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The meltdown continues

November 29th, 2007

While we wait for the new government take shape, we should be thinking about the first steps in policy (updated a little bit). But it’s impossible to avert our eyes from the trainwreck on the other side of politics.

Perhaps my perspective is skewed a bit by being in Queensland, where a Courier-Mail net poll has overwhelmingly nominated Mickey Mouse as the best choice to lead the State Libs (and indeed, his would be a more accurate name for the party). Not only are the eight members of the Parliamentary Party split down the middle, but they only want the job for the sake of the ex officio position on the State Executive which controls the spoils of defeat over which they are struggling (breaking news on this is that hopeless incumbent Bruce Flegg is about to stand down).

It’s easy to write this lot off as a provincial joke. But it doesn’t seem as if things are much different elsewhere

At this point, Turnbull seems like the only hope the Liberals have for change from within. If he succeeds, the party will be changed beyond recognition from that of Howard and Costello. If he fails, it’s hard to see the Liberal party surviving in its current form.

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  1. observa
    November 29th, 2007 at 09:14 | #1

    I’m not so sure incumbency and their new directions mightn’t present some hefty difficulties too John http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,22838570-2682,00.html?from=public_rss

  2. gandhi
    November 29th, 2007 at 09:45 | #2

    Brendan Nelson said (after the election, obviously) that the Libs should re-embrace “values” because “symbolism is important”. And that’s the whole reason they are in disarray: their basic value is every man, woman and dog for himself!

    You can have all the spin in the world, but personal greed is just not going to hold a party together.

    Turnbull will remake the Libs in the Big Business mould of the US Republicans. They will be heavily marketed as a “brand” and will spend huge amounts on negative, anti-Labor campaigning. They will work closely with Big Media to get their “message” across, but the message will be the same as it ever was: power for power’s sake.

  3. November 29th, 2007 at 09:56 | #3

    I don’t get what your problem is observa. There is a bit of evidence that who ever leads a party after a landslide rarely survives to win in the end. However I would endorse Steve Biddulph’s opinion piece in the SMH. Given that he has a degree of decency and humanity almost unknown in the comtemporary Liberal party perhaps Turnbull may be the person to lead the Libs into a coalition or even amagamation with Labor. Clean coal delusionists unite!

  4. November 29th, 2007 at 13:07 | #4

    the first few greens i met were ‘relaxed’ liberals: people who had ticked off the grand house, flash cars, private schools and european holidays. the only blot on their landscape was cbd air pollution and murky water around their beach cottages.

    turnbull could get these people back without much difficulty. since labor was heavily dependent on the green vote for their ‘crushing victory’, a greener liberal party could be level-pegging in a year or two.

    if he also managed to take a sane position on sedition laws and anti-terror policies to pick up a few percentage points from bleeding heart civil-libertarians, reports of the demise of the liberal party might prove to be greatly exaggerated.

    the core of the party might gag at the prospect of these sorts of adjustments, but the core of the party are also people who put winning ahead of ideology.

  5. Bingo Bango Boingo
    November 29th, 2007 at 14:12 | #5

    “If he fails, it’s hard to see the Liberal party surviving in its current form.”

    Good grief, what rot. It’s not as if the Liberals’ support base has been decimated. They still got 47% TPP you know.

    The Liberals will jettison the most unpopular parts of the platform, keep the rest and then get stuck into the ALP from opposition. Just like after every other losing election. Barring some catastrophic economic meltdown, in three years time (and perhaps after another Liberal leadership change) Rudd will absolutely smash them. This will lock the ALP in government for another six years. In 2015, we’ll all be talking about a tired and stale ALP government with a track record for corruption and incompetence and how the new Liberal leader, who’s only been in Parliament for six years, looks pretty good. Cue then discussions about the impending death of the ALP. Rinse, repeat.


  6. November 29th, 2007 at 14:27 | #6

    Well, it’s Nelson, which I must say as a Labor supporter is a decision I’m entirely comfortable with.

  7. John Bignucolo
    November 29th, 2007 at 15:18 | #7

    And you think the Liberal Party has problems? For some light relief, here’s a patrician view of the just completed Republican Party debate.

    What a depressing debate. CNN’s long slide into mediocrity accelerates. Is this what running for president of the greatest democracy in the world has become? Standing in front of CNN’s corporate logo in a hall full of yowling Ron Paul loons and enduring clumsy webcam questions from Unabomber look-a-likes in murky basements?

    I feel lucky to be from an earlier century where your own founding fathers knew that the secret to government is to protect it from the daily mob. Clearly the boundless paranoia of middle-aged media executives about the kids and their mysterious “Internet” has led them to stoop to this kind of pandering foolishness. They should feel shame tonight.

