Monday, 22 October 2018

In search of the Liberal Party's base

Memo Scott Morrison: don't chase the 'base'

File 20180824 149484 p9asa8.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Prime Minister-elect Scott Morrison would be mistaken if he believed his party’s salvation lay in a further lurch to the right in pursuit of an ill-defined “base”.
AAP/Sam Mooy

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

John Howard was fond of referring to the Liberal Party as a “broad church”. This included its conservative “base”.

But what has eluded those seeking to define this amorphous group of electors is exactly what is meant by this description.

What is the base? Who are its members? Where do they reside? What are their preoccupations? Where do their preferences lie?

Then there is the overarching question of exactly what the Liberal Party stands for these days. Is it a liberal party in the sense it is a centrist, socially progressive and fiscally conservative party?

Read more:
'Balmain basket weavers' strike again, tearing the Liberal Party apart

Is it a right-of-centre party that is socially conservative, or is it a proto-conservative party defined by a scepticism about climate change edging towards a form of denialism?

What confronts Scott Morrison, the new leader, is how to reconcile these conflicting tendencies and come up with an amalgam that would have some prospect of appealing to an elusive base that ranges from Victorian liberals in the south to Queensland conservatives in the north.

Where the fulcrum of this mythical “base” resides will represent a continuing challenge for a Liberal party that, like Humpty Dumpty, will be seeking to put all the bits and pieces back together again.

Is its home in Brisbane’s suburbs, or Queensland’s far north, or Melbourne’s south-east, or Sydney’s northern suburbs, or the Adelaide Hills, or Perth’s cluster of suburbs around the Swan, or in a Tasmanian Hobart-Launceston corridor?

The short answer is all of the above.

Among those who write convincingly about conservative politics, Greg Melleuish, has put his finger on a contradiction at the heart of Australian liberalism.

“One of the most interesting developments of the 50 years since Menzies’ retirement is that the non-Labor side of politics has become more ideological,” Melleuish wrote in The Conversation earlier this year.

“Deep fractures have emerged between those who identify as liberals and those who consider themselves to be conservatives. This has happened at a time when, in many ways, liberalism has triumphed as an ideology in Australian life.”

A lot has been assumed on behalf of the “base” by Turnbull’s critics, including a media cats’ chorus.

Among the criticism is that he proved incapable of connecting with the “base”. Indeed he was, according to his critics, anathema to the “base”, who regarded him with suspicion as a plutocrat in a caricaturist’s top hat who was far removed from everyday lives.

Arguments on behalf of the two principal candidates to replace Turnbull as leader of the Liberal Party rested significantly on their ability to relate to rank-and-file voters.

In a contest to be regarded as an Australian everyman, the son of a New South Wales cop in Scott Morrison took on the son of a Queensland brickie in Peter Dutton.

Both men could hardly be more different from Turnbull, in their political trajectory and in background. A lot of nonsense has been written about Turnbull’s “deprived” childhood and his ascent to the privileges of a Point Piper residence.

He was educated at Sydney Grammar and was the beneficiary of a useful inheritance when his father died. His mother may have deserted the family when Turnbull was a child, but this is not the story of a council flat to The Lodge – far from it.

What Morrison now faces – apart from seeking to bind gaping wounds in the parliamentary party between his own supporters and those of the conservative Dutton – is to persuade a broader Australian electorate beyond the so-called “base” that his Coalition actually does represent a broader church.

On the evidence, Morrison confronts a considerable task convincing Australians a party riven between its moderate and conservative wings and beholden to its mythical base is capable of binding its wounds.

Judith Brett addressed what will be an essential question for the new leader in his efforts to embrace a broad church. “Where is this heart and soul, and how strong is it?” Brett asked.

“Let’s be clear – the continually appealed-to ‘base’ is not very many people. At a generous estimate there are about 50,000 party members spread across 150 electorates.”

These numbers hardly a constitute a sustainable base.

Brett makes the good point that, of the almost 80% of Australians who voted in the same-sex marriage plebiscite, 61.6% voted “yes” to 38.4% who voted “no”.

Read more:
What kind of prime minister will Scott Morrison be?

This result does not suggest the electorate’s sweet spot is as conservative as Dutton and his supporters, including Tony Abbott, would have you believe.

Morrison would be mistaken if he believed his party’s salvation lay in a further lurch to the right in pursuit of an ill-defined “base”. Rather, he would be well advised to tack back to the sensible centre on issues such as climate, energy policy, fiscal responsibility and immigration.

Morrison needs to bury the three word slogans of the right, and fast. In other words, he should speak plainly about the challenges facing the country, and remedies that might put an end to the drift. He doesn’t have a lot of time.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Bringing back Johnny to save Wentworth

Some words of wisdom from country women about Barnaby Joyce

The Owl particularly notes the contribution to this Twitter exchange by Pip Courtney. Anyone who watches her contributions to ABC television on Sundays will know why the Owl considers her to be one of Australia's best and balanced journalists

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A theme song for PM Scomo

Goodness me the man was still talking this evening. Talking to Alan Jones no less.
PM Scomo is proving to be a political motor mouth.
The Owl reckons a theme song is necessary.

