Turnbull is happy to pose with the few women he’s put in his cabinet; resolutely opposed to making the changes which will enable all women greater access to power.
Widely dismissed or derided as some sort of wacky, tacky political wasteland, The Silly Season is a series of brilliantly improvised theatre events enacted during our pollies’ summer holidays – full of surprises and novel events but packed with all kinds of significance about the direction of politics when parliament resumes in February.
Putting Out the Garbage performed on 29 December, for example, saw the unbeloved Mal Brough and the equally creepy, a-kissing and a-hugging, Jamie Briggs relegated to the back bench recycling centre, via a wheelie bin dump. Little Jimmy had gone bonkers in Honkers before Christmas but a delay was required for him to ‘inform his family’. If you require a little more honesty in government than this, expect to be disappointed in 2016.
Labor saw the Briggs-Brough dump as a West Wing style ‘take out the trash day’ a tactical dumping of several bad news items at once in order to blur the information and soften its impact ahead of a possible early election in March.
Garbage deserves to become a classic in transparency and government efficiency, a human resource meets waste management fusion routine with a dash of victim bashing thrown in to help gender inequality. Briggs’ apologists in the Murdoch papers described him as ‘decent’ and ‘a good man’ thereby invalidating both complaint and complainant.
If the anonymous female victim, a woman in her twenties, copped a bashing from News Corp reporters, Briggs, on the other hand, The Australian assured readers, would have the support of his colleagues who had pledged to use the Christmas break to reach out to their mate and try to find out where it had all gone wrong.’
Innovative paradigm shifters, it seems will have to sit this one out. As will the optimists. Women voters, on the other hand, continue to fall out of love with Turnbull and his government as its boys’ club rules are revealed to be entrenched.
A Liberal Party report to the federal executive, leaked on 27 December warns Liberals will lose relevance if the party doesn’t include more women. Yet if finds many barriers to women within Liberal ranks such as a ‘boys’ club’ culture; occasional chauvinistic behaviour from men; and exclusivity. Party processes are designed to ‘keep outsiders out’ and ‘perpetuate the power of those who hold political positions’. In brief, the Liberal Party works to keep men on top.
Nowhere is gender inequality more entrenched, than in the Turnbull government’s policy decision to make childcare more expensive by instituting 4.8 billion of cuts to family payments. Not only will this be devastating to single income and low income families, it perpetuates further inequalities. Unequal access to high quality, affordable childcare is a recipe for further income, gender, and social inequalities. Why would any intelligent woman vote for this mob?
In place of information, the PM offers glossy cameos showing ‘average families earning $115,000 and with two kids in childcare will be nearly $4000-a-year better off under a new Robin Hood childcare policy that will slash rebates for the rich to 20 per cent’, says Daily Telegraph national political editor and Liberal spin maven Samantha Maiden.
Withheld, however, as Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS points out, is separate modelling of the impacts of family payments and childcare packages and cohort analysis of impacts on single parent and couple families with children of different ages. ACOSS analysis presented to a recent Senate Committee Inquiry shows that a low income single parent family with two children would lose more than $60 per week or $3000 per year once their youngest child turns 13.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister’s radical new policy direction of doing whatever will work is a big hit. Rave reviews are rolling in from the meeja, that is to say the PM’s vast personal army of hacks, backers and craven Press Corp lackeys and Sam Maiden. Minister Christian Porter is moved to announce a thought bubble about innovative ways to reduce housing inequality which are sure to come about if he commissions a report. Two years in government and a report is the best he can come up with? It’s a ruse of course – a commitment to nothing but to be seen to be busy.
Turnbull’s veneer of optimism belies a hardened conservative intent on preserving privilege. He is breeding a dilettante government which wants to play like Christian Porter at making trendy, innovative changes urged on by a claque of supporters. Otherwise they’re pretty happy with the way things are.
