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Hockey or Turnbull

November 29th, 2013

The election that brought Abbott and the LNP to power is so three months ago, and the Christmas plotting season is nearly upon us, so it’s time for some good old-fashioned leadership speculation, with the Libs as the target this time around. According to Laura Tingle, most of the interest in the business community is in Turnbull. I think that would be a bridge too far for the Liberals, having dumped him once. So, my money would be on Hockey as the replacement if Abbott keeps messing things up as he has done almost continuously since taking office. While the accuracy of my political judgements is pretty variable, this one from a year ago is looking fairly good.

Hockey has indeed backed off the surplus, showing more good sense than Abbott. I’m nearly alone in this view, but I think he is under-rated. Not a towering intellect, but still among the stronger performers on the LNP front bench.

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  1. I used to be not trampis
    November 29th, 2013 at 08:09 | #1

    John, you are dreaming.

    Far too early and the next poll is when?

  2. Uncle Milton
    November 29th, 2013 at 08:23 | #2

    Don’t overestimate Hockey. On the one hand, when in Opposition he gave this fine speech on how the age of entitlement is over, blah blah. On the other other hand, last week the ink wasn’t even dry on the PC report recommending a lift in the pension age to 70 when he ran away from it as fast as he could.

    He’s not Paul Keating. He might not even be Peter Costello.

  3. squig
    November 29th, 2013 at 08:25 | #3

    The government is gonski. Anyone who doesn’t see that is as deaf dumb and blind as them. It’s time for a tap on the shoulder GG.

  4. Ikonoclast
    November 29th, 2013 at 08:32 | #4

    I think I’ll stop taking note of politics. It only makes me unhappy.

  5. Geoff Andrews
    November 29th, 2013 at 09:00 | #5


    Cheer up, mate; Shakespeare anticipated both of us

    “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
    Seem to me all the uses of this world!
    Fie on ’t, ah fie! ‘Tis an unweeded garden
    That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature
    Possess it merely.”

    Talking of things rank and gross: surely the reneging on Gonski by Chris “Double Cross” Pyne will give the swingers cause for second thoughts? One could easily call it a lie under the modern definition.

  6. Paul Foord
    November 29th, 2013 at 09:04 | #6

    My impression of Joe Hockey is that he shares many of the same weaknesses as Tony Abbott. One thing that immediately comes to mind is a propensity to vocalise before thinking.

  7. Megan
    November 29th, 2013 at 09:40 | #7

    He gets what the general populace want (up to a point). Can’t believe he blocked ADM takeover of GrainCorp – Labor would have fast-tracked the sale and told all the objectors to get stuffed.

  8. Ikonoclast
    November 29th, 2013 at 10:02 | #8

    @Geoff Andrews

    Yes, Shakespeare has always said it first and better;

    “I have of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.”

  9. Ikonoclast
    November 29th, 2013 at 10:04 | #9

    Here is Chomsky speaking on why we don’t get policies for the majority.

    “In the United States, one of the main topics of academic political science is the study of attitudes and policy and their correlation. The study of attitudes is reasonably easy in the United States: heavily-polled society, pretty serious and accurate polls, and policy you can see, and you can compare them. And the results are interesting. In the work that’s essentially the gold standard in the field, it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy.”

  10. Megan
    November 29th, 2013 at 10:38 | #10

    This extract from Pilger’s latest applies equally to Australia:

    This was the nod-and-wink arrangement between Labour and Tory governments and the five per cent who owned half the wealth of all of the United Kingdom. The Labour MP turned media man, Brian Walden, described how it worked. “The two front benches [in Parliament] liked each other and disliked their back benches,” he wrote. “We were children of the famous consensus… turning the opposition into government made little difference, for we believed much the same things.”

    More directly on topic – my bet is that LNP will stick with Abbott until the next election. They may be detestable, but they’re not stupid enough to follow the recent example from the ALP.

  11. kevin1
    November 29th, 2013 at 10:40 | #11

    @Uncle Milton
    I agree about his tendency to come out with strong views on issues which are then dropped or contradicted soon after, and he often seems out of sync with how the wind’s blowing inside his party. His chatty expansiveness might have been seen as disarming frankness in the past but just doubletalk nowadays. Not a steady, competent replacement.

