Abbott out; Turnbull buys in as Coalition heads toward civil war

The inimitable Urbanwronski has done it again. Many thanks as always.

Andrew Meares/Fairfax

Father of the house, Kevin Andrews conceived crackdown on pensioners.

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz fearlessly leads the charge of the right brigade this week into a stoush between his beloved team Abbott and the Pollyanna faction led by tub-thumping, sub-stumping $50 billion dollar man Christopher Pyne. Eric is out to keep the bastards honest

Abetz takes a pot-shot at the Turnbull’s government’s legitimacy, the issue of the political week if not the forty-fifth parliament’s lifetime, after sub-Marathon Mal’s hamstrung election performance, which saw the PM forced to fund his party’s manifest destiny to the tune of a million dollars.

Can he just do that? Millionaire Mal’s DIY fund-raising does not raise an eyebrow on ABC Insiders Sunday. Fran Kelly, Nikki Sava, Karen Middleton, all senior journos, see no problem posed to our democratic processes by a rich man buying a prime ministership. If Laura Tingle has reservations she keeps them to herself. “Do I look bothered?” Catherine Tate would say.

“He’s done it before,” Karen Middleton sighs, “and he’ll do it again.” Perhaps she recalls Turnbull’s desperate battle for Liberal preselection for the blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth thirteen years ago, when his opponent, Peter King, says Turnbull told him to “fuck off and get out of my way.”

Money talks – and often – in the Turnbull story. In 2003, Turnbull paid Alan Jones $5000 a plug to support him on radio, and won. Perhaps this time, too, his million dollar investment may help to stem rising Liberal Party disquiet. The election’s cost him too much personal authority to do it any other way.

. . . wept on camera . . .

Some say millionaire MPs do this sort of thing. Queensland Nickel donated $288,516 to PUP last December, a fortnight before sacking staff at the Yabulu refinery near Townsville. Nothing was left in the kitty to pay wages. Ewen Jones, then member for Herbert, wept on camera.

Pity us poor Liberals, Julie Bishop pleads on ABC’s Insiders, “we don’t have the rivers of gold that come from the union movement.” AEC ALP records do not match the Foreign Minister’s fantasy, showing instead a broad set of donors. In 2015, the CFMEU donated $50,000, yet WestPac gave $1.5 million. No-one challenges Bishop.

Most likely, however, Turnbull’s party was just caught short as its uber-rich supporters; fearing penury if super rules were to change, withheld donations.

A $500,000 lifetime limit on how much of one’s after-tax contributions one can make to one’s super is at issue. Currently the limit is $180,000 a year.

The IPA opposes the “diabolical” changes along with Coalition plans to impose 15% tax on income generated by balances above $1.6m. Director, John Roskam, says the changes are also clearly retrospective. So central is the IPA to controlling Liberal policy, this means the government is at war with its own brain stem.

Its civil war with the IPA aside, most of the Liberals’ pain is self-inflicted.

. . . Arthur is unable to recall.

In March the NSW Electoral Commission denied the party $4.389m in public funding because it accepted illegal developer donations for the 2011 NSW election via its “Free Enterprise Foundation”, a matter the ICAC needs expert help to sort out, hence its request to then Liberal Party Treasurer and President, now Coalition Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos. As yet, Arthur is unable to recall.

No big fan of Arthur, who was numbers man in Turnbull’s coup, an ear to the ground Abetz reckons the super changes were never properly ventilated and massively cost Liberal votes in Tasmania, an insight he has gained by door-knocking and national report.

“From right around Australia I got very strong feedback that that was not the way to go forth and I trust that we will revisit aspects of that policy.”

Can a party change its policy after the campaign? Abetz seems to think so. He’s not alone. Mad Dog Morrison, our reverse Robin Hood Treasurer, is on standby with a solution which may see the super changes watered down. Protect the rich.

In the real world over 31,000 people have lost their disability support pension in the past year, the biggest annual drop on record as several years’ worth of government crackdowns begin to bite. 90,000 may expect to undergo a medical review in the next three years. More “savings” are promised as Mad Dog Morrison has promised to find another $3.5 billion.

Don’t expect schools or hospitals . . .

It costs money to keep negative gearing for speculators and then there’s the cost involved in “fine-tuning” its super changes to protect the wealthy. Don’t expect schools or hospitals from this mob.

