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Tory self-destruction is so painfully enjoyable

<i>Illustration: Glen Le Lievre</i>

Illustration: Glen Le Lievre

You can smell the doubt in Tory ranks, see the fear in Tory eyes. It’s not yet panic, although in this febrile political climate it wouldn’t take much to start one. But they are worried, deeply worried, that Tony Abbott might just have lost the plot.

This swine of a budget has been a disaster, both in its construction and its political execution. Stunned by the public protest, Abbott and his ministers have been furiously daubing the pig with lipstick, but it’s not working. The polls have the Coalition trailing badly on the primary vote and Bill Shorten is streets ahead as preferred prime minister, even though he has done little but keep his bum pointed to the ground.

So the usual Tory toadies of the media are stampeding to the aid of the party. For more than a week they have been exhorting Abbott to stand firm, to take arms against a sea of troubles, blah blah. Always a sure sign the faecal matter has hit the fan.

Lost the plot: Prime Minister Tony Abbott during question time.

Lost the plot: Prime Minister Tony Abbott during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares

An even more certain sign is when they start fighting each other. Treachery! The shrill denunciation of Malcolm Turnbull by Melbourne’s village idiot, Andrew Bolt – amplified on Thursday by Sydney’s village idiot, Alan Jones – sent the needles on the right-wing paranoia scale trembling off the dial. Hilariously, the Parrot dictated a pledge of loyalty for Turnbull to repeat on radio, a wheeze not seen in any modern democracy since the demise of the infamous American Senator Joe McCarthy.

To his credit, Turnbull stiffed the two nongs right back, branding them ‘‘bomb throwers’’ doing Labor’s work. He’ll not be forgiven. It’s been hugely enjoyable.

The polls tell you more and more people are realising Abbott has not so much lost the plot as that he never had one. In opposition he was the wrecker, brutally effective against a divided and demoralised Labor Party, promising to lead an adult government faithful to its election commitments. But in power he and his ministers trudge through the smoking ruins of their policy flip-flops and broken promises, haplessly blaming their predecessors for the mess. This scaled new heights of idiocy on Wednesday when  Defence Minister David Johnston proclaimed that it was Labor’s fault Abbott’s RAAF VIP jet had been late leaving for Indonesia.

Malcolm Turnbull has come out swinging.

Malcolm Turnbull has come out swinging. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In truth, we are saddled with a gang of punishers and straighteners, of cutters and slashers, run by the sort of bossy former private school prefects who enjoy enforcing dress codes at golf clubs. To borrow from that American wit, the late H.L.Mencken, these Abbott Tories are racked by the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might not be working hard enough.

So the government has changed. But despite the dogged efforts of Peta Credlin and her platoons of highly-trained spin doctors, it is ever more obvious that Abbott himself has not. Beneath those crisp white shirts and pale blue ties there still beats the heart of the campus bully. And Australians know it.

LIKE MANY stonkingly rich people, Clive Palmer displays two grand delusions. One: that great wealth automatically confers great wisdom, and especially political wisdom. Two: that his antics are endlessly fascinating to us lesser folk. He is entirely wrong about the first. In additional proof I give you that American fruit loop Donald Trump, and our very own Gina Rinehart.

But he may be partly right about the second delusion. In his slender youth, Palmer learnt the tricks of massaging the media at the feet of no less than Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, a grand master of the art. ‘‘Feeding the chooks,’’ the old crook used to call it, in his sly, yokel way.

All it takes is colour and movement. Announce that you are going to build a replica of the Titanic. Or turn up at Parliament in a vintage Rolls-Royce. Works every time, and you can count on short memories; been a while since we’ve heard of the Titanic project.

It’s rather more difficult to discover what – if anything – Palmer actually stands for beyond trick populism. Although when you name a political party after yourself you are giving away a pretty big clue.

Lately I’ve been tossing around a few metaphors to fit the man. One, that here is a great bladder of gas that will eventually crash and burn like that ill-fated Zeppelin, the Hindenburg.

But I like the second better: Palmer as a tout in sideshow alley. Roll up, only $10 to see The Bearded Lady, The Mexican Midget, The Two-Headed Gorilla. In the darkness of the tent you realise it’s done with smoke and mirrors, but it’s too late. Clive has already got your money.

THE TROUBLE with writing critically about child abuse in the Catholic Church is that you get accused of sectarian bigotry.  It’s how they hit back.  Carlton hates Catholics, they cry.  He’s out to shaft us.

This is particularly offensive to me.  My father was a Catholic priest.  I hardly knew him, for he died when I was five, but by all accounts he was a good and honourable servant of his God and his church, much loved. I was christened a Catholic myself, at no less than St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.  I am now an atheist, but some of my best friends, etc.

The true demons, though, are not us heathens but those who have betrayed their faith by not dealing properly with child abusers within the church. 

The Cunneen Commission into child abuse in the Hunter Valley found this week that Father Brian Lucas, Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, knew of child sexual abuse by a predatory priest, Father Denis McAlinden, but did nothing to report it to the police. Instead McAlinden was allowed to leave Australia, where his practise of abuse continued after 1993. Commissioner Cunneen found that Lucas was consulted about the plan to relocate McAlinden, but at the inquiry, ‘‘sought to distance himself from the appearance of having any involvement’’. 

Matthew 25.40 comes to mind: "In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

In the light of Cuneen’s findings, how is Lucas’ position tenable? He should at least have the decency to get the hell out.

smhcarlton@gmail.com      Twitter:  MikeCarlton01.

531 comments

  • Abbott built his house on trust. His trustworthiness versus the proclaimed liar leading Labor. Tony you created this reality, you broke trust with the Australian people, now you can live with the consequences. Just don't wreck our country too badly with what time you have left.

