Tag: Abbott government fails to deliver

Abbott’s Captain’s call a Titanic disaster at Press Club today.

Abbott pensive but incapable of real reflection.
Abbott pensive but incapable of real reflection.

… it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.                                                                                                                              Edmund Burke 1774

Tony Abbott has declared himself ‘a very good captain’ of his Government’s team, after weathering a blistering tsunami of criticism, derision and withering contempt following his recent bizarre decision to confer an Australian Knighthood upon his Royal Highness, the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. All hell broke loose, according to most observers, partly because of Abbott’s bad decision itself but mostly because it was the last belaying pin of the breech ropes on a very loose cannon finally, irretrievably coming adrift. For Abbott himself, it was merely ‘a bit of a rough patch’ and a ‘stuff up’; and all he needed to do was to apologise and entrust choice of awards recipients to a committee. It did not seem to enter Abbott’s head that ‘a very good captain’ is defined by his very good decisions.

Unexpected as it was unwelcome by either recipient or electorate, Abbott’s ‘dub-up stuff-up’ was, however, perfectly timed to become a hot topic in Australia Day barbeque settings around the nation as Australians of all persuasions digested this latest captain’s folly while turning well-nitrated snags, chops, steaks, kebabs, prawns and other such burnt offerings as tong-wielding men will fiddle around a griddle while quickly getting pissed and opinionated. Yet while backyard blowhards blew their bags few could be heard backing Abbott’s captain’s pick and none at all upheld the PM’s decision as evidence for his being ‘a very good captain.’

Abbott’s latest desperate boast has pundits scratching their heads and wondering how any sane person could confuse the Abbott brand of leadership with ‘very good captaincy’. No-one, in his or her right mind could. Unless, perhaps, you see Abbott as an anti-captain, an alienated, inarticulate, bewildered, existential hero in the changing Australian political narrative; a story which since The Dismissal of Whitlam has ‘moved forward’ from epic to ironic. In this perspective, Abbott is a product of the times, a cynical caricature of the qualities of commitment, judgement and enlightened conscience as set down by Edmund Burke, a leader in words and deeds, whom, ironically, Abbott felt he could quote with a straight face in his Press Club appearance today.

Or could he just be mad, bad and easily confused? Or both?   Whatever the cause, it is hardly the first time Abbott, the pathological gaffer, has seemingly been so overwhelmed by opportunity that he has come up with something so wrong and so stupid that he has taken everyone by surprise.

Abbott’s political career has been characterised by many sensational lapses of judgement, including his decision in 2010 to publicly inform the nation of his natural tendency towards mendacity during ABC TV’s 7:30 report. The then Opposition Leader astonished the nation when he said his only utterances that should be regarded as ”gospel truth” were carefully prepared and scripted remarks such as those made during speeches or policy pronouncements. Otherwise, statements he made during the ‘heat of discussion’ such as radio interviews or under questioning at press conferences, were not necessarily reliable.

Given this context, the immediate reaction of most who heard of Abbott’s lunatic decision to knight the Duke, a less than chivalric type by nature and a curmudgeon by design were about to laugh it off. Abbott had misspoken; he was misreported; he was making a joke. It was another gaffe or another outburst of Abbott madness. When it became clear it was ‘gospel truth’, this was quickly followed by an angry incredulity in which Australians wondered aloud at their Prime Minister’s alarming stupidity and lack of judgement. Many saw his action as suicidal, a ritual hari-kari with the dull edge of the ceremonial sword of the accolade.

So strong, indeed, appeared the kamikaze element in his indecorous over-decoration of Philip in what he claims was his own decision, a captain’s call that reporters immediately began to canvass other contenders for the position of Prime Minister. Some such as the colourful ‘side-show’ Mal Brough (so called because everywhere he went as NT minister there was a circus) were said to be preening their own feathers before a run from the backbench. Or there was a frisson of interest reported between Turnbull and Bishop, provided each put the other first.

Others, including anti-knight-errant Rupert Murdoch sought to scapegoat the PM’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, on whom, it was felt, a great deal could be blamed, given that she was Abbott’s eminence grise and given that she was a woman. Blame the sheila, was Murdoch’s advice to anyone not paid to listen confirming that whilst Rupert may have renounced his Australian citizenship to become an American, he was still a true blue unreconstructed Aussie male chauvinist when it mattered.

