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Tag Archives: promises

Forging the Wrong Leaders

rabbott-e1423656056322

 

“We are not the Labor party.”  Amongst the leadership tensions of the past few weeks in the ruling Coalition government, Prime Minister Tony Abbott appears to have adopted this as a mantra of sorts, an incantation to ward off the attacks of his foes both inside and outside of his own party. A return to the internecine warfare of 2010 and 2013, he argues, would make the Liberal party as bad as their predecessors. He speaks as if there is something qualitatively different between the parties and the way they go about their operation, as if the Liberal and Labor parties have entirely different and incompatible DNAs.

Whilst the spill motion may have failed, the simple fact that the motion was raised shows that this is manifestly untrue.

Labor has not been slow to join in the chorus of jibes, directly quoting back invective initially directed at Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd by Abbott and his fellows. There is no shortage of material to use. Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne and others were incessant in their criticism of Labor’s leadership woes, all at the instigation of the consummate attack dog who now finds the tables turned. The rich irony is that leadership battles are only unpalatable because Tony Abbott made them so. They are not new to Australian politics.

Admittedly, leadership changes at the Federal level are rarer than in State politics. Additionally, many Prime Ministers step down “gracefully” before the inevitable push.  It is not until Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – and the unedifying return to Rudd – that replacement of a sitting Prime Minister by force became somewhat common. However, the attempt by Liberal backbenchers to push a spill motion and depose Tony Abbott shows that leadership battles are not restricted to one side of politics. They are caused by something deeper – a malaise in politics.

“To lose one Prime Minister may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness.” (With apologies to Oscar Wilde.)

Deposing (or attempting to depose) a sitting, first-term Prime Minister is, admittedly rare – at least, until recent years. So how is it that we’ve come to this?

Kevin Rudd came to power in 2007 with a sweeping majority and the hopes and aspirations of Australians behind him. Less than three years later he was pushed from office, a broken, tearful man. What forces wrought the triumphant visionary of Kevin 07 into the chaotic, vindictive morass he became?

The issue at the heart of Kevin Rudd’s downfall was his inability to govern. Rudd was a great communicator, an idealist, a visionary and a fantastic politician for elections. In government, however, he proved lacking in the skills and attributes required of a Prime Minister. This came about, essentially, because elections and governments require very distinct skill-sets. What makes a great leader during an election campaign does not make a wonderful leader in power. Unfortunately, the reverse is also often true: great leaders may be let down by their inability to win elections.

Our modern democracy revolves around elections. They are the fixed points at which the people can have their say. It has been argued that Australia is a democracy for a month or so every three years, after which it becomes an effective oligarchy. There is some truth to this.

Increasingly, however, the three years between elections are conducted with an unremitting focus on the next election. Oppositions have this easy: they spend their years in the political wilderness with nothing but the next election to think about. Government is a harder job. Making decisions in the greater good, aware that every action will have detractors, will be attacked by the opposition and by the media, requires courage. Making decisions aimed solely at bolstering the government’s reputation at the next election is easier.

During elections, enormous sums of money are spent on revealing and promoting policy, on attacking political opponents, and on strategising the message. How much do you reveal? How long can you keep your best offerings hidden, in order to best capture public approval whilst restricting the other party’s opportunity to respond? All is done with an eye on the prize – the all-important twelve hours when the electoral booths are open.

Elections are replete with unreasonable expectations, with impossible promises, and unfortunately often, dirty tactics. Throw a partisan media into the mixture and an election becomes so much froth and noise, a lot of the detail can be obscured.

But then the election is over. The winning party is expected to segue into governing. Suddenly there is no money for advertising. The messaging takes a back seat: governing is a long game. In governing, there is limited value to continuing to attack the other side. Even a party which had the media’s partisan support during the election can find, all too soon, that it becomes hostile. Sudden attention is paid to detail. Promises were made during the campaign, but when it comes to execution, any number of headwinds interfere: from the quality of the public service to unexpected financial setbacks. Changing circumstances require flexibility, but promises and public expectations are not flexible.
In the public’s view, the choice has been made. The election is over: it is time to make good on the promises. And woe betide a party that cannot deliver on its promises, the next time elections come around.

