Tony Abbott is gone as Prime Minister. The only pertinent questions are how and when.
All this week’s speeches, interviews and TV broadcasts are the actions of a desperate politician trying to save his skin. They won’t work.
When he said that 2014 had been a “year of achievement”, voters shrank in horror. When he promised them another “year of achievement” they decided that he had learned nothing and they wanted to see the last of him.
Anyone who is familiar with leadership changes in political parties will recognise the tell-tale signs.
First the leader starts to lose the confidence of his own backbenchers (a small but influential number in the first instance), then the party-at-large starts to grumble, and finally the media gets involved.
Once it becomes a running story, the public are engaged and this triggers an outpouring of (hitherto suppressed) resentments and frustrations.
It triggers a political dynamic that is virtually unstoppable or irreversible.
Everyone in Britain knew in the 1950s that Conservative Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden was for the chop after Suez; they knew in the 1960s that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas Home were to be dumped; and when Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher reached their used-by dates, they were given the old heave-ho too.
If Abbott had awarded a knighthood to Prince Philip a month after his election in September 2012, there would have been a rumpus, but Abbott would have escaped much criticism because the decision would have been considered eccentric and idiosyncratic but not fatal.
However, when the government is already in the dog house such decisions are magnified beyond their original intention and the leader’s judgment suffers accordingly.
Westminster rules, okay?
Abbott’s inevitable denouement is following the unwritten laws of the Westminster system which he worships. In the Mother Country, the Tory “magic circle” decides when leaders are “not up to the job” or “letting the party down” and they are tipped out of office with callous abandon.
In Australia, similar rules apply. Prime Minister John Gorton was hounded from The Lodge and various leaders given the flick when they disappointed/embarrassed the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane Clubs: Andrew Peacock, John Hewson, Alexander Downer and Brendan Nelson to name a few.
Isn’t it patently obvious that those who pull the strings in the Liberal Party, the big donors and the corporation chiefs, have lost confidence in Abbott and they want Malcolm Turnbull to lead the government?
Why? Because Abbott has made such a hash of it and the Coalition looks like losing the next Federal Election in 2016. And secondly, because Turnbull can easily defeat the ALP’s Bill Shorten at the next election and keep the Coalition in office for not one but possibly two terms.
Have the party panjandrums changed their mind about Turnbull? Yes they have.
Turnbull has become acceptable since recalibrating his position on climate change (he is now against a carbon tax), he has adopted a private business model for the future of publicly-owned NBN, and he’s embraced an economic strategy of more privatisation of public assets, i.e. the Post Office, and the sale of Crown Land and historic sites.
Previously the dolts in the CBD boardrooms regarded Turnbull as a “socialist in sheep’s clothing”; now he’s become their potential saviour. They are willing to accommodate his republicanism because most of their wives and children support it anyway.
Barbie doll diversion
Throughout the second half of John Howard’s term as Prime Minister, the media gorged on anonymously sourced reports that Treasurer Peter Costello was poised to challenge and take over.
This was one of the lamentable eras in the history of the Canberra Press Gallery, only surpassed by the deranged pro-Kevin Rudd propaganda which followed a few years later.
There was a very simple explanation why Costello never challenged Howard: at no time did “smirking Pete” have the numbers. Not by a long chalk.
The most he ever had – and this is generous – was 20 party room backers.
Now history is repeating itself as farce. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this week announced she was not a candidate against Abbott. Politicians fell around laughing.
That’s because the Liberal Barbie doll, who, incidentally, is economically and politically illiterate, has no support in the party room: all her supporters are either female journalists in the Press Gallery or eccentric letter writers to The Australian and New Idea.
Over Christmas-New Year it was Ms Bishop who told the media that Peter Greste would be released from jail “within a few days”. He wasn’t, of course.
Ms Bishop probably kept him inside jail a bit longer by voting against the Arab-backed UN resolution calling for a Palestinian state.
Or does she think her vote at the UN wasn’t brought to the attention of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former chief of Egypt’s armed forces and ex-head of military intelligence?
If Turnbull wins the Liberal leadership contest, Labor can write off its chance of winning next year. If the party room selects Ms Bishop, Labor is still in with a chance.
On the eve of this week’s Reserve Bank Board meeting to set interest rates, the TV host and Rupert Murdoch columnist David Koch delivered his golden insights.
In the Daily Telegraph column he co-authors with his wife Libby, “Kochie” wrote:
“For what it’s worth, out view is that the Reserve Bank will keep official rates on hold at its monthly meeting tomorrow. (“Best advice, bar none – Rate change unlikely ”, Daily Telegraph, 2 February 2015).
Unfortunately for the star-studded media duo, the RBA cut interest rates by 25 basis points taking the cash rate down to 2.25%.
Comment? Oh well, that’s show business. Let’s move on.
NAB loses the plot
Late last year NAB CEO Cameron Clyne led a trade delegation to Israel in the midst of the blitzkrieg on the civilian population of Gaza.
While on a fully-funded tour by the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce (patron is the Israeli ambassador to Australia), the bank tourists ignored the killing of 2,151 Palestinians (including at least 577 children, 263 women, 102 elderly, 17 journalists and 23 doctors and paramedics) and injury to over 11,230 people (including at least 3,374 children, 2,088 women, 410 elderly and 83 doctors and paramedics).
Seventy Israelis were killed, 67 of them soldiers.
Clyne and his team met senior military and intelligence chiefs of the Zionist apartheid state: how this benefited trade and investment was never explained.
For 10 years NAB has sponsored the Yachad Scholarship Fund sending students and academics to and from Israel with the aim of “expanding awareness in Australia of the shared interests of Israel and Australia”.
Ali Kazak, the former PLO diplomat to Australia, asked: “Why doesn’t NAB have a scholarship fund for Palestinian students as well or with other Arab countries which have much bigger trade with Australia than Israel?” Good point.