Month: March 2016

Donald Trump, a sub-prime legacy.


Donald Trump declaring women who have abortions should be punished


Donald Trump is in the news again this morning. He’s thrown another toy out of his playpen. Not Megyn Kelly. This time he’s calling for women who have abortions to be punished. Or something.

In an interview with someone called Chris Matthews on MSNBC, the Donald uttered a construction about punishment and abortion that even he had to go back on. What he meant, he said some time later, is that doctors performing abortions should be punished.

Well, that’s cleared that up, then. Donald Trump wasn’t just airing his stupidity or desperately bidding for our attention. He wasn’t just pandering to the basest prejudices of the ignorant and benighted. Or acting (badly) the high school class clown role that is part of his shtick. Except that class clowns are usually smart.

It’s great to have closure. Everybody says so. Got to have closure. If only we could market closure. But just one nagging question. What does Donald Trump mean?

The Donald himself is an enigma- not only to himself, but to all the rest of us. How else to account for the millions of words analysing, diagnosing The Trump Phenomenon? It’s become a growth industry; the only game in town. Therapists, especially, love him for his pathology.

Clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis raves about Trump. To him, the Donald is a walking textbook definition of narcissistic personality disorder. “He’s like a dream come true.” Or a nightmare.

“He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics,” he says. The Donald is going to save doctors a lot of money in resource materials. Other politicians just talk about making a contribution to public life.

It is fascinating just reading about one more thing that makes Trump newsworthy if not noteworthy – or even a little bit epic: Trump the living pathology specimen. Oliver Sacks fans eat your heart out. There’s a musical or a mini-series or both just in the title.

But in Australia NPD is so yesterday. In our political arena, narcissistic personality disorder just qualifies a person for office. Or to run the Prime Minister’s office.

Michaelis would have a field day in Australia. Our last Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, vowed to shirtfront Vladimir Putin. He ate a raw brown onion on camera while his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin ran his office for him largely by telling his colleagues how insignificant and unworthy they were and humiliating them in public. How she always had to get the job done.

Now Abbott jets around the world taking selfies with world leaders and eating the real Prime Minister’s foreign policy lunch by making a string of macho announcements. How we need to get tough with the Chinese. Terrorists. How the next election will really be all about his agenda. How other governments should deal with refugees.

No-one knows why but all signs point to NPD and an excess of available testosterone. Or relevance deprivation syndrome. None of which our current PM Malcolm Turnbull suffers from but he’s a classic NPD for sure. No idea of policy or platform but a series of whistle stops and thought bubbles offered up for the rest of us to gratefully admire or he gets testy. Or retracts.

Some unkind idle onlookers call the Donald stupid. The same has been said about our NPD. But being  dumb does not disqualify you from high office. Look at Ronald Reagan. He looked the part. Ron was the talent the conservatives wanted in the role. He signed everything the neo-neo cons put before him. And Nancy did everything for him in the latter years of his second term. Almost went to the bathroom for him. And look how well that turned out.

In the course of two terms the US went from leading global creditor nation to leading debtor nation. Reagan helped create vast armies of poor and dispossessed; an embittered alienated underclass that just love Trump. We have one forming nicely here, too. But we blame the poor for being a drain on government expenditure. Say one thing about the Donald. He loves the poor. They love him back.

They love it when the Donald gets tough with the world. How he’s going to war with China. How he’ll make America great again. In Australia our PM simply pours billions into submarines and fighter planes with the same insane objective. Such a vote winner.

Critics of the Donald say he is a bit slow and strange but don’t they remember Gerald Ford? Lyndon Baines Johnson said that Ford was so dumb he couldn’t walk and fart at the same time. Johnson could and took pleasure in forcing his guests no matter how important to continue conversations with him while he relieved himself. That’s not strange that’s colourful.

Don’t be so harsh on the Donald. He is an asset to public life. He reminds us of the intersection of politics and show business that is our modern age. Or should that be a car wreck? He is a living reminder of how the media circus long ago became the centre of everything as a wise Canadian named Marshal McLuhan once or twice pointed out.

If the media is the massage, however, spectacle is the new substance. The Donald is a beacon to alert us to that. He’s also a type of prophylactic. If you don’t vote, look what can happen to your public life. He’s doing wonders to bust the bejesus out of political apathy. And my how he’s working wonders with the art of political debate.

One debate on news unfortunately around meal time had the Donald making reassuring noise about the size of his member. From its TV presentation, US presidential political debate is a warning to all of us. It resembles a bad segment from a Big Brother reality TV show in which none of the contestants can come up with anything interesting and witty or relevant to anything but each one desperately wants to win the prize by staying in the house the longest even if it comes down to a gross-out.

Some say the Donald shows how the art of the debate has been debased into mudslinging and the exchange of preposterous, unfounded assertions. Most of what Trump trumpets is like this. How he’s going to build a wall to stop illegals coming up from Mexico. How he’s going to slap tariffs on manufacturers who move north of the border to avoid US tax. None of this he can do. No president can do. Bear with the theatre of the absurd.

A few fusspots fear that the Donald simply doesn’t make sense but to his listeners he does. Like all populist demagogues he says what people want to hear or what they think he says they want to hear. His utterances are a new benchmark in incoherence – one academic dignified them by comparing them to the stream of consciousness in literature but for Trump it really is closer to a stream of unconsciousness  – a key semiotic marker of the decline of public discourse.

Others say the Donald is a fake. He pretends to be an amazing self-made business tycoon but the fact is he’s had a barrel of financial disasters and a history of sharp practice after he had the bad luck to inherit wealth. You’ll narrow the field too much if you apply this standard to your leading public figures. Here we’d have to disqualify our own Prime Minister.

Scholars argue that the Donald is a creation of the Republican party. Others  claim he and Sanders are creatures of the times. One thing is certain, Trump cannot be simply explained away. As in Australia, and in other western societies suffering even more the economic consequences of the GFC and the neo-con fantasies of wealth from toxic sub-prime loans which contributed to it, the Trump phenomenon, the Donald’s populist insurgency is one to be heeded most carefully. In the end he holds a mirror up to ourselves and our political times.

Bob the builder blows Malcolm Turnbull’s credibility on ABCC.


Bob Day

The $60 million Cole royal commission, which consisted of 23 volumes, referred 31 individuals for prosecution. But it resulted in how many prosecutions and how many convictions? There was not one single criminal prosecution, let alone any finding of guilt.                                 Brendan O’Connor


Family First senator Bob Day bobs up all over the media these days. He makes himself endlessly available to tell anyone who’ll listen that corruption is rife in the construction industry. Corruption! He repeats his mantra with righteous fervour. No matter that tax-payers have just spent $80 million on a two year Royal Commission into Union Corruption with very few prosecutions coming out of its witch-hunt. He has a much better plan!

We must all go back a decade or so to the Howard era and restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission. No matter that we already have a Fair Work Building Commission effectively on the job.  No matter that Day as head of his own highly profitable building and construction empire can hardly claim to be a disinterested bystander. He’s an urger with an anti-union agenda who has proposed that young workers “put themselves out of the system,” trading away their entitlements, holiday and sick leave just to get a job. But the government can’t get enough of him.

PM Turnbull and Workplace Minister Michaelia Cash and others are happy to gee Day up in their mission to wilfully mislead voters and the Governor General, that an ABCC is urgently required for the Turnbull government to continue its policy programme when the bill was first introduced in November 2013. They misrepresent its nature.

The ABCC will be a “tough new cop on the block” or “a watchdog,” when Blind Freddy can see it’s an excuse for an early election via double dissolution for a Turnbull government plummeting in popularity as voters lose patience with its division, indecision and policy vacuum. And voters have memories of the fiasco of the ABCC first time around.

Introduced in 2003 by the Howard government, after the Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry and in operation until repealed by the Gillard government in February 2012, the ABCC made workplaces more dangerous and workers and decreased productivity. It was a perfect storm of bad industrial relations and bad law.

Unions were not allowed meeting time to discuss health and safety. Deaths on construction sites resulted. Workers were harassed, subject to secret interrogations. They lost their common law right to remain silent. Reversed was the onus of proof. Officials could enter premises without a warrant; demanding names and addresses. You could go to jail if you didn’t cooperate.

Bob Day doesn’t tell us these less attractive facts. Like Tony Abbott, whose union baiting Day is channelling, the senator is a mine of misinformation and deception.  He won’t let the truth get in the way of his crusade against organised labour.

For Day, corruption is an established fact rather than an unproven, prejudicial allegation, an unconscionable slur which Tony Abbott shrewdly enshrined in the title of Dyson Heydon’s Royal Commission. Corruption, moreover, is a word which needs to be repeated as often as possible.

As for the ABCC,’s STASI like powers, Day is as silent on its extraordinary powers, as he is on its limitations to civil and not criminal law. Yet he is vocal about its advocacy even suggesting that an ABCC type outfit could be part of everybody’s workplace.

“Given the government has established an anti-corruption measure in the ABCC to (the construction) sector then I can’t see any reason why … if it were to emerge that there were corruption that my colleagues identified in other sectors why wouldn’t they establish a similar anti-corruption measure for those sectors,” he tells the ABC.

Day puts himself forward as a spokesman, a service which other cross bench senators forcefully decline. Despite this, Malcolm Turnbull says Day is “showing real leadership” in acting as a broker. For the ABC and other mainstream media, this makes Day an important source, a de facto leader of the independent senators when in fact he is more of a Liberal Party stooge, a means for the LNP to “outsource its negotiations with the senate,” as Brendan O’Connor puts it.

Michaelia Cash threatens that the government will only negotiate with the crossbench on the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill as a bloc of at least six, and will not accept any amendments that will “compromise the integrity” of the ABCC, as if she were in a position to dictate terms. Or that ABCC and integrity are even words that you can put together.

Day is now Malcolm Turnbull’s pet senator; his preferred point of contact and even lead negotiator with the cross bench. But just who is this man?

A former Liberal candidate in 2007, Day resigned from the Liberal Party to contest the senate in 2013. Owner and director of a large and prosperous construction empire, he is head honcho of Homestead Homes and Home Australia, which owns large building companies in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. You wonder how Bob the builder fits in any political work at all. Then there’s all the breathless media work.

