Will Turnbull challenge?

September 14th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rejected a call from Tony Abbott’s supporters to publicly rule out a leadership challenge.

Channel Nine today reported that Mr Turnbull received a message from Deputy Government Whip Andrew Nikolic on the prime minister’s behalf last Friday to make a public statement that he would not challenge Mr Abbott’s leadership.

Another senior minister close to Mr Abbott contacted Mr Turnbull with a similar request, according to Channel Nine.

But Mr Turnbull has remained tight-lipped about the speculations, saying his rule was to say “nothing”, as any comment would only give the issue oxygen.

However, the frontbenchers pushing for Mr Turnbull’s return to the leadership have declared a challenge inevitable as a new poll predicted the Prime Minister faces a savage 10 per cent swing in the Canning by-election.

As Liberal MPs prepare to return to Canberra, some ministers have even refused to rule out a revolt this week, before the WA by-election.

A senior Liberal MP said: “The Prime Minister’s future is done and dusted. Malcolm is the solution. The bottom line is it cannot go on.’’

Mr Abbott faces a swing of up to 10 per cent in the Canning by-election, according to a new Galaxy poll commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph.

It reveals that former SAS captain Andrew Hastie will retain the seat but with two-party support slashed to 52 per cent to Labor’s 48 per cent.

If they close Canning, then I believe Abbott will face a challenge. If they manage to hold on, then possibly not.

If there is a challenge, Abbott is probably gone, but it may not be Turnbull. Scott Morrison is well regarded and less divisive in the caucus.

Hartcher on Abbott

August 20th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Peter Hartcher, the SMH Poitical Editor, writes:

There was no due process on gay marriage. Abbott did not consult his Cabinet, rode roughshod over the Liberal party room’s sensibilities, rushed to a Coalition room discussion, and led the party to confused non-decisions on future process. 

None of this mattered to Abbott. Why? Because all he wanted was to kill any prospect that same-sex marriage would come to a free vote on the floor of the Parliament. 

That done, to hell with the rest of it. That’s why, two days later, his Cabinet ministers were out in public arguing with each other on referendum versus plebiscites, George Brandis lecturing Scott Morrison, conducting government by Sky News. 

Did it seem odd that a Prime Minister would corral his party to block same-sex marriage, putting the Government on the opposite side of two-thirds of the electorate? 

It is odd for a Prime Minister who wants to win an election to wilfully alienate most of the country. 

But winning the election is a second-order issue for Abbott. His first priority is surviving long enough to even make it to election day.

The whole point of Abbott’s gay marriage gambit was to appease the conservative side of his caucus. 

He sees this as vital to his survival as leader. 

Remember that the February spill motion was moved by two of the party’s right-wing conservatives. 

The outcome on gay marriage this week may drive much of the public to despair, but it satisfies Abbott’s right and protects his flank. That’s the hard calculus that drove the process.

This means that the next spill effort against Abbott won’t come from the right. If it comes, it’ll have to be from the left of the Liberal caucus. 

The last thing the Liberal Party should do is drag this out until after the next election. Either allow a conscience vote in Parliament, or call a referendum before the next election.

When Abbott introduced John Key at a business lunch during that trans-Tasman bonding a year and a half ago, he quipped that he realised some of the Australians in the room would prefer John Key to be prime minister of Australia instead of himself. 

He got polite laughs but it was true.

People are voting with their feet. 

For the first time in 30 years, the relentless flow of Kiwis to settle in Australia has stopped. And started to flow the other way. 

“Good government” doesn’t have to be a joke.

I’ve not been in favour of joining NZ and Australia together, but John Key as Prime Minister of Australasia has a nice ring to it 🙂

Another Abbott smear

May 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

Tony Abbott has become embroiled in an ugly diplomatic incident that’s seen his office accused of being homophobic after an Australian Ambassador’s same-sex partner was told to “wait in the car” rather than greet the Prime Minister on his arrival to Paris.

Following Anzac Day centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, Mr Abbott flew to a private airport in Paris where he was to be greeted by Stephen Brady, the Ambassador to France.

Mr Brady’s partner of 34 years, Peter Stephens, was reportedly told he wouldn’t be part of the welcoming party on the tarmac by a protocol officer, much to the upset of the Ambassador who refused the request and had Mr Stephens accompany him as the RAAF plane arrived.

