Won’t get fooled again

Last week, we published an article demonstrating that Prime Minister Turnbull really hasn’t changed all that much. While he has fiddled around the edges and has shown some ability in attempting to explain policy better, Australia is still treating refugees who attempt to come here abysmally; there is still an expenditure ‘problem’ rather than looking at expenditure and revenue (tax); there is no change from the expensive and unproven ‘direct action’ environmental package, same sex marriage or becoming a republic.

The Nationals have an important role to play in the current coalition government: they are the people that give Abbott or Turnbull the numbers to govern. The Liberal Party controls 75 seats in the House of Representatives — they need 76 for a majority. Apparently, each time the Liberal Party leadership changes the coalition agreement is re-negotiated. This time, the agreement (which hasn’t been made public) apparently documented a number of issues from the Abbott government that were to remain as Coalition policy.

Turnbull has history as one of the more progressive members of the Liberal Party. He was Opposition Leader when Prime Minister Rudd was working on an emissions trading system and supported the concept. The ultra-conservative faction of the Liberal Party was aghast, organised the numbers and replaced (by one vote) Turnbull with Abbott. With the signing of a new coalition agreement, plus a list of policies that won’t change, and possibly a separate letter regarding policy before they would re-sign the coalition agreement, it’s easy to suggest the Nationals, in their eyes at least, believe they ‘Won’t get fooled again’.

Turnbull has bigger problems than keeping the Nationals happy. While they ‘talk tough’, it is easy to argue that in the past the Nationals will compromise their principles for the smell of ministerial leather.

Turnbull’s first problem is Tony Abbott. At the time of writing, Abbott was indicating that he would stay on as a Member of Parliament. Abbott, while promising to get out of the way, has recently ‘subjected’ himself to interviews from some of his favourite media ‘players’ — Ray Hadley, Neil Mitchell and The Daily Telegraph. While some form of justifying his actions and protecting his heritage is natural, Mark Kenny, writing in Fairfax publications begs to differ:
His assertion that he could have done a David Cameron, and be re-elected despite a period of being down in the polls, is fanciful and speaks to the depths of his office's self-delusion.
The Political Sword has previously touched on the war between the conservative and moderate sections of the party, as played out inside the Coalition, News Corporation and in the wider community.
The political blame games have begun in earnest. Probably the first off the block was Abbott’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin. A few days after the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull to the Prime Ministership, former Prime Minister Abbott’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin gave a speech at a ‘Women of the Future’ event in Sydney.

Peter Costello, hardly a friend of Abbott’s appeared on Four Corners and claimed it was almost certainly the right decision to elevate Malcolm Turnbull.

Andrew Bolt made an appeal that Abbott really was a ‘decent bloke’ and that a number of his positives – such as his community service through Lifesaving – was ridiculed and thrown back at him. Ray Hadley raged against the 53 ‘dunderheads’ that voted against Abbott.

It seems that some within the organisation [News Corp] have decided that Abbott lost and have (perhaps reluctantly) thrown their support behind Turnbull as Prime Minister. Others haven’t.
While their ‘standard bearer’ is sitting there on the backbench, there will be mutterings regarding his ‘wasted’ skills in a similar way to those made by Rudd supporters after Gillard became prime minister. While Gillard initially made Rudd Foreign Minister, we know how well that worked. Rudd resigned as Foreign Minister (from overseas) and sat on the backbench for some time before his successful challenge. In addition, when conservative radio announcer Alan Jones lectured Turnbull he ‘had no hope of ever being the leader, you have got to get that into your head’, there is obviously some element of revenge that is yet to be extracted, as it seems that Jones is always right — just ask him. When you consider that Abbott era Minister Abetz has threatened to cross the floor if ‘necessary’, and both Abetz and Bernardi have openly discussed the formation of a ‘new’ conservative party in Australia, it’s probably fair to suggest (with a hat tip to Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch), that Abbott isn’t dead, he’s just resting. While it’s probably labouring the comparison a tad too much (sorry), Abbott sitting on the backbench ‘pining for the fjords’ of leadership claims he ‘refuses to snipe’ but will be in an ideal position to emulate Rudd and attempt to gather followers and take back the leadership/prime ministership.

