View from the Street: Well, that's it for Tony Abbott, then

View from the Street: Well, that's it for Tony Abbott, then

And we're definitely-maybe having that plebiscite this year, or later, perhaps. Your news of the day, reduced to a snarky rant.

Our former Emperor's looking oddly nude

Far be it for V from the S to toot our own toot-instrument - perish the very thought! - but back in October last year a book came out that was the first in what has proved to be a surprisingly fertile genre of non-fiction: the What The Actual Hell Was Going On With Tony Abbott-ography.

"Yep, feeling good, looking dignified, that leadership return is just a matter of time…"

"Yep, feeling good, looking dignified, that leadership return is just a matter of time…"

Photo: Andrew Meares

The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott, like this column, danced merrily through the dire state of Australian politics. However, there was a point made in said book that bears revisiting in the light of the current slew of revelations.

To quote from m'introduction, "According to their detractors, Rudd was an arrogant bully, Gillard a disloyal Judas, John Howard a fuddy-duddy, Paul Keating a brawler, Bob Hawke a boozed-up union stooge, Malcolm Fraser a manipulative snake and Gough Whitlam an irresponsible idealist. However, one has to go all the way back to Billy McMahon to find a prime minister who was so widely considered by the electorate to be an actual fool."

That's been backed up in journalist and former Liberal staffer Nikki Savva's new book The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government, extracts and quotes from which are on every single media organisation's radar today. And the bit that's being quoted most is, unsurprisingly, the most prurient.


According to Savva, right-wing Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells warned Abbott that "Rightly or wrongly, the perception is that you are sleeping with your chief of staff. That's the perception, and you need to deal with it."

And that's legitimate not because of the possibility of a relationship, but because the PM did nothing to counter this perception. That showed staggeringly poor judgement - which was at least consistent with the rest of Abbott's storied tenure, as our beloved Sir Prince Philip can attest.

Still, Savva has done the party a massive favour: by painting the former PM as weak-willed, timid and either unable or unwilling to even advocate on behalf of his own wife, she's removed any remotely-plausible threat to Turnbull's leadership. Who else can the socially conservative Liberals rally behind? Cory Bernardi? Kevin Andrews? Eric Abetz? It's not exactly a deep bench of high-powered talent.

The party will have to support Turnbull, because there's no alternative. And Abbott et al will have the choice of either sitting impotently in the backbenches or slinking into retirement with their political tails between their legs (and a six-figure pension from a grateful nation, of course).

An election is coming, and - to quote …Captain Abbott once again - in Australian politics, opposition parties don't win elections: governments lose them.

Timing is everything

In fact, the question of good judgement is one that the Greens' leader Richard di Natale has created for his party with the upcoming likely changes to the Senate ballot paper.

While there's a number of solid arguments for reform if the goal is indeed to prevent minor parties gaming the system, there's a similarly decent case to be made that legislating such a reform now, when the Coalition transparently wants to game the system by making it easier to call a double dissolution to their own political advantage, is showing poor judgement.

Judgement is important, even with ostensibly good ideas. Sending flowers to your beloved's work is a charming gesture, at face value; if the beloved in question only met you in passing the day before, it looks downright weird and sinister.

Plebiscite Follies (slight return)

And while the internal divisions of the Liberal Party may yet settle down, it's great to see that they're still enjoying those problems they created for themselves.

Most notably, alleged Treasurer Scott Morrison hosed down speculation about the expensive and useless same-sex marriage plebiscite happening this year, telling old mate Ray Hadley that "There was a bit of conjecture around the timing," and that it was unlikely to happen any time soon.

Which, of course, was slightly odd since the idea wasn't so much "a bit of conjecture" as "an actual statement on Sky News on Sunday by the Attorney-General".

George Brandis wasn't even remotely speculative or ambiguous, declaring "We will be going to the election promising a plebiscite before the end of the year", which the PM's team corrected within hours to "as soon after the election as can be done".

Which could be never, especially given that - as we have pointed out in tedious detail before - plebiscites are by definition non-binding, that there would still need to be a bill in Parliament and several Coalition MPs and senators have already indicated they won't vote in favour of the change regardless of the result.

Also there's the fact that the likely leaders of the "no" case are the Australian Christian Lobby who are asking for laws against hate speech to be lifted during the campaign - not least because their current strategy appears to be "ACL head Lyle Shelton doesn't want you to think he's gay".

And sure, it's a pitiful argument for denying civil rights to Australian adults - but it's also by far the strongest one they've presented.

But being openly contradicted by his leader and treasurer isn't even the most humiliating thing facing Ol' Brandsy.

The Madness of Senator George

Plucky G-dawg is still fighting a Freedom of Information request from his opposite number, Labor's Mark Dreyfus, regarding Brandis' official diary from the federal election through to May 2014 - the period in which he supposedly consulted with legal aid and arts organisations before announcing massive cuts in funding for both.

It doesn't sound like a big deal - Dreyfus just wants to know when George met with said organisations, information which is saved in George's electronic diary and presumably just requires someone pressing "print" - but the case has now stretched to a staggering two years.

George lost his case to have the FOI request quashed last December, and is now taking it to the Federal Court.

And you might think that it's odd that George would spend tens of thousands of (taxpayer) dollars to prevent the public finding out that he had meetings with organisations covered by his ministerial remit - because that's what the diaries would reveal, right? That George assiduously met with groups affected by the cuts, including those legal aid services and arts organisations who keep mysteriously saying that they were denied appointments with Georgie.

But, as the old saying goes, those with nothing to hide fight multi-year legal challenges to prevent their honesty and professionalism being revealed. It's just that George is so modest that he doesn't want to show off what a great job he's doing, Yep, that must be it!

The cocktail hour: kittens on the mix!

Maybe some adorable li'l kitties and a strong drink will cheer George up. Heck, it works for us!

See you back here tomorrow, team, and cheers.

The top stories on on Monday:

Andrew P Street

Andrew P Street is a columnist for Fairfax Media.

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