Abbott would have none of this. He claimed his move was prompted by a desire to acknowledge all the very many good things that Philip had done for all Australians, and that it was all his own idea, a decision taken without consultation or any real advice, although he did profess to have confided in another knighthood recipient, the retired Air Chief Marshall Sir Angus Houston and model of Olympian detachment and to the Governor General. In essence, however, it was all his own, a captain’s call or a captain’s pick. And as furious dissension reached white heat, in another flurry of preposterous waffling, he reminded us all of his high opinion of his own leadership. He was one hell of a captain. Or at least, ‘a very good captain’.

 “This is a very strong team,” he said. “And one of the reasons why so many members of the team are able to perform so well is because they’ve got a very good captain.

So there we have it: Abbott’s most recent Captain’s call has been to remind the nation of his captaincy. Whilst Abbott’s latest act of naked self-promotion may seem immodest, presumptuous and inappropriate, it also reveals the extent of his desperation to cling to some vestige of power. OK, he is saying, the knighthood for the Duke was a stuff up but I really am a top captain. Just look at my team. Let’s not waste time navel gazing; reflection and introspection are only for wimps; real men apologise for ‘the stuff up’ and move on.

Unfortunately, Mr Abbott, the nation is looking at no-one else but you thanks to your stuff-ups. You have guaranteed its full and undivided attention. The nation is wondering what mistake could be next. You have control of a fair bit of firepower and a track record of preferring to shoot from the hip and apologise after. And even an average captain would never have made the Prince Philip knighthood call. And looking at the team only makes it worse.

Attempting to take credit from a team which no-one in their wildest dreams would call a dream team Mr Abbott gets you even further into trouble. Your nightmare team has done so little to take credit for that your call can only be ironic. Your own captaincy remains even less illustrious as was revealed when you bestrode the stage of the National Press Club today like some bad parody of a modern political colossus.

All eyes were on you to make the speech of your life. In the end it was a rehash, a warmed over repeat of the same mindless platitudes, the vapid, empty slogans that got you into trouble in the first place. You showed the nation once and for all the job was too big for the man. It wasn’t a resignation speech in your mind, perhaps, but it served the same purpose. If ever a captain’s call were called for this was the time and place. In the end it wasn’t a captain’s call or even a decent speech but merely a reprise of the same turgid, clapped-out rhetoric of the campaign stump. Only in this case, time has moved on, Mr Abbott; the tide has run out and left you stranded, high and dry, however much you wave your arms or flap your gums.

Tony Abbott’s New Year Resolutions

abbott's resolutions

Dear Mr Abbott,

Commiserations. Wish we could wish you a happy new year. We can’t. it won’t wash. Everything’s against it. Rupert’s rubbished you. Bolt’s become a blistering barnacle. Even lame, tame, Piers ‘party parrot’ Akerman is on the attack. The economy is nose-diving. Unemployment soars. Export receipts are plummeting. A plunging oil price threatens international capital and world financial stability. Balancing the budget? Even Joe Sooky concedes that you will break that promise too.

It’s not as if you’ve been doing nothing, as you say. You’re busier than a cat watching two rat-holes: with your neo-liberal tea party attacks on welfare, your trashing of the environment, your scorning of climate science, (and most other science), and your persecuting of refugees; your assaults on the elderly, the frail and the needy.

Meanwhile cyborg Employment Minister Eric Abetz, another 1950s throwback, readies Work-Choices off-stage and there will be hell to pay when that cat is debagged. But nothing much has come to anything; really achieved anything you wanted, or like yourself, will ever amount to much. So much on; so little to show.

So here’s a New Year’s resolution or two, just in case you don’t get time to do your own. Like talking points, really. You’ll get the hang of it. But first, a word in your ear.

Prime Minister, there is no nice way of putting this. You are beyond saving. Beyond redemption. No resolution will help you hang on to power, get re-elected or ever be trusted but it might tide you over until the end. The end is certain, whether you are wiped out in the next election, or you are impaled on Peta Credlin’s size 11 stiletto heel, you skewer yourself on a sharpened bicycle spoke, or you are lost in the surf at Portsea. You are going nowhere, and it shows.

In the meantime, here are a few tips. It’s not all positive, Mr Abbott, but it can’t be helped. There’s so much you must cut out.  Let’s start with ‘getting the message out.’