Turnbull also has to manage expectations. The elevation of a new leader brings an opportunity for all to attempt to promote solutions for their own specific needs and wants. As an example, this article suggested at the start that Turnbull hasn’t made any immediate changes to refugee policy, environmental policy, same sex marriage or promotion of a debate around the republic.

The Western Australian and Queensland governments are confidently predicting funding for public transport. The overturning of the emasculation of the original National Broadband Network (NBN) is being promoted by others, while muzzling the overreactions of government organisations such as Border Force are being questioned as well. Again without much surprise, the New South Wales Teachers Federation is asking Turnbull to deliver on the (ALP’s) Gonski reforms to education.

For the record, TPS isn’t the only media outlet asking for change in Australia’s refugee policy. A group of coalition and independent politicians are asking Turnbull to heal the ‘weeping sore’ of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. Gillian Triggs, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner is also asking for change In response to recent rape allegations made by refugees on Manus Island, Turnbull claims he is ‘concerned’ but the policies are working.
"The one thing we know is these policies, tough though they are, harsh though they are in many respects, actually do work, they save lives," he said.

"This is not a theoretical exercise anymore."

He criticised former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd for dismantling the Howard era offshore processing regime, arguing the decision cost billions of dollars and an unknown number of lives.

Mr Turnbull said he personally argued against the Rudd government changes.
Turnbull, to his credit has sat down with representatives from business, community groups and organised labour on 1 October to discuss an economic way forward. While Turnbull was talking about reform and the reporting on the ‘mini-summit’ seemed positive:
The Turnbull government has reached in-principle agreement with unions, employers and welfare organisations to reduce a raft of concessional taxation arrangements that benefit the rich, as all sides hailed the prospect of a new era of consensus and co-operation in Canberra.
In his first major interview since taking over as head of the Business Coalition for Tax Reform, Frank Drenth, whose lobby group includes the nation's biggest business groups including the Australian Bankers' Association, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, Financial Services Council, Minerals Council of Australia and Property Council of Australia, said business was open to having a debate about the areas that were seen by the previous Liberal leadership as taboo.
Greg Jericho, writing for The Guardian questioned the reality of the debate over economic reform, suggesting that ‘reform’ just means ‘policy that I agree with’. So ‘having the debate’ over subjects that were ‘taboo’ according to the previous leadership is probably useless unless some action takes place. Jericho’s suggestion is:
You want to change Australia’s tax system, our IR system, our competition laws? Great, but tell us why and how that will improve our economy, and tell us who will be affected and how. If you need to say it will improve productivity, tell us how and explain what you mean by that word — because profit does not equal productivity.
Turnbull in his first month has created an atmosphere where business, government and the unions will talk to each other to make all our lives more equitable — which is better than Abbott could achieve in two years. That’s a brilliant outcome isn’t it? Well — no so fast.

On the same day as the economic ‘mini-summit’, where seemingly everything was on the table, Abbott made the decision to have a chat with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. The chat was on air. So despite Turnbull trying to change the discussion, the day’s memorable headline was that Abbott hadn’t ‘forgiven’ Turnbull. By comparison, Gillard seems to have ‘moved on’ by limiting her comment on past political events and pursuing her interests on the larger stage that being a former leader of a country gives you. Sitting on a stage in New York City as an equal with Michelle Obama, Charlize Theron and others discussing how to improve educational outcomes for girls worldwide is a class act.

Turnbull obviously made a number of commitments to fellow conservative politicians to gain power. There also seems to be some disgruntled Liberal and National Party members along with some members of the media. Human nature would suggest that people seek a rallying point for their discontent. In politics now — as was the case in 2012 and 2013 — they have a former prime minister sitting on the backbench, to some extent twiddling his thumbs. It would seem to those that are not members of the inner circle (such as me) that it would be easier to seek to influence others to support the failed ‘hero’ rather than form a new political party. A challenge to Turnbull is almost inevitable unless he retains the Abbott policies — Abbott, Abetz and Bernardi have almost said so. If Turnbull does retain all the Abbott policies, there are a significant number of generalist and special interest groups that will vote for anyone but Turnbull.