The “bizarre” incident caused so much offence to the career diplomat he was said to be “literally screaming” at the protocol officer who delivered the request, according to Fairfax, and he later offered his resignation over the incident.

The media are painting this as Abbott being so homophobic that he couldn’t even bear to have a same sex partner meet him. But Andrew Bolt provides details many media left out:

Mr Abbott hosted a farewell dinner for Mr Brady and Mr Stephens when the couple left Canberra to take up the Paris job.  The prime minister also invited them to a staff dinner in Paris on April 26.

So Abbott had specifically hosted them for a farewell dinner in Canberra. So what happened:

the order was not driven by homophobia but – I am informed – a fussy insistence of the usual protocol, that the prime minister travelling alone is met by the Ambassador without partner. Only when the Prime Minister is accompanied by his wife is he greeted by the Ambassador with his partner, too.

Now it may be a silly protocol, but it is the protocol. It has nothing to do with Abbott or the sex of the partner. But most people in Australia will have no idea of this.

Bolt notes:

Hartcher’s suggestion of homophobia is based on zero evidence, and is on the face of it is preposterous. Hartcher seriously believes the Prime Ministers gets someone to ring ahead to make sure no gays greet him at the airport? Really?


The Abbott skull

April 20th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

When Tony Abbott walked into Sydney’s Royal Oak Hotel on Saturday night and downed that beer, he didn’t just put an end to all those jokes about his shandy drinking.

He sculled himself into Australia’s national consciousness.

It took less than ten seconds, but with those gulps, Abbott has joined Bob Hawke who has been impressing Australians with his ability to scull a beer for decades. 

Hawkie famously set a world record for beer drinking at Oxford in the 50s. He has since observed that this more than anything else he did in his long career “was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians”.

The former Australian prime minister is not the only one to use a drink to connect with voters.

Last year Coalition MP Andrew Laming turned up at a constituent’s Australia Day party and sculled a beer upside down while doing a handstand. As a partygoer later posted online: “I seriously hate Liberal [sic], but … he found a loophole to my heart!”

I think that would get my vote also. Upside down is very hard.

Even away from the tricky stunts, we feel reassured when we see politicians with a beer in their hands. It’s what convinces us they’re real people, right? Hence all the concern when Abbott ordered a shandy with (oh my god) light beer on the campaign trail in 2010.

But now, Abbott has achieved the sort of publicity that you can’t plan for or buy.

Maybe Andrew Little should try one!

Good Abbott and Bad Abbott

February 13th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

In just 24 hours Tony Abbott performs greatly and also appallingly.

The good is his response to the Australian Human Rights Commission:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the Australian Human Rights Commission ought to be “ashamed of itself” over its children in detention inquiry, which he says is a blatant attack on his government.

The commission report – tabled by the government on Wednesday – called for a royal commissionafter finding there were 233 recorded assaults involving children and 33 incidents of reported sexual assault. It also reported there were 207 incidents of “actual self harm” and 436 incidents of threatened self harm.

In an interview on 3AW radio in Melbourne, Mr Abbott slammed the commission, questioning the timing of the report.

“Where was the Human Rights Commission during the life of the former government when hundreds of people were drowning at sea?” Mr Abbott asked on Thursday morning.

“Frankly this is a blatantly partisan politicised exercise and the Human Rights Commission ought to be ashamed of itself.”

When asked whether he felt any guilt over the horrific findings in the 315-page report, Mr Abbott replied: “None whatsoever.”

“The most compassionate thing you can do is stop the boats. We have stopped the boats.”

The 315-page report interviewed children in detention from January 2013 to March 2014 under both the Labor and Coalition governments.

But the Abbott government is questioning why the commission announced the inquiry in February 2014 once it had come into power, rather than when the Labor government was in power and the numbers of children in detention were at its highest. The last national inquiry of children in detention by the commission was in 2004.

Mr Abbott said Gillian Triggs, president of the Human Rights Commission, should instead be thanking the former immigration minister Scott Morrison for dramatically reducing the number of children in detention.

“I reckon that the Human Rights Commission ought to be sending a note of congratulations to Scott Morrison saying ‘Well done mate because your actions have been very good for the human rights and the human flourishing of thousands of people’.” 

It was an appallingly partisan hatchet job on the Coalition, and Abbott was great calling a spade a spade.

But then later that day:

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott was met with opposition outrage when he described rising unemployment in the defence industry as a “holocaust of jobs”.