Promises are the currency of elections

Campaigning requires a particular skillset of a political party and its leaders. Leaders must bring inspiration and vision. An election from opposition can be carried on criticism of the government, but only insofar as plans can be proposed to address the identified shortcomings. Attacking your opponents will get you only so far; a party needs to explain what it would do differently. The universal truth of electoral campaigns is promises.
Kevin Rudd was a great campaigner. He brought vision and grand plans. His rhetoric inspired the young and the old alike in an idea of what Australia could be. He promised changes that would be difficult, but he made them sound easy, and he had obvious commitment to his cause. Kevin 07 was a whirlwind of hope, and with a strong team behind him, he made his promises sound convincing.

Unfortunately, Kevin Rudd proved to be terrible at governing. The essential qualities of a government leader are the ability to negotiate, persistence to follow-through on projects, focus on detail, delegation and empowerment of your team, and detailed planning. These were not Kevin Rudd’s strengths. In eternal search for polling approval, Rudd lacked the ability to push projects through to completion against critical media campaigns and public resistance. His inability to delegate power and responsibility was also a detriment. In an election, the leader’s visibility and personality are critical to success. But Australia is too large and complex for a single leader, however frenetic, to manage. Kevin Rudd and his centralisation became a bottleneck, and Labor was unable to effectively execute on its promises.

Kevin Rudd was a great “wartime leader” but a mediocre peacetime one. When he was deposed in favour of Julia Gillard, the priority was to regain some momentum on the projects that had stalled. Fulfilling at least some of the promises that won the 2007 election would go some way to address the electors’ buyer’s remorse. Such was Gillard’s success in a short period of time that she won Labor another term of office.

Gillard was amazing at the things that Rudd was not. Negotiation and persistence were the hallmarks of the Gillard administration. With Gillard’s direct intervention and follow-through, outstanding issues got resolved. Promises made at the previous election, sabotaged by poor planning and policy backdowns, were resolved in short order – perhaps with suboptimal outcomes, but enough to get them off the table.

Gillard was a very successful peacetime leader and history will likely judge her kindly. However, she was let down in the face of Tony Abbott’s incessant campaigning by a poor communication style. Gillard was not seen as a great campaigner. A last-minute return to the Great Campaigner, Kevin Rudd, in late 2013 was insufficient to address the extended election campaign Tony Abbott had run from the moment he ascended to the Liberal leadership.

Uncomfortable parallels

Tony Abbott was also a great campaigner. His approach was different to Rudd’s; he brought no grand plans or vision to the table. Instead his approach was to sow discontent wherever possible, and his pitch was for a return to the Good Old Days of prosperity under Howard. His messaging was consistent and strident and believable. With no grand plans to propose, details of execution were not required. Tony Abbott ran a three-year election campaign leading up to his election in 2013. The primary promise of Tony Abbott’s Coalition was to “Not be Labor” – a message he is still pushing today, over a year after taking government.

Abbott’s success on the campaign trail has not carried through to success as Prime Minister. Tony Abbott and his cabinet repeatedly point to their grand successes – the mining tax, the “carbon tax”, and three free trade agreements. Regardless of whether you consider these outcomes to be successes, unstated are the Attacks on Everyone of the 2014 budget, the ideological attack on industrial relations, the Captain’s Picks, or the reliance of the Coalition on a model of Australia’s prosperity (mining and export) that is rapidly coming to an end. Not described is the government’s lack of a plan for developing the country into a nation of the 21st century – nor the failure of the government to progress its plans to forge the country into the preeminent example of a 20th century country. Not mentioned is the changing circumstance which is the belated acceptance of the rest of the world that Climate Change is an existential issue demanding action.

Like Rudd, Abbott is also a centraliser. The inability to entrust his Ministers with management of their own offices, let alone their own portfolios, has led to internal dissatisfaction – just like Kevin Rudd. The inability of the Abbott government – with its hard right-wing policies and its head-kicker parliamentary supremos – leads to an inability to negotiate in good faith with their political opponents, which leads to legislation languishing in the Senate. In turn, this leads to further deterioration of the budget. This government seems to know only one way to respond to a budget problem, but this approach does not have the approval of the people the government is elected to serve, nor the Senate which protects them.