Turnbull is a ‘failed’ opposition leader, now prime minister. A raft of groups from ultra-conservative to progressive have placed trust in Turnbull to further their particular interests. While some see Turnbull as the saviour, it is probably better to remember Turnbull was rolled the first time when he agreed with an environmental policy that subsequently demonstrated efficiency and proof of concept. We know now that he is surrounded by those who won’t allow him to change the world and get away with it. That should ensure we ‘won’t get fooled again’.

What do you think?
Turnbull may have won the Liberal Party leadership and the prime ministership but as 2353 points out his troubles aren’t over. Conflicting expectations have been created for both the conservatives and progressives. Whether Turnbull can meet those expectations is debatable. But, if we are aware of them then 2353’s words may be true and we ‘won’t get fooled again’.

Next week we go back a little in political time when Ken takes a closer look at the radicalisation awareness brochure released in September, in his ‘Are you sure you’re not a radical?’

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25/10/20152353 You address a fascinating question: ‘Will Malcolm Turnbull be able to reconcile four conflicting forces: the demands of the Big-C conservatives in his Party, the commitments he gave to them prior to the leadership challenge, the wishes of the progressives in his Party who were the majority who voted him in, and his own rather more progressive ideas?’ He faces a juggling act that will require political intelligence, persuasiveness, convincing oratory, courage, and determination. He is already accumulating political capital with favourable opinion polls that rate his popularity high, and an improving TPP in all polls, more so in the recent [i]Ipsos[/i] poll. He is building capital with the electorate, relieved at last to see the back of his predecessor, delighted to witness a more statesman-like approach, impressed with his oratory, excited by his ‘get on with it’ approach, pleased with his willingness to compromise and change tack if a policy is not working, and gratified that he seems to be gently shedding some of his predecessor’s hard-core ultraconservative attitudes and approaches. As we have seen over many years, polls have become a crucial element in the assessment, by politicians and the public alike, of leaders, policies, and political ideologies and approaches. How many times have we seen leaders dethroned because of adverse polls, and equally, sustained by favourable ones? The best time for Turnbull to make his reformist moves and shift the LNP towards his progressive orientation is while the polls are favourable to him. As polls have a tendency to afford a ‘honeymoon’ early in a leader’s political life at the top, one that can fade quite rapidly, Turnbull will realize that while he has to move carefully and adroitly in the early stages, it is then that he stands his best chance of overcoming the inevitable resistance that will come from his opponents in the Party, still resentful that he replaced ‘their man’ and wanting to hold him to his promises and to ‘control’ his progressive behaviour, at which we know many behind him still bristle. We are already witnessing Turnbull’s more consultative and conciliatory approach and seeing it bear fruit - the complete opposite of his predecessor. It can do his stocks no harm pursing that approach. Where he will need consummate skill is in moving the conservative elements towards a more scientifically enlightened approach to global warming, a more positive approach to renewables, and a move away from fossil fuels; towards a more positive stance on same sex marriage; towards a more humane approach to the management of asylum seekers; towards a more rational approach to the economy, to budgeting, to the achievement of a surplus, to tax reform, to innovation policy, to productivity, to industrial relations, and to fairer welfare arrangements; towards rational funding for education at all levels along the lines recommended in the Gonski report, which is still hanging in mid air; towards enhancing our already good healthcare system to enable it to meet the escalating demands of an ageing population; towards more collaborative federal-state relationships; and towards more appropriate infrastructure spending on public transport to serve our expanding cities. Most of these are challenges that will evoke resistance from the hard right conservatives. You are right. We won’t get fooled again, and Turnbull knows this. He will remember how he came unstuck last time around; he will know that we will be watching him for signs of the missteps that brought him undone before. He will need to have his gaze focussed in many directions, watching his back as much as his front. [b]The key question is: ‘Will he be able to move our nation back to the sensible centre of politics, where most voters would wish it to be?’[/b]

