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Changing places

March 17th, 2018

When Malcolm Turnbull, as PM, first faced Bill Shorten, as Opposition Leader, I correctly surmised that this would be a contest between a bold and innovative leader, unafraid to put forward controversial policies if they were right for the country, and a timid pragmatist, tied down by secret deals with factional warlords, and standing for nothing. I just didn’t realise which was which.

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  1. Freddo
    March 17th, 2018 at 21:41 | #1

    John, A close look at Malcolm’s track record shows he isn’t even bright. He just hung around with rich men looking for inside information. Now you should accept that Shorten is going to be a great Australian PM.

  2. Freddo
    March 17th, 2018 at 21:58 | #2

    In our capitalist society we are constantly told that businessmen (the princes of capitalism) are better people than nasty and scruffy union officials. That is why the media felt it had a licence to embark on its Kill Bill campaign. However, because I am a keen student of Gramsci, I didn’t fall for all of that bullshit. I knew it was elite propaganda and discounted it.

  3. Jandra
    March 17th, 2018 at 22:10 | #3

    It is, of course, possible that we’ll discover they’re both in the “timid pragmatist” class.

  4. Geoff Edwards
    March 17th, 2018 at 22:33 | #4

    An insight to Malcolm Turnbull’s character was available when he sold Fairfax to the American junk bond speculators and ignored Australian alternatives.

    If any doubt remained after that shameful episode, the nature of his character and the level of his political skills were revealed when he wrecked Kevin Rudd’s NBN, either because he couldn’t withstand the pressure from culture warriors around him or he personally was happy to wreck the thing.

    Any half smart political operator would have been able to loudly hammer Labor for the faults and make a lot of noise about reviewing the project (to satisfy the Liberal Party reactionaries), but quietly allow the contractors to continue out of the limelight connecting fibre to the premises.

  5. Florence Howarth
    March 17th, 2018 at 23:08 | #5

    Do not confuse one having patience, taking time to pick when to fight. This is not being timid. Only an idiot responds to every uttering of this government. No need to, the public works it out themselves.

    Shortens bold actions of this week appear to prove Shorte political nous, willing to gamble. We saw Labor win Batman. Yes, Labor lost SA but after 16 years, there was a swing to Labor. New boundaries made a win near impossible.

  6. Freddo
    March 18th, 2018 at 06:19 | #6

    @Geoff Edwards
    Geoff- Turnbull learnt his trade from Kerry Packer, one of the greatest scumbags this country has ever produced. What more does anyone need to know? The fact Turnbull is now PM is about as staggering as the orange Hitler becoming President of the United States.

  7. Freddo
    March 18th, 2018 at 06:21 | #7

    @Jandra
    Shorten wasn’t a timid pragmatist when he got the NDIS off the ground while a junior minister or bedded down the non-conflict rules for superannuation advisers. The NDIS dwarfs anything Malcolm has achieved in office as a PM!

  8. Mr Denmore
    March 18th, 2018 at 14:19 | #8

    I’m not sure why Turnbull is there. Problem is I don’t think he knows either. It’s as if he is performing in front of a mirror. ‘Here I am being Prime Minister; here I am being a pragmatist enabler of the Far Right’. He appears to have no agenda beyond the leftover failed crusades of the Thatcherite/Reaganite advisers in Treasury; he seems a man out of time, coming to the prime ministership too late and now having no real idea of what to do with his prize. Dutton is running rings around him, playing to the shrinking base and taunting Turnbull to try to shut him down. We are now at the point where it has hard to see what risible ratbaggery would be sufficient for the member of Wentworth to exercise some authority within the party. If Michaelia Cash’s reprehensible outburst did not move him to condemn the culture warriors in his midst, you wonder what would. Imagine his plight without a mainstream media so keen to ride shotgun for him, offering him encouragement and discerning in his frantic adlibbing a mission beyond saving his own neck.

  9. Shane Baker
    March 18th, 2018 at 14:22 | #9

    I’d say “a timid pragmatist, tied down by secret deals with factional warlords, and standing for nothing” fits both of them.

    We can judge one by his performance (or lack thereof) as PM, and predict the performance of the other by his choice of friends.

    Other options – please.