Mr Abbott was answering a Labor question about the latest unemployment figures, including a rate of 7.3 per cent in South Australia where defence industry jobs have traditionally been strong.

“Under members opposite, defence jobs in this country declined by 10 per cent,” Mr Abbott told parliament.

“There was a holocaust of jobs in defence industries.”

Mr Abbott subsequently apologised and withdrew the comment. He replaced the word “holocaust” with “decimation”.

“I shouldn’t have used it, I did withdraw it and I do apologise,” he said.

You should only use the term holocaust if you are talking about the extermination of six million people in WWII, and not any other context.

Abbott wins

February 9th, 2015 at 11:17 am by David Farrar

The spill motion was defeated 39 to 61. That is not particularly decisive. It suggests two thirds of the backbench voted for a spill.

Tony Abbott remains Prime Minister, but in my view the clock is ticking. The latest poll has them a massive 14% behind Labor. Their next Budget has to be a game changer and they need to close the poll gap within the next six months, otherwise inevitably there will be another spill.

I was amused that Sky News got texted the result by an MP around a minute before the Chief Whip came out to announce the result!

Abbott fights for survival

February 3rd, 2015 at 9:19 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Tony Abbott has junked his most controversial personal policies, promised no changes to the GST without Labor backing, and pledged to lead Australia’s most consultative government in the future as he attempts to head off a challenge to his leadership.

But some Liberals remain hostile in the wake of mistakes, the Queensland election result and polling showing that most voters expect him to be replaced.

Unveiling plans for a comprehensive families package, a new tax cut of at least 1.5 per cent for small business, tighter restrictions on foreign investment in the housing market, and stronger national security laws including a ban on the radical Islamist group, Hizb ut Tahrir, Abbott urged colleagues to “buckle down to the business” of governing rather than succumb to internal division.


The junking of the hideously expensive paid parental policy is a good thing – except for the fact they campaigned on it. So his integrity takes another hit. And the pledge to be more consultative will only work, if people think it is genuine.

“People are sick of Australian citizens – including people born and bred here – making excuses for Islamist fanatics in the Middle East and their imitators here in Australia,” he said.  

“It’s not good enough just to boost the police and security agencies, which we’ve done … and to improve data retention, which we’re doing. We have to tackle the people and the organisations that justify terrorism and act as its recruiting agents – such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

“If cracking down on Hizb-ut-Tahrir and others who nurture extremism in our suburbs means further legislation, we will bring it on and I will demand that the Labor Party call it for Australia.”

That will be interesting.

“At the heart of our small business jobs package will be a small business company tax cut on July 1 – at least as big as the 1.5 per cent already flagged,” he told the National Press Club.

Not sure about having different tax rates for different business sizes. Could lead to huge avoidance.

UPDATE: Sky News is reporting Abbott asked Julie Bishop to pledge not to challenge him, and she has refused!!

The rout in Queensland

February 1st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

When Campbell Newman won Queensland in 2012 with a 62% share of the two party preferred vote and 78 seats to 7 for Labor, the only question was whether they would do two or three terms, or more. The thought of Labor winning in 2015 from a base of seven seats was unthinkable.

Yet they are on the brink of doing that. Campbell Newman has lost his seat and Labor have 42 seats to 40 for LNP. You need 45 to govern and three are undecided so Labor just needs two out of three to govern.

Newman’s government pursued hardline policies that alienated Queenslanders. They failed to carry the people with them. What happened in Queensland is what would have happened in NZ if the Key Government had used the financial crisis to break its promises and slash spending (as opposed to restrain it’s growth). You get a one term Government that doesn’t get to have any enduring policy legacy.

The result was mainly a referendum on the Newman Government, but Abbott’s unpopularity would not have helped. He did not campaign there at all. This result increases the pressure on his caucus to make a change unless they also want to be a one term Government. Malcolm Turnbull is very popular with the public, and if the caucus chose him (which is unlikely) they would have a better than even chance of surviving.

Abbott has a major media speech to the Press Club on Monday. We should see after that speech what is likely to happen.

Will Abbott be rolled?

January 28th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

The results from the Queensland election will be in. If it goes badly for Campbell Newman, the federal Liberal Party herd could stampede, taking out the Prime Minister.

The loss of Victoria is still fresh in their minds.

Whether the Liberal National Party in Queensland is defeated, or seriously degraded, and whether it was directly attributable to Abbott or not, his disconnect with the Australian public is now an established national talking point.

