An astonishing event in Canberra has seized the nation. Reeling from a record-breaking run of defeats, self-sabotage, own goals and sundry other debacles, a terminal Abbott government has defied the odds and at last notched up a win – of sorts. It has got its message out.
The victory is all the more remarkable given the Liberals’ record of deceit, evasion, broken promises, budget of injustice and studied disdain for any notion of governing for all Australians.
Abbott’s increasingly erratic captain’s calls have madness in them and there are alarming signs of contagion in Pyne and Hockey’s disturbed behaviour. The fish rots from the head down and David Cameron warns of the insanity of office and its unpredictability:
‘I’m not saying all prime ministers necessarily definitely go mad or even go mad at the same rates …’
Yet, rampaging madness aside, one run for Team Lazarus appears on the board at last. A few more skewed polls, News Corp propaganda and even a modest Baird victory in NSW on Saturday will have the party high fiving and twerking in the streets; crowing with righteous vindication and as out of control as a mob of schoolies on the Gold coast in December.
Its coaches and supporters confused, worn out, worn down or just plain stood down like Credlin on Murdoch’s orders, Team Abbott’s forces appear in total disarray. Now out of control in Credlin’s absence, his government has a future only in the history textbook, to be studied avidly by students of political dysfunction, with an interest in a government misled by its own rhetoric; routed by its own incompetence.
‘We need to get the message out’ its leaders continue chanting at the half-time huddle; ‘get the message out,’ but suddenly the message is confused, scrambled by Captain Qeeg Abbott declaring the scoreless first innings over. He knows his onions, Tony Abbott, he claims, waving papers and making strange facial movements as he does before he speaks or eats random, unusual root vegetables.
Suddenly skipper Abbott, is happy with the economic picture after all. He flourishes graphs which he says show we are ‘on trend’ to a miraculous near-recovery in five or so years. The line plummets into disaster ever after but, hey, he’s a glass half-full type of skipper and besides, his team must rest their heavy lifting muscles. Why, ‘we get very close to balance’ he grins, waving his own copy of ‘The Intergenerational Report,’ another lame work of propaganda he’s spent a fortune flogging. Another Goebbels line pops into his head but he controls his impulse this time. Yet the image says everything.
Flapping his pages, like a Tibetan prayer wheel Abbott explains, Qeeg-like why after rejection of the budget by the Senate and the people of Australia, he has brought HMS Team Abbott to a full stop.
‘The document shows that we have halved Labor’s debt and deficit going forward. Debt as a percentage of GDP which would have been 120 per cent under the policies of the former government is about 60 per cent under the policies of this government.’
The ‘good captain’ lets the crew know that they have done more than enough already, compared to Labor, if Labor were elected, ignoring data showing bigger deficits than anything his government had inherited; and continuing insanely to claim a better result than Labor would have achieved had it been re-elected and ignored the deficit.
God knows what he will do when the prohibited substances or the beer goggles of Murdoch’s Newspoll predictions or sycophant Ackerman’s helpless, hopeless, lovelorn ranting wears off.
The scoreboard, however, records its own clear message, the team is always getting out. Or so it went until only yesterday when the plucky little vice-captain, working a stray ball from the edge of Hockey’s bat off her left leg, played a blinder with her eyeballs.
Julie Bishop gets her message out, a message which shows clearly that she is not happy to have been excluded from the decision. Also signalled is that she is not a team player.
Bishop has never been a team player, but in a Liberal team of every woman for herself this itself should not be held against her. She lets the team know, however, by mugging for the television camera, rolling her eyes at Joe and shaking her head.
Her human-emoji message is picked up by everyone instantly, a laser-beam of real feeling and disunity piercing the fog of faux party unity and ritual public grieving in its indulgent public fawning over Fraser
Amidst its elephantine, public lamenting of the death of the dead wet Liberal Malcolm Fraser, a prolonged, outpouring of dutiful affection and ritual laceration, to rival Whitlam’s wake, a cocky Joe Hockey overshares by airing his own disturbing, dirty little secret.