    So, a good night for for the lowest denominator, a bad night for the GOP. America got to see a vaguely threatening parade of gun fetishists, flat worlders, Mars Explorers, Confederate flag lovers and zombie-eyed-Bible-wavers as well as various one issue activists hammering their pet causes. My cheers went to a listless Fred Thompson who easily qualified himself to be president in my book by looking all night like he would cheerfully trade his left arm for an early exit off the stage to a waiting Scotch and good Cuban cigar. The media will probably award a win to Mike Huckabee, the easy listening music candidate at home in any crowd, fluent in simpleton speak and the one man on the stage tonight who led the audience to roaring cheers by boasting that he had a special qualification to be president that none of the second-raters on the stage could match: A degree in Bible Studies from Ouachita Baptist University of Arkadelphia, Arkansas

  8. BilB
    November 29th, 2007 at 15:33 | #8


    Sure the libs still have a support base, but they don’t have their finger in the till anymore. And lib supporters are the type who expect to get more than they give.

  9. November 29th, 2007 at 15:54 | #9

    Not just Nelson, Armagnac, but the Stepford Wife as deputy. I too feel relaxed and comfortable about it. BBB, that Liberal support base is aging rapidly with few young recruits, putting the Libs in the same boat as the Masons, conventional religions and a lot of other shrinking voluntary organisations. And today they’ve shown that they’ve learned nothing.

  10. Andrew
    November 29th, 2007 at 15:59 | #10

    BilB – a very unfair generalisation. I was a Libe support for years, but I voted for the ALP this time. Really only because I think 11 years is too long – no party should govern for too long they get stale, get bogged down in defending past decisions (e.g. Kyoto) and renewal is good.

    Most Lib supporters I know are very generous caring individuals. I suspect Lib supporters give far more to charity than ALP supporters.

  11. Bingo Bango Boingo
    November 29th, 2007 at 16:31 | #11

    What ridiculous stereotyping, BilB. Not worth engaging with.

    Ian, in modern Australian politics the size of a party’s rank-and-file seems to be mostly irrelevant. The Tories were gloating about a dwindling and alienated ALP rank and file circa 2004, don’t forget. As for the Libs learning nothing, day 5 of a new government is probably not the best date on which to judge what the vanquished opposition have and have not learned.

    By all means carry yoursleves as if the Liberal Party, and the people who voted for them, are gone. But if I were you I’d be praying that the parliamentary ALP doesn’t think that way. Nothing would shorten the life of this government more effectively.


  12. jquiggin
    November 29th, 2007 at 16:50 | #12

    As I said in the post, looking at Queensland (which the conservatives need if they are to win nationally), radical changes are needed by both the Liberals and Nationals. On their current performance, the state party would be lucky to match their all-time low of three seats if an election were held now, and this could easily spill over to the feds.

  13. melanie
    November 29th, 2007 at 16:53 | #13

    a good night for for the lowest denominator, a bad night for the GOP. America got to see a vaguely threatening parade of gun fetishists, flat worlders, Mars Explorers, Confederate flag lovers and zombie-eyed-Bible-wavers…

    Huckabee now seems to be one of the front runners and he IS a flat worlder (or the modern day equivalent, namely, creationist).

  14. November 29th, 2007 at 16:55 | #14

    It was the party’s aging voters I was thinking of BBB and I don’t think any of us are naive enough to think they’ll just disappear. But I do think we’ve crossed a watershed, from now on every debate will be couched in terms of climate change and climate change cannot be dealt with by tinkering with the social and economic models at the core of Liberal Party belief. The Liberals would need to discard everything they have stood for in the last two decades. I don’t see it happening.

    The future political battle lines will be analogous to the battle between proprietary and open source software – does sel interest and control generate more creative solutions than generosity and co-operation? And which party will be willing or able to line up on which side?

  15. Ian Gould
    November 29th, 2007 at 17:29 | #15

    It’s a simple fact that some contributors to political parties are motivated at least in part by the expectation of favors.

    It’s also a simple fact that high-flying potential candidates are unlikely to be excited by the prospect of 5 years or more on the Opposition back benches.

    The total lock-out of the Liberals and Nationals from state and Federal government will make life much harder for them.

  16. Ikonoclast
    November 29th, 2007 at 20:24 | #16

    Steve Biddulph’s piece in the SMH 29/11/07 is intriguing not so much for its JQ-like prediction of the end of the Liberals but for his prediction of the global ecological and economic catastrophe to come. I’ve been predicting this catastrophe to anyone who would listen (i.e. nobody) since I first read the Club of Rome report Limits to Growth in the early 1970s.

