What mandate Mr Turnbull?

 

turnbull looking weak

 

“… a win is a win is a win…” Christopher Pyne

Before the Electoral Commission’s glacial vote count even ends in finely divided electorates, Christopher Pyne sticks his head out of the Coalition campaign train-wreck window to crow victory. Even Eric Abetz can see he’s wrong; the government has won nothing but “a kick up the pants”.

Welcome to the 45th parliament of Australia whose foundations are already being laid firmly in the realms of fantasy, delusion, denial and secrecy, not to mention confusion and division, where an election result, is just like the outcome of a football game.

The false analogy is as bad as Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce’s comparison on Thursday RN. He sees the National’s secret agreement with Liberals to be the same as a journalist protecting her sources. It’s as spurious as the PM’s claim, Thursday, that a win is a mandate.

No mandate results from any small-target campaign. The Coalition bypassed real issues such as climate change, or how to pay for health and education, provide equal pay for women, invest in renewables or what to do with the gulags on Nauru and Manus Island.

It ignored the yawning abyss of social and economic inequality that even Bill Shorten could tell it is one of the lessons of the Brexit revolt. Instead it ran a reality-denying campaign show of magic words. Hey Presto! Endlessly repeating jobs and growth and stability would make them appear.

Now, Mathias Cormann is claiming that the government’s empty sloganeering amounted to an agenda and that it can now get on with “implementing the plan we took to the election”.

In reality, the government has just enough of a majority to get itself into trouble. An existential nightmare of negotiation and infighting lies ahead of it. Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews are already demanding Abbott returns to cabinet. The IPA won’t rest until Turnbull drops his super changes.

The real game is only beginning. And the captain’s in trouble already whatever his game plan.

Turnbull is a lame duck. A weak leader who campaigned poorly, his approval as PM rating, taken over the last two weeks, dropped three points to 37% in Tuesday’s Essential Poll which now has Labor 51 to the Coalition’s 49 two party preferred. At its current rate of decline it will not be long before Turnbull overtakes Tony Abbott’s record unpopularity.

Popularity is not everything – as Tony Abbott always said – but repelling the electorate will not improve Turnbull’s position with angry back-benchers whose seats are more precarious than ever as a result of his early election gambit failing. His natural arrogance and impatience do not help.

Even MPs in safe seats will be emboldened. A slim majority means every one is a king maker who may make demands of a PM whose lip-service to cabinet government and his need for the company of the like-minded makes him vulnerable.

Turnbull is guided by Pyne, aka “The Fixer” self-deluded master tactician and reality denialist in an inner circle of advisors that includes foundation member Lucy Turnbull, Arthur, party amnesiac, yet to hear back from ICAC, cabinet secretary, Sinodinos and show pony Julie Bishop, a wimpy Foreign Minister so desperate to avoid a spat with China over The Spratleys or anything else, she can’t do her job. No danger Turnbull’s inner sanctum will tell him anything he doesn’t want to hear.

Nor will Turnbull’s poor poll showing give him the authority to break free of his Faustian compact with the Nationals. He turned hard right to win support to depose Abbott. Now he cannot turn back.

Barnaby Joyce has succeeded in keeping the Nationals’ agreement with the Liberals secret. While a pro-government ABC boosts the Nats’ success, claiming their bold showing bestows greater negotiating power, the reality is the Nats won a 0.4% swing. The real question is what is in the hidden detail of their hold over Turnbull?

On Sky, Joyce quips “The first aspiration is the agreement remains confidential. That’s aspiration one, two, three, four, five and six.” His flippant disregard for democratic process makes a mockery of the Coalition’s promises of open, transparent government.

On R N Breakfast Thursday morning, Joyce tells Patricia Karvelas that Coalition secrecy is the same as reporters protecting their sources. Then he’s off blaming Labor for lying about Medicare; causing all our economic problems. We could lose the ABC, he reckons, unless we push ahead with tax cuts which will do nothing for budget repair.

