Prime Minister Turnbull on a hiding to nothing pursued by three zealots, Tony Abbott, Cory Bernardi and Kevin Rudd … UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being pursued too – by avenging Blairites … Turkey torn apart by two autocrats, President Erdogan and religious intriguer, Fethullah Gulen … Great bores continued …
Turnbull – a fumbling fizzer?
Never has an Australian prime minister started his post-election career more shakily than Malcolm Turnbull.
He has a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives and, despite his double dissolution election gamble, he doesn’t control the Senate.
He is not trusted by more than half the population; and half of his own Liberal Party don’t trust him either. The big banks think he’s a joke, ignoring his demand to pass on this week’s bank rate cut.
His main political enemy, Tony Abbott, the leader that he overthrew in September last year, is on the warpath. Now Kevin Rudd, another demented ex-PM, is gunning for him as well.
Meanwhile, Liberal backbencher Senator Cory Bernardi is gaining support for his anti-Turnbull fraternity called the Australian Conservatives.
He claims to have rounded up 50,000 online supporters and is busily trying to turn them into a kind of Tea Party faction to wreck Turnbull’s leadership and impose their own reactionary agenda.
“Our movement is a work in progress but we are establishing strong foundations upon which to build a sustainable and influential future,” Bernardi said. It sounded ominous.
This week he opened fire on Turnbull on two fronts: criticising the appointment of Aboriginal leader Mick Gooda as co-royal commissioner and calling for a delay on the proposed constitutional change giving recognition to Aboriginal people.
At a dead end
If Turnbull calls another early election, he faces almost certain defeat. If he simply soldiers on, his opponents will continue the media leaks, the backstabbing and the plotting. They will inflict on him a slow political death.
When I first began writing about Abbott’s conservative faction and Turnbull’s liberal faction some readers of my Weekly Notebook thought I was alarmist or obsessive. Now it is commonplace to read stories about the Abbottistas and their anti-Turnbull intrigues in the mainstream media.
Let’s hope the revelations continue, but rest assured I will continue to report any significant developments right here.
British Labour is split
To all intents and purposes the British Labour Party is split. The party outside the House of Commons is led by the elected leader Jeremy Corbyn while the Parliamentary Labour Party isn’t.
On June 28 the PLP voted no confidence in Corbyn by a decisive 172 votes to 40. Prior to the party room vote, the Blairites, right-wing union leaders and the London media waged an unprecedented onslaught on Corbyn.
He rejected calls for his resignation, throwing down a challenge to his opponents and a now a leadership ballot of the party’s national membership will be held. The timetable is the following:
– Ballot papers will be mailed out on August 22
– Voting concludes on September 21
– Result will be declared at a special conference in Liverpool on September 24
Last month the Blairites lost an expensive High Court challenge to take Corbyn off the ballot paper. Now they are busily rigging the vote: an estimated 40,000 Corbyn supporters who paid £25 to renew their party membership have been arbitrarily disqualified. A fine example of New Labour democracy!
Since the 67-year-old Corbyn succeeded Ed Miliband as party leader with a landslide victory in September 2015, Labour Party membership has more than doubled. There are now half a million members and branch activism has surged to an all-time high.
In recent campaign rallies in Leeds and Hull thousands have turned out to support him. In Liverpool where he attended Gay Pride celebrations Corbyn was mobbed by a chanting crowd.
Meanwhile, his opponent Owen Smith, MP for Pontypridd, slips in and out of tiny meetings at small venues. A former radio and television producer, Smith supported the US-led invasion of Iraq but later admitted it was a “mistake”. Last year he supported the Tory Government’s decision to mount air and ground attacks on Syria.
Despite the minefield of obstacles in his path, Corbyn appears on track to win the leadership ballot. If he does, he will be leader of the Labour Party-at-large while the PLP is planning to elect its own leader from the right-wing faction. In other words, the Blairites propose to ignore the result if it doesn’t favour them.
This will create two political entities. If it walks like a split and talks like a split, then it is a split.
British Labour was founded on a compromise between its trade union (working class) base and middle-class intellectuals. Under Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair the middle class elbowed its way into controlling positions and shifted party ideology to the right – no longer reforming capitalism, but accepting it. All they offer is to manage capitalism better than the Tories.
Social democrats all across Western Europe – France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Austria and Ireland – sang from the same song book and look what has happened to them. Bill Shorten’s federal ALP appears not to have noticed.
Turkey torn apart
Professor Greg Barton of Deakin University is the media’s resident expert on the “war on terror”. Whenever a terror atrocity occurs in any part of the world – with the exception of Israeli state terrorism – Barton is ready with a quotable quote.
I don’t know what the ABC’s Fran Kelly, Leigh Sales and Tony Jones would do without him. He has become the media’s “go to” talent.
However, for inexplicable reasons, his knowledge of atrocities in Turkey have yet to be fully tested.
The country is in the throes of a brutal state of emergency following an unsuccessful military coup on July 15.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrested an estimated 10,000 military officers, judges, lawyers, university deans and academics. He has shut 45 newspapers, 16 TV stations and schools, sent home thousands of civil servants and banned many more from leaving the country.
Just as the Pentagon and CIA employed a bloody “de-Baathification” programme in post-invasion Iraq, Erdogan is now engaged in a brutal “de-Gulenification” in Turkey. His target is Fethullah Gulen, the self-exiled religious leader, scholar and writer living under US protection in Pennsylvania.
There is mounting evidence that Gulen may have masterminded the failed mutiny and the Ankara government has applied for his extradition to face treason and terror charges (and perhaps a reintroduced death penalty).
So what does Professor Barton have to say? In an ABC TV Lateline interview on July 21, he described Gulen as a moderate and pro-Western Islamic leader.
“I’ve met Gulen a couple of times and he strikes me as a sort of moderate, modern Sufistic Muslim,” Barton admitted.
And when the Gulen Chair was inaugurated at Melbourne’s Catholic University in 2009, Barton delivered a fine speech commending the exiled shaman’s support for “inter-faith dialogue”.
If forthcoming extradition hearings in the US courts reveal Gulen had connections with a plot to overthrow Turkey’s elected government, Barton will have some explaining to do. On Lateline perhaps?
As far as I am concerned both Erdogan and Gulen are very unsavoury characters and neither of them deserve the slightest support. What I expect, however, is media commentary by academics that is independent and free of any hidden agendas.
Great bores – 8
I think that Kevin Rudd should become the next secretary-general of the UN. It would be great for Australia – a real feather in our cap. And Kevin has all the qualifications. He was prime minister, foreign minister and a former diplomat. I think he speaks Mandarin too. That would be fantastic talking to the Chinese. Malcolm Turnbull must be nuts not to support him. Having said that, Kevin was a pretty hopeless PM. Nobody seemed to like him. Some of his former ministers say he was a bit of a nutter. He made a real mess of things. Just imagine someone like Rudd at the UN during a war situation. Very scarey, mate, he should just piss off and shut up.
Quotes of the Week
I don’t hate Arabs, but I don’t want them at my swimming pools.
– Moti Dotan, Lower Galilee Regional Council chairman, Israel
Yes, I want Donald Trump to win.
– Mark Latham, Australian Labor Party leader, 2003-2005