Time to terminate Cormann

The flap about Mathias Cormann’s Schwarzeneggerian description of Bill Shorten as a “girlie man” isn’t too significant in itself. But in the context of other developments, it suggests a couple of patterns that represent big problems for the Abbott government.

First, Cormann has joined Joe Hockey and Arthur Sinodinos in making an idiot of himself. There’s now no-one among the key economic ministers who has any real credibility left. Add to that the hopelessness of the key spending ministers (Andrews, Dutton and Pyne) and it becomes clear that the Budget fiasco was, as they say, no accident.

At this point, it’s hard to see how the government can turn the economic debate around, even given a radical reshuffle of the existing team. Their best hope is probably that attention will remain focused on foreign policy.

Second, coming on the heels of a string of similarly disastrous statements from prominent rightwing figures (Barry Spurr, Alan Moran, Aaron Lane) it’s a pretty clear indication of how the Australian right talks when they think no one is listening, or forget that they are on record, and how far out of touch they are with today’s social mores.

Essentially, they are living in a bubble where they imagine that media figures like Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones represent the views of the majority of right-thinking people. In reality (most obviously in the case of Jones, but equally true of Bolt and Devine) these are people who make a good living by taking the views of the most bigoted 10 per cent or so of the Australian population (AFAICT, Australia is no better or worse than most other countries in terms of the prevalence of bigotry), and reflecting them back to the same audience in a more-or-less coherent form.

Except in rare and much resented cases like libelling people on account of their race, the Bolts and Devines are protected by the rules of free speech and the fact that they serve the interests of the Murdoch press. But that’s not true for politicians, thinktankers or participants in public inquiries. In these venues, as I know from my own experience, anything you say can and will be used against you. Unfortunately, for the Australian right, the racist, sexist and generally nasty stuff that goes down a treat at Young Liberal meetings and similar can no longer be laughed off when it gets out in public.

98 thoughts on “Time to terminate Cormann

  1. I’ve just noticed that Professor Quiggin’s original post mis-spells Barry Spurr’s name as “Spur.” A small point, but might be worth correcting it, no? Fixed now, thanks, and I realised I also had Aaron Lane’s first name as “Alan”

  2. Now he’s got an injunction:

    The Sydney University professor suspended over racist emails has taken legal action against the website that published them.

    The Federal Court has ordered online magazine New Matilda not to publish further details about Barry Spurr’s leaked emails,

    Lawyers for Professor Spurr argued the publication of the emails breached the Privacy Act, and the court granted an injunction preventing publication of any more details before another court hearing on Thursday.

    New Matilda editor Chris Graham said Professor Spurr’s legal team was also fighting to have the emails returned, the articles deleted and the source of the leak revealed.

    “Hell will freeze over before the last bit happens,” Graham said.

    “There’s no way I will ever reveal the source, regardless of how it proceeds. Obviously, ethically, I can’t do it.”

    As an aside, one thing that comes out from the emails and related commentary is that this fellow is very adamant about demanding respect for his position and for him personally from others. But, he obviously has no qualms about showing disrespect for others – that is, those he considers undeserving of respect.

    Something about respect being earned not something one can demand comes to mind.

  3. Speaking of impartiality, just tried to get to New Matilda to update on this litigation thing and the site seems to be jammed.

  4. @Tim Macknay

    That was a famous one. Clever, though perhaps a little outside of our currently inclusive lexicon if uttered.

    Still, it’s a much better candidate for what may come to be known as the Spurr Defence.


  5. The problem with calling for Cormann to be sacked is that there is no one to replace him. The scary about this government is that the front-bench, however disasterous they are, really are the best people in the parliamentary Liberal Party.

  6. The problem is that if the Coalition (rightly) got rid of Hockey, Corman, Sinodinos, Payne, Dutton and Andrews for being incompetent, Malcolm Turnbull will need to be the Minister for Just About Everything. Unless of course the Coalition are hiding their true talent on the back bench.

