Monday, 30 November 2009 

Red Riding Hood departs  after a lovely lunch with Grandma.

Red Riding Hood departs after a lovely lunch with Grandma.

At least the real Red Riding Hood noticed Grandma’s big teeth.

Hockey’s possible taking on of the leadership to ‘heal the wounds’ is based on the idea that 1) there is a possibility for compromise in the Liberals on climate change action and 2) that the subject will go away. Neither is true.

If 1) was true then we wouldn’t have had major party powerbrokers sticking their necks out as sceptics, telling the world that more than half the party were as well and generally upping the ante leading to the mass resignations of last week. We wouldn’t have had that crafty old fox Tony Abbott finally ending a double game where for months he had been claiming that climate change was a fight best avoided (while expressing doubts about the science) and then proceed to do the exact opposite last week.

It was the old guard’s polarisation of the debate that forced Turnbull to belatedly do what, for his sake, he should have done even before he took the leadership, launch a political challenge. The openly personal nature of Turnbull’s attack on Channel Nine yesterday was too much a break from Liberal tradition (the open bit, not the personal) so his challenge is looking pretty busted. Which is a shame, as it would have clarified the weakness of the old guard and generally moved things on. As it is, it gives the old guard more grounds to encourage Hockey to run against Turnbull and provide them with the cover they now so desperately need.

Yet the damage has been done. Both Nelson and Turnbull, until recently, had been trying to compromise with the old guard and it had done them no good at all. It forced both leaders to stick to electoral positions that Howard himself had seen the need to dump, and be bound to a pointless search for ‘values’ and a ‘core base’ at a time when political programmes have little content.

But at least neither came in openly as the old guard’s sponsor as Hockey would now do. Without being defeated their vested interest in pursuing a search for the party’s rationale would continue, but behind Hockey’s back so as to avoid its electoral implications. Their delusion relies on the re-writing of the Howard era and ignoring the reasons for his defeat and is where the interests of the old guard and an old man keen to also re-write his legacy, coincide.

Did anyone get the impression that Abbott, who spent the weekend doing a 70 km bike ride and hanging out at a surf carnival, wasn’t campaigning too hard? Of course not, because the real campaign is not for him to lead – that would expose the electoral bankruptcy of what he stands for. In Abbott’s own words he was merely the “sacrificial lamb” to draw another contender out, irrespective of what he believes and it was where the Grey Eminence went to work. Undoubtedly Hockey’s visit to Howard on Saturday was for the purpose of getting the views of someone who won four elections in a row, not someone who lost the last one.

Hockey’s position is made even worse by the fact that he was trailing Turnbull’s line until only a few days ago, producing a compromised candidate that as Gillard showed with her mocking of him yesterday, would provide the easiest target for the government yet.

The subject of climate change will, of course, not go away either. Not just because it is now the global lingua franca of international relations for the foreseeable future, but also because it will remain core to the government’s agenda. Starting off as a sceptic candidate will neutralise the opposition’s ability to attack the government’s major weakness in its climate change agenda. Namely the gap between a government that has trouble implementing major reform, due to its lack of social base, and its ambitions to change the weather. The grandiose aims of the government and the reliance on international factors outside of its control are likely to lead to cynicism over what goals it can achieve, none of which will be possible to exploit from an opposition branded as not thinking there was never any need to achieve them in the first place.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 30 November 2009.

Filed under Political figures

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8 responses to “Damaged”

  1. Cavitation on 30th November 2009 7:52 am

    It has been a longstanding tradition in Australia that voters despise leaders who are beholden to backroom cliques. In 1966 Gough Whitlam stood up to the Labor party’s Executive (that had tried to expel him because of his “12 witless men” crack at them), to take leadership of the party. Certainly having a leader under the control of a shadowy clique operating in the shadows has never been popular. Gough Whitlam used his audacious challenge to the Federal Executive’s influence in order to win the party’s leadership a few months later. The Liberal party used the influence that the Trade Unions exerted over the Labor party as an effective weapon against the party, at least until Trade Union power declined enough to make this an empty threat.

    So now, a shadowy clique of rightwing fanatics has anointed Joe Hockey as a front man to become Liberal party leader, to hide that real control in the party is being exerted by themselves. How will the public respond to this? Badly, if history is any guide.

    How can Hockey function as a leader, when he will be seen as just a front man, or handbag, to the crazies. Handbag Hockey will never be able to shake this image; even if he tries to who would ever believe he was acting as his own man. The only possible way would be to repudiate the policies of the crazies, by adopting a strong global warming amelioration policy, which would bring us one more turn around the hurdy-gurdy back to exactly where we are now. What is with bags and the conservatives? American conservatives have their teabags, and now Australian conservatives have a handbag.

  2. fred on 30th November 2009 10:05 am

    That photo is just begging for a caption contest.

  3. ikeshut on 30th November 2009 10:41 am

    The conservative Liberals led by Minchin and Abbott need Hockey to run. If he doesn’t it will expose them as leaders of a noisy minority by forcing a Turnbull vs. Abbott contest (with the distinct possibility that Turnbull will retain the leadership). If Turnbull remains leader their audacious sham will be exposed. There is little doubt that if Hockey runs he will win the leadership, which will expose him as a man with limited political and intellectual means. Hockey will be subjected to the full force of Labor’s political attack and the sinister machinations of a divided and bitter Liberal party. He will, as a consequence, lose the next election badly. The conservatives will then take over, probably with Abbott at the helm, to “re-unite and rejuvenate our proud party”, by which time the conservatives will probably have the numbers anyway (after the bloodbath of back-benchers).

    Minchin & Abbott’s spiritual godfather, Howard, has now anointed the stooge Hockey, who will run (despite his own better judgement). If he doesn’t (and Turnbull retains leadership) it would force a split in the Liberal Party. The stakes are too high; my prediction is Hockey will run no matter what – he has been made an offer he can’t refuse.

  4. Rich Bowden on 30th November 2009 12:10 pm

    Hockey win run…and win. What he’s left to be leader of is another matter.

    Methinks his above visit to the Wedgemaster himself may be to obtain advice on how he can escape possibly the best political wedge since the children overboard.

  5. nobby on 30th November 2009 1:02 pm

    looks like they are using the back door.hyacinth must’nt like the minions using the front door.

  6. John Rocket on 30th November 2009 11:09 pm

    🙂 Yeah, nobby, the ‘help’ uses the tradesmen entrance, eh? That’s the funny thing isn’t it – everyone talking about Hockey seeking Howard’s advice… once again, they’re all referring to the wrong Howard! What a limp dick Joe is… barreling up to the Howard residence!? Liberals are in total crisis and Joe the Saviour rocks up to talk ‘strategy’ with the couple that got them into that position. It’s ludicrous! This is the greatest, coolest Australian crisis I’ve every lived through… bloody marvelous!

  7. Riccardo on 30th November 2009 11:45 pm

    You can’t imagine Kim Beazley rocking up to Paul Keating’s door ca 1998 for some public advice on how to win back government!

    I am tantalised by the idea of a free vote on CPRS – this is just Minchin trying to save face, if he can’t get his vote through, he just wants reassurance that Marn Fergssn shares his views.

  8. paul walter on 1st December 2009 4:51 am

    “…he just wants reassurance that Marn… shares his views”.
    That remark elevates the writer responsible to heights of “true visionary”.

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