    Commenter
    Glasnost
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    June 07, 2014, 6:34AM
    • Calm down Mike, the next election is a long way off and the Public is a fickle beast. Labor was truly appalling when in Government, so there is no joy to be had in wishing it back any time soon. The recent budget was a disgrace and suggested Abbott is out of touch with the majority of Australians. Hopefully he will learn from this experience and we will see better and fairer decision making in the future. If so, another term is in the offing, if not, he deserves to go.

      Commenter
      Flanders
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 7:41AM
    • The libs first lied to get themselves in power, and then proceeded to dismantle, privatise, and starve of funds through their bully budget, everything in their way it appears.

      Mikes article is spot on, and cleverly written.

      What else can one say about a fed gov that appears to be governing in favour of every other country in the world, except the very country that elected them to power?...sending jobs overseas, allowing foreigners to buy up Auss, allowing 457s to have many jobs, cutting funds to the poorest and most disadvantaged in society, cutting funds to local businesses, etc etc..........

      And it is even more disturbing that they think they can get away with it because of the 'welded' on voters in safe lib/nat seats who appear as if they would vote them, even if they sunk auss to the dark depths of the ocean.......

      Commenter
      Siren
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 7:52AM
    • This comment is just staggering! The reality is that main stream media built Tony Abbott. It was very clear to me the kind of man Tony Abbott represents. How any decent minded citizen found it acceptable to tolerate the vile invective dished out to Julia Gillard speaks volumes about the Australian public. He clearly had little to offer. No great intellect, no vision, no culture, basically just a job. As for debt, the Coalition ignored their own charter of budget honesty, and Hockey ignored his own message not to borrow more when the economy is not in surplus. We do not have a spending problem, we have a revenue in this country whereby the wealthy are not paying their fair share of tax.

      Commenter
      maureen-ray
      Location
      Ulladulla
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 8:23AM
    • Shame you couldn't give that advice to Swan, Glasnost.

      Mike - so pleased you could make it today, we were all worried that the spat with the accounts payable chaps might lead to some strike action. With all the attention Jones and Bolt have been getting, i was worried you'd miss out on a piece of the fun.

      If you want to put tags on big Clive, perhaps your inspiration should be from the dinosaur park at Coolum. A once-amazing golf course and resort, Clive has manage to turn the whole place into a nestbed of angst, frustrated residents, missing guests, very few staff, and a championship course that's become a goat track. Some business model.

      The business model Abbott has for Australia at least involves successfully building stuff, best if Clive just gets his 15 minutes over with then gets out of the way.

      Commenter
      Hacka
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 8:45AM
    • @Glasnot:
      Abbott and his team of looney tunes ministers are the weirdest collection of "adults" ever to win government in this country's history. Weird and getting weirder and no hurdle seems high enough as one incoherent rave is exceeded by yet another. The best may be yet to come, but it will require a careful, methodical and cautious planning to trump Defence Minister Johnston trumpeting that Abbott's flight delay was all Labor's fault. Beat that he crowed!

      Commenter
      JohnC
      Location
      Gosford NSW
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 8:46AM
    • With lies, like the many we have heard from Mr. Abbott, one loses not only trust but also respect, faith, and credibility, and, by God, ALL of mine is gone. I would not believe another word he, or Hockey, says.

      Commenter
      Mark
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 9:15AM
    • It is totally fair to raise the trust issue since that was Abbott's chief appeal to the Herald editorial writers when they recommended a vote for the Libs prior to the last election. The last thing they have demonstrated is trust. The only area where trust was achieved was in the area of stopping refugees arriving by boat and increasing the number of refugees from the camps.

      Commenter
      Good Logic
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 9:31AM
    • Hacka - 8.45am. ''The business model Abbott has for Australia at least involves successfully building stuff, best if Clive just gets his 15 minutes over with then gets out of the way.''
      Think your 15 minutes were up a very long time ago, dear Hacka.

      @maureen-ray - well said RE: LNP ignoring their OWN charter of budget honesty, etc.

      @Mike Carlton. So true - the fear the LNP and their squaddies have also has a physical basis - and this pheromone of 'fear' has such a revolting smell (far worse than your 'faecal matter has hitting the fan' so to speak).
      I am simply enjoying the show - sitting back and watching the implosion of the LNP with great delight. However, they are much more that 'Tory' as you suggest - the Tea Party (& ALEC) infusion is what the 'top note' smell is all about. (*top note = first smell of perfume/odour)

      Commenter
      Jump
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 9:47AM
    • Hi Flanders, I see that you are widening your perspective on the LNP, and I am not being sarcastic, probably complimentary.

      However, Carlton is bang on the money. Its what "we" have been saying for months, even before the election - Abbott is a wrecker, not a leader.

      My point is that, it is no longer about "Abbott" but about who will replace him. He has shown no ability to lead, but he is easy to dislike. If he was allowed to lead the LNP into the next election, the LNP will lose.

      Whoever developed the slogan "One Term Tony" deserves a knighthood. It was a term of hope, but it has become a reality. Abbott will not exist as leader beyond one term.

      This week I saw "Half a term Tony", and "Third of a Term Tony" - the narrative has become when? and who? will replace him. 75% of voters want Turnbull, 8% want Abbott. There is simply no way back for him.

      In the meantime Turnbull has been making himself the hero - refusing to bow before Jones and Bolt, and refusing to countenance ABC gutting.

      Who else is there? Pyne?, Brandis? They have done equally atrocious self-immolation jobs as Abbott. The only chance is Hockey, and he's covered in budget muck.

      So Turnbull it is, when the LNP gets desperate enough.

      Commenter
      Axis
      Date and time
      June 07, 2014, 9:49AM

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