Our Fearless Leader

The ever-generous Urbanwronski has again permitted the republication of his latest analysis at The Pub. As always, many thanks.

Express Tribune

Want to know what Brexit means for Australia? Looking for a bit of leadership from the Prime Minister in response to Britain’s latest financial and economic crisis? Worried Britain will drag us all into a global recession? Don’t ask Malcolm Turnbull. He’s just the Prime Minister.

Tony Jones made the leadership mistake on Q&A when he asked Turnbull why he was soft on same-sex marriage. Why was he pushing ahead with a plebiscite even though he personally favoured a conscience vote?

Turnbull said he was “sticking by the decision the Coalition party room made under Tony Abbott.”

The PM neglected to mention that the party room was augmented with a rump of National Party members herded in at the last minute. His capitulation endorses a flaky evasion. Abbott’s move was nothing more than a cynical stalling tactic.

No update either for viewers that negotiations are currently underway to ensure that members of Turnbull’s government, should it be returned, will be able to vote against their electorates on marriage equality. Senators Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi have already said they will do this.

As Penny Wong puts it, “Malcolm Turnbull didn’t give supporters of marriage equality a free vote before the election, but will give opponents of marriage equality a free vote after the election.”

What came next is the most amazing concession of the campaign so far. Turnbull is the type of leader to lead from behind. He’s only the boss. “I am the PM but I’m not the dictator,” he said.

“Some people like the idea of prime ministers that ignore their colleagues. I don’t agree with that. I’m a strong believer in traditional cabinet government and that means compromise.”

Now it’s Leigh Sales turn to make the same mistake on Friday’s 7:30. Not that she’s really interested. It is, after all, another opportunity for the PM to campaign. And in the end it’s all about the show. She asks him what it means. Means? He fetches up one fence-sitting word, “uncertainty.”

The U-word has bolted before he realises, to his horror, he mustn’t frighten the horses. Quickly he claims uncertainty as a virtue – and the high moral ground. Who knows where he’s headed? Give him a minute or thirty and he’ll give you the full Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

“Uncertainty …” he begins, lifting an unequivocal bottom jaw.

Sales looks worried.

It is a vintage Turnbull display. Patronise. Preach. Change gear. Hasn’t he told us to “embrace uncertainty?” he chides, smugly, channelling entrepreneur-Mal, his inner shill, hopelessly addicted to start-up technobabble and all manner of other 21st Century con-artist jargon?

We are being told off for not being quite with it. He’s gazumped us. Everyone can see how embracing his inner uncertainty has worked for Malcolm, the ditherer. Not that he is letting Ms Sales speak. She does try to get to the heart of the nonsense about embracing change by spelling out some of the changes in terms of jobs lost to technology, EU migrant workers and open markets.

I just wonder if that message that you’re making perhaps scares and alienates people?

Turnbull seizes the opportunity to riff on the word immigration in what Sales is saying.

The EU Schengen agreement permitting passport free travel is in his sights. It reminds him to sound like a toddler potty training manual,

“…how really important it is for the Government to be seen to control its borders.”

Borders secure, he’s straight off up the garden path of how his government offers stability, a brilliant economic plan of bribing rich people with tax cuts and its Liberal psychic powers.

“I think we could be looking at a period of some uncertainty. And it’s a reminder, Leigh, of a point I often make: that we are living in a period of rapid economic change, we’re living in a period of volatility and we have to embrace that. We have to recognise that we’ve got to make sure that we have stable leadership, an economic plan, stable government, so that we are able to deal with the unforeseen.

Luckily, Leigh is not up to challenging him. Turnbull’s government is one big factional in-fight. And it shows. In three years our economy has gone from best performing in the world to about fifteenth place now as a result of internal conflict and utter confusion over ideology and economic policy.

Abbott outsourced most Liberal policy to the IPA leaving himself an incoherent bag of Trump-style US clichés about small government being good for you, a dash of flag-waving rabid nationalism, authoritarianism, and the dog-whistling politics of division. Malcolm Turnbull has done his best to pick up all of these but hasn’t quite got them all in the bag. Nor will he ever while Abbott survives.

