And oh how they laughed, the happy people! It’s been somewhat of a riot down here – Elroy has been drunk for months – as we celebrate the end of Honest John Howard and his pack of mewling scaredy-cat and the installation of the grown-ups. Talk about funny – who knew the Liberals were such good comics?
The humorous antics started immediately after the smoke had cleared from the Liberal Party HQ and Honest John was found in the wreckage to be the only the second ever Australian Prime Minister to lose his seat – indeed, many uncharitable and downright un-Australian communists were seen to snigger mightily, yea, and to guffaw out loud at the mess the Libs had gotten themselves into.
Y’see, when he was PM, coalition backbenchers were struck dumb with terror at the thought of the Man of Steel wandering off to the Twilight Home for Politically Expended and begged him to stay on forever in to eternity, amen, and so he did. ‘I will remain the leader of my party’, Howard intoned in his finest Jim Hacker, ‘for as long as my party wants me to’, a declaration of loyalty that was but a cunningly disguised challenge from the semantics master for the gutless wankers to come and get him if they dared.
However, as the ALP seemed committed to experimenting with leaders guaranteed to keep them further from the treasury benches than the Citizens Electoral Council – the avuncular oaf, the sneering union machine man and the complete fucking lunatic – no Lib dreamed that the Howard Reich could ever end.
But the ALP would not remain Rudderless for ever, and when faced with the proposition that a mandarin-speaking mandarin from Queensland here to help the socialists turn the wide brown land into the People’s Republic of Kevinstan was playing Honest John for a putz at every turn, the Liberal Party did actually gird their loins and gave Honest John his marching orders.
Yup, the Liberals, smelling their own blood in the air, decided to make a stand on the line in the sand on the land and to rescue the party from electoral oblivion, to hand the Prime Ministership over to the man that had spent the last ten years nagging Howard for it, treasurer Pouty Peter Costello, and so with steely determinism the inner sanctum stomped right up to Dear Leader and, um, suggested very politely, not in anyway that might upset the greatest Prime Minister the world has ever seen, ever, and yes that does include Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher, that if he could just maybe see his way clear to, well, maybe toddling off a little, in the nicest possible way, well, gosh, that would be super. If it was OK with him, that is. They didn’t want so seem ungrateful or anything, it was just that, well…
Absolute and unequivocal! Sort of. ‘Unfortunately, you know, he wasn’t told that he should go’ mumbled rightist henchlacky Andrew Robb when he hoped no-one was watching (They were – he did it on telly) ‘he was told that that people thought in Cabinet that he should move on, but it was ultimately his decision.’
And as Honest John is a man who knows a weasel word when he sees it, he took that decision in a way only conservatives know how – with total disregard for the wishes of his compadres and all four eyes glued on his personal posterity. This was a do-or-die, death or glory strategy based on the ultimate conceit that the Australian people would be so outraged that the Liberal Party had kicked him out then they would vote Labor and so really he was doing the party a favour…or something…
Ah well, as Howie is such a cricket tragic it should not have come as any great surprise that he would attempt to make the parliamentary Wisden’s with a record-breaking comeback and election tally, but it was not to be. The only consolation for the broken and shattered party he left behind is that he made the record books as the only other PM to be rejected by his own electorate.
But why should Howard have been expected to act as a team player? The whole concept just reeks of socialism. No, in putting his himself ahead of the party he was taking a principled stand for the fundamental tenet of modern conservatism – self-interest. How could he have ever done otherwise?
Anyhow, now that his eleven years of iron fisted discipline was over and the party a fractured shadow of its former self, who would want the poisoned chalice of party leadership now? Certainly not Poutey Pete! No, he had decided that, although it was his turn on the bike, now that the front forks were bent and the tyres were blown, and that some other bloke had the map, well, he just wasn’t that interested any more. Bzzt! Next!
So who else? Surely this was time for Malcolm Turnbull to step up and bellow ‘Outa-my-way-I’m-a-comin’-through’ to the quivering saps in the party room and propel the Libs fifty years forward into the 21st Century, no? No! Even after the drubbing, the shellacking, the bollocking that the coalition has handed in 2007, somehow they did not read the writing just about everywhere and managed to organize a contest between Mal, their only possible choice, one of the more barking mad conservatives and a third who really doesn’t mind whose side he is on so long as it’s all about him.
Yup, just when we thought we were all laughed out, Tony Abbott, the man who explained his outright asininity on the telly as “Shit happens’, who told his opposite number after a televised debate that he was half an hour late for that she was talking ‘Bullshit’, who said a dying man who had devoted the last years of his life to securing compensation for thousands of people mortally injured by one corporation’s conscious negligence indulged in ‘stunts’ and was not ‘pure of heart’, and did all this while on the campaign trail, this guy, Abbott, and here’s the punch line, said he would be a fine choice as leader because he had ‘Good people skills’.
Oh my lord, that really is comedy gold! The other guy was another of Elroy’s faves, the good Doctor Brendan Nelson, but it didn’t really matter because the thing was a foregone conclusion, right? The Libs would realize that electorate had swung decisively left and that they should seek a more centrist road, not?
Again, no! Out of party modernizer, far-right thug and Dr I-am-but-what-you-want-me-to-be, they chose…the Doc! It seems that Thoroughly Modern Mal jumped the gun and started spouting incendiary socialist propaganda by suggesting that the government apologize to the indigenous population and sign the Kyoto Protocol in a wanton betrayal of bedrock conservative principles that left hard-right Senate king maker Nick Minchin no choice but to stitch him up by carving out a deal with West Australian Liberal Party throwbacks to vote for Brendan to ‘lead’ as a puppet for the rapidly dwindling Howard faction.