All of this challenges the notion of a mandate on policy his party took to the election; the current Liberal Party mandate mantra. “What mandate?” says Eric.

Unhappy Abbott camper Eric is bucking his party’s line on its campaign, a failed gamble on an early election double dissolution which has left its PM’s authority in tatters; its future on a knife edge.

“A lot of our colleagues see the election result as the barest of victories, if we can a call it a victory having declared victory two weeks out,” he growls.

For Turnbull toy dog Christopher Gertrude Stein Pyne, however, “a win is a win, is a win” and the whole election thing is just a game of footie, really. Bugger what the people actually wanted or what they thought they were voting for.
Mincing poodle, as Julia Gillard so aptly dubbed Pyne for his performances as Abbott’s yap dog in three years of relentless negativity in opposition, has done well out of our defence policy.

Pyne’s SA seat of Sturt is now secure thanks to the government’s astonishing flip-flop on protectionism to the tune of a $50 billion industry subsidy. The ASC will assemble a dozen frog submarines in the SA rust belt state, when it would be so much cheaper to have them made in France.

For half the price we could have had them made in Japan. and Germany quoted $20 billion and the subs to be delivered six years earlier.

. . . $490,000 for every vote . . .

Winning has not come cheaply. The $50 billion amounts to $468,000 per potential vote in Hindmarsh, $490,000 for every vote in Pyne’s Sturt and $480,000 for each potential Boothby vote.

It may sound expensive but it’s an investment not just in Pyne’s seat but in the democratic pork barrel itself, so vital to mandate creation. And it’s not a subsidy to car-makers, a prospect former Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, amen, hated.
For one per cent of the sub investment, car manufacturing would still be able to employ 200,000 Australian workers, directly and indirectly.

To be fair it wasn’t all about boats. Pyne does admit, along with dog-catcher Barnaby Joyce and other National Party campaigners, that they threw campaign talking points away – departing from the official script. Yet, although success came from not plugging policy, he does not hesitate to claim a mandate.

Also leading the charge in the battle of the mandate is lynx-eyed Attorney-General George Brandis, a chap who may have failed to explain metadata and who was unable to open a spreadsheet warning of a terrorist threat but who has got a safe pair of hands on everyone’s metadata, nevertheless.

. . . signed letter of permission . . .

Just in case, four days before the election, Brandis elevated the attorney general’s status. Anyone, including the PM, who needs to see Justin Gleeson, the Solicitor-General, now has to get a signed letter of permission from himself, a move which has legal experts legal experts describe as an “unnecessary impediment” to expert advice.

Members of the legal community point to a growing tension between the nation’s first and second law officers over various matters, including the 2013 same-sex marriage High Court case, the 2015 advice Mr Gleeson provided over changes to citizenship laws, and over the drafting of same-sex marriage plebiscite legislation, a matter which Brandis is overdue to report back to government on.

One of the new Cabinet’s first tasks after Governor General returns from France to swear them in after arranging armed transport and a special security detail for Mitch Fifield’s massive family Bible will be the wording of the plebiscite so that it is unlikely to succeed.

Of course, it may be that we never see the plebiscite at all – just as we will never see the secret agreement between the Liberal Party and the Nationals. It may request the government not to budge on same sex marriage, given that it can lead to polyamory, as Eric Abetz attests, or to bestiality, one of Cory Bernardi’s big bugbears. There is no mandate for a secret coalition agreement.

What the secret agreement is also likely to reflect is a Nationals push to nudge the Coalition even further towards Hansonism, given that One Nation’s support base comprises a fair muster of alienated single fathers who blame their marriage and relationship breakdowns on the Family Court.

. . . a kangaroo court . . .

One Nation which, apart from its familiar figurehead, is now a blokes’ party, attracts such voters with its policy of abolishing the Family Court and replacing it with a kangaroo court which it calls a community panel.

A mandate man, Brandis was under the illusion on Monday’s Q&A that this is Turnbull’s second term as elected PM. His memory lapses are eclipsed, however, in the company of Cabinet secretary Sir Arthur Sinodinos, who is appearing all over the media to talk up his government’s mandate while awaiting a call back from ICAC on Australian Water Holdings and the Free Enterprise foundation.