    However, for a long time I didn’t worry too much as I could alway dismiss myself as a crank! Now I am getting worried. The message is becoming mainstream. That’s a sign that the train wreck is close, real close. Because the mainstream never get it till it’s right in their face.

  17. Joseph Clark
    November 29th, 2007 at 21:08 | #17


    The Club of Rome predictions went really well too, didn’t they?

  18. Ikonoclast
    November 29th, 2007 at 21:39 | #18

    The Club of Rome predictions are criticised only by those who misunderstood them. The most common misunderstanding is that they predicted disaster by 2000. In fact they predicted disaster by 2050 if we did not change course by 2000.

    They will in fact be proven too opstimistic. We did not change course by 2000 and now disaster is a lot closer than 2050.

  19. November 29th, 2007 at 22:31 | #19

    “If [Turnbull] succeeds, the party will be changed beyond recognition from that of Howard and Costello. If he fails, it’s hard to see the Liberal party surviving in its current form.”

    Surely that’s a distinction without a difference? Isn’t the former equivalent to saying “If he succeeds, it’s hard to see the Liberal party surviving in its current form”?

    As Woody Allen once said, “Today we are at a crossroads. One road leads to hopelessness and despair; the other, to total extinction. Let us pray we choose wisely.”

    My personal feeling is that Australia would be a lot safer if Gillard, Nelson and Turnbull all fell off a cliff, in terms of the dangerous paths they keep open.

  20. Andrew
    November 29th, 2007 at 22:43 | #20

    Well that’s a little drastic PML… I hardly think Gillard, Nelson and Turnbull are dangerous to Australia’s long term health. They are admittedly at the edges of centre left and centre right respectively – but hardly extreme politicians. I’ve been a Lib voter for years and I’m quite relaxed about Gillard as deputy PM.

    Now if Bob Brown and Pauline Hanson fell off a cliff…

  21. November 29th, 2007 at 22:49 | #21

    The paths they keep open are the problem. Brown and Hanson may be personally more disturbing for you, but they don’t present the same sorts of risk.

  22. November 30th, 2007 at 01:15 | #22

    #3. “A degre of Decency & Humanity”. Turnbull?

    In my experience, these are not terms I would rush to use in association with aggressively successful merchant bankers and others at the elite of the high finance industry.

  23. BilB
    November 30th, 2007 at 04:43 | #23


    My Mom was a rusted on liberal voter and energetically generous with her time for causes. But I am not talking here about social generosity, the kind of generosity that you are refering to, I am talking about financial support for a political cause. There is a link between ideology and financial attitudes. The libs themselves have indicated that fundraising for the party will be difficult.

  24. November 30th, 2007 at 05:56 | #24

    the caliber of the oz electorate is so high that a political party does not need money to be elected. a simple description of party platform and resumes of candidates, posted at olo, where a comparison can be made at the voters convenience, is sufficient.

    indeed, i am amazed that so much money is burned with “four legs good” advertising. this can only mean that politicians as a class are contemptuous of the people who vote for them. imagine that!

  25. Ikonoclast
    November 30th, 2007 at 07:27 | #25

    This system (late stage capitalism) and the oligarchs who run it have got the citizenry they wanted (and worked hard to get); ill-educated, atomised and easily blown around by the puffs of propaganda. Without a well educated citizenry we have no hope of turning this around.

    When education is seen wholly as the handmaiden of the economy (as it clearly is by Rudd as well)then we are in the deepest trouble. All that people are being taught now is how to produce and consume. Taking blind production and consumption to its logical conclusion will mean the end point is nothing but waste and carcasses.

    Faith based reasoning will get us nowhere. I will be astonished if Rudd turns out to be any less of a disaster than Howard. Rudd is now talking about using all the “un-utilised” expertise in Treasury and Finance. In a nutshell this means “Economic Rationalism in Canberra” in spades.

    Remember Micheal Pusey’s excellent book? One of the key things Pusey exposed was the domination of the Treasury and Finance departments by the economic rationalists. We would probably call them neocon econocrats now. If Rudd gives further power to those crazies we are doomed.

  26. November 30th, 2007 at 07:59 | #26

    #22 I only meant a degree of decency compared to other Liberal parliamentarians eg Abbott, it was a relative rather than absolute description.

  27. observa
    November 30th, 2007 at 08:51 | #27

    BBB is right that at some stage the incumbents will piss off enough of the important middle 5-10% to see another change of govt. This loss has encouraged my 32 year old nephew to join the Liberal Party for the first time. As for it taking a generation for the Libs to grab the youth vote, it wasn’t so long ago Labor fans were bemoaning the fact young fans were mobbing Howard, just like they mobbed Rudd in this campaign. Everybody loves a winner it seems, particularly teenage schoolgirls.

