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

    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? ;)

  2. jquiggin
    December 1st, 2007 at 12:25 | #2

    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.

  3. John Greenfield
    December 1st, 2007 at 12:59 | #3

    John

    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.

  4. jack Strocchi
    December 2nd, 2007 at 11:53 | #4

    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

  5. John Greenfield
    December 2nd, 2007 at 15:05 | #5

    Spiros

    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. ;)

  6. Spiros
    December 2nd, 2007 at 15:32 | #6

    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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