Home > Economics - General, Oz Politics > Dragging the chain

Dragging the chain

October 17th, 2016

Looking at the Abbott-Hanson government that is now taking shape behind the nominal leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, the dominant theme is one of pointless resistance to inevitable change.

The most striking instance of this is the plebiscite on equal marriage, dreamed up by Abbott as a way of dodging the issue of a Parliamentary vote. At this point, it is obvious that the whole thing is just an expensive and painful exercise in delaying the inevitable. Equal marriage is law throughout the English-speaking world, and is rapidly becoming so everywhere, as well as being supported by a majority of Australians. Even if the opponents could somehow carry the day in a plebiscite, the position couldn’t be sustained for long. And of course the Abbott group know this. As soon as Turnbull was locked into the plebiscite they started loading it up with everything they could to ensure it would never happen. Even from the most cynical viewpoint, this seems silly to me. They are going to lose in the end, and when they do, they will be wailing about freedom of conscience for cake-makers and so on. If they agreed to a Parliamentary vote now, they could make it a condition for Turnbull to include such clauses and reject any amendment. But in three years time, or whenever a parliamentary majority emerges, there will be no reason to appease people who have shown themselves to be bigots.

Then there’s climate change. Everywhere else in the world, things are moving fast. Country after country is abandoning coal, and the share of renewables is rising rapidly. Even England is generating more power from solar PV than from coal. But Australia is going backwards. Having dropped any idea of turning Direct Action into an emissions intensity scheme, Turnbull and Frydenberg have joined the science denialists at the Oz in a campaign against renewable energy. At least they have signed on to the agreement to phase out HFCs, an agreement driven by, among others, the US, Canada, China and Brazil (the EU has already legislated an early phaseout). It’s good that the government has agreed to do the minimum required for developed countries under this deal, but takes some chutzpah to say, as Frydenberg does that this makes Australia a world leader.

The only remaining item about which the government seems to care is Abbott’s vendetta against the unions, settling scores dating back to the 1980s.

Abbott and Hanson and are almost exact contemporaries of mine (as is Turnbull, though he scarcely seems to have any active role). But politically it seems to me that they have chained themselves to ways of thinking that were ossified even in John Howard’s generation.

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  1. Newtownian
    October 17th, 2016 at 12:44 | #1

    as is Turnbull, though he scarcely seems to have any active role

    One wonders what Turnbull thinks of how history will view him or how this period will be seen in the future once the meaty details leak out and time casts its judgement. Especially the climate change issues and Turnbull’s complete impotence one way or another.

    And then there is Rudd.

    Will we see a memorial ceremony as we saw with Gough exactly two years ago? Doubt it. In both cases it seems to be they achieved their goal of getting to the top of the food chain. But once there were puzzled that noone else could see they were the vision splendid.

  2. suburbanite
    October 17th, 2016 at 13:19 | #2

    It all sounds pretty accurate, but I think the real agenda playing out through Abbott and the LNP/ONP coalition is the one set in motion by John Howard. His political masterstroke:

    we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come

    left the opposition effectively mute because they failed to think of a pithy comeback to this dog-whistle (or generally argue a strong case about anything). I was reminded of this watching the 4 corners Brexit program. It’s interesting that it was never asked whether we will get to decide on which wars we will participate in… or what is in the trade agreements negotiated in secret.

  3. October 17th, 2016 at 13:42 | #3

    Pr Q blooped:

    They are going to lose in the end, and when they do, they will be wailing about freedom of conscience for cake-makers and so on. If they agreed to a Parliamentary vote now, they could make it a condition for Turnbull to include such clauses and reject any amendment. But in three years time, or whenever a parliamentary majority emerges, there will be [sic] reason to appease people who have shown themselves to be bigots.

    This passage would make more sense if it included the word “no” where I have interpolated “[sic]”.

    He could also improve it by substituting the phrase “old-fashioned” where he has layed the obligatory “bigot” curse. It’s not very nice to heap contumely on the opinions of old-fogeys, particularly when one is not exactly a spring chicken oneself, and lives in an ideologically fragile house. To take a germane counter-example, the phrase “progressive liberal” cannot be uttered with a straight face in the Alt-Right web sites that I haunt. Not to mention large swathes of Europe.

    Otherwise Pr Qs post is robust common sense. I agree with W.F. Buckleys dictum that the job of conservatives is to ‘stand athwart the juggernaut of History and yell “stop”‘, But I also think that prudent conservatives should not make themselves into immovable objects, particularly when facing the irresistible force of MSM pester power.