When people from the Right and the Left of politics, both inside the parties and out, share the view that he is badly out of touch, he has a serious problem.

Julie Bishop does not. As Abbott was announcing the knighthood of Prince Philip, the Foreign Minister was in Kabul, Afghanistan, wearing a helmet and ballistic vest, talking to the troops.

This was just 24 hours after a huge roadside bomb went off near the Aussie camp. Bishop said she was glad to be there. Back home, Abbott was doing a Robert Menzies impersonation.

Bishop seems the only likely replacement for Abbott. Joe Hockey carries heavy budget baggage; Malcolm Turnbull is not trusted by his party; and Scott Morrison might be too hard-bitten — or too unknown — for public consumption.

The knighthood to Prince Philip may be the final straw. It isn’t that honouring the Prince was wrong (we made him ONZ in 2012), but that to do it on Australia Day, and as part of the first batch of restored titular honours. The fact it was a titular honour also adds to the ridicule – knighting a Duke!

He has been tone deaf on a number of issues, such as claiming the best thing his Government has done for women is abolish the carbon tax as they do more of the shopping (paraphrased).

I’ve met Julie Bishop. She is a formidable politician (was Deputy to three different leaders) and has wide spread respect and support. She could well end up Prime Minister this year.

Abbott in Arnhem

September 16th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Tony Abbott, Australia’s Prime Minister, has moved into a tent in a far-flung stretch of Outback bushland to govern the nation for a week from a tiny Aboriginal community.

In an unprecedented move by an Australian leader, whose usual residence is a stately 1920s house in Canberra, Abbott has shifted the seat of government to the outskirts of Yirrkala, a remote Aboriginal township in Arnhem Land, northern Australia with a population of 843.

He will govern from a canvas tent – complete with secure phone and video lines for Cabinet meetings and calls to international leaders – and has brought with him some of the nation’s top civil servants, who are also staying in tents. …

The visit is also part of Abbott’s attempt to address the plight of the nation’s Aborigines, who have far higher rates of infant mortality, disease, imprisonment and poverty.

As an MP, Abbott frequently stayed in Aboriginal communities and he promised that if elected he would spend a week each year ruling from a remote indigenous township.

“For an entire week, Aboriginal people will have my full focus and attention as prime minister,” he said.

Abbott will also hold discussions this week on his plan for a nationwide referendum to change the constitution to recognise Aborigines as the nation’s first peoples.

But he has indicated that any such symbolic gestures of reconciliation should be accompanied by moves to improve the economic well-being of Australia’s 700,000-odd Aborigines.

What a smart way to get the media to focus on the plight of Australia’s Aborigines, and to stay grounded in the community.

Infighting on the right in Australia

June 4th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Age reports:

Demented? Unhinged?

Call it definition of character.

Malcolm Turnbull, a barrister by trade and chairman of the board by inclination, chooses his words and his adversaries for maximum effect.

And so, when he lined up neo-conservative commentator Andrew Bolt for a free character assessment, he was addressing not simply the bothersome Bolt, but the jury and the shareholders of his current organisation, which happens to be the Liberal Party.

The Liberal Party, of course, isn’t exactly Turnbull’s party at present. It’s Tony Abbott’s party, the same Tony Abbott who stripped the chairman’s title from Turnbull a few years ago by one vote and then, glory be, took the whole show to government.

So what has happened?

Andrew Bolt had the temerity at the weekend to get Abbott on his TV show and ask him if he thought Turnbull had designs on the prime ministership.

Well, duh.

Bolt suggested Turnbull was trying to do some undermining by having dinner with Clive Palmer, a man Abbott can’t stand but whose little party and fellow travellers will control the Senate balance of power next month.

It’s not immediately obvious how such a dinner might lever Turnbull to the prime ministership, nor how this might have been a secret meeting, given it was at a popular restaurant. Clive likes to eat, and the restaurant was a few hundred centimetres from Turnbull’s luxury Canberra pad, which might have been a better rendezvous for a secret meeting.

Bolt isn’t a man who gives up easily. Next he was blogging about how Turnbull had spoken at the launch of a Parliamentary Friends of the ABC, and how awful this was, given that the ABC was no friend of the Abbott government.

Well, duh. Again. Turnbull is Communications Minister. The ABC is the national broadcaster.

