Opposition ship docks for repairs

Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is steaming slowly into port for a period in dry dock after skirmishes in open waters not far from the coast.  Hopes were high that routine maintenance would be all that was needed, but several recent encounters with the good ship Her Majesty’s Government have left the crew wondering why things have gone so badly just when it was looking forward to brief respite from the bruising encounters of the last twelve months.  After a change of captain ten weeks ago, hopes were high that salvos from HM Opposition would blow a few holes in the hull of HM Government, and slow its steady progress.  But the reverse seems to be the case.

2008 hasn’t been a good period of deployment for HM Opposition.  It started badly when the captain that was appointed turned out to be not the one that was anticipated.   Despite his good intent and earnest endeavour, he made tactical mistakes, often failed to hit the target, was never highly regarded by the on-shore crowd and naval commentators, eventually lost the support of his crew and was replaced by a much-vaunted captain who, having been rejected initially, now embraced with eagerness his destiny as the leader who would bring resounding success, Captain Malcolm Turnbull.  The on-shore crowd applauded and the naval critics exuded enthusiastic approval.

After initially making a tiny and temporary dent in HM Government commander Captain Kevin Rudd’s best-captain approval rating, Captain Turnbull has steadily gone downhill.  Today’s maritime poll, Newspoll, shows that Captain Rudd now holds the same massive 47 point lead over Captain Turnbull as he held over Captain Nelson just ten weeks ago.

The failure of HM Opposition to damage HM Government, even at close quarters, started the naval commentators wondering why.  Some felt the strategies employed were too limited, even outdated, even more queried the tactics, and still more the frequent sudden and unexpected changes of tactic, which sometimes amounted to going into reverse or doing a complete about-turn.  Concerns about Captain Turnbull’s judgement began to surface.  It wasn’t as if he didn’t sound convincing, standing as he did in full regalia making high-sounding pronouncements.  But his crew continued to show confidence in him until this last week, when the port was in sight and a long-awaited rest just ahead.  Then, with the final exchanges taking place, confusion among the crew lead them to run around the ship in different directions, despatch salvos towards the wrong target, and in the process inflict damage on the ship and several of the crew.  There was open mutiny by some despite Captain Turnbull repeatedly shouting orders, albeit somewhat confusing.  This was made worse by Sub-Lieutenant Minchin, who finding himself caught short at the head and in need of a caffeine fix from the mess, was absent just when Captain Turnbull’s orders should have been passed on.  He argued that he didn’t have to obey orders when the matter was ‘Mickey Mouse’.  So a couple of his sailors ran one way, four another way, while he stood still, stunned. [more]

Yet even as HM Opposition wallowed in choppy swell towards shore with smoke billowing amidships and sailors running hither and thither, Captain Turnbull (aka Rainmaker), megaphone in hand, was mouthing a broadside at Captain Rudd over his economic stimulus package to get the on-shore crowd to spend like drunken sailors.  Although he had supported it initially without quibble, he was now insisting a better strategy would have been a tax break, and that if Rudd’s package did not produce the result he expected it would be a yet another ‘failure’.  He was joined by Midshipman Abbott who expressed concern that some of the on-shore recipients, particularly in ‘some areas’, may use the money on gambling or booze,  Sub-Lieutenant Joyce, who likes to wear an admiral’s hat just to look different, said the package would probably end up being sprayed on a wall, and a sailor, who goes by the name of Xenophon, came alongside in a fast-moving inflatable and shouted ‘They’ll give it all to the pokies’.  What these salts hoped to achieve by their utterances defies explanation.

With the naval poll in hand, the naval critics came to the fore to savage the crew of HM Opposition.  One, named Shanahan, who can usually find at least some skerrick of joy in any poll, struggled with this one, expressing his exasperation at HM Opposition’s lack of success in two stinging pieces: Voters dump Coalition as Newspoll rewards Kevin Rudd and As if Nelson never got booted.  The day before the poll, a well-known naval cynic, wrote a delightfully satirical piece: Mungo: Malcolm's parliamentary shemozzle in Crikey, and The Piping Shrike wrote his typically insightful comments in a piece An irrelevant and useful distraction – an update. Possum added Newspoll to an analysis of all recent polls in Ouchpoll on Pollytics on Crickey.

So what is the problem?  HM Opposition is a vessel capable of good service, and the crew, although somewhat behind the times and still enamoured of outdated ideas about naval strategy and tactics, includes some reliable and experienced sailors.  The deputy, Lieutenant Commander Bishop, who asserted her right as second-in-command to take a top tactical job, has been found wanting and repeatedly outmanoeuvred by her opponents.  But one can scarcely lay all the blame at her feet.  After all, the captain is in charge.  So is the captain the problem?  He has not been in the navy all that long, and is seemingly unfamiliar with naval traditions.  His background in the army as tank commander shooting opponents at close quarters, and his subsequent air force experience as an administrator in a high-flying heavily-armed squadron, seem to be inappropriate training for a ship’s captain.  More worrisome is what looks for all the world like lack of strength of character and personal resolve.  Not only does he seem to be unsure of his overarching strategy and his tactical moves, he seems to lack the authority and power to have his orders obeyed.  A combination of lack of purpose, weakness of character, insufficient muscle and diminishing authority, and an ego-centric certainty of the correctness of his own position coupled with an unwillingness to listen, is lethal in a leader.  How long can he last before the murmurings among his crew and the critics begin to further erode his position?  Shanahan’s article aligning Captain Turnbull with Captain Nelson may be the beginning, although he hasn’t quite been able to bring himself to the point of suggesting Captain Turnbull’s commission might be near its end.