So he scraped in by the merest of margins, but how is Brendan Nelson, now known as The Locum due to the fact that he is the a medical practitioner whose presence is temporary, and the rest of the conservative cause traveling now that they are Betty’s loyal opposition?
Well, the hilarity continues unabated as the Liberals discover the wisdom of the old saw ‘Be careful what you wish for’, what goes around comes around and what one does while high on hubris can tend to return for a spate of bum biting.
Let us, for instance, take those two core conservative beliefs that left Thoroughly Modern Malcolm cooling his heels for a week or so – Kyoto and the ‘Sorry’ thing. After years of Liberal’s staunch denials that whitey had ever done anything but hold the aborigines welfare in highest regard, The Locum paid his dues to his backers with these words: ‘We formally offer an apology to those Aboriginal people…’, obviously a searing rebuttal to That Nice Mr. Rudd’s pathetic capitulation to the bleeding-heart inner-city ‘indigenous lobby and a vindication of Minchin’s faith, and ‘I can now say to you that we will support the ratification of the Kyoto protocol’ is a likewise defiant stance guaranteed to thrill the heart
But it didn’t stop there! Nuclear power? Gone! Gay rights? In! Workchoices, the policy the Liberal Party died in a ditch for? No more! That’s right – five immovable pillars of policy that defined the Liberals at the 2007 elections, five policies that Honest John hung his hat on, five policies that were considered integral, core to the fabric of modern Australia conservatism – poof! Gone with what wind? The breeze of the ALP storming into the 21st Century.
And what’s also hilarious about all of this is that The Locum was the conservative faction’s leader of choice! Imagine if they had chosen Turnbull! They’d be fighting over voters with the Greens! Oh, it’s just so much fun! The Liberals have elected a wet that they thought was a dry to keep out a wet! That the Right still have so much influence is pretty strange seeing as how it was they who were crushed in November, but that’s the Liberal Party for you. Such is the animosity for the only guy that can save them, Big Mal, that they elected as their leader someone who used to be a card-carrying member of the ALP!
Liberals are, however, pretty good at holding their tongues for the sake of power. The wet faction were under the jackboot heel of the party whip and Honest John for over a decade, so now that it’s their turn to be in the ascendance, will the right shut up for a while? No, it seems that if they can’t be heard, interminably, to the exclusion of all others, the dry-hards just don’t show up.
It’s obvious who used to call the shots in the party room because we are now faced with the unedifying spectacle of Costello nodding off on the backbenches while perusing the situations vacant column and Dolly Downer whining because question time nearly interfered with his teeing off on a couple of rounds with Mark Vaile, the ex-National Party leader and therefore ex-Deputy Prime Minister but supposedly current Member for Lynne who has just distinguished himself by spruiking for Liberal Party sugar-daddy ServCorp in sunny Bahrain while he was supposed to be in House of Reps earning his paltry $127,000 p.a.
Never mind! The Locum was on the case! ‘Had he consulted me about this before he had gone’ the leader of the opposition offered most politely, ‘I most certainly would have advised him in the strongest possible terms that it wasn't appropriate for him to be overseas’. That’s the way, Doc! You tell him! Those wayward backbenchers always respond well to a bit of party discipline! You really do run a tight ship! Good job Vaile didn’t ask you, then!
Politicians are like dogs and horses – they smell fear and instinctively know who commands respect. As conservative pollies in particular like nothing more than having a hard man at the helm, the Liberals just titter at The Locum’s ‘advice’ – if that is a sample of his ‘strongest possible terms’ then some long lunches loom – indeed, there seems little reason to go into work ever again.
Still, spare a tear for poor Mark Vaile – it’s not his fault. In a typical display of conservative abrogation of responsibility, Dolly Downer went into bat for him –although one might consider that, at the moment, Vaile would be better of being defended by Ivan Milat – and begged for understanding. ‘I would go easy on him myself’ sniveled Dolly, himself currently odd-jobbing on talk radio and suffering near terminal ennui with the entire democratic process, ‘It’s easy to sneer [but]….he has lost over $100,000 in income’ Right. Just to be clear then, politics is all about serving the public – it is not, repeat, not about the money.
But this was possibly a rort too far for Mark – even Liberal kingmaker Nick Minchin was grumpy. ‘‘If he's going to be in parliament, his job is to represent his constituents’ Nick harrumphed before taking a swipe at all the other recalcitrant Libs mooching about the place, ‘it's approaching the point where they need to indicate their intentions as to whether they're going to stay and serve out the three years or retire at some point in this term.’
Ooh! Put up or shut up slackers, or Nick will punish you severely by making you leader!
Mark Vaile, being a good country boy who is not going to get kicked around like a ute-tied heeler by no city-slickin’ chardonnayists, fought back valiantly b accusing Rudd of wandering the globe with some dodgy Chinese outfit who no one had ever heard of except, it transpired, oops, John Howard and Vaile’s boss-at-the-time John Anderson. Oops! Yes, when some photos were pulled in rabbit-type stylee out of the parliamentary titfer of aforementioned unknown dodgy Chinamen having a jolly old knees-up with the cream of coalition leadership, poor Markie went all quiet. Oh, coalition ¬– is there nothing you can’t fuck up?