Surely the voters of Wentworth will not be influenced by the suggestion from that seasoned marketer Scomo PM and his offsider Dave “The Charmer” Sharma that Australia might move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

The trade threat from Indonesia aside, not one Australian authority - be it trade, foreign affairs or national security - will ever endorse the move, leaving scomo after the Wentworth race in a very much “where the bloody hell are you” space and members of Australia’s formidable Jewish community feeling they have been gamed.

The Cormanator has no clothes

He once was the Belgian migrant golden boy of the Liberal Party.
"Mathias Cormann has an unchallenged reputation as the Mr Dependable of the Turnbull government. - Norman Abjorensen 3 July 2018
"Cormann's political star is shining brighter than ever. ... Cormann has had a political run few can match, a truly magnificent career." - Jo Spagnolo 24 June 2018
"... a significant new figure has arrived on the national political stage." - Jeff Kitney 2 May 2014
"Mathias Cormann’s 'pragmatic' negotiating style has won over key Senate crossbenchers as he takes the lead in brokering deals on the government’s economic agenda." - Rosie Lewis 4 April 2017
"His capacity to dissect issues is phenomenal. That's why I enjoy Mathias' company so much. He can sit down and he can literally dissect issues and look at them in a very very reasoned manner and come up with a value judgement, which is extraordinary." - Former WA Education Minister Peter Collier 3 December 2014
After years of media hype like that Mathias Cormann’s “steady pair of hands”, the Owl is now wondering whether the WA numbers man’s backing of an unelectable Dutton to be PM, his incompetence to count during the challenge and now the “its ok to be white” total debacle with him as Senate Leader renders him politically naked.
Maybe time for stress leave....... Or to move on like his former cigar smoking colleague.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Religion to divide Liberals in a sad way

View from The Hill: Discrimination debate will distress many gay school students

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

`The leak of part of the Ruddock report on religious freedom has come at a very bad time in the government’s battle to hold the crucial seat of Wentworth on October 20. But there are other, more serious concerns than the byelection in the debate that’s been opened.

Fairfax Media on Wednesday reported that religious schools would be guaranteed the right – under specified conditions - to decline to enrol gay students, in changes to anti-discrimination legislation recommended by the inquiry.

Wentworth had a very high vote for same-sex marriage in the plebiscite – almost 81% in favour compared with less than 58% for NSW as a whole. And the main threat to the Liberals’ grip on the seat is from Kerryn Phelps, a prominent (and gay) figure in the marriage equality campaign.

No wonder Liberal candidate Dave Sharma was quick to say he would be “opposed to any new measures that impose forms of discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, or anything else for that matter”.

Rightly or wrongly, sources sympathetic to, or close to, Malcolm Turnbull are copping blame for the leak - although second guessing the origins of leaks is a hazardous business and Turnbull is a fan of Sharma.

The government has been keeping the report under wraps since May, but now it can’t stop the argument from raging in the final days of Wentworth campaigning.

Read more:
Politics podcast: The battle for Wentworth

Scott Morrison immediately had the fire hose out. Asked “should religious schools be able to turn away students on the basis of their sexual orientation?” he said, “Well they already can. That is the existing law.” He kept hammering the point.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said there is no proposal for any new exemption. “The exemption that allows schools to make employment and student admission decisions in a way consistent with the tenets of their religion already exists for religious schools under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act,” Porter said.

The government points out that the thrust of the Ruddock report’s recommendation is to constrain and codify things. The school would have to give primary consideration to the child’s best interests, and spell out its policy.

The report says: “To the extent that some jurisdictions do not currently allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender characteristics, the panel sees no need to introduce such provisions.

"To the extent however that certain jurisdictions including the commonwealth do allow this type of discrimination, the panel believes the exceptions should be limited by the requirement that the discrimination be in accordance with a published policy which is grounded in the religious doctrines of the school”.

In sum, the report has recommended tightening the federal Sex Discrimination Act and similar legislation in the ACT, NSW and Western Australia; the other states do not have such provisions and would be unaffected.

Read more:
View from The Hill: Discrimination debate will distress many gay school students

But while the committee sees itself as recommending less scope for discrimination by religious bodies, just opening a discussion about the right to reject gay students could give cover for a resurrection of homophobic attitudes that campaigners and legislators have spent decades working to stamp out.

The government argues that, given the existing legislation, there’s nothing to see. What there is to hear, however, is a new debate about the rights and wrongs of discrimination against certain kids. This will be distressing and unsettling for many young people.

Some on the right downplay the issue by saying the only students in the frame are those who would be campaigning on gay issues. They overlook that this seems to contradict the right’s general line that we need more protections for freedom of speech. Or do they think there shouldn’t be such freedom in a religious school?

Before people say these are not government schools and so should have free rein, remember that they get big dollops of taxpayers’ money.

While it may be reasonable to allow them some exemptions based on faith issues, they should also conform to core community values.

