The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

Ten Fat Years but not much to show for it

Back in the Hawke-Keating years, Gerard Henderson was a columnist I respected. Obviously conservative, he nevertheless provided a reasoned and informative political critique. During the Howardian era, his think tank, the Sydney Institute became an influential gong-banger for neo-liberal free market dream.

Henderson became one of Howard’s most important foot-soldiers in his war on Political Correctness, while dog-whistling that some cultures and people are better and more valuable than others. When he wasn’t tilting at left wing bias in the ABC, his commentary consisted of polemic rants on the deluded and evil character of ‘The Left’ for their irrational Howard-Hating ways. Howard, the great political genius of the decade could do no wrong. Critics were simply elitists who were out of touch with ordinary Australians and therefore clearly Un-Australian.

Henderson now laments that the new Nick Torrens and Garry Sturgess documentary on the Howardian Era, Liberal Rule, is a shocker and a disgrace. This is from the man who thought The Howard Years showed too much Leftist bias, even though there was no commentary and the story was told by Howard and His Band of Merry Men themselves!

Henderson is concerned that Howard’s Legacy be rightly preserved in our historical heritage (and indeed within the contemporary Liberal Party).  He accuses The Left of denying the good and lasting things that Howard gave us.

In reality, Howard was a man suited to the times – his genius was in using to them to his political advantage. His government was lazy, short-sighted, mean-spirited in public affairs, overly generous in private affairs In Foreign Affairs Howard nailed his colours to the neo-liberal Bush Administration. Howard presided over a decade of robust economic growth fueled by a resources boom and a burgeoning private debt. And that’s about the best you can say for Howard.

Ross Gittins nailed it – we had ten fat years but not much to show for it. So there you have it, Gerard. That’s Howard’s Legacy.

Filed under: Howardians, Politics, ,

Peter Costello is confused

And I have this much credibility.

Peter Costello is both confused and confusing.

Filed under: Ass Hattery, Howardians, Politics

Malcolm in a muddle IV – Budget Edition

trufflesLeader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull had an opportunity to score some political points on the Rudd Government’s 2009 Budget but decided to do a Nelson instead by announcing a tobaco tax policy stunt without consulting the Party room. Consequently, the media attention has been shifted from the Government to the Opposition, but not in a good way.

Bronwyn Bishop immediately declares that the tobacco tax is not a good idea. And it wasn’t a good idea, for it raised the contradiction in Turnbull’s stance of blocking the alcopop tax – a revenue-raising strategy that also discourages teenage binge drinking while reducing the cost on public health in the long term. Turnbull is offering a tax on the poor (the majority of tobacco users) to subsidise private health insurance for the wealthy. He then spent the day after his Budget Reply defending his tobacco tax, fending off questions about increasing tax on all alcohol products and his commitment to maintaining Medicare after suggesting that every Australian should have private health insurance! Way to put pressure on the Government Budget Big Spending!

On the other hand, maybe the whole thing was an elaborate strategy to enable Turnbull to back-flip on the alcopops tax and thus reduce the risk of a double dissolution, which no doubt has many back benchers gravely concerned for their parliamentary future. Brilliant! But it leaves the Opposition looking weak, divided, hypocritical and the electorate still confused about what they actually stand for.

Enter the cavalry! The only Liberal giving any idea what the Opposition stands for is former PM John Howard – Work Choices, a payroll tax holiday, more money to the States and less to individuals (well at least the non-wealthy ones). Well that’s cleared that up, then.

This is what happens when a party is internally divided and can’t come up with a policy platform – and ‘we would be tougher’ is not a policy – it’s an attitude that many interpret as screwing the less well off.

Well done Malcolm on a great week, and good luck with winning government in 2010!

The Force may not be with you.

Filed under: Economics, Howardians, Humour, Politics,

Malcolm – strong at the beginning but now gone soft

Fresh from her nomination to the list of Howardian Dead Wood, Bronwyn Bishop, has lashed out at her leader, Malcolm Turnbull. “Malcolm seems to have been strong at the beginning but now he has gone soft.”

Exposing the division within the Coalition over how confrontational the Opposition should be, she said that “quite clearly, people aren’t seeing us as sufficiently strong”.

Um… just saying ‘NO!’ all the time is not a sign of strength.

“I would normally not respond at all to anonymous nonsense but a lot of people have been saying that they are not sure what the Liberals stand for – that we have backed off on policies we believed in before,” Mrs Bishop said.

I think she’s on to something here. Other than a persistent belief that they were born-to-rule, what do the Liberals believe in? Where are the alternative policies? Could it be that they are so hopelessly internally divided that they don’t actually know what to believe in – being too busy maneuvering against each other to have time for policy development?