Day bobs up regularly all over Auntie and other tame media outlets assuring anyone who will listen that the construction industry is run by a bunch of crooks. It’s defamatory, it’s damaging and it’s wrong.

Day’s sweeping assertions are not only calculated to smear those who work in the construction industry, they use loopy logic.  “What goes on” he says, on some building sites is hurting people and driving up the price of homes”. No chance that speculative investment and the work of property developers like himself drives up the price of homes.

Bob doesn’t have to provide real evidence. He just knows, because, in real life, he is in the construction industry. Not that he’s corrupt, of course, despite his cosy chats with the PM or the fact that he is pushing the Abbott/Turnbull agenda as hard as he can.

Bob can’t even point to the  PM’s shonky Independent Economics report. It was commissioned by the Master Builders Association and is discredited by the Productivity Commission. And even the Master Builders know that you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia tells the ABC “those people who are saying this is about dealing with criminality and corruption are missing the point about the ABCC bills.  The matter of criminality and fraud are totally separate from the Australian Building and Construction Commission.”

Talking to ABC’s Greg Jennett, who is typically indulgent, Day explains that the ABCC

… should never have been abolished. It was like taking customs officers out of airports and criminal activity skyrocketed. We need to bring them back.”

Except that it didn’t, Bob. Except that it is a totally false analogy. Except that the ABCC reduced productivity and increased workplace accidents and fatalities.

But Bob the builder keeps on bobbing up like a turd in the surf at Bondi. No-one calls him for being a Liberal stooge; a seasoned, self-interested union basher whose toxic scare campaign  and smearing of the construction sector is the last thing any of us need let alone an industry interested in improving its productivity.


Tony Abbott gets set to wreck Turnbull’s campaign.

abbott mouth open


Since losing the Prime Ministership, Tony Abbott, an MP since 1994, would like to continue to “make a contribution to our public life”. Or so he says. Do we have it in writing?

A born team player, Tony’s organising Tony Abbott Unplugged, The Tour, his own mobile “protect my legacy” election campaign in marginal seats, because no-one officially invited him to take part. Would any sane Liberal apparatchik want him near a voter?  Stop the votes!

Someone should tell Tony that if you can’t make a contribution in twenty-two years, you are wasting your time. And other people’s. But let’s be fair, it’s not as if he contributed nothing.

By most people’s reckoning, Abbott made a negative contribution; a leadership deficit his party is still paying for. The country has yet to recover. Tell him he will go down as a footnote of political history, a human wrecking-ball.

But nobody ever could tell Tony Abbott anything he doesn’t want to hear. And just because he walks on two legs, it doesn’t make him human. Ask Erich Abetz. The android Liberal spear-carrier’s mission is to flatter Abbott by incessantly demanding his hero return to cabinet. Reinforce his delusion of a return to power.

This week, Abetz is detailed to help Abbott “make a contribution” by bagging Turnbull. He dredges up Godwin Grech to remind Fairfax readers that unlike his hero, Turnbull is not just Machiavellian, he lacks both judgement and character.

Voters will make up their own minds. A Reach Tel poll last December found that most of voters in Abbott’s safe Liberal seat of Warringah want him to retire. Abbott’s response was a counter claim, on Sky:

“I’ve had literally thousands and thousands of messages of support and encouragement since mid-September,” 

He’s not mentioning the hate mail. The death stares. Those folk, Bob Ellis says who “vomit at the sight of him”. The list is growing. Abbott’s incessant war of words on his nemesis, the oleaginous poison toad Turnbull have not endeared him to former supporters Former Liberal leaders, advisers and political experts insist Abbott call it quits.

Liberals want to protect a conflicted, divided, party in trouble with ICAC in NSW for concealing the identity of donors, a shifty move which could cost it $4 million in campaign funds unless it dobs in its sponsors.  Luck with that. They fail to see Abbott’s prime ministership as a symptom of their mess. What they do see, however, is that Abbott’s hanging around only to white-ant the current leader and whinge that he should take his place.

Liberals know the damage Tony did last time he tried to be leader. Niki Savva records in The Road to Ruin how Abbott retreated into the PM’s Office, giving extraordinary power to his assistant Peta Credlin, overwhelming her. Credlin coped by obsessing over small details when she could not manage the large.

Part of Abbott’s legacy, his “contribution” is his unconditional support for a woman who enjoyed abusing her power and her staff next to poring over renovations for The Lodge whose budget blew out to $11.61 million dollars, five times the initial estimate causing Malcolm Turnbull to call in the auditors.

Despite the mud-slinging from pro-Abbott quarters and Peta Credlin, Savva’s account is not invention or unsubstantiated rumour or Turnbull’s revenge but testimony from credible sources who suffered the Credlin captivity of the PMO.

Not only did Abbott and Credlin collude to strangle vital communications with MPs, they helped cause policy and management paralysis with their obsession for centralised control and their total lack of trust. They also conspired to wreck people’s lives. Savva records many who were bullied off the job.

Jane MacMillan, a former director of Abbott’s press office, says that

“the dysfunction was hidden in the early days, spoken about in whispers, intimated. But it didn’t take long for the initial courtesies to be done away with and for the dysfunction to surface.”

“The office was regularly held hostage to Peta’s moods. She would disappear, be uncontactable — or, worse — be present to single people out in group settings, and bully them.’’

Staffers, Shane Evans and Fiona Telford also attest to Credlin’s volatility and lack of respect. Tony Abbott aided and abetted such abuses of power by endlessly appeasing Credlin; expecting her to do his job for him.  The Prime Ministership was another job he couldn’t do.

Abbott got into politics after being not that good at anything else. Even a nation largely indifferent to politics could see he wasn’t cut out for PM after his first budget, where he broke all his promises. Someone needs to tell him to go.

But what good what that do?  Clearly Abbott believes he has made a contribution and not just his gifts to our language such as the three word slogan; his suppository of all wisdom or his two kinds of promises, those you hear from his lips and those which are true because he’s put them in writing. It’s casuistry worthy of a Jesuit if only it were worth anything at all. Most of Tony’s words are like that. But that’s not how he sees himself.

You only have to read the narcissist’s latest Quadrant essay modestly entitled Why I was Right about National Security to see that in his mind he was an enormously successful Prime Minister at home and on the international stage with a government whose every action was calculated not for show but to make a difference.

In other words Abbott is a seriously, irredeemably, dangerously self-deluded egomaniac. Or simply full of it. Or both.

Does Australia need further public displays of brown onion-eating? Do Australian Muslims need another dog whistling politician out to whip up a bit of hatred to serve his own ends? Do we need another protector of privilege who will subsidise big business but wage war on the poor? Do we need the architect of disadvantage to crow over how he defunded hospitals and schools to the tune of 80 billion?

Perhaps we do. Perhaps Abbott’s “contribution” is the best thing that could happen to a Turnbull government. After all,  it still follows most of Abbott’s wretchedly ill-devised “reforms.” It continues his hostility to climate or any other science. It reeks of his homophobic mistrust of social progress over marriage equality and his wholesale embrace of an IPA agenda because neither he nor his successor have any worthwhile ideas of their own.

If you need any help with fuel for you campaign bus, Tony, I am sure we could organise a quick whip-round. Abbott stopping the votes on the hustings in the marginals? Abbott reminding everyone that Turnbull’s government is the same python with a different head? Abbott helping the Liberals to a thoroughly well-earned break from power? Bring it on!



Turnbull declares war on Abbott with his captain’s call for an early election.

turnbull leans to the left


After six months of mind-numbing indecision and ineptitude, Australia’s incredible shrinking PM is suddenly judged “bold”, “canny” a “man who can transform his prime ministership in one fell swoop.”

Veteran Turnbull groupie, Mark Kenny has a crush on the new Power-Mal which produces a purple patch which owes a bit to the Scottish play and a bit to King Canute with a nod to the valour of the old time Bondi surfer south of the Ocean Outfall Sewer.

“In one fell swoop, the Prime Minister has taken control of a sea of floating imponderables.”

Canberra’s press claque are all over themselves Monday to flatter Captain Malcolm Bligh Turnbull. Malcolm (wedged) in the middle is at last acting like a leader, they rave, yearning for a strong leader to bound through the surf like a bronzed Adonis with a life belt to save us from ourselves and monsters of the deep like Cory Bernardi, who, flushed with terminally endangering Safe Schools is up for more of the same against equal marriage.

Clearly, the Press Gallery forgives the PM for his dodgy right wing speech about our place in our region at the Lowy Institute Wednesday where he forgets to include the Pacific and leaves out all mention of “our dear friend New Guinea” as Julie Bishop refers to the island paradise to our north which minds Manus for us.

Most alarmingly, he insists, in a bit of an Abbott-like rant that Syrian refugees may be ISIS terrorists:

“Recent intelligence indicates ISIL is using the refugee crisis to send operatives into Europe.”

However many points he thinks he is winning from Abbott and the monkey pod room at home, the rest of the world is underwhelmed. Belgian ambassador to Australia, Jean-Luc Bodson, rebukes Turnbull for playing into ISIS propagandists’ hands, ” making a confusion between terrorism and migrants and between terrorism and Islam.”

Abbott, on the other hand, is still looking at himself in the mirror. The former PM has just published a well-timed reminder of his genius as a world statesman in an essay in in Quadrant Sunday celebrating his boat stopping, his disdain for wimpy human rights groups and congratulating himself on the achievements of his two year crack at the top job.

Modestly entitled I was right on national security, Abbott’s essay will be an absolute godsend to any Australian conservative Prime Minister seeking re-election who is in need of a reminder of how his predecessor was so much more than he could ever be.

Turnbull will learn how Abbott “put aside the moral posturing” and got on with the job of “making a difference”, a motive which lay at the heart of everything his government did.

Turnbull, on the other hand, can’t resist a good moral posturing even if he fails to do his homework first. In January, in Washington in his first foreign policy speech, he called for the UN convention on the Law of the Sea to be upheld. The PM was trying to persuade China to behave itself in the South Pacific but the ploy backfired when it was pointed out that the Law of the Sea is one which Australia has flouted over Timor Leste.