It certainly is not in line with those values to think a school should be able to accept one boy while refusing admittance to his brother on the ground the second boy is gay and is willing to strongly defend his sexuality.

This debate will divide and discredit the Liberals unless it can be shut down quickly. Within the party it will split the moderates from the right, and cause division within the right too.

And, beyond the Liberals, it is now causing critics to focus on the existing legislation and say the discrimination against students that it permits should be scrapped.

More generally on religious freedom, the government will be embroiled in a row that it didn’t have to have over an issue it had no need to address.

Turnbull set up the Ruddock inquiry to placate the rightwingers upset over same-sex marriage.

It was a sop in search of a problem. Despite the claims of some, religious freedom is not under threat, a point apparently confirmed by the report.

The right brought down Turnbull regardless of his various attempts to pacify them, but Morrison is left with the legacy. Morrison himself has built expectations of action, suggesting recently there could be threats to religious freedom in the future and he favoured “preventative regulation and legislation”.

The issue is likely to become a quagmire for him. As for the report – that should be put out immediately.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Penfolds told to put a proper cork in it.

James Halliday is the man the Owl turns to when it comes to expensive wines that he normally cannot afford but likes to keep informed about. The column in The Weekend Australian is a must read.
Yesterday there was a little disappointment. The expected Halliday verdict on the just released 2014 Grange was reduced to this:
"The 2014 Grange (97 points, drink to 2044, $900) has been done no service by its cork closure. My quarrel with corks in red wines isn’t the risk of TCA (the mouldy smell), nor oxidation. It’s a purely mechanical issue: Grange is capable of living far longer than 30 years, but its FAQ (fair average quality) corks give no promise of doing so."
And that was that before he went on to give notes on three other wines from the Penfolds collection.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Helping the Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert with his counting

The Owl was not so much worried today by the need Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert felt to take a selfie so he could prove to his old flatmate Scomo that he'd actually been on television. It was what he said when he realised he was live to air that was the greater concern. This custodian of the nation's finances underquoted the amount of money Australia owes by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Like most children Mr Robert needs more tuition in his arithmetic.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

An appropriate song for Barnaby Joyce after tonight's 7.30

Singalong with PM Scomo as he pulls off another planet shaking "Raise Your Hand" stunt in the House of Representatives

With the House of Representatives now resembling a kindergarten this seems the appropriate musical accompaniment.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

An impressive start by Dr Kerryn Phelps

In announcing this morning that she will contest the Wentworth by-election Dr Kerryn Phelps sounded just like a liberal independent should. There could not be a better message for these times than this one:
“I don’t take this step lightly as I know the pressure of today’s politics but the people of Wentworth are crying out for an authentic voice who will stand up to the major parties and rise above the bitterness and backstabbing that has taken over Canberra."
 The Sydney Morning Herald website reports how Dr Phelps contrasted her position with that of the recently retired Malcolm Turnbull. Wentworth voters “knew Malcolm Turnbull supported action on climate change, they knew he supported action on marriage equality, they knew he supported a republic,” she said. “And yet he was not able to advance that agenda...because he was restricted by the hard right of his party.”

Friday, 14 September 2018

Weekend music for those in "team Scomo"

The Owl can report that full time talk (for NRL followers) and three quarter time chatter (for AFL fanciers) at his club tonight featured the Prime Ministerial attitude to music.

Having abandoned and deleting his ex bestie Fat Boy Scoop this morning, declaring his love for Tina Arena, and then declaring that anyone who dislikes Fatboy “a narc”, Scomo has left those in “team Scomo” looking for guidance.

Perhaps a quiet weekend catching up with the Seekers greatest hits might be in order.

And for his next trick we give you Scomo channeling the Planetseekers

Stop playing, keep it moving

PM Scomo may well be singing along with his now deleted ex besty, hip hopper Fatboy Scoop, when he sees the latest election betting markets.
Labor $1.30 Coalition $3.20
“Who fuckin’ tonight.
   Who fuckin tonight, uh oh,
    Stop playing, keep it moving,
     Stop playing, keep it moving”.

A week of Liberal Party Mayhem

Grattan on Friday: Wentworth preselectors' rebuff to Morrison caps week of mayhem

Wentworth candidate Dave Sharna

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In the early hours of Friday morning, the Liberal preselectors of Wentworth delivered their new prime minister a humiliating public slapdown.

In selecting Dave Sharma, 42, former Australian ambassador to Israel and now a partner in an accountancy firm, as the candidate for the October 20 byelection, the preselectors have on all accounts chosen the best candidate.

But Scott Morrison had made it known he wanted a woman, a preference that’s been embarrassingly rejected. Katherine O'Regan, who was supposed to come out the winner, ran fifth.

Moreover, on Thursday it was learned that John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull were both encouraging Sharma to stay in the contest. So the two former prime ministers managed to do over the current prime minister.

The Wentworth Liberals, whose local member and PM was cut down, have had their revenge. The question now is whether the electors will also take theirs. Sharma has the potential to be an excellent MP. But he lives way outside the electorate, so he’ll start with a disadvantage against the high profile Kerryn Phelps, who is set to run as an independent.

