Popular ridicule spells political death for any political leader. That’s because it is almost impossible to overcome and undermines the capacity to lead and carry authority.
In just 18 months Prime Minister Tony Abbott has managed to reveal himself as mad and bad. Now he’s a joke.
What broke the back of his most loyal supporters – Rupert Murdoch, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, the menagerie of scribblers at The Australian et al – was his personal decision to award a knighthood to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, on Australia Day.
If the discontented Liberals don’t oust him by the end of the year, Abbott’s next step might be to make his queen, Elizabeth II, a dame.
All the signs are that we won’t have to wait that long. Senior figures in the Liberal Party itself have drawn the conclusion that Abbott is a failure and has to be replaced. It became obvious with his abysmally embarrassing performance during the G20 world leaders’ summit in Brisbane and confirmed with a succession of stupefying blunders over Medicare, university funding and his Cabinet reshuffle of the old deck of cards.
Abbott has become his own party’s wrecking ball. The Coalition lost office in Victoria in November and faces devastation at the hands of voters in Queensland this weekend and NSW on March 28.
All the talk in Canberra is that Abbott’s time is up and that he won’t be leader when the next federal election comes around in 2016. It can’t come quick enough.
The Australian honours system was introduced by Gough Whitlam in 1975 and retained by the Fraser Government, while Imperial (British) honours were abolished by the Hawke Government in 1983 and state governments in 1989.
Last year without reference to voters, parliament or his own party, the London-born arch-monarchist amended the letters patent for the Order of Australia to create knights and dames of the Order of Australia.
When he decided to give a knighthood to Phil the Greek, the notorious racist and philanderer, he consulted no one in the government or the parliament.
Apparently it was done for his parents, Sid and Doris (or whatever their names are) who belong to the Morris Dancing, Pearly Queen set of petty-bourgeois Cockneys who decorate their mantelpiece with Union Jacks and wartime photos of Vera Lynn.
Is it legal for the prime minister to award knighthoods and damehoods to anybody he/she chooses? (Just imagine the stink if Julia Gillard had started handpicking people to be honoured.)
Why have we got an elaborate honours committee of widely selected citizens who are paid a modest fee to sift through applicants and make recommendations for awards?
Why don’t we sack the committee, save some money, and let Abbott and his family select who should receive awards?
For a PM who promised “no surprises” Abbott has brought strident division and dysfunctionality to government administration in record time. On the bright side he’s turned the Mad Monk into an hilarious brand name across the world.
Kiwis take on Israel
New Zealand has added its voice on the UN Security Council to the campaign for Palestinians to have their own state on their own land.
Kiwi diplomat Jim McLay told 20 member states in New York that the council had failed to show leadership and had abdicated its responsibilities on the conflict.
“Arguments that this council doesn’t have a role, or that it can’t add value, can no longer be justified,” he said taking a swipe at Israeli isolationists and the pro-Zionist policies of Canberra.
Under Abbott Government instructions, and the rabid support of Foreign Minister Julia Bishop, Australia voted against the recent Security Council resolution ordering Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories by the end of 2017. Australia and the US voted against the Arab-sponsored resolution while France, Russia and China supported it.
In early January when the Palestine Authority joined the International Criminal Court, the Israeli regime retaliated by illegally withholding $150 million in taxes.
Washington, i.e. US taxpayers, could have halted its $3.5 billion-a-year aid bill to Israel to show its displeasure, but nothing of the sort happened. The US keeps paying Israel’s bill and the Israelis keeps sh…..ng on Washington’s peace diplomacy. It cannot last.
Greece turns left
During an extended visit to Greece in 2012, Judith and I were shocked by the mass unemployment, poverty and social despair created by the austerity programme imposed by the IMF, the European Commission and the European banks.
The bankers and bureaucrats who barged into Athens to take control of the economy represented institutions which are undemocratic, unelected and unrepresentative.
Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media in Australia echoed their call for “austerity” and joined the chorus line which stretched from the City of London, the Paris Bourse and Frankfurt to Wall Street.
While “austerity” became a catchword in the business pages of The Australian and the Australian Financial Review it became a swear word on the streets of Athens, Cyprus, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon and Dublin.
The authentic reply of working people and the unemployed came in last weekend’s Greek election when the country turned Left and voted for Syriza, the left-wing party led by (now) Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The former governing party, the right-wing New Democracy, which championed the bankers’ austerity plan, collapsed to 76 seats in the 300-seat parliament.
Syriza is now riding a tiger. Voters want austerity to end and for the new government to ease Greece’s foreign debt, forcing the foreign bankers to accept some of the pain for their own wilful profligacy.
If Greece takes that course, another election will be unavoidable and Syriza’s majority will increase.
Regrettably, the government’s leftish leaders are charting another course. They have formed a coalition with the right-wing nationalists of the Independent Greeks Party and are proposing to negotiate with Brussels and the banks over the country’s debt burden.
If this strategy demoralises the general public it will be catastrophic. The current situation in Greece invokes two historical parallels :
1. Alexander Kerensky’s provisional government in Russia in February 1917 which ultimately gave way to Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution in October;
2. Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity victory in the 1970 election in Chile which ultimately gave way to a CIA-backed military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet in September 1973.
Greece’s bold workers and professional classes will not be able to sustain a struggle against the European and US banks, the EU and NATO without popular support from other parts of Western Europe. Already there are indications that emerging political forces in Spain and Portugal are adopting the demands of anti-austerity and repudiate the bankers’ debt.
It is like watching stage one of a deep social and political battle of unorganised masses (99%) v armed oligarchs (1%). The oligarchs are conscious of their strength, the masses aren’t yet of theirs.