Now that the Turnbull government may attain a whopping seventy-seven seats in the House of Representatives of the forty-fifth parliament while the vote count continues in the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, shows Labor’s candidate Cathy O’Toole behind the LNP’s Ewen Jones by only a dozen votes, Liberals have been vigorously pumping the handle of the mandate organ.

Soon hagiographers rewriting the history of Australia Pty Ltd will be telling us this is Chairman Mal’s finest hour. Expect ballet and epic theatre to be commissioned in the Great Helmsman’s honour.

Mandate? Michaelia Cash is dashing into TV studios to madly impress us with her claim that the government has 700,000 more votes than Labor. Yet it is only true as a Coalition. Labor’s 4.3 million first preferences put it ahead while, if you total all minority parties, the government is outstripped.

As Guy Rundle points out, the mandate issue becomes even more vexed if you consider the fundamentally flawed nature of our democratic voting process where the Nationals with one million votes get 23 seats while the Greens get one seat after receiving 1.2 million.

. . . almost another million dollar man . . .

Amazingly making the same claim to a mandate is a pin-striped Malcolm Turnbull who is careful to be photographed with Martin Parkinson, Head of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and on $860,000 PA – almost another million dollar man proving to all Australians that because they are both using iPads this whole 21st Century innovation thing will be just a doddle.

What they are doing is not revealed because like the Coalition agreement it is secret and like our imports of asbestos in portables from China none of our business. What is likely to be on the iPad, however, will include the promotion of Zed Seselja whose opposition to same sex marriage is but a small element of his valuable contribution to good government in the forty-fifth parliament.

Team player and good captain, Tony Abbott will not be attending The Lodge for pre-blood-letting drinks Sunday night, says Julie Bishop. Nor will he find himself back in the cabinet, in a welcome sign that some sanity at least has prevailed in Mr Harbourside Mansion’s Point Piper decision making processes. Expect press releases to tell us he has a contribution to make in other areas.

Expect to hear a lot about the Coalition’s mandate to provide stable government; how we must knuckle under; pull together; go without to get us all on a “credible path back to surplus” and other unreal stuff. Watch out when Eric, Tony and Kevin find themselves surplus to requirements.

What is real is that the first shot in the Turnbull government’s war with itself has just been fired.

Always Someone Else to Blame

My thanks – as always – to Urbanwronski for permission to republish.

It was Getup; it was Labor’s lies about Medicare. It was the super changes. It was the electorate getting it wrong. It was a week of finding someone else to blame.

Liberal Party power broker, Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz, is almost quick enough off the blocks to lead of the Coalition’s nation-wide chorus of denial, its political feature of the week, with his bizarre defence of his party over its election rout.

For Andrew Nikolic, the 10.6% swing which lost him the marginal Bass to Labor’s Ross Hart resulted from a “dishonest, nasty, personal campaign.” That nicely clears up any confusion about the role of his refusal to talk with any but pro-Liberal voters.

Nikolic, former chair of the nation’s joint parliamentary committee on intelligence, accuses unions and Labor of deception “built around the core lie of Medicare privatisation”. He attacks GetUp! for peddling lies and frightening pensioners.

Yet GetUp! National director, Paul Oosting, says volunteers had communicated “clear facts about cuts to health education and renewable energy supported by Nikolic, whilst a funding crisis at Launceston General Hospital was of great concern to locals – as was the GP Medicare freeze which will price some families out seeing a doctor”.

The government’s nothing-to-see-here case was not helped, moreover, when Sussan Ley was put in witness protection for volunteering in May that she would lift the Medicare freeze but she was blocked by departmental red tape.

Rumours abound that Ley will be relieved of her post with some suggesting that world’s best minister, Greg Hunt, who has also been in witness protection during the campaign, will be an ideal Health minister given his outstanding success in environmental protection and his clean bill of health for the Great Barrier Reef.

One in twenty Australians already can’t afford to see a doctor. Yet the government’s extension of the Medicare freeze until 2020 means patients could face a $25 fee per consultation, according to the AMA. No mention of a red tape problem.

Dotty Scott Morrison is also quick to claim that the government was robbed. “Beam me up, Scotty” loves antics and theatrics and corny mock shock horror shows, but he has failed at the main game. He has not got a handle on the Treasury portfolio.