The skills and attributes that brought Tony Abbott to government are not the skills and attributes needed to effectively govern this country. This is the malaise of our democracy. The focus on winning government means that leaders are forged who can win elections but not lead the country.

The enormous political cost of changing from Rudd to Gillard, and back to Rudd, led to Rudd introducing new rules to the Labor party around leadership contention. This was good politics. It is not, necessarily, good government, if it serves to protect the interests of an incompetent or unsatisfactory Prime Minister. Such rules, ironically, would serve to protect Tony Abbott, and a similar set of requirements have been proposed for the Coalition that would further endanger Australia’s ability to unseat a leader who can campaign but not govern.

Where to from here?

History shows us that Tony Abbott is unlikely to survive as Prime Minister to the next election – unless the Coalition follows Labor’s lead and institutes new rules to prevent the unseating of a Prime Minister. If Tony Abbott is unseated, perhaps as a result of another poor Captain’s Call or a further string of poor polls and State election results, who would be expected to replace him? And would Abbott be replaced by a good governor – or a great campaigner?

Amongst the ideologues and right-wing extremists, the climate deniers and the silver spoon born-to-rule set, who on the Coalition’s side can be the great governor Australia needs? Malcolm Turnbull looks like the most likely candidate for the top job (despite the particular loathing which some of his Coalition colleagues reserve for him). Can Malcolm Turnbull the Despised become the negotiator, the facilitator, and the project lead that the Coalition so desperately needs?

 

Breaking News – the Abbott Government has kept an election promise

Image from thelocal.de

Image from thelocal.de

There seemed to be some confusion about Abbott’s promise to spend his first week as PM in an Indigenous community. Some people were arguing that he’d broken an election promise in record time.

Others argued that he – in fact – promised to repeal the carbon tax “straight away”. I tried to point out that “straight away” meant as soon as possible, not literally straight away.

“But that’s what he said,” said Dave. “He shouldn’t have said it he couldn’t do it immediately.”

“I don’t really think you can consider these things broken promises,” I argued.

“Well, what about his promise on school funding that every single school would get the same funding,” said Jonno, “they broke that one.”

“No, they’ve said that the total funding will be the same,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but that’s not every single school.”

“We don’t know that yet,” I insisted.

“Then there’s the money to the childcare workers,” said Dave.

“And Holden,” said someone else.

“Look,” I said, “before the election the Liberals were quite clear that they weren’t going to continue to throw money at the car industry.”

“I heard today that Turnbull’s announced that they’re going back on their NBN commitments,” said Jonno.

“This mob hasn’t kept a single promise,” said Dave.

“That’s just not true!” I insisted.

“Well, can you name one?” he asked.

Before I had a chance Barry spoke up.

“I can.”

We looked at Barry.

“Before the election, I got talking to the Liberal candidate in my area, and he told me that I shouldn’t believe Labor’s scare campaigns about Workchoices and raising the GST. He told me that if I voted for the Labor Party, I’d get the most incompetent, the most dishonest, the nastiest, stupidest government in the history of Australia.”

He sipped his beer.

“Well, I voted for the Labor Party, and I guess you’d have to say that they kept that promise!”

Love the one you’re with

tony_friendly

Tony Abbott is your friend.

In fact, he’s everyone’s friend. He’s so inoffensive to anyone that why there should be resistance to his nefarious schemes is inexplicable. Tony Abbott, and his Coalition, are unfeasibly flexible; whoever you might be, whatever interest group you represent, the Coalition is on your side. One day Abbott will be patting you on the back and swearing his undying support for your cause; the next day he’s in the enemy’s camp and promising your head. Tony Abbott is the friend who will promise you undying support, so long as it will not require him to take action against the other group to whom he has already pledged his undying support.