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26/10/2015Folks Paul Keating, in a recent interview with Kerry O'Brien, put my question above so much more elegantly, in his own inimitable style: [b][i]The real question is, can he take the now very right wing Liberal Party anywhere back near the centre? That'll be the real test, you know. Or whether he's stuck with... the Loony Tunes show on the right, you know.[/b][/i] You may wish to read or listen to the report of the interview, which was on [i]AM[/i] on October 21: http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2015/s4335718.htm


26/10/2015It's not just the Nationals that can be swayed by that ministerial leather it's each and every one of them. There would hardly be a member of government that doesn't have principles that they would happily jettison in an instant if it meant the difference between staying in power or loosing government, or even worse loosing their own seat. As long as Turnbull looks like delivering in the polls he will have a great deal of influence.

Florence nee fed up

27/10/2015Not too sure PM is really being consultative. Couldn't be bothered turning up at Uluru today. I have this feeling that the PM is clearing the decks of Abbott's stalled toxic policies as quickly as he can. Told his ministers to take any offers to get them passed. Wants to be seen as the man that gets things done, More important, he doesn't want to take any of Abbott's baggage into a election he intends to call as soon as possible. He gives the impression, he can't even be bothered with QT. Will do anything not too scare the cows. Just a thought?

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27/10/2015Florence nee fed up Your assessment seems plausible. Who would want to be take the lead weight of the Abbott era in a saddle bag to an election? Turnbull is certainly clearing the decks, but my guess is that he will wait until next year at least to call an election, when he will have more accomplishments under his belt. It would be a hurried process to organise it for this year, but I suppose that with today's [i]Newspoll[/i] at 52/48, his popularity at 63% and Bill Shorten languishing at 27%, he would feel tempted to move soon. I still feel though that he would back himself to do even better once he gets into his stride. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-27/newspoll-bill-shorten-records-worst-ever-result/6887114


27/10/2015Florence - you have a good argument there. Turnbull can look like 'action man' by just getting rid of the road blocks created by Abbott and Credlin. By doing so, he also appeals to the current Government MP's and Ministers as they see a possibility of retaining the ministerial leather. However, the ALP strategists are not that stupid to have not made contingency plans if Abbott was rolled. Don't forget that Andrews in Victoria came from behind (with a change of leader by the incumbent Liberals in the preceeding term of Parliament) and Palaszczuk went from all the Opposition MP's being able to sit in a Tarago to minority Government in a term. Trudeau came from well behind in Canada (and there was a strategy -> http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/10/25/justin-trudeau_n_8382304.html) and Corbyn certainly upset the apple cart in the UK Labour Party. Complacency will either 'kill' Shorten or make him PM, it depends on who is affected. The Palaszczuk and Trudeau experiences would seem to suggest that having a good plan and sticking to it (rather than reacting to outside influences) means there is a pretty good chance of success.


