of the LNP as regards its vile responses to both ALP representatives and Greens Senators and members.

  9. Harquebus

    With the Labor having the same core ideology as the Coalition, they will continue the same. Chaos and increasing negative consequences.

  10. Kronomex


    Il Duttonuci accuses the opposition of “juvenile stunts” with the walk out (which won’t happen) while the juvenile, petulant elitist Pyne Box would kick someone else out of a seat to make sure he stays in. Spare me from the “adults”.


    The LNP has sunk to a new low with this, “Wah, wah, they’re still picking on donations! If we can’t have then then nobody can.”

  11. Terry2

    Sabre Lane on * ABC RN am* this morning was blindsided by the Prime Minister who had quite obviously been well briefed and was prepared for his ABC interview.

    First up he blamed the ABC for left wing rumuour mongering about an expeditionary force going to the Philippines which, in fact was merely reporting comments made by the Americans :

    the commanding general of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific told the ABC he expected Australian forces would soon join American personnel fighting Islamic extremists in South-East Asia.

    “Both of us have a long history of being an expeditionary force when needed, so we begin from a common point I think and we’ve operated alongside for 100 years,” Lieutenant-General David Berger said.

    Naughty, naugthy ABC for reporting the news !

    Next, Turnbull with both barrels blazing , blamed the power price crisis on Labor and turned the argument around to imply that it was his government that was taking the necessary action to rein in power prices after the lack of action by the Rudd/Gillard government on gas reservation. Even the normally unflappable Sabre Lane was left speechless on that one.

    He then went on to tell us – on the subject of whether Barnaby Joyce should follow parliamentary convention and stand aside as Minister Matt Canavan had done pending High Court deliberations – that at a time when there was a real threat of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula Labor stood condemned for raising constitutional and matters of parliamentary convention rather than focusing on condemnation of Kim Jong Un.

    I’m still dabbing spluttered coffee from my keyboard on that one !

  12. Aortic

    I rarely agree with Maggie Thatcher but when she said that once they start attacking you personally they have run out of practical policies, she was right on the money. For all the bellicose bluster and blather all I can see is utter failure. Energy, NBN, marriage equality, the list is endless. And to top it all off we have the bucolic buffoon Barnaby Joyce to strut his stuff as Acting PM when Mal is off polishing his leather jacket or whatever he does. We were the Lucky Country but I fear if this rabble are around much longer that expression may no longer be applicable.

  13. Harry

    The following is a restatement of Steven Hail, an economist who is not cut from the mainstream cloth:

    This country’s household debt is high but doing something about will require a willingness to produce significantly more “government debt”. Federal financial liabilities are not “debt” in the conventional sense at all. It cannot run out of dollars, even though you and I very much can.

    Our Government, via its RBA, is a currency issuer; the rest of us are currency users. They don’t even technically need to issue “government debt” at all when they spend into the economy more Australian dollars than they tax out of it, although for more than 30 years now this is what they have chosen to do, virtually dollar for dollar.

    Moreover, for us to net save and pay down our (private sector) debts, then absent an Australian current account surplus with the rest of the world, it is essential for the Australian Government to net spend. That is where the dollars we need to pay down our debts will have to come from.

    Economies with current account deficits, as ours has had, can’t grow for long if their governments don’t run budget deficits, because otherwise the growth has to be driven by an increasing ratio of private debt to GDP. This is, even more, the case in an economy which has been financialised, so that the amount of money sucked up by stock market and property market speculation is increasing.

  14. astra5

    Michael Taylor, Glenn Barry, Pete Petrass, paul walter:
    I thank you all for your complimentary remarks.

    Thank you also to all of you who have commented and thereby extended the thrust of this piece.

    Bob Johnson, you point the finger at the covert culprit behind the ‘demolition’ of the NBN – Rupert Murdoch. No doubt he tutored Abbott about how the NBN threatened his empire, and Tony responded obsequiously like a sycophant would. At the time a Murdoch – Abbott nexus was suspected, but this was lost as the NBN crumbled. Murdoch often lurks in the background pulling levers to activate his sycophants.

  15. paul walter

    astra, real world stuff…nailed it, bullseye!

  16. townsvilleblog

    Ad Astra yes mate, you have hit the nail on the head, the Abbott/Turnbull govt lurches from one calamity to the next, they need to be removed asap.

  17. townsvilleblog

    September 4, 2017 at 8:35 am

    With the Labor having the same core ideology as the Coalition, they will continue the same. Chaos and increasing negative consequences. When did the LNP announce a Royal Commission into banking, say they would fix the NBN, vote in the parliament for equality of marriage, etc, etc. Me thinks you speak with forked tongue.

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