This article was originally going to be about the shape of Tony Abbott’s first week in government, if he’d really been held to all the promises he had made. The first week would have been spent in the north of Australia, but it’s doubtful whether Abbott would have had the time to focus on indigenous issues considering the hectic schedule of legislation he had promised. Carefully-worded non-promises aside, however, many of the concrete legislative promises which the Coalition offered have been met on schedule – at least to the point of beginning investigations and committees, if not the actual drawing of legislation. Blandishments in the current world of politics need to be made very carefully. Tony Abbott himself raised the petard of “liar”, of an inflexible requirement to deliver exactly what you promised during a campaign. Leading politicians are now very aware of this pitfall and make certain to couch their statements and their support in terms that are vague enough or specific enough in their limitations that you can get away with less than people thought you had promised.

So the article went on hold. Then the Prime Minister’s hectic round of international travel and meetings began and gave another angle to examine. The thing in common between the promises made, over many weeks to many audiences, about initial actions and legislation, and the approach to international leaders, has been one of inconstancy. Or more precisely, being a “man for all seasons” – constantly nodding agreeably to whomever he is addressing.

It’s partly an outcome of the small target approach the Coalition took to the election campaign, and in the heat of an electoral campaign a bit of “policy flexibility” may be excused. It’s not as if the Coalition is unique in this regard; Kevin Rudd took the art form to new heights himself, earning himself the moniker Chameleon Rudd.

However, once in government, and temporarily freed of the pressures of a looming election, a politician is lumbered with certain inconvenient hindrances that don’t harness him/her in opposition; hindrances like actual power, and actual interactions with people outside of the need to get them to vote for you. In this circumstance, it becomes necessary to have the courage of your convictions; in Tony Abbott’s parlance, to “say what you mean and do what you say”. It is disheartening to see that the Coalition, one month into government, appears to be maintaining its approach refined so successfully during its time in opposition. In any number of ways Tony Abbott’s Coalition is still an Opposition, still seeking to demonise the failures of the other side whilst minimising scrutiny of their own intentions and actions. And they are still telling people what they want to hear, assuming they tell them anything at all.

It may be instructive to examine a few of the many faces of Tony Abbott and the Coalition.

On Diplomacy

Kaye Lee helpfully summarised the following in the comments on “Transforming Tony Abbott” a recent AIMN post.

Japan is Australia’s closest friend in the region. However, we are also BFF with Indonesia, “in many respects our most important overall relationship”. Except, of course, for Papua New Guinea, because there is no more important relationship for Australia. One wonders how many respects are left to qualify Tony Abbott’s statement that “New Zealand is in many respects Australia’s closest relationship.” One can only hope that if they’re ever in a room together, those four countries can work out where their relative standings with Australia sit, because I certainly can’t.

On Foreign investment

Australia’s sovereignty and ability to feed itself is at risk. So obviously the laws surrounding foreign investment need to be tightened up. Except that we also need to inject “…momentum into deals with China, Japan and South Korea as a matter of urgency” and lure foreign investment back. It helps that the Coalition has under its roof representatives who passionately believe in foreign investment, and those who obstinately oppose it, so it’s possible to send the right person to the right forum to ensure the right message is given. So long as they don’t go telling their position to the media, which gets read by interests of both persuasions.

On climate change

Tony Abbott’s varied positions on climate change are well documented. Commencing with his famous 2009 statement that the science around “climate change is crap” – itself a 180 turnaround from his previous position – he has been variously a supporter of a carbon tax, a trenchant opponent to any kind of market mechanism, a reluctant convert to the anthropogenic origin of global warming, and most recently both an advocate of the Direct Action plan’s ability to meet targets, and an apologist in advance of when it doesn’t. About the only position he’s not recorded to have held is support for a market-based price on carbon, which economists and ecologists alike think has the greatest bang for buck in carbon abatement. Of course, his actions upon reaching government hark back to his original poor view of climate science, indicating that if he’s unable to change his opinion in an area where the science is becoming ever more irrefutable and the consequences ever more dire, he is unlikely to change his original beliefs in many other areas either.

See http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/03/09/climate-change-cage-match-abbott-debates-abbott/, wherein Tony Abbott debates Tony Abbott on climate change science.

