… and suddenly it’s 2016


Welcome to 2016 from The Political Sword and we behind the keyboards hope that the forthcoming year is everything you wish for.

In what seems to be a tradition, we start 2016 with a different prime minister, promises of better government and the reality of more spin, marketing and political games. The tradition for our New Year article is for something looking at 2015 in review and what might happen in the new year. Usually it isn’t all that serious as most of us would rather be watching the cricket. Well, Buzzfeed did Australian politics 2015 in pictures (language warning but well worth a look); the first cricket test was over in three days and the second in four and the Brisbane International Tennis only goes for seven days.

The ‘festive season’ allows us all to take a break from the usual routine, and the other day I was reliving my daughter’s recent dance concert via the (optional for $57.50) DVD ‘available for purchase on the night’ or later on-line — not forgetting the the ‘high quality photos’ that are also available on-line! No this isn’t a sales pitch for an obscure DVD; but while I was telling my daughter that she looked beautiful and danced excellently (and my son was complaining he wanted to watch YouTube clips about The Good Dinosaur instead), there are comparisons between the thousands of dance-school concerts, amateur football competitions and so on that occur each year and the current state of Australian politics.

My teenage daughter, like thousands of others across the country, loves dance and participates in weekly lessons. I like thousands of other parents dutifully attended the annual dance concert in the weeks before Christmas, bought the DVD, and praised the young performers on the depth of sheer talent they displayed on stage. It really doesn’t matter that the under 6 dancers were stage struck and forgot their dance (in spite of the ‘on stage’ helper and the dance teacher in the aisle mirroring the moves); that half the under 10 dancers went left instead of right; or the young acrobatics performer slipped after doing a cartwheel on stage. At the end of the day, all the performers — some as young as 4 — realise that they are a part of something bigger than their individual effort and they have to perform certain actions in unity with the other dancers. We all see our dancers gain a love of their involvement in the arts, confidence that they can perform the routines that they practice for so long, and hopefully some insight into how their actions affect others.

At the same time young dancers are learning the dance steps and music, they are also learning about teamwork, strength, fitness and understanding the concept that the sum of a group effort is greater than the individual effort. For the concert to appear seamless, there are weeks of practice, volunteers that make costumes, those that organise the performers, the staff at the theatre, the parents and relatives of the performers who are willing participants in a number of dances (of varying quality) performed by unrelated people and encouraging our children on their journey through applause and encouragement. Everyone realises they have a part in the proceedings and, for the greater good, all the participants play their parts with enthusiasm and grace. It is the same for footballers, cricketers and in fact most members of society.

The dying days of 2015 saw an agreement in Paris that in theory will reduce the level of global warming into the future. Prime Minister Turnbull attended the meeting (his predecessor apparently wasn’t going to), and Australia was also represented by Environment Minister Hunt and Foreign Minister Bishop. In amongst the general celebration — after all something is better than nothing — the Turnbull government seems to have a problem. As Lenore Taylor from The Guardian was there and we weren’t, how about we defer to her ‘take’ on the agreement and what it means to Australia. In short, Australia should no longer ‘fudge it’ and claim that overshooting the Kyoto Agreement means we can count those ‘savings’ against this new target. You might remember one of Rudd’s first actions was to sign that agreement even with the howling of various groups around the country of ‘we’ll all be rooned!’. In addition, there is nothing in the agreement that allows countries to decrease their emissions savings — only increase them. Nicole Hasham, writing for Fairfax publications had a similar view.

While it is possible to move the demand for energy from fossil fuel to renewables in a short space of time, there has to be the political will to do it, as is the case in Uruguay. It would be fair to suggest that Australia — the only country to scrap an emissions trading scheme — doesn’t have that will. While there is a self-destroying battle going on between the luddites, sorry Abbottites, in the Coalition government and the seemingly somewhat more progressive Turnbull faction, those that are supposed to be governing for all Australians won’t be game enough to do anything except ‘fiddle while Rome burns’ to avoid reducing support for their own faction of the political party they represent.

Not that climate change is Turnbull’s only problem. As soon as Turnbull left the country to go to France, his predecessor was hitting the airwaves with ‘his mate’ Alan Jones and writing in The Australian (paywalled) in an exercise that is probably politely called protecting his legacy and ‘amping up’ the fear of terrorism. The Political Sword isn’t the first to suggest that Abbott is ‘doing a Rudd’, (and this article points out how well that worked) and dare I suggest we won’t be the last. According to The Guardian, Abbott is likely to offer himself for re-election in spite of an opinion poll funded by The Australia Institute where the electors in Abbott’s seat of Warringah are telling him to go.