    Wall to wall Labor has nowhere to hide from being responsible now for all things bad that go bump in the night. It also has some IOUs out there and they’ll be called in. Beneath the MSM radar last Tues, the MUA closed all the eastern seabord ports for 6 hours(oh those infrastructure bottlenecks eh?)ostensibly to allow its members to attend the MUA’s ‘AGM’. I anticipate the construction workers will need an AGM real soon too. Methinks Rudd’s warm, fuzzy, consensus politics is about to be seriously road tested. As for his good war/bad war stance, there are some very positive signs in Baghdad at present(fingers crossed) and the usual in the graveyard of empires. These sorts of issues very quickly try consensus.

    If there was one thing that demonstrated how shallow the differences really are between the majors it was on GW. Here Labor had no real answers (jusy a more appealing stance), it just plumped for feelgood Kyoto and presumably it’s future green credentials are all hanging on that outcome. Therein lies its problem. Basically a smaller group of Commonwealth countries met and came away with Canada’s PM saying Kyoto was a crock. What chance Bali and more countries? Rudd has a lot of political capital tied up in Kyoto now and if it turns out like the Commonwealth conclusion, he’s going to have egg on his face, along with a lot of others. My own view is its just like ME peace and every thinking President from Carter, Clinton and now Bush wants to leave that legacy near the end of their term. Wanting and doing are very different animals as we well know. Rudd now has his new Palestine and the new fervour, but as Howard might well know now, that important 5-10% was really all about interest rates.

    My own take is, it will always be about interest rates, whilst there are marginal real policy differences between the majors ie like signing on to Kyoto plus spouting clean coal. The party that does sieze real policy on the environment will be the true party of power. We have yet to see that and the meeting in Bali will conclusively prove it. As usual we are looking to others for the answers while they’ll be looking to us. Nice place for some mutual hand wringing though.

  28. Katz
    November 30th, 2007 at 09:19 | #28

    You’re dreaming Obby.

    Interest rates were the icing on the Kev07 cake.

    WorkChoices won it for Labor.

    But yes, interest rates may in the future lose it for Labor, or any other incumbent government.

    Keating understood the untenable position of governments in a post Bretton Woods world attempting to regulate interest rates. He thus outsourced that function to the Reserve Bank.

    Howard made a political error in taking credit for the decline in interest rates during the good times. That’s like a high priest taking the credit for sunlight. Eventually an eclipse comes along and the tribe chucks him into the volcano.

    The facts of the matter about Australian interest rates is that since the 1970s Australians have paid almost exactly a 1.2% premium on the OECD average, whether that average was 5% or 20%. There is no discernible effect of different governments on the size of that premium. Australians paid a premium of 1.2% under Keating when the interest rates were 22%. Australians paid a premium of 1.2% under Howard when interest rates were 5%.

    The take-home message for any government is that they as a government are not responsible for the level of interest rates. They should not brag when they are low. They are not to blame when they are high.

    However, ordinary folk are far quicker to blame than to praise. A government is wise to fend off any claim to virtue.

    Rudd should now start to educate the people of Australia about the transparent operation of world interest rates.

    Rudd should gently counsel prudence during periods of low interest rates.

    Rudd should condole but not apologise during periods of high interest rates.

    In the meantime he can gain political points by publically enquiring of Australian banks why they are incapable of narrowing that persistent 1.2% gap when they go to world financial markets.

    In other words, Rudd can side with the borrowers against the banks with little chance of political ill-effects.

  29. observa
    November 30th, 2007 at 09:30 | #29

    “Howard made a political error in taking credit for the decline in interest rates during the good times. That’s like a high priest taking the credit for sunlight. Eventually an eclipse comes along and the tribe chucks him into the volcano.”

    True but he might argue it clinched another term. However your overall advice is sound and that’s the same danger for Rudd now. You know- ‘Look at greeny moi everybody, I’m going to sign Kyoto!’
    He’s outcourced his credentials and now it depends on the outcome.

  30. observa
    November 30th, 2007 at 09:32 | #30

    Or more succinctly ‘Who do you trust to sign Kyoto?’

  31. Katz
    November 30th, 2007 at 09:37 | #31

    Kyoto is a feelgood talking point that’ll have little impact on the way Australians live their lives.

    In any case, no Coalition opposition can outbid Labor on environmentalism.

    Environmentalism is a political free kick for Kev.

  32. November 30th, 2007 at 10:29 | #32

    “WorkChoices won it for Labour” Things can turn quickly though. In 1993 the GST won it for Labour, and they were voted out, nay, tarred feathered & run out on a rail three years later. Now we have GST & it seems to be here to stay.