  12. Neil Hanrahan
    November 29th, 2013 at 11:17 | #12

    JQ and some comments all are on track given that surprise deviations from any human track are almost the rule. I too was pleasantly surprised by Hockey a year or so ago when, to my surprise, he seemed to have been listening to sound intelligent economists (with some practical, maybe Treasury, experience) who briefed him. And I would now give his rejection of the ADM bid a tick if it includes some understanding of the corruption inherent in the way big companies like that have learned to behave in Washington DC.

    Still, don’t underrate Abbott now. A pity he wasn’t able to explain to Pyne how to present a shift in policy without causing outrage amongst quite a lot of articulate and self-interested people. Pyne, in particular, has a lot of work to do if he is to right the balance, from Abbott’s point of view, between being able to say “we’ve got three years so it won’t matter a damn by the next election” and “we’ve stuffed it up from the outset by branding ourselves as untrustworthy – apparently, which is what matters”. He could do it if there was enough money but we already know (though the unforgiving parts of the electorate don’t and won’t care to learn) that the Gillard government had launched all its major “reforms” without the slightest shred of credibility in their financing of them, so there won’t be enough money and he will regret, and Abbott will regret, Pyne’s feckless arrogance. It wouldn’t have been difficult to start at the same place and end at the same place without outrage. He probably has the IQ points to be a minister but he’s a fool.

    Where is Abbott’s Keating, or Peter Walsh, when needed? Will Arthur Sinodinos save the day? If Robb let’s through all the bad things in the TPP which US corporations want then he’s no Peter Walsh, just as Hockey is no Keating. (I agree with the, necessarily interim, judgment expressed above on the retiring age reaction which I wasn’t aware of. If he runs in fright from that, he’s not what I hoped).

  13. Jim
    November 29th, 2013 at 11:23 | #13

    Abbott has been struggling. Agreed.

    But this week Mr Hockey has gone from one poorly scrutinised thought bubble or decision to another (e.g. encouraging sale of profitable state infrastructure to fund dubious new infrastructure, Qantas ownership, GrainCorp foreign ownership, abandoning debt ceiling altogether). Hardly what we need in a Prime Minister.

    I think the Christmas speculation should be about whether Turnbull will be Treasurer by mid 2014. Mr Hockey is clearly a weather vane, better suited to appearances on morning television that guiding economic policy and fiscal management for Australia.

  14. Michael
    November 29th, 2013 at 12:13 | #14

    Megan :
    More directly on topic – my bet is that LNP will stick with Abbott until the next election. They may be detestable, but they’re not stupid enough to follow the recent example from the ALP.

    This is not a valid comparison. Getting rid of leaders is not a problem. Getting rid of popular leaders is a problem. Victoria’s change of premier in a bizarre palace coup hardly caused a murmur. Whatever you believe about Rudd the polls consistently showed him as popular with the electorate. This cannot be said of Abbott. He will be replaced when the time comes and if they choose Turnbull (which they won’t unless they are desperate) it will be a popular move.

  15. Megan
    November 29th, 2013 at 12:46 | #15


    I disagree. The comparison would be direct and unavoidable and (for those who swung from ALP to LNP) electoral poison, even with the megaphone-Murdoch-machine screaming “But this is different!”

  16. Newtownian
    November 29th, 2013 at 13:04 | #16

    (nothing to do with this thread)

    Hey John Q – something you might want to correct.

    Salon.com has just recycled one of your threads http://www.salon.com/2013/11/28/wall_street_doesnt_earn_its_keep_partner/

    But apparently they cant spell your name (or is this an alternative Olde Inglish nom de plume).

  17. O6
    November 29th, 2013 at 13:12 | #17

    #6 & #12
    Yes, stopping ADM means there is potential for control of some value-adding from broad-acre farming to stay in Australia. Unless we really want to be the stupid country that sells all raw materials totally unprocessed, keeping control of GNC has to be a good thing. Woman CEO too.

  18. sunshine
    November 29th, 2013 at 14:00 | #18

    Before the GFC Malcolm Fraser was saying there is little difference between the 2 big parties -that people were just voting for the team they thought could implement the policies best . Post GFC there seems to be more difference. Are we headed down the Tea Party road or the social democrat one ?

    When do we get to start calling Abbott a liar (continuously for 3 years ) over dropping Gonski ? When will he be known Aust wide as ‘the liar’.