(The forces of conservatism are wary of Rudd’s fascination with China – who can forget Dolly Downer’s petulant pouting over Kevvie’s speechifying in full-on Mandarinese, where Dolly sulked that Kev was ‘show off’ and that he, Dolly, could pull the same trick in French if he felt like it, which he did and in doing so immediately proved that he couldn’t – but they can’t escape the fact it was they, not Labor, that had President XXXXX address the entire Australian parliament on the same weekend as George W. Bush, sending the message that the Chinese regime was a-okay with the west despite being a bunch of commies and all.
Well, when I say entire Australian Parliament, I mean the entire Australian Parliament minus Bob Brown and Karen Nettle, the two Green senators whose notions of free-speech were considered to a little too free for the governments liking and so were barred from entering the House of Representatives. Long live democracy!)
But the suspicion that all Liberal Party MPs have an irony bypass on completion of the membership forms was confirmed when a somewhat tipsy Dolly Downer, caught bunking off parliament, again, this time to lunch with another of his super-duper pals, simpered in his own defense ‘"For me, as an Opposition backbencher, to spend one afternoon not listening to Julia Gillard's childish ranting and party politicking in an era when Rudd promised new standards, on reflection, I think I was better off having lunch’
What is Dolly saying here? That the numerous pontifications he delivered during his eleven looong years as Foreign Minister (and a most humorous short but oh so sweet spell as Opposition Leader back in the day) should have been stopped if only Honest John had the ticker to implement his rarely seen and quickly forgotten Parliamentary Code of Conduct? That Dolly’s boring drones were quite OK but, well, it’s a disgrace to let those others carry on like, well, like him? Does he have absolutely no shame? And is it any wonder that he is feeling somewhat, er, redundant?
Elroy is no stranger to Dolly Downer’s peculiar notions of democracy, and even now in abject defeat his hubris know no bounds. ‘The way Question Time works’ he opined the next day, ‘is that the 50 per cent of the questions are asked of Government ministers by Government backbenchers written in ministers' offices - and they just berate the Opposition,’
Well, who knew? Um…Dolly. Again, after spending years of fielding softball Dorothy Dixers from fawning backbenchers too terrified to put a white shoe out of line and, er, berating the opposition, suddenly the very system that gave him all he has is simply now not good enough. And this man was in charge?
But his whinge-a-thon was not finished yet! ‘ And the other 50 per cent of questions are organized by the Opposition frontbench. So if you are an Opposition backbencher you just sit there.’ Oh, for fuck’s sake! He left the front bench! Himself! Of his own volition! And did we ever see him agitating for a change in procedure when he was on the frontbench? Working to kill off Dorothy? To give backbenchers more of a say? Maybe even to reintroduce the practice of backbenchers being able to ask supplementary questions, a bit of random democracy that Honest John shut down when it became a tad to tricky? No. Dolly was, of course, as the grave on the matter of backbench participation when it was his turn to wax lyrical on the achievements, such as the were, of the Liberal government. What a surprise!
And that is not the first time that this its-alright-when-we-do-it-but-beyond-the pale-when-they-do-it sniveling has been heard on the trembling bottom lips of our erstwhile overlords; indeed, on the historic occasion of the first day of parliament’s momentous ‘Sorry’ speech, the Liberal opposition were shocked, shocked I tells ya, when a couple of Labor staffers joined hundreds of others in the Great Hall of Parliament House and around the country in turning their backs on The Locum during the harangue that was his reply to That Nice Mr. Rudd, in which he said that Whitey had, sniff, had had a hard time too, that really the abos had done all right out of colonization, that they were removed from their parents for their own good and that they really should be grateful etc etc..
It was a pathetic sop to those blood-skulling bastards that had voted him Head Poobah and who wanted some dripping flesh for their considerable trouble; for his part, The Locum looked more like a man delivering his last speech as leader than his first, and he did so with all the sincerity of Honest John Howard telling the country that there would never ever be a GST because the irony is that The Locum is a wet, he agrees with the apology, yet he was elected to support the dark side. Sorry! Did we say irony? We meant hypocrisy. Ah, Brendan – is there nothing you won’t sell out for?
The Locum is still the leader of the opposition...oh, hang on – what time is it? – but once it's safe to go back into the water, Thoroughly Modern Mal will be rinsing his Speedos, polishing his board and waiting for the starter's gun for the Liberal Party Iron Man contest to begin. There even has been talk up north of a new force in Australian politics, a new conservative party that would take in the remnants of One Nation and its more insane off-shoots, the nuttier Nationals and the barking mad Right rump of the Liberals, leaving the small ‘l’ libs, the North Shore doctors wives and others with nowhere to turn but the all-inclusive broad church of the ALP and driving the left-left into the welcoming foliage of The Greens.
Anyhoo, that some insignificant little Labor apparatchiks could disrespect the upholder of all that is great and good was an outrage, naturally, for the foot soldiers of decency, and so the call came for the perpetrators to be shot at dawn. No questions. Liberal moppet and Gen X attack puppy Sophie Mirabella zeroed in on their antics and called the act ‘disgusting’, although how she’d know is something of a mystery as she didn’t even bother to show up.
But along with the rest of the Upholders of Family Values, she also reserved her opinion on the contempt shown by fellow Liberal grunt Chris Pearce, a spiffing cove who somewhat blunted Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition attack on those pathetic pinko penpushers when he, after deigning to grace the House of Reps with his presence, proceeded to spend the entirety of That Nice Mr. Rudd’s landmark monologue leisurely reading last month’s Better Homes Than Theirs or some such glossy inconsequential. Fabulous! Glad to see those conservative double standards survived the election onslaught intact.
