Friday’s Rag.

In contemporary society, Friday symbolises the end of the working week. I used to work in an office and Friday was generally considered the best day of the week. Everyone knew that they were about to escape the office for the weekend and could use their time however they chose to. Some people would start early so as to knock off early, to get an early start on the weekend, others would take Friday off altogether if their annual leave permitted them to do so. The general mood was of excitement, some anticipation and subdued joy.

I have little doubt that this was unique to my workplace. The saying ‘live for the weekend’ holds muster throughout much of the capitalist economy. I even heard one of my university professors say that today was a good day because “it is Friday and it’s the end of the week”. It is interesting to note the change of professional demeanour in the workplace as a consequence of the day of the week.

In today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph, the front page boasts two major stories. First, the royal visit. If you have not heard, Australia is hosting Harry and Meghan and the sheer amount of press coverage is incredible. The front page of all the major newspapers in Sydney bears at least one photo of the royal couple. This must be doing wonders for the royal family’s popularity – Australian Republic advocates, like myself, watch on with contempt. The second story on the front of the Daily Telegraph addresses state opposition leader Luke Foley, who allegedly drunkenly harassed a journalist when on a night out.

Working-class attitudes toward Fridays and the front page of the Daily Telegraph both share a relaxed attitude. Does anyone want to hear about the upcoming byelection in the seat of Wentworth that could potentially send the federal government into a tailspin? Does anyone want to hear about the butchered Saudi journalist? Does anyone want to hear about what is really happening?

The answer to all three of these questions is yes. However, the Daily Telegraph consciously decides to keep people in the dark about the stories that genuinely affect their lives. A character assignation on Luke Foley pails in importance when compared to the potential of the federal government losing its majority within two days. The royal couple has nothing to do with the price of petrol, though the international backlash to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could lead to inflated petrol prices – making this a tough Christmas for thousands of Australian families.

People read the newspaper to stay informed and to keep up to date. But when a wide-reaching newspaper such as the Daily Telegraph skims over the major issues affecting people’s lives, there is no way anyone can expect to keep informed. The same could well be said for the television networks Chanel 7, 9 and 10. Perhaps it is apt to point a commonality between this major newspaper and the major television networks mentioned. They all rely heavily on advertising. Advertising anything from betting agencies (page 1) to banks (page 2) to toilets (page 20-21). There is more advertising in today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph than there is quality journalism.

More to come.

Tony Abbott’s Politics

I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now. I believe Tony Abbott has pulled off one of the best political manoeuvres we have seen in Australian politics for some time. Here’s how and why.

The Division:

Abbott is an ideological power broker on the right of the Liberal Party. Today Abbott has the support of many of his colleagues within the Liberal Party, but also within the National Party. This has not always been the case. In 2015 Malcolm Turnbull seized the reigns of the Party leadership by launching a political coup against Abbott. The general feeling was that Turnbull did what was needed, and this proved to be true when the Liberal National coalition was re-elected at the 2016 federal election.

Turnbull represented the political left within the Liberal Party and for some time seemed to dictate terms. His ideological standpoints were, however, sacrificed to maintain the support of the conservative faction – controlled by Abbott – within the Liberal Party.
Turnbull gained social popularity by being a staunch climate change advocate – at least as far as one can be within the Liberal Party.

Turnbull was reasonably popular within the broader electorate. However, due to internal pressure, he relaxed his views surrounding climate change. This was unpopular and gave Abbott the opportunity to question what Turnbull stands for as the prime minister. The ideological turning point came in August this year when the government sought to release its National Energy Guarantee. The Turnbull government claimed it would reduce power prices in line with Paris Climate Agreement targets. Although Turnbull tried to maintain some sense of environmental concern, he failed to convince his party of his standpoint, prompting Peter Dutton to make two failed grabs at the prime ministership. Climate change policy has been the ideological issue that has divided the Liberal Party

Abbott had been sitting on the backbench for some time, taking shots at Turnbull since he was ousted in 2015. Abbott released a book at the beginning of 2017 making the case to relax policy surrounding climate change. Abbott became the prime minister following his success at the 2013 federal election. He campaigned on the slogan ‘repeal the carbon tax’ which he did as soon as he possibly could. Abbott made some bad decisions as prime minister which led to his diminished popularity. Turnbull then launched his coup.