    Abbotts blokey style worked well as opposition but is not suited to governing, and certainly not to international relations. Imagine the mess if the Murdoch press got involved .Gillard and Carr have both said they would have apologised to Indo -They were a skillful team ,got us thru live export drama (nothing changed for victims in Indo or elsewhere tho) .

  19. Megan
    November 29th, 2013 at 14:13 | #19

    From ABC:

    The Federal Opposition has labelled the Government’s decision to reject the sale of GrainCorp to American agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland as “weak” and “pathetic”.

    Is the ALP trying to remain unelectable?

  20. m0nty
    November 29th, 2013 at 14:28 | #20

    Hmm, let me see.

    Hockey has proved he can lie (“budget emergency”), blow the budget out (RBA’s $9B handout), stay quiet while he is being made to look a fool (unassisted children in asylum seeker detention “over my dead body” directly contradicted by Morrison), give in to National Party bullies (Graincorp), and implement far-leftist wishlistery (re-nationalisation of Qantas).

    Yep, he’s the perfect fit to lead the Liberal Party.

  21. rog
    November 29th, 2013 at 15:46 | #21

    I’m surprised by the Abbott govt actions and that

    a) the business community and other key opionators are voicing their concerns over this govt,
    b) the media seem to have finally woken up and are giving the govt some stick, judging by the AFR and even the Murdoch rags,
    c) Abbott doesn’t seem to give a stuff.

  22. rog
    November 29th, 2013 at 15:49 | #22

    @m0nty This is where the Libs always fall apart, after blathering on about the sanctity of an “individuals rights” they invariably toe the party line. Hockey does what he is told, even if it’s to sell Workchoices.

  23. John Quiggin
    November 29th, 2013 at 16:28 | #23


    Yes, I just noticed this too. Saw a familiar looking headline on Salon and realised I’d written it. I’ve asked Bhaskar (Jacobin editor) to get in touch and fix the spelling.

  24. Tyler
    November 29th, 2013 at 17:07 | #24

    Turnbull will never lead the liberals so long as he supports any meaningful action on climate change. I was a member until two years ago and my family is still heavily involved, it’s hard to overstate the extent of active climate denialism within the membership/parliamentary ranks.

  25. November 29th, 2013 at 20:57 | #25

    There is no viable alternative to Abbott. That is their problem, as highlighted best this week by Chris Berg: there was nowhere near enough renewal in the ranks post Howard, and the Cabinet is filled with retreads who haven’t learned any new tricks in the meantime. Who is the future of the party, who will improve the quality of the caucus through controlling policy and preselection. Pyne? LOL.

    Turnbull is just another retread. But this is the Libs, they have a long history of reheated souffles. Turnbull has too much Peacock in him for mine. A talented populist from either party would wipe the floor with him. Do the Libs have another populist waiting in the wings with enough talent? Hard to see one emerging from the current shower.

  26. Megan
    November 29th, 2013 at 21:22 | #26


    There are a bunch of people who think they have the answer to your question:

    “Campbell Newman” – seriously.

    They believe that his hop from Mayor to Premier is just a step to becoming PM (I’m not joking).

  27. Mr Denmore
    November 29th, 2013 at 21:56 | #27

    Hockey does not impress me at all. He’s a lightweight, a flake and a bluffer. Actually, he’s perfectly suited for the populist dilettantism that is now the Liberal Party’s brand. Whether it’s him or Abbott, neither is a man of substance or vision. Sidonis impresses me, but he is not really a professional politician. What stuns me the most are the expressions of surprise coming from the mainstream media about the combination of dog-in-the-manager ideological destructiveness, shallow opportunism and sheer incompetence being shown by the new regime. It was all evident when they were in opposition. Turnbull does not belong in the Liberal Party as it stands. You almost have to start all over again and form a centrist, liberal democratic, rational political force with grown-ups running it. Any takers?

  28. November 30th, 2013 at 00:12 | #28

    No idle political speculation in Australia, the UK or the USA is complete without a bet on Rupert’s Murdoch’s active life expectancy, and the funeral games in the family that will follow his death or medically imposed retirement. This may be the 21st century not the 16th, but some dynasties still matter. Did Anne Boleyn sleep with Mark Smeaton? Did Tony Blair have an affair with Wendi Deng? Stay tuned.

