Clive Palmer: Conspiracy Sleuth!
So, is Malcolm Turnbull planning to secretly hand the top job back to Tony Abbott after the next election?
That's the excitingly stupid idea floated by Clive Palmer in Parliament on Thursday, asking Malc "If you are still prime minister after the election, will you serve a full term in parliament or will you retire to your unit in New York and do a switcheroo with the member for Warringah [Tony Abbott]?"
Turnbull didn't dispute the question, confirming instead that he's in rude health. And some have taken Turnbull's lack of explicit denial as implied switcheroofirmation.
Indeed, m'colleague Peter Hartcher even pondered the possibility of a secret Abbott-Turnbull conspiracy, asking "How else to explain the change of prime minister without a change of policy?"
Of course, there's another possibility: Turnbull required support from conservatives in his party to successfully mount his leadership challenge, which ruled doing anything even vaguely progressive. Furthermore, any move to make the government less conservative would put the existence of the Coalition at risk since the Nationals could (at least in theory) decline to form government with the Liberals.
And how would Malcolm hope to run the nation if denied the sage, Solomon-like counsel of Barnaby Joyce?
The adorable fantasy world of Tony Abbott
More importantly Abbott has been assiduously undermining Turnbull at every opportunity for the last six months.
For example, early reports of Abbott's upcoming essay for conservative journal Quadrant reveal that he remains convinced that he totally could have taken the next election. But what did he get instead? A one way ticket to Palookaville!
"I'm confident we could have won the 2016 election with a program of budget savings and lower tax," the man removed as PM after staggeringly low opinion polls for over a year explains in his 4000-word revisionist history. "The Coalition won the 2013 election despite promising tough measures: to abolish the schoolkids bonus and the low-income supplement, to delay employer-provided superannuation benefits and to reduce Labor's promised funding boost to schools and hospitals beyond the next few years."
Of course, an unkind person could point out that the Coalition actually won the election having promised no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no changes to the pension, no changes to the GST and no cuts to the ABC and SBS literally the night before, which you might notice is different to - some might say "largely the opposite of" - what Tone now claims.
All that talk of hard choices happened after they were safely in power when the government suddenly discovered that mythical Budget Emergency, which then vanished just as abruptly at around about the same time that the federal deficit was confirmed to have doubled in just over a year of Abbott's painstaking stewardship.
Abbott also rather cattily points out that it was "claimed on September 14 [when Turnbull challenged his leadership] that the government lacked an economic narrative," which would appear to be yet another Abbott-era policy which the current PM has proudly maintained.
Tony then gazed soulfully at Turnbull, his heart visibly breaking. "You was my brother, Malcolm, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit," he emoted. "I coulda had class! I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody - instead of a bum, which is what I am!"
That bit's not in the Quadrant piece, admittedly, but it's strongly implied.
Sure, ex-PM, why not pick a fight with China?
And that's not all that Abbott is doing as Australia's PM in exile: he also made a little trip to Japan to give a speech criticising China, because he's apparently the foreign minister in exile as well.
"Over the past 18 months, Australia has quietly increased our own air and naval patrols in the South China Sea," he said, because if there's one thing that a representative of the Australian government should definitely do it's publicly provoke his nation's largest trading partner. "We should be prepared to exercise our rights to freedom of navigation wherever international law permits because this is not something that the United States should have to police on its own."
And it's great to see li'l Tones staying on message. Sure, he was denied the chance to entangle Australia in a proper war in Iraq and Syria despite his best efforts, but he still might yet be able to get some argy-bargy happening in the South China Sea.
He also slammed China for not sharing Australian values, which is really unfair. Heck, China also support indefinitely locking people up despite committing no crime, making it illegal to report on the government's activities and carrying out comprehensive state-sponsored monitoring of their citizens. If anything, we're human rights twinsies!
At least Abbott's living up to his "no sniping" promise. After all, as one waggish internet genius pointed out, sniping requires sitting still and keeping quiet for an extended period of time.
When the Brough breaks…
At least Turnbull doesn't have any other embarrassments. Oh, except that the man he appointed special minister of state who was forced to resign due to an ongoing investigation by the federal police has now announced he'll be leaving politics after the next election.
Yes, Mal Brough has decided to call an end to his service to the nation - a proud and distinguished career which possibly included asking one James Ashby to steal and make copies of the diary of Brough's political rival Peter Slipper in 2012, thereby clearing the way for Brough to win the seat in 2013.
Of course, whether this happened or not depends on who you think is more trustworthy: Mal Brough, or Mal Brough.
The former told 60 Minutes that "Yes I did [ask Ashby to make copies] because I believed Peter Slipper had committed a crime," on camera during an interview with Liz Hayes in 2014. Meanwhile, his nemesis Mal Brough defiantly replied "No" to shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus' question "Did you ask James Ashby to procure copies of Peter Slipper's diary for you?" in Parliament last November.
So one of those two are clearly telling a bit of a fib - and if it turns out that it's the November 2015 version it has the added wrinkle of misleading Parliament, which is punishable by a fine or up to six months in prison (in the precedent-setting event that it was actually enforced, that is, which seems unlikely).
Presumably fellow MPs Wyatt Roy and Christopher Pyne are sleeping soundly at the moment too, since they're also being interviewed by the AFP about their involvement.
But that's the only government representative making an utter goose of themselves. After all, it's not as though anyone's claiming that a program designed to stop bullying of LGBTI kids in schools is the equivalent of paedophilia or starting up his own anti-Islam website, because that would be… sorry? George Christensen is what? Oh dear god.
Aside from anything else, how does Georgie fancy himself as an editor - have you seen his Twitter account? That site is going to be a smorgasbord of random capitalisation, phonetic spelling and misplaced apostrophes.
The cocktail hour: Happy Leap Day Eve!
Tomorrow is Leap Day, February 29 - the day when, as well we know, Leap Day William emerges from his home deep in the Mariana Trench and exchanges candy for children's tears.
It's a noble and wonderful tradition, which stretches all the way back to… well, a 2012 episode of 30 Rock. But heck, let Kenneth explain it all to you!
See you back here tomorrow, friends, and cheers!
The top stories on smh.com.au on Sunday were:
- Australia flooded with fake $50 notes so good they fool banks
- Hidden debt that no one is talking about (And it involves you)
- Man killed, another seriously injured in Pittwater yacht accident
- Man spits on baby's face in Surry Hills, is run over but still escapes
- Saudi prince books out Sydney's iconic O Bar for date night with wife