Wednesday, 23 December 2015 

untitled2David Rowe, AFR

LEIGH SALES: OK. Let’s whip through a few other things. Your minister, Mal Brough, …

MALCOLM TURNBULL: You’ve lost interest in innovation, have you?

LEIGH SALES: (Laughs) I haven’t lost interest, but there’s a lotta things to get through and there’s limited time.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Aunty ABC loses interest in innovation.

LEIGH SALES: I wish we had unlimited time.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Yes, well, there you go.

Press gallery loses interest in the ishoos

I do love Catholics who now think Martin Luther & the Reformation are an example for other religions to follow. Welcome to the 16th Century.

Alex Hawke MP

The attempt by Ian Macfarlane to switch Coalition parties was widely portrayed as marking the end of Turnbull’s honeymoon as it showed that he faced dissension in the Coalition. If that’s the criteria, then it never began.

From the word go, Turnbull faced sniping from senior Liberals, the Nationals openly considering whether to stay in the Coalition, and a Defence Minister pre-empting his dumping by announcing in front of the flags of the armed services that his removal would be, er, a threat to national security.

But those early rumblings were swept over by a media hailing the end of the killing cycle and celebrating Turnbull’s tour of long thoughtful wide-ranging interviews of which we remember not a thing. A few months later and Turnbull is still giving long thoughtful speeches on stuff like innovation, precisely what the press gallery have been demanding, only for it to be used as an excuse to get him into an interview so those like Leigh Sales can get on to the gritty stuff of internal Coalition politics that the press gallery is really interested in.

This is not to say nothing has changed. A period has definitely come to an end. For the last five years the Liberal right has been indulged as tapping into a “base” in the electorate which was really a result of Labor fretting about the loss of theirs. It did nothing for Labor’s electoral fortunes but did help to not only rehabilitate Howard and erase his sweeping loss of 2007 but incredibly enough even made Abbott look electable. After winning by default, within a few months even the Liberals worked out Abbott wasn’t, and that period is now over. It is unlikely that that the idea that the Liberal right is electable will be given such credibility again.

Abbott’s dumping marked the end of the leadership tussle in both major parties to take back power from the “party thieves”. Yet funnily enough, despite the obvious failure of Abbott and Gillard, they have sort of won. Labor is now headed by a highly unpopular leader with his leadership nevertheless protected by the very rules that were meant to prevent factional/union hacks like him taking it in the first place.

Meanwhile Turnbull looks paralysed. While the electoral unviability of Abbott and the conservative agenda has been exposed, Abbott is now again in his favourite position, as internal opposition leader. Abbott’s only audience is the party, not the electorate that don’t like him much, and is focussed on the only poll that counts these days, the internal party vote. In reality he is back to where he was when he was elected, not as an electoral winner but to revive the party’s brand. These things work themselves out.

The battle over which Abbott and the conservative right have chosen to revive the brand is Islam and terrorism. Islam is fast becoming the battleground for right and left to work over their clapped out agendas as much as climate change was for both sides three years ago. Here again in doing so, neither side is doing any good for the issue that is supposed to be being addressed.

From the right, the faux religious arguments that Islam needs a reformation are really a way of bringing up the old Western values argument at a time when no one is quite sure what they are anymore. Besides awaking the lingering sectarianism in the Liberals, it has also provoked an equally incoherent counter response from those like Waleed Aly who doesn’t seem to be sure whether the Islamic Reformation happened in the 16th century or is happening now. This is as phoney a debate on religion as the climate change debate was one of science.

There has been an obvious level of discomfort in the media that Abbott is still hanging around. Polls (unfortunately inconclusive) have been commissioned in his electorate as to whether he should stay and sonorous editorials from papers and journalists have been written as to why he should disappear from the political stage.

Partly it’s a consequence of the growing orthodoxy overcoming debate in Australia where whole areas such as gun laws, climate change, the causes of domestic violence, are now considered off the radar for acceptable debate. In the case of criticising Islam, there is also the view that doing so would only inflame the populace and cause another riot like on that obscure South Sydney beach that ten years later leftists still like to bang on about.

But even worse than the argument about what effect Abbott’s comments are having on the non-Muslim population, is what effect it is supposed to be having on Muslims. Apparently such comments are “unhelpful” in the fight against terrorism because it will encourage Muslims to go on a jihad or at least protect those that do. It staggers belief that anyone could regard portraying Muslims as the sort of people that will go on a mass killing spree if their religion is insulted as painting them in a flattering light. Even if it was actually true.

It’s the sort of rubbish you’d expect to be flogged by the head of ASIO, but an astonishingly counter-productive argument pushed by those who think they’re doing the best for Muslim Australians. It can only be explained by the desperate need to keep the confused politics of multiculturalism intact even if it’s detrimental to those it is supposed to benefit.

Probably the most depressing thing about all of this is that despite the departure of Abbott and New Thinkers like Gillard and Latham from the political scene, the culture wars look to be going on, indeed if anything getting worse. At least we aren’t being told anymore that this is all because the electorate wants it, as we were for the argy-bargy over asylum seekers, and is now more clearly about what it was always, games that are carried out for internal political needs, even if it mows down asylum seekers, climate change scientists and Muslims in the process. That’s some progress at least.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 23 December 2015.

Filed under State of the parties

Tags: , ,


9 responses to “Fabulous(ish)”

  1. F on 23rd December 2015 10:50 am

    Sigh….you’ll be on a list for this post. One simply doesn’t criticize the new regime. I doubt you’ll be getting Christmas cards this year from Latingle and the gang.