This week, 10,000 people demonstrate at the Australian Embassy in Dili Timor-Leste, calling upon Australia to adopt fair and permanent borders in the Timor Sea. Protesters claim East Timor had lost $6.6 billion in oil and gas revenues to Australia under provisional arrangements for resource sharing between the two countries.

John Howard a former Liberal leader, recently canonised St John of the double-cross at a Sydney Liberal anniversary back-slapping back-stabbing dinner featuring an Abbott cheer squad floor show, pulled a swiftie on East Timor according to UN officials and local politicians who accuse Australia of taking advantage of East Timor’s economic and strategic vulnerability in pressing for an early signing of the treaty in 2002.

Since Australia bugged their cabinet rooms in 2004 to take the guess-work out of our diplomacy, East Timorese feel we ripped them off in our oil and gas treaty and demand justice in The Hague. We are, however, under Bishop and Turnbull both agile and innovative in our support of our regional neighbours. We won’t be letting our spy who set up the bugs leave the country.

Currently, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop denies a passport to former ASIS agent, known as Witness K, preventing his giving evidence at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague about an operation to bug East Timor’s cabinet rooms during negotiations with Australia over an oil and gas treaty in 2004.

“It will prejudice Australia’s national security to allow him out of the country” to tell the truth, her office says, – not mentioning it would lead to the repudiation of our 2004 oil and gas treaty.

Turnbull will doubtless have an agile solution handy. After all, he justified his knifing of Abbott as just taking care of business, something he had to do as the servant of the god of better economic management.

A movie could do the trick. The Immigration Department has just completed its $6 million anti-refugee blockbuster, The Journey, which explains why you should not dream of leaving your troubled country for Australia. Film apart, who would want to risk a returned Abbott-style Turnbull government?

This week the PM’s scheming with his new chum the Governor General is all over the media. Turnbull will get rid of the senate cross bench, organise an early election and wedge his rivals, a cunning plan which has the press gallery gobsmacked. The truth is more prosaic.

After six months’ dithering Turnbull is panicked into a high-stakes gamble. After half a year of capitulation to a rabid Liberal right wing our PM is frightened he is being found out to be an imposter.

A new, dramatic role is called for with bold new lines.  Somehow, despite paying a fortune to keep a small army of advisors fed and watered, he embraces “continuity and change” which is ” the most meaningless political slogan we could think of” according to a VEEP writer. Julia Louis-Dreyfus says she is dumbstruck and laughs hysterically at him from the other side of the world.

With continuity and change on his side, Turnbull won’t be letting Abbott kick sand in his face any more. Or suffer George Christensen’s homophobic hi-jacking of the party room. Or stand by while opinion polls confirm what his opponents got right in 2009, he is rubbish at being Liberal leader; a disaster as a Communications Minister let alone a Prime Minister. Above all, don’t let him open his mouth overseas.

Turnbull announces a cunning plan. Recall parliament early. Push for a double dissolution election 3 July. He neglects to tall Scott Morrison, insisting, later, that he was “in the loop”. On Lisa Wilkinson’s Nine Networks’ breakfast television show, it seems that “the loop” is effectively a cabinet by-pass. “A small circle of people” were told, he tells Lisa. Those he trusts.

Perhaps, as with Abbott who also concentrated power narrowly, replacing cabinet with “a small circle” is why we are seeing even more dud decisions recently.

Turnbull rules through a DIY coterie which includes his wife, Lucy, the colourful bean counter Arthur Sinodinos, his assistant and- anyone- but- Pyne Education Minister, Simon Birmingham and of course the Attorney General George Brandy who refused to allow Dreyfus to see his diary because of the unreasonable burden it would place on him and his staff .

In December a tribunal ruled that Brandis was not only not complying with the aim of the Freedom of Information Act, his behaviour was “thwarting the intentions of parliament”, thereby making him uniquely valuable to any cabal dispensing with cabinet government.

It is not known if household pets are permitted to contribute to the proceedings at Salon Turnbull but Arthur Sinodinos, the PM’s numbers man in his coup is threatened with a rolled-up newspaper if he tramps any more ICAC droppings into the house. Labor is asking for Sinodinos to resign over his involvement in the Liberal Free Enterprise Foundation which effectively laundered the identity of donors to the NSW Liberal Party.

Former Abbott political pet, Scott Morrison the boat stopper cum champion Abbott cabinet leaker who is now said to be Treasurer, despite all budget work now being done in Turnbull’s PM&C Office was not only excluded, he was slapped down in two radio interviews which Turnbull subsequently gave.

“I believe that government should look at these issues very carefully, take all of the matters into account, confer confidentially in the cabinet and then, when we make a decision, announce it, rather than providing hints and leaks, and briefs and front running,”

Turnbull says in a clear demonstration that he’s secretly a very tough dude who’s prepared to duke it out with bare knuckles if necessary. He will make foreign policy announcements and not Tony Abbott, who just happens to be in the UK visiting his old pal David Cameron, as former great world leaders do.

World statesman Abbott is able to get on TV with London images of bridges over the Thames and buses behind him claiming that Turnbull is only running an Abbott agenda anyway; a fellow-traveller.

It’s tough but Turnbull goes back on radio to do a Tony slap-down, insisting feebly that the innovation vibe, the amazing deals with media ownership laws — which may well not be passed this year anyway — and his cities policy make this election clearly all about him.

New, improved, with added aggro, Tough-guy Turnbull ‘s warned us and Tone recently that he’ll publicly correct the record when necessary. The electorate readies itself for a campaign with policy by slap-down, an innovative approach to an election nobody wants over an issue few can be bothered by with.  Peta Credlin helpfully comments that it is war between the Abbott and Turnbull camps.

Turnbull’s cunning plans include a few tough patches. He’s had to drop by Abbott knight, Sir Pete Cosgrove’s joint. It does mean swallowing his republicanism, but, heck, a man has to make a stand. Play that ace up his sleeve. Despite a six-month losing streak, he’s really been secretly, political poker-playing, a move or two ahead of the game. If only the same could be said for his new script.

‘The Time for game-playing is ah-over’, declares the great prevaricator, dazzling many by deploying a House of Cards reference to announce his own game plan. The House of Cards Twitter account tweets him back in a digitally disruptive duet between fiction and PM in an ominous pre-election flash of narcissism.

After six months of kow-towing to his troublesome right wing and being pushed around by the homophobes and climate deniers in his own party, the PM will take on a recalcitrant senate cross bench whom he says are obstructing his mission to clean up the construction industry.  He has no economic policy; he has squibbed the much tabled tax reform. Eighty per cent of his policies are Abbott’s.

It is a gusty effort. Now the chips are down, the PM is putting everything on the (new black) of an industrial hammer to crack a walnut. Turnbull’s stagey, “dramatic” decision to con Sir Peter Cosgrove into recalling parliament three weeks early allows the government time to call a double dissolution if the cross bench block his reinstating the ABCC.

Do we need to go back to a John Howard Australian Building and Construction Commission? It’s a bad law which we don’t need that he misrepresents as “a tough new cop on the block.”

The ABCC grants STASI-like powers that deny the right to silence or a lawyer of choice to anyone it chooses to investigate. Despite the coalition’s lies, it is not a cop at all; it has no powers of criminal investigation but it does have the ability to act in the civil jurisdiction to impose massive fines for behaviour it deems unacceptable.

We already have a watchdog on the job that as Paul Bongiorno says “works without denying legal rights we are supposed to value as a free country.”

No real policy. No real motive other than self-preservation for calling an early election over some legislation we don’t want or need. Sounds like one of Abbott’s captain’s calls.”At war” with Abbott, his right wing and with Morrison fit to kill, Turnbull sets up an interminably long election campaign everyone will resent, which he can’t even launch honestly or without dissent.

With apologies to Mark Kenny, the PM is diving head first into a sea of ugly imponderables. What could possibly go wrong?

Turnbull’s early election gamble, the last rattle of a desperate man.

Malcolm Turnbull answers questions March 2016  during a press conference during a tour of the Furgo LADS Corporation facility in Adelaide, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.


The incredible shrinking PM has finally dropped his bundle; lost his nerve. In desperation, after six months of dithering, Malcolm Turnbull has gambled on an early election in July. He claims, with a straight face, that he must resuscitate a Howard-era relic, long dead, buried but not cremated, the ABCC, whose seven years of partisan attacks on unions cost taxpayers $135 million, last time it was inflicted on the construction workforce. He talks over Leigh Sales when she presents government evidence that the ABCC did not result in improved productivity. But there’s more.

Apparently a Registered Organisations Commission is also vital given a fifth of our workforce still in a union workplace.

Only with an industrial relations zombie and union bashing as its centrepiece can his government function as it should. Secretly Mal’s hoping that the senate will be rid of its unrepresentative swill, even though LNP control of the upper house via a double dissolution is far from guaranteed. Malcom game-player declares the ” time for games is over”. He is referring to the senate and also to Abbott and his Monkey Pod opposition.

Turnbull hopes to put a spoke in Abbott’s wheel. The rabid right currently setting his government’s homophobic, fundamentalist agenda can all back off; tighten up and fall in behind. Yet on the day of his big call Abbott is madly claiming it will be an election fought on an Abbott agenda he quickly reinvents to feature refugee turn-backs and free trade agreements but no cuts to health or welfare. He does put in a plug for the ABCC and the ROC.

Turnbull is forced to fire his first big shot at his own side. In the AFR Tuesday, he tweaks his budgie-smuggler’s beak. Abbott is wrong. Look at Turnbull’s fantastic achievements: media law reform, Senate voting reforms, changes to section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act and last year’s innovation statement. No-one could take this rebuttal seriously.

It’s a wild punt from a man who knows he stands to lose everything; a man whose opinion polls already have him on the skids and whose party red-necks are laughing at his lack of authority over them.

Certainly, he may have seemed to do well out of high risk ventures in the past, as Tony McGrath, the liquidator of HIH alleged in 2004, when naming Turnbull in his inquiry into how FAI came to be so overvalued just before HIH paid $300 million too much for the business.  Then as now Turnbull fought tooth and nail when disaster seemed o be looming, as its seems now.