The Opportunity:

When Dutton attempted his coups, Abbott took an active role in undermining Turnbull. Abbott knew that the Liberal Party may well win government at the 2019 election under Turnbull, thus he felt the need to make his move. Abbott will fancy his chances of becoming the Liberal Party leader in 2019. Abbott understood just how unpopular Dutton was so helping him become the prime minster, that would ultimately lose the 2019 election, was essential. If Dutton lost the election, a power vacuum would open, and Abbott would fill it. However, Dutton obviously failed twice, and Scott Morrison is now the prime minister. Morrison will campaign better than Dutton could have and is somewhat more likely to lead the coalition to success, but this is a mammoth task. Morrison is unlikely to win the next election due to the political carnage that has taken place within the Liberal Party this year.

Abbott will have to work hard to maintain the seat of Warringah. But, if he does win the seat, I imagine he will make an attempt at the party leadership if Morrison loses the election. Abbott is a good opposition leader in that he seeks to undermine the government, he did this well in 2013. Abbott now seems to have his party under control and all that stands in his way is the potential success of Morrison at the next federal election. In my mind, the damage has been done and Tony Abbott will become the next leader of the Liberal Party, though as an opposition leader.

 

Political Thrill n’ Spills

It is going to be a messy week in Australian politics. Yet again, the nation is being held hostage by the ebbing and flowing dynamics prevalent within political parties.

Malcolm Turnbull is Australia’s 29th Prime Minister. He seized the reigns of the nation after staging a political coup against his political rival Tony Abbott, in 2015.  Abbott won the 2013 on the back of infighting within the Labour Party – which saw Julia Gillard make a surprise attack on Kevin Rudd’s leadership in 2010, before Rudd regained his Prime Ministership for a total of 53 days before losing the 2013 election to Mr Abbott.

Since Turnbull staged his political coup, Abbott (often associated with Australia’s conservative movement) has been on the political sidelines. Over the past three years he has often been a bee in Turnbull’s bonnet, creating controversy by doing as he likes – specifically by not acting in the best interest of his government or Prime Minister’s agenda. However, Turnbull has been able to weather the Abbott storms repeatedly for two reasons: first, Turnbull has proven himself to be a more flexible and adaptive politician than Tony Abbott, who ultimately lost his Prime Ministership due to his rigid and somewhat cold leadership style. Second, Turnbull has been a stable and reasonably popular Prime Minister. I will now speak a little more broadly regarding this second point.

Malcolm Turnbull is not the best Prime Minister Australia has had. But he is probably the best person to run the country given the underwhelming selection of leaders within Parliament House. Turnbull is the longest serving Prime Minister in the last decade and his leadership has brought about a general feeling of political stability within Australia. Australia was a laughing stock following the Labour Party’s infighting and then Abbott’s downfall. With four Prime Minister’s in five years, anyone would have been forgiven for pointing at Australia and saying “that’s how not to run a country.” Nonetheless, Turnbull has provided mild stability through tumultuous times.

With such a divided political spectrum, Turnbull has provided Australia with a centrist and indeed truly liberal Prime Minster while managing those from within his party who would seek to see him fail – namely Mr Abbott. However, it would seem that his political fortunes are turning, rapidly.

This week Turnbull has shown political weakness in appeasing the conservative faction within his party by doing a 180 degree turn. His ‘NEG’ (National Energy Guarantee) appears dead in the water. There was some beauty to the NEG in that it promised to lower energy prices while keeping to Australia’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments. All appeared to be going swimmingly when Turnbull’s party internally voted in favour of legislating the NEG.

Today, Turnbull has revealed he does not have the support to pass the bill, thus, he is pulling the plug, for the time being. To make matters worse, growing support for yet another leadership spill is building momentum.

If Australia has yet another leadership spill, then it shows there are serious problems in Australia’s democracy. If Australia’s democracy were functioning to ensure stability and good leadership had at least a chance to flourish, then there would be legislation forbidding Prime Ministerial coups via means of internal party politics. Australia is at the mercy of corporatist styled parties, and democracy is not a requisite within a corporation. This is a blight on Australian politics and on the people whom our parties are supposed to be working for.