Read more:
Wentworth goes to the polls on October 20

This week has recalled the worst of Labor’s days. Morrison’s attempt to move things on from the coup didn’t cut it, just like Julia Gillard found her wheels spinning when she tried to dig her government out of various bogs.

In a highly provocative move, Turnbull has been busy from New York lobbying to have cabinet minister Peter Dutton’s parliamentary eligibility referred the High Court, to determine whether an interest in a child care business through a trust could see him in breach of the constiution’s troublesome section 44.

Turnbull explained in a tweet:

Morrison brushed this aside, saying the public didn’t want the “lawyers’ picnic” to continue. But wishing it away won’t resolve a legitimate question that needs to be answered.

Never mind that Turnbull can be accused of malice; that he wasn’t worried about Dutton’s situation months ago, or that his government voted against referral.

Post coup, we are in a new era. A spurned Turnbull is off the leash. So is former Liberal deputy Julie Bishop who, when asked about her stance, was coy.

“If there’s a vote on that matter then I’ll make my mind up at that time, but of course we want clarity around the standing of all the members of parliament,” she said. Backbencher Bishop has been reborn as outspokenly independent.

An unhappy “ex” is dangerously liberated to cause trouble, whether they’re inside or outside parliament. Tony Abbott has been the model.

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was also freelancing, accusing Turnbull of “an active campaign to try and remove us as the government”.

Turnbull quitting parliament has already delivered a major blow to his successor by triggering the byelection that, at worst, could put Morrison into minority government.

The legal opinion that Turnbull commissioned from the Solicitor-General during the leadership crisis has left sufficient uncertainty about Dutton’s eligibility to enable Turnbull to pursue the man who moved against him.

As we saw in the citizenship cases, this High Court takes a narrow view of section 44. Dutton might be on solid ground - as he insists and the Solicitor-General’s opinion supports. But doubt remains - as that opinion also concedes.

Labor is set to have a fresh try next week to refer Dutton to the court. The Herald Sun reports that two Liberals are considering voting with the opposition, a threat they’re making to push the government to take the matter into its own hands. The internal unease will be hard for Morrison to manage.

Bloodied by his unsuccessful power grab, Dutton is also still locked in an altercation with former Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg about ministerial interventions on visas.

Holes have been shot in Quaedvlieg’s claims. But Dutton went over the top when he used parliamentary privilege to accuse Quaedvlieg - sacked for helping his girlfriend get a job - of “grooming” a girl 30 years his junior. Even his colleagues did a double take at the term.

Read more:
Dutton accuses Quaedvlieg of “grooming” a young woman, in new angry clash

Dutton’s Canberra troubles can’t be helping him in his battle to hold his very marginal Queensland seat of Dickson, where GetUp has him in its sights.

All in all, Dutton is a marked man. If he survives to serve in the next parliament, it will be remarkable. That he remains in cabinet in this one is notable.

Normally someone who’d caused so much damage to the party and himself would now be on the backbench. But Dutton had hardly warmed a seat there, after the first challenge, than he was back in Home Affairs following the second one.

Here is a paradox: he is damaged goods, but too powerful to cast aside. Or rather, his right-wing support base is too strong for him to be relegated.

If Morrison wasn’t able to keep the lid on the controversies around Dutton, he was a little more successful in containing the insurgency from some of the women over bullying and low female representation.

He headed off backbencher Lucy Gichuhi’s threat to name the bullies. “The Prime Minister has taken up the issue,” she tweeted after their meeting.

Morrison’s pitch to the women was that he’d work with them and the whips internally. It is believed some complaints about behaviour have been made to the whips. The Minister for Women, Kelly O'Dwyer, has proposed the Liberal party organisation should have an independent and confidential process to operate when concerns are raised.

The recent events have sparked a few calls in the party for quotas, but there is minimal chance of the Liberals following Labor down that path.

But the Wentworth outcome could produce another round in the war over gender representation.

All week, the Liberals struggled to answer the key question: why was Turnbull deposed? It took Nationals leader Michael McCormack to give the brutal response on Thursday. McCormack identified three factors - ambition, Newspolls, and opportunity. “People take those opportunities and we’ve got a new prime minister,” he said.

And the view from the voters? As one Liberal MP says, they’ve got the baseball bats out.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Polo players, au pairs and high level Liberal Party access

The Owl can't help but wonder about the question that Senators today were too thick or too slow to ask: Who did the ex-Abbott staffer Jude Donnelly, when working for the AFL's Gillon McLachlan, ring in the Abbott office on that fateful Sunday morning? 
The Owl would love to know the name of the person of influence that fixed things for the polo player.
Suggestions in the comments section please.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Canberra's Muppet Show starring Scott Morrison

“I think the events that led to me becoming prime minister were bewildering and they were disappointing. It was a Muppet Show a week or so ago”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison talking on A Current Affair

Singalong with Peter Dutton's very good list

KO-KO (Spoken) Gentlemen, I'm much touched by this reception. I can only trust that by strict attention to duty I shall ensure a continuance of those favours which it will ever be my study to deserve. If I should ever be called upon to act professionally, I am happy to think that there will be no difficulty in finding plenty of people whose loss will be a distinct gain to society at large.