Let’s just drop the pretence. Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t give a toss about the building industry watchdog but he’ll do anything to be top dog. Desperate to assert his authority over a divided party, damaged by his predecessor’s destabilisation campaign and unable to put together a coherent narrative on tax reform or budget repair, Turnbull needs an early election before his pose as a progressive and effective Liberal leader is revealed to all as a cruel hoax.

After six months Turnbull’s disappointed many Australians’ hopes that he’d be something different, a better PM than the embarrassing incompetent he knifed. Not being Abbott made him popular for a while, but he has failed to manage any greater expectations. His policies are Abbot MKII and his pretensions to be an expert economic leader have been flatly contradicted by his indecision, inertia and death of ideas. A one man leadership debt and deficit on his own, Turnbull has created a policy vacuum his opponents have eagerly filled.

The Turnbull policy vacuum has enabled Labor to defeat the government’s GST plans, at least this time around. Labor has also been able to set out it own policy ideas. It’s a curious form of leadership. Under Turnbull the Liberal Party seems as if it’s in opposition again, chasing Labor initiatives rather than making the running itself. And fobbing us off with promises.

It’s too late to defend inertia by claiming all will be revealed in The Budget. The treasurer’s promises, thought bubbles and retreats so far, inspire no confidence in his grasp of economic policy. Yet Morrison is Turnbull’s appointee.

Making Scott Morrison treasurer may have neutralised a political rival but it’s provided the nation with an incoherent, gibbering economic basket case in return.  Too many of Turnbull’s cabinet choices have been similarly poor decisions. And, now, the relationship between treasurer and PM appears to have broken down irretrievably. Monday, Morrison learns from the media that his budget will be a week earlier; that his PM has decided to go for a double dissolution.

Turnbull’s a captive of his right wing on policy. Now he’s making a bad case out of a bad policy to prove them wrong. The ABCC bill is bad law which under John Howard was a failure which delivered much higher rates of injured workers; higher numbers of fatalities. When Labor gutted the ABCC, productivity soared.

Let’s be clear. The claims being made for the ABCC are a shonky pretext for union bashing. Turnbull is consumed instead by a desperate need to control his own party dissidents. At the core of his campaign is a gamble to win over the right. The right of his party mistrusts Turnbull. It sees him as too soft and too pink to be trusted with the hard right heel of the Liberal Party, the dryer, meaner party of John Howard.

The case for the ABCC is based on lies and hyperbole. Leigh Sales could have reminded the PM of his massive government misinformation campaign in which Nigel Hadgkiss, its Liberal appointed Director of Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) falsely claimed there have been 1000 crimes and 948 workplace breaches on building sites.

Under questioning in the senate estimates committee 22 October 2015, Hadgkiss backed off the crimes claim. There were 1000 complaints. Many were trivial. The Director admitted to the senate, complaints could include a drainpipe over someone’s back fence.

They were not crimes nor were there 948 workplace breaches.  All up there were only 36 proceedings brought in 2014/15, of which only 12 were successful. Despite all of this being in the public domain, it still suits the Liberal leaders to repeat this tosh in parliament and the whole stitch-up was faithfully reported as fact in The Australian.

If Turnbull wants to run an election campaign on the ABCC, he could make a start by cleaning up the lies. To reassure us that it’s needed he must justify why the ABCC needs its extraordinary, security agency powers.

Or he could come clean about his motives. This will not be an election about cleaning up the union movement or fixing a hamstrung construction industry and Turnbull knows this. His double dissolution bluff is all about besting Tony Abbott.

So far, on day two of the phoney campaign, Turnbull’s early election gambit, which is based around a pretext based upon a lie, is looking like the rattle of a desperate man.

Australians are being forced to go to the polls early because after six months of indecision, capitulation to conservative forces and a failure to meet any of the hopes placed in him. Turnbull has left himself with no other option. He may say it’s about the ABCC and the need to set his country’s workplaces free, but for Turnbull, as always, it’s all about me.




Turnbull gives in to the tin-foil hat brigade; loses all authority and credibility.

turnbull and pyne

A credibility gap continues to consume politics this week as the chasm between the official and real is stretched ever wider with gob-smacking lies about carbon emissions, an unbelievable tribute to Abbott’s charismatic leadership and the danger of safe schools while Turnbull capitulates to his tin foil hatters thus kissing goodbye all future claim to authority or respect while being forced to concede publicly Tuesday that his Innovation Policy is boring.

The senate continues to behave in free-booting, freewheeling freedom loving ways which confirm why it is an upper house and not a tightly disciplined major party like the Liberals whose divisions threaten to lose it government. Turnbull says he wants to end the circus in the senate with a law which extinguishes minor parties. He is excited by experts which predict that this will give the LNP a much better chance of controlling the senate.

Thanks to a deal between the government and the greens and Nick Xenophon it passes a law which will make it harder for those like Ricky Muir to be elected on only 0.51% of the vote, a law which experts suggest is likely to give the government more chance of controlling both the upper and lower houses.

The legislation passes parliament after a marathon Senate sitting on Friday. Turnbull watchers suggest that the move could pave the way for the federal government to call a July double-dissolution election, clearing out both chambers. Many Greens supporters are displeased with their leader Richard Di Natale whose recent fashion photographic session depicting him in a black top may add to his being re-named The Dark Wiggle.

It is “a great day for democracy”, according to the PM but will it also be a great day for Bob Day who mounts a legal challenge on the somewhat tenuous grounds that 3 million voters will be disenfranchised by the laws because their votes will no longer result in electing political candidates?

Day is also seeking an injunction from the High Court to intervene before the election to decide whether the electoral changes are constitutionally valid.

Family First senator Bob (The builder) Day recruits Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm who believes that universal gun ownership guarantees public safety as seen in the US. What could possibly go wrong?

Senate drama to one side, at the heart of the week, the national agenda and reflecting some of the deepest issues which beset a beleaguered Turnbull government’s tenuous hold on reality and legitimacy is his government’s Innovation Policy, a failure to inspire or convince which the PM decided to re-present to an underwhelmed Canberra Press Gallery on Tuesday. No-one knows why. Bravely the PM goes to the heart of the problem with a forlorn, final petition to the vast yawning indifference of the assembled Canberra hacks.

“Christopher and I failed to inspire one question about innovation. Is there a question – one more question – if it is on innovation?”  A journalist put up his hand to ask a question about cigarettes. The room breaks up laughing. Turnbull gives up and leaves.

His innovation policy a load of old cobblers, his indecision and uncertainty over election dates, tax policy, senate voting reform or budget plans all equally risible, the briefing’s sole achievement is to confirm the government’s determination to give tax cuts to fat cats.

“This week we’ll be introducing legislation to provide the tax incentives and CGT exemptions, Capital Gains Tax exemptions for investments in early stage start-ups,” Turnbull says. Sadly, no-one can give a toss, except wealthy, experienced investors who stand to gain hundreds of millions of dollars.

On the other hand, the Environment Minister never fails to inspire questions about his innovative take on most things.

February is reported to be hotter than ever; a shocking 1.35 per cent above average but Australia’s World’s Best Minister, Greg Hunt, is not having an isobar of any suggestion that Australia is any part of the problem.  Instead, Hunt claims that Australia’s emissions peaked 10 years ago.

It must just be a 21st century climate vibe thing, the Environment Minister is picking up because Hunt’s view, like his Direct Action policy has no foundation in reality whatsoever. Hugh Grossman, Executive Director of Reputex, says his company’s analysis of the government’s own data shows Australia’s emissions will continue to grow with “no peak in sight”.  Australia’s growth rate will be among the highest of all developed countries.

“Extraordinary comments” says  Climate Institute CEO, John Connor, who also points to “the enormous credibility gap in the government’s current policies.”  Equally extraordinary is Billson’s fulsome tribute to his leader.

“The wisdom, the insight, the personal feng shui, (literally wind and water)” Billson fawns this week in a valedictory surely a golden grovel benchmark even for him. But just who is his personal guru, his Great Harmoniser?

Billson’s high praise is for his former PM Tony Abbott, now Monkey Pod faction Captain and leader of the Abbott government in exile, a gang of four whose latest move to destabilise Malcolm Turnbull sees him sign a petition against Safe Schools, an initiative of his own brief, unsafe government. Now Abbott bitterly opposes Safe Schools because “new material has come to light” and it gives him a chance for revenge on Turnbull. He signs Christensen’s petition to reject the Safe Schools’ review.

Gorgeous George Christensen, Australian Christian Lobby stooge continues his homophobic attack on Safe Schools with allegations of paedophilia. Urged on by Abbott, Christensen dismisses the government’s inquiry as a joke. Gorgeous is happy to do the bidding of the ACL, which requires children to be bullied at school because of their gender identity or uncertainty or just because they are children.

By Friday, Turnbull’s government announces it will gut the Safe Schools programme and impose restrictions which are likely to scupper the whole programme. These including limiting it to secondary students and only those who have their parents’ permission, the parent body’s permission. A delighted Christensen is the voice of adult, reasonable, fundamentalist, homophobic government saying:

“We’re not going to have students exposed to websites that take them off to adult shops or to groups that are running sex toy workshops for youth and that sort of thing. That’s got no place in this program.”

In other words, whatever it may reveal of his own preoccupations, Christensen’s objection has nothing to do with the programme. It is an open challenge to Turnbull’s authority. Obligingly, the PM caves in; something Abbott managed to avoid on this very same but not quite same-sex issue.

When a few right wing tossers last got hot and flustered about Safe Schools in the Abbott government party room, their ranting was hosed down by Christopher Pyne who said the government “did not, as a rule, defund programmes which were already running.”  This time, however, the homophobic, fundamentalist push has Tony’s signature on their petition. The non-sniper’s moniker makes all the difference.

Out to wedge his PM as a closet Marxist, Abbott has now succeeded in making Turnbull even further beholden to the right wing. Turnbull’s government will continue to be fearlessly innovative and agile in education or any other policy area it may have unless any right wing nut job or pal of Tony Abbott’s objects and organises a petition. Then it will be even more benighted than its predecessor. Nowhere is this better seen than on the issue of marriage equality where it is about to do nothing.

Unable to agree on public funding or granting exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, a deeply divided Turnbull  government is about to renege on its promise to reveal the fine print in its planned marriage equality plebiscite before the next election.