If Fizza Turnbull were to win the election, on current predictions, his is unlikely to be a big enough victory to give him the authority to command the stability which he claims to offer. Abbott’s already got his dibs on a return to cabinet as Minister of Defence. But wait, there’s more – of course.

Turnbull bangs on about his economic plan. His government’s economic plan is neither economic nor a plan but rather a magic pudding mix that serves up a rich and tasty tax cut for wealthy supporters that somehow trickles down to feed the rest of the nation by boosting productivity and prosperity in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The evidence for stability is just as weak. Since John Howard’s shrewd brew of nationalism, neoliberalism – once called economic rationalism – and social liberalism was spoilt by WorkChoices, the Liberal Party at both state and federal level is beset by an existential crisis. Tony Abbott’s false promises to keep Labor’s social program added “untrustworthy” into whatever the Liberals stand for.

In federal politics, the Liberal Party has given the nation two prime ministers in three years, fifteen changes in the cabinet, and a smorgasbord of funding scandals. Right now the word is that the party is struggling to find the cash to fund its last furious final volley of TV attack ads. They could save their money. People will be watching the Brexit fall-out news.

None of this is followed up. Mr Stability Turnbull is left to dip into his usual grab bag of vapid platitudes, Mal-splaining, and some special name-dropping for the occasion.

OK, he says, he did contact David Cameron to “console” the British PM ahead of his resignation. But he’s not prepared to share with viewers anything that might have been said. This is a pity. Both have a fair bit in common in terms of their capture by the right wing of their divided parties.

The PM’s message is “nothing to see here,” just as his deputy, Julie Bishop has earlier advised Australians to “keep calm and carry on.” Whistle a happy tune. Don’t mention the class war.

To be fair Sales does not exactly press the Prime Minister for answers. That’s not her job. Her show’s more of a foot-rub and back-scratch than a quest for information. Hold her guest to account for his promises, his evasions and lies? She can and does ask the odd good question, but these tend to be batted away and never followed up. Or Turnbull bloviates and then answers his own question.

Friday he gets away with murder. Turnbull crows that her show had revealed Shorten to be a liar about Coalition moves to privatise Medicare. It is a ScoMo moment, a cheap and demeaning gotcha that does nothing but lower the tone and the PM’s credibility – and insults the intelligence of her audience. Does he imagine we don’t know that he set up a 20-member, $5 million privatisation taskforce which he was forced to cancel at the 11th hour?

And despite his strenuous denials, the outsourcing of Medicare payments went to federal Cabinet.

Turnbull bags Shorten for not putting his hand on his heart, a stunt Sales dredged up in the previous night’s programme straight out of the Ray Hadley 2GB playbook. It proves nothing but the depths to which political debate has fallen. Sales doesn’t seem to mind to be used in this way. It’s as if she’s happy to be an accomplice in Turnbull’s long-practised evasion of leadership and truth.

Now interviews don’t have to be combative. To help the ABC here are a few of the many questions remaining unasked which could help Turnbull to lead, to act like a Prime Minister.

How could the pundits get it so wrong? Is Brexit part of some more deep-seated popular protest against conservative politics; a rebellion against the politics of division, exclusion and increasing social and economic inequality? To Rafael Behr, Brexit sounds,

“…more like a howl of rage and frustration by one half of the country against the system of power, wealth and privilege perceived to be controlled by an elite residing, well, elsewhere.”

Are there parallels in Australia? Brexit is the repudiation of its ruling political and economic elite by half the British nation. Similarly marginalised by a rapidly diminishing share of the nation’s prosperity and excluded or alienated from real political decision-making, manipulated by a conservative mass media. could Australian voters be about to make a similar protest?

In the post-truth era style of political interview we will even phrase the questions to help our PM.

Surely we don’t have workers who have lost their jobs, their futures, their feeling of self-worth. because of our politicians’ relentless, mindless march towards globalisation and free trade?

Surely we don’t live inside a housing bubble so inflated by our banks that it is impossible for average voters to own their own homes?