    Personally I am a luke-warm supporter of homosexual marriage ongroumds of Durkheimian social solidarity. Hetereosexuals are, by and large, committed to the bonds of matrimony and society is the better for it. I don’t see why the law should oblige homosexuals to have all the gay bachelor(ette) fun.

  4. Joe
    October 17th, 2016 at 14:15 | #4

    On “freedom of conscience for cake-makers”, I find it strange that the cake-makers are concerned only with homosexuals. Are we to assume they are happy to bake a cake for the wife-beater, to assuage his battered wife? For the adulterer, for his mistress? Cupcakes for the child molester, for his victims?

  5. Julie Thomas
    October 17th, 2016 at 15:48 | #5

    @Jack Strocchi

    “To take a germane counter-example, the phrase “progressive liberal” cannot be uttered with a straight face in the Alt-Right web sites that I haunt. ”

    You use straight faces in the Alt-Right web sites when you utter? Does that mean you old fashioned white supremacists have made your own set of emoji’s? What colour do you use?

    I think it is nice that the internet has given you guys somewhere to go and share your hopes and dreams with the other relics hiding out in lonely mansions of glory pretending it was all worth it.

  6. DebbieAnne
    October 17th, 2016 at 18:00 | #6

    @Julie Thomas
    Thanks Julie ?

  7. GrueBleen
    October 17th, 2016 at 19:47 | #7

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #5

    Just a tad off-topic, but I enjoyed your interaction with Pappinbarra Fox in reply to Nick Gruen’s utter nonsense over on Club Troppo. He can be just a bit weird at times, our Nick, but the idea of ‘hold the centre’ hadn’t registered with me.

  8. paul walter
    October 17th, 2016 at 22:41 | #8

    “Abbott’s vendetta against the unions…”

    That was on full display tonight on QA with a rigged panel (the government chickened out and withdrew its rep who got replaced by Judith Sloan), with Tony Jones going in head- high at Di Natale on false charges of union funding for the Greens while Ged Kearney sat surrounded by IPA types.

    Workers ripped off by private contractors were laughed at. This writer quickly realised that the QA was a propaganda exercise, not an adult examination of Industrial Relation in our country and went for a walk.

    No more the ABC we respected, just an amateur hour of televised Die Sturmer (godwinned).

  9. jrkrideau
    October 17th, 2016 at 22:46 | #9

    @Joe
    Personally, I think the cake-makers have been a very disruptive force for years and we need to rein them in.

  10. Collin Street
    October 18th, 2016 at 05:20 | #10

    You use straight faces in the Alt-Right web sites when you utter?

    “Straight faces” is where the ones who are self-loathing gay men pretend they aren’t.

  11. rog
    October 18th, 2016 at 09:11 | #11

    @suburbanite To be fair it was Hawke/Keating that started the boats stuff and who started off shore detention.

  12. rog
    October 18th, 2016 at 09:15 | #12

    @Jack Strocchi
    The SSM issue is not about sex it’s about secularity and the govts anti discrimination policy. There are large chunks of voters who actively discriminate on a number of issues and their voices are being heard by the govt.

  13. suburbanite
    October 18th, 2016 at 10:14 | #13

    @rog
    That’s true, and sadly scape-goating is a bipartisan policy. But it was Howard who made it has own – and was it partly in response to Hanson? Anyway when it comes to issues of “soveriegnty” the right has been more successful with messaging.

  14. Ikonoclast
    October 18th, 2016 at 10:19 | #14

    “Then there’s climate change. Everywhere else in the world, things are moving fast. Country after country is abandoning coal, and the share of renewables is rising rapidly.” – J.Q.

    It is clear that coal generation has plummeted and solar generation has risen a bit. But the new solar generation has not nearly replaced all the lost coal generation. So what has?

    The share of renewables is rising rapidly in percentage terms from a very low base. Hopefully, it will be significant soon, with a few more doublings. It isn’t all that significant yet in absolute terms though its growth rate is indeed significant as I said above.

  15. Ikonoclast
    October 18th, 2016 at 10:20 | #15

    I was referring to the UK in the post above about the coal generation decline.

  16. Roman
    October 18th, 2016 at 10:20 | #16

    Equal marriage is law throughout the English-speaking world

    It’s law in English-speaking high income countries, other than Northern Ireland and Singapore. It’s not law in English-speaking Africa, other than in South Africa.

