Fairfax’s Friday offering is from Chief Political Correspondent, Mark Kenny and comes accompanied by this impressive headline:
Tony Abbott’s pre-budget fortnight of blunders and stuff-ups
My first impression was, what only a fortnight? Where has Mark Kenny been during the rest of Tony Abbott’s term in parliament? Quote:
Friday is a red-letter day for the Abbott government.
It marks 100 days since any successful people-smuggling venture has made it to Australia.
But wait a moment, isn’t the article meant to be about “blunders and stuff-ups”, but suddenly and in the leading sentence Kenny introduces his article with today being “a red letter day” for Tony Abbott.
Tony Abbott’s people-smuggling “venture” a success? Does Mark Kenny not count the previous stuff-ups? Is the last fortnight where there apparently have been no boat arrivals, this serves as the only marker on what counts as success or otherwise? A strange way in which to talk about international incidents, people’s lives put in danger; as “a venture”.
- The countries’ existing co-operation has been extended, with Australia giving Sri Lanka two patrol boats, so that asylum seekers might be intercepted before they leave Sri Lankan waters. (The inconvenient truth that navy sailors have been arrested and charged with running the biggest people-smuggling ring in the country is being, publicly at least, downplayed.)
- Tony Abbott and the Papua New Guinea government plan to shut down a human rights inquiry into human rights abuses in the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre.
- Cost of Abbott government’s orange lifeboats to tow back asylum seeker trebles to $7.5 million.
- The Senate has voted to strike out the government’s latest attempt to place refugees on temporary visas.
The government has not been shy about its Operation Sovereign Borders milestone nor for that matter the 30 or 40 daily increments leading up to it.
Not shy? Perhaps a better description is still pumping 3-word slogans out to the public, while denying any accuracy of information, thereby making an informed decision almost impossible.
- The absence of public information on exactly what resources are being deployed makes estimating the exact financial cost difficult . . .
- Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he will no longer hold a weekly press conference to update journalists about the Government’s border protection operations.
- The (Senate) inquiry will look into Mr Morrison’s claim of “public interest immunity” from requests to tell the public what the navy is doing with asylum seeker boats on the high seas. Senators will also examine the Abbott government’s turn back policy, the recent violations of Indonesian sovereignty and the government’s perceived lack of transparency.
It comes ironically enough, at the fag-end of the most mistake-laden fortnight for the government since the travel entitlements debacle marred its first weeks in office.
Therefore according to Mark Kenny, the debacle of this government’s asylum seeker policy which is costing the Australian public unknown millions of dollars for an impossible-to-ascertain result, is somehow “a success”. No boat arrivals, but what’s the price Mr. Morrison and Mr. Abbott . . . care to enlighten us?
Back then Tony Abbott had been strangely absent, his minimalist approach erroneously designed to position him as the opposite of the news cycle-obsessed Rudd-Gillard outfits.
I find that extremely difficult to believe, and I would challenge Mark Kenny to compare how many times Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard fronted the cameras in lycra or budgie smugglers proudly holding aloft a dead fish. Poor old Con the Fruiterer could barely leave the front door of his shop without media tart Tony Abbott trying to grab one of his melons.
What it actually conveyed was a government without a message and a prime minister without a firm hand on the wheel.
Perhaps it’s because Abbott doesn’t have a firm hand on the wheel . . .
- Prime Minister Tony Abbott refers to her as ”the boss” and Peta Credlin is proving why, stamping her authority on the make up of the government. Fairfax Media has learned Ms Credlin, who steered Mr Abbott’s path to The Lodge as his chief-of-staff, is deciding every government appointment from top ministerial aides right down to the electorate staff of new MPs.
- Senator Ian Macdonald’s public accusation that Mr Abbott’s office, led by senior aide Peta Credlin, has instilled a culture of “obsessive centralised control” in the government has struck a chord among sections of the Coalition.
- OK, hands up all those that voted for Peta Credlin?
Opinion polls reflected this vacuum and by the close of 2013, press gallery journalists were being backgrounded to the effect that things would change in 2014.
Another opinion is that the actions of this government since the election has lead the public to realise that they were fooled, tricked, deceived, conned and duped by the mainstream media in the lead up to the election via their complete and utter failure to report on, much less analyse the implications of the ideas which Tony Abbott took to the election. If anyone in the msm cares to peruse the list by Sally McManus, her excellent research provides a summary (with links). Ms McManus is currently up to #123 of broken promises, lies and deceptions.
Abbott’s performance since has been more positive and the government had looked to be settling in.
