With a month of whistle-stops, walkthroughs and the dark pit of at least one more dud leaders’ debate yawning ahead, the coalition campaign show is careering back and forth across stage like a pantomime horse, back legs alarmingly out of step with its front.
Meanwhile, backstage, John Roskam, IPA ring-master, inveterate defender of privilege, vested interest and sundry secret backers including Gina Reinhart is whipping up such a frenzy of opposition to super policy fit to bring the house down, assisted naturally by some sensitive back-benchers.
While some voters may be enjoying the comic debacle, the thoroughbred Coalition favourite continues to ease in the betting ring as its poor form fails to inspire confidence. Show pony Julie Bishop baulks at talking to her own party’s super policy, causing Turnbull to opine that super is a notoriously complex thing. Clearly JB should not be bothering her pretty little head with figures.
Kooyong Colt and union-super-buster Josh Frydenberg, who in February shifted his own work super into a union super fund, is equally foggy on the details of his party’s policy on super but when it comes to self-interest he clearly knows which horse to back. Unlike his party leader, however, it’s just a guy thing; nobody is suggesting he takes a Bex and has a good lie down.
But who cares about figures? Mad dog Morrison and fall guy Matthias Cormann just make the figures up. On Thursday, ScoMo goes into a barking frenzy about Labor being at war with growth on a day set aside to bring home remains of 33 soldiers from Vietnam. Is this another excruciatingly bad dead cat tactic?
None of Morrison’s embarrassingly inappropriate and juvenile rhetoric of war and bullets cuts any ice with an electorate which has seen better stunts before. He shoots himself in both feet.
Across the nation weary punters remain sceptical that the Coalition’s economic plan; welfare for the wealthy $15 billion tax cut over ten years to businesses with big cuts to education and health is any kind of leadership at all, let alone a pathway to jobs and growth. ScoMo’s stunts shriek desperation.
The Fairfax Ipsos Poll has Labor in front 51-49 led by a spectacular collapse in support for wannabe elected PM and hapless tool of his party’s right wing, “May I Just Say” Malcolm Turnbull who has cut his 53% popularity before Christmas to 3% this week by continuing to alienate and disappoint. Turnbull makes some desperate attempts at Abbott style ranting about Shorten’s war on everything and is on track to overhaul the Opposition leader’s minus six rating.
Where is the leader who promised advocacy not slogans? Missing in action. What became of the leader who “would respect people’s intelligence,” or who would “explain these complex issues and set out the course of action we believe we should take?”
Apart from his unusual nostrum of jobs and growth, a bit of tame pork-barrelling and a promise to stick to his super plan and lies about negative gearing pushing rents up and destroying house values, all Turnbull can offer the nation all week is Shorten’s war.
Little wonder that Turnbull’s approval rating, on which was built so much of the government’s strategy, along with his promise to do things with the economy that his economically illiterate predecessor could not, has dropped 3 per cent in the last fortnight.
Alarmingly for Coalition campaign central and fancy hired guns Crosby-Textor, Shorten’s approval continues to climb. Word is put about that the Coalition is really very strong in its marginals but there is little room for complacency despite years of training.
Seven’s Reach Tel poll on Friday has young colt Wyatt Roy, whose sandpit portfolio of Assistant Minister for Innovation is even younger than he is, down to 50% of the two party preferred vote, a 6.9% drop on his last election result. Doubtless there will a crowd-funded app for that.
In Tasmania, Getup! polling suggests a bold swing to Labor in Bass. Brigadier Andrew Nikolic, Delcon (delusional conservative expecting Abbott’s return) and chair of the national insecurity committee and anti-safe schools crusader may have to carefully return his leadership baton to his backpack come early July.
There is always time, however, for a national security crisis involving another Sydney teenager who wants to travel to Syria or a turn back the tinnies campaign to take us all utterly by surprise and cause us to come to our senses and return to the fold. Or vote for the Jacqui Lambie network which seems to specialise in armed services veterans in touch with their feminine side.
Kitchen Cabinet-maker Lambie’s footwork has been fancy lately even letting us into her closet of ball gowns whilst bawling out a ballsy dismissal of Cory Bernardi’s pretensions, “… born with a silver spoon up (his) rear end,” a suppository of privilege which puts “silver-tail” in a whole new light but, as Annabel generously offers, may make things painful for a sitting member.
