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Following Hamas' atrocities in Israel, the media are awash with commentary, so I will keep my comments short. I am shocked by the willin...

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Super stuff-up!

If there was a single policy that contributed most to the loss of faith in Turnbull and Morrison in this election campaign it has been their ill conceived Superannuation policy. This policy alone turned many from loyal LNP supporters into at the very least skeptics but some into outright enemies.

Given the many and oft repeated claims by a broad spectrum of LNP ministers, including, most pointedly, our current treasurer that "we won't touch super", " the government is not after your money", it is no wonder that many have turned their backs on the party. It has left a deep scar that will heal but not for a while.

Change or stay the course?

Before the election Turnbull and Morrison could have retreated from some of the most controversial parts of the policy, those relating to the lifetime after tax contribution cap of $550,000 and the blatantly retrospective commencement "from 2007". Yes, this would have been a loss of face and it would have lost some credibility, but by any measure sticking to the controversial policy they have lost much more.

After the election however that option is not so easy.

They are left with only unsavory alternatives.

If the Super policy legislation is presented to the parliament in the form in which they were advocated at the election, it will remain as an ongoing scar against Turnbull and Morrison that will haunt them for whatever period they have in office.

If on the other hand they modify it, they will not only have angered their base for no reason, worse still they will repeat the policy flip-flops that contributed to the downfall of both Abbott and Gillard governments. You cannot change the policy you have taken to an election without serious adverse consequences.

Reluctantly I have to accept they have no choice but to present the legislation as proposed at the election, and hope the Senate saves them.

The Senate may well save them

Although this is by no means likely, it is possible that the Senate will reject or insist on modifications to the policy that was taken to the election.

Many in the crossbench owe at least part of their support to their stated position against the government's Super and so will naturally reject the most controversial propositions. So in this case at least Turnbull will get help from the cross bench.

It then really depends on the ALP.  

The ALP was very vocal about the 'Retrospectivity" in the proposed rules but then 'banked' all the savings. This inconsistent approach may have been expedient during an election campaign but now needs to be reconciled. If they dig their heels in and insist on modifications, it will give Turnbull an out. He will be able to modify the policies to smooth over the most controversial parts relating to the lifetime limit on after-tax contributions. It would be hard for the ALP to argue against the removal of the retrospectivity thorn from the policy when they had argued against in during the campaign, but of course this is the ALP and they have done similar policy flip flops in the past.

However the very fact that it gives Turnbull an out may sway the ALP to simply support the legislation as proposed to entrench the resentment by the LNP supporters against Turnbull and Morrison. 

My guess is the ALP won't do this. They won't be able to resist grandstanding and will choose to reject the legislation. I guess we'll see.

In any case if the legislation is rejected, it will give Turnbull the justification to make necessary changes to remove the controversial aspects of the policy and find a middle road to calm LNP supporters. Let's hope he takes that road. He seems doggedly deaf to advice and I fear he may not.

Thursday 14 July 2016

May outshines Turnbull

May claims the centre..

Theresa May has taken the reins of the UK with a quiet confidence reminiscent of her very successful only female predecessor. By vowing to fight the "the burning injustice" of the disadvantaged she claims the centre path and vows to rule for all the people. Glib as these sentiments may be, they show an astute politician setting an agenda for the country and her party.

In the same vein she has appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, a surprise appointment but most appropriate given Boris' role in the Brexit decision. He will have the task of facing the very people who may be hostile to the move. More importantly given the divisions within the conservative party caused by the Brexit decision she is showing she wants a united party and will include all who are capable in the ministry.

Contrast with Turnbull

Contrast this to our own PM. After deposing Abbott, without a second thought for inclusivity or healing the natural divisions that such a coup would cause,Turnbull surrounded himself with his 'yes' men. The very people who had helped orchestrate his ascendance became the primary beneficiaries. Many ardent Abbott supporters were jettisoned.

Over the past 8 months he has had a free rein to win the hearts and minds of both the electorate and his colleagues. Alas the election results demonstrate that he has been unsuccessful. By almost losing the un-loseable election he has opened up a rift with the right wing of his party and yet seems doggedly unwilling to redress this problem. Where May accepted the need to ensure all extremes of her party are represented in her cabinet, Turnbull seems blind to the division he has caused and reluctant to address it.

It can be achieved in a number of ways,  either by opening up more cabinet positions for its members or by being more willing to fight for their causes.  Yet there is no sign that Turnbull is taking any action. One is reminded of the Abbott 'tin ear'.

While it is true that today these problems are but 'rumbles', a Cory Bernardi announcement of a new right wing movement, or individual MPs complaining about the Super policy. The rift goes deeper than that. Once parliament is back in action it will be exploited by political shenanigans by any of the opposition parties and the media, and has the potential to fester and grow. With the government's future hanging on just two disaffected right wing MPs this is potentially terminal.

Turnbull neglects this at his peril.

Que sera

The election result just announced, the senate not yet settled, Shorten still doing victory laps, yet the carnival moves on. The hectic activity of weeks gone by; the constant intrusion of political ads, news-grabs of pollies in factories and shopping malls, visibility vests, handshakes, rats being cuddled, incessant analysis by the chatterati, robo-calls, election posters, are gradually fading into memory. We are back to the daily grind. The electorate, judged by this single voter, is 'excited-out'. There has been too much electioneering, over too long a period and we all have our breaking points.