Not all observers are overwhelmed. Some are rude enough to tell the emperor he’s wearing no clothes. Glyn Davis, Chancellor of Monash refuted Turnbull’s thought bubble that universities could be funded by business by observing that we lack the businesses to do that. Turnbull told him he was lacking in optimism and thereby letting his students down! (Working) class act Dave Oliver won’t have a bar of the new soap either. What about the workers?
Noting the employers’ views were more than adequately represented, the ACTU head noted that employees didn’t get a look in. ‘The workers pivotal to these new industries were barely mentioned’.
The current glut of business advocacy groups clogging our airwaves is less upbeat about innovation than they might be but as Dame-in-waiting Kate Carnell, herself, has noted massive support will flow once businessmen and some women hear their favourite buzz words tax reform and flexibility, code for cutting workers’ wages while lowering their own tax rates.
A possible snag here is that the forty per cent who paid no tax last financial year can hardly pay less but surely the spin-meisters come up with something else to ‘boost productivity’.
Nevertheless, we are in a new era. ‘Turners’ is seeking to ‘change the old politics’, he says. ‘No longer will politicians feel they have to guarantee that every policy will work’. Instead we’ll just suck it and see in a revolutionary trial and error process which is just so totally innovative and Facebooky and Googly it may well please even Ms Julie.
‘Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Just like start-ups’, he adds helpfully, not adding that ninety per cent of these fail. ‘We are to be driven by an ideas boom’ he said optimistically casting around for new policies, although he still can’t get the old ones to work. Who would have thought our biggest businesses pay so little tax.
Yet more is to follow. The show, which features a Where’s Wally segment for keen-eyed kiddies to search out a well-concealed Prime Minister, has two whole weeks left to run. No time at all for the air to be clear of the stench of rotting fish. And the smell of fear in the face of danger. Questions are as thick and fast as flies to an outback dunny door.
Who leaked Brigg’s victim’s photo? Who quietly released data revealing 40% of Australian companies pay no tax? Who delayed publication of the failure of Tony Abbott’s lavish $40 million dollar witch-hunt to get Bill Shorten? Who thought it good value to spend $100 million on consultants to show the Department of Defence how to save money?
Is Tony Abbott really pleading Mr Peta Credlin, Brian Loughnane’s case to replace Tim Fischer in the Holy See or is he just testing the water? Will Malcolm Turnbull ever show his face in public again or will he retreat like Howard Hughes to obsess over other people’s uncleanliness whilst he is consumed by counting his vast wealth in private?
Such are but some of the torrent of pre-season teasers, that fans of our national political virtual reality series remain glued to their screens. Audiences can barely make tea or put out the cat least they miss something. Will Malcolm Turnbull come out of hiding with his hands up?
On Monday, local shares may shed a further 1.8 per cent. The Australian dollar has plunged 1.7 per cent. Oil is down 6.2 per cent while global equities from China to Europe to Wall Street are falling. If he knows anything, he’s not saying. For a PM who boosted his coup prospects by boasting that he was a better economic leader than Abbott, he is certainly not choosing to lead from the front. Or is he reluctant to baffle us with his expertise? Scared he’ll frighten the horses?
Perhaps it has all got to him. Not only is the world economy on the skids he can do nothing to halt the slide at home. There are no interest rates worth cutting or any other levers to pull to help us weather an ever more likely recession. All you can really do at such times is create distractions and diversions.
Abbott camp-followers from the First Reich the veteran war horse Kevin Andrews and his World Family Congress pal Erich Abetz, a pair of dreadful old stagers are briefly hawking themselves around in a naughty naked self-interest duet. Boots on the ground , a call for universal military conscription to Iraq, is a toe tapper, to be sure, but unlikely to stop the show. Urging war can work to glue us together, true but their tacky performances are so clearly, shamelessly calculated to salvage their own miserable careers that even the Monkey Pod God Tony Abbott must surely be blushing.
With each surreal and fantastical twist, our national political drama fires our imagination. Is blinky Bill Shorten finished? Or is he merely winged by the rusty blunderbuss of the Royal Commission? Or will it take more than flat-lining in public opinion polls to kill him?