As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list — I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
There's the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs —
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs —
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with 'em flat —
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that —
And all third persons who on spoiling tête-á-têtes insist —
They'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed!


He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed.


There's the nigger serenader[1], and the others of his race,
And the piano-organist — I've got him on the list!
And the people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,
They never would be missed — they never would be missed!
Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
And the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,
And who "doesn't think she dances, but would rather like to try";
And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist[2] —
I don't think she'd be missed — I'm sure she'd not be missed!


He's got her on the list — he's got her on the list;
And I don't think she'll be missed — I'm sure she'll not be missed!


And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
The Judicial humorist — I've got him on the list!
All funny fellows, comic men, and clowns of private life —
They'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed.
And apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,
Such as — What d'ye call him — Thing'em-bob, and likewise — Never-mind,
And 'St— 'st— 'st— and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who —
The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.
But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,
For they'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed!


You may put 'em on the list — you may put 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed!
[Exeunt CHORUS]

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Get ready for the return of the Julie Bishop death stare

"She did not deny she had been told she was not wanted in new Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Cabinet before she resigned from it."
From the Curtin WA local paper

And some Liberals reckon Tony Abbott can be a problem for the government from the back bench.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Coup culture and Australia's low-grade reality show

Grattan on Friday

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Australia’s “coup culture” has become so entrenched that it now holds serious dangers for our democracy. Not that the politicians seem to give a damn. For all the talk of “listening” and being “on your side” the voters have once again been treated as little more than a gullible audience for a low-grade reality show.

A decade or two ago, many commentators advocated four-year federal terms, to encourage better policymaking. Now we can’t even count on a prime minister lasting through the three-year parliamentary term after the election they win.

In less than a decade, we’ve had four prime ministerial coups: from Rudd to Gillard (2010); from Gillard to Rudd (2013); from Abbott to Turnbull (2015); and, last week, from Turnbull to Morrison.

A couple of these seemed politically savvy. I admit to thinking them so. In 2013, Kevin Rudd was reinstated to “save the furniture”, and he did. In 2015, Tony Abbott’s government appeared headed for certain oblivion. Malcolm Turnbull was installed as a better prospect; in the event, he won in 2016 by the skin of his teeth.

The Gillard coup, driven by a panic attack and colleagues’ frustration with Rudd’s style, was ill-conceived. The botched assault by Peter Dutton, that elevated Scott Morrison, was fuelled by a cocktail of revenge against Turnbull and a policy push to the right. We’ll see how it ends, but likely it won’t be well.

While a particular coup may have its justifications, when you look at a clutch of them, they’re bad for the country and for the political system.

Some will point to history for precedent – Paul Keating overthrew Bob Hawke in 1991. But we didn’t in those days have a “coup culture”.

We may chuckle on hearing Australia referred to abroad as the “coup capital” of the world. But it’s not a joke. Although this country will continue to be seen as a safe place to invest, a rolling prime ministership must eventually test the faith of outsiders.

The coup culture works against the sort of decision-making that requires serious policy bravery. Time frames shorten – ironically, just when governments fancifully cast programs as stretching over ten years.

Thinking for the future is difficult enough with continuous polling and the shrill media cycle. But if a prime minister can’t rely on their troops guaranteeing their leadership through tough patches, or standing up against guerrilla insurgencies, public policy is reduced to the lowest common denominator or falls victim to the worst of internal power struggles.

Ditching opposition leaders is different from tossing out prime ministers. It has its own problems, but doesn’t undermine the system the way assassinating a PM does. Voters feel (and are entitled to feel) they elect the prime minister; it’s not technically true but it is effectively so, as campaigns are so leader-focused.

Fundamental in this revolving door is the cost to trust. As in other democracies, Australians’ trust in their system and its players has been eroding over decades.

Research from the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis found fewer than 41% of Australians are currently satisfied with the way our democracy works. This compared with 78% in 1996.

Generation X is least satisfied (31%); the baby boomers most satisfied (50%). Women are generally less satisfied with democracy and more distrustful of politicians and political institutions.

According to this data – which preceded the leadership crisis – only 21% trust politicians and 28% trust journalists.

The yet-to-be-released research concludes: “Politicians, government ministers and political parties are deeply distrusted and media of all kinds and how they report Canberra politics are viewed as a key part of the problem.”

The research also found strong public support for reforms to ensure greater political accountability of MPs and to stimulate more public participation.

The coup culture further alienates an already disillusioned public, unable to comprehend the appalling behaviour they often witness from their politicians.

Recently I spoke to members of a community leadership program who’d come to Canberra for a couple of days of briefings from politicians and others. They’d been to Question Time a few hours before I met them.

To journalists, it was a pretty standard QT. For these people, what they witnessed was shocking. They had trouble getting their heads around how the goings on – the shouting, the insults – could be so dreadful. They’d looked over at the schoolchildren in another part of the public gallery and wondered what those youngsters were thinking.

