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Trouble in Paradise

On Q&A Monday night Feb 3 the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce made the astounding suggestion that if a person acting as the local journalist for his own street discovered something about one of his neighbours and reported it, he might find his house burned down. The context of his comment was a discussion about what stories should or should not be reported. The panel was arguing whether the ABC should have reported the story concerning the leaked Edward Snowden files concerning the bugging of the phones of the Indonesian President and his wife and the claims of Navy brutality against asylum seekers.

The comment caused some gasps of disbelief with the audience and a hesitant reaction by Tony Jones, but was largely overlooked by the panel in favour of continuing with the broader subject. In hindsight, that was a good move. Goodness knows where the conversation might have gone had it continued in that vein. We are all familiar with Barnaby’s penchant for colourful analogies not to mention some pretty spectacular gaffes from time to time. But this one was interesting largely because of the context. Barnaby seemed to be implying that when news stories are published and create sufficient controversy as to threaten irreparable damage, they might generate a violent response. Well yes, I suppose they could. But is this a reason not to publish? It would be a sad indictment of the media generally if it were. It suggests that publishing stories is the problem, not the subject matter. There were many such examples of intimidation of the media in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s. But I don’t think it applies here in Australia today; or does it?

Over the past week we have heard the Prime Minister cast doubt over the editorial independence of the ABC. We have heard Malcolm Turnbull disagree. We have heard Barnaby Joyce’s plea on behalf of drought affected farmers in the North. We have heard Kevin Andrews make some noises while Joe Hockey has said there is no bail-out money and now Dr. Sharman Stone has let fly with the ‘L’ word. There is no suggestion any of this should not be reported, but what it does suggest is that all is not well inside the government. It sounds like there is trouble in paradise.

Last week, the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews commented on the activities of the ABC saying that “what goes around comes around.” I emailed him asking if he could clarify that comment. He had previously stated, “I think the ABC should be open to constructive criticism about its performance as it would be about the performance of other people and other institutions in Australia.” Fair enough. In that context what goes around does come around. I can’t help thinking though, that there was a more subtle message embedded in that comment; something like: mess with us and we’ll mess with you. Then again, that might simply be my erratic mind in overdrive. We’ll probably never know.

But Joe Hockey is certainly feeling the heat. Ministers and fellow MP’s are clawing to the left and right of him seeking assistance for beleaguered industries in their electorates and his response is brutal. “The age of entitlement is over, and the age of personal responsibility has begun,” he said. Joe realises only too well that if all his rhetoric about debt and deficit prior to the election is going to have any validity he has to lock the vault and, if necessary, stand guard himself. That’s going to be tough. He will be fighting some lone battles both in and outside of cabinet. One could say the internal wars have begun and Sharman Stone, the member for Murray has fired the first shot. She has wasted no time in challenging the accuracy of comments by Joe, Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz concerning the union pay deals the workers at SPC Ardmona have negotiated with the management.

At such an early part of the government’s tenure, this seems extraordinary. It is pretty clear that there is a lot of infighting going on right now and it is mostly to do with money. It probably won’t surface in the mainstream media just yet. But, be assured, the fermentation process has begun. So I’m wondering how they will manage this premature breakdown in communication. Will they pass it off saying, as they so often do, that the Liberal party is broad church? Or that this is just part of the cut and thrust of politics generally? Whatever it is, it will be a huge test of Abbott’s leadership abilities, particularly his people skills.

Abbott is, perhaps, the most complex Prime Minister we have seen in more than half a century. In his own words he supports the preservation of the Catholic Church and its mission rather than have it face the truth. Does he feel the same way about governments facing the truth? One of his own has accused him of lying. Watch this space. Sparks are about to fly.



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  1. Terry2

    It is incredible that Tony Abbot was so badly briefed that he came out with, at best, totally inaccurate and misleading information on the SPC employee benefits giving the impression that theses workers were the cause of the woes at SPC.