In the words of those annoying commercials on the digital TV shopping channels — ‘but wait, there’s more’. Three of Turnbull’s hand-picked ministers, Mal Brough, Christopher Pyne and Wyatt Roy seem to have questions to answer regarding the alleged campaign to replace Peter Slipper as the Member for Fisher with Mal Brough. You may remember in the last week of parliament for 2015, Brough seemed to contradict a statement he made on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes program, offered an explanation for the apparent contradiction, and then when the contradiction was spelt out to him:
Brough returned to the house on Wednesday morning to apologise “if my statement yesterday unwittingly added to the confusion rather than clarifying the matter”.

Labor repeatedly asked Brough to justify his claim that he had “answered the question without clarifying precisely what part of the question I was responding to”. Dreyfus said it was obvious from the tapes that there was only one question Brough could have been answering
While Brough has now stood aside pending completion of the investigation by the AFP, Pyne and Roy are still there.

Turnbull has still more to deal with. Instead of the ‘free steak knives’ that used to be promised by firms such as Demtel, scorned ex-Minister Ian Macfarlane decided to take his bat and ball from the Liberal side of the coalition to the Nationals. While Macfarlane is a member of Queensland’s LNP and theoretically a member of both the Liberal and National caucus in Canberra, the action (which could be described as a ‘dummy spit’ because Turnbull removed him from the ministry) alters the numbers of parliamentarians in each of the coalition partners in Canberra — potentially causing a ministry to be passed from the Liberals to the Nationals and destabilising Turnbull’s government. The Queensland LNP subsequently blocked the move; so Macfarlane returned serve with:
He said he would not make an immediate decision about his future in the federal parliament. “I’ll be taking some time over Christmas and making an announcement in the new year,” he said.
I, like millions of other parents sit through dance concerts, sporting events and a multitude of other events that involve our kids, to teach them about co-operation, sharing, learning new skills, confidence and that sometimes they have to sacrifice the top billing for the greater good. While (in my opinion) my daughter’s dancing was excellent, she wasn’t always at the front and centre of the stage. There could be a lot of reasons for this but I certainly didn’t go to the dance teacher after the concert and suggest discrimination because my daughter didn’t get the position I thought she deserved. I also didn’t complain because I sat through the entire first act without sight of my daughter on stage — and to my knowledge no one else complained about the staging or sequencing either.

So what makes those in politics think differently? Sometimes the greater good means that we have to do what is morally right, not what is self-serving. Australia has just signed up to a commitment to actually reduce carbon emissions into the future. Unlike others in a similar position, Australia is planning to use the ’credits’ earned by exceeding previous targets to reduce the actual reductions that will be required by polluters in this country.

The conservative rump of the Liberal Party has decided that the removal of ‘their leader’ (and both sides of politics ‘have form’ in regard to removal of sitting prime ministers) was in error, so they are actively destabilising the government’s agenda. Surely the greater good if you are an LNP supporter is a Coalition government in Canberra, rather than handing government to the ‘other side’ because you don’t have the leader you want. The same strategy worked well for the ALP too!

Ian Macfarlane has been the recipient of a number of cabinet posts in his term in the federal parliament. When a new prime minister makes a decision to bring in some new (and younger) blood, Macfarlane effectively has two options. He could sit on the backbench with others in the same position, such as Phillip Ruddock, and act in the greater good as a mentor to those coming through the system — or he could ‘spit the dummy’. His choice is obvious.

Not that Australian politicians are anything special in looking after their own self interests. The US Republican Presidential hopefuls are demonstrating their maturity by name calling:
Bush, speaking at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, railed against Trump’s habit of offending demographic groups ranging from Muslims to women. Then he said: “Just one other thing – I gotta get this off my chest – Donald Trump is a jerk.”

The crowd in Contoocook broke into laughter and applause.

On Friday, on Twitter, Trump called Bush “dumb as a rock”.
The end of 2015 also brought signs of some politicians being willing to have genuine conversations with their electors, leading to better decisions that will achieve the greater good. Hopefully others will learn to manage the need to promote their own self-interest to the elimination of everything else, and that their efforts match what we teach our kids through organised activity and movies such as The Good Dinosaur.

Welcome to 2016; buckle up; it could be a wild ride.

What do you think?
This thread will remain open until 17 January when a piece with many musical links will be posted for your holiday entertainment.