They asked: why do our politicians act like this and what can be done? All 72 decided to write to their MPs to say this wasn’t the type of conduct they wanted to see from them.

My hunch is that this group of ordinary, well-educated, interested citizens would probably be even more put off by subsequent events.

One thing I suspect would have particularly disturbed them is the way the players in last week’s coup expect the public to just move right on. Everyone was back to work, they said.

Gillard in 2010 tried to explain and justify her deposing of Rudd by saying “I believed that a good government was losing its way”. It didn’t wash.

We know for ourselves the reasons for the latest coup – hatred of Turnbull and a desire to force a sharp turn to the right. But have the main coup-makers and their allies (as distinct from their noisy backers in the media), and the windfall beneficiaries, felt the need to properly account for their actions?

This hit-and-run attitude is contemptuous of the public.

The coup culture, especially in this instance, is also accompanied by an “anything goes” view of tactics. Again, it is a matter of degree – the extent to which the hardball, which we always see at such times, crosses a line.

For some of the Liberal women, it undoubtedly did last week.

Julia Banks, announcing on Wednesday that she’ll resign her Melbourne seat of Chisholm at the election, has cited bullying. Western Australian senator Linda Reynolds went to the lengths of telling the Senate: “I just hope that … the behaviours we have seen and the bullying and intimidation, which I do not recognise as Liberal in any way, shape or form, are brought to account.”

But Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger saw it as par for the course, saying, in response to Banks: “This is politics. People do speak strongly to each other. You just need to look at Question Time. If you think Question Time is not full of bullying and intimidation then you’ve got another thing coming.”

Well, anyone who bullied or was fine with such conduct should do this: go to your local high school and explain to the kids why bullying shouldn’t be in their tool kit but is needed in yours.

Some Liberals flirt with the idea of rules to curb the coup culture, a path Labor has gone down.

It depends on the model: as with so much in politics, what looks good at first sight may hold dangers. Giving a party’s rank and file a say in electing the leader, as the ALP does, might eventually advantage those harder to sell to voters, because party memberships are small and unrepresentative.

A higher-than-50% threshold for a spill, which Labor also has embraced and Reynolds suggests, holds some merit. But when Anthony Albanese was stalking Bill Shorten before the Super Saturday byelections, Albanese’s supporters insisted the rule could be circumvented.

What’s really critical is the culture – in a party and in the political system generally. Once that’s been corroded, it’s a devil of a job to scrape the rust off.

There are no easy ways to rid ourselves of the coup culture, or to force tin-eared politicians to lift their game. But it wouldn’t hurt for more people to follow the example of those in the community leadership program and remind their MPs of their KPIs.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Tony Abbott"s prepares for a life after politics as an attendance officer

Tony Abbott has accepted the invitation to become a special envoy on Indigenous Education.
“What I expect to be asked to do is to make recommendations on how we can improve remote area education, in particular, how we can improve attendance rates and school performance because this is the absolute key to a better future for Indigenous kids and this is the key to reconciliation.”
The experience should prepare the former Prime Minister for a life after politics with the Owl noting vacancies around the world for jobs that he will soon have the necessary experience for.

Advertisements on the web put the wage for attendance officers as:

The job description says "Attendance officers track student attendances and enforce rules about truancy, which vary according to each school's guidelines and local laws. They sometimes even track down specific students who have a habit of missing school."

The revenge of Julia Banks

United they stand, divided they'll fall.
The recriminations within the federal Liberal Party go on.

"I have always listened to the people who elected me and put Australia's national interest before internal political games, factional party figures, self-proclaimed power-brokers and certain media personalities who bear vindictive, mean-spirited grudges intent on settling their personal scores.
"Last week's events were the last straw."
The full statement:
And what will the consequences be?

Monday, 27 August 2018

Singalong as Christine Abbott seeks to join her brother in the House of Representatives

Christine Abbott

I find a song or two helps make reading about Australian politics bearable. Maybe this should be Christine Abbott's campaign song as she stands for Wentworth.

The reluctant special envoy

Tony Abbott is not rushing in to accept the offer to become the special envoy for indigenous affairs and no wonder. Prime Minister Scott Morrison seems to have baited a dangerous political trap for the Liberal Party's plotter in chief that is up with the best from the House of Cards.
The PM, while pretending to show Mr Abbott that he cares and the public that he is generously forgiving, would be dispatching him to the frontiers of heartbreak and despair. Without any real responsibility for doing anything, the special envoy would still become the fall guy for all the problems besetting our first citizens. The response for any future pleas to Canberra for help would surely be “phone Tony he’s your man”.

Little wonder the monk is hesitant about “accepting a title with no job”. The former prime minister this morning said he would consider the proposal but wanted to find out more about what it would entail.
“Let’s see what this new role entails, obviously I have been going to indigenous Australia for years and years and years now.
“I’ll keep doing all of this regardless but what I would like to know from Scott is exactly what he has got in mind.
“I suppose what I don’t want to do is trip over the toes of the minister, the chairmen of the various parliamentary committees.
“We’ve already got a lot of people in this space and I want to know exactly what value I can add.”