    At worst he was dog whistling a campaign against the unions and using the SPC employees as a scapegoat.
    It has taken a courageous Sharman Stone and some accurate information on employee benefits from SPC to expose Abbott as an opportunist prepared to play with the truth when it suits his political agenda.

    Mr Abbott you owe the Australian people, the workers and SPC Ardmona an apology.

  2. leighton8

    Hopefully more infighting to come. Might be the only way to start getting beams of light onto this government’s overarching plans and goals ….

  3. Graeme Rust

    I’ve heard stories that there is so much infighting it’s nearly a brawl.

  4. davidgrayling

    “Whatever it is, it will be a huge test of Abbott’s leadership abilities, particularly his people skills.”

    What people skills and leadership abilities? He has neither

  5. John Fraser


    This destabilising of the government cannot continue and Acting Prime Minister Peta Credlin should move to make Barny Deputy Prime Minister as soon as possible, in the interests of good governance.


    From the Office of the Prime Minister :

    Dear Warren, it is with much joyful anticipation that I inform that your temporary position as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia contract is now completed and as such I am now able to offer you any Ambassadorial, Inquiry Head or should you wish, take retirement to spend with your young children (that's if you are fortunate to have some, or grandchildren. Whichever the case).

    Might I also add that its been a pleasure to work with you socially as well as professionally and I look forward to seeing you and your wife/partner/children/grandchildren (provided they have not died or if indeed you are a reclusive bachelor as some in the background are sniggering) in the distant future.

    Please let Barny know that he now has your temporary position.

    Acting Prime Minister
    Peta Credlin

  6. John Fraser


    An apology to the workers of SPC will not be forthcoming.

    Acting Prime Minister
    Peta Credlin


    Australia expects an apology from the treasonous workers at the ABC.

    Acting Prime Minister
    Peta Credlin.

  7. Big Al

    Once the polls get to 40% they’ll start talking war. Pyongyang is 8597 kilometers from Canberra.A nice safe distance.

  8. diannaart

    Why Abbott has remained a Catholic:

    Most of us are desperate to preserve our view of ourselves as upright and ethical, even when our behavior strays from that ideal, the psychologists noted. For some, expunging the guilt at such a lapse demands nothing less than a full confession. But for many people, the urge to confess collides with an unwillingness to acknowledge the true extent of the dishonesty. Thus, the partial confession.,0,1664705.story#ixzz2sOuA7EqJ

    I’m sure Pell is an ever willing ear for any of Abbott’s partial confessions.

  9. Gregory T

    Abbott’s about as complex, as bouncer who just had his shoes thrown-up on.

  10. JohnB

    One can only imagine the response of Abbott, Joyce and the LNP had Julia Gillard challenged the fairness and accuracy of ABC news in reporting various incidents during her tenure.

    Had Gillard complained of the repeated errors and inaccuracies of news items carried extensively on the ABC re her ‘broken’ “carbon tax” promise, BER, Slipper, Thomson etc contained MSM popularised uncorroborated inaccuracies, Abbott and Murdoch’s ridicule and guffaws would have been in overdrive.

    Would Gillard have had any chance of the ABC issuing statements of regret as issued to Abbot re asylum seeker claims; like “[ABC] needed to be more precise”, or “Our intention is clear: to seek the truth on a matter of public importance, not to pre-judge any matters.” ?

    Not bloody likely!!!
    Reeks of ‘conservative’ hypocrisy.

  11. John Kelly

    Reblogged this on THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN and commented:

    Abbott is, perhaps, the most complex Prime Minister we have seen in more than half a century. In his own words he supports the preservation of the Catholic Church and its mission rather than have it face the truth. Does he feel the same way about governments facing the truth? One of his own has accused him of lying. Watch this space. Sparks are about to fly.

  12. Chris Crash

    Don’t you love being told by some gluttonous fat person who had to have lapband surgery that; “The age of personal responsibility has begun”?????? What a hypoctical twerp. The sad fact is that he is one of their good guys!