It is for the reader to imagine how much credibility political parties in Australia deserve. The two-party system in Australia is faltering. If we want to maintain a truly democratic political system we need more transparency from the major parties, though somehow I feel this will not be forthcoming.

Turnbull – The Next Election

Malcolm Turnbull cops a lot of heat. Probably more than most Australian Prime Ministers, perhaps more than he deserves. Turnbull finds himself in a very delicate position. Turnbull is one of the most left leaning politicians in the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is considered Australia’s conservative party, and rightfully so. The Liberals hold personal liberties in the highest of regard, low taxation as a foundational priority and private rather than public enterprise as a national imperative.

Turnbull’s party are leaning further and further right. This is certainly not a new trend. ‘The right’ has gained political momentum throughout much of Europe and North America, it really is only a matter of time before we feel the same wave here in Australia. It makes political sense if politicians within the conservative party listen to their electorates and begin drifting with the tide. However, this spells eventual trouble for Malcolm Turnbull.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Clive Palmer’s ‘Palmer United Party’ as well as The Liberal Democrats and Katter’s Australian Party are becoming refuges for conservative and ‘right wing’ voters in the Australian electorate. Australia’s conservative party is moving notoriously slowly in response to this trend. Time can only tell how the Liberal Party will respond.

The next 12 months will be telling. The Australian constitution requires there to be an election on or before the 18th of May 2019. I cannot see Australia changing prime ministers before May 18th next year. If the Liberal Party seeks to maintain credibility, then there will be no challenge on Malcolm Turnbull, from within his own party. Though, only time will tell who the prime minister is at the next election.

If Turnbull makes it to the election and leads his party to a third term, then it will show that the Australian electorate is more moderate than it appears to be.

Latham: Considering Broader Political Problems

Former opposition leader Mark Latham has voiced his support for ‘minor parties’ ahead of five upcoming byelections. Although not directly affiliated with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Latham has offered his lip service to a message that ultimately seeks to diminish the Labor Party. Latham has recorded a so called ‘robocall’ message expressing his distrust for Bill Shorten and the Labor establishment.

ABC News linked to the entire recording of Latham’s message, while The Australian printed the entire message Latham has recorded:

“I’m Mark Latham, former Labor Party leader. I’ve had personal experience with Bill Shorten’s dishonesty. He just lies and lies and lies. The reason we’re having a Longman by-election is because Shorten lied about the citizenship of his Labor MPs. Whatever you do, don’t reward Shorten’s dishonesty. Don’t vote Labor. Please support minor parties and independents to shake up the system. Put some honest politics back into Canberra.”

Latham joined the ranks of the Liberal Democrats in 2017, consequently the Labor Party disowned him, stating he was banned from the party. It is still unclear whether Latham will throw all of his support behind Hanson and One Nation. However, it is crystal clear that Latham see’s major problems on the Australian political landscape.

One ought to make one’s own mind up, as to whether the two major political parties in Australia are acting in the best interest of the nation. It is, nonetheless, worth considering the priorities of the major parties. I am not going to provide a detailed policy analysis, outlining both Liberal and Labor perspectives on key issues. Rather, I seek to highlight the immediate priorities of these major parties.

Neither the Liberal Party or the Labor Party have the best interests of Australian’s in their hearts. Modern politics is a game of character assassination, rather than a space for rational economic and social policy discussion. Australian politics has become a laughing stock insofar as the priorities of the major parties are concerned. If rational policy is recommended by either side, then it is cast down in a wave of anger and envy. Both parties seek to destroy their opposition number so as to gain political points, come election time. This is a blight on Australian politics.

Although I do not have ‘personal experience’ with Bill Shorten, I believe Mark Latham is skimming the surface of a broader political problem. I have no faith in Pauline Hanson or her party, they engage in similar character assassinations. However, I do respect Latham for bringing the problems of Australian political parties into the spotlight, even if for just one day.

No one can tell you who to vote for. Though, you should vote for the candidate the best represents you and your electorate. I will hazard a guess and say that no party politician will do this. Party politicians are required to ‘keep to the party line’, lest they lose their jobs. While, independent politicians know their electorates better than anyone and ought to be considered. Independent’s yield to no party, only to their true masters – the electorate they represent.

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