And despite the fact that many on the Keepers of Public Morality’s benches were not in slightest bit sort for anything, al all, ever, they were nevertheless consumed with rage that writing the apology they had spent eleven dreary years avoiding, denying and ignoring was, get this, taking too long! ‘If this is indicative of the way the Government is going to run the Parliament’ fumilated Joe Hockey to no one in particular, ‘then it says that this Government is arrogant in the very early days of its term in office’. This is a hoot for three reasons; one, the ALP had actually done in 3 months what the Libs couldn’t do in 1322; two, that he dead-paned the word ‘arrogant’ as if his mob were the model of humility and three, that he still thinks the Liberals’ opinion actually counts for anything.
The opposition has been raising a few giggles on the subject of running parliament too. For instance, after eleven long years of having the Speaker of the House jammed firmly up their collective orifice the Liberals blathered on about how they hoped the new one would improve parliamentary standards and be a beacon of impartiality, i.e. be better than the last one that let the Libs run amok with impunity. It’s all very well for the Liberal Party to ignore and pervert the democratic process, but the ALP? Goodness gracious! They’re just oiks!
And subvert and pervert the democratic process they did! The Locum can squawk about the need to consult the coalition on important issues, there was never any of that from the Liberals in power; senate committees were given next to no time to discuss major pieces of legislation, the considerable blame of all and any ministerial cock-ups was routinely transferred onto the nearest public servant, ministerial statements were avoided in favour of unilateral statements by the PM to sycophants like Lawsy or Jonesy lest they be, gasp, debated by parliament!
The arcane delights parliamentary sitting days has also grabbed the psyche the ex-ministers on the opposition benches and, despite the fact that they reduced the number of sitting days during their extended tenure, they were apoplectic that the Rudd administration had declared that parliament sit on Fridays, but not necessarily with a government quorum present, in order for backbenchers to speak and advance their private members’ bills. Again, ignoring calls for a quorum to be present was all in a day’s work for the coalition when in power, but now, well, it just won’t do, and so the Liberal/Nationals displayed the respect for parliamentary standards and procedure by mounting a three-ring circus in the house complete with fire-breathers, clowns, acrobats, trained animals and cardboard cut-outs in protest at this manifestly unparliamentary measure.
Now, one might have thought that the likes of backbencher Dolly Downer would welcome the opportunity to be heard, especially considering how he was deeply concerned that ‘the questions…asked of Government ministers by Government backbenchers [are] written in ministers' offices’ and that as an ‘opposition backbencher you just sit there’ but on the other hand, considering his enthusiasm for the longer lunch and few rounds with his trusty nine-iron, Dolly is probably less concerned about preserving parliamentary procedure and more about preserving his long weekend.
Still, the new speaker has cracked down on the asking wide-open Dorothy Dixers which give the government to opportunity to grandstand with a pre-packaged reply, which will no doubt please the deeply un-ironic Liberals no end, as would also the return of the highly democratic practice of allowing MPs supplementary questions. However, as Howard banished this to the same pit of infamy as his ‘Ministerial Code of Conduct’ it is unlikely that it will eventuate, and so the coalition can just ruminate on the proposition that they really should be more careful what they wish for.
Like pension policy. The Liberals were on a real winner here – cutting a yearly lump sum payment to carers and the disabled introduced as an election ploy by the then coalition government in 2004. It’s an outrage! Something must be done! Who will think of the children?! Now, it’s always amusing to see the conservatives cast themselves as hand-wringing bleeding hearts and champions of the downtrodden – ‘Pick on someone your own size’ wept The Locum – but even more amusingly, it all fell apart as quickly as it popped up.
Bear in mind that the idea of altering the payment was never actually budget policy; it was a leak, and if Elroy remembers rightly the Howard government were always somewhat reluctant to discuss budget policy before its official launch – chattier ministers were known to extraordinarily rendered to the back backbench for discussing such matters – but no matter! The opposition had themselves some red hot, ironclad conjecture and rumour and they were going to use it!
It took a few days until Parliament sat again and the PM could straighten the matter out, and this was cause for even more howls from the coalition as they accused Labor of being a one man band under the jackboot of the Ruddster while forgetting the reign of terror they themselves had lived under for the past eleven years. Indeed, Honest John featured heavily when Tony Abbott got the laughs rolling in Question Time as he attempted to shame the government by referring to Howard’s empathy to towards the underprivileged. ‘John Howard, the former prime minister’ sucked Tone, ‘he was never one to boast about his compassion credentials’ – um, there’s a reason for that, Tony – ‘He just delivered, that's what he did, he just delivered’. Tony was quiet about exactly what is was that Howard ‘delivered’, but Elroy can’t help thinking about Honest John’s moves in 2002 to throw the disabled off the Disability Support Pension and onto the dole.
But the attack continued with The Locum exhorting That Nice Mr. Rudd to, sob, ‘walk a mile in their shoes!’ and to guarantee the payment. ‘OK’ said Rudd, pretty much straight away, ‘I give an absolute guarantee that those carers will not be a dollar worse off as a result of the budget’. There. Settled. No?
‘Will these lump sum payments be made, yes or no?’ bellowed Abbott? Well, the government acquiesced and agreed, but not before reminding the coalition that this put the government ahead of the opposition when they were in power. ‘If re-elected’ reads the then government’s somewhat optimistic propaganda ‘the Coalition Government will consider continuing to pay these bonuses depending on the economic circumstances of the time.’ Uh oh! Elroy reckons that sounds a tad non-core! So, just to recap, a rumour that the opposition would never have dignified with an answer on a position that the government never held but the opposition did was refuted. Good. Got that straight then.