  17. John Quiggin
    October 18th, 2016 at 10:48 | #17

    @Roman

    I thought I’d get some kind of quibble like this. If you have nothing better to offer, please don’t comment again.

  18. Julie Thomas
    October 18th, 2016 at 10:49 | #18

    @GrueBleen

    Nice bloke; shame about the religion. My father told me never trust a Christian or a man in a suit.

  19. Kolchak
    October 18th, 2016 at 15:46 | #19

    In the last parliament, when Clive Palmer and the Senate were frustrating Tony Abbott’s agenda, this was seen by those on the Left as a good and principled thing, the superiority of parliament over the executive and all that. Now that it’s Senator Hanson and backbencher Abbott dictating terms, it’s a bad thing. Go figure.

  20. October 18th, 2016 at 16:09 | #20

    @Kolchak
    Figure what? Of course its good if they are on your side, and bad if they are on the other side.

  21. MartinK
    October 18th, 2016 at 16:55 | #21

    I’m surprised Abbott’s pretty much unreserved support of Trump last week has not been brought up yet, I guess it must have come as no surprise. But it surprised me, as I thought dislike of Trump is very broad in Australia, much broader than for One Nation.

    Also I can only hope I’m wrong, but I think the Turnbull/Abbott set up can work for the liberals. Abbott’s actions are enough to keep the real wingnuts happy, and a lot of moderate liberal supporters may just stay on because Turnbull is being forced and its not his fault. I suspect this is where Turnbull’s 2pp lead comes from. (OK I can’t see it lasting till the next election.)

  22. John Quiggin
    October 18th, 2016 at 18:48 | #22

    @Kolchak

    The point isn’t about process or Senate v Reps, it’s about the fact that Hanson is a racist, Abbott is backing her, and Turnbull is a spineless puppet. Feel free to say which one you prefer.

  23. D
    October 18th, 2016 at 23:00 | #23

    SSM Bills introduced since Howard changed the definition of ‘marriage’ in 2004:

    2006 – Democrats – Lapsed without a vote
    2007 – Greens – Lapsed
    2008 – Greens – Lapsed
    2008 – Democrats – Lapsed
    2009 – Greens – Defeated with ALP votes
    2010 – Greens – Lapsed
    2012 – ALP – Defeated with ALP votes (In his 2nd reading speech Malcolm Turnbull said ‘Were … a free vote to be permitted I would support legislation which recognised same-sex couples as being described as in a marriage.’)
    2012 – Greens – Lapsed
    2012 – ALP – Defeated with ALP votes
    2013 – Greens – Lapsed
    2013 – Greens – Defeated with ALP votes
    2013 – Greens – Lapsed
    2014 – Greens – Lapsed
    2014 – LDP – Lapsed
    2015 – ALP – Removed from notice paper
    2015 – LNP – Lapsed
    2016 – ALP – Lapsed

    4 times the ALP helped vote it down. LNP took plebiscite to the last election and won.

    Just have the plebiscite and then the parliamentary vote and be done with it. Otherwise it looks like a lot of people in power don’t really care about the issue at all but are delighted to have it as a cross-party football distraction to kick around in perpetuity.

  24. paul walter
    October 19th, 2016 at 01:13 | #24

    Had a second look at QA, since this thread is about the Hanson/Abbott government.

    On second view I thought the righties did poorly, starting with a mammoth whopper from a panelist concerning adequate dismissal notice from CUB rebutted with a vengeance by a worker who had lost his job, who outlined the real and deceitful process embarked upon by the company.

    But for that alert audience member, a huge lie setting the tone for the evening would have have passed unremarked upon.

  25. Greg McKenzie
    October 19th, 2016 at 07:53 | #25

    I agree with Roman. It is not a “quibble” to asset one’s own opinion. The English speaking world makes up only a minority of all legislatures. Chinese and Indian speaking legislatures makes laws for almost half the world’s population. I love to see anyone get an equal marriage law through either government’s legislative process. Let’s remember that English speaking legislatures no longer rule the world. One opinion can never claim to have dominance on a world scale.

  26. Kolchak
    October 19th, 2016 at 08:12 | #26

    @John Quiggin

    If the point is about Abbott backing Hanson’s racism while Turnbull stands and watches, your examples were badly chosen. Hanson is irrelevant to the government’s policies on marriage and climate change. These were in place long before she re-emerged.