I think the author is being somewhat silly. The Freinds of the ABC is a lobby group that attacks the Coalition for its funding cuts of the ABC. Turnbull speaking to them is a very big thing.

It is clear Turnbull is positioning to take over – which is very different to launching a coup. A coup would fail as he has little caucus support. But I am far from convinced Abbott will make it to the election, unless his political management improves.


May 23rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I don’t think the question anymore is whether Tony Abbott has lost the next election, and the Coalition will be a one term Government.

I think the question is now how many terms in opposition will they have?

The only way they might recover is a change in leader. The trouble is Hockey is equally damaged and most of the caucus hate Malcolm Turnbull (but the public love him). Could Turnbull end up Prime Minister? Let’s see how bad the polls go in the next six months.

Abbott nixes bail outs

February 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

Abbott pinned his free-market colours to the mast at an important speech at Davos earlier this month – the premier annual gathering of the world’s economic and business elite.

The former Roman Catholic seminarian urged attendees to become “missionaries for freer trade” and fight protectionism whenever and wherever it may raise its ugly head.

Free trade was a well-trodden path to wealth creation, he explained. “Over time, everyone benefits because, in a global economy, countries end up focusing on what they do best. A more global economy with stronger cross-border investment eventually helps everyone because it generates more wealth and ultimately creates more jobs.”

This is very true.

And, as it turns out, Australia is not very good at canning fruit.

Putting his words into action, Abbott last week successfully stared down a three hour bid in cabinet by Nationals colleagues to secure a $25 million taxpayer handout for the embattled fruit cannery, SPC Ardmona.

Free trade and the rigours of globalisation are perhaps the primary reason why SPC’s factory – which must pay far higher wages than in competitor countries – is unprofitable. That, and it seems Australians don’t much fancy tinned fruit any more.

SPC’s cannery in Shepparton employs about 3,000 workers, but it has been operating at a loss of more than $400 million in recent years, according to local Liberal member Sharman Stone.

It’s only natural to worry about the loss of Australian jobs.

But a job in an unprofitable company is a job already lost.

The same applies to jobs that only exist due to subsidies, such as “Green jobs”.

The only way to create jobs is through the efforts of profitable companies.

As Abbott told Davos attendees: “You can’t have strong communities without strong economies to sustain them and you can’t have strong economies without profitable private businesses.”

“After all, government doesn’t create wealth; people do, when they run profitable businesses.”

Some on the left rail against profit, but how many jobs would we have without profitable businesses?


More female Ministers in Afghanistan

September 17th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

That is the headlines in Australia, after Tony Abbott announced a 19 person Cabinet with just one female Minister in it. Afghanistan has three! NZ by comparison has six.

This to me shows the importance of making sure you have some diversity with your candidates, and this needs to start in opposition. It is too late once you are in Government as generally new MPs won’t become Ministers immediately.

Under new management

September 8th, 2013 at 6:24 am by David Farrar

Tony Abbott declared last night that Australia is now under new management and open for business. The Coalition have won with one of the largest margins in recent times – yet no a total bloodbath.

The latest ABC projection is Coalition 89 (+10), Labor 51 (-10), Greens 1 (nc), Independents 2 (-2). That is just below the 1996 result for Howard where they got 94 seats.

By state it was like this:

  • ACT – Labor 2 (nc)
  • NSW – Libs 21 (+5), Nats 7 (+3), Labor 18 (-6), Independents 0 (-2)
  • NT – Country Libs 1 (nc), Labor 1 (nc)
  • Queensland – LNP 21 (nc), Labor 7 (-1), Palmer 1 (+1), Katter 1 (+1)
  • South Australia Libs 6 (+1), Lab 5 (-1)
  • Tasmania Libs 3 (+3), Labor 1 (-3), Ind 1 (nc)
  • Victoria Libs 15 (+3), Nats 2 (nc), Labor 19 (-3), Greens 1 (nc)
  • WA – Libs 12 (+1), Nats 0 (-1), Labor 3 (nc)

Still a dozen seats in play so these may change.

The primary vote has been Coalition 45.3% (+1.6%), Labor 33.8% (-4.1%), Greens 8.4% (-3.3%), Palmer United 5.6% (+5.6%), Family First 1.3% (-0.9%), Katter 1.0% (+0.7%).