There’s the trust issue for starters. His PM would not even trust him with the date of his own budget. Surely he will be relieved of the post after his shocking campaign in which he sacrificed any shred of credibility remaining to him with his war on business, his childish charts and his own black hole in Labor’s hole and other loopy stunts.

The reason voters were dumb enough to be bluffed by Labor’s lies, he blusters Wednesday, was that the Coalition had run such a positive campaign.

Has he forgotten his own scaremongering: the Labor’s war on business scare; the certainty that Bill Shorten would run Australia like a union scare; the collapse of the housing and even the stock market negative gearing scare; the soft on border security leading to chaos on our borders scare; or Peter Dutton’s refugees taking Aussie jobs while simultaneously sponging up all our Centrelink scare?

Even his PM the day before is wearing what Barrie Cassidy calls his “shit-eating grin” and concedes that there was “fertile ground” for voters’ Medicare fears to grow. What he could say is that voters are intelligent enough to recognise that the Coalition’s moves amount to establishing a two-tier privatised health system.

Part of the “fertile ground” for this campaign is that Australians have heard this promise before. Many recall John Howard’s undermining of Medicare by failing to allow funding to keep up with costs and population growth.

Many others would also remember Tony Abbott’s disastrous 2014 Budget promise of “no cuts to health” and how the Liberals tried to introduce a $7 GP tax and hike the price of prescriptions while ripping billions out of public hospitals.

And surely all would recall how Turnbull took the opportunity of his very first economic statement, the 2015 MYEFO, to cut even further than Abbott, slashing $650m from Medicare rebates for pathology and diagnostic imaging, cuts which Pathology Australia, the Diagnostic Imaging Association and others said would increase the price of vital tests and scans beyond affordable for some Australians.

Yet it is still a stretch to claim that Labor tricked electors into voting for it. Scrutineers and electoral officals reveal Medicare may have cost the Coalition votes, it seems from this stage of the vote count, but did not boost Labor’s vote, as it might if people had been conned into believing they needed to vote to “save Medicare”.

In the meantime, as vote counting continues its glacial pace in marginal lower house seats as well as the senate, Tasmanians’ votes below the line on the ballot ticket for Labor’s popular Lisa Singh appear to be pushing her towards a senate seat.

Not only is Lisa popular, she, like Liberal Richard Colbeck, campaigned for a vote below the line, a trend which is likely to result in Eric Abetz, who easily accessed number one spot, receiving fewer votes than Colbeck, thereby signalling the end of party control over senate voting and some attenuation of Ubergruppenfuhrer Abetz’s authority over the Tasmanian Liberals.

The gobsmacked senator elect is on to something, however, with his suggestion that someone form a right wing Get Up, a theme also embraced by conservative party luminary Senator Cory Bernardi, who is once again said to be starting a group of right-thinking red-blooded Australians who aren’t already voting One Nation.

Cory’s new conservatives will nudge politics a little further to the right in response to the Liberals’ thrashing in the polls and the miraculous resurgence of One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, former guest of Her Majesty and latterly celebrity demagogue on the Today Show, clear signs to Eric Abetz and others that what voters are craving is another dollop of right wing nut-jobbery. A right wing GetUp would help, he reckons.

Yet there are a few hurdles ahead of Bernardi and Abetz, starting with the support the conservative cause already enjoys from the odd powerful press baron, almost all mainstream media including the ABC and all our captains of industry and commerce, their supporters, the well-funded lobbyists, think tanks, foundations and institutes.

Also on the lucky Liberal list now are Chinese language voters who get all their news from WeChat, which hosted a non-scare campaign information service which explained for the non English reader Labor’s plans for boys to use girls’ toilets.

Voters in the Victorian seat of Chisholm in Melbourne’s East were also told by WeChat how Labor was going to open the gate to refugees who would take jobs. Labor was going to increase the refugee quota at the expense of Chinese migrants.

Chisholm records a first-preference swing of 4.2% to the Liberal candidate, Julie Banks, and 5.6% away from Labor which is so low as to use scare tactics.

The volunteer-run WeChat social media campaign was organised by Gladys Liu, the Liberal party communities engagement committee chairwoman for Victoria.