28/10/2015Bugger. I just lost the first post I have written here in over a month. The first one I have lost since this format of TPS. I can never rewrite at all what I have lost. I said how sad I am that Australia's future now looks so crabbed. I told of how dear Ad astra rang me a week ago to enquire about my health, in view of my long silence. The truth is I no longer know what to say. I feel so sad for my country. On a personal level, I feel saddest of all you, Ad, because I know that you and I have been on precisely the same wavelength ever since I started writing here more than five years ago. You have been the transmitter mainly, and I the receiver, and I know how disappointed you must feel. We nearly had it all under *J*U*L*I*A*. The chance to be a rational, inclusive, tolerant, exemplary society. But the scourge of Abbort has scotched our future.The fires he lit, fed and fanned by Murdoch and Big Business, have left a scorched earth in which the dragon seeds of hatred have taken root. The land is now infested with the human equivalent of feral cats and pigs and toxic cane toads, and I can see no way of rebraining them. Whoever designed that flaming Bob Brown's Bitch poster, in front of which Abbort so proudly stood with the Bishpig and the harpy Mirabella, surely encapsulated for posterity the tenor of the time. And Ad the flames above ground may have largely been damped for the moment, but the destruction is permanent. The dream of affordable education, universal highspeed broadband, humane refugee practices, so many initiatives quashed ... So we have private schools, very private massive incomes ... Privatisation rules ... And those fires still burn just beneath the ground, where experience tells us they may prove unextinguishable. Australians seem to think they have dealt with the flames but they have jumped into Turdball's flash new Teflon frying pan and they are getting fried instead of barbecued. I don't even believe he really wants to do much at all on principle except the principle of Self. He swanned in on a wave of relief having all the RW measures now comfortably in place and really he doesn't need to do anything except keep his feathers dry. Glib tongue will satisfy our MSM. But the thing that really saddens me the most is the lack of fight being evinced by Bill Shorten. Why is he there if he's just going to accede to all the LNP wishes? Where is the strident uncompromising language to kick Turdball in his velveteen crutch? Would Albo have been so supine? I remember when BS first got the leadership, Ad astra opined him a "dud". I have always feared Ad to be on the money there, but equally I have always nurtured the hope that he was only holding his fire until he could see the whites of their eyes... whereas Albo shoots as soon as their heads pop up. Well enough of that. It's not really helping our cause is it! But a cameo of how I feel is to be found in the most recent initiative to create an Australian Republic. Peter Fitzsimons is now its most public face, and while I'm glad of his energy and enthusiasm, I feel downbeat about what sort of republic it might be. He is touting the retention of "Governor General" and there are other measures too wrt the achievement of a Republican state with which I am very dubious, but perhaps my concern is best conveyed by pointing out that such scum as Christopher Pyne are enthusiastically backing the new Republican push. To misquote Groucho: I don't want to be a member of any club that Pyne is in. Abbort meanwhile is yahooing in his beloved England, combining his training as Catholic priest with his experience as despot, by preaching xenophobia to the Thatcher rantfest. I guess there's an easy $40K, and I guess too that he'll make money than he ever dreamed possible by screeching that same message to people like Anders Breivik and Geert Wilders, all across Europe. Murdoch and Abbort eh. One born in Adelaide, gave up his Australian citizenship to become a hyper powerful Yank. The other a never-Australian citizen wh refused to give up his Pommie citizenship. Makes me so ashamed to call them Human.


28/10/2015Tony Abbott's Margaret Thatcher speech: 'Now I'm at a bit of a loose end … ' John Crace G’devening everyone. It’s a great honour to have been asked to give the second annual Margaret Thatcher lecture here in London, England. As most of you will know, Mrs T was a sheila but she managed to rise above that disability to bomb the shit out of the Argies and take back the Falklands for Great Britain and to piss off most of the rest of Europe. She was the kind of leader every country needs. As far in sight as she was to the right. http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/28/tony-abbotts-margaret-thatcher-speech-now-im-at-a-bit-of-a-loose-end-?CMP=ema_632


28/10/2015Interesting - based on fact or stirring from the right-wing [i]The Red and the Blue[/i] website? "LABOR “LEADER” Bill Shorten is set to resign his post, and possibly from Parliament, next month; with the ALP now recording poll numbers commensurate with his abysmal performance and set to be hit by fallout from the Royal Commission into the unions, Shorten’s departure will terminate a shameful era for Labor. The move raises questions around timing, and of who will replace him to face a snap double dissolution in December or early 2016." http://theredandtheblue.org/2015/10/27/bill-shorten-to-resign-as-labor-leader/


28/10/2015thanks for that link Bacchus. It is very interesting but as you say has the smell of a bit of a smear by the Right. Do we know anything about that blog and who runs it?