Kevin Rudd’s concession speech was terrible. Long, rambling, resembling a victory speech, all about him and disgracefully not once did he mention Julia Gillard. He talked as if he had been Prime Minister for the last three years. He retained his seat but announced he will not contest the Labor Party leadership. More than one person quipped how they had heard him say that before! But finally it looks like he is gone. I’d say Bill Shorten is the likely new leader, but time will tell.

Time will also tell how Tony Abbott will do. A prediction that one day Abbott will be PM in 2007 would have seen you laughed out of the room. He has run a disciplined campaign and team over the last four or so years. However it was very much a rejection of Labor than an endorsement of Abbott. They have a large enough majority that I’d expect they’ll serve at least two terms.

The tight preferencing between minor parties appears to have delivered them a lot of Senate seats, so that will be a major challenge for the Abbott Government.

Also Clive Palmer has got elected to the House. He appears to be stark raving mad, so that also adds an unpredictable factor.

Rudd cheats twice

August 12th, 2013 at 6:59 am by David Farrar

Things are not going well for Kevin Rudd. First of all it seems he cheated in the election debate last night. The debate rules said the leaders could have a pen and paper only – and no other documentation or props. Yet Rudd had detailed notes on various topics which he referred to.

The rule may be silly, but if you agree to them you stick to them. It is cheating if one side is using notes, and the other is not.

The more significant cheating is Labor’s using taxpayer funds for their election campaign. The Government is spending millions of taxpayer dollars promoting their new boat people policy. The constitutional caretaker conventions clearly state that during an election campaign, and advertising of controversial policies must cease.

The Finance Department told the relevant Government Departments to halt the advertising campaign, but Ministers intervened and  over-ruled the Finance Department. The head of the DPMC has said he is powerless to do anything as “the Department does not have the power to enforce the observance of the conventions

Taxpayers are funding this $30 million campaign, during the election period. It is outrageous but typical of left parties who view taxpayer money as their own. We have own own experience with Labour’s pledge cards.

Meanwhile Tony Abbott took part in a 14 km road race – as a guide to a blind triathlete! I like most think it was a pretty cynical election stunt – but to be fair he has acted as a guide for blind runners before.

The real good news of the last week is that Abbott has declared he will not wear his budgie smugglers during the election campaign!

Virtual town halls

May 31st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

In what is believed to be a national first, Mr Abbott and Lindsay candidate Fiona Scott sat in Liberal Party headquarters in Canberra and held an hour-long forum run by the party for the crucial electorate, held by Labor Minister David Bradbury, some 300 kilometres away.

The move allows Mr Abbott to further sidestep curlier questions by the mainstream media and Canberra press gallery and talk directly to voters in an extension of the talkback radio format favoured by former prime minister John Howard.

The Liberal Party robo-called listed phone numbers for homes in Lindsay on Wednesday night , attracting 20,000 registrations to be automatically called back for the event, according to Mr Abbott’s office.

Mid-way through the discussion, moderator and former television journalist John Gatfield said there were 8000 people on the line listening to questions from callers, who pushed a number if they wanted to ask a question.

8,000 homes participating from just the one electorate. That is a huge success.  And the idea of being able to just ask a question direct from your living room, by pushing a number is enticing.

While the process was run by the Liberals and some of the questions were simply asking Mr Abbott’s basic positions on issues such as disability care, some voters did press Mr Abbott on his claims, including how he could repeal the carbon tax if he did not have control of the senate.

Another caller asked why he didn’t talk about the effect of the war in Afghanistan in battling asylum seekers.

Issues discussed included everything from potholes in roads and transport to local asbestos problems with the National Broadband Network.

It will only work if you have a politician that can think on their feet.

The “right wing agenda”

May 23rd, 2013 at 7:12 am by David Farrar

Clare Curran exposes at Red Alert the right wing agenda. It seems to be:

  1. Tony Abbott spoke at the 70th anniversary of the Institute of Public Affairs
  2. Tony Abbott is advised by Crosby Textor
  3. The NZ National Party is also advised by Crosby Textor
  4. Hence the NZ National Party plans to implement the policy agenda of the institute of Public Affairs

Clare goes on to list some of the policies that may find their way into National’s policy agenda here, which she disagrees with. They include:

  • Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
  • Introduce a special economic zone for northern Australia
  • Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
  • Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
  • Cease funding the Australia Network
  • Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
  • Privatise the CSIRO and the Snowy-Hydro Scheme
  • Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
  • Privatise Australia Post, Medibank and SBS
  • Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
  • Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
  • Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

I’m pretty sure we won’t see any of the above implemented in New Zealand. Well, we could try to implement them but Australia may not take too kindly to us passing laws on their behalf.

