Wednesday, 23 December 2015
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