  29. Megan
    November 30th, 2013 at 00:49 | #29

    @Mr Denmore

    You almost have to start all over again and form a centrist, liberal democratic, rational political force with grown-ups running it. Any takers?

    Well the ALP have quite definitively ruled themselves out.

    The Greens have been doing it for about 10 years now, but the establishment media and sepia-ALP nostalgics can’t accept that fact.

    No offence Mr Dinmore, but are you seriously suggesting we should vote for Bill Shorten?

    I certainly won’t, but I’m interested in the arguments that would seek to persuade otherwise. “Abbott would be worse” just didn’t work out so well for the (extreme Right) ALP.

  30. Ikonoclast
    November 30th, 2013 at 06:29 | #30

    @Mr Denmore

    I agree with eveything you wrote (except I do not know anything about Sidonis). The Liberal Party is shallow and empty. But then so is the modern Labor Party. The Greens are well-meaning, correct about the environment in broad terms but they too buy into the whole neoliberal economic (mis)construct.

    The voter has no real alternative. No matter who you vote for you get a neoliberal.

  31. Julie Thomas
    November 30th, 2013 at 08:08 | #31

    I think Hockey is an male version of Jai’me King. He pouts, he flounces, he is petulant and arrogant, shallow shallow shallow and of course, it’s all about him.

  32. Jim Rose
    November 30th, 2013 at 08:22 | #32

    There are prediction market contracts on whether abbott will be PM at the next election. Who plans to to their money on the table?

  33. Donald Oats
    November 30th, 2013 at 12:12 | #33

    I doubt Joe Hockey has what it takes to lead a party that is already in power; I’m not even sure he could handle one in opposition. Turnbull could perhaps, but his support base is very unstable as far as I can tell, and that would eventually spill into the public arena, just as happened in the ALP’s case. Nope, I’d say the Liar Friar won’t stick as an epithet, but Tony Abbott will stick as the Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the coalition. If the ALP are smart, they should be able to capitalise on that, directing a long term campaign based on the post-election policy U-turns. The thing about the Liberals policy U-turns is that no one had a gun to their (collective) head; there was no minority partner with the power to demand a policy U-turn as happened with the ALP/Greens/Indep coalition: nope, the Liberals made a choice to lie to the people and to ditch the policies they never did like, however much they claimed they were at one with them.

    Liars…sad as it is. Hard to have democracy if you have no assurance whatsoever as to the policies you will actually get post-election, as opposed to what was promised during the final days before the election.

  34. December 1st, 2013 at 16:12 | #34

    Julie Thomas :
    I think Hockey is an male version of Jai’me King. He pouts, he flounces, he is petulant and arrogant, shallow shallow shallow and of course, it’s all about him.

    What, you think Joe Hockey is played by a female in drag?

  35. Jim Rose
    December 1st, 2013 at 19:12 | #35

    this thread reminds of something george will said: American politics is littered with the bleached bones of those who underestimated Ronald Reagan.

    Abbot and Thatcher were also underestimated by politicians they then ate alive.

  36. Ikonoclast
    December 1st, 2013 at 21:07 | #36

    @Jim Rose

    Hmmm, methinks the world will be littered with the bleached bones of people who underestimated climate change and resource depletion and persisted too long with “endless growth” capitalism.

  37. Ian
    December 7th, 2013 at 06:09 | #37

    All pure speculation, John! You know full well that the Government couldn’t possibly knife Abbott in the back and install anybody else! Why that would be treacherous! The Liberals would never do that, would they?

  38. Julie Thomas
    December 7th, 2013 at 08:40 | #38

    @John Brookes

    Hockey is a bit ‘feminine’ now that I think about it, and vain – lap-banding rather than diet and exercise to achieve his weight loss. What does that say about his character and ability to do the hard yards?

    I think the ‘elite’ private school system has been producing male Jai’me Kings for yonks. When the sons of the rich act like spoiled brats apparently it is admirable and is the type of upbringing that leads to men of character with leadership potential (obviously not).

    Oh Jim, nobody could underestimate Abbott’s ability. What has he done or said that gives you the idea he has character and ability? Why did he only get B’s and C’s as the Rhodes Scholar? Did be have the intellect, and got mediocre results because he didn’t take it seriously perhaps?

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