Stop parroting ‘ we must get the message out’. The message is out. Australians get you loud and clear: we just don’t like what we see and hear. Messaging, moreover, cuts both ways and you can’t speak out, reach out without first listening in. Your empty ‘messages’ are nothing but hollow reminders of your lack of credibility. Moreover, they waste time and energy. Beyond your spin cycle, your real messages are your words and deeds. Time to stop spinning, tune in and listen.

You are reactionary, backward-looking, ill-prepared and unfit to govern. That’s the message you convey. You can’t get away from it. The bad news, for you, is that voters get this message loud and clear. The good news is this leaves you a fair bit to work on.  Start by stepping out of the past.

Revering the past, continually referencing the past, just confirms you as yesterday’s man. Stop reminding us Howard faced adversity, too.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Your love affair with a mythical past signals an incapacity to deal with the present. Mention Menzies or hark back to Howard and you only earn yourself further derision for your presumption.  False analogies and parallels are dangerous. They make you look fat-headed and trapped in the past. Snap out of it. If you can’t face the future, at least look as if you know you need to focus on the present. Above all you need vision. Step up, stand out from your backward-looking, reactionary and regressive ministry. None of them can do anything but pull you down further like the undertow in the Portsea pier to pub in January.

Nostalgia saps your mindset, your weltanschauung, your shtick. ‘Turn back the clock’ might as well be your party slogan. You yearn for a 1950s Camelot ruled by Ming and Santamaria. You dream of a stable, comfortable, Australia of order and propriety. It never existed. It’s a wife in the kitchen, children in bed, slippers by the fire and pipe-dream, a fabrication based on myth and falsehood. More to the point, it is a dangerous delusion and a retreat from reality. Let’s get real about the 50s.

In the 1950s an intolerant, hypocritical, narrow society stifled individuality and oppressed difference. It was a racist, xenophobic, White Australia of privilege and entitlement ruled by Anglophile white males. No time to be a woman, or an ethnic minority, it was also an era of defensive nationalism in the face of new contact with outsiders; a time of acute cultural cringing and low national self-esteem. For many if not most, it was to be endured, suffered rather than celebrated or venerated. You want to put a bit of distance between yourself and the 50s.

Unfairness has hurt you most. The Australian people have long lost tolerance for you and your government. Your behaviour is unfair, reactionary, autocratic, anachronistic, backward-looking, untrustworthy and dishonest. You are gaffe-prone. You conspicuously lack what it takes to govern modern Australia, a diverse multicultural modern nation.  You lack independence, initiative and vision. You are putty in the hands of big business and big capital but you oppose anything which helps ordinary people.

You were quick to repeal the mining tax for your mate Gina Reinhart. But you are happy to raise the petrol excise and the cost of doctor’s visits for ordinary Australians. You have let Hockey go soft on his promise to chase multinationals who evade tax. It was too good to be true anyway. Hockey took the opposite position when in opposition. But you step up your spending on chasing dole frauds. You cut funds for the homeless. You oppose anything progressive like renewable energy or public transport on principle whilst you indulge reactionary movements like the world family congress and vested interests in your fantasy that you can turn back the clock. Take your sneaky back door re-introduction of Work Choices, for example.  Last week Eric Abetz crowed that he had “neutralised” Work Choices. He means it is far enough in the past for it to have faded in the public’s consciousness. And even despite your witch hunting Royal Commission into the unions, Work Choices will prove a dead parrot. Work Choices didn’t work under Howard and won’t work now. Economists will tell you low wages do not build GDP. And even if it’s a hit with your mates, your wealthy backers, it signals ‘mean and out of touch’.

Both of your two main achievements have been negative and both have helped us to hate you. You repealed a tax on carbon, a backward step which not only shrank budget revenue, it left us with no climate change policy and out of step with the rest of the world. You lied about its benefits to families. Despite your desperate spin, the carbon tax repeal has not lowered prices. But you continue to pretend that we are all $500 better off. Stop it.

Persecuting asylum seekers might stop some boats but it undoes a lot of good. And there are fewer votes in stopping the boats under Morrison than you count on. Time to stop. OK, you inherited the shameful off-shore detention camps but your boat turn-backs, your enhanced processing and all the cruelty revealed signals that you have taken persecution to extremes. It is cruel, covert and wrong. It flouts all decent principles of behaviour and thumbs its nose at the law. It screams inhumanity. It ignores our international commitments. There is a strange, disturbing zeal to it all, moreover, of loss of reason, sanity and plain good nature. Back up. Scrap the policy. Embrace humanity and honour our global responsibilities.