Being unable to keep Abbott’s dodgy plebiscite promise may even amount to a bizarre keeping of faith with the great communicator. The former PM stacked caucus with conservative Nationals and called for a plebiscite as a cunning diversion. Doing nothing was always where his  duck-shoving of responsibility was headed anyway.

Ducking for cover, Deputy dog, Barnaby Joyce, is baying at the moon and chasing parked tractors over the prospect of a dog-fight with Independent Tony Windsor for his seat of New England. He may be the first sitting deputy PM in Australian political history to lose his seat. Newspoll suggests a two-dog swing against the Nationals leader of 16 percentage points.

A recent Newspoll, for The Australian, suggests Joyce is neck-and-neck with Windsor on the primary vote but the independent former MP would win back the seat by 52 per cent to 48 per cent based on preference flows.

A close contest at home may prevent Joyce from dogging his pal Mal on the campaign trail. Whilst some may say this may be a good thing, a solo tour of duty may not flatter Turnbull, especially if his campaign is a repeat of the dog’s breakfast he is making of tax reform, budget strategy or even leading his party.  What is certain is that junkyard dog Abbott will be up on his hind legs to assist his PM in deputy dog’s absence with his non-sniping, non-wrecking, non- undermining vendetta against Turnbull for deposing him.

Far from chastened by his recent rebuke from his master, over when submarines could and should be built, Tony Abbott recently made mention of Malcolm Turnbull’s name at a Balgowlah RSL in the Warringah electorate Sunday only to draw jeers. Almost straight-faced, Abbott was explaining how important it was for his audience to do all they could, as he himself is, to see that Malcolm Turnbull wins the election.

Endorse the Turnbull government. This is doubtless what Abbot was doing when he attacked Labor over what he termed the workers’ tax for increased excise on tobacco. It looks as if LNP budget will have an increase in tax on tobacco.

Labor’s Anthony Albanese believes the Liberal Party is like Sharknado, a film in which a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, and nature’s deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorise a sodden populace.

Turnbull would be helped if he actually had an election platform according to one senior Liberal Party figure. Or is he were not a failure as a Prime Minister. “This talk about an early election,” Jeff Kennett tells 2UE, “is an indication sadly that the government does not have a plan for the future of the country, and they are trying, I think, to use this talk of a double dissolution, an early election, simply to cover up their own failings.”

One of these failings is Scott Morrison whose grasp of his own party’s policy appears tenuous at best.

“What this government is doing through changes to the tax system is backing in Australians who we know will innovate and create the growth and therefore the jobs…”

He shouts as if volume will compensate for his deficit of understanding, a Blimp-like caricature shouting at foreigners to improve their understanding of his language.

“The plan on this side of the house is to reduce the tax burden on investment. That is the key ingredient to support the transition in our economy.” If only it were that simple. If only there were signs of transition and not the opposite.

Despite the empty rhetoric, despite all the scandal, division, discontent and negative publicity, the Government’s two-party preferred lead is extending to 53-47 it is announced Monday in a Fairfax-Ipsos Poll. Bob Ellis and others dispute the methodology and the timing of any poll on a long weekend but what is clear is the rapid rate of decline in Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity which is down 15 percentage points to 55% net since its high of 69 last November.

Yet NSW pre-selection news bears little to reassure nervous LNP punters as the party without factions, in Turnbull’s eyes, declares factional war on itself.

Tony Abbott’s ideological love mother Bronwyn Bishop is not feeling the love from Tony as pre-selection turns ugly in her NSW seat of McKellar. Niki Savva claims the PMO made Bronwyn Bishop delay apologising for her helicopter ride.

Monday, Bishop issues a statement that she has nothing further to add, effectively endorsing Savva’s version of events. Abbott is said to be enraged. He has endorsed a candidate to run against Bishop in McKellar. His campaign manager Walter Villatora was the first to nominate against Bronnie.

Onions are placed in protective custody across the nation, Monday 14 March but the anniversary of Tony Abbott’s terror attack on an innocent unarmed onion in Tasmania goes without incident.

When asked to nominate his achievements after two years in government, the naturally reticent former Rhodes Scholar modestly leaves out onion eating in favour of stopping the boats and the TPP. Sadly, the boats stopped under Rudd’s announcement in 2013 and the TPP is probably worth half of bugger all.

World Bank, staff recently produces a study finding the Trans-Pacific Partnership would boost Australia’s economy by a whopping 0.7 per cent by 2030. On the other hand, it will give multinational companies a lawful excuse to contest any environmental laws, for example, or other national legislation which might come between them and their capacity to make a profit.

Little profit seems to have been gained by Labor’s leader however. Tuesday Bill Shorten gives a competent and convincing speech to the Press Club in which he largely wasted his breath outlining Labor’s policies and answering a few half-arsed questions from Leigh Sales about Labor accepting fees from criminal unionists on ABC’s 7:30 Report. Shorten’s speech is largely ignored by much of the media afterwards yet

“I thought when Malcolm – or Mr Turnbull – took over, while it would be harder for me, we’d take politics to a better place,” Shorten says. “He just hasn’t. But we have. We think that we’re talking about ideas which are relevant to the social and economic future of Australia.” This does not include the effects test.

Section 46 should prohibit conduct by firms with substantial market power that has the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition, consistent with other prohibitions in the competition law.

Aimed at preventing big firms from misusing their market power, such a test has been popular with National politicians for decades and is a flip flop for Turnbull who opposed it six months ago. Its adoption as policy splits the coalition and is opposed by Labor which describes the effects test as a lawyer’s picnic. Amazingly, Labor proposes alternative legislation making it easier to bring litigation.

In the meantime, the battle for market share should not obscure the battle of ordinary Australian working families to afford leave to have a baby.  New parents in low-paid jobs stand to be $10,500 worse off under a Turnbull government paid parental leave plan intended as a compromise on cuts proposed by Tony Abbott, according to new university research.

The research, commissioned by women’s group Fair Agenda and conducted by the University of Sydney’s Women and Work Research Group, shows mothers who work in healthcare, teaching and retail could lose between $3942 and $10,512 under the compromise policy.  It is revealing indication of the government’s priorities even if its plans, its policies and its leader’s authority look increasingly conflicted and compromised.






Turnbull creates a storm in a double d cup in a week of dithering and indecision.

mal looks at watch

Double D is all the buzz in Canberra this week as a Malcolm Turnbull shrewdly deflect a bit of media attention away from Niki Savva, The Trump Show or Rupert and Gerry’s nuptials. The PM looks exhausted, uneasy. Is he well? Has he been reading something which disagrees with him? “Government poll plunge, says a headline: voters drift away in disappointment”. Surely not?

The Pell show, whose brilliant superstar never knew what was going on either, or could not recall; a natural leader who asked no questions and who took neither initiative nor responsibility to protect anyone but himself was always going to be a hard act to follow.

Big Mal doubles down.  He coyly hints at early July, using the words “working towards”. It is a week of such nebulous certainties from a government of definite maybes. Turnbull’s drawn, weary face increasingly betrays his hesitance, his indecision and timidity. As PM he is our most brilliant ditherer. When reporters bravely question the uncertainty, the unwillingness to rule out idle speculation, the indecision he just says bafflingly:

“It’s a great story.”

No indecision, whatsoever, is shown by Victorian Liberal President Michael Kroger, however, who leaps straight into bed with the Greens. Liberals could enter a “loose arrangement” with the Greens ahead of the forthcoming federal election, he says adding the Greens are “not the nutters they used to be”. Say what you like about his bedside manner, at least he’s not shilly-shallying when picking his date.

31 different election dates have now been offered by a government which came to power promising clarity, economic leadership and adult government. Russell Broadbent calls a 2 July election date “the longest suicide note since the Roman Empire”. He’s lost his marginal Victorian seat twice and sees “only negatives from a campaign that long”. But the hares are already away.

An adult Peter Dutton jumps the gun to tell ABC radio listeners Labor will raise rents, lower prices, “bring the economy to a shuddering halt. The stock market will crash”.  Dutton is immediately accused of channelling Tony Abbott leader of the Monkey Pod faction who continues to swear he is doing everything he can to see that a Turnbull government is re-elected despite all evidence to the contrary.

Could it be, as Niki Savva warns, Abbott is back to what he does best: wrecking governments? Or is he, as Peter Reith contends, hell-bent on bringing down Turnbull at any cost?  Both of these notions have a grain of truth in them but the blame game is always a trap if only because of its false assumptions. Let us not forget that Abbott’s bad policies ultimately brought him down.

Turnbull has inherited most of his predecessor’s bad policy baggage and he’s captive to the hard right. Even without Abbott’s destabilisation campaign, Turnbull is batting on a sticky wicket. Even if he had the world’s best cabinet or party room, he would still be lumbered by unpopular and unworkable policies on climate, marriage equality and defence binge-spending. Adding or perhaps multiplying these vulnerabilities are his lack of any economic plan, Budget plan or taxation policy. Now factor in his poor decision-making.

Turnbull’s self-sabotage tops any list of threats. If Abbott’s monkey pod yahoos are aiming to wreck the joint, the PM is already doing some useful self-demolition on his own. What’s the story? Where is his narrative or his strategy? Turnbull the great communicator remains mute; so conflicted on what he stands for that trivial speculation about the date of the election eclipses all else. He is shaping to take the record as Prime Minster who spent longest as a man in search of a plan – any plan.

Turnbull is putting undue pressure on Unicorn Morrison and his rookie team with a 3 July election. Chances of embarrassing errors increase as the tight budget deadline is brought forward even a week.

His slogan about the need to bust union corruption and power is a weak case for the ABCC and an unlikely election winner in the context of news of ANZ rate rigging or revelations that the Commonwealth Bank’s government-subsidised health insurance arm has scammed policy holders including forcing some doctors to alter their diagnoses to avoid payouts to the sick and vulnerable.

CFMEU secretary Dave Noonan even cites Dyson Heydon against bringing back the ABCC. “Even the Heydon Commission Final Report points to the conclusions of the 2014 Productivity Commission Report which says there is no credible evidence that the ABCC regime created a resurgence in construction productivity and that its removal has had a negative effect.”