And so with that in mind, consider the unedifying spectacle of The Locum crying over That Nasty Mr Rudd heartlessly handing over a $5000 ‘Baby Bonus’ to aboriginal mothers who obviously can’t cope with having that much cash all one hit. Unfortunately for what was left of is credibility, he somehow not only forget that it was his government that introduced said bonus four years ago but also that he was whining about the possible disappearance of that carer’s bonus four days ago. ‘The measure of a caring prime minister’ he had simpered, ‘is the extent to which he will reach out to people to make sure their meagre family budgets are secure’ but that, apparently, only counts if you’re white – aborigines can’t be trusted to budget.
As the Liberal Party is the party of individual choice and personal responsibility, an organization committed to reducing the influence of the nanny state on the lives of over-regulated citizens, it brings yet a another wry smile to one’s dial when they recommend, um, increasing the influence of the nanny state on the lives of over-regulated citizens. The coalition’s quarantine-the-dole strategy is a one-size-fits-all imposition on every aborigine in the Northern Territory, regardless of their ability to manage their finances or not, which ties them and Centrelink in a forty miles of red tape and mostly benefits Coles and Woolworth’s, as the grocery duopoly is given preferential treatment when it comes to shopping vouchers – so much for championing small business and choice.
The coalition further proved it was committed to creating work for aborigines by firing them all from the CEDP program so that the money could be quarantine, and the proof that this move is inherently racist is that they had to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act to do it. But it’s OK ¬– bad whiteys will also be subjected to these restrictions, although they will be managed on a case-by-case basis because they are obviously the exception and not the norm.
What else was there? Oh, that’s right – the Liberals whining that Rudd’s child-minding arrangements for his son at The Lodge as he changed school were to be funded by the tax-payer, conveniently forgetting that Howard impounded renovated Kirribilli House on the pretext that his offspring should not be subjected to the same iniquity, multi-millions spent because Howard, or more likely Janette, quite frankly just didn’t want to live in Canberra, and that it was all about them can be proved by simply looking at what they did when the kiddies left home – Janette and John stayed in Sydney.
There has also been some argy-bargy concerning the freedom of press as conservatives are now up in arms at suggestions that maybe some of the right’s more barking mad right-wing commentators have lost their currency due to the country’s lurch to the left. This is evidence of a deeply held canard and their conspiracy paranoia – that the press is controlled by the left and that rich white Christians are a persecuted minority. Its not, and they aren't, but as these simple truths do not fit into their preferred story so they are denied at great lengths and at great volume, and we must continue to put up with the fevered bleatings of Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman etc and forget about the eleven years of hearing conservatives moan about how the press are against them and how lefties like Robert Manne, David Marr et al should shut the fuck up,
Indeed, the ABC has obviously been a hot-bed of revolutionary Marxist-Leninists for many years, full of communists who have sought nothing less than the violent overthrow of the fascist Howard regime for the past eleven years, despite the Liberals’ repeated attempts to cleanse it of such seditionists and stack the board with higher minded individuals. But the ABC’s urban guerillas can throw down their arms now that Labor are in power, safe in the knowledge that their mission is complete, and the Liberals can rest happy that they have had one of their dearest wishes granted and that, at last, the ABC reflects the attitudes of the government of the day.
What’s that? The Liberals still want to privatize the ABC? But that would mean that it always reflect the attitudes of the conservative parties, whether they were in power in not! Gosh! Maybe those Libs ain’t so dumb after all! Mean and tricky maybe – conniving, manipulative, mendacious, self-serving, deluded and conceited certainly – but stupid? No, not if your definition of ‘intelligence’ is ‘rat cunning’.
But are we finished? Oh, no! Once upon a time there was the ‘mandate’, an inviolate charter granted by the electorate that cannot, repeat, cannot be usurped by such insignificant scabs on the edge of the democratic process as the opposition. The Liberals claimed a mandate to introduce the GST, a claim that Elroy could happily dispute if he felt like it, and they then claimed that an accidental senate majority was a mandate to introduce the WorkChoices, legislation they never dared to go to an election with; however, now that Labor emphatically has won an election where their intention to scrap WorkChoices was front and centre, suddenly Labor don’t have mandate!
And if that doesn’t make you dizzy enough, apparently the coalition do have a mandate to stop the WorkChoices rollback on account of an accidental left -over senate majority that they lose in July when the, um, newly elected senators move in to take their seats. As elected. To rollback WorkChoices. Hmm. Oh well. However, as noted previously, the opposition have stuck to their philosophical guns and decided to let the centerpiece of the raison detre go to the wall regardless, but they have found some other uses for their senate majority which play to matters just as close their hearts as stripping the proles of their working conditions.
Yes, now that, they have decided that labour market ‘flexibility’ is all way to hard despite their claims of economic superiority – remember how nasty unions were going to raise wages and fuel inflation while responsible WorkChoices was going to raise wages and…and…? – Ah well, as they’ve only got until July before they become even more irrelevant than they are now, they have decided to concentrate on cleaning out the trough and beating up the darkies.
Upon finding themselves in the unlikely and undeserved possession of a senate majority in 2005, the coalition set about knobbling Labor’s attempts to set up select senate committees on the grounds of fiscal responsibility; however, mindful of ways to supplement their paltry $127,000 pa now that they have lost their tickets-to-ride on the supplementary gravy train but still have that oh-so-handy-but-soon-to-expire key to the senate cash box, they suddenly found a renewed interest in select committees and granted themselves three in the in the first two days of sitting to do work quite within the scope of the current standing committees. This means that they get to pocket the $14,000 paid to the committee chair and prove that fiscal responsibility is relative to whether or not you are a coalition senator in opposition.
