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.