Although he talks as if we can all bank on bucket loads of improved productivity because the economy is “transitioning”, Scott Morrison shows he still has no clue what he is doing or how the economy works, while Turnbull appears to be “doing him slowly” as Keating put it.

Will the PM beat the Abbott and Hockey Budget Show ratings by bribing our higher earners with tax refunds in an economically unwise move which none of us can afford? Will he tinker with super? Will he fudge the budget with income from legislation yet to pass the senate? Nobody is talking.

At least it gives reporters another chance to get their mouths around the words double dissolution, a delicious attention-getting confection which few could ever explain. Experts differ on whether it will confer the government control over a new senate. What is certain is that haste increases the risk of error.

Rushed decisions are statistically guaranteed to succeed better on average than no decisions, Turnbull must be thinking. Bugger tip-toeing around business and investor confidence. Optimism. Positivity. Taking risks, he drones on. No-one asks him why Tony’s Tradies” magic bullet in the last Abbott budget, set to “turbo-charge the economy,” or so we were assured, was a flop according to a recent report. Was it simply another quick-fix?

The small business package, a mere $5.5 billion over four years, was to be a centrepiece of the Abbott government’s re-election plans. Boost the economy and create jobs, Hockey boosted in a slogan that his successor Unicorn Morrison now applies to everything including breathing and passing wind.

There is no boost. Economist Saul Eslake says that car and retail sales may have risen slightly over a couple of months but nothing was sustained. Less clear is why anyone ever expected it to. No reason was ever given. Perhaps it was part of the magical thinking or wilful self-delusion of the trickle-down theory. Tradies with new utes would immediately burn rubber down to the Centrelink to hire new workers.

In the real world, IMF economists argue that the same investment in pensions, in improving the bottom ten per cent of income-earners’ spending power would be a real boost; stimulate economic activity and dampen galloping inequality. Yet as our Iranian overture this week clearly shows, reality and the Turnbull government are often estranged.

One of the week’s most unreal achievements in political boosterism is news from Julie Bishop that Australia could be on the verge of an Iran asylum-seeker deal, a wondrous tribute to our Foreign Minister’s diplomacy and tact and a great help to a PM dithering over an election date.

All 9000 of our Iranian prisoners are to be forcibly repatriated. Iran is on the verge of becoming really safe for dissidents and minorities, it is thought, although DFAT retains its website warning:

“The Australian Government remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Iran, including the use of capital punishment, in particular for juvenile offenders; violations of political and media freedoms; and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.”

DFAT cites people smuggling, terrorism, regional issues and human rights as issues of importance to Australia’s relationship with Iran. Clearly nothing to see here.

Champagne corks are on the verge of popping when the Iranian Ambassador pulls the rug. Luckily Peter Dutton is able to confirm that we still have two former detainees in Cambodia. At $55 million he adds, the plan is working, a prudent investment of $27.5 million per person which the remaining 2000 people now in their third year of indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru look forward to at least the same amount being spent on them. Those resettled on Manus receive $50 per week allowance and must pay for their own medicine.

Is it a flip flop or just another Turnbull government flop? Just how did The West Australian come to print such a piece? It claimed talks on repatriation, a long-running point of contention between the two countries were well-advanced and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was hopeful of a deal next week. Was it a pressure tactic gone horribly wrong? Surely Peta Credlin is not still leaking against Bishop?

Some governments would believe they owed someone at least an explanation but Turnbull regime is just as preoccupied with keeping things secret as its predecessor. Nothing to see here.

Australians are quietly, firmly, pushed away from better security and intelligence oversight. Senator David Johnson tells Labor that John Faulkner’s private member’s bill to improve oversight of the joint committee on security and intelligence will be refused because the situation does not require fixing. It is the first Labor hears of the change of plan.

For new JCIS chair, Andrew Nikolic, since we are at war with ISIS, the public has no right to know anyway. Under its new chair the committee will become a rubber stamp. Turnbull’s government is rejecting improved oversight out of hand. Any supervision now relies on a government appointed overseer and a monitor it tried to do away with in 2014. it could have been worse. They could have called in the IPA. The agile IPA is called in to help the ABC decide its exciting new future.

Those who value what independence is left in the ABC will be alarmed that under its new head, Michelle Guthrie, a Turnbull appointee, the ABC invites the right wing IPA which holds that the broadcaster should be privatised. At least their views are on public record.

“Only privatising the ABC will resolve the public policy failure that sees more than $1bn of taxpayers’ money annually spent campaigning for left wing causes.”

Public policy is not about to fail if Alan Tudge can do anything about it. The newly sworn in Social Services Minister who replaces an unfortunate but enterprising and pro-Chinese Stuart Robert is keen to ensure saving money on welfare while splurging on contractors who scan social media as Centrelink changes its role from support to surveillance agency.

When Australians get to see a budget it will be interesting, once again to note how many billions the government is keen to recover from welfare fraud. Last budget listed over a billion dollars. Less conspicuous will be the cost incurred hiring contractors to catch the unwary fraudsters who may unwittingly divulge income or a change in marital status they have not reported to Centrelink.

Finally, showing that its heart is in the right place, politicians entitlements have been reviewed by the  Expenditure Review Committee which recommends no changes. In 2015-2016 our politicians are spending $506m just on entitlements. At $2.2m per MP, this may sound generous to the layman but just imagine where we’d all be without the review. Now we know we are getting a quality product, we can sit back and enjoy the show. After all, we are all paying for it in the end, anyway.

Niki Savva, Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin and the kiss of death to Liberal politics.


tony and margie mis-kiss

Former Peter Costello staffer, political commentator, veteran Canberra journalist Nikki Savva’s book The Road to Ruin, How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin destroyed their own government is a  carefully substantiated examination of the disastrous consequences of Tony Abbott’s surrender of his Prime Ministerial authority to his political dominatrix, his high-handed Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin.

By patiently interviewing an abundance of MPs, former staff, friends and other key players who were keen to place themselves on record, Savva documents Abbott’s abdication. He was a Prime Minister who gave up power the moment he won office. Failing to set up the right structures, personnel or processes to run a government he left it all to Peta.

Lacking any real qualification or personal attribute to be a Prime Minister, Abbott allowed his power-hungry, megalomaniacal adviser to do his job for him. It was an arrangement that suited both of them nearly two years.

After his first leadership spill where 39 MPs preferred an empty chair to their current PM; the his ‘near-death experience’ Simpkins and Randall, told Abbott MPs hated Credlin. She had to go. “Ah, mate, I can’t go there”, he replied.

Abbott indulged Credlin’s power tripping, tantrums, abuse of staff and due process at the expense of everything else, party, people and ultimately his own prime ministership. He ignored all warnings. He sided with her.

Victims of a Credlin tongue-lashing who complained ended up apologising to Peta who had to be appeased at all cost. Or simply left like Fiona Telford, after learning she was a ‘fucking useless bitch .. You don’t fucking know anything.’

Aided and abetted by a weak, inept boss whose co-dependency she nurtured, Credlin’s abuse of her position proved boundless. She even came to announce policy positions off her own bat, having bypassed such non-entities as press secretaries or prime ministers. She had the power of life and death, over staffers’ careers and aspired to the same with government ministers. Credlin ‘s Prime Minister’s Office became her court. You kept favour to keep your job.

Of course political disasters are never so simple. Savva is too much a creature of the right herself to allow that bad policies played a role in Abbott’s downfall, too. Savva may be brilliantly attuned to individuals within the Liberal machine but she is tone deaf to is slavish adherence to IPA inspired neo-con policy which sought to punish the poor that the wealthy might enjoy further tax cuts or the policy dictated by big business, especially mining and coal-powered energy. None of these helped Abbott’s record unpopularity with voters.

Nor did Abbott’s ministry exactly distinguish itself by its capability, but, apart from agreeing that Joe had to go, Savva is too blinkered by her Liberal affiliations to allow that other underperforming Liberal politicians such as Christopher Pyne and his botched Higher Education reforms helped Abbott undo his government.

Pro-Liberal bias aside, however, Savva makes a major contribution to Liberal political history at a time when no-one else is prepared to tell the truth. Is the rest of the Canberra press gallery too busy serving the interests of its media proprietors? Savva has the courage and the sources to create a powerful and damning critique of Abbott and his Chief of staff which helps explain the disastrous aberration in national politics that was the Abbott petticoat government.

For her pains, Savva has copped a lot of flak from those whose interests she attacks even if much of the attack is cheap, or wilfully misreads and misrepresents her work. One such howl from the affronted or hurt by the truth on the right is that the book is unsourced, salacious scuttlebutt. It is not.

On the contrary, Savva’s capacity to include first hand testimony, often of the lowly staffers, is one of her book’s strengths. When “megalomania kicked in”, we hear that impression first-hand. When Abbott canvasses Warren Entsch’s support we hear him tell his PM that he was “as opposition leader, he was a bloody disaster.”

Liberal MP Alex Somlyay tells Abbott that “goal kickers not head kickers” win games. “Yeah, mate, but I love kicking heads,” Abbott replies. Therein, Savva notes, lay the problem.

Protecting her sources meant that Savva could not consult Abbott or Credlin. Both complain loudly now. It is a disingenuous slur on her objectivity. What they mean is clear. Heads could have been kicked. Moreover, neither the former PM nor his former chief of staff lack access to the media. Credlin cultivated reporters.

Abbott ignored his colleagues, his party and its representative processes while abrogating power to his own office. Yet Credlin’s power trip went further. Within the PM’s office there was no division of responsibilities, there was a takeover.

Political advisers, policy advisers, administrative staff, decorators, even menu-planners saw Credlin take over. Then she took over the press secretaries’ jobs, too. Cabinet ministers had no access; their calls or emails to the PM’s office were ignored. Not only did it cause MPs’ resentment, it crippled government.

Credlin’s megalomania was as self-destructive as it was limitless. Abuse of a representative system to one side, her centralised chokehold on everything created an impossible workload; a command and control centre where nothing got done. Workflow slowed to glacial. Policy papers languished weeks in her in tray while she pored over plans for decorating The Lodge or seating plans at a dinner function.