There is one policy Clare agrees with:

Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database

That’s good to see, as I’ve been pushing this for some time. I would have thought Clare also supports:

Rule out government-supported or mandated internet censorship

As it happens I think many (not all) of the IPA’s policies are very laudable and sensible. Ones I especially like are:

  • Means-test Medicare
  • Abolish the Baby Bonus
  • Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
  • Repeal the alcopops tax
  • Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
  • Introduce a single rate of income tax
  • Return income taxing powers to the states
  • Cut company tax to 25 per cent
  • Cease subsidising the car industry
  • Privatise Australia Post, Medibank and SBS
  • Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
  • Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784
  • Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
  • Repeal the mining tax
  • Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
  • Means test tertiary student loans
  • Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
  • Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
  • Rule out government-supported or mandated internet censorship
  • End public funding to political parties
  • Introduce voluntary voting
  • Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a % of GDP
  • Legislate a balanced budget amendment which limits the size of budget deficits and the period the government can be in deficit
  • Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
  • Remove all tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
  • Deregulate the parallel importation of books

The trans-Tasman relationship

March 25th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

Seated across from each other in a New York restaurant they made for an unlikely couple.

On one side of the table was John Howard, one of Australia’s most successful prime ministers; darling of the political Right, bogeyman of the Left after taking the role as America’s deputy sheriff in the Pacific, and becoming the villain in the Tampa affair.

His lunch companion was Helen Clark, the socially liberal former New Zealand prime minister, a flag-flying Iraq war opponent, standard bearer for the Left-wing social democratic movement – and the woman who even now, four years on from losing the election, can spark visceral dislike among many on the Right.

Mates? Of course, says Howard, after they caught up recently for a chinwag in New York.

“We don’t just exchange Christmas cards.”

It reflects well on both Howard and Clark that they worked well together, despite being from different sides of the political spectrum.

 But historic and geographical ties have not always been enough to put the relationship on a friendly footing. Before Howard and Clark it was Lange and Hawke, Muldoon and Fraser. Tension, backstabbing, and suspicion reigned.

Fraser was an idiot, and Muldoon a bully. Hawke thought Lange was a flake, and he was right. There was also Bolger and Keating – Keating was just simply untrustworthy.

Gillard and Key, again polar opposites politically, have forged even stronger bonds than Clark and Howard.

Key says getting the personal dynamics in the relationship right is “critical”. With Gillard, it helps that their partners get on as well.

Once all the official business was out of the way during their two-day summit in Queenstown last month, Key and Gillard escaped to the exclusive Millbrook resort for dinner with partners Bronagh and Tim. They did the same in Melbourne last year.

“We have a no officials, casual dinner, have a drink together,” Key said.

A good relationship between leaders is no guarantee of success, but it is almost a precursor.

The big unknown is a possible Tony Abbott government – though he and Key have already struck up a good relationship, and speak to each other regularly.

Howard, meanwhile, is confident Abbot can only be good for New Zealand.

“He’s got a good start. His wife is a New Zealander.”

Heh, that may be useful.

Australian Politics

October 12th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Last time I was in Canberra, was the day Kevin Rudd got rolled. Sadly it doesn’t look like either Gillard or Abbott will get rolled while I’m here, but the day before I got here the Speaker of the House resigned. The final straw was court documents revealing texts such as:

 “Brough is a cunt,” Mr Slipper said in a text on October 10 last year. Soon after, he said: ”Funny how we say that a person is a cunt when many guys like cunts.”

About five minutes later Mr Slipper began what the Opposition has called “‘vile anatomical references”. Referring to women’s private parts, he said: ”They look like mussell (sic) removed from its shell. Look at a bottle of mussel meat. Salty Cunts in brine.”

Personally I love mussels and scallops 🙂

Anyway not the worse thing ever said, but in the context of this being to a young male staffer he kept hitting on, it was inevitable he went.

Slipper won a motion of no confidence against him by one vote, but as Labor were defending him the House, the independent MPs had gone to him and told him he must resign. He did. This meant that Labor looked like they were defending the indefensible.

Gillard used the debate to launch a ferocious attack on Tony Abbott as a sexist and misogynist. The attack has become a viral hit internationally, but let me tell you that actually in Australia I’m not sure it went down so well. The newspapers are full of stories casting scorn on it, It certainly appealed hugely to Labor’s own supporters but for many it was seen as playing the victim card.