The other matter they are willing to die in a ditch for is the all-important culture war that Howard bravely fought against the communists, specifically indigenous affairs. The coalition may have rolled over on the ‘Sorry’ business but so what – it was only symbolic – but the idea that the Labor government might mess with the coalition’s Northern Territory ‘Intervention’ policy, a piece of legislation that can cause solid, tangible, concrete and demonstrable harm to aboriginal people, well, that is just a bridge too far, and so they will continue to fight this last crucial battle in the culture war in the senate until they are led away a-wailing and a-gnashing all the while.
But the show rolls on! Another of Elroy’s favorites is the ‘Ancient history’ whinge. It is a well-known fact that any major change to an economy or governmental policies takes an estimated seven to ten years to flush through the system, and political parties rely on some sort of fiscal skeleton being found a-dangling up the back of the treasurer’s filing closet to renege on any election promises they didn’t like; indeed, John Howard showed his mastery of this shifty little ruse when he used some highly creative accounting to come up with Labor’s ‘ten billion dollar black hole’ to inflict his now infamous ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ promises on a bemused nation back in ’96 when ten billion meant something.
Now of course, everything is different. To flog what little life there might be left in Peter Costello’s much loved ‘finely-tuned racing car’ analogy, the coalition have handed the keys to a Ferrari of an economy to Labor, and if they crash, well, there’s only Labor to blame – never mind that the coalition haven’t put any petrol in it since 1996, that the brake linings are shot, that the steering fluid is gone, the oil has never been checked and the only reason it is still moving is that it is rolling down hill in neutral with the wind behind it, none of which help when it is heading for a brick wall Made In The USA.
Yes, according to The Locum any mention of anything pre-26/11/2007 is ‘ancient history’ and off limits, although the ten billion dollar black hole still gets a mention whenever an erstwhile government MP spends more than 2.4 minutes on the television. Funny that – but I guess that’s just another example of that good old ‘personal responsibility’ conservatives always bang on about right after they’ve finished with the ten billion dollar black hole.
Wages have been quite a rich source of mirth over the past couple of weeks; as we read before, wage rises are only non-inflationary when the coalition hand them out and, yet, again, suddenly The Locum and Thoroughly Modern Mal are weeping bitter tears of 1958 Chateau Latour for the plight of the underclass they spent so long subjugating.
After many tedious years of high decibel carrying-on about how any wage increase for hard-grafting gutterslugs would inflate the economy like a helium blimp, there is now much concern and hand wringing all round as the forces of darkness pretend to care if their Afghani cleaner scores an extra twenty bucks a week courtesy of the humourously named Fair Pay Commission, conveniently forgetting that these are the very people that, only four months ago, the Liberals were trying to rob of their rights and conditions, the same saps that Honest John was demanding enter into ‘negotiations’ with a boss who is more than eager to cut his costs by all and any means either necessary or available.
Such heart! And unemployment? Pah! Here’s something Elroy has learnt about unemployment – it’s a good thing! It’s a good thing, and the idea that it’s a bad thing, well, that was just a lie. Unless it’s not, in which case it isn’t. Or something. Elroy remembers seeing a big bank head honcho on the telly not long ago explain that twenty years ago, when the government said there were plenty of c, well, that was a complete fib; there wasn’t plenty of jobs and there was way too many punters looking for them but now, now it’s different, now there REALLY are plenty of jobs if only people could be bothered looking, so could we? Pretty please? Because I know we lied before, but now…
In fact, Thoroughly Modern Mal becomes Thoroughly Post-Modern Mal on this sticky point. Elroy heard the former Liberal government whine about how we needed improvements in productivity, but it looks like productivity was bad thing because it led to unemployment. Hmm. That wasn’t the story in 1996 to 2007 – then anybody without a job was merely a parasite leeching off the lifeblood of society – but according to Post-Modern Mal, it now seems that those slackers and bludgers that the Liberals had so much fun whacking around the head were doing us all a favour, as full employment means employing a bunch of duds and nuff-nuffs who wouldn’t know a day’s work if it bit them and therefore dragging productivity down to zero.
Yes, because the coalition was really the friend of the downtrodden all along, we find that what looked like an eleven-year hammock driven snooze-a-thon was in which they did nothing but roll like Uncle Scrooge McDuck in a Money Bin full of Chinese mining cash and ignore secondary and tertiary pubic education was really a go-getting strategy aimed at providing work for all and damn the productivity levels.
And oh God, there’s so much more – after years of complaining about the sound of high-flyin’ lefties ‘running down Australia’ and carping ex-Prime Ministers, John Howard had to slink off to Washington DC to find anyone dull enough to put up with him snivelling about his unjust ousting and so, in front of such similar ex-luminaries as Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz John Bolton and other sympathetic about-to-be has-beens at the American Enterprise Institute, John Winston Howard became a carping ex-Prime Minister running down Australia.
Ah, well. They were his guys, his audience, his homies – Rudd may have stolen his gig back home but the Bushistas would never call Kevvie a ‘Man Of Steel’. Would they? Fast forward three weeks and what do we see?
Reporter: Is Mr Rudd the new Man Of Steel?
GWB: Heck, yeah!
John Howard fair pummelled the lectern over Our Kev’s dastardly intention to withdraw troops from Iraq when he gave his speech to the American Enterprise Institute at the start of the month, which must have made Liberal Party henchman Andrew Robb choke on his truffle and lark’s egg soufflé as he had been talking to the US about Howard’s intention to do this very thing nine months before, but now that Rudd was fer it, he wuz ag’in it!
