Searching for the proles of Toorak

Wednesday, 9 December 2009 

The Liberal vote at the weekend indicates that Abbott is capable of at least stabilising the Coalition vote at the level of the 2007 election and perhaps increasing it somewhat.

G Henderson 8 December 2009

Well yes. Provided, of course, Labor decides to repeat what they did on the weekend and not stand candidates and so give the Greens a free run. On the remote possibility that Labor will run candidates in the next election, the latest poll suggest that the Coalition vote has not stabilised at the level of the 2007 election, but is likely to result in them losing even more seats to Labor.

Such psephological wisdom from Henderson is par for the course in what is becoming a bizarre attempt to create an electoral contest out of nothing. In fact, there isn’t even much of an ideological contest, let alone an electoral one.

For a ‘straight talker’, Abbott is all over the place. Catch him on Lateline last night and watch him back away in the evening from what he said in the morning. After getting a bit carried away with Alan Jones on his Breakfast Show, and talking all tough and sceptic, comparing the Copenhagen summit to the 1938 Munich agreement with Hitler, Abbott then has to deny it all in the evening to the other Jones on the ABC. This yawning inconsistency between what Abbott is saying to one audience compared to another a few hours later, was zeroed in on by Turnbull in his now infamous blog post. But as the Lateline interview showed, even some in the media, who have been most prone to this straight-talking myth, are now starting to catch on.

That same incoherence has now been given an organisational form on the shadow front bench. Most in the press think the reshuffle suggests a clear move to the right, but not all are sure. The Australian thought that the dumping of Sharon Stone was a sign of a hardening of the boat policy, although she was replaced by a Turnbull acolyte who is also middle-of-the-road, so maybe the dumping of Stone suggests more a shift to competency than anything else.

On climate change, which is supposed to be the clearest sign on the change in direction, the frontbench’s most pro-climate change activist, Greg Hunt, has been kept in his place, with the portfolio name changed to ”climate action” just to prove how direct and real it is. Of course, the frontbench’s most ardent global warming believer will now be working with the frontbench’s most ardent global warming denier, Nick Minchin, in his new resources and energy portfolio, so that should be fun. It is no wonder that with such a lack of direction, any former Howard heavyweights still hanging around have been drafted in to give the line-up a feel of gravitas.

However, by far the most interesting appointment was that of Barnaby Joyce to finance. Presumably this is supposed to position him to be able to most effectively campaign against “the great big tax”. Abbott has described him as “Australia’s most accomplished retail politician” and is supposed to be counterposed against that effete, but surprisingly popular, bureaucrat Kevin Rudd.

It is worth pointing out that Rudd is exposed at the moment. The basis of this government is to offset the inability for Labor to have any meaningful domestic program with an international one. The agenda is there, in global warming, but the problem was in making the connection. Rudd needed the ETS deal. Blocking the ETS may have marginalised the Liberals, but it has also severed the link for Rudd between a program at home and what is going on in Copenhagen. It leaves him open to the question about what he will be doing in Copenhagen, other than empty grand-standing, if he has nothing to bring to it.

This is the window that Abbott has which makes what he is doing look credible. But other than making hay out of Rudd’s difficulties, Abbott has no alternative. As he admitted on Lateline last night, he still has to keep in line with what is going on overseas, and even his resistance to a carbon tax is contingent if the US adopts one. In the meantime, all that he can do is try and pretend a domestic audience exists that an establishment party like the Liberals can rely on to make such a strategy viable. This is where Joyce’s apparent “retail” skills comes in and the revival of the myth of the working-class ‘Howard battlers’, even if we now have to scour Toorak and the genteel suburbs of Sydney’s North Shore to find them.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 9 December 2009.

Filed under Tactics

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13 responses to “Searching for the proles of Toorak”

  1. Scott on 9th December 2009 8:56 am

    Yes, the pro-Liberal media is carrying on that the Libs are back in the game but they did the same thing when Turnbull got the leadership. Rudd would be prudent to wait until the second half of 2010 for an election because the Liberals’ leadership cycle in this term indicates that Abbott should be terminal by then.

  2. John B on 9th December 2009 9:20 am

    If Joyce continues in the incoherent vein he presented on Insiders, the “retail” political party will be holding a foreclosure sale earlier than they might think.

    Rudd’s biggest challenge isn’t the Libs, it’s the gap he has between his own rhetoric and action.

    For the “great moral challenge of our time”, the proposed ETS was a timid concoction of compromise. Despite this, the Libs seem determined to present an even more flimsy alternative.

  3. kymbos on 9th December 2009 9:33 am

    It’s the prospect of Joyce v Tanner in Finance that saw my jaw hit the floor. Pitting that peanut up against one of the Government’s most solid performers – ‘What are they thinking?’ is no longer a reasonable question to ponder.

    I can’t wait until Minchin and his moron mates from 1996 start to seriously ask themselves if this was a good idea afterall.

  4. fred on 9th December 2009 3:08 pm

    From Crikey

    •“Notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man-made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world’s warming has stopped.”
    – Opposition leader Tony Abbott, yesterday.

    •“The year 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850 … The decade of the 2000s (2000–09) was warmer than the decade spanning the 1990s (1990–99), which in turn was warmer than the 1980s (1980–89)”.
    – World Meteorological Organisation, yesterday.

    Abbott’s resignation should be demanded.

  5. Ricc on 9th December 2009 5:17 pm

    I like the distinction between ‘retail’ Joyce and presumably ‘wholesale’ or ‘trade customers only’ Minchin.

    You won’t have to look far for the proles of Toorak – the first booth in Higgins went massively against KOD – and it is called “Toorak West”.

    Provided as much amusement as the Lady Davidson Nursing Home booth in Bradfield which got a 30% Green vote and 6 votes for the Sex Party.

  6. The Piping Shrike on 9th December 2009 6:08 pm

    fred I think you’re being a bit harsh. I’m sure I could find somewhere Abbott saying the exact opposite.

  7. fred on 9th December 2009 7:15 pm

    How does that soften the judgement PS?

  8. The Piping Shrike on 9th December 2009 7:42 pm

    Being a bit facetious; I think Abbott’s problem is less what he believes than he can’t seem to say the same thing twice.

  9. john Willoughby on 9th December 2009 9:12 pm

    The loose Prebendary

  10. The Piping Shrike on 10th December 2009 5:17 am

    Had to look that up.

  11. fred on 10th December 2009 11:14 am

    Me too.

  12. Persse on 10th December 2009 5:34 pm

    Isn’t prebendary something to do with the racing industry? Or am I thinking of stipendary. Anyway, with retail politicians shouldn’t you look at the use by date? May you live in interesting times.

  13. Thomas Paine on 12th December 2009 1:53 am

    Well Abbott’s team seem to descending in to policy insanity. Slash immigration, ok stir up the xenophobia, until people are told the alternative of not getting a pension until 80 as that is how long they will have to keep working.

    Slash foreign investment? Yep that is a good idea Barnaby, cut off our biggest export customer.

    It is almost like these guys are rolling a dice to see what they might say next from their box of Howardian trickery.

    They will end being a parody of extremists as they are not doing that with conviction either.

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