Tasmania leads the nation




Tasmania leads the nation, Saturday, in a clean sweep of Liberal-held lower house seats, which sees its three amigos, Eric Hutchinson, Andrew Nikolic and Brett Whiteley, sent packing. In the contest for Tasmania’s twelve senate seats, the fates of sixth listed Labor senator Lisa Singh and non-Abbott man listed fifth, Liberal senator Richard Colbeck may take weeks to be finalised.

Why the clean sweep? Some say the three Abbott loyalists brought it all on themselves by not representing Tasmania’s interests. Others report that Andrew Nikolic was not easy to engage or debate, especially if requests contravened local Liberal Party policy of strictly only two party debates. None of this, however, can detract from Tasmanian voters’ achievement on Saturday.

Where did we go wrong in Tassie? The Coalition is said to be puzzling- as if it got the rest of the nation right. Hint: beware of believing your own talking points. Most polls put the two parties neck and neck over the eight weeks but Turnbull and his team campaigned as if they had it in the bag. Labor was left to engage with the people; put out real policies.

Was it a Mark Textor tactic to create a bandwagon effect? Exude confidence. Claim the government is ahead in the polls and you can help to put the government ahead in the polls?

“We are polling well in the marginals.” You could tell it was a line just by listening to Julie Bishop – the walking talking point. The Coalition was doing much better in the marginals according to its own polling. Never mind anybody else’s poll.

Once you succumb to self-deception, all manner of delusion becomes possible; it becomes less a question of what went wrong and more how could anything go right? Next thing you know someone will suggest that Tony Abbott would have run a better campaign.

Tassie voters sensibly reject a Coalition campaign which ignores the rights of ordinary people to better healthcare, education, penalty rates and employment, offering, instead, lower taxes for corporations and to those on higher incomes, which ordinary people would subsidise in a not so innovative and astonishingly ill-judged new plan announced by the Federal Treasurer in the last few days of the campaign. Tax cuts for the rich would be funded by doing over the poor.

Not working? Australians on retirement or sickness pensions will not miss out. Their Centrelink claims will be scrutinised by a uniformed Human Services officer in a supportive “better targeting and integrity strengthening process.”

By this means, the Treasurer expects to claw back a lazy $2.3 billion that may have fallen down the back of the sofa, or is sloshing around in Grandma’s handbag making it too heavy to carry or too hard for her to find her betting tickets or her daily half bottle of brandy.

…the $5 billion clamp down on welfare fraud…

Of course, the new clawback is not that new. It’s identical to the $5 billion clamp down on welfare fraud announced a couple of months ago in last May’s Budget. “Sometimes people are overpaid and they don’t even know it,” explains Scott Morrison. His eyes light up at the prospect of privatising debt recovery from pensioners. But not until the election’s settled.

Morrison’s got the Productivity Commission to review all human services “delivered” by government: community services, social housing, prisons, disability services and Medicare.

It goes without saying it’s not a scare campaign, or a threat, this war on the poor to pay the rich. It’s just another treat from the smorgasbord of “efficiency-dividend” and “savings” or “greater flexibility” and choice that Sussan Ley talks about when she means to cut funds or social services or terrorise the elderly by stopping pension payments without notice at all should an overpayment accidentally appear. You’d be mad not to vote for more of it.

Liberal plans to privatise Medicare have taken a bit of stick from the Liberal campaign war machine recently. It’s all a beat up. A critical semantic distinction is commonly overlooked. The PM can deny with an air of wounded innocence that his government has any plans to privatise Medicare because it is already doing it. And Tasmanians know it.

Semantics aside, the government makes a last minute pitch of strident denials that it has any plans to privatise Medicare. These are augmented with attacks on Labor’s lies and its cruel strategy of ringing old people, who cannot be expected to know what is going, on especially about their own health. The old folk are then terrified to hear the truth second hand.

Medicare is tricky, too, because there’s been a late change of plan. No longer will the $50 billion fee collecting business be flogged off to eager private models of integrity such as Telstra – or at least not for the time being. The Prime Minister has promised to keep back-office operations in house, for the time being. But the real issue is the freeze on the GP Medicare rebate .

The biggest privatisation of health ever is already under way in Australia – the co-payment, which our government is forcing on all of us by freezing the GP Medicare rebate. Some practices are already adding this to their fees.

Privatisation involves increasing the proportion of private payment in the health system. We are forced by the freeze to pay, so our GPs can continue to treat us.

…fails to resonate with ordinary Australians …

If privatisation denial is no vote winner, the promise of stability, oddly, also fails to resonate with ordinary Australians, despite coming from a Coalition which knows first hand its worth. It’s had two Prime Ministers, three different tax policies and seventeen changes in its cabinet in the last three years, not to mention its internal rifts such as between its conservative rump and the rest.

Not even a Brexit reference makes Turnbull’s pitch to the nation to behave like good children, sit still, stop wriggling, shut up and vote for him any more compelling. Tasmanians see right through it – despite his finger-wagging and scare tactics.

“The upheaval reminds us there are many things in the global economy over which we have no control … At a time of uncertainty, the last thing we need is a parliament in disarray,” he lectures the party faithful gathered in Sydney. Tony Abbott, before him had worried us all about the ISIS monsters who were coming to get us – but, not to worry, only Labor runs scare campaigns.

The great big new tax on everything scare, the $100 lamb roast, the wiping of Whyalla off the map and Bronywn Bishop’s tale of the pensioners who had to stay in bed because they couldn’t afford their electric heating bills were all OK when they were part of Tony Abbott’s campaign.