On industrial relations

It’s commonly accepted wisdom that Workchoices was the Coalition’s downfall in 2007. Tony Abbott was regarded then as a moderate, which may be part of the reason that Labor’s personal attacks on the man and fear campaign regarding the resurrection of Workchoices policy was not as effective as hoped. In this policy area, the Coalition is spoilt for choice when it comes to the messages they deliver the electorate. Do they roll out Tony Abbott, the “best friend of workers“? Or if the audience is made up of big business and industrial heavyweights, would it be more appropriate to send in workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz?

It’s true that the Coalition’s IR policy – this term – is cautious, to the point that some business leaders and ex-politicians have called it “timid”. The sense is that this is an area where the electorate is still tender after being bitten by the Coalition’s previous attempt. There are exceptions, though, largely because the Coalition wants to be able to give big business good news. Thus we see the push to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, a body whose primary achievement was to decrease workplace safety and lead directly to a spike in workplace accidents and deaths. And we see the vilification of unions.

Unions are one group to whom the Coalition does not seek to speak softly. This is why the Coalition’s rhetoric has been about “union thuggery” and “union corruption”; the intent is to drive a wedge between workers and their historic support groups. Unions provide monetary and other support to Labor and it is for this reason that they must be curtailed, but you can’t directly attack the union movement without first discrediting it.

The weakness of Teflon Tony

The examples above are prominent policy areas, but the technique of saying to each audience the thing most closely calculated to their own hearts is one that sees use in a multitude of areas. Whether he’s telling farmers that they should have the right to refuse entry of mining leases to their farms, or supporting the ability of mining companies to enter private property at will; whether he’s promising that a paid maternity scheme will be “over my dead body”, or proposing his own scheme an order of magnitude bigger than the one that Labor had just rolled out to acclaim, Tony Abbott and his Coalition will say anything to anyone. Words are cheap and promises are meaningless.

In late 2012, in the throes of the US election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney self-destructed because of this exact kind of policy vagueness. In the case of Romney, the Democrats and at least some parts of the media were willing to draw attention to his various contradictory promises and policy positions. The message to Australians is that it is possible to overcome a hostile media (in the US, Fox News is almost as overbearing as the various Murdoch enterprises down under) – so long as there is a will to expose inconstancy for what it is. It’s too late for 2013, but if the Coalition will maintain its T-1000 approach to communications, it will soon enough be time to highlight that for every favourable position the Coalition has held, it has also held the alternative position, and the only real way to tell the intentions of the party in the future is to examine them in the recent past.

We all know to judge a man by what he does, not by what he says. This is doubly true of the Coalition. During the next term of government, and leading into the next election in three years – if not before – the left, and the media, need to focus not on the Coalition’s statements, but on the range of opinions they have held as a backdrop to their statements; and not what the Coalition says and promises, but on what it has done.

If you believe in a fairer, more considerate Australia, a more progressive Australia, a clever country that designs and builds things and innovates new technology rather than relying on the non-renewable resources with which this country has gifted us, then Tony Abbott is not your friend. Whatever he might say to your face.

What do we do now?

tony

So it’s over; the Coalition has triumphed in the contest of ideas and will (eventually, one hopes) form a government.

Tony Abbott has been described as the most effective opposition leader in a generation. This may or may not be accurate, but it cannot be argued that he has achieved his goals with a combination of balls-to-the-wall confrontation and maintaining a small target on his weakest points. The question now becomes what kind of a Prime Minister he will make, and what his collection of Howard-era ministers will do now they’ve reached power in the 21st century.

The first thing we need to understand is that what the Coalition government will do, now it’s in power, is not what they said they would do while they were in opposition.

To some in the electorate, this may come as a surprise. They may actually think the Coalition fully intends to do the things they talked about during the campaign. But things promised during the campaign were not real; they were props, to support Tony Abbott’s approach to the job of opposition. They continued on from the years preceding the election, from the very moment of Abbott’s elevation to the position of Leader of the Opposition.