Cutting budgets is fun, he crows like a lunatic, emboldened, swaggering as he speaks, excited to be holding court again instead of appearing before the judge in one all last week, and having to give an honest account of himself. His behaviour gives credence to speculation that the whole cabinet should be swabbed for drug use
Bishop purses her lips, fit to kill and stabs exquisitely manicured and lacquered fingers savagely at her Blackberry. If only she had done the same when, in opposition, she looked on fondly while Abbott used every dishonest and misogynist trick under the sun to attack Julia Gillard.
If only she had rolled her eyes and shaken her head when her legal boss had instructed her to make mesothelioma victims struggle every inch of the way in their rightful claim for damages against CSR, a delay which cost lives and caused incalculable misery
Hockey extols his love of razor gangs and the power it gives him to deny others, erupting, mid-eulogy, a mourner transported by grief, political opportunism, and vanity, a mad ham actor amidst the obsequies, arms outstretched theatrically like Moses stopping battle, forlornly, re-enacting his inner need for authority, acknowledgement, approval. Someone once must have said, ‘Jeez you’re a dag, Joe,’ so full of it, you should be in parliament.’ And Joe believed them.
The Treasurer lards his speech with fulsome praise for Fraser, Liberals’ iconic hero of Labor-bastardisation, anti-Medicare, anti-union, Viet Nam drafter, a conflicted, dyed in the wool stalwart of Western District squattocracy, a conflicted tragic hero who also held a torch for multiculturalism and human rights along with a steadfast and undying interest in his own cause
Hockey bores on inexorably on the virtues of the departed when, suddenly, he changes his narrative and gains everyone’s attention. Pollies pause their yawning, texting and checking of email. Emojis are abandoned for a moment.
To a hushed house, Hockey professes his yet unsated appetite for cutting up the plans and hopes of others and all such other urges as may be served in wielding the razor in Fraser’s ERC
Waxing to his theme, he announces his government has again pilfered the small change now left in the Foreign Aid budget, funding so subject to depredation it is now a pittance, a tiny, useless, token amount, such as Apple, BHP or multinational may pay in tax under Liberal governments in Australia.
Australia’s foreign aid budget, which has already suffered $11 billion in cuts since the Coalition was elected is like a magic pudding be cut again in May in its second budget carve up.
The ERC or expenditure review committee is extolled as another of Saint Malcolm’s ever expanding list of achievements. Razor gang founder; architect of world peace, multicultural harmony, trouser loss and depositor of pickled onions in guests’ pockets at parties, Frazer is a veritable Mother Theresa, Gandhi and Martin Luther King whose ruthless ambition caused him to bring down a lawfully elected government in a Machiavellian conspiracy of squalid, ruthlessness, class hatred and petty advantage.
Joe, doubtless, has his mind fixed on such higher pragmatism as he rises Zorba-like to wheel, arms outstretched as if in some mystic dance routine to invoke the neoliberal gods of Hayek and Friedman
While Hockey performs his lumbering parody of a conviction politician, Bishop, another parody in waiting, upstages him by revealing her displeasure. Joe would eat his words; do her bidding, grovel and beg on his knees before her but it is Turnbull who pulls off the master stoke with his deadpan line to camera on morning television.
Joe wanted us to respond like that, he grins archly, it was that sort of speech. Joe wanted us to roll our eyes and shake our heads.
In less than twenty four hours, the Liberals have broken their run scoring drought. Bishop has communicated with the nation through the eye of god without Credlin or her husband’s prior permission. With head and eyes alone, Bishop has spoken volumes about Liberal disunity, division and selfish ambition. In a gesture she has shown us all the worth of her captain’s reassurances about consultation and communication.
It is a victory of honest communication for a government of deceit and utter dysfunction, which despite its message wants to keep its true message in not risk it getting out, but after last Monday’s non-verbal stoush, no-one need be in any further doubt. Fraser’s spirit was alive and well, its legacy inescapable even in Abbott’s reborn, revised, revamped, consultative neo-Liberal party.