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View from the Street: Hey Liberal Party, please stop hitting yourself

Or, how determined is the government to throw this election away? Your news of the long weekend, reduced to a snarky rant.

Unity is strength!

We're 100 days out from the (probable) election and you'd naturally assume that the major political parties would be busily formulating policy, polishing soundbites and making themselves look like they're the sort of sober, mature, highly-skilled adults that the nation would be proud to call their leaders.

"You look parched, current Prime Minister in whose ministry I no longer have a role - here, let me fill your chalice. ...
"You look parched, current Prime Minister in whose ministry I no longer have a role - here, let me fill your chalice. No, I'm not adding any mysterious powder from my suspiciously ornate ring. Perish the thought!"  Photo: Andrew Meares

Certainly that would appear to be what most of them are doing. For all Australia knows, Labor are punctuating their screaming internal arguments with hurled crockery while the Greens challenge the independents to games of steamroller chicken, but if so they're keeping it all behind closed doors and giving the impression that they're getting on with the job.

And since the Abbott/Turnbull government have traditionally refused to reveal details on all sorts of issues - boat turnbacks, citizenship-stripping, Free Trade Agreement negotiations, mandatory data retention, their current tax plan - they should be applauded for their sudden embrace with regards transparency. Although it seems odd that they're apparently determined to fall apart messily in public.

But is it Art?

As we discussed last week, the Australian Electoral Commission are refusing to hand over $4.4 million in pre-election funding to the NSW Liberals amid evidence that the party accepted illegal donations from property developers in 2011, when the party's treasurer was current federal Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos. 

There's growing pressure on Malcolm Turnbull to cut Sinodinos loose - which he's currently resisting, since having four frontbenchers resign under a cloud inside of four months isn't the greatest look. However, that's going to be harder to avoid with the recent revelation that Arthur was part of an email chain in which party members were boasting about their cleverness in hiding illegal donations from developers within a slush fund called the Free Enterprise Fund.

Then again, maybe Arthur can argue that he didn't know his email password. Heck, it's no less plausible than arguing he didn't know that Australian Water Holdings donated $74,000 to the NSW Liberal Party, despite being a director in AWH and also the Treasurer of the NSW Liberal Party at the time.

How strong is "amiable goof" as a legal defence?

The Wages of Sinodinos

Hilariously, it's also transpired that Liberal Party supporters were tapped to chip in to buy Sinodinos a house in early 2013 to make up for his relinquishing his stake in Australian Water Holdings. 

The plan to buy Art a sweet new pad didn't come to anything in 2013, but it's not too late for Australia to rally together and arrange some sort of We Are The World-style charity single! 

Just imagine some of our biggest stars of entertainment and property development raising their voices to croon "It's time to give him all we've got / King Arthur needs his Camelot / Let S-Dawg know we've got his back / As he answers questions from ICAC…" 

Hey, this thing writes itself! 

The magic of the screen

Speaking of using art to expensively political ends, you've invested six million dollars in a cinematic triumph from visionary auteur Peter Dutton

Yes, the Immigration Department's masterpiece - The Journey - cost more than the combined budgets of such lesser productions as Wolf Creek, The Castle and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Then again, it could be argued that it represents the current spirit of Australia more accurately than any of them. 

The film screened on Afghanistan television last week, telling the heartwarming story of a group of Afghan refugees attempting to flee their devastated country and then not finding safety. Sort of like Milo & Otis, if both animals were interned on an island prison camp at the end. 

"The film aims to educate and inform audiences in source countries about the futility of investing in people smugglers, the perils of the trip, and the hardline policies that await them if they do reach Australian waters," the film's producers explain at the website. Haven't these people heard of spoilers?

Will The Journey be Dutton's own Kolberg? At the very least, it's tipped to sweep the Best Piece Of Infotainment, Advertorial or Taxpayer Funded Propaganda categories at the Logies in May! 

Bronwatch!

But back to the AEC withholding electoral funding for NSW Liberal Party: it's going to be an especially huge issue, since they're looking like having some extra expenses.

That's because in the event that disgraced former speaker Bronwyn Bishop recontests her NSW seat of Mackellar, as she insists she will do (in order to "fight terrorism") she will transform it from a safe Liberal seat to an almost certain loss.

A ReachTEL poll of the electorate has concluded that if fellow helicopter enthusiast Dick Smith challenges - which he has pledged to do if Bishop isn't replaced as Liberal candidate - he will romp it in with an estimated 54 per cent of the primary vote

And while it's looking more and more likely that the local party heads will turf Bishop out for a less controversial MP rather than commit to spending money they don't have to protect a candidate they don't want, at least Bron'll be able to content herself with a lovely new $30,000 portrait in Parliament House

It's the gift of a grateful nation for her two years of loyal service as the most unashamedly partisan Speaker of the House in living memory

This week in right wing tantrum throwing

But nothing - nothing! - illustrates the all-for-one unity the party enjoys like the news that former PM Tony Abbott has decided that he's going to go around campaigning for marginal seats, regardless of what the actual PM might want, and that right wing culture warrior and occasional SA Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has registered his own political party.

The first bit is just another in the long, long, long, long, long series of deliberately provocative things Abbott has done to antagonise his replacement, with former leader John Hewson publicly advising Turnbull to give Abbott some pointless busy work to keep him occupied.

"He won't go away, so I think you give him a role," Dr Hewson told Sky News on Sunday. "Define the role very carefully and encourage him to be judged by his performance."

Um, doesn't Abbott already have a role? How's that working out?

Me! I Disconnect from You

But the news that Bernardi has registered Australian Conservatives as a political party should make the Liberal Party shudder, and people that enjoy comedy laugh and laugh and laugh - not least at Cozza's email exhortation rallying the "silent majority of Australian Conservatives" to challenge "the leftist agenda of big government and decaying society" and "the tyranny of political correctness". Oh, bless!

And there are plenty of reasons why Bernardi might leave his fast-dissolving band to start a solo career. 

For a start, he's got good name recognition and has historically polled well in SA. That's largely been because he's been the #1 slot on the Senate ballot for the Liberal Party rather than because of any great personal groundswell of support, admittedly. 

Secondly, there's no plausible future in which he's going to get a frontbench gig in the Liberals, so what does he have to lose?

Thirdly, he's unlikely to be alone - if senator Eric Abetz's little score-settling interview in Good Weekend was any indication, Bernardi could well have a Tasmanian colleague. 

And this could legitimately hurt the government. Not only could this create a small, vocal, right wing extremist group on the next senate crossbench, it's not even a given that the preferences from such an arrangement would support the government.

Under the old Senate ballot system, a vote for the Australian Conservatives could be assumed to flow via preferences to the Coalition. Under the new system, that's no longer a given.

So, anyone holding their breath for a new centrist Golden Age when Turnbull wins in his own right: you, um, might want to exhale…

The cocktail hour: deploy the kittens!

Let's find the one thing we can all agree upon: kittens are cute. 

Pour a large, strong one in the last dying days of the long weekend, friends, and let's see if things are better this week. Cheers!

The top stories on smh.com.au on Monday:

  1. Thousands of empty homes adding to Sydney's housing crisis, experts say
  2. Pakistan bomb blast: Women and children among dozens killed in Lahore park explosion
  3. Newcastle homeowner Benjamin Batterham charged with murder after burglar dies
  4. T20 Cricket World Cup 2016: Virat Kohli's heroics knock Australia out of tournament
  5. Australia vulnerable to debt crisis, says Forbes

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