Doubtless feeling that Bernardi, who is always on the brink of starting his own party, too, needs a show of public support after being lambasted by Lambie, our silver-tail PM Malcolm Turnbull turns up to hold hands with the Senator on Thursday at Cory Bernardi’s Conservative Leadership Foundation fund-raiser for the South Australian senate campaign.
Perhaps Malcolm is keen to protect Cory from those critics who objected to his recent tweet to an advocate of rape on private property or perhaps it was to go over old times. Bernardi’s CLF spawned CANdo, which Sally Neighbour writing in the Monthly five years ago, reminded us “rallied dozens of like-minded groups and thousands of individuals to join an orchestrated ‘grassroots’ campaign – also known as ‘astroturfing’ – against the ETS. Their efforts persuaded Liberal MPs to revolt against Turnbull, killing the ETS and propelling Abbott into leadership.”
On the front foot last Tuesday, capering away crazily are Scott Morrison and Matthias Cormann whose lunatic scaremongering about Labor’s black hole last week may startle the Canberra Press Gallery but does nothing to inspire credibility or respect.
“I’m not saying $67 billion, I am saying up to $67 billion ..,” the Treasurer honks as party-pooping, nit-picking reporters find black holes in his black hole. His lame attack quickly falls apart under questioning during its own press conference and is soon trashed by everyone but The Daily Telegraph. The treasurer had made an utter goose of himself, it is agreed, or a chook. But then a skittish Labor rears up in fright.
Labor has been “flushed out,” Morrison crows as the workers’ party bins its pension asset tests and its school kids’ bonus, before the second four week leg of the campaign has even begun. Whilst Labor will enter the second leg of the journey a good few billion dollars in promises lighter, only Morrison could claim the loss of these two policies as any kind of victory.
Disappointed, especially, would be Senator Sam Dastyari an ALP apparatchik who is all misty-eyed idealism and moral high ground with Annabel Crabb on Thursday’s ABC Kitchen Cabinet but who is right on the money about winning.
“It’s not about winning for its own sake,” Sam throws into the mix as he blends chilli and extra virgin olive oil. Former NSW Labor power broker, Dastyari is no stranger to hard politics even if he is a campaign virgin. Piloted into the senate three years ago, he replaced former Labor senator MJ (Matt) Thistlethwaite who left to contest the lower house seat of Kingsford.
Sam drizzles oil over the salad as he dazzles Annabel with all the honest to goodness folksy political idealism he can fit into thirty minutes of lapel-grabbing intensity.
Dastyari, who sits next to Bill Shorten on the Bill bus is a PM in the making. On the up. Turnbull is caught somewhere in the reverse cycle. Yet both recall Groucho on principle.
“Those are my principles and if you don’t like them I have others.”
In a similarly strategic re-invention to Sam’s soft soap on Crabb’s show, Malcolm Turnbull presents himself in last Sunday’s leaders’ debate as a political ingénue, who was an old man of fifty before his idealism finely honed by years of deal making and business starting, jobbing and growing pushed him reluctantly towards a role as the voice of reason and principle in politics.
All of which is true if you ignore the reality. Turnbull has been involved in politics all his life. From Sydney University Liberal Club right through to a bid for Liberal preselection in 1981, he’s been an eager, if not aggressive participant. In his preselection battle for Wentworth in 2004, he told Peter King, his Liberal opponent, “Fuck off and get out of my way.”
Turnbull is commonly held to be short of fuse, remote and very rude which is why his handlers have instructed him to keep smiling. Morrison surely tested his fixed rictus. By Thursday ScoMo had a puerile new routine, Labor’s war on business with “tax their bullets” which also came complete with silly charts and absolutely no new information or argument. A lunatic logic prevailed. The “war on business” refers, for example, to Labor’s qualified tax cut for-small-business-only support.
Was the Morrison Cormann show the arrogance of entitlement? Or was modelling incompetence a Crosby Textor new team plan? After the ScoMo show, leadership stakes show pony Julie Bishop and Josh Frydenberg fell at the first jump when neither could explain their government’s superannuation policy. Or were their catatonic responses some type of Freudian slip? Are they running dead so as to be fresh for the next bold new change of plan? Or leader.
Backbenchers already have the wind up as the IPA orchestrates a full scale attack on a policy that is calculated to upset the very wealthy and as such would always be a bit of a stretch for any Liberal.