  33. Spiros
    November 30th, 2007 at 11:29 | #33

    SATP, In 1993 the GST won the Keating a three year stay of execution for his recession crimes. Three years later, not only was he punished for the recession, but also for the last term debacles such as the Hindmarsh bridge saga, that characterise all decrepit governments.

    There is no comparison to made with the incoming Rudd government.

  34. November 30th, 2007 at 12:28 | #34

    It wasn’t meant to be a direct comparison Spiros, just an anecdotal demonstration that outcomes which today are unpalatable to the electorate, or unlikely, can metamorphasize into a mandate at the next election.

    Wayne Goss and Gough Whitlam were both elected as a breath of fresh air after their parties were in opposition long term and the governments they defeated were considered “stale” (at best) by the electorate.

    (Simplified a little) but both were out on their ear roughly one term later.

  35. John Greenfield
    November 30th, 2007 at 12:29 | #35

    Turnbull has always been pro-gay rights, pro-Kyoto, pro-apology, etc. One masterstroke might prove to be the leaking of his attempt to persuade Cabinet to sign Kyoto in the run-up to the election.

    Choosing Nelson was very smart (that is, IF they were thinking strategically, rather than sincerely). Let Nelson be the Fall Guy for any residual antipathy towards Howard, etc. When the country has had its fill of that and Nelson’s approval ratings drop, then wheel out the cleanskin Turnbull the Messiah, gushing with “fresh� ideas. By this time, Turnbull will have had time to get the measure of the economic illiteracy on the opposite front-bench.

    Turnbull will able to achieve something that Nelson will never be to; Product Differentiation. Against Rudd’s authoritarian technocratic managerialsim (NTTAWWT), Turnbull could offer a clear choice of a much more entrepreunerial society.

    Either way, let us hope that the Keating/Howard Culture Wars are behind us.

  36. observa
    November 30th, 2007 at 12:35 | #36

    “In any case, no Coalition opposition can outbid Labor on environmentalism.”

    You’re right in the current sense where it’s largely all about symbolism, but eventually we’re going to have to come around to real policies on the ground and then it’s back to a debate between free market policies vs arbitray quantity controls to achieve the political outcomes desired. The Libs haven’t got their act together on that yet, but the more lunar quantity control measures will quickly concentrate the electorate’s mind and subsequent demand will likely call forth supply in that regard.

  37. Katz
    November 30th, 2007 at 12:48 | #37

    You’re right in the current sense where it’s largely all about symbolism, but eventually we’re going to have to come around to real policies on the ground and then it’s back to a debate between free market policies vs arbitray quantity controls to achieve the political outcomes desired.

    Political outcomes or some mensurable benefit to the environment? These two things aren’t necessarily identical.

    My guess is that for the foreseeable future policies concerned with the health of the environment will be perceived by the marginal Australian voter as being beyond the power of the market to achieve.

    Note I’m not arguing that market forces cannot achieve beneficial ecological outcomes. Rather, we are dealing with the realms of perception here.

    Thus, the political momentum lies with dirigisme.

    Of course, we are talking about the future here. There may be a revolution in sentiment over this question. In general terms, however, I believe it is true to say that the free market sun has passed its meridian and is beginning to sink in the western sky.

    I’d be pleased to be convinced of the opposite.

  38. John Bignucolo
    November 30th, 2007 at 13:05 | #38

    “In any case, no Coalition opposition can outbid Labor on environmentalism.�

    I suspect that Guy Pearse and Peter Debnam would beg to differ. Other people have already pointed out the Liberal Party’s
    sf 1990 Climate policy which was far ahead of its time, and more far reaching than what the ALP was offering.

  39. observa
    November 30th, 2007 at 13:13 | #39

    Katz, I used ‘political outcomes’ here synonymously with measurable environmental outcomes, assuming the electorate isn’t largely full of hypocrites and I don’t think it is. Nether do I think the political parties are. Howard’s view, which suddenly got some traction with the Garrett override, is probably a resigned accepatnce of GW, but pragmatically he knows we’re stuck with adaption costs. OTOH Rudd is more idealistic in thinking Bali will be better than the Commonwealth outcome and the Canadian PM’s conclusion. That remains to be seen, but he can’t afford to come back with what’s largely seen to be waving a Chaimberlins piece of paper crying ‘Cooling in our times!’

    The risk is he’ll come back empty handed unless there’s agreement on a level playing field carbon tax. That’s the only way I can see the parties coming to an agreement. Per capita caps won’t cut it because it largely asks for sacrifice without any overall benefit. OTOH asking LDCs to reduce overall CO2 is inequitous and they’ll know it. My strong hunch is, Rudd will come back empty handed and chastened, unless there’s agreement on a level playing field carbon tax (plus extra pledges from the large per capita players too most likely). Can you see agreement on that happening?