Surely we don’t have politicians who are so addicted to neoliberal dogma that the concept of the people has become replaced by that of the consumer?

Surely no politician would claim that the politics of economic austerity will solve everything, while tax cuts for the wealthy and the business classes will ensure that prosperity trickles upward?

Surely none of these are true, Malcolm Turnbull wants us to reassure us. He’s calling Brexit a message of “optimism.”

“In this age of technological change, in this age of the internet, in this age of globalism, why would we remain part of Europe for no reason other than geographic proximity at a time when technology has abolished geography?”

Whatever desperate, far-fetched spin our PM may choose to employ to fend off reality, there is an inescapable sense that the writing is on the wall for neoliberal governments everywhere. What is clear is that the free trade agreements and treaties that underpin the now diminished European Community have been tried and found wanting in Britain, and that other nations may well follow.

What is certain, despite everything that our PM has left unsaid, is that Brexit puts the skids under the global financial system. Expect instability, it is true. but don’t expect leadership from him. There is no point in his evading responsibility and everything to be gained by taking us into his confidence. But that would require a capacity to take command and an as yet unseen capacity to communicate. Brexit may be the end of him.

720 thoughts on “Our Fearless Leader

  1. It has been a bit weird the past couple of days. The headlines are all “polls even”, “deadlock”, “too close to call”, “Coalition in danger of losing”, The commentary is all “it’s over”, “Shorten can’t win”, “Coalition returned to power”.

  2. Fiona you not well groomed enough to command Frydenbergs attention

    He is the type of fella that rates women on the F scale and you and I are invisible

  3. We don’t know the result yet do we?
    So up until 6.00 pm tomorrow night keep fighting.
    All of this negativity by the msm is to both depress our volunteers and to hope that there is a bandwagon effect.
    You know when you go to a footy game and when you’re losing it’s because the ref is biased. Generally that’s not the case. But the behaviour of the talking heads of the msm is an indication of bias.Keane observed that Sales interrupted Bill 24 times and Turd 4 times.
    Whether it’s tomorrow or in the not too distant future the ALP will win govt and when they do I want them to absolutely destroy these msm hacks especially those on the ABC . And at the end of the day why not because it’s me and you who pay their wages.
    No more Rud

  4. Independent Tony Windsor has just been on Sky News and he rates his prospect of victory on Saturday night as 50-50. He rates Rob Oakeshott as having a higher chance, he thinks 70% prospect of Oakeshott victory in Cowper. (Just imagine if Oakeshott wins, Ray Hadley will explode like the Australia day fireworks display.)

    I’d buy a ticket to see that!

    • Me too.

      Hadley has never met Rob Oakeshott, and has refused all offers to debate him. That despite Hadley being very fond of boasting about spending time with his grandparents, as a child,at Eungai Rail, on the NSW mid-north coast, in the electorate of …….. Cowper.

  5. GD

    Similar to the Inverbrackie

    Yep. The political reality is that the ALP has to hold the line but cleaning out Manus, Nauru and XMas Is has to be done as well.

    Some canvassing of communities that have found them a positive experience needs to be done.

    Focus on those we have marked as ‘a security risk here’ is needed. We are still somewhat acceptable internationally and some place must be found for them.

  6. Um, I posted Tanya’s tweet before I read the current discussion. It is not a reflection on anything that is being said here, I just thought it was a brilliant photo.

  7. Fizza has had a bit of a trainwreck day today, according to Murpharoo.

    Malcolm Turnbull planned his final day to be a couple of breakfast television spots and a bit of radio, a cheer session with a bunch of fresh faced young Liberals at a factory somewhere, a light lope through Burwood, minus press conference. After fluffing on consultation fees during said breakfast television, guaranteeing somewhat rashly fees would not rise for patients going to the doctor, a press conference was convened. Fees would of course rise, if doctors wanted them to, the prime minister clarified, but they couldn’t possibly blame the freeze in the GP rebate for that. No, that was all about doctors wanting to charge their patients more. The PM also declared earlier in the day that Labor had opposed the China free trade deal, which is a complete fiction, but I suspect a fiction that only pedant like me cares about ultimately. Doubts about health – more dangerous, even at this late stage


    I care about the blatant lie about the China free trade agreement, which the Abbott/Turnbull government rushed into far too soon, simply so they could pretend they had done the whole thing. Fizza had the hide to call Shorten a liar today.