“The job of an opposition is to oppose”, and that’s what the Coalition did – regardless of whether they agreed with the policies on offer or not.

Prior to Tony Abbott, worthy policies had a chance of bipartisan support. Abbott himself in years gone by argued for the imposition of a carbon tax; Malcolm Turnbull was ready to sign on to support Labor’s policy in this area.

It was on this very matter that Abbott was able to replace Turnbull as the leader, and he never looked back. Even in those areas where there is “bipartisan support”, it is conditional; according to Tony Abbott, the Coalition wouldn’t be doing its job if it didn’t find aspects to criticise in even the best policy.

The Coalition’s stated intention since 2010 has been to oppose the government on any and all fronts. Opposing requires you to have an alternative solution to point to. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed, or even achievable; nobody will look at it too closely whilst it’s just an alternative. But you can’t oppose a successful or important piece of policy or legislation without pointing people to an alternative; it shows that the thing you’re opposing is not inevitable.

So the Coalition threw its weight behind a bunch of pointless, useless or impractical ideas – not as real policies, but as props for its position of opposition. NBN-lite, Direct Action, the easy bits of Gonski; these helped it to point to Labor’s NBN, the carbon price, and the full package of Gonski and say “we don’t agree with these, and we don’t need them.” Despite the fact that experts universally panned the alternatives on offer, showed that they were impractical and expensive and simply couldn’t do what the Coalition was claiming, the opposition stuck to its guns knowing that the electorate didn’t care about details and didn’t care about feasibility. Pandering to a voter’s fears is eighty percent of the job, but the other twenty percent is to quiet that little part of their subconscious that says “what do we do instead”?

But now the time of opposition is over, and Tony Abbott and the Coalition have made a rod for their own back. They’ve sworn not to do deals. They’ve sworn to stick to their guns and get their promises delivered. They’ve sworn to be a no-nonsense government that says what it means and does what it says. And now it’s achieved government saying all of these impractical and counterproductive things that it is going to be required to do.

There are always get-out-of-jail clauses; every incoming Coalition government goes down the same path. The “budget position is so much worse than we knew that we can’t do the things we promised” route. Will the Australian people stand for it this time? For the first time, there was a PEFO, as thorough a retelling of the budget standing as possible, to ensure there are no surprises for an incoming government. Despite this, the amazing invisible Joe Hockey has been reported as saying that the Coalition would need an independent, external audit of the finances before they knew the true budget standing, so it seems obvious that they’re going to try this well-travelled road again.

And if the “not enough money” issue isn’t going to serve – for instance, in repealing taxes that you’ve sworn black and blue are losing money, or replacing a nation-building effort with something cheaper and nastier – then you can delay. Thus, the NBN will undergo “three separate reviews and a forensic audit” before the Coalition will even know what to do with it. Who wants to bet that these won’t take up most of the Coalition’s first term of government and be ready with propositions by the time the next election comes around? (Labor took a very similar approach to a series of policy areas in 2007, so it’s certainly not without precedent).

But eventually a government has to be judged on what it did, not what it said it would do. Sometimes, the promises that a government has made to get elected can come back to bite them. Thus Labor’s rounds of tax cuts, promised at the 2007 election in answer to the Coalition’s same promises, had to be delivered in subsequent years as the budget situation worsened and they became progressively more unaffordable. Those tax cuts may even have contributed to Labor’s more recent budget woes and its need to find new sources of revenue. Kevin Rudd, in those days, was desperate to keep all of his promises, just as Tony Abbott is now. Julia Gillard found out the hard way the results of being publically excoriated over reneging on a promise (even though Gillard’s was a matter of semantics rather than intent). So will Tony Abbott back off his promises on NBN, on direct action, on PPL, on returning to budget surplus?

Those with memories of past conservative governments fear what this one might do when the promising is over and the sharp teeth of conservative policy are revealed. In any number of areas, in the last days of the election campaign, Tony Abbott and his senior staff were careful to put caveats on their promises. Undertakings which had previously been unequivocal – promises in blood, you might say – became subject to conditions. If the Direct Action plan on climate change fails to reach agreed emissions targets, the Coalition will renege rather than spend more money. The boats will be turned around – presuming it is safe to do so, which it never will be. (And incidentally, we won’t hear about it one way or another, because boats arriving is a politically damaging sight.) The NBN will be killed, with the exception of contracts already signed, because you can’t break contracts.