It’s hard to land a punch on Cap’n Catspaw, Shorten’s invisible adversary in The Lodge. An oily phantasm and hero of greed, the toast of coal-miners and global capital investment houses with addresses in the Bahamas, our current PM may be little more than a figment of our vain imaginations.
Or no less. Is the light on the hill the bonfire of all our vanities? A riddle wrapped in a mystery, swallowed whole by a mob desperate to unseat Abbott is hard to see as any sort of enduring national leader. Adani may love him as their mascot, yet do we want or need a PM more like Jay Gatsby than someone just a little more real? A lonely, frightened figurehead of a Government by a ruling class of unctuous superiority and privileged rapacity?
Will the finale feature a ‘gross-out’, an attack of projectile vomiting in a cheeky reference to Another Bucket for Monsieur in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life? Just don’t ask Peter Dutton. Or anyone else in a government machine whose sole achievement is to become so well-drilled in obstruction and evasion that it will only do Dorothy Dixers.
To be fair, any question with Abbott in it is bound to be a doozy. One thing, however, is certain. Expect further dirty tricks and the rattle of some very loose cannons as a zealous Monkey Pod room crew pursue their cargo cult aim of restoring their Dear Leader, top banana and suppository of all wisdom. For thereby lies their own redemption and even better superannuation.
The Monkey Pod Bruvvas hunker down every Thursday parliament is in to chew over their fate and ingest Chinese takeaway. The malcontents share little else beyond their hatred for Turnbull for overlooking them in his new cabinet.
Currently the group is said to be led by the untouchable Peter Dutton but the conch gets passed to others with axes to grind, including bottle black, red-blooded alpha silverback Berlusconi, World Family Congress, Mr Natural Family Man 2014, Kev Andrews who is currently that we’re all up shit creek in the Middle East unless we get into a real man’s fight.
Despite being dumped after a brief tour of duty in 2014-15, as Defence Minister, Andrews has lost no time in publicly putting his successor Marise Payne right. Fearlessly outspoken, his capacity for loyalty and self-sacrifice have doubtless assisted his parliamentary career. Five teams in the last fifteen years have been blessed with Andrews as Minister.
Clearly, noble Kev is keen to rescue Payne and her PM from accusations of incompetence or being soft on terror only hours after the government said it had ‘formally declined’ a US invitation ‘increase its contribution’ in Iraq.
‘It’s quite clear from the advice I received, and I was aware of what the American military personnel and defence leaders were suggesting, and that was for months they were suggesting that we needed forces on the ground in order to defeat ISIL.’
Andrews, further wished to make it clear that what was misreported as a jeer of ‘Ya ‘big girl’s blouse’ heard in the vicinity of the Monkey Pod Room was one of the boys letting off steam after a bit of ironing. Nothing to do with anyone’s view of the PM.
Andrews’ fearless and heroic call to give malingerers a boot up the date in Iraq will strike fear into the heart of evil-doers everywhere – except that part of Syria which is the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. There our own Dirty Digger Rupert Murdoch is on Dick Cheney’s team to prospect for oil.
Our boys must take the fight up to the evil death-worshipping, public-decapitating ISIS, thunders Kev. Tony Abbott’s clique has gone completely bananas with relevance deprivation disorder amongst other serious pathological conditions including putting Peter Dutton in charge.
Multinationals are up in arms over paying any tax at all as our national political theatre, pretends to be closed over the holidays. Sadly the true picture of tax evasion is unable to be revealed because we’ve just discovered that Indonesia is about to become an ISIS caliphate. If only they had got themselves good anti-terror laws like ours. Expect a lot more of this sort of diversion.
The fiction, that nothing is happening and that the nation needs to move along sonny, nothing to see here will be rivalled in the Turnbull government’s epic theatre of absurdity only when early in February its closed shop puts on a show of being open for business.