Apart from being superfluous, Eric’s and Cory’s concept of popular activists telephoning voters, for example, and canvassing votes on the basis that big business really needed a tax break or that pensioners needed further hurdles to jump to get their paltry allowances may need a little re-thinking.

Voters are more likely to paint their bodies blue and lie about naked in the street to be photgraphed, an event entirely of our time in the recent “Sea of Hull installation”, another of Spencer Tunick’s, true-blue artworks.

Yet Abetz is no lone wolf. His whingeing echoes his hapless Prime Minister’s petulant victory speech at the Wentworth hotel, such an ugly dummy spit that it even causes seasoned sourpuss Laurie Oakes some grief.

“It is the first time that I have seen a bloke that has won the election give a speech that saying we was robbed,” Oakes says on a Channel Nine chat show that also doubles as an election night special.

The “we was robbed” theme is continued at the end of the week by the dynamic Arthur Sinodinos who appears on ABC Insiders to demonstrate in person that his party has learned nothing, claiming the results as a mandate for tax reform.

Oddly, none of the journos present asks Arthur whether his memory has recovered enough for him to be able to assist ICAC in what he did in the 25 and 45 hours a year he spent working as a director for AWH 2008-11 to justify his $200,000 salary.

We were robbed. Not that the candidates were out of touch or that their policies were duds. All voters were offered the usual hollow slogan of jobs and growth with the promise of a tax cut for the top four per cent – surely an irresistible package. Plus extra stability.

Denial is capably assisted by scapegoating and blaming. Already recriminations are flowing thick and fast while Tony Abbott is getting fan mail on ABC from the likes of Andrew Probyn. Is a bit of factional sand-bagging already taking place?

The consensus on Sunday’s Insiders is that Abbott played a blinder of a campaign even helping out others such as poor George Christensen, one of the Liberals’ Lost Boys, and deserves a Brownlow for best non-sniper on the field and that he cannot possibly be linked to the salvoes of criticism which underminded his nemesis Turnbull from Sky media celebrity Peta Credlin. Nor will he in any way benefit.

Abbott does have a little jab at Malcolm on 2GB in yet another on-air rub down with Cronulla riot demi-urge Alan Jones. The big issues like budget repair, national security, and border security were underplayed in his opinion, aired for everyone’s benefit, along with a lot of rugby playing analogies that leave no doubt that after a spell on the bench, Abbott is waiting to be picked again for the firsts.

Stop the press. Tosser Turnbull has claimed victory, Bill Shorten has conceded defeat.

it’s an odd speech about good government a phrase which recalls “good captain” Abbott who promised the same, not long before he, too, got thrown out.

Tosser waffles about “building on the strength of our economy”, with a bit about how we get him wrong and how he is not an unduly sentimental fellow and how he was holding his grand-daughter when Bill Shorten rang him and sod the present, it’s all about the future and our grandchildren. We are trustees for our future generations.

Has he been on the single malt again?

Perhaps Turnbull’s had a Damascene conversion. Perhaps he’s about to ring Birmingham and Sussan Ley. Tell them he’ll put back the $70 billion that his government ripped out of health and education.

Could someone get Greg Hunt on the phone? It is too late to ring Howard about getting the profits of the minerals boom back? A word with Keating about QANTAS and the Commonwealth bank, the infrastructre he sold off for a song?

There’s a bit about democracy too, just to keep the Mineral Council of Australia happy, not to mention the long list of lobbyists and powerful backers to appease.

Many of us remember what the Minerals Council of Australia did to subvert public discussion on the Mining Super Profits Tax. Or what Clubs Australia did to stymie gambling reform, or what Big Coal did to Emissions Trading Scheme – the “Carbon Tax”.

Now it’s all over bar the shouting. The blood-letting. The blaming. Will Turnbull be able to manage a slim majority and a cross bench of nine? He had the odd spot of bother with the last mob. And they had no Pauline Hanson. No Derryn Hinch.

How will he go with a leaner Liberal Party but a fatter right wing, a “broad church” with a rabble of conservatives pointing the finger at the Sinodinos faction of wets, circling cabinet positions and backbenchers bitching and ranting about their betrayal, now every one of them a king maker?

Whatever the outcome there’ll be someone else to blame.

A party room meeting is scheduled for Monday.