  40. John Bignucolo
    November 30th, 2007 at 13:15 | #40

    And speaking of Guy Pearse, who risked excommunication from the Liberal Party for daring to take on the anti-Science, faith-based, irrational, illiberal, intolerant, authoritarian, deeply, deeply stupid, conservative ideologues running his party into the ground, he’s entitled to an I told you so:

    27 November:

    Paul Keating put it well: ‘Saturday night’s victory was not just a victory for the Labor Party; it was also a victory for those Liberals like Malcolm Fraser, Petro Georgiou and Judi Moylan, who stood against the pernicious erosion of decent standards in our public affairs.’ No-where was the erosion of decent standards more pernicious than in the Howard government’s response to climate change. For over a decade, in the face of the greatest threat humanity has seen, the short term interests of a handful of this country’s worst greenhouse polluting industries were put ahead of the interests of the planet, the country and future generations. It will come to be viewed as the most shameful aspect of the Howard legacy.

    Those Coalition MPs who sat by and watched for all those years, who regurgitated all the excuses for delay, who ignored overwhelming evidence showing Australia could more than halve its greenhouse pollution whilst trebling the size of its economy, who have left Australia on track to increase its greenhouse emissions 70% by mid century—they now have plenty of time in Opposition or retirement to contemplate their complicity.

    For Liberals like me who voted against the Howard government on this issue—and there are plenty of us—this is a bittersweet victory, but a victory nonetheless. We have done the right thing and we are left hoping the Liberal Party learns the lessons, and quickly. We’re left hoping it does not replace John Howard or Peter Costello with a climate change sceptic, that it does not persist with sceptics as Senate Leader, Environment Policy Committee Chair, or in other senior roles. And we hope the next Liberal Party Leader is not tempted to view climate change as an issue where the party merely got the symbolism and the politics wrong. This was a monumental policy failure and if the party believes Kyoto bipartisanship and a retention of the existing position is sufficient, they will remain in denial…and Opposition.

  41. Katz
    November 30th, 2007 at 13:22 | #41

    But JB Andrew Peacock lost the 1990 election.

    Whatever was in his policy in 1990 by definition failed to outbid the ALP policy.

    Moreover, it was never put to the test of being implemented. That brief and shining moment for the Libs was lost.

    Now the Libs are buried under the detritus of the Howard years. Turnbull may have swept away Howard’s legacy, but Nelson was elected for the task of hanging on to as much of the Howard legacy as possible.

  42. Spiros
    November 30th, 2007 at 13:45 | #42

    SATP 34, Goss was premier from November 1989 to February 1996. That’s more than one term.

    John Greenfield 35, that is all very well, but the actual opposition leader is Brendan Nelson. If he does really badly, Simon Crean style, he will spoil it for his successor as well.

    And that might successor might be Tony “People Skills” Abbott.

    By the time Turnbull gets a shot, he might be pushing 60.

  43. John Bignucolo
    November 30th, 2007 at 13:58 | #43

    But JB Andrew Peacock lost the 1990 election.

    Whatever was in his policy in 1990 by definition failed to outbid the ALP policy.

    I understood that we were comparing the specifics of the Liberal and ALP environment policies, rather than somehow summing all the policies, and based on the electoral outcome deciding that the ALP outbid the Liberals.

    From memory, the decisive policy difference in 1990 was in the area of healthcare. I recall Peter Shack’s career being destroyed by his inability to come up with an alternative to Medicare. Didn’t he throw up his hands during the election and in a sad mea culpa say it was all too hard?

    Climate change didn’t have a high enough profile amongst the votes for it to be a vote changer one way or the other.

    Now the Libs are buried under the detritus of the Howard years. Turnbull may have swept away Howard’s legacy, but Nelson was elected for the task of hanging on to as much of the Howard legacy as possible.

    The 45 Liberals who voted against Malcolm may have done him a favour in the long run. He no doubt didn’t enjoy losing, but given

    (a) electoral history post-WWII (where no Party failing to win a second term);

    (b) the tensions within the Liberal Party that will arise over how much of the Howard legacy should be repudiated or retained;

    (c) the impatience of the Liberal Party, with leaders who fail to win an election invariably replaced;

    Brendan Nelson is going to be in for a very difficult time in the next 3 years.

  44. Katz
    November 30th, 2007 at 14:14 | #44

    I agree with most of what you say JB.

    I think we agree that WorkChoices was a government-changer in 2007. I wonder when environment policy will loom large enough to change governments.

    I believe you would agree that the election of Nelson has delayed the day when the Libs will be prepared to attempt to outbid the ALP on environmental policy.