A Turnbullian attempt to steal a march on Labor, its proposed tinkering with super concessions has taken the Coalition out of its comfort zone. Now even amnesiac Arthur Sinodinos has remembered his cue, wandering down stage making placating noises. Booking a back flip, he says he wants super looked into after they win the election, a bizarre approach to a policy reform and an election pledge that was clearly announced in the ScoMo budget. Turnbull gets his back up.
The IPA continues to kick up a stink about super on principle. It’s unfair to the rich, a cause shock jocks everywhere rush to take up. And it’s unfair to the poor, the IPA add for good measure. This line attracts the likes of Fran Kelly who gets Kelly O’Dwyer on her show.
Perhaps O’Dwyer feels she cannot compete, so high have Morrison and Cormann raised the bar?
Let’s Make Stuff Up in Public, ScoMo and Co’s riotous rubbery figures show in Canberra last week was ground-breaking. It elevated the humble press conference into surreal, Dadaist performance art in which two clowns pretended to discredit Labor’s costings in a reality-defying routine which ended with the MPs making utter fools of themselves.
Morrison has a number of stabs at how much over budget Labor’s policies might be. Is it $32 billion or is it $67 billion? In the end it was way too much. But whatever he and Cormann alleges is true, he maintains, blazing a bold new path in lunatic logic – it is all true until those Labor bastards could come back and disprove any of it. All true unless disproved.
Say what you like about ScoMo and Co, they get noticed. No wonder others find it hard to keep up.
Shadow finance minister, Tony Burke protests. The Treasurer and Finance minister are out to treat Australians “like fools” who “… know the information they are giving the Australian people is wrong. And they intend to give it anyway.”
Burke is so yesterday. The Coalition is a more highly evolved party, a mob which has economic management in its DNA. Former PM of this government, IPA tool Tony Abbott reassured us all after he was on the skids over his incompetent handling of the economy.
To be fair his government effectively pushed through an IPA agenda of tax cuts for companies, “efficiency dividend” austerity budgeting, privatisation, punishing the poor and the low wage earner and so much more so that wealth may continue to trickle upwards. Or rush.
Now Tony’s team may have another PM as the back legs of the panto horse, but it still clearly acts as if it has licence to make it all up as it goes along. Or not even bother as in the case of Julie Bishop and Josh Frydenberg flubbing their party lines on Super.
Doubtless, too, an abundance of innate fiscal DNA explains Peta Credlin’s vicious attack on Kelly O’Dwyer and her own team. Credlin fires off a critique of her former underlings.
“…the government can’t be in a position where it’s incapable of explaining its own policies.”
Nit-pickers may point out that under Credlin, explaining policies was not a feature of the Abbott government. Who can forget or forgive the excruciating inadequacy of Tony Abbott’s “we stopped the boats’ policy performance with Leigh Sales?
In the real world, of course, many are horrified when neither deputy leader Julie Bishop nor Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia and building a railway for Adani if it needs one, Josh Frydenberg could explain the government’s proposed changes to superannuation.
The failure of two senior Liberals to explain policy raises questions about the gap between hype and reality from a party still trading on its false boast of better economic management, one of Howard and Costello’s legacies to the nation along with a squandered mining boom.
For Credlin, O’Dwyer has been MIA. The coalition needs to defend it or fix it, she says of the super changes, warning that the issue threatens to become a sleeper. (With a bit of help from Sky News.)
Even ABC’s Fran Kelly wants a please explain. She asks Kelly O’Dwyer if ignorance of policy is good enough Kelly’s question on RN breakfast Wednesday morning.
O’Dwyer evades Kelly’s question. She “won’t commentate on commentary” she says in what is now a stock Liberal response.
She’s asked if the government has understated how many of us the changes to superannuation rules will affect. It’s as if O’Dwyer can’t hear Fran. It’s the tactic du jour of the 2016 campaign, which itself is founded on the lie that the government could not function without its ABCC legislation.
Whilst the strategy is not new, it seems that the coalition has truly made it their own; elevated the non-sequitur to an art form. With all that economic DNA sloshing around in its veins, a Liberal politician doesn’t need to answer questions. Or tell the truth.
And we should be very wary of those who seek to beguile us with professions of principle or protestations of innocence and naiveté whatever their pedigree or political stable.