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Advice to Liberals from The Australian's Chris Kenny - Always look on the bright side of life

Julie Bishop for Governor General? Surely they wouldn't

Within the media the rumour mill keeps grinding on. Take this example from the Telegraph column of Miranda Devine:
Fierravanti-Wells is believed to be angling for the job of Foreign Minister, assuming Bishop is moved on, perhaps to become Governor-General, since General Peter Cosgrove’s term is up.
Now I have no idea about the future of Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells but she was an assistant at the foreign ministry and her appointment might appease some of the right wingers in the NSW Liberal Party.
But Julie Bishop to the big house at Yarralumla? That would involve a bit of controversy.

Welcoming a new vice regal pair

A Governor General, while appointed for an indefinite term, is generally expected to serve for five years subject to a possible short extension. His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) took office on 28 March 2014, so his five years will be up around about the time the Prime Minister calls an election.
Asking Sir Peter to go early to make way for an obvious political appointment would be almost as stupid as giving an Australian knighthood to the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Tele's Miranda should take the advice Hilaire Belloc gave to his:
Never more;
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar;
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground,
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far waterfall like doom.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Spare a thought for the Bonnie and Clyde of Australian politics

At least someone at Sydney's Daily Telegraph is still in there trying. Here's Shari Markson giving advice this morning:

But over the page it seems they do not expect her advice to be taken. In a prediction about who will be in the Cabinet:

So spare a thought for the Bonnie and Clyde of Australian politics who fought non-stop for 1074 days to get their revenge on Malcolm Turnbull.

On Friday it looked like the end for a successful campaign. The enemy was deposed.
But then ... Scott Morrison, a Malcolm Turnbull mark two, rode in to the Lodge.
Another man who helped run them out of the perks of office.
What a cluster f..... Outlaws still!

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Owl lotto numbers

Tonight's numbers:

Turnbull 45 Dutton 39

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A political singalong for the fingered and bitter Health Minister Greg Hunt

A bit sad for Greg Hunt, the Cabinet Minister who was desperate to become the Deputy Liberal leader, that he was outed for supporting Peter Dutton. 

He muse asking himself whether he should stay in the Cabinet or quit.
That deserves a song.

The revenge of the Ninja cockroach? The Deputy Liberal Leader arrives to survive

Appeasement does not work

The liberals in the parliamentary Liberal Party should be learning one thing from the attacks on Malcolm Turnbull. Appeasement does not work.
The Prime Minister has contorted himself for months now to try and placate the mad fringe of his party. He has failed spectacularly.
The liberals - and there are more of them than the renegades surrounding Tony Abbott - should now embrace the same tactics. Rather than caving in to the pressure to replace Turnbull they should make it clear to their wishy-washy centrist colleagues that they will be just as disruptive as the Turnbull opponents if there is a change of leadership.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Malcolm Turnbull's NEG problems

Grattan on Friday: Malcolm Turnbull's NEG remains in snake-infested territory

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull had a party-room victory but a god-awful week, and it wasn’t because his approval plunged in Monday’s Newspoll. His energy policy is back in the mire, and Tony Abbott is being – as one colleague neatly describes it – the agent of chaos.

It’s nearly unimaginable how the Coalition chooses to replay that old self-destructive record. In Bill Shorten’s office they’ve been digging out the 2009 headlines, such as “Battered Turnbull faces mutiny” and “Abbott leaves leader in crisis”.

Well, Turnbull is not “in crisis” but things are quite a serious mess, as those who hate him, plus others who don’t, sharpen their attack in another round of the climate wars.

In Tuesday’s Coalition parties meeting, where Turnbull won strong support for his energy policy, several reserved their right to cross the floor on the emissions reduction legislation, and later more said they might do so. There was talk of up to ten.

Read more:
Turnbull beats Abbott over NEG, now Frydenberg has to win Victoria

Assistant minister Keith Pitt, from the Nationals, let rumours run that he might stand down from the frontbench to oppose the legislation (a cynical Nationals source said: “he’s made hollow threats before”).

Resources Minister Matt Canavan (also a National), asked in the Senate whether he’d attempted to persuade Pitt on the National Energy Guarantee, said he’d “tried to persuade all I’ve spoken to about the common sense of adopting” the NEG.

The Nationals’ federal council meets this weekend in Canberra, where there will be a lot of chatter about the NEG. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in his council address will emphasise the vital importance of lowering power prices – very safe ground – but given his divided ranks, he isn’t expected to come out with a passionate advocacy of the technology-neutral NEG. A motion on the council’s agenda calls on the government “to support the building of high-energy, low-emissions, coal-fired power stations”.

It’s one thing for backbenchers to talk about crossing the floor, quite another to do it. Turnbull is working hard on the rebels – though obviously not on Abbott – to try to bring them around.