Granny- bashing, handbag-snatching is your real forte. It is, own up. You target defenceless groups, which are too weak and disorganised, unlike the miners, to fight back. You destroy their advocacy groups, silencing those who keep guard over a fair and decent society, groups who might challenge you or voice protest. You rob children of their futures by snatching environmental groups’ funding. You put a stranglehold on social, educational, health, research and advisory bodies. Any government which behaves in this way signals its own demise. People will reject you to protect themselves and the vulnerable. Any so-called savings in the area of welfare spending will cost you dearly.

Porting Australia into the past is future-proofing in reverse. It creates anxiety and a massive lack of confidence. You have declared open season on anything environmental, from laws to organisations. Your achievement amounts to wrecking anything enlightened or progressive whilst you venerate yesterday’s mistakes with your championing of coal. You lie about damage to the Barrier Reef.

Ask yourself: what have you really achieved? This question comes before claiming victory in fields, such as the economy being on the right track, when it is self-evidently a rout. So much of your media releases, your claims of victory contradict the population’s own perceptions. Much of what your ministers and spin doctors utter has the same theme: but you’re wrong you know. Putting a false spin on your ‘achievements’ just makes you sound more dishonest, for example, the talking point about a strong economy. You talked it down. Your spending weakened it. Cut the spin. You can’t polish a turd without getting smeared in ordure yourself.

Cut the talking points. Your ministers are hard enough to listen to without having to endure endless repeats of empty, meaningless slogans every day. Your communications unit is no better than a galah if all it can do is get you to parrot clichés, slogans and banal talking points. First up it would be listening. Communication is a two way process, Mr Abbott. It is as much about taking messages on board as getting messages out. And you can’t simply relay the interests of other lobby groups such as the IPA, the Sydney Institute and others in the pay of vested interests.

Kick the IPA out of bed. It is funded by yesterday’s interests, mining and fossil fuels. And you let it keep details secret. How about requiring advisory boards, institutes, groups and agencies to provide clear details of their sponsors?

Mr Abbott, these New Year’s resolutions are tough medicine but you have so often told us you are up for it.  Your choice is clear. Either continue on your current disastrous course and steam straight into the iceberg of ignorance. (There won’t be many to rescue from the wreck.) Or you can take stock. Stop what isn’t working. Start listening. It’s too late to save your own career but it’s just possible that you may lessen the wreckage and destruction you inflict on the nation.

Monstrous, mean and sneaky Abbott government delivers on message for Christmas.

It was the beginning of the festive season in Canberra and a small balding man with jug ears and bandy legs who walked uneasily as if he were carrying a pig under each arm strode towards the steps of parliament while appearing to address a claque of journalists who tottered after him, a tangle of cameras, blazing lights, some waving microphones disguised as woolly bed-socks, other offering phones with recording apps; phones so intelligent they outsmarted their owners.

‘Solid achievement …,’ the Prime Minister, intoned, squinting as he feigned a reflective pose whilst wincing inwardly and avoiding catching David ‘Paddler’ Johnston’s eye as he lurched in late, ‘a year of solid achievement…’

Abbott was multi-tasking, as he liked to call it: talking to reporters on the fly whilst readying himself and his government for photographers on the steps of parliament on the last sitting day of the year. In reality he was rashly attempting two tasks either of which would have been better delegated to someone else yet there was no-one else he could trust not to stuff it up either.

“The carbon tax is gone,” he said. “The mining tax is gone. The boats are stopping. The roads are building. The budget is coming into better shape. The three free trade agreements that have been successfully negotiated will set our country up for the long term … I know that appearances do count and I concede that the appearance last week was a bit ragged but, in the end, nothing matters more than performance and this is a government which has a very solid year of performance under its belt.

His government, that false and faithless bosom of buried scorn, flanked him like a whelp of hungry mongrel pups performing nods, eyebrow stretches and other intended expressions of solidarity for the camera, most of which were completely lost in translation and which ended up instead making some of them look like a cat with a fur ball, or a dog when you put its medicine on its tongue. Most, however, just looked like exhausted and clapped-out character actors after a long season on the boards before hostile provincial audiences, hamming it up for the camera con brio lest unemployment come before they had paid the gas bill.

Bruce (small business) Billson should really give up the garlic, he thought, if he can’t stop sticking his face in other people’s businesses. And give up all the hearty hail fellow well met stuff. Such an unctuous toad. Besides, that’s my routine. Bet Frankston’s happy when he’s in Canberra, oleaginous, grasping, self-propelling bag of fart gas.