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3/01/20162353 Congratulations on a very readable piece nicely illustrated with metaphors drawn from the ubiquitous annual dance concert, that as parents and grandparents we religiously attend. You give a hint of the troubles that lie ahead for Turnbull with Abbott’s refusal to go away, Macfarlane’s dummy spit, the Brough affair and Pyne and Roy’s involvement in it, and how Australia can possibly save face in the climate change debate. Now he has had to sack an indiscrete minister and manage a consequent cabinet reshuffle, made more difficult by Abbott’s desire to ‘star’ again and his supporters’ push for him to be reinstated in the ministry, and the Nationals’ push for more influence in the ministry. The skill with which Turnbull manages the reshuffle, and his style in doing so, will be a measure of the man. If he unwisely succumbs to reinstating Abbott in [b]any[/b] role, he will be considered weak, too much under the influence of the hard right conservatives in his Party, and by those who saw the damaging outcome of reinstating Kevin Rudd after Julia Gillard took over, just plain stupid. There are so many variables in the federal political equation that Turnbull will need to exhibit all the skills and panache he is said to have to come through unscathed. He must realize by now that his most powerful enemies sit behind him. Some would stab him in the back if the opportunity arose, even if it damaged the Coalition. In the nasty politics of Canberra, self-interest, even within the one Party, so often trumps the common good. Canberra in 2016 will be as interesting as ever!

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4/01/20162353 The old saying: “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” is Malcolm Turnbull’s contemporary reality. He’s already dealing with the dodgy Mal Brough, who finally realized himself that his position was untenable and stood aside, and there are ramifications of the ‘Slipper affair’ that go beyond Brough to Pyne and Roy. Jamie Briggs’ embarrassing removal from the ministry has been compounded by yet another indiscretion – his distribution of images of the public servant he harassed. And this morning we learn that Turnbull’s po-faced Immigration Minister has taken up the cudgels for Briggs by insulting Samantha Maiden in deprecating terms in an email inadvertently sent to her, for writing the Briggs story. Not only were his words offensive: ‘a mad f-ing witch’, he showed his incompetence yet again by misdirecting his email, one that was meant for Briggs. How much longer can Turnbull tolerate this mean error-prone minister, who regularly causes him such embarrassment? He is still to deal with the Macfarlane failed defection, and worst of all the angry Abbott fuming on the back bench suffering from acute relevance deprivation, being pushed by his conservative clique towards restoration to the ministry. Turnbull had hoped for some peace and quiet over the end-of-year break, but instead he’s beset with internal problems that are the direct result of incompetence, malevolence and stupidity within his ministry. He has a collection of sow’s ears from which he hoped to create a ‘silk purse’ ministry. Turnbull’s adroitness, nimbleness and agility may not be sufficient.

2353

5/01/2016Yes Ad, Considering that Turnbull' hand picked' his ministers, he has some problems he can't blame on his predeccessor, He also needs to prepare for an election (which won't be in March because the Queensland local government elections are jst before Easter). The issue here is the mind set of his Ministers. Briggs was justifibly demoted for inappropriate actions - so the photo identifying the poor woman somehow found its way off his personal mobile phone onto the front pages of the newspapers and the nightly news bulletins. Hardly the actions of someone that had reflected on his inappropriate behaviour and determined he would change. Brough either lied to 60 Minutes or to Parliament and while he has been 'stood aside', if your kids lie to you, there should be consequences greater than the slap on the wrist with a feather than Brough has received. Again there is no demonstration he has reflected on his actions. Dutton was caught sending a text supporting Briggs. Briggs did the wrong thing and to an extent has been punished for it. Dutton sending a supporting message to Briggs demonstrates Dutton's warped sense of values (regardless of the language used). The language used was disgusting, Maiden should be offended (rather than laughing it off - sayssomething about either her or her employers morals and ethics as well) and don't forget that Dutton was the one making light of the potential of the Marshall Islands to be uninhabitable in the near future only a few months ago. Turnbull has a real problem - which won't go away anytime soon as Pyne and Roy get dragged into the Slipper fiasco. Shorten may get in just because he is 'the other guy' as any mud stirred by the Trade Union Commission on the ALP side is being replicated by the actions of Turnbull's ministry - but the Ministry are scoring 'own goals'. As I said in the article - buckle up, it could be a interesting ride.

TalkTurkey

5/01/2016Greetings Comrades Dammit. In hospital again! But not for much longer. Seems the Festive Season is no time for a Turkey! Like this. About January 1st I started to get some angina pains. I know angina from previous experience, triple bypass in 2007, no probs until now. I should have acted sooner but of course I hoped it would go away. It didn't, and at 2 AM on the 4th J**** took me to hospital. Confirmed I had had a minor heart attack, serious narrowing of one of my grafts ... So yesterday I had a stent inserted ... Not fun at all but a whole lot less traumatic than real heart surgery. Tube fed up from left wrist to heart before stent emplaced. Ick. But good news is, no more angina, success. It took the surgeon a long time to put the tube in, I knew already I have very small arteries & veins, but he managed eventually. The resultant bruising is impressive, wrist swelled hugely but they put pressure devices around it and THAT was really nasty, it hurt, but only for a few hours. They've been removed ad it's back to size now but I'm really proud of these bruises! Anyway here I am in Flinders Private Hospital, costs me nothing since J**** long ago put us on maximum medical coverage, clever her. I should be out either late this arvo or else tomorrow. Feeling AOK now, but they have to do some tests to see it's fully successful. Downside is that I HAVE to take pills every day for the rest of my life, and I'm not good at that. But not complaining, And the staff are wonderful, truly. Love to all Swordsfolks, I'm about to read the posts above but haven't yet. Enjoying discomfiture of Briggs, Dutton, Brough & especially Turdball who is proving gutless and incompetent. What a bunch of horrid no-hopers is the LNP! Cheers to all.