Meanwhile Sub-Lieutenant Hockey shines through as the most plausible, personable, articulate and effective crew member, one who would make a good captain.  With youth on his side, with a mind open to contemporary thinking about strategy and tactics, he might be the answer to the HM Opposition’s yearning for a return to naval power.

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Just Me

9/12/2008Sub-Lieutenant Hockey does, however, have sometimes questionable political judgement, and a particularly dead and smelly albatross tied firmly around his neck, WorkChoices, the stench of which is not likely to dissipate from the voter's nostrils in the near future. Furthermore, he is not really a good match against HM Government's current captain, who is sailing a clear and thoughtful course through quite troubled waters, much to the relief of the crew and passengers.

Just Me

9/12/2008Oh, and season's greetings to you all.

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9/12/2008Sub-Lieutenant Hockey can smell the albatross too; it still lingers in his nostrils. He wore its around his neck unwillingly, on Howard's instructions. His frankness last night on [quote]The Howard Years[/quote] showed how reluctant he was. He came across as a decent fellow, but under Howard's control, not really believing in what he was expected to do. So maybe he should wear the ignominy of being a Howard follower. But there were many fellow travellers under the spell of that martinet. And seasons greetings to you Just Me

doghouse

9/12/2008Can you imagine Mel and Kochie gloating if Hockey became the next PM, they already helped Rudd. The very thought makes me dry retch.

janice

10/12/2008I agree that Joe Hockey comes across as a decent man but he does not come across to me as having much between the ears. I do not believe Hockey is leader material but would shine in important portfolios other than shadow treasurer, under the right leadership. I believe the coalition is heading for another walloping at the next election unless they wake up and do the hard yards of putting together some good policies instead of opposing for opposing's sake. Truffles will be turfed out on his elite ear if the next election loss is another walloping but may survive if there is a little improvement. I do not believe he will achieve the prize he seeks to be PM so long as his bum points to the ground.

Bushfire Bill

10/12/2008What struck me about Hockey the other night on The Howard Years was that he admitted Work Choices was a crock, yet still defended it to - literally - the political death. The whole of the Liberal Party was under the thrall of the Fuhrer, Howard, and they were prepared to go to hell with him. Even when it became clear they couldn't survive an election, they didn't have the guts to get rid of Old Baldy Bill. They relied on their political supremacy being handed to them on a platter: Costello, in a personal sense, and the Party in a corporatre sense. The only sense they showed was a sense of entitlement. All the elements of Fuhrer worship were there: the mystical "Howard will pull a rabbit out of the hat" (even though Howard tried to convince them there was no rabbit, and someone else at the caucus meeting whispered, "No hat, either"), the belief in their being the master race (well, the master party), the "special connection" with the people, the desire to wreck the country if the country was stupid enough not to vote for them, by way of massive handouts, causing relentless interest rate increases, month after month. They didn't care. It was quite superstitious, there was that element too: the almost naive belief in a mystical Messiah who would rescue them (this carried over into the total farce of the Costello breathlessness throughout the first part of this year.... another Messiah). But reality has hit, and hit hard. The last Newspoll has made it plain that the Libs are yesterday's men and women until they face their deficiencies and quit turning towards the sun, waiting for salvation. Joe Hockey won't do any better than Turnbull or Nelson did as leader, until he has something to lead, other than a rabble, that is.

janice

11/12/2008What I find absolutely amazing Bushfire Bill, is that the coalition still do not understand why they were turfed out of office. Truffles does not seem to understand the messages being sent to him via the polls. Why, I wonder, is it so hard to understand that there is nothing phenomenal about Rudd's popularity but simply an acknowledgement that Rudd and his team are seen to be responsible and working for the nation as a whole; that there was no truth in the conservative rhetoric that Labor are poor economic managers? There are none so blind as those who will not see, and there lies the stumbling block in the path of the conservative parties. You are right about Joe Hockey. He did know workchoices was bad policy but chose to support and defend it to political death. He was too weak to speak out like Petro Georgeou and Judi Moylan and, I suspect, he is going along with Truffles and the rest of the rabble now.

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11/12/2008I see there’s no support for Joe Hockey. Certainly he did push WorkChoices, but what other option did he have? John Howard put him in that position as he was regarded by the public as a genial fellow whom Howard sensed could sell WorkChoices and its variants. Nobody in a Howard cabinet who wants to get anywhere disobeys his orders. Georgio never even got into cabinet. I feel that free from overbearing influences he would perform much more naturally and openly. On [quote]The Howard Years[/quote], I felt he came across as the most genuine among a motley crew of sycophants. Peter Brent of Mumble has picked him as Turnbull’s successor, and a commentator from Fox News this morning on ABC radio 774 suggested he might replace Julie Bishop as Shadow Treasurer. So there’s some support for him, among a pretty uninspiring bunch of alternatives. Time will tell. As far as Truffles is concerned, his problems were compounded by Shane Stone firing a telling broadside at the disabled HM Opposition, to which Truffles made an unconvincing response. Perhaps the most telling was his radio comment that he could see why the other Malcolm made his famous comment “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”. My contention is that he hasn’t got the strength of character or sufficient support from his crew to bring the dissidents into line. Barnaby Joyce sounded very truculent during his TV interviews, unlikely to be easily brought into ‘the tent’. Truffles has a mammoth task ahead – I doubt if he has the attributes he needs to succeed. As you say janice he still seems not to understanding why the Coalition was turfed out, nor does he understand the messages being sent every time a new poll comes out.
I have two politicians and add 2 more; how many are there?