Once touted as a future Australian Margaret Thatcher, Bronwyn wants to bring back the old policies. Small problem with that – they got them soundly thrown out of office.

Now where’s that chainsaw?

Filed under: Howardians, Politics, ,

Malcolm in a muddle II

trufflesThe trouble Turnbull is having over asylum seekers is further evidence that the Libs are still in denial about losing power and still unable to cut away the shackles of the Howardian ideology. Trying to preserve Howard’s legacy, out of some deluded belief that the electorate will realise they made a mistake and return them to office, is NOT a winning strategy. Costello will face the same challenge, and he’s part of the problem, not the solution.

Ten years, I tells ya.

Filed under: Howardians, Politics,

Malcolm in a muddle

No, we’re not going to politicise this tragic event. What…? Apparently we are. It’s clearly resulted from Rudd being soft on illegal immigrants. He lured those poor souls to their tragic deaths by making them think Australia is a soft touch.

So what would you instead?

Well… we’d be tougher. Bring back Temporary Protection Visas! What…? Or maybe not. We should look at it rationally and look carefully to see what works and what doesn’t. But it’s definitely Rudd’s fault.

Filed under: Howardians, Humour, Politics

We fight for Afghans, but God help them if they turn up here illegally!

Logisitical nightmare: The Navy is assisting in the transfer of casualities.

'Logisitical nightmare': The Navy is assisting in the transfer of casualities.

One of my favourite conservative bloggers is arguing that “Illegal migration demands surge with Rudd Government policy failure.” The Howardian approach to asylum seekers – ‘the boat people’ – was to subvert the claim to asylum by determining that arrival here without proper authority is a criminal act. Additional deterrence was offered through prolonged incarceration and the odd dubious repatriation. It is not illegal, however, to seek asylum.

Whether or not the Afghans are seeking permanent resident status, as Harry claims, they are first and foremost exercising their human right to seek political asylum. Are conservatives saying that breaking an immigration law cancels out any legitimate claim to asylum? That to seek asylum in Australia is illegal unless the proper paperwork is done first?

What would Harry do with these people? Suggest they form an orderly queue at the Australian Embassy in Kabul and submit paperwork seeking asylum?? Lock them up for five years once they get here for breaking our immigration laws and then pay the cost of mental illness and social dysfunction resulting therefrom?

We have a tough immigration regime, as Harry is tacitly acknowledging, so where is the evidence for a softening, such as it will encourage asylum seekers? People on whose behalf we are fighting a war risk everything – property, family, imprisonment – to get to Australia, undertaking a tortuous and clandestine journey across Asia to finally sail in a leaky boat to Ashmore reef. I’d suggest we have to seriously consider that they are in fact refugees seeking political asylum! Hell, people with such grit and determination should at least be given a chance to put their case. And if their cause is genuine, then let them add to our common wealth. I’m sure they’ll do well, just like the rest of us immigrants have.

Tell us Harry. How would you make it tougher? How would you deal with the current wave of asylum seekers? How would you turn all this around? Or how would Malcolm Turnbull, for that matter. The ‘get tough’ message might have worked a treat for Howard, but these are different times. I suspect the masses recognise the moral hypocrisy of fighting and dying in a war for Iraqis/Afghans and then branding as criminals of suspect character those Iraqi/Afghan refugees who have the temerity to risk everything, including life itself, to turn up on our doorstep seeking shelter and compassion.

Filed under: Australian values, Howardians, Iraq, Law, Politics

Method in Malcolm’s madness?

Urged to leave politics: former federal treasurer Peter Costello. (AFP: Torsten Blackwood)

Urged to leave politics: former federal treasurer Peter Costello. (AFP: Torsten Blackwood)

The Commentariat this weekend are unanimous that Malcolm Turnbull and The Libs have just had A Week from Hell and that Turnbull’s leadership is under threat.

It is just five months since Turnbull took the top job from Brendan Nelson on the promise of strong leadership. It is almost incomprehensible, then, that his leadership could already be so tenuous.

But leadership of a bitterly divided party in opposition brings a new dimension to such matters. The speculation over Costello has become emblematic of the Liberal plight. There’s no groundswell of support for the former treasurer, but there’s mounting concern about Turnbull.

However, if Turnbull indeed offered the position of Shadow Treasurer to Peter Costello in an attempt to wedge him by portraying his refusal as evidence of his willingness to continue destabilising the party, then perhaps it is paying off after all. Maybe that was the main game and The Commentariat have missed it.

The coming days and weeks will reveal whether Malcolm’s gamble has payed off. If the mounting pressure on Costello to shape up or ship out results in him finally bowing out, Turnbull’s power base will be secure through to the next election and the Libs can finally get on with throwing of the shackles of Howard’s ‘Legacy’.