The unemployment rate has hit 6.3% the highest since Abbott was Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in 2002. Business and consumer confidence are at an all-time low. Other financial measures suggest that Australia may well be headed for an economic recession.

‘…Achievement,’ he continued, giving himself thinking space to work out where he was, what day it was and where his weekday Malvern star was parked. Trust Johnston to stand upwind and near him. You could fuel a small gas bar-fridge on the alcohol on his breath. Glad that he’s so close to Ian MacDonald, the double-crossing, back-stabbing, pompous misogynist. How dare he accuse me of over promoting Peta Credlin?  If only he knew how much I owe, how much we all owe to Peta. She even does the Cabinet footy-tipping. Ungrateful bastard!

Stopped the boats; scrapped the carbon tax;

Abbott has delivered on his campaign to roll back action on global warming and has effectively thrown the off switch on the booming renewable energy industry …direction action, the so-called centrepiece of his government’s climate change policy is a hoax.

‘Solid achievement’ chorused the Treasurer, the Foreign Minister, the Trade Minister and all the other overlooked Ministers for whom the Christmas photo is as close as they will ever get to their PM. They packed closely in around their hapless leader like pin-striped blowflies on a country dunny, in a parody of solidarity whilst nudging one another aside for a bigger share of the lens. It was the last parliamentary steps photo-opportunity of the year. Some reckless pundits were musing that it could be Abbott’s last ever.

Health, Education and Community services have all been cut savagely…while the Abbott government has shown the interests of big business and mining interests will always come before the needs of communities and the environment.

Features contorted into toothy grins, manic rapture, bucolic reverie, mindless ecstasy and other grotesquely insincere affectations of guileless bonhomie and esprit de corps for the camera.  Christopher ‘Glad hands’ Pyre pumped Peter Dutton’s hand on the pretext of endorsing the Health Minister’s latest Medicare fiasco whilst hoping against hope to forge some covert alliance of desperate mediocrity which might be traded upon in the future. Greg Hunt shook his own hand, there being no-one more worthy or suitable nearby or in the entire government, come to think of it.

Inwardly all members of government were filled with various forms of bickering and dissension, each herniated with self-pity and gall at their misfortune, each cursing their luck to have such a dud leader, each bitter and miserable about their PM, Peta Credlin’s high-handed control over every detail of their lives and their government’s record-breaking low performance in the polls and each fearing unemployment next election.

The Abbott government has increased secrecy and cruelty towards vulnerable people seeking asylum. Domestically, it has undermined attempts to address discrimination in society regarding sexuality and race.

All present, of course, were singing from the same song sheet, namely Peta ‘chokehold’ Credlin’s daily song sheet of talking points, a type of scripted autopilot-autocue provided daily or more often as required for the mentally challenged, enfeebled, bone idle, brain dead and any other members of the Abbott government. It was a stunning display of solidarity, unanimity and state of the art micromanagement.

Fittingly, capping a busy, busy, busy and richly productive year, in which its myriad achievements appear daily ever more solid and uplifting, and in David Johnston’s Defence, also very much more liquid, not forgetting so much offered that was simply rarefied and gaseous, the Abbott government then reached deep into its chest cavity to furnish its long-awaited, hand-crafted, homespun, heartfelt, Christmas message to the people of Australia.

Its mug filled to overflowing, with the business, the small business-and-lifeblood-of-our-nation-amen business, of dispensing (with) largesse, the (dried) fruits of prosperity and stale beer-nuts of good cheer, the Abbott government with typically reckless generosity bestowed its spirit of mean and sneaky upon every household in the land. The photographer, a wag from way back, cleverly by-passed ‘say cheese’ in favour of something much more suited:

‘Say: Mean and Sneaky,’ he instructed, test camera aloft.

‘Mean and Sneaky, they chorused, bubbling with festive spirit and goodwill to all men and one woman in the cabinet.

‘Monstrous, mean and sneaky, thought the man with the automatic weapon on terror alert as he surveyed the lot of them, his gaze coming to rest on Scott Morrison’s features, which were ablaze with such crazed, rampaging zealotry that he would have immediately called for reinforcements had he not been sure that he was one of the most popular and widely respected members of the Abbott cabinet. They are all a worry, he thought, his forefinger on the trigger of his assault rifle, and especially when the best of them, in their own eyes, in their own esteem, is a raving psychopath.