  45. John Bignucolo
    November 30th, 2007 at 14:32 | #45

    I believe you would agree that the election of Nelson has delayed the day when the Libs will be prepared to attempt to outbid the ALP on environmental policy.

    Yes I would, and it’s a pity because philosophically the Liberals could easily embrace an idea like natural capitalism. But the social conservatives just can’t past the idea that good environmental outcomes is somehow synonymous with being a dirty smelly hippie. And the authoritarian conservatives are reflexively sympathetic to existing corporate vested interests.

    I’ll admit that the preceding paragraph contains generalisations, but given what was recounted in Clive Hamilton’s and Guy Pearse’s books, it’s a reasonably accurate summation of the Howard government’s behaviour.

    One can only be optimistic that things will change and that the Liberal Party will choose to rejoin the reality based community.

  46. Sir Henry Casingbroke
    November 30th, 2007 at 20:48 | #46

    The winning numbers for Nelson were delivered to him by Abbott after the latter realised he couldn’t win.

    Those pundits who now say Abbott couldn’t have won should look to his muscular stance a day before. Abbott must have had a bunch of numbers with some undecideds.

    Then something happened.

    Indeed, in that timeframe, overnight, it was revealed in Abbott’s electorate local paper that he had an association with a convicted fraudster, Ian MacDonald. MacDonald, a Manly solicitor was an Abbott bagman who was convicted of stealing/misappropriating trust funds and spent a few years getting himself a zebra suntan.

    Local paper in Abbott’s electorate ran a photo from Abbott’s post-election party at the Manly Leagues club which showed MacDonald and Abbott together and a headline which said: “Potential Liberal leader and an old drinking buddy” with the lead par” :WARRINGAH MP Tony Abbott celebrated his election victory sharing a beer with a convicted criminal on Saturday night.”

    The local paper said on the following day after Abbott decided to withdraw: “His decision leaves outgoing ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Brendan Nelson to battle it out for the top job at a party room meeting today and his withdrawal is expected to strengthen the position of Dr Nelson.”

    And it did. Abbott may have delivered his supporters’ votes to Nelson, once certain undertakings were made. Nelson would have had no hesitation to agree to anything that would have given him an advantage. But on this later.

    The article continued: “The decision to withdraw from the leadership race follows news Mr Abbott caught up with his former campaign manager, convicted fraudster Ian MacDonald, on Saturday night at Manly Leagues Club.”

    MacDonald handed out how-to-vote cards for Abbott, and this was also revealed in two subsequent articles, as was the fact that Abbott visited MacDonald at the Kirkonnell prison facility.

    The paper may know, but is not saying at present, how some of the stolen money was spent.

    Nelson is a very very ambitious fellow, according to Bruce Shepherd (in an ABC radio interview), who headed the AMA while Nelson was boss of the Tasmanian Medical Association.

    Sir Henry’s conclusion: Nelson would not above submerging his own political inclinations (assuming he has any) in order to go with whatever allies he can gather in his climb up the greasy pole.

    It will all be fascinating to watch in the future.

    In the meantime, Costello is on Lateline tonight and the promo promises that he will dump on his erstwhile leader. Perhaps Costello’s father-in-law gave us a taste.

  47. November 30th, 2007 at 22:42 | #47

    #42, Spiros, Ooops. Goss was in 2 + a bit terms, a tad more than I said. Gosh how dumb am I?

    Perhaps recollection was coloured by my embarrassment at his (to me) early fall, at the time I had loudly & repeatedly predicted he would be the premier for a minimum of 12 years!

  48. November 30th, 2007 at 22:49 | #48

    So Costello says that he would have beaten Rudd? (yawn). News bulletin for you fellers (Costello et al); The 07 election is over, and the clock can’t be wound back!

    In related matters, to me it seems that so far the Liberal Party are the subject of more news reports and airtime than the government. Wonder when it will dawn on the ABC & others that Rudd & co are now the newsmakers?

  49. jquiggin
    December 1st, 2007 at 09:33 | #49

    You’re right Steve. In fact, I allude to this in the first para of the post.

    The problem is that competence is less newsworthy than chaos.

  50. Sir Henry Casingbroke
    December 1st, 2007 at 11:25 | #50

    Costello was a disappointment last night on Lateline. He basically berated his colleagues for his own failure to take it up to the Man of Steel.

  51. John Greenfield
    December 1st, 2007 at 12:12 | #51

    I have been amused by the media’s greater enthusiasm for the insights of capitalist pig, formerly known as the Placido Domingo of Australian politics, than the PM-elect. Who said the Culture Wars were over? 😉

  52. jquiggin
    December 1st, 2007 at 12:25 | #52

    Umm, I did.