  13. Ian

    That wasn’t a ‘colourful analogy’; that was a THREAT.

  14. Kaye Lee

    I don’t know if Sharman will be that easily glossed over.

    “The well-credentialed Stone, who has a PhD in economics and business and was manager of international development at Melbourne University before entering parliament, served as minister for workforce participation at the end of the Howard government. She was shadow immigration minister when Abbott became leader. He shifted her and then dumped her from the frontbench altogether after the 2010 election.

    Where another MP might have shut up for fear of damaging future promotion chances, Stone has no reason to hesitate in calling Abbott out.”

  15. John Fraser


    No doubt the "economists" who kept screaming that Labor had sent Australia "broke" will now be screaming out for Joe "don't know" Hockey to keep the purse strings closed.

  16. Margl

    I hope the sparks do fly and burn down the rotten, lying, rorting LNP church/business party.

  17. jasonblog

    Barnaby is a fwit who is best left ignored. Dwelling on his clown-headed outbursts is only an insult to your own intelligence.

    Sharman Stone represents the Menzian Liberals of regional Australia who are – regardless of what Gerard Henderson may like to think – far removed from the brutal Neoliberal world that Hockey & co seek to celebrate. Stone is but a mere country backbencher and on the national stage her comments will be glossed over, dismissed, ignored, but I think there would have to be a growing level of resentment within the Libs with regards to the direction Australia is heading.

    Eric Abetz is a freak out running his own vendetta against unions, workers, enterprise bargaining agreements, the ACCORD, & basic human decency. Abetz makes very little sense & is just another ideological driven nutter. He doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good rant. He really does owe the management & workers of SPC-A an apology.

    Australia’s economy has a structural deficit. Most economic analysis I’ve read suggests that Australia won’t address its debt & deficit difficulties by spending cuts alone & increase to taxation for a period would have to be considered. What will Hockey do? Hmmm… I think we all know is going to get screwed over.

    I suspect Abbott views himself as being above the truth. He appears to have some sort of predestination complex. There is a feeling one gets from observing Tony Abbott that he holds in utter contempt the broader history, traditions and institutions of Australia, of which unions and the working-class have played a considerable part. He doesn’t seem to know or have the sensitivity of understanding as to how communities like Shepparton developed. Abbott can only relate to a glorified, militaristic celebration of patriarchy. And sometimes “the truth” just gets in the way of “masculine leadership”. Even if Abbott often comes across as an anachronism it is wrong to think of him as a “conservative” as much as it is wrong to believe that the Liberal party he leads has that much in common with the Liberal party Menzies stood for. Abbott is in pursuit of a radical transformative vision that will rent society completely and utterly asunder.

  18. Maureen

    Great article John. Thank you. Although Tony Abbott may support the preservation of the Catholic Church he doesn’t seem too concerned that he has dashed the hopes of the Australian Catholic community in his government being a ‘competent, trustworthy and adult’ government. “Disquiet among Catholics derives not merely from his general failure to deliver what he promised, but from his repudiation of basic tenets of the Christian faith”.

    I don’t believe that Tony Abbott has any qualms at all about putting the preservation of his government before the truth. Just look at his wrecking and destroying behavior as Opposition leader, his alliance with the immoral and corrupt Rupert Murdoch and his involvement in Ashbygate, all strategically necessary to him becoming Prime Minister.

    He is doing what he did as Opposition leader only this time he has the power to wreck and destroy public policy and the environment and take Australia back to the 19th century,6118

  19. Clive

    That Joyce was able to make several comments about his lefty mates at the ABC and have them go unchallenged allows this idea to become mainstream like the “school hall’ fiasco’ which, in Victoria at least, was most successful.. What about Tony Jones professional integrity? Is he expected to allow comments like these go unchallenged?