  8. What the hell is he talking about? There’s this fiction going on that, despite polls sitting dead even for weeks and the same narrative from the press going on and on and nothing seismic happening on either side anyway, that the ‘chances of winning’ are bouncing about wildly of their own accord, independent of people or evidence or anything. ‘Things’ haven’t ‘tightened up’. Using the passive voice to describe a vagueness is about as useless a contribution as you can make in journalism.

    They’re not bouncing about. They’re where they’ve been the whole election, slightly in favour of the ALP by virtue of a better campaign, less panic, and a suite of policies that have a dual virtue; firstly, they exist (which is more than you can say for Turnbull’s reputed ‘plan’) and secondly they make sense.

    All Speers is really saying is, “We’ve been pumping Turnbull up for the entire campaign and we’d better dial it back at this late stage, because we haven’t been able to make him as popular as we said he would be.”

    • That ties in quite nicely with my speculation, Aguirre. A big discord between the reporting and what is actually happening. Remain positive friends!

  9. I thought I’d try to draw some comfort from the IPSOS state breakdowns. They’re pretty ordinary for Labor on Primary votes but come out well on 2PP. NSW is 51-49, Vic 54-46, and SA is 51-49 (not as good as I thought it’d be but considering their low primary, pretty good).

    It’s a different story in the two big mining states showing 57-43 Coalition. Not sure how reliable this is because it shows a 6-point turnaround, which seems a bit unrealistic in a few days. May be a problem with the sampling. In the past that has about represented the bias in those states but there’s no reason to think that’s close to what the situation is now.

    Vic 54-46 is also a bit unrealistic unless we assume that all the fuss over the CFA has had no impact. If it is so, then quite a few coalition seats could fall in Vic.

    As I said, it’s all very bewildering, maybe the mood is fluctuating, but it still seems as if there’s a discord between the media reports and how the public is responding to issues.

  10. Leigh Sales whining about copping abuse over her biased interviews.

    Maybe if she did her job properly, instead of blatantly favouring her Liberal dinner companions over Labor politicians her viewers might be less abusive.

    You reap what you sow.

    Federal election 2016: ABC’s Leigh Sales republishes ‘relentless’ Twitter abuse

    • Yeah, that article is simply saying that there are trolls on Twitter. Well, whoop de doo, knock me down with a feather.

      The problem, unstated in that article, is that the ABC has made itself unaccountable. Complaints are now fobbed off with bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, so people don’t think they have any say any longer in how the taxpayer funded television station is run. And it’s simple equation. If you stop treating your audience with respect, they will sooner or later do the same to you.

      It’s partly about the Sales/Uhlmann/Jones/Cassidy/Alberici Liberal love-in. But it’s even more about things like the defunding and axing of the Fact Checker, and the arrogant replies to queries and complaints submitted.

      Sales having a whine might help to deflect it in the short-term, but that’s all. The problems remain.

    • She’s not getting half the sh&t Julia Gillard got. And JG was doing her job in a professional manner unlike Sales.

  11. Andrew P Street –

    “While we have understandable reservations about this tumour, we feel it should be given the opportunity to metastasise further before we start discussing disruptive interventions such as surgery.”

    My interpretation of the editorials floating around supporting the re-election of the Turnbull government


  12. Zed’ got himself in trouble today..
    Then it was revealed he claims on his website to be a white ribbon ambasador, but White Ribbon Australia has tweeted that he is NOT… Destroy the joint tweets are all over it…
    Fingers crossed we can boot him out of the senate, 2nd ALP or even a green would be preferable to that lazy abbott loving rwnj.

  13. I would be more than surprised if the bitchop is hauled over the coals for using the phone whilst driving. And her media fans won’t make a fuss either, but can you imagine the uproar if Tanya (or anyone Labor) was so caught out?

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