    Keating’s appeal is not his brief flirtation with multiculturalism in his final term, nor his much longer period as an economic rationalist but the fact that he’s by far the sharpest Australian politician of his, or any subsequent generation. His capacity for a biting turn of phrase has rarely if ever been exceeded. That makes him, in media parlance, ‘good talent’, whatever you think about his politics.

  53. John Greenfield
    December 1st, 2007 at 12:59 | #53


    I agree with you unreservedly about his bite. though I wonder if you are similarly smitten with, for example, Mark Steyn?

    I agree that the Hawke/Keating introdution of Thatcheresque neoliberalism into Australia was the most impressive era of nation-building policy in many decades. However, I disagree in the emphasis certain factions place on Keating. It is true that Keating had the intellectual thirst and genuine nation-building fervour necessary to shift Australia from a mercantilist/welfare state to a neoliberal state. There is no gainsaying his mastery of NSW Right headkicking skills to get things done.

    But it was only Hawke who had the political skills to bring the electorate along. It was only Hawke who could have sealed the Accord, and it was hawke who said No to Keating’s policy grail – a GST; Option C.

    I admit to thinking Keating was a god while he was Treasurer. However, I started to wince when he started believing The Luvvies, and thought himself a don of world history and culture; the most appropriate messiah to elevate the “arse-end of the world.”

    Unfortunately, he forgot that a Westminster-style Prime Minister does not have that spiritual or cultural authority by virtue of the office alone. And Keating’s education and arrogance never persuaded the nation that he deserved that authority by virtue of his own qualities.

    We are all currenly front-row spectators to how ideology and politicking work in the writing of history. I have watched gobsmacked at how, over the past three years, certain factions will attribute to Keating anything that is perceived as an economic positive or any memorable phrase or quip. I suppose this represents a great improvement on that faction’s previous reflexive attribution of verbal finesse to Bob Ellis. These tendencies are absolutely reflections of Cultural Warriors at work. Their endgame? To delete the “Tories” and god forbid, John Rodent Howard, from the story.

    On sharpness as a politician, I happen to side with those in awe at Howard’s cleverness. I would argue that Keating’s deal with The Luvvies to broadcast their Culture War was a deal sealed once he realised he had lost Labor’s base. In this sense, Howard’s political sharpness was on a par with Hawke’s.

    The notion that the Culture Wars are “over” relies on another myth spread more successfully than even Orwell’s Big Brother might have dreamt. That myth is that the Culture Wars were sui generis to John Howard. This meme is in some cases a disingenuous spruiking for Keating by a calculated silence on Keating’s naive, uncritical, and divisive lectures written by Cultural Warriors in more marginal fora such as the universities, school curriculum writers, and the pages of the Red press.

    In other cases, the spruiking is more genuine as it is done by people who were not around during Keating’s prime ministership.

  54. jack Strocchi
    December 2nd, 2007 at 11:53 | #54

    jquiggin Says: December 1st, 2007 at 9:33 am

    The problem is that competence is less newsworthy than chaos.

    I have two words for Pr Q’s continual round of triumphal grave-dancing:

    Bob McMullan

    Obviously the ALP front bench is so crowded with first rate talents that they could not spare any room for a no-hoper like McMullan.

    Rudd is a pretty competent, non-ideological intelligent guy. Perhaps he is setting himself up as the Australian Clinton without the sex-appeal.

    But there are plenty of rat-bags, time-servers and hatchet men in the ALP machine. More than enough to create competency problems down the track.

    Also, Pr Q’s talk of the End of the Culture Wars or the End of the Liberal Party is a little bit premature These intractables tend to go through cycles. What goes down must come up.

    Incidentally I am up for a bet of $100 that the LN/P will win office at the state and/or federal level over the next decade. With or without Turnbull at the helm.

    Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

    J.F. Kennedy

  55. John Greenfield
    December 2nd, 2007 at 15:05 | #55


    You might well be right. I must admit I don’t really know much about Nelson, nor do I have much insight into the psychology of the backbench. I suppose a major challenge for Turnbull if he does become leader would be living up to the enormous expectations people across the political spectrum will place on him. Maybe he will prove not to be the Messiah after all, just a very naughty boy. 😉

  56. Spiros
    December 2nd, 2007 at 15:32 | #56

    Turnbull looks like he’s making his run. The leaked story about Turnbull admonishing Nelson, in Nelson’s office, for not being tough enough, almost says it all.

    And then there’s the story that Nelson only got over the line with votes from Liberal MPs who weren’t eligible to vote.

    All this, before the new government has been sworn in.

    Clearly, Malcolm isn’t wasting any time.

    Then there’s Abbott, who has gone all quiet for a few days. Perhaps he’s been in confession.

    But like Freddie Krueger, he’ll be back.

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