Abbott and Credlin appear as a co-dependent pair of pathological liars and bullies trapped in a “Beelzebub’s bubble” of delusions of grandeur and lies. Their bubble remains un-pricked. Far from disgraced by Savva’s revelations, the pair today maintain they were betrayed by Bishop and Morrison. They were on the right path. Their record stands.  Their colleagues’ report, however, attests to a deep-seated corruption.

Along with Abbott’s wilful self-deception and fatal isolation from reality a rottenness was at his government’s core; a repudiation of its contract to act in good faith on behalf of the Australian people. Lies were its currency du jour while relationships degenerated into petty power plays based often on little more than petty jealousy or raging paranoia.

A rampant, mutual mistrust led to further double dealing and deceit to disempower rivals and to neutralise all threats. Credlin’s PMO would cynically and wilfully mislead outsiders. Julie Bishop was leaked against as were others perceived as rivals. Turnbull was set up to appear weak on defence. Canberra veteran, Laurie Oakes supports Savva who reports:

“I would check things with Abbott’s office and be misled. One press officer even boasted openly about fooling members of the press gallery.”

Telling truth to power is never easy. The forces supporting conservative politics in Australia are legion. Savva has been howled down by many on the right as peddling unsourced hearsay, idle gossip or muck-raking or sexist. Abbott’s publisher Louise Adler calls it a “self-serving revenge tale”.

The Road to Ruin is none of these things. For those who would simply read it, Savva is attempting to put the record straight. Her use of reputable primary sources sustains a compelling narrative and analysis albeit from a conservative perspective.

Abbott’s Liberal Party coalition came to power quite unprepared and unfit for the job. Elected less on policy than because they were not Labor, but with the noose of Abbott’s rash promise of “no cuts” like a noose over them, the Liberals in government were headed by a PM unable to move much beyond his sloganeering of opposition. He and Credlin retreated into their bubble determined to divide and conquer. In eighteen months it all fell apart. 39 MPs voted against him. Abbott promised changes he could never make. Good government, he said. Six months later, he was gone.

Good government required a leader who was informed, responsive to events, a PM who had a clear policy agenda and who took and sought advice from his colleagues. Instead, Abbott withdrew into his Chief of staff’s cocoon, engaged by little beyond flag-festooned national security scare campaigns, publicity stunts and stitching up his enemies. Prince Phillip’s knighthood and his other disastrous “captain’s calls” showed a costly bad judgement for which Savva suggests, he may not be solely to blame.

MPs quickly came to see they were not heeded and resented it. Above all Abbott’s other limitations, his lack of interest in economics, his impatience with detail, his tendency to shoot from the lip, his inept bungling of even minor issues as same sex marriage policy was his failure to heed good advice.

The Road to Ruin shows Abbott’s utter dependence on his adviser. Credlin encouraged him to believe she was indispensable. She exploited her position to control him. She openly declared he could not function without her. He seems to have believed her. The delusion betrayed them both.

Savva details how Peta Credlin’s abrasive, controlling personality and her domination of Abbott led her to assert a stranglehold over communications and vital decision-making in the PMO. Rather than protect him, as she claims, however, his Chief of Staff’s intervention exposed Tony Abbott to criticism, complaint even ridicule.

The command and control centralisation rankled. Some called the PM’s office The Kremlin. Even the Foreign Minister’s travel plans had to wait on his office’s approval, approval often delayed. Credlin also alienated Abbott’s colleagues, by treating them to displays of withering contempt.

Credlin summoned MPs after a bad day in parliament to rebuke them “why am I the only fucking person who can get things done around here?” It was a favourite Credlin theme. Savva details a dysfunctional PMO, which Credlin made into a toxic workplace in which staff were not only subject to unreasonable demands but who suffered terrible bullying.

Credlin sweated the small stuff because she was overwhelmed by the big. Yet she could monster others for their perceived failings. She was keen to eliminate female rivals including Abbott’s wife, Margie. “If you get any requests for briefings for Margie’s ladies’ lunches, it’s not going to happen,” she told a staffer, furious that Margie had been briefed on the entitlements and expectations of a PM’s wife. Credlin expressly forbade this. Why?

And where was Margie’s husband, Tony, when Credlin created this purdah for his wife? Complicit? Overruled? It seems he abdicated early as a PM and as a husband and father. His Jesuitical justification of his passivity only digs him in deeper. Policy-makers, such as himself were a breed apart, whose family duties were, he said: “Less to be role models as spouses and parents than to build the best possible conditions for families to flourish.”

When he needed to stand up for himself against Credlin, Abbott capitulated. But he had excuses. As the father of three daughters, he explained to staffer James Boyce, a bloke is wise to back off from an irrational female.

“He always found it was best not to fight back … better to accept what they were saying, apologise, then deal with the issue when things were calmer.”

Margie Abbott was regularly excluded from her own show; events which were her prerogative, as the Prime Minister’s wife, to attend. MPs out of favour were undermined; leaked against and manipulated.  So detailed were the leaks of her profligate expenses that Bronwyn Bishop says she knows they could only have come from one place.

Bishop continued believing that she had Tony Abbott’s support up until one hour before he announced her resignation. Media were briefed that once again, Abbott had ignored Credlin’s advice. Savva notes ironically that it is “funny that at the scene of every disaster it was made known that the chief of staff had nothing to do with it”.

MPs such as Greg Hunt who contested her will were subject to screaming matches. Hunt prevented her effective veto of the Climate Change Authority by standing his ground and citing the Westminster system to claim his authority as a government minister superior to any chief of staff.  Many, however, like adviser Jane Macmillan, were forced to leave, their careers in ruins, their confidence in tatters. The Credlin who boasted openly that Abbott could not do his job without her, helped drive a lot of female staffers to resign.

Much has been made of Credlin’s Svengali-like skill at moulding minding Abbott into an election winner and not all of it by Credlin herself. In a reverse take on Pygmalion, Abbott became a statue in a successful if robotic policy-free, scare-mongering election campaign. Abbott was OK if he could be made to stick to his script, a step he forgot in his SBS interview on the eve of electoral victory in which he wildly declared no cuts to anything.

Abbott’s SBS declaration undid his credibility and ruined any later chances of success as he struggled ineptly to cut government expenditure in line with his dry, IPA economic agenda.  Savva provides a clear case that most of the fatal errors in his government were committed in the first few weeks of office.

A loose cannon took charge of another loose cannon, in an erratic petty tyranny which exalted the power of the Prime Minister’s Office at the expense of effective, representative, policy-based government. Along with countless accounts of Credlin bullying MPs, Savva’s story records shocking examples of the PM’s capitulation to his advisor while she consistently over-reached her authority. Who was running the country?

By 27 November 2014, Credlin is able to inform the media that the GP co-payment is dead before even telling Abbott let alone any of his policy advisors. Abbott’s code for this was ‘an unauthorised briefing’ which was “code for a complete cock-up” by his office beginning with his chief of staff.  The PMO tail was wagging the junkyard dog.

In abrogating power to her office, moreover, Abbott and Credlin created a type of paralysis in which decisions were delayed or made without due consideration. It was a recipe for disaster which still haunts Liberal proceedings. Old habits die hard.

The Road to Ruin is a complex and alarming story of a Prime Minister who surrenders his authority to his erratic chief advisor while defending her from all criticism and appeasing her will on key decisions, a perverse loyalty and protectiveness which confounds and alienates his colleagues. It raises profound questions about Abbott’s capacity to assert his personal authority let alone exercise any effective Prime Ministerial leadership.

MPs found access to their PM blocked by his controlling Chief of Staff. Even writing Abbott a note was forbidden. All “paper”, an early Credlin directive states, must come to the PMO and not to the PM himself.

The more the flow was channelled into her office, however, the less she could deal with. MPs found their submissions ignored, delayed or summarily rejected.

Credlin’s obsession with petty detail at the expense of policy or any bigger picture, her temperamental outbursts are attested to by a series of political figures who witnessed or who suffered her tongue-lashing and cruel power plays.

The Road to Ruin is a compelling but disturbing portrait of a Prime Minister’s Office which usurped its advisory role.  Abbott encouraged his office to assume executive responsibilities and powers well beyond its proper role or its administrative capacity. It was a fatal over-reach, just as Abbott himself on being elected by accident and against all expectations Prime Minister quickly found himself imprisoned in a role vastly beyond his capabilities.

Beyond Savva’s portrait of a pathological PM’s Office, however, lies a Liberal Party in crisis. It has its rich and powerful friends in business and in the media who give it every advantage in gaining office. When it gains power, however, it is overwhelmed by its opportunities.

Abbott’s way of coping with a job well beyond him was to retreat into a type of centralised autocratic command centre and try to bluff his way through which did nothing to resolve any of the complexities of negotiating the competing demands and managing the conflicting interests that lie at the heart of any successful representative government.

His evasion of responsible leadership has not helped the Liberals develop adequate responses to challenging circumstances, including an economy which is stalling in a world which appears headed for recession.   Yet he, alone is not to blame. To read Road to Ruin as a scapegoating of Abbott and Credlin to boost the glorious triumph of Turnbull is to mistake symptom and cause.

The ill-fated two years of the Credlin captivity are but one symptom of a greater malaise in Liberal politics which finds itself now seeking re-election with neither policy nor past success to commend it. Pinning hopes on a presidential Turnbull, a PM who has yet to show he can organise a cup of tea would be to merely repeat and compound the Abbott error.


Kamikaze Abbott declares war on Turnbull.


abbott and turnbull

The week starts badly for evidence-based, people respecting government. Essential publishes a 50 50 poll result. Newspoll can no longer be so easily dismissed. Labor is up to 38% of the primary vote. Gone is the Coalition’s lead.

Health overtakes economic management as biggest single issue on voters’ minds just as ScoMo tells states to find the $80 billion his government cut from schools and hospitals, a view which his PM undercuts with covert patching up .

Leadership and coherent policy have collapsed in camp Turnbull . It is an irresistible opportunity for Abbott to hijack his PM’s agenda. The world is his onion.

“Banzai” screams Tony Abbott, adding a Nippon vibe to an otherwise tricky Liberal party room, Tuesday. Members snigger at him over Nikki Savva’s recently published expose of his “consuming obsession” with Peta Credlin and his politically suicidal decision to set up a Credlin shogunate above his prime ministership.

