Spoiling for a fight: Treasurer Joe Hockey during Question Time on Wednesday Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Is there anybody left for this government to disappoint, to betray, or just to piss off?
It has been a remarkable 100-plus days, culminating in this week's cage fight with General Motors-Holden; a ham-fisted brawl, shirts ripped, faces bruised and knuckles bloody. But completely one-sided. With the snarling Joe Hockey throwing haymakers in the air while demanding Holden put up or shut up.
The Abbott government proved, yet again, that it is incapable of mature and nuanced responses to the sort of political and economic challenges that are entirely predictable
Watching on from Detroit, the company bosses declined to climb into the Octagon with Hockey, quietly saying, "We'll just shut up then, thanks."
Illustration: Alan Moir
In one sense, but only one sense, it is unfair to Joe to blame this on him.
Australian governments of all persuasions have been managing the death throes of the automotive industry in this country since John Button's car plan of the 1980s.
There are monstrously deep and powerful economic forces running against the survival of the domestic car industry. But that just makes the stupidly aggressive performance of the government this week all the more perverse and damaging.
Perhaps Detroit would have pulled the plug anyway in a couple of weeks.
Perhaps Holden could have struggled on for a few more years, cutting a deal with the unions for increased productivity and with the Abbott government for an assistance package that would have been modest in comparison to the handouts routinely provided to the mining industry. We'll never know.
In the end, the Abbott government proved, yet again, that it is incapable of mature and nuanced responses to the sort of political and economic challenges that are entirely predictable in their inevitability if not in their specifics.
It is becoming apparent that, while they were an excellent opposition, the years of reflexive, unthinking negativity, of framing all arguments in soundbites and all outcomes as crude win-loss scenarios have not well prepared Abbott and his colleagues for government.
Whether bullying East Timor, picking fights that they can't win with Beijing, humiliating themselves over Gonski or mugging childcare workers while debauching their own travel allowances, they approach the governments of the Commonwealth with all the witless hysteria of amateur night in a Chechen bordello.
Sometimes it's embarrassing. Sometimes amusing. And sometimes it's just a tragedy.