  10. Freddo
    March 18th, 2018 at 14:52 | #10

    @Mr Denmore
    If you want some pop-psychology, Malcolm has spent his whole life trying to prove to his mother, who left him when he was nine (taking the cat!), and his father, who always criticised him, that he was worthy of their love – that he’s a winner. That’s all that counts. Doesn’t matter what he wins, or how he wins – he’s just got to win. His problem is not that he has a bad character, but that he has no character at all. He doesn’t judge his Prime Ministership on what he achieves but how long he survives. The long he survives, the bigger his win. That’s why he will hang on until almost the end of this term (mid 2019)

  11. John Quiggin
    March 18th, 2018 at 15:35 | #11

    @Shane Baker

    My original prediction was based on things like Shorten’s choice of friends. But the evidence is already in, and he has been anything but timid as Opposition leader. When was the last time an Opposition leader proposed to increase taxes or, indeed, to do anything that might be unpopular with focus groups? The only comparable cases in my memory are Hewson (disastrously) in 1993 and Whitlam (successfully) in 1972.

  12. DavidMoz
    March 18th, 2018 at 16:26 | #12

    To compare Shorten with Whitlam is beyond ludicrous, Professor. Shorten has been good on tax, ambivalent on Adani, weak as water on refugees, mealy-mouthed on right-wing unions at best.
    Whitman failed badly on East Timor, but little else in terms of adventurous and progressive policy.
    Even Keating was bolder than Shorten, and no more wrong-headed.

  13. John Quiggin
    March 18th, 2018 at 16:47 | #13

    @DavidMoz

    The comparison was specifically to do with putting forward a bold position from Opposition. Keating was never Opposition leader, and most of his policies as Treasurer were the opposite of what Labor had campaigned on, starting with financial deregulation.

    I certainly agree that Shorten doesn’t match up to Whitlam or Hewson in terms of boldness, but there’s a big gap after that, based on the lessons the hardheads drew from those two.

  14. Freddo
    March 18th, 2018 at 19:10 | #14

    @DavidMoz
    Any comparison with Malcolm makes Shorten look like Evil Knievel.

  15. Smith
    March 18th, 2018 at 20:24 | #15

    Shorten is no idealist but he is a shrewd reader of the zeitgeist. Releasing a policy to increase capital taxes in the week of a crucial by-election took real cojones. The purveyors of the conventional wisdom in the media have been made to look like fools and they might start to take him seriously as the alternative prime minister.

    Also not much remarked upon is that Shorten has surrounded himself with a mostly very capable shadow cabinetwho appear to be giving him good advice. It augurs well for the quality of the government that Shorten will lead if Labor wins the next election.

    As for Turnbull, the OP and comments miss the point. Turnbull does have beliefs, but he completely lacks the political skills to effect them. Turnbull has no judgement, no empathy and no ability to build support in his party. He cannot make friends and influence people. He cannot hold out a carrot and he cannot wield a stick. None of his colleagues will follow him much less die on a hill for him.

    There is an old fashioned character judgement that people used to make, now anachronistic and a bit offensive, in which such and such was said to be “a leader of men”. Malcolm Turnbull is not a leader of men.

  16. Freddo
    March 18th, 2018 at 20:40 | #16

    @Smith
    Agree with everything except Malcolm having beliefs. Malcolm has a few opinions, I’m sure, but they don’t mean much. He just latches onto the flavour of the month (e.g. serious action on climate change) and drops it when it is of no further use. He is a real-estate developer/ merchant banker whose whole approach to life is transactional. And when he doesn’t get his way, he bullies and screams until he does. I think it’s hard to comprehend just how hollow he is. There is nothing inside. I agree he lacks the skills to lead. But it is significant that he hasn’t even tried to lead. He doesn’t care which direction the mob is going, as long as he is out front.

  17. Freddo
    March 18th, 2018 at 20:53 | #17

    It really shows how capitalist ideology has corrupted our society that people criticise Shorten for having been a union official (“a union hack”) but give Turnbull a free pass, or even applaud him, because he was a merchant banker. There are, of course, bad union officials. But most union officials do, at least, try to help their fellow citizens. They have some sense of social responsibility. You couldn’t say the same about merchant bankers. To a man, they are in the business to grab as much dosh as they can and stick it in the Cayman Islands. Their fellow citizens are there to be plundered. Yet many thought this man would make a good Prime Minister. Unbelievable.