Twitter is all lit up with the sharing of favourite excerpts. The situation begs for a distraction and Abbott is up for a Kamikaze moment.

Freshly returned from Japan where he shirt-fronts China for bullying its neighbours, our self-appointed Foreign Minister claims our nation’s values are identical to Japanese, especially when buying their submarines via competitive evaluation or not getting stuck with a dud; a locally built barbed-wire canoe.

As ever Abbott-san is a true son of Nippon; a model of refined, studied, evasive understatement, right up to his final act of ritual political disembowelment.

“Banzai”, he shouts, lobbing policy Molotov cocktails into the Liberal Party’s campaign gunpowder barrel. Publicly, he rams his 2014 budget down his leader’s silver gullet, screaming it is time “for the leadership to take on the savings challenge again”. Four MPs pipe up in support of Abbott-san.

Explosions reverberate throughout the week, helping bring government to peak excitement. There has never been a better time to be an Australian Abbott biographer.  Abbott finds time to condemn Safe Schools for “social engineering”, although it was his own government’s initiative. Yet he has no time for Nikki Savva’s new book which holds that his own compact with Peta Credlin destroyed his government.

“I’m not going to rake over old coals, I’m not going to dwell on the past,” he says. Yet his actions prove he is incapable of anything else. He has been doing little else since Turnbull’s coup against him. Now nothing else is left him but resentment, revenge and massive self-destruction.

Abbott’s explosive devices may destroy his party’s chances in the next election but he’s “hell-bent on revenge and vindication”, sources say. He openly declares war on Malcolm who poses in the middle.

Cheering on the budgie smuggler is a right wing Risorgimento of assorted Monkey Pod nut-jobs, tea-potters, rent-seekers, climate change deniers and other sundry sore losers of the Abbott faction including Kevin Andrews, one of the few lucky enough to have had access to classified draft white papers on defence.

Abbott wants tax cuts AND spending cuts and a defence policy, like he and former Defence Minister Kevin Andrews  cooked up, which features new submarines before they can be built. He is, he says flabbergasted at hint of a more realistic timeline in Marise Payne’s White Paper.

Abbott repeats the word “flabbergasted” Rex Mossop-style in an interview with pal Greg Sheridan, The Australian’s foreign editor. Someone, not Tony, leaks Greg a page a defence white paper. It’s a bi-partisan issue and no-one is rude enough to rock the underwater boat or remember that delivery dates don’t matter. Defence contracts typically incur huge cost blow-outs and long delays.

Our F35s or the “flying turds” as they are known to their US pilots were going to cost $8 billion and would be delivered six years ago. Now, the best cost guess is between $19 billion and $24 billion, while full deployment is not expected before 2020. But Abbott doesn’t mean to get real. He is wedging his PM on tax and defence. No room here to ask why such lavish funds for defence and not health or education.

All eyes turn to Turnbull. Even Kevin Rudd did not inspire such insurrection. It cannot end well. Sighing, singing you are made me do it, I didn’t want to do it …Turnbull flogs Abbott with a limp lettuce leaf.

Turnbull publicly defends the former PM’s right to publicly contradict his own PM on policy which will be taken as an invitation to a further stoush and a recipe for further confusion, destabilisation and electoral damage. His Defence Secretary and other nobs put Abbott straight. There is no delay. Turnbull is no national security wimp. Onlookers are underwhelmed.  They are mesmerised by Abbott’s licence.

Why did no-one laugh in the big taxing, big spending Tony Abbott’s face? Under Abbott, taxes rose from 21.5% of GDP under Labor to 22.3% when he was ousted. Spending rose 1.8 percentage points of GDP to 25.9% of GDP. It reached 26.2% of GDP in the early months of this financial year. The onions which Abbott is dishing out are ones he could never eat himself.

Facts, however, count for little when mythologies clash. Nor are they helpful to what is essentially a destabilisation campaign. On the right is a former PM whose erratic leadership and poor decision making brought him undone after 23 months. Clueless about policy generally, let alone economics, Abbott squibbed the same austerity budgeting he now claims he wears “like a badge of honour”.

In the other corner, also on the right or in the pocket of the right despite the small l Liberal badge, cowering, an abject captive of the right since his coup, is our current incumbent, a PM whose indecision and timidity have left a policy and leadership vacuum for Abbott to exploit. And not just Abbott, Scott Morrison shows utter contempt for parliamentary proceedings with a very dodgy document.

Morrison torpedoes the government’s case against negative gearing by confusing some highly dubious privately commissioned BIS Shrapnel rat-poison propaganda for Labor’s negative gearing policy. Shrapnel is cited to prove that Labor policy would destroy every family across the nation.

Who commissioned such a shocker? The Grattan Institute’s CEO John Daley says it is “manifestly ridiculous.” Shrapnel won’t say. Would any other PM have allowed his treasurer to proceed with it?

Daley says Shrapnel “doesn’t pass the giggle test”. It dramatically over-estimates the effect of tax on land prices, to begin with. Its embrace confirms Morrison’s contempt for rational debate, the parliament and the people of Australia. Moreover, it contradicts Turnbull’s own 2005 tax policy paper.

In 2005  Turnbull described negative gearing and the CGT discount as a “sheltering tax haven” that is “skewing national investment away from wealth-creating pursuits, towards housing”, and has caused a “property bubble”. Bernie Fraser, former Reserve Bank Governor, is on record as holding the same view.

Shot to buggery, Scott Morrison still maintains with Turnbull’s support that his bogus report predicts the end of the known world under Labor. Health Minister Sussan Ley similarly hypes her huge victory over private health insurance firms who, after a stiff letter from the minister, will now raise fees a bit less. Pensioners unable to afford the 5.59% hike are overjoyed not to have to pay 6.1%.

Private health premiums rose six per cent per year over the last five years. Increases and policies will also be explained better, she claims. On the other side of the ledger, taxpayer subsidy for private health insurance is predicted to grow 7% over the period 2015-16 to 2018-19, up to $7.3 billion in 2018-19.

Did Ley use government subsidy as a bargaining lever? Does anyone ask why any government should subsidy health insurance companies’ vast profits? Is any one of us is any healthier or better off as a result? OK. Industry executives have done well: Ramsay Healthcare’s CEO was paid $31 m in 2014.

Ever more expensive health services and problems even accessing what average voters need and a co-payment by stealth are shaping to be key election issues but the government does little beyond duck and weave and bluff and confuse.

Is the Medicare co-payment was dead? Alan Tudge, Turnbull’s parliamentary secretary, was adamant twice on Monday the co-payment “has been dropped”, only to be contradicted in Tuesday’s party room. It’s in because it was part of Hockey’s calculations.

ScoMo’s wilful deception by dodgy report is exposed by Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen. With no economic plan, a one-slogan campaign strategy and a lame duck rookie treasurer who hates him, the PM can neither impose his authority or unify his party as he attempts to steer the coalition through an election. Even the act of calling an election date seems beyond him.

Malcolm “everything is on the table” Turnbull retreats Hamlet-like into his vast inner indecisiveness. Nikki Savva tells him to go to the polls as early as he can before mad dog Abbott brings the whole show down. Go now, she urges, it can only get worse. Her book has clear warning in its title, The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government.

Laurie Oakes calls it “the weirder-than-weird story of a duo who couldn’t govern to save themselves”

Yet Turnbull dithers and delays despite all due warning.

As the days pass, Turnbull lets double dissolution options slide. He pushes his senate voting reform through but creates such hostility in the process that micro-parties and other mavericks will no longer cooperate on any legislation this government ever proposes again.

Dropped is one double dissolution excuse, the innovative re-introduction of Howard’s ABCC, the Building and Construction Commission a bit of ritual union-bashing as bizarre in a time of record lows in wages growth and relative industrial harmony as Morrison’s obsession with bracket creep. Not that the ACCC saw anything but labour costs increase. Gone is the GST excuse along with everything else from the smorgasbord of tax reform. Gone is the PM’s authority of novelty and hope.

“Tony Abbott is shirtfronting his Prime Minister on tax policy”, is one of Bill Shorten’s better zingers.

The ex-PM’s non-sniping, wrecking or undermining total party policy takeover bid paints Malcolm Turnbull as an economic and national security girly-man. The leak of part of a draft white paper may undermine the PM’s sub-building cred but his comment and his attack on the capability of the Collins class subs we are currently lumbered with is an unprecedented breach of decorum and security.

Only someone of Abbott’s genius could jeopardise national security in order to portray his PM as soft on defence and a risk to national security.

The PM pretends Abbott’s attack is proof everyone is listened to in the Liberal Party. Continuing his best comic-opera form, he next calls in the AFP, our national Keystone Cops whose advice in December 2014 that Mans Haron Monis held a gun licence was later withdrawn, after being challenged by NSW Police, with the explanation that it was from a “non-definitive AFP database”. Monis had never held a licence.

The AFP will still have its hands full with the Christopher-Pyne-James Ashby investigation and the nature of Wyatt Roy’s role in the illegal access to Peter Slipper’s diary. The AFP Slipper case probe was only requested in December 2012. No-one wants a rush job.  And, as with all top outfits, there’s a massive backlog.

Yet unsolved is the AFP’s first case, the 1979 Hilton bombing which led Malcolm Fraser to create the AFP in an extensive expansion of the powers and resources of the police and security apparatus. Many contend that it is likely that the bombing was conducted by the security forces themselves.

The leak to Greg Sheridan, foreign editor at The Australian could yet scuttle both Abbott and Turnbull.

The “not waving but drowning” PM is thrown Abbott’s failed economic policy; his unfair 2014 budget with its cuts to health, education and welfare, none of which is calculated to keep him politically afloat.

Abbott’s IPA-dictated budget preserved subsidies to miners, tax concessions for wealthy superannuants and Defence’s divine right to unfettered expenditure in the national interest. Yet his Molotov cocktail explodes the myth that Turnbull really has a tax policy or shows any economic leadership or policy platform fit for an election.

Above all, Abbott’s outburst exposes the PM’s failure as a leader to assert his authority over his rival, a man now bold and (Yes Minister) courageous enough to bring his house down. And with the collected testimony of his colleagues in Nikki Savva’s book against him, Abbott has absolutely nothing to lose.