  20. lawrencewinder

    Barnaby Joyce had his bacon saved on Q & A by Tanya Plibersek… his ineptitude is staggering…. but he is not so much funny as frightening. … the attacks on the ABC from within and without should also be applied to the media that requires scrutiny Murdoch’s and the shock jocks.

  21. cassilva48

    With respect John, but you have raised a number of valid but differing subjects which I find clouds the issues. How about sticking to one subject per blog?

  22. Tony Hogarth

    OMG what a mess !! Of course the greedy bunch of great white pollies will fight each other!! problem is there is not one who is worth saving !! except now that Shaman has raised her voice above the pack ! could one honest LNP member save the day ! instead of letting them all end up disgraced as they deserve ! No , I doubt it ! so what are the ‘opposition’ gonna do ! My guess is that neither the Nationals the Greens or Labor can save us from this disgusting collection of political garbage ! put together by professional rorters from Howard and the remnants of his previous ministry plus Gina and Rupert and the corporations ( the Oz equivalent to GWB Chaney and Halliburton in the USA ) I could go on the take them to task including TPPA !! But as anyone reading this is intelligent enough to know , from the day that JH fell in love with GWB this country and the planet have been totally fracked !!

  23. Tony Hogarth

    by the way this was started by a woman accusing him of lying ( a minor sin for a politician ! refer to Clinton’s straight to camera whopper ! ) In other words John Kelly how can one hope to restore Catholic values if he has plans 2 do 2 the country and threatened 2 do 2 the ABC what he has done with His P.C. from the office !! which cannot stay under the covers much longer !! if they are really fighting over control of the country and getting stuck in ! even the opposition might raise the Hot Topic soon !!

  24. Philip Morgan

    Bunch of incompetent, arrogant and ignorant fools. Murdoch and Abbott should both be in prison.

  25. Clusterpod

    Silencing almost your entire party in the lead up to the federal election probably wasn’t the best thing to do, eh TA?

    Stuff will only stay bottled up for so long…

  26. olddavey

    There’s something very wrong, or should that be wronger, when you have someone with brains and the qualifications to be finance minister like Sharman Stone and you give the job to a has-been lawyer-donkey such as Rottenführer Cormann.

  27. olddavey

    Malcolm Turnbull said on AW Melbourne this morning that someone put the words “li” and “untruth” into Sharman Stone’s mouth.
    What he didn’t say was that the someone was Sharman Stone.
    He is either a complete dickhead or trying to look like leadership material. Or both, most likely.

  28. Bacchus

    Abbott’s about as complex, as bouncer who just had his shoes thrown-up on.

    😆 Or peed in 😉 😆

  29. Helenmarg

    Abbott on 7.30 the other night thanked God for making him prime minister.Christian people would be a bit concerned about that I would think.

  30. doctorrob54

    I picked up on B Joyce’s slip as you did John,and am sure many others did also.He is a hillbilly thug and as the pressure continues to build against the coalition,Hockey and Joyce will bring themselves undone.

  31. Anthony John Hogarth

    I really hope all you wonderful people who can see through this Huge Rort will march in march and carry your banner !

  32. twosipp

    The Liberals often turn a blind eye to the the goings on from their National party brothers. Mostly the Liberals coyishly understand what promises they have to break to keep the people of country Australia lulled into a conservative delirium. There is nothing new here from the national party, but I have always felt that the people of country Australia, that is the people who actually own the farms now really don’t have a great deal in common with the modern National party. Their ideology fits better with a party like the greens, what is letting them down is the whole ‘my father voted national, and his father and his fathers father’

  33. Anthony John Hogarth

    what is more important than the winter Olympics in OZ !! Why a bogan convicted drug smuggler from an established family in Bali !! who still claims to be innocent !! even though a condition of her parole is to show remorse and regret for having committed the crime ! Really what a shame Mercedes didn’t show either of those emotions outside the prison when she went off again yesterday ! Maybe without all the annoying cameras she could have gone out to dinner or a spa with her sister as per normal !!

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