Friday, December 13, 2013

Abbott: Weak-Tea or just weaksauce?

Barrie Cassidy posits, after rambling for half an article, something which I am somewhat qualified to comment upon:
There is no equivalent in Australia of the Tea Party that has wreaked havoc upon the Republicans in the United States. Not yet anyway. 
But there is at the margins signs of a "weak-tea party", made up essentially of far right commentators and a small minority in the parliamentary party who want to use high office to settle scores.
We are lucky in this country not to suffer a lot of the insanities built into the American system of democracy. One of the main flaws in the US system at the moment is the primacy of money being funnelled by old rich white men to unelected political organisations which then hold elected officials to ransom, dragging them away from the platform they were elected on and towards positions that suit the interests of old rich white men. This long story, which has developed over the course of decades, is now coming to a head with the congressional wing of the Republican Party declaring civil war against conservative groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth. These "super PACs" are, like the Tea Party, funded mostly by billionaires and share most of their values, so that the Tea Party itself is mostly an entity of the grass roots but the super PACs act as their avatars in Washington.

Thankfully, we don't have that sort of perversion of democracy at work in Australia, or at least nowhere near those levels. When Murray Newman bangs on about lowering the minimum wage, no one treats it seriously and it means nothing. David Leyjonhelm of the LDP banged on about the exact same subject the other day in the Fin Review as republished on Catallaxy Files, and that also had no effect whatsoever. If this was America, there would be danger of supply being blocked in the Senate until all Hungry Jack's burger flippers were paid $5 an hour. Erick Erickson of wields significant power; when he makes threats like this, you can be pretty sure it's going to come true:
Then a comical and strategically miscalculated thing happened. John Boehner decided to let everyone know publicly what many have known privately for a while — he won’t be coming back in 2015 as Speaker.
Erickson's closest counterpart in Australia might be Sinclair Davidson, who sometimes uses Catallaxy to attack others on the right, but whose rants largely fall on deaf ears.

There are, however, some significant parallels between the Tea Party and the Liberal Party of Australia. The Tea Party's ultimate goal in life is to gain political power, but then dismantle government from the inside. Their libertarian ideal is for government to consist of police plus defence, and very little else. The Liberal Party seems to be doing a swell job of implosion itself in its first three months, which have been the worst in recorded history. Like the Tea Party-inspired Republicans, Abbott gained a reputation as leading a "party of no" while in opposition, and he has continued that negativity into government with most of his actions concerned with tearing down previous Labor reforms.

Of course, the old saw about never assuming conspiracy when incompetency is more believable applies here. Is Abbott leading an extremist fifth column with an agenda of self sabotage to undermine the legitimacy of government... or is he just not any good at governing?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Shit keeps happening to Tony Abbott

There is no greater illustration of the Abbott government than the building in Shanghai that fell over in 2009. Non-existent foundations, shoddy workmanship, embarrassingly cheap construction, shortcuts taken everywhere leading to complete disaster. This is the Abbott administration in miniature.

Pundits ruminated that last week was terrible for the Libs - Gonski, Graincorp, Holden, Philippines, China and four more boats - and that November should have been taken out the back and shot. Sounds like Gillard-era apologists calling for "clear air". Gillard never got it, and Abbott doesn't seem like he will either because shit continues to happen. But what would he do with it, even if he got it?

This lack of vision and direction should not be at all surprising to anyone who has been paying attention. Abbott's reign never had any blueprint of policy. There were no intellectual foundations for this government. Like Howard before him, Abbott is relying on being able to react to things once in office, because he has no agenda of his own. Howard was a past master at latching onto issues floating through the media and taking the most populist stance to maximise political point scoring. Abbott has a tin ear for this sort of thing, on evidence to date.

Is he going to last long enough to find his SIEV-X, his GST and his republic referendum? Laura Tingle set a modern record for earliest leadership speculation over a new Prime Minister with this piece spruiking for Turnbull a few weeks ago. No one treated it seriously, and there has been no follow up. Nevertheless, the situation is not helped by his chief of staff Peta Cruddlin Credlin channelling Rudd with obsessive micromanagement of the caucus. That's just the sort of thing that starts genuine leadership destabilisation down the track.

Meanwhile, if Abbott is no Howard, the audition of Cory "Two Dogs" Bernardi to fill the attack mutt role previously filled by Abbott when in opposition is also going poorly. His barking at the ABC and his growls on euthanasia and abortion have fallen on deaf ears. As Andrew Elder rightly points out, the likes of Mike Carlton lifting the cudgel and re-enacting old battles from the 1990s culture wars only highlights how out of touch those old grizzled journos are. One should not treat what the Australian newspaper has to say on this issue with any seriousness whatsoever. Out in the actual electorate, the ABC is wildly popular, and the one-man-Tea-Party flailings of Bernardi are ignored as they should be.

The contrast with the boldness of the Keating era could not be more stark.