  18. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    March 19th, 2018 at 06:40 | #18

    John ,
    firstly I am disappointing with you. Sure Whitlam has some ‘unpopular’ but sound policies ( IAC for one) but they were almost lost because of other policies such as ‘sewerage for all.’ People often forget Whitlam’s proposals were heavily influenced by the Vernon committee. I cannot believe you did not know this!

    Turnbull was put in becauase the Liberls were going to be thrashed. As it was they only just won because Turnbull had not losr all his lustre.

    Turnbull has really yet to shoe any sound understanding of good policies or how politics works in fact.

    I would add a bit of warning to Shorten, Yes he should be congratulated on not being a ‘small target’ but i have yet to see anyone on the ALP understands it is no use criticising proposal unless you have an alternative that works.

  19. Mitchell Porter
    March 19th, 2018 at 09:11 | #19

    If I take the long view, I might say: The Liberals used to be the party of the bosses, and Labor the party of the workers. But now the Liberals are the party of those who produce (big and small business), and Labor are the party of those who consume (public servants and welfare state dependents).

    I’m sure I have expressed this idea in less than the best way. I want it critiqued. But isn’t there also some truth to it?

  20. Jones, one of the Jones boys
    March 19th, 2018 at 10:00 | #20

    @Mitchell Porter That is such an odd comment, I feel compelled to stop lurking. In particular, taken at face value, it’s an oddly narrow conception of producers and correspondingly broad conception of consumers.

    On one natural interpretation, public servants include e.g. (some) doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, judges… They’re consumers and not producers? And even if you do take a narrower view of public servants as Canberra bureaucrats, well, who designed and rolled the NDIS, who works at the TGA to monitor drug safety, who designs and implements public health measures such as vaccinations? All those folk are consumers just because they’re public servants and not petites or grandes bourgeois?

    Perhaps I’ve radically misunderstood your comment, but prima facie it looks like reheated Joe Hockey rhetoric

  21. FREDDO
    March 20th, 2018 at 09:07 | #21

    @Mitchell Porter
    Hysterically funny. What on earth do merchant bankers like Malcolm produce? The very definition of “capitalist” is someone who does not produce but lives off the labour of others (check it out). In other words, the Liberal Party is the party of bludgers.

  22. Mitchell Porter
    March 20th, 2018 at 17:02 | #22

    @Jones, etc – maybe it’s Hockeyism, I wouldn’t know. I just want to know, for Labor and Liberal in 2018, what is their social base and what is their raison d’etre? Are they anything more than just two brands trying to win a popularity contest by being all things to all people?

    It just seems to me, that of the two, Labor is the party of The State. It’s the party that *spends* taxpayers’ money. So it has the support of employees of the state, dependents of the state, and advocates of state intervention and regulation. And the Coalition parties end up being the parties of people who are earning their own money, and for whom government is more an intrusion than a life support system.

  23. Jones, one of the Jones boys
    March 20th, 2018 at 20:14 | #23

    e.g. Payouts for water over market value. Increased funding to private schools. Expansion of “national security”. The hair-raising amounts spent on “stopping the boats”. Private health insurance subsidy. Chaplains in schools. Dividend imputation. The NAIF. Baby bonus. “Direct Action”. Royal Commissions into one’s enemies. Helicopter rides to party functions. And that’s just off the top of my head in 60 seconds.

  24. Mitchell Porter
    March 22nd, 2018 at 08:38 | #24

    @Jones .. How do you characterize the parties, then? You’ve offered some evidence against my formulation. I would like to see from you, your own answer to the questions: who votes for Liberal, who votes for Labor; and what do the parties stand for, what do they mean at this point in time?

  25. Jones, one of the Jones boys
    March 22nd, 2018 at 22:16 | #25

    Those are excellent questions, Mitchell, but alas I have no desire to answer them. My point was just that I radically disagreed with your characterization of producers and consumers; how to accurately characterize our two competing political overlords is well beyond my capability/interest-level. Sincere thanks for the discussion, though, and best wishes to you.

  26. Svante
    March 28th, 2018 at 13:35 | #26

    @DavidMoz

    “Whitman failed badly on East Timor,” – whereas his successes in both West Papua, and PNG continue, and with compound growth.

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