The big test for the Coalition is still to come. Will it stick to its guns? Will it attempt to implement damaging and ineffective policies that it doesn’t believe in itself? Will it revert on policy to ideas that are more useful, that might actually work, at the expense of going back on their word? And if so, what tricks will they pull to prove that what they said before the election was not a lie, but simply a position that had to be changed as circumstances changed?

And will the Australian people remember how well that particular approach worked for Julia Gillard?

A trustworthy source just sent this . . .

Image from smh.com.au

Image from smh.com.au

A trustworthy source just gave this to me, claiming that Tony has already written his acceptance speech. No, I don’t have to tell you the trustworthy source, but let’s just say it’s someone who’s very credible. Very, very credible. And you can trust me! Just ask my trustworthy source.

Good evening, ladies and gentleman.

I realize that there are some people out there who didn’t vote for me, but I’d like to assure them that we intend to govern all Australians! 

Now that I’m Prime Minister, I’d like to say about bloody time. I should have been Prime Minister three years ago, but those stupid independents don’t understand the way democracy is meant to work. Anyway, that’s been rectified now, and I can get on with the business of correcting the mistakes of the Labor Government, starting with the one where they had Julia Gillard as Prime Minister. Now, I don’t say that because she’s a woman, so before any of you shrill feminists accuse me of being sexist, let me just point out that I have a wife and daughters and if I were to say anything sexist, they’d soon nag me back into line. And don’t forget that my chief of staff was allowed to keep her IVF injections in my fridge, right next to Malcolm’s testicles.

All right, so we can agree that I’ve already fixed that one about Australia having the wrong leader, so no-one can accuse me of not keeping my two most important, fundamental promises, which were to be Prime Minister and to be a better Government, which, of course, we are. 

As for some of my other statements – I’m sure that the Opposition will want to call them “promises” but did I ever put them in writing? No, and I was very clear about that! You can only take notice of what I put in writing- a lot gets said in the course of political debate and people should be free to clarify their position. When, on Monday, I discover that budget position is far worse than I could have possibly imagined when I said that we were an economic basket case, I’ll have to make some changes to these “aspirations”. 

For example, my position on the NBN is that it’s a gigantic waste of money and that we’ll stop it just as soon as the contract is fulfilled. We’d like to stop it sooner, but we can’t, but you can blame Labor for that one. And, of course, the logical flow-on is that we WILL have to scale back my direct action on Climate Change, because of all the money wasted on the NBN. But we will deliver a more efficient direct action policy: It consists of me cycling to Parliament instead of being driven, and paying Gina and Clive $2,000,000 to plant trees in their backyards. 

As for the Carbon Tax, well, we may still have a hostile Senate, so we’d have to go to an election to get that repealed, which would be costly. And it would risk me breaking my two fundamental promises, to install me as Prime Minister and to have a better Government, so we may just have to live with that one for the time being. 

There are a number of people I should thank. I’ll start with that wonderful woman without whom I wouldn’t be here: Gina, you’ve been great. And Kevin, that job with the UN is definitely yours, you’ve done far more for me than most people realize. As for the media, well, I notice a number of ex-journalists suggested that we had no policies, but those who managed to keep their jobs had an understanding of the greater good. Theirs, ours, and, of course, the country’s. And finally, a big special thank you to that great Australian, our most famous US citizen, Rupert Murdoch. I know I’m alleged to have offered to sell my arse, by one of the independents, but Rupert, you had me at: “I’ll make you PM!”

Finally, we intend to deliver a budget surplus and to cut taxes. In that order! For the next two years, we’ll deliver a budget surplus by cutting services and shutting down Canberra completely. As I’ll be making all the decisions, there doesn’t seem much need for Parliament to sit, so the money we save there, should enable us to deliver the promised tax cuts in about two and half years. Just before the next election!

 

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