See above for broken promises, lies and deceptions. Mark Kenny blames the Abbott government’s unpopularity on Tony Abbott’s “minimalistic approach” which is now “more positive” and “settling in”. Kenny might care to take a small glance at what precisely the Abbott government has been doing, and among the many are:
Cuts welfare payments to orphans of soldiers – Cuts hundreds of jobs at the CSIRO – Reopens 457 visa loophole to allow employers to hire an unlimited number of workers without scrutiny –Pays hundreds of indigenous workers in his Department up to $19 000 less than non-indigenous workers doing the same job and cuts the budget for the representative body the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples causing two-thirds of the staff to lose their jobs – Scraps food grants program for small farmers – Unemployment rate jumps to highest in more than 10 years – Cuts the wages of Australian troops deployed overseas by almost $20 000 per solider – Withdraws funding for an early intervention program to help vulnerable young people –Starts dismantling Australia’s world leading marine protection system . . .
But the sitting fortnight just concluded, the last before the May budget session, has been anything but impressive, starting out badly and getting steadily worse.
And deservedly so . . .
And with each day, the prime minister’s normally confident body language in parliament has chronicled that slide.
That would be a noticed and much commented upon pattern of behaviour, and has in the past been the precedent to “doing a runner”. This pattern will obviously be difficult for Abbott to maintain now that he’s PM, therefore it is expected that he will “go to ground” following mistakes, errors, blunders and confusing plus contradictory statements made by himself.
Mark Kenny then goes on at some length about the Sinodinos issue.
First came the storm over the past business dealings of his assistant treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos.
. . . but it wasn’t Abbott’s doing. He continued to enthusiastically spruik the imminent return of Sinodinos to the ministry.
In any event, the voluntary suspension has failed to defuse the issue amid new testimony at ICAC that Sinodinos was expressly warned of governance problems including the possible insolvency of AWH, when he was chairman in 2010.
This has become a running sore for Abbott. Colleagues worry that Abbott’s support will make it harder to cut the minister loose if needed, but it might actually make it easier, allowing the Prime Minister to explain the dismissal as anything but a personal preference.
Clever politics eh from the PM. . . wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
On top of these problems came Attorney-General George Brandis’ ham-fisted sales job for his changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. His legally correct yet politically insane observation, that people have a right to be bigots, was an horrendous own-goal.
Under the proposed legislation, “intimidate” is defined as meaning to “cause fear of physical harm” and “vilify” is to “incite hatred”.”This is an extremely narrowly defined protection, an extremely narrowly defined prohibition of racist speech,” Mr Dreyfus said.
He has also pointed to a clause in the Government amendments that appears to allow vilification or intimidation if it is “in the course of participating in the public discussion”.
“One could drive a truck through that provision,” Mr Dreyfus said.
I agree with Mark Kenny, yes Brandis’ draft legislation was “legally correct” but with the proviso that it was deemed unworkable (A third minister present at the meeting said the original bill had been ”terrible”); a very poor and amateurish effort from Australia’s Attorney-General.
Simon Rice, professor of law at Australian National University, said that Mr Tobin’s comments (concerning holocaust denial and ordered to be taken from Tobin’s website in 2008) would not be banned in Australia if his situation were to be tested by the government’s new exposure draft.
Then came the Prime Minister’s stunning return to old empire via the restoration of knights and dames in the Australian awards system.
While Abbott’s decision might easily be categorised alongside that which are known in the venacular as Abbott Brain-f*rts, and as per other ill-considered offerings from Tony Abbott have given journalists and the Australian public much cause for mirth . . . and puns, it does also represent as Bill Shorten expressed it, an example of Abbott’s “cruel and twisted priorities…awarding knighthoods but cutting the wages of cleaners”.
One Liberal observed that not even John Howard had wanted to turn the clock that far back and right on cue, Howard himself confirmed it, telling Fairfax Media, that even conservatives would view the move as ‘‘somewhat anachronistic”.
Howard used to rail against Labor’s tendency to govern for section interests.
Well that’s a surprise given Howard’s introduction of WorkChoices, and who can forget that which came to be known as “Howard’s Hand-outs”. Yes John Howard used to rail against Labor’s “tendency”, but wasn’t that slightly hypocritical? From 2004:
- The money is a clear attempt to placate what are currently some of the more vocal sectional interests in the community. On Sunday, we also saw the Government pledge another bag of money to Catholic schools.
- Just months before the election, the Government’s populism had eaten up the expected budget surplus, leaving the Beazley opposition in a corner with either no money to spend or having to cut government programs to find money for their own agenda.
- Howard’s extraordinarily blatant targeted hand-outs to particular groups to shore up votes is a further indication of how far he is prepared to go in appealing to self-interest rather than national interest.
Mark Kenny however, is spot on with his conclusion:
But this week, it was the Abbott government which turned its back on mainstream opinion to pander to a couple of mouthy conservative commentators wanting to legalise hate speech, a cloister of protected banks wanting to reintroduce skimming, and a tiny cluster of 19th century monarchists.
Little wonder the Prime Minister has been ashen-faced in parliament this week.