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5/01/2016Talk Turkey So sorry to read that you have again ended up in the hands your medicos. They are obviously doing a good job - our beloved Turkey is talking again. Recover quickly. All of us at [i]TPS[/i] wish you a speedy and complete recovery back to your usual buoyant self. I see your vicissitudes have not dampened your interest in politics. We have to give it to the Libs; they continue to give us laughs although we are supposed to be in the middle of the Great Australian Summer Torpor. What would we do if there were no more gaffes, stupidity, boorishness and sheer incompetence to comment upon? With his collection of sow's ears, Turnbull will be exhausted making his silk purse cabinet before the political year has started!

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5/01/20162353 Your analysis is spot on. Turnbull's troubles are deep-seated because of all the insensitive, 'boys-club', blokey, sow's ears he's got to work with. Some, like Dutton, are beyond redemption. Assigning him to the backbench, along with several similarly afflicted, is the only solution for Turnbull as he can't throw them out of parliament. Only the people can; lets hope they do.

2353

5/01/2016TT - rest up and get well. We all need you. Enjoy the proivate health care that you have been paying for for decades - it's nice to beat the insurance companies at their own game :-) Ad - The problem with hoping that the electorate will chuck out the likes of Dutton et al is that the electorate believes they knows the system well enough and then is lead to understand if you want X as Prime Minister, you vote for Y. Thats why there is so much carrying on when PM X gets overthrown by Z. The common question (ably fanned by the opposition at the time and special interest groups) is why should Z be PM, without grasping the reality (thanks to the marketing) the individual didn't vote for X or Z, they voted for Y who is supposed to represent teir interests in Canberra, George St or whereever. If Y decides that Z gives him a better chance to retain his seat - how else is Y going to vote (because most like to be employed). So the sheeple in the electorates of Duttonet al will happliy go and vote for Dutton et al because that will mean that that evil Mr Shorten will not be PM. Why is Shorten evil - becasue the LNP marketing backed up by a compliant media told the uncritical masses that that is the case.

Ken

5/01/2016TT Sorry and happy for you. Sorry that you have been in hospital again but happy that you seem to have had a positive outcome. No doubt your fighting spirit, that you display here so often, has helped you through. Your comment about Turnbull being gutless and incompetent is spot on. He is cowtowing to the Liberal Right to keep his job and has done nothing of consequence since he became PM. I think the electorate will soon tire of this.

DoodlePoodle

6/01/2016Happy New Year Everyone!! Seems to be different standards for cricketers & Politicians. While Chris Gayle's comment was inappropriate his apology was not enough - he copped a $10k fine - Dutton seems to have got off scott free. I hope Turnbull remedies that in the reshuffle.

2353

6/01/2016In the words of 'Kylie Mole' from the long gone "Comedy Company" TV show "Look at me, look at me" Like an ex-smoker or reformed drinker, Shorten could finally see the error of his ways and purport to lead the charge against the rorts and rip-offs he knows only too well. It may be the only way to avoid a double dissolution election that would almost certainly doom his leadership." Mr Abbott also highlighted his own actions when Liberal leader in launching the royal commission into trade unions, which was finalised late last year. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-06/tony-abbott-pushes-for-reestablishment-of-construction-watchdog/7070348 Clearly Abbott is still in with a chance (in his mind at least). And Happy New Year to you too DoodlePoodle. Have a look at TPS Extra later tonight - we are in the process of getting an article up that discusses Gayle, Dutton and Briggs.

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7/01/2016Doodle Poodle Good to see you again. Dutton is on very thin ice. Let's hope this turkey falls through, or is pushed, before parliament resumes. How could Turnbull tolerate his insensitivity, malice and stupidity any longer? You may be interested to read 2353's piece on [i]TPS Extra[/i]: [i]How about a drink after the game?[/i], and the comments thereafter: http://www.tpsextra.com.au/post/2016/01/06/how-about-a-drink-after-the-game
How many oranges do I have if I have 3 oranges and take ONE away?