  27. rog
    October 19th, 2016 at 09:33 | #27

    @Greg McKenzie Why should Australian law be guided by what is happening in India or China?

    The fact of the matter is that for some time a majority of polled Australians favour SSM. However the legislative agenda is being frustrated by minority groups, who claim victimhood.

  28. Tom Davies
    October 19th, 2016 at 15:01 | #28

    The government need to read Scott Sumner on why a carbon tax is a good idea, even for those (not him) who don’t believe global warming is a problem: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/10/global_warming_14.html

  29. derrida derider
    October 19th, 2016 at 15:42 | #29

    Tom Davies, that’s what to my knowledge some tax economists have been consistently saying since the late 1980s – even totally absent global warming a carbon tax is a good idea because it is a broad-based resources rent tax and is therefore better than the taxes it is likely to replace.

  30. Kolchak
    October 19th, 2016 at 17:03 | #30

    @derrida derider

    Or, even better on that argument, you could have a GST without exemptions.

  31. John Quiggin
    October 19th, 2016 at 17:47 | #31

    @Greg McKenzie

    Greg, you’re making a point that’s totally different from Roman’s. He’s claiming any country for which English is a primary official language as “English-speaking”. That includes India.

    As a matter of general observation, policies and idea that prevail in the leading English-speaking countries (notably UK and US) tend to be adopted by the rest. So, the chance of the opponents of equal marriage prevailing here in the long run would be small even if they currently had majority support, which they don’t,

  32. John Quiggin
    October 19th, 2016 at 17:50 | #32

    @Kolchak

    In these cases, Hanson is backing Abbott’s policies. But I’m getting sick of quibbles, so I’ll make the same offer to you as to Roman. Either make a useful contribution, or collect your refund on the way out.

  33. Tim Macknay
    October 19th, 2016 at 18:01 | #33

    @Joe

    On “freedom of conscience for cake-makers”, I find it strange that the cake-makers are concerned only with homosexuals.

    Even on the terms of their own bigotry they seem inconsistent. Do they object to baking cakes for Jewish or Muslim weddings, secular or atheist weddings, Wiccan weddings? Surely these would offend their apparently rarified Christian sensibilities as well. Why do we not hear them complaining about these types of weddings, which are already legal and presumably ordering cakes as we speak?

  34. October 20th, 2016 at 19:35 | #34

    @paul walter

    You would almost think that the ABC were clairvoyant, and knew what big lie the right were going to come out with, and stacked the audience appropriately. But given that they knew the guys sacked by CUB (whose beer I shall avoid), were in the audience, why did they tell the lie?

  35. Lindsay Berge
    October 21st, 2016 at 21:15 | #35

    Another example ‘of pointless resistance to inevitable change’ is forcing the NBN to use Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) with its technological limitations and dependence on buying Telstra’s copper network at an exorbitant price. The quality of the copper is uncertain and in many cases at least poor. There will be a huge reduction in the improvement bandwidth for little or no reduction in cost in comparison with Fibre-to-the-Premises.
    Technical discussion forums are referring to node-roulette where the distance from the house to the node makes a huge difference in the bandwidth. Some unlucky people will get barely any improvement over ADSL2 which will inhibit take up and hence funding and progress. It is likely all the FTTN will have to be replaced with FTTP in the future but the intermediate step makes the process slower and far more expensive.

  36. ZM
    October 22nd, 2016 at 23:39 | #36

    @suburbanite

    “…one set in motion by John Howard. His political masterstroke: “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”

    left the opposition effectively mute because they failed to think of a pithy comeback to this dog-whistle (or generally argue a strong case about anything). ”

    I think a lot of people in the Australian community now are unhappy with the refugee regime currently in place with all the abuses in offshore detention, and other issues.

    I also think there is the opportunity for community groups to influence the government over the next 2 years due to global UN negotiations on the refugee issue scheduled between 2016-2018, which Australia will have to be party to unless the government decides to make us an international pariah, which is unlikely since Malcolm Turnbull went to the Obama summit after he was invited.

    The UN Summit on global refugee and asylum seeker and migration issues in September returned with the New York Declaration, which commits countries to principles about the treatment and passage of refugees sort of like an updated version of the Declaration of the 1951 Refugees Convention.

    As well as this the New York Declaration has committed countries to another conference in the future and negotiations for “a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration” by 2018. The 2018 compact is intended to be a stronger framework more detailed than the principles set out in the New York Declaration, is my understanding.

    http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/declaration

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