Maybe the Libs can then start thinking about formulating a coherent policy stance – although that might be asking too much.

Now, if the Libs can just get rid of Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin, they can begin rebuilding themselves into an effective opposition and start looking like an alternative government.

Filed under: Howardians, Politics

It’s time to go, Hewson tells Costello

Quit call: Dr Hewson has urged former federal treasurer Peter Costello to leave politics. (AAP: Julian Smith, file photo)

Quit call: Dr Hewson has urged former federal treasurer Peter Costello to leave politics. (AAP: Julian Smith, file photo)

Thank God that John hewson has the guts to say what most people are thinking – Pete, it’s time to bugger off mate! You had your chance and you blew it. And you really were a second-rate treasurer. Oh, and your book sucked, too.

From the ABC this morning:

“After the damage that you have done, the best you can now do to help our chances is to leave,” Dr Hewson wrote in Fairfax newspapers.

“If your few remaining mates won’t tell you, I will. You’ve had a fair go. If you now won’t give others a chance and pull your weight as a member of the team, you should move on.

“It is most unlikely that you will ever be drafted as leader of the Liberal Party and even less likely that you will ever be prime minister.

“You can’t go on ignoring the facts. You have only ever had a minimal support base and that base has been further and terminally eroded by your disloyalty, antics and shenanigans of the last year or so.

Dr Hewson also doubted Mr Costello’s competence as treasurer.

“I also doubt you have the skills, experience or self-confidence to have accepted the obvious job after losing the last election, namely shadow treasurer,” he wrote.

“You’d be lost without Treasury. You may have delivered 11 budgets but ask yourself honestly how many of them were actually yours, rather than Treasury’s.

“I am told Treasury is now drawing a sharp contrast between your little interest and involvement and that of Wayne Swan.”

Dr Hewson, who lost the 1993 federal election against former prime minister Paul Keating, is also scathing of Mr Costello’s book, released last year.

“You should also recognise that your indulgent ‘memoirs’, released recently, did not provide the platform from which you had obviously hoped to be drafted,” he said.

“They were received with a yawn. They were being sold at a discount in my local bookstore in just a few days.

“But, most importantly, they fuelled yet another round of leadership speculation, again making the Opposition the focus of exhaustive and sustained media attention, leaving the Government to skate by without scrutiny.

Dr Hewson says he thinks an election is looming.

“Despite what the Government says, the risk and opportunity of an election this year are very real, especially if my worst fears of our economy tanking are confirmed,” he said.”

Filed under: Howardians, Politics

Petulant Pete – put up or push off

Illustration: Matt Davidson

Illustration: Matt Davidson

Despite former Howard henchman Sen. George Brandis’ laughable reassurance on Lateline last night that there is nothing amiss in the Liberal Party, it is clear that they are in deep trouble. Any possibility of policy coherence is lost while the party is deeply divided between the Old Guard Right and the fresh start moderates arguing over the relevance of Howard’s Legacy, and the power struggles between the NSW Right and Costello Kroger Camp in Victoria.

British editor and broadcaster Andrew Neil has been in Australia launching the Australian edition of the UK institution The Spectator magazine. Asked on Lateline how long it takes a long-term government party to rebuild after defeat he thought about 10 years. Voters have long memories, he argues, and in order to rebrand the image a party needs to remove those who keep those memories alive.

Clearly that’s going to take some time in the case of our Libs. Petulant Peter – I could have been a contender – Costello is the main problem here. He should make the challenge for the leadership or announce his intentions to retire from his seat. Unfortunately, it seems as though he will accept the leadership only if the party comes begging and offers it to him in a bloodless coup. In which case the Libs need to make that choice, sooner than later. Otherwise we will see a succession of reasonable performers like Turnbull and Hockey chewed up and spat out. The Libs cannot afford to have Costello linger around like a bad smell constantly reminding us that that Libs are in a deeply divided shamble.

For Pete’s sake, bring on Costello and put us all out of our misery. I doubt he will be any more successful than Nelson or Turnbull. Perhaps he is waiting around for a crack at the leadership after the Libs lose the next election? But that will just ensure the Libs will remain divided and irrelevant as an effective opposition, let alone as an alternative government.

The Libs are still in denial about the 2007 end of the Howardian Ear, and will remain so until they lose next year’s election, at the very earliest. Unfortunately for the conservative side of politics I doubt the next Liberal Prime Minister of Australia is even in the parliament yet.

Filed under: Howardians, Politics

The Dog’s Bollocks

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The Dog's Bollocks: "Bollocks" is one of my favourite words, and this is now one of my favourite blogs and I've only been reading it for five minutes. – John Surname

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