Coalition agreements have not been public in the past, but why the secrecy? Whatever Joyce is hiding is bound to be a matter of public interest. Crikey’s Bernard Keane makes a compelling case for Barnaby’s chasing the Hanson vote, building on the AFR’s Phil Coorey’s report that the Nationals are keen to take some One Nation turf including her proposal to abolish the Family Court.

http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2016/federal-election-2016-hansons-former-right-hand-man-says-barnaby-joyce-the-key-to-working-with-pauline-20160714-gq5epo.htmlIn a move which would further disempower women and increase suffering, One Nation would replace the Family Court with a panel of “mainstream” community members, dump current child support arrangements, change legal aid to require losing parties to pay costs, and make joint custody the “option of choice” for the family law system in an echo of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Australian Institute of Family Studies research shows that two thirds of separations involve partnership violence with one third of women reporting serious violence. One in five parents has concern for the safety of their children as a result of contact with the other parent. Yet violence against women is hugely under-reported.

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) research shows less than eight per cent of media stories about violence against women includes comments from survivors but there is a body of embittered males amongst One Nation supporters convinced the system is loaded against men and the only solution is to do away with the Family Court entirely.

The Nationals may wish to increase their political relevance but why indulge the misogynistic, irrational mythology of men’s groups who feel discriminated against despite all the evidence?

Lurching to the right with a secret agreement will not help a Coalition which couldn’t govern even with a solid majority in its last incarnation.

We will be “getting on with good government”, Turnbull tells us, borrowing Abbott’s phrase. We are to overlook its thin majority and pretend it will all be plain sailing with a senate cross bench which includes Pauline Hanson, Derryn Hinch and other incoherent, opinionated populists.

Finally, the double dissolution early election was supposed to be the making of Turnbull; a cunning plan whereby he could snatch the victory he needed to establish his authority over his party; a master stroke to rid his government of an uncooperative senate cross bench.

Instead, Turnbull’s gamble has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster; another stunning example of his poor political judgement and the single most compelling reason why his win is no win at all.

With the likely result to yield 77 seats, Turnbull will need to give up one to the speaker, leaving a majority of one. Liberal Party funding via boutique foundations to allow property developers to break the law in NSW will continue to trouble it.

Cabinet Secretary, former NSW fund-raiser, party amnesiac and Turnbull confidante, Senator Arthur Sinodinos is banging on tonelessly about a mandate, having managed to resist with Malcolm Turnbull’s assistance calls for his resignation. Tanya Plibersek has said it beggers belief that as treasurer and finance director of the Liberal Party he did not know about hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal donations to the Liberal Party.

Although News Corp’s Sharri Markson wrote an impressive scoop 21 January this year reporting that charges had been dropped, the next day ICAC said its inquiry into a company linked to Labor and Liberal figures including Arthur Sinodinos has not yet been completed. Sinodinos failed to have retracted a NSW Electoral Commission’s report in March that he knowingly disguised donations.

Humpty Dumpty Sinodinos stunned ICAC in October 2014 with his prodigious feats of memory failure. ICAC reasonably wanted to know what Arthur did as a Director to earn $600,000 for an estimated 25.5 hours to 45 hours a year in three years at Australian Water Holdings, one third owned by the Obeid family. Arthur could not recall. He said so 68 times.

Nor could he recall an AWH donation of $74,000 to the Liberal Party, although he was deputy director and had drawn up a list of donors to be approached which included AWH.

Shortly before drawing up the donor list, Sinodinos had been lobbying Barry O’Farrell to support granting AWH a lucrative government contract. Sinodinos did not inform soon-to-be premier O’Farrell that he stood to make as much as $20 million if the deal went through.

AWH billed the state government’s water utility Sydney Water for “administrative” costs that in fact included fat salaries and political donations. ICAC has yet to report its findings on Sinodinos.

ICAC is yet to report on another matter. As Treasurer and Chairman of the Fiance Committee of the NSW Liberals the senator accepted donations through the Free Enterprise Foundation from property developers, a group prohibited from making political donations.

Expect a lot of pressure from Labor to be applied to the curious case of Arthur Mandate Sinodinos, whose byzantine financial dealings and unfortunate memory failure have the makings of something by the late Oliver Sachs.

As always it is not easy to grasp readily what Arthur means. A mandate for what? Jobs and growth? The retention of negative gearing for the rich speculator? The Liberals’ campaign was cobbled together out of the scraps that had fallen off the table of Turnbull and Morrison’s farce of a tax reform review which ultimately collapsed under its own inertia and its leader’s indecision vanishing like the Cheshire Cat leaving nothing behind but the smile of its good intentions.