28/10/2015Sure Ken: "Yale Stephens is a Melbourne-based freelance blogger and writer. He has a lifelong passion for politics (with British politics a specialty interest, bordering on obsession) and has intimate knowledge of Australia’s political, electoral and parliamentary systems. A conservatively-minded member of the Liberal Party for most of the time since he was 18, he nevertheless speaks independently and critically of his “own side” when issues and circumstances warrant. Originally from Brisbane before coming south in 1998, he was a “flag waver” as the Liberal candidate for the safe ALP seat of Bundamba at the 1995 Queensland State Election. The Red And The Blue…clearly, Yale sits in the blue corner…"


28/10/2015Reading his site further, I find an astounding statement: "Post-publication of this article, I’ve seen one of my favourite columnists — Piers Akerman at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph..." And here's his take on the coup: "IN AN EMBARRASSMENT to the Liberal Party and to Australia, former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull has been restored to the position by a snap ballot of the Liberal party room; it is the second time in just over two years an egomaniac deposed by his colleagues has toppled a Prime Minister to slake an ego. Tony Abbott’s defeat is self-inflicted. But Turnbull is no “solution,” and those responsible for his ascension should be ashamed of themselves." http://theredandtheblue.org/2015/09/15/the-perils-and-pitfalls-of-malcolm-turnbull-prime-minister/ One of the far-far-right brigade it seems :)

Yale Stephens

28/10/2015No, Bacchus, not from the "far-far-Right:" from the mainstream Right (or the realistic Right, as I would put it), but too many people who do not subscribe to a conservative political outlook deign to smear anyone to the right of them as "far Right." I say that to merely make the observation, not to accuse. In any case, I'm a political conservative first and a Liberal Party man second, which is why you note the comment I made the day Turnbull became party leader again. I have subsequently adopted a wait-and-see approach to his activities, have praised and criticised in equal measure as appropriate, and will continue to do so. I assure you and your readers that my article yesterday was not a "smear" but based on firm details provided by (as I said) a usually reliable source, and corroborated by others. The obvious disclaimer however, as with anything political, is that the situation is obviously fluid, and can change, although any objective evaluation of how Shorten has performed begs the question of why he was ever installed in his position in the first place.


28/10/2015Yale, I read your piece as well. Like you I don't claim to be a journalist (for the record I have gainful employment in a completely unrelated field). I did note that the piece you wrote had very little substantiation to justify the words written and even less in the way of argument putting forward a particular position. The reader shouldn't have to go back across your 'collected works' to determine if you actually have some basis for your piece - or if you are just another blogger with enough nous to manage a software package after a night at the pub. He who resorts to name calling - as you have done here "By way of commentary, I offer that Shorten has been a poor “leader:” this column has consistently refused to acknowledge him without qualification as the leader of his party, when even Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were thus acknowledged. Bill Shorten — lampooned in this column as “Billy Bullshit,” with good reason — isn’t a leader’s bootlace. Shorten’s tenure as Labor “leader” represents a shameful period in ALP history, driven as it has been by blatant attempts to stoke class warfare and envy among Australians, punctuated by mindlessly obstructionist Senate tactics in cohort with the Communist Party Greens and a willing crossbench composed mostly of supposed conservative independents and minor parties, and publicly articulated in fundamentally dishonest terms that have lowered the bar for standards of political decency in this country and unforgivably assumed of voters the lack of intelligence or perception to see through the contemptible tactics on show. has lost the argument before it starts. You might not like Shorten, that is your right, but you need to treat the position with the respect it deserves. You will notice that the writers who produce articles for this blog does not call people names, regardless of our opinion of the current office holder." So there is little in the way of evidence to back up your opinion and resort to name calling to argue a point. While Shorten may be going to resign at some point - I think I wait for someone who can substantiate the story with facts and evidence to write it before I believe it. Just a reminder - we have a low tolerance for playing the person here - and a few people ready to delete first and ask later.


29/10/20152353, Interesting that these rabid far-far right-wingers cannot see clearly due to the "log in their own eyes". Accusing Labor and the Greens of being obstructionist is the height of hypocrisy after the years of Abbott opposition. Absolutely no self-awareness at all, and displaying the very conservative trait of "projection" - ascribing their own "sins" to their opposition! It would also seem Mr Stephens may need to read a little more widely - his "favourite" columnists include Piers Akerman, and Miranda Devine - perhaps he needs to add Ken Wolff, 2353 and Ad astra to his reading list? *wink*
How many umbrellas are there if I have two in my hand but the wind then blows them away?