They have wish lists, and Turnbull, the ultimate transactional politician, is seeking doable ways to mollify them. The government has already indicated it will accept the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recommendation to underwrite new dispatchable power projects.

On Thursday night a senior source said Turnbull was considering “heavy-handed intervention” to bring down prices. “The prime minister is not afraid to pull out the big stick on electricity companies if that’s what it takes,” the source said.

The stakes are clear. If everything went pear-shaped and there were enough floor-crossers in the House of Representatives to sink the package’s emissions reduction legislation, that would effectively (though not literally) amount to a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.

Hard to imagine, and probably only Abbott is thinking that far ahead. When other dissidents contemplate what could happen, some can be expected to fold on that ground alone.

Meantime, things fray as pressure mounts.

Take Peter Dutton’s Thursday interview with 2GB’s Ray Hadley. Hadley challenged Dutton over the energy policy, demanding to know, “Are you blindly loyal [to Turnbull]?” Instead of mounting a full-throttle defence of the policy, Dutton said he gave frank advice in private as a member of the cabinet and didn’t bag out colleagues or the prime minister publicly. This just left a question mark over what Dutton actually thinks about the policy.

Turnbull is up against multiple obstacles, apart from the insurgents.

He needs to get the states and the ACT onboard for the NEG, but the Victorian Labor government has a particular interest in procrastinating, and may do so until it goes into caretaker mode in October. It is judging what’s best for itself electorally, especially given its battle with the Greens in Melbourne’s inner metropolitan electorates.

Impatient as the federal government is to get finality on the NEG, it could be risky for it to press the Victorians too hard before the November state election. That might just increase the chances of a firm “no”. As one federal source says, Victoria needs to be accorded some space.

After the state election, things would be easier. If the government changed in Victoria, the new administration would sign up. If Labor was returned – and had left open its position on the NEG during the campaign – it might be more readily persuaded to fall into line.

Then there is federal Labor. It is generally thought the government will need ALP support to pass the emissions reduction legislation in the Senate, and defections could mean Labor was needed in the lower house too.

The argument has gone: Labor would try to amend the emissions reduction target in the legislation but, assuming that failed, it could then pass the legislation in order to take the climate/energy issue off the 2019 election agenda. That would leave a Shorten government able to increase the target later.

If Labor sees Turnbull being wounded by the internal battle, however, it would have every incentive to hold out on the emissions legislation, leaving the prime minister unable to deliver it.

Another set of players in Turnbull’s energy problems comprise the media shouters: Alan Jones, Hadley, Peta Credlin, Andrew Bolt.

They direct their megaphones to the so-called Coalition “base” and their messages resonate particularly with the Liberal National Party’s grass roots in Queensland. This makes some backbenchers nervous, inclining them (in one description) to “virtue signal” to the base.

Coalition backbenchers generally, increasingly frightened for their seats, are caught in a swirl of pressures and emotions. Some are angry at Abbott. Some look for an unrealistic nirvana, where prices suddenly plunge in time for the election.

The Conversation

Some just want the NEG out of the way, a policy in the kit bag, whatever they think of it. NSW Liberal senator Jim Molan, who describes the NEG as “sub-optimal” told Sky he supported the package on the basis that “we’ve got to focus on getting re-elected”, noting: “I’ve spent all my life making rubbish policy work.” An endorsement of sorts.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

A preview of Labor ads in the election campaign to come

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Government by referendum - let the people decide

The future of popular votes:

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Australia Post changes its mind about not advertising on Sky News. Did the government intervene?

That reply by Bec does not seem to appear on the Australia Post Twitter page any more.
And it seems the ads on Sky are back on.

Surely it would not be related to this:
Or to an intervention by one of these two shareholders:
Australia Post is a government-owned business, with the Australian Government as the only shareholder through the Minister for Communications and the Minister for Finance. It is governed under the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989. Australia Post has the following general obligations:
To perform its functions as far as possible consistent with sound commercial practice.
Commercial obligations for sound commercial practice when possible.
Community service obligations (CSO).
Governmental obligations such as directions by the Minister, international conventions and government policies.
The Australia Post Board and management are responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation. Australia Post receives no funding from the government.

We advise the government on how the policy and legislative framework of the Australian postal industry can best meet its objectives.

Monday, 6 August 2018

A new theme song for Sky News as its love affair with right wing extremists grows

The former Country Liberal Party Chief Minister Adam Giles trying his hand as a television personality with the United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell who has a criminal history, including being found guilty last year by a magistrate of inciting contempt, revulsion or ridicule of Muslims

Perhaps this jolly singalong should be played as an introduction to Sky's political programming.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Russia appoints a diplomat with some things in common with President Trump and that deserves a singalong

BBC news reports Russia has appointed the US actor Steven Seagal as a special envoy to improve ties with the United States.
Seagal was granted Russian citizenship in 2016 and has praised President Putin as a great world leader.
Born in the US, the martial arts star gained international fame for roles in the 1980s and '90s like Under Siege.
He is also one of the Hollywood stars accused by several women of sexual misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo campaign, which he has denied.

@realDonaldTrump has not commented.