Monday 26 August 2013

Australian elections

A friend of mine, scion of  a prominent Liberal family in Batley in the 1960s and 70s, and now living in Australia, has sent me these detailed views.

Dear Peter,

Oz election?  Apathy, contempt.  But I’d better explain.  Until recently we had two very unpopular major party leaders.  Most people never forgave Gillard for ousting the `people’s choice’ in Rudd, so she never had much chance with the voters, and with half the Labor party factions or the `faceless men’ who appear able to pull the strings in the background.  Rudd made appointments based on ability, rather than balancing factions, and that inevitably led to his initial demise, particularly as he became increasingly autocratic and upsetting many colleagues (as well as the big, powerful mining companies). He did, however, retain popular support as an articulate statesman.  

Equally, the Liberals have a popular articulate statesman in self-made man (via investment banking) Malcolm Turnbull, but he lost the leadership some years ago when his socialist tendencies led to sensible policies not extreme enough for the far-right Libs and he got toppled.  However, the Libs bungled the election and instead of putting one up against him, they put two – Hockey (our local MP) and Abbott.  Hockey and Turnbull split the reasonable person vote, and the 3rd choice Abbott got in. 

 Abbott is bereft of policy, other than saying No to anything Rudd or Gillard proposed, and is an extreme Christian right, 50 years behind the times, climate-change denier, notorious bully, dumb-arsed mysoginist, anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-asylum seekers, anti everything except helping his rich mates.  A dickhead, and unpopular as a result. Inexplicably as a former Rhodes scholar, he has severe foot-in mouth disease.  This week’s proclamations: `No man has a suppository of all knowledge’ (a smart arse!): asked to describe a female candidate’s qualifications, he said she had `sex appeal’; and yesterday he pronounced gay marriage as ‘just a fashion thing’. He blames Rudd for the downturn in the mining industry, totally ignoring the global financial crisis that struck everyone including China. 

Hockey is a nice enough bloke, but as Treasurer I wouldn’t trust him to handle the office tea money.  Equally bereft of policy, or a handle on finance. But sadly they’ll win.  The Labor dudes brought back Rudd to limit the damage in marginal seats; he’ll save some but not enough.  The independents who held the balance of power have had enough and retired and their seats will go Lib-Nat, and a lot of the western suburbs `Alf Garnet’ working classes will return to the Libs.  It’s further complicated by the terrible corruption being unearthed in the previous NSW state Labor government, and the current local anti-Labor sentiment in QLD.

Pity is that Rudd looks ineffective as a past PM because he couldn’t get anything through the previous Lib-dominated upper house or past the balance of power Greens.  Hence tax reform, mining tax (tax on super-profits from Australia’s natural resources), Emissions Trading Scheme, etc, all got watered down enough to be ineffective.  Sadly, the fact that Australia evaded the major economic impact of the global financial banking crisis due to past and present Labor government policy has been totally lost.  Rudd’s now even trying to outflank Abbott with extreme right policies, such as doing a deal with Paua New Guinea to take all illegal boat people.

The only good thing about the election is that the ABC comedy teams are out in force, having a field day – brilliant satire, though even they are complaining that with Abbott they can’t keep up with the gaffes.  An election that’s going to be decided in a few marginal seats, which renders the only choice for most of us being how exactly to spoil our ballot papers (I won’t, but it will nevertheless be a protest vote).  When Abbott gets elected, we’re all expecting international embarrassment, and are hopeful that Turnbull’s fans will see him overthrow Abbott, as the Labs did to Rudd and Gillard.



  1. Post script.

    Dear Peter

    I think things have deteriorated since I wrote (the above) – Rudd has failed to humiliate Abbott in debates, as was reasonably expected, mostly due to Rudd’s own mediocre performance as Abbott continues not to put up anything positive or cost it properly*. The polls indicate that Rudd’s second honeymoon is over. The Libs, I feel, in pole position are trying to keep Abbott quiet to avoid too many gaffes, though he couldn’t help himself on Friday by providing a solution to the illegal boat people (mostly refugees) by buying up Indonesian fishing boats on which they come. With a fishing fleet estimated to be in the region of 750,000, he didn’t explain how he was going to pay for it, nor what the Indonesians would do for fish, even if they were for sale. Complete f’wit, and I’m afraid our national embarrassment is upon us.

    Re attribution, you can but it may be awkward as Gareth Evans was also a well-known former Attorney General and Foreign Minister in past Labor govts and would no doubt cause some confusion.

    I re-checked my `facts’ re the previous Lib spill and the following is from Wikipedia, not the most reliable source. As I recall, Hockey wouldn’t stand against Turnbull and only nominated to try to keep Abbott out when it was clear Turnbull himself had a minority of support but, as I indicated, Hockey and Turnbull split the sensible vote in the first round, accidentally eliminating Hockey, who would otherwise have won against either Abbott or Turnbull in a 2-way contest.

    Cheers for now.

    *other than a crazy paid maternity leave scheme, which will cost top-end companies and the govt a fortune, and which only benefits high-earning new parents (as opposed to the current Labor scheme which costs much less and is the same for all, rich and poor). Not even women’s groups have embraced this, and most are critical, including many of his party MPs – it was conceived off the cuff by Tony without consultation with his colleagues when he was well-behind with female voters.

    A leadership spill of the federal parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party of Australia was held on 1 December 2009. The incumbent, Malcolm Turnbull, was defeated by Tony Abbott in a three-way vote of Liberal Party Members of Parliament (MPs). Joe Hockey also stood as a candidate. Abbott thus became the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Australia.
    The spill was the culmination of a dispute within the Liberal Party over its response to the Rudd Government's proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS). Turnbull supported the introduction of an ETS and sought to negotiate amendments to government's proposed legislation. Abbott came to represent many Liberal members of Parliament who were climate change sceptics or otherwise opposed the ETS. After Turnbull survived a spill motion (a motion to declare the leadership vacant[1]) against his leadership in late November 2009, Abbott declared his candidacy and a subsequent spill was moved on 1 December. Hockey—a moderate who had been a supporter of Turnbull's position on the ETS—also stood. While Hockey had been expected to win, he was knocked out in the first round of voting. Abbott subsequently defeated Turnbull in the second round, 42–41.

  2. Post post script

    Forgot to mention, some ABC journalists have mentioned that Abbott won’t appear on ABC programs, presumably because it’s safer to shut up than expose oneself to a grilling from his intellectual superiors – or biased lefties if some Libs are to be believed. Of course, he doesn’t mind talking to the extreme anti-Labor Murdoch press. I note Tom Watson is paying us a visit during the campaign.