True, there were tax cuts on offer if you were in above average earnings territory or you ran a business. Yet even these appealed only if you believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden economics or the Laffer Curve, the discredited promise of trickle down economics.

Tax cuts for business and wealthier Australians were flogged ad nauseam but no-one, not even Liberal voters could tell you how they would restore the nation’s prosperity and productivity.

The winning theme is also embraced by the Coalition’s own Justinian, Attorney General George Brandis, the man who when faced with advice of terrorist threat could not open the second tab on a spreadsheet.

Brandis appears on ABC’s Q&A, Monday to speak up for the golden years of John Howard’s era, stopping a whisker short of praising the lies of babies overboard, his boosting of funding to private schools or his Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, a lie occasioned by his raging US sycophancy as much as a vote winning scare tactic.

Brandis expects everyone to forget also how the man of steel let Peter Costello blow the proceeds of the mining boom and how he is one of the leading architects of our current economic and social mess. He glosses over how the Howard 2006 reform, acceding to the pressure of mens’ rights groups, to the family law act brought misery to countless women.

Brandis’ mission is to promote Abbott the junkyard dog, the textbook failure of an effective hound of an opposition leader who should never have tried to be a prime minister. With a straight face Brandis calls Abbott an elder statesman.

Kevin Andrews has also hopped aboard the bring back Tony pony express and perhaps Turnbull will be looking to create a special cabinet post for the union basher. Abbott could be the Minister for the ABCC. Although it was mentioned briefly twice only in the eight weeks’ campaign the ABCC, hated by unions and the Law Council because it strips away workers’ civil rights is due to be brought back into the limelight.

Will it pass the cross bench of the senate? Derry Hinch has already said he’d have a talk to both sides, despite his votes not being all counted yet. There’s no question that the human headline, who has been to jail for contempt of court over releasing information prejudicial to the fair trial of sex offenders will rule out something just because it does away with workers’ rights.

Pauline Hanson whose been busy with Today show appearances and Dancing with the Stars or like Bob Katter too bushed to read newspapers or watch TV news is expecting to be briefed.

The ABCC, a Howard era throwback with no solid evidence to suggest it ever worked is an attempt to end “corrupt union practices” which remain no more than assertions despite the mammoth and hugely expensive Dyson Royal Commission. The ABCC reverses the onus of proof, removes the right to silence, and allows officials of the ABCC to enter premises without a warrant and demand to know names and addresses.

With dodgy legislation to oversee as a priority and with pressing claims from every MP in a government whose numbers mean that it is poised on a knife edge and with the right wing Delcons already resuming their crusade to restore Abbott their leader, helmsman and meal ticket Turnbull, the Great Capitulator will find that a win is neither win and nor is it a mandate but merely a ticket to ride the meanest bucking bronco in the rodeo, the 45th parliament, already pawing and snorting as he approaches the mounting yard.

2 thoughts on “What mandate Mr Turnbull?

  1. There’s a lot there, thanks Urban.

    Pauline Hanson is symbolic of everything that has been wrong in Australian politics since John Howard used terms like ‘black armband’ views of history, ‘queue jumpers’, ‘illegals’ etc, and made clear his luke warm (read negative) attitude to multiculturalism.

    He began the nostalgic roll back to a 1950s ideal, that was only ideal if you were a white, anglosaxon, Protestant male. A woman married to an alcoholic or wife beater hid her sorrows behind closed doors, and didn’t air her dirty washing, or her bruises in public. Child abuse was hushed up by everyone, especially the Churches, whose main function was to confer an aura of respectability to those who could tolerate boredom on Sunday mornings.

    Tony Abbott continued the job of resurrecting the 50s, substituting Catholic for Protestant, and making himself minister for women, and describing Aboriginal culture as a ‘lifestyle choice’.

    Can a soufflé rise three times? Malcolm is not a natural bigot, I suspect. Hanson is back to goad and undermine the party he doesn’t lead, as ruthlessly, mindlessly, and probably effectively as Abbott once goaded Rudd and Gillard. While Turnbull bided his time, with nary a word of protest, no matter how low Abbott sank.

    Karma is a fine thing.

    I just hope the poor buggers trapped on Manus and Nauru can hang in until it plays out, and they are freed, to live as well as they can, after suffering trauma beyond the worst imaginings of most of us.

    This too will pass. Soon. I hope.

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