Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – War between Turnbull Liberals and the Abbott Conservatives

The old political parties in Britain, the US and Australia are beginning to crack open. The British Labour Party, for example, has two wings – a pro-socialist left led by party leader Jeremy Corbyn and a Blairite wing of pro-capitalists. (“Should Labour Split?” New Statesman, Feb 2016)
The British Conservatives are divided too, over the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron supports Britain’s continued membership while his high-profile opponent MP Boris Johnson is leading the “get out” movement.
The US Democrats are split between the pro-socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and the pro-Big Business Hillary Clinton while the Republican Party has been hijacked by real estate huckster Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Kruz who favours “carpet bombing” the Middle East to rid the world of … terrorism!!
In Australia the rift is most pronounced in the Liberal Party. It is trying to hold together two contradictory parts – a liberal faction and a conservative faction.
Robert Menzies misnamed the party at its inception in 1945 when he demanded that it be called the Liberal Party and not the Conservative Party. The wily Menzies knew that the Tories were on the nose among British migrants from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland so he chose the name Liberal Party, harking back to the reforming imperialist era of British Liberal statesmen like William Gladstone, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd George e.g. end the slave trade, introduce Factory Acts, ban child labour, Home Rule for Ireland etc.
For 70 years, Australian Liberal Party leaders clung to the name conferred by Menzies, but the uneasy alliance with the party’s conservative wing ended with the arrival of Tony Abbott as party leader in December 2009. He encouraged a congregation of conservatives in parliament and the party bureaucracy to oppose the “liberals” headed by Malcolm Turnbull. A splenetic war broke out between the two Catholic Rhodes Scholars, and it remains unresolved.
In his book Battlelines published in 2009 London-born Abbott made an impassioned pitch for conservatism as opposed to liberalism and drew enthusiastically on the UK model of the British Conservative Party.
“The ability of the UK Conservative Party and of the ‘conservative side of Australian politics’ to be in power for fully two-thirds of the twentieth century suggests that this (holding onto office) is by no means mission impossible,” he wrote.
He quoted right-wing academic icons Roger Scruton and Friedrich Hayek to support his theory that conservatives are superior to liberals because conservatives are “engaged in their country’s history [British colonialism], proud of its symbols [the monarchy], concerned for its welfare [bullshit], attached to its values [Christianity and mono-culturalism] and vigorous in its defence [pro-Washington and UK and anti-China and anti-Russia].”

Map of Tasmania

Every week the delusional Abbott Resistance makes new recruits and most recently they have taken charge of the Liberal Party in Tasmania.
The strategy is clear: Abbott is hoping that more of his conservative MPs are pre-selected and then elected to parliament than Turnbull “liberals”.
The Tassie Senate ticket has shunted pro-Turnbull candidates into shaky positions while the Abbott gang have grabbed all the safe places for themselves. The final ticket is:
No 1 Senator Eric Abetz, the Abbott faction’s media spokesman; No 2 Senator Stephen Parry, an Abbott loyalist; No 3 Jonathan Duniam, Premier Will Hodgman’s pro-Abbott deputy chief of staff; and No 4 Senator Peter Busby, another Abbott loyalist.
The biggest surprise is the relegation of industrious Senator Richard Colbeck to the dodgy No 5 spot on the ticket. His “crime”? During the Liberal party room putsch last September, Colbeck was the only Tasmanian MP not to express support for Abbott. Now he’s paid the price.
Colbeck, who spent this week in China taking part in the Australia Week trade mission, entered the Senate in 2002 when he succeeded Senator Jocelyn Newman, mother of former Queensland premier Campbell Newman. Jocelyn Newman was the last female politician to represent Tasmania in Federal Parliament.
There are no women on the current Tasmanian Senate ticket masterminded by Abetz on behalf of the Abbott faction.
When newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose women to fill half the positions in his first Cabinet, a reporter asked him why.
“Because it is 2016,” he replied.

Reporting from abroad

Three Golden Rules of a foreign correspondent. Never write about:
1. Your children;
2. Your pets (if you have any);
3. Your holidays.
I volunteer this advice, handed down by generations of foreign correspondents, because of the abysmal state of contemporary reporting from overseas bureaux by the Australian media.
Current reporting tends to fall into two categories: either obediently echoing the line taken by British or American media or whimsical nonsense, such as eating some local exotic delicacy (e.g. frog’s legs, scorpions, whale burgers) or taking a chaotic bus/taxi ride through mountains or an overcrowded city centre.
The second category carries a superiority overtone with the locals portrayed as quaint.
By the way, just imagine the uproar if foreign correspondents based in Australia started producing stories about kangaroo meat farms, koala culling or suicide rates, disproportionate imprisonment, life (death?) expectancy and dire poverty among Aborigines.
Or what would the mainstream media think of a Lebanese film crew hiring professional baby-snatchers to grab kids from a public street to take them back to a parent in Beirut? Heaven forfend!

Where are they now?

Remember John McTernan? Amid blaring trumpets and flying banners, he was recruited by ex-prime minister Julia Gillard as her communications director.
In his previous job he was employed ludicrously as “Thinker in Residence” to the Labor government in Adelaide. And before that he was a spin doctor for vomit-inducing New Labour prime minister Tony Blair.
When he arrived in Canberra in 2011 McTernan was hailed as the genius who was going rebuild Ms Gillard’s image.
These days McTernan is employed by a Tory-connected consultancy in London called the Westminster Policy Institute. Its leading light is Sean Worth who worked for Tory Central Office during two general election campaigns.
McTernan’s other job is columnist for the Tory Telegraph, owned by the eccentric Barclay brothers, where he specialises in firing broadsides at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Unable to handle Corbyn’s current electoral popularity, McTernan has described it as a “strange psychological emotional spasm”.
When Prime Minister David Cameron’s offshore earnings were uncovered in the Panama Papers, McTernan argued in his Torygraph column that tax avoidance is an expression of basic British freedoms.
No wonder the ALP leadership liked him.

Tinker, tailor, PM, drongo

Karratha’s Spirit Radio host Pablo Newton Farley: “Now I’m sure you don’t have many times to watch TV, but is there a favourite show that you like to watch?”
Prime Minister Turnbull: “Yes. The television series that I have watched, it’s a British one but the ones that were done based on the John Le Carré spy novels (sic) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with John Geilgud were fantastic.”
PS: Oh dear. Alec Guinness’s magnificent portrayal of George Smiley in the 1979 BBC series was just buried by boastfulness.

Quote of the week

Australians owe $50.8 billion across 16.3 million credit cards.
– Reserve Bank of Australia