    Turnbull wants to be seen as proactive, but he is actually completely reactive. This will become blatantly apparent when the hard decisions on the budget are forced onto us by our OS lenders. When is the last time Goldman Sachs advised the Australian PM to go to an early election? To head of what exactly?

    What is particularly sad for our journos and commentators is that they desperately want Turnbull to succeed, even to go as far as to liken him to Menzies(!). They are going to be so disappointed. Its almost enough to make you feel sorry for them…

  2. Marilyn on 23rd December 2015 4:15 pm

    Turnbull has proved over and over he is not a leader, he is a follower without a plan who just wants glory.

  3. Riccardo on 24th December 2015 9:50 am

    The whole Leigh Sales interview is on the wrong premise for both sides of the interview:

    -Turnbull for thinking the ABC is there to be his or the government’s mouthpiece for the government announcement du jour

    -Leigh Sales for thinking that any other thing was any more important either.

    The Emperor will be shown as wearing no clothes when someone points out that maybe the public don’t care about either the government’s innovation policy or the Canberra obsession with party politics…or much else as well.

    I’m not sure why you linked to http://www.pipingshrike.com/2014/12/home-front-an-update.html TPS, not your finest moment.

    It’s like reading some history textbook to read about the Dreyfus affair or Profumo scandal and realise it is having absolutely no enduring effect on the present, but got lots of people very hot under the collar at the time.

  4. Riccardo on 24th December 2015 10:10 am

    In one sense – it is Turnbull calling out the ABC.

    While his comment “Aunty ABC loses interest in innovation” sounds like sourness at not being given free ad time for the government’s agenda, in another sense it is pointing out the ABC couldn’t even muster/afford enough research time from the show’s staff to think of some decent questions to ask him.

    You know, like “How does your so-called Innovation blah blah actually change reality on the ground, where inventors and startups want to leave this country and take high skilled jobs with them” or “What is wrong for a classical Liberal with the idea that the best thing you could do with your $1b spending spree is give the money back to the taxpayers, so they can make their own decisions about what to innovate?”

    I’m beginning to see past the ABC, but not for the loony-right’s reasons – but because I am just not sure of its purpose. TV seems to be a relay station for BBC TV which said BBC could pay for itself.

    There is no value add over the very poor commercial offerings in News or Current Affairs. Some specialist programming eg Landline could be funded out of Govt department budgets like Agriculture.

    Lots of us are looking at how we can ‘off-grid’ from everything this distorted economy and society is trying to push. We do not need a government funded clone of the worst that commercial TV could throw at us.

  5. F on 24th December 2015 11:06 am

    Well Riccardo, one of the issues of asking this current government detailed policy questions is that there are no real details. Any details that are there will likely change or be dropped if they prove problematic. Do you really think this government has been able to format in a few months a nation wide economic policy that will change a 30 year trajectory of innovation stagnation and venal rent seeking? Nope. Sales and the rest of the gang don’t want to lance this boil because what would flow forth is simply too horrifying: Australia’s whole economic game plan is completely rooted.

  6. The Piping Shrike on 24th December 2015 10:28 pm

    I linked to that post as it sums up the confusion of multiculturalism politics in responding to home grown terrorism that backfires on Muslims.

    Summed up by the fact that we now have a Prime Minister who only wanted Christian not Muslim refugees from Syria, yet now we all are supposed to think is more “sensitive” on the issue.

  7. Persse on 26th December 2015 9:07 am

    The three steps to innovation:
    1.Gonski education reforms
    2.World class broadband
    Do you see the problem here Malcolm?

    If only Bill Shorten had Malcolms skill in destroying Liberal Party MPs (such as Peter King,Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull previously)

    Pipes You are absolutely on the money about the dichotomy between rhetoric and practise in ant-terrorism.

  8. Riccardo on 30th December 2015 8:19 am

    Confusion…I think was TPS (very rare) moments of confusion, giving greater significance to some woman’s facebook post and to some nutter looking for ‘something to die for’ before going down in gunfire. Not the terrorism I grew up with.

    I think what the Sales situation shows is the ‘postmodern’ version of censorship is far worse than having a man in a grey suit with a texta crossing out what you can’t read…this is the censorship of journalists who don’t want to be frozen out of their social circles.

    There will be no Watergate here while there is nobody who will courageously develop a story from the ground up, from clusmy burglary to Presidential resignation. And no editors here to provide such journos with the support and discretion to continue the story against the wrath of the political class which would inevitably follow.

    I’m sure Woodward and Bernstein didn’t have to worry about running into their prey at Manuka Coles.

  9. Riccardo on 30th December 2015 8:40 am

    My solution to the ABC’s problems:

    1. Put the BBC on relay. Or set up BBC Australia. This solves the problem of having an English speaking TV channel and media outlet that is sufficiently distant and unwedded to the local political culture to report on it fairly and accurately. And get all those BBC dramas part of the deal, stop forking out taxpayer dollars for the rights to those.

    2. Issue licences for broadcasting in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic, as well as for Aboriginal groups to broadcast their own news and programming within their catchments.

    3. Leave the existing commercials as outlets for the US media groups as at present.

    One of the issues for the survival of Australia is ensuring that Arabic language media, rather than being ‘sectioned off’ from the mainstream community, is front and centre of it.

    People should be talking about what was on Arabic TV last night, whether it was the latest Egyptian drama or a call from IS for more volunteers.

    Same with Chinese – ensure that the influence of Communists is in plain sight.

    We don’t have that problem with the US or UK influence- similar language to the majority of Australians so can work out if they were saying things not in the best interests of community harmony or national security.

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