Abbott did not help things by using the phrase “Government dying of shame” which was unwise considering what Alan Jones said about Gillard’s father. But it has also just come out that a comedian at a Labor/union fundraiser made very disgusting remarks about Abbott’s female chief of staff Peta Credlin. Gillard had left when it was made, but several Ministers remained. It rather undermines their attempts to make Abbott look sexist – rather it just shows how personally denigrating Australian politics is – in all parties.

Happy beefgiving

July 10th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A funny advertisement for beef, featuring well giant balloons that look like Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

Labor own goal

January 28th, 2012 at 10:46 am by David Farrar

The SMH reports:

An Australian Prime Ministerial staffer has been linked to yesterday’s ugly protest incident in Canberra, forcing his resignation and acutely embarrassing PM Julia Gillard.

In an early evening statement, the Prime Minister dismissed as ‘false’ claims that one of her staff had spoken to people at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy prior to yesterday’s angry protest that temporarily trapped her and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

But Ms Gillard acknowledges that a member of her media unit ‘did call another individual yesterday and disclose the presence of the Opposition Leader at the Lobby restaurant. This information was subsequently passed on to a member of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.’ …

He is Tony Hodges, one of four press secretaries working in Julia Gillard’s media unit.

The link is deeply embarrassing for the Prime Minister and leaves her shouldering some of the blame for an incident where many had pinned responsibility on Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.

This is typical Australian Labor tactics.  The press secretary would have leaked the info, hoping it would lead to anti-Abbott protests.

Instead it led to his own boss having to be dragged out by Police. And now they can’t blame anyone else for it.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

September 28th, 2011 at 9:06 am by David Farrar

The Australian reports:

“I’m a very happy little vegemite being Prime Minister … being Foreign Minister of Australia,” he told ABC Central West today while on his way to Condobolin, west of Orange, to open a rotary-funded indigenous studies centre.

One can forgive Kevin for the slip-up, as regaining the top job must be at the top of his thoughts most of the time.

Recent polls have shown he would do much better against the Coalition than Julia Gillard. However she is genuinely liked by many of his colleagues and Rudd is not, so the decision is not as easy as it might otherwise be. But this latest poll is a shocker for Gillard:

Ms Gillard is now neck and neck with Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister among female voters, 39 per cent to 37 per cent, compared to 52 per cent to 33 per cent at the last election.

Abbott has always been considered a total turn-off for female voters. If he is only 2% behind amongst women, then his biggest weakness has been overcome.

Gillard calling the election

July 17th, 2010 at 12:08 pm by David Farrar

Julia Gillard has gone to the Australian Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and call the election.

The date is now thought to be 21 August, so it will e a short sharp campaign, trying to pit it as a leadership choice between Gillard and Abbott.

The election will be for all 150 MPs and 38 out of 76 senators.

I rate Gillard as the favourite to win, but campaigns generally can and do matter, and we’ll see what happens. The Coalition needs to win 11 seats.

Her fix to the boat people issues is coming a bit unravelled, and it is also becoming clear the compromise with the miners was in fact a $7.5 billion backdown.

Parental Leave in Australia

March 11th, 2010 at 10:14 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Abbott has come up with a plan to tax big business – those earning more than A$5 million ($6.25 million) a year – to pay for a surprisingly generous compulsory leave scheme.

Under his proposal primary carers would be paid at their full rate of take-home pay up to a maximum income of A$150,000 a year ($187.5 million) for 26 weeks. Abbott estimates the scheme will cost about A$2.7 billion a year.

A rather desperate election bribe. First of all, taxing large businesses to pay for the entire costs is blatantly unfair. If it is deemed desirable to have paid maternity leave, then it should be funded by all taxpayers.

Secondly it is massive welfare for the rich. If you were on $40,000 you will get $20,000 maternity leave. If you were on $150,000 you will get $75,000.

Rudd’s scheme, due to be launched next January, pales by comparison. This scheme will pay the minimum wage of about A$544 a week to the primary carer for a maximum 18 weeks’ leave after the birth of a child.

It will cost an estimated A$260 million a year, paid out of consolidated revenue.

Rudd’s scheme seems far more sensible to me.

Not a good sign for Australia, if both parties are getting into a bidding war of spending money they don’t have.