Brexit is a vexed issue for the Liberals. Britain has tried Neoliberalism and rejected it. Brexit is a warning to leaders who believe we are merely consumers bonded by economic ties, born to compete; not communal creatures with misty-eyed notions of nurturing and helping one another.

Brexit may be a warning to our increasingly remote power elite of the alienation, marginalisation and exclusion experienced by those who make up the mass of the modern corporate state. For Turnbull it is a stick to beat us with. So, too the false memory of disarray, the Liberal myth that our last minority government was anything but an astonishing success. Now, disarray is just what the Liberal National government has delivered. It could last for years.

Of course, others may see it differently, local Liberal power broker Eric Abetz is blaming national issues which “swamped the state campaign,” or so he claims in The Mercury Sunday. Abetz believes that the local Liberals ran an exemplary campaign only to be gazumped by “dishonourable and deceptive statements” made about Medicare.

…a highly welfare-dependant state…

“They are genuinely concerned about their well-being and we in Tasmania are a highly welfare-dependant state, and if you are welfare dependant then Medicare, and those sort of support facilities, are vitally important to you,” he says. Best not mention Medicare, then in case, like democratic choice, it spoils people’s voting intentions.

To Abetz credit he reveals that the party of stability is already baying for its leaders blood. Asked if he has ‘full confidence in Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister’ the senator says: “I always have confidence in the elected Parliamentary leader.”

While vote counting will continue Tuesday in a Federal Election result which may remain unknown for weeks, some things are certain. Malcolm Turnbull, whose errors of judgement include the leasing of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese firm, the Godwin Grech affair, where he was the victim of an outrageous sting, and the appointment of Mal Brough to his cabinet, may have made his final, fatal error.

Perhaps he is a victim here, too, a plausible stand in, bound to fail, a politician whose untested claims to electoral popularity were oversold by backers desperate to replace a politically toxic Tony Abbott.

Certainly his gambit has proved an expensive mistake. Despite high praise from Press Gallery backers, (one gurgled, that his double dissolution plan meant “he ha(d) seized the initiative by the scruff of its neck,”) Turnbull’s punt will cost him and his government dearly. Lenore Taylor calls it “an unmitigated disaster.”

The PM who promised strong, stable stand-alone government, spends Sunday morning canvassing support from Lower House Independents including Andrew Wilkie who returns to Denison, and Cathy McGowan who returns to Indi.

There was never going to be any deal, says Wilkie, a sentiment echoed by McGowan.

…a bizarre speech of recrimination…

His appeals sit oddly with his public assurances to those of the party faithful who remained to hear him make a bizarre speech of recrimination made after midnight at The Wentworth Hotel.

On election night, the PM is sure a majority is in the bag. He is just as sure that the Labor campaign has been a farrago of lies. He is calling the police on the opposition’s fraudulent scare-mongering. Had the AFP not had its hands full with NBN whistleblowers and the mystery of who had access to Peter Slipper’s diary, it might leap at another non-political investigation.

The PM has lost his double dissolution early election gamble, along with many of the marginal seats his leadership was set up to protect. He has failed, comprehensively, in his bid to achieve a more congenial senate despite reforming the election process to eliminate micro parties.

His government will struggle to find support from a new senate cross bench which includes at least one Pauline Hanson and Fred Nile. It is certain to be at least as challenging as its predecessor while the PM who has failed to deliver stability or security to his own party has lost even more authority and credibility as party leader

Bolshie senate to one side and leaving the witch hunt over illegal scare-mongering alone, Labor’s Brian Mitchell expresses something which, sadly is too easy for the complete, modern corporate statesman or party hack to overlook. It goes to the heart of Labor’s Tasmanian victory and may be one key to the post Brexit Labor success across the nation.

For Mitchell the result is,

“Just an amazing feeling. I’m the son of a school cleaner, my mum cleaned schools, my dad was a factory hand, to think that their son is now in Federal Parliament, that’s the Labor story.”

Of course, there is more to the story than that, especially in a modern Labor Party which post-Hawke is as neoliberal as its opposite number, a party with more than its fair share of lawyers and party apparatchiks, its consultants, publicists and lobbyists but Mitchell is on to something nonetheless.

4 thoughts on “Tasmania leads the nation

  1. Thanks Urban.

    On the bright side, the Australian public at large, for whom terms like ‘trickle down economics’ might as well be a joke in Swahili for all the meaning they convey, are now beginning to see who and what the Liberal Party has become.

    Without being ‘hit in the arse by a rainbow’ as Keating described the largess that Howard and Costello received from the mining boom ( and selling vital infrastructure for bargain basement prices – CSL makes me cry) the Libs had nothing to take to the electorate but tax cuts for the rich and the corporate/corpulent.

    No last minute largess in the form of middle class welfare, no infrastructure, just a few pork barrelled swimming pools and sports grounds that had suddenly become Federal matters. Nothing but corporate spin about agility and innovation that left normal people saying WTF, having lived most of their lives on terra firma.

    Speaking of terror, Abbott was distressed to note that there wasn’t a great deal more flag waving and death cult talk. He would have scared the pensioners in the night with dreams of beheadings at the local shops, none of this weak Medicare crap!

    The words chaos and dysfunction disappeared from MSM vocabulary, in the face of a mess that made the RGR years look like a group hug. (Trying to come up with a love-in that’s also actually functioning, can’t!)

    We live to love and smile another day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love the Keating quotation, EA and very much enjoy the rest of your analysis and commentary. If enjoy is the word. Like you I weep for the loss of CSL and all the other gems we flogged off in our foolish rush to conform to best neoliberal – then economic irrationality.


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