Sadly for poor ol’ Johnny, however, the yanks are nothing if not practical and tend to take a ‘The king is dead ¬– long live the king!’ approach to regime change, and so when the Kruddster told George II about said intentions Shrub said that it was jus’ fine with him. ‘He’s a man of his word’ said Dubya, ‘and it shows that we are being successful.’
In the non-descript suburban social club in inner city Leichhardt where John Howard was enduring his testimonial dinner, Johnny mulled over the full meaning of Paul Keating’s portentous quote ‘There is nothing quite as ‘ex’ as an ex-Prime Minister’.
Maybe Howard should have thought through his legacy and the long-term ramifications of his vice-hard grip on his party and the national debate, but thinking things through was never the Liberal’s strong point. Indeed, it turns out that the Liberal’s strong point was throwing money around in ever-increasing amounts and, despite being nominally small-government conservatives, it seems that the greatest economic managers on the planet certainly knew how to use tax-payers funds to great advantage; the only problem for the rest of us was that this advantage was theirs.
Despite having claimed the scalp of Sports Minister Ros Kelly for distributing grants via a white board, the Liberal/National government managed to jack the amount of ‘discretionary grants’, that is grants that are within the gift of a minister, up from $729 million’s worth in 2004 to $9.1 billion’s worth in 2008 with $4.5 billion of that splashed out in the last year, and this from the greatest financial managers the country has ever seen, the small government conservatives who were fighting inflation caused by their eleven years of hammockin’ by over stimulating the economy. Err, right.
Still, now that the government have a mandate to exterminate WorkChoices (or not, depending on your stripe), the opposition have agreed to support them or, to be more exact, not going to oppose them, one may have expected the Liberals to do what they said they would do. Hah!
One has to remember that the slippery semantic stylings of John Winston Howard have had a profound effect on the soul of the Liberals and that they now seem unable to take an ethical and unequivocal stand on anything. Just as they have jettisoned everything they had ever held dear in order to make themselves more palatable to the people, this duplicitous streak in the Liberals means that nothing they say can be taken at face value; in 2000, ex-Northern Territory Nationals’ Chief Minister Shane Stone famously called them ‘Mean, tricky and out of touch’, and this was proved to be as true today when industrial relations minister Julia Gillard called on the opposition to never again put their precious unfair dismissal laws into action.
This idea, that the opposition should be true to their word, sent them into apoplexy. How dare the government ambush them like this! There they were, not opposing the legislation, agreeing, in fact, that the electorate had demanded that it happen because the electorate was obviously too dim to understand that having no rights at work was a GOOD thing, and those scum-sucking communists wanted them, the guardians of all things decent, to make their repudiation of a policy so unpopular it had cost them power a core promise! Why, the very nerve! It would go against their entire ethos not to double back and perform a flippy-floppy 180º U-turn with pike whenever they thought the could get away with it! Who did the Labor Party think they were, anyway? The government?
Then there is the general grumbling that Rudd isn’t a plain speaking man o’ the people, which of course has those that have spent the past eleven years trying to decipher the triple-speak that passed for public discourse as it emanated from Howard in a series obfuscations, distortions manipulations, PR spin and flat-out terminological inexactitudes collapsed on the floor in hysterics – Rudd-speak’ the opposition call it, but it must be confusing to them merely because it is vaguely penetrable.
Elroy always enjoys a bit of deadpan humour and so looks forward to when The Locum starts on his ‘Rudd is a control freak’ routine, insisting that Kev likes to micromanage every aspect of government while ignoring the eleven years of Howard dictatorship that has left The Locum’s party so completely bereft of direction and leadership, so, if I may, rudderless, and then compounding the irony by whining about Rudd going overseas on his first official tour when he should be in Canberra micromanaging everything.
And The Locum wasn’t finished there! He went on to give Kevvie a hard time for meeting ‘celebrities’ like, er, George Bush, Hillary Clinton and Ben Bernanke while doing his international rounds, probably because the bushes Brendan is meeting on his domestic version of the Grand Tour are more flora to Kev's fauna, although arguably more articulate, and still Nelson appeared to be oblivious to his erstwhile boss’s embarrassing habit of popping up at every major (and minor) sports event played between 1996 ¬– 2007 for a photo op with the winners, the losers and anyone else who might be assessed as suitably impressive to the battlers down on Struggle Street.
The Locum then beseeched Ruddy, with a nod and a wink, to look up Led Zeppelin while in ol’ Blighty and tell them that it’s been a long time since rock ‘n’ roll down here in God’s Own Sunburnt Wide Brown Land because, although it’s bad for Mr. Rudd to press the flesh of the great and good if they are the leaders of the Free World™, it's good if they are superannuated devil worshipping degenerates. ‘You don't need to meet all the celebrities…you need to go to Washington, you need to see the key leaders, including the financial leaders’ The Locum grumbled. Later in the day, however, he was cracking hearty wuth ‘The big issue – and I really think this is important for Mr. Rudd – when he's in London (is) he's got to get to Led Zeppelin management and talk those guys into coming to Australia.’
Look, it's good to see that The Locum is getting the hang of his position's comic possibilities, but it seems that irony and self-depreciating humour is now the exclusive domain of the Liberal Party (who'da thunked it?) as That Nice Mr. Rudd managed o get himself into all sorts of hot water with a suddenly po-faced Brendan when Kevvie 'saluted' Dubya at NATO. '"Well I think it's conduct unbecoming of an Australian Prime Minister' The Locum pontificated, 'and Mr Rudd appears to conduct himself in one manner when he thinks the television is upon him and another when it is not.'