Yet curiosity compels questions. The post election review and recriminations have commenced and will no doubt play out over the next few months.
  • Was the double D worthwhile? 
  • Should the campaign have been shorter? 
  • What should have been done differently?
  • How to respond to a scare campaign?
The Medi-scare campaign is lionized by the ALP and deplored by the LNP. Behind the scenes it is the the backroom boys, the campaign puppeteers, who will be evaluated in view of their results. But at front-of-house, the leaders must accept responsibility; Shorten the victor by smiles, and Turnbull tainted by under-performance.

Yet these questions are for the short term. More important are those of the future;
  • Will this just-over-the-line result lead to a more careful attentive, therefore better government? 
  • Will it survive the knife-edge of fortune to last its full term? 
  • Will Turnbull have learned any lesson from his disastrous campaign? 
  • Will the media take a more sober assessment of information provided by vested interests? 
  • Will the media in the future question outright lies from their favoured politician ? 
  • Will the promises/mandate by a government that barely gets across the line be respected by an already pugnacious senate? 
  • Will the disposition of the cross benchers allow real budget repair? 
  • Will Australia lose its AAA under a Liberal party trying to achieve the opposite? 
  • Will the ALP vote in favor of economic policies it took to the people, if they are now presented by an LNP government?
Alas que sera, sera. What will be will be. Keep watching.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Although I named this post "The Good the Bad and the Ugly", there is little good in the final outcome of this election, no matter what it turns out to be.

The Good

The most significant single 'Good' is the Pyrrhic victory for those who objected to the ousting of Tony Abbott last September. The electorate has punished the Malcolm Turnbull government where it hurts most, at the 'only poll that counts'. No doubt many of the so called 'Del-cons' have had a role in this. It may not have been the only factor in the swing against the LNP but it was significant as it was indeed an own goal. 

The lesson is clear. No matter which party you are, if the bed-wetter MPs turn against the elected PM in their first term, the party will be punished at the next election. Moreover such a move will divide the party and damage electoral support potentially for multiple terms. No doubt the LNP and in particular those who turned against Abbott are now trying to rationalise their own stupidity.

The Bad

Unfortunately in this category there are too many to mention, but here are some; - 
  • The Senate potpouri will make it difficult for either major party to govern. Minority and independent senators avoid unpopular measures, and since the serious job of budget repair requires such measures, budget repair is likely to be postponed. At the same time in order to woo these crossbenchers government decisions will be skewed towards their pet projects. All unsatisfactory outcomes.
  • With a hung parliament, as seems most likely, all the above problems will simply multiply. More chaos, more wooing of crossbenchers, more misdirected decisions.
  • The voters have lost trust in the major parties and have moved from the centre to the right (Pauline Hanson) and the Left (NXT).( I know Xenophon says he is mainstream and centrist, but that's what they all say. Judge them not by their words but by their deeds. Historically he has voted with the Green Left. ) This makes for a divided electorate that will not favour the very hard and unpopular decisions rebalance the ship of state.
  • The LNP is now a more divided party. Turnbull may not realise it yet, but his wings will be clipped and he will have to accept serious changes. If he doesn't he may be ousted. That would only lead to more instability. Many Turnbull supporters have lost confidence in their leader and most likely this will have inevitable consequences.
  • The ALP is emboldened. It now feels its policies are winners. These are policies of the Left rather than the centre . Policies to spend more on Education and Health and allow deficits and debt to grow. Whether it gains government in a hung parliament or not, these policies will be more ingrained in the ALP psyche.
  • The ALP has not been punished for its reckless spending beyond its terms in government. Our structural deficit is the result of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments' legislating rising spending commitments beyond its terms in government, and without any commensurate rises in incomes.
  • ALP has not been punished for shamelessly sabotaging the LNP's attempts at budget repair by denying passage of measures that it has subsequently used in its own election commitments. Will it now pass this legislation?
  • The Unions are emboldened. The TURC royal commission uncovered significant and on-going union corruption including extortion, thuggery, and sweetheart deals with Employers that disadvantaged their own members. Neither the ACTU nor the ALP have made any moves to even acknowledge the problem let alone take action against any Union leaders or even change some of their own givernance. The CFMEU  the subject of the most egregious corrupt practices remains a fully endorsed memebr of the SACTU and the ALP to its shame still accepts donations from the tainted union.
  • and so on..

The Ugly

Elections are generally an 'ugly' time to view a nation's character. This campaign has been no exception, highlighted by some of the most blatant lies and misrepresentations I have come across.

Starting with ads citing half-baked truths and extending to an entire campaign based on an outright fabrication.

The Unions' ads citing cuts in education and health spending fall into the former category. Education and Health spending are both increasing year on year. Similarly the LNP attacking Labor on border control given their stated policy is the same, was only justifiable when many ALP MPs openly contradicted their own parties policies.

But it is the Medi-scare campaign arguing that the "Coalition will privatise Medicare" that was the most ugly aspect of this election. It was a fabrication and at no stage did the ALP believe that the LNP had any intention to privatise Medicare. The push back by the LNP was slow and weak. Who knows what a more forthright rebuttal may have achieved. Nevertheless the Mediscare campaign did a lot of damage and certainly swung many wavering voters to the ALP. It will no doubt take pride of place in political attack campaigns for its success. Call me a purist but I think such tactics are not worthy of any party that wants to govern our country. 

What next

Instead of Turnbull's dream scenario of a re-elected Coalition delivering stable government, the electorate has produced a nightmare of instability and uncertainty. A divided LNP that may or may not form government, a resurgent ALP with policies to cripple the country, a feral senate with multiple crossbenchers with diverse personal/party goals and an electorate in denial, blissfully sailing the Atlantic on the RMS Titanic - pass the champagne please!