It is obvious, then, that Nelson had a deprived childhood free of both jolly banter and the works of A.A. Milne, as it is equally obvious to those who knows those flows of prose that Rudd was merely quoting Milne in kind. We refer of course to the story of Bad Sir Brian Botanty which, the more Elroy thinks about it, is a fine allegory for Bush's colonial adventures and which, as no one is really looking, Elroy is going print in full for your edification and delight.
Bad Sir Brian Botany
Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on;
He went among the villagers and bopped them on the head.
On Wednesday and Saturday, but mostly on the latter day,
He called at all the cottages, and this is what he said:
"I am Sir Brian!" (ting-ling)
"I am Sir Brian!" (rat-tat)
"I am Sir Brian, as bold as lion -
Take that! - and that! - and that!"
Sir Brian had a pair of boots with great big spurs on,
A fighting pair of which he was particularly fond.
On Tuesday and on Friday, just to make the street look tidy,
He'd collect the passing villagers and kick them in the pond.
"I am Sir Brian!" (sper-lash!)
"I am Sir Brian!" (sper-losh!)
"I am Sir Brian, as bold as lion -
"Is anyone else for a was?"
Sir Brian woke one morning, and he couldn't find his battleaxe;
He walked into the village in his second pair of boots.
He had gone a hundred paces, when the street was full of faces,
And the villagers were round him with ironical salutes.
"You are Sir Brian? Indeed!"
"You are Sir Brian? Dear, dear!"
"You are Sir Brian, as bold as a lion?"
"Delighted to meet you here!"
Sir Brian went on a journey, and he found a lot of duckweed:
They pulled him out and dried him, and they blipped him on the head.
They took him by the breeches, and they hurled him into ditches,
And they pushed him under waterfalls and this is what they said:
"You are Sir Brian - don't laugh,"
"You are Sir Brian - don't cry"
"You are Sir Brian, as bold as a lion"
"Sir Brian, the lion, good-bye!"
Sir Brian struggled home again, and chopped up his battleaxe,
Sir Brian took his fighting boots, and threw them in the fire.
He is quite a different person now he hasn't got his spurs on,
And he goes about hte village as B. Botany, Esquire.
"I am Sir Brian? Oh, no!'"
" I am Sir Brian? Who's he?"
"I haven't got any title, I'm Botany"
"Plain Mr Botany (B)."
Did you hear that, Doctor? Do you get it now? 'Ironical salutes'. I rests me case, m'lud. Elroy is planning a series of benefit concerts to raise funds to send The Locum a copy of When We Where Very Young and Now We Are Six; they might be a little over his head but he'll soon have plenty of time to study the subtleties of the text as is looks like Pouty Pete's chums are begging him to take the lead as the anti-Turnbull forces panic about Brendan falling at a fence any day now and leaving the field clear for Thoroughly Modern Mal to romp home. They are obviously scared that if The Locum represents the choice of the party's right then Mal won't be contemplating an amalgamation with the Nationals so much as with the Socialist Alliance, but as The Locum knows which side is buttering his parliamentary bread he has asked, nay, begged Pouty and Dolly to stay on lest he gets roughed p by the beastly Mal. Laugh? Elroy nearly voted Liberal!
There’s been other stuff, lots of other stuff, but as Elroy feels that if he doesn’t end soon the Liberal Party will have ceased to be. Indeed, with their poll numbers hovering down around their knees and The Locum’s preferred Prime Minister numbers barely bigger that his shoe size (and he is not a big man), the Nationals’ Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce push to amalgamate with the Libs, which The Locum has endorsed in a do-or-die effort to do, well, something, this demise might be more imminent than anyone supposes.
Meanwhile, we shall keep a-rolling in the aisles at the Liberals hi-jinx as they continue to sell the Howard legacy down the Swanee and whine at any behaviour by the Labor party that is in any way reminiscent of the way they had comported themselves when smug and fat and corpulent with power.
Australia is a much sadder, badder and madder place than it was in 1996; the people are poor, scared, and wondering when the riches that the Liberals have been boasting about were going to trickle down to them, but now that they find that the party is over and they are footing the bill they are getting angry. The conservatives can bluster and puff all they like but their days are not numbered, they are over, as the people start to comprehend the size and nature of the con that has been perpetrated on them and demand that the new crowd do something, anything, about it.
What really irks the Liberal Party is that Rudd is actually getting things done and showing them up to be the bunch of high-talking, low-achieving, greed-infested parasites that ever sucked the public teat and, not because they pretend that the well-known political axiom which holds that any power one grants ones self will be used by one’s successors does not apply to the Libs, and not because they pretended that these powers were vital to the country’s well-being when bringing them in; no, they are the definition of hypocrisy because they pretend that they have jettisoned just about every tenet of a philosophy which they once held so dear, tenets that those in the reality-based community know they will bring back if ever given half a chance.
Having said that, all that, at great length to nobody in particular, the 21st Century ALP are as much in thrall to the economic voodoo of Milton Friedman as Honest John's mob, so the hope is that they might just a little more circumspect with the spoils. The Washington Consensus is still firmly in place and Labor are just as prone to hypocrisies as the Liberals, it's just that this is not the article to point them out. No, right now it's time to kick the corpse of the Howard Government around a bit, a lot, after 11 years of their pernicious evil, because hey! – that's what free speech in a democracy is all about.
Albert Langer for President!
Petting Who? - First Published in The Skinny, 1 November, 2009 After a few hours of joyful motoring you might remember to let Oscar the trusty black Labrador-X out to do ...
8 years ago