  7. @Fran Barlow

    Clever, though perhaps a little outside of our currently inclusive lexicon if uttered.

    Yes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after I posted the comment that I registered the implicit sexism of the insult. It diminishes the enjoyment of the wit considerably.

  8. @Tim Macknay

    My response too, though as someone who admires lexical dexterity, I admired the effort. That it’s clever doesn’t acquit it of misogyny but if you were a writer of, say, poetry, one might offer the plea.


  9. Incidentally, this was not the only exemplar of this trade by EGW. He once apparently asked in parliament, given that Young Labor was called Young Labs, and the Young Liberals, Young Libs, what the youth wing of the Country Party might be called.

    Plainly, it was prominent in his thinking. It was a different era of course, when issues associated with gender were just beginning to be explored. I recall reading somewhere that the term ‘homophobia’ wasn’t coined until about 1967 … and I daresay that while misogyny would be of much longer standing, it too would not have been something even those in power sympathetic to equal dealing would have much considered.

  10. @Jim

    That’s scarcely our problem. If the incompetents in the ministry — and I’d include Turnbull in that — can only be replaced with others of doubtful competence, that’s not a reason for retaining the incompetents. Doubtful competence is preferable to proven ineptitude. If these prove also to be as inept, let them acknowledge that they really are unfit to govern and hold an election.

    Failing that, let them allow the public to draw their own conclusions. Any damage they do in the interim would be worth wearing to get a better government.

    Of course, it’s moot because they aren’t going to sack all their incompetents. They are simply going to pretend that this is what competence looks like, and Murdoch will back them in this assertion.

  11. Robbie Buck, all purpose airhead, was putting about the idea this morning that in NSW there’s talk at government level about smoothing the path to random culling of fruit bats. Apparently the Minister for Destroying the Environment, Greg Hunt is already tossing about the term ‘One-Stop Shop’.

    Doubtless people randomly shooting at fruit bats will have to show they can distinguish Lissa-virus carrying fruit bats from lissa-free ones. Either that, or they will have to use those bullets developed since the latest Iraq campaign that can do the same. It seems that having done ‘Stop the boats’ we’re dropping a vowel and doing ‘Stop the bats’. It goes well with stop the sharks, stop the muslims, capture the metadata, run away from ebola, swallow the coal, ignore the climate and use subs as suppositories of wisdom.

    All jokes aside, this big epidemiological challenge in this country is the emergence of acute stupidity, irrational fear and hatred amidst officialdom — and they are hoping to spread it more widely.

  12. I doubt that Greg Hunt gas the foggiest clue as to how many bats there are. If he did HIS natural response would be to ring bark every tree in Australia, while at the same time continuing with the plant 2 million trees to comply with Kyoto targets.

  13. Seems Green army is no longer about planting trees. On the Central Coast, the aim appears to clean up the weeds around Tuggerah Lakes. Well that is what appointed team leader is saying.

  14. Unless of course the Coalition are hiding their true talent on the back bench.

    Well, Sharman Stone, for one. A lot of the older liberal backbenchers are reasonable and reasonably-well adjusted people.

    Like I’ve said before, it’s an issue of recruitment and development: the liberals have no reliable source for fresh blood beyond the Young Liberals [and the Young Liberals is for cultural reason a lot less effective as a source of talent than the campus labour and greens groups], and having recruited people they have very limited places where they can test them and train them with real-world jobs where failure can be tolerated [unlike, say, the union movement]

    It’s like your football team drafting kids straight out of the wagga thirds and dumping them in the finals. As an _organisation_ the liberal party is completely shot, were it sold in private equity the only thing of value would be the brand-names.

  15. It’s about time the the Governor General sacked the dysfunctional and incompetent Abbott government.

  16. @Collin Street

    All of this assumes that the aim is to recruit career politicians. Until relatively recently, the LNP mainly ran candidates who had held real jobs (stereotypically, lawyers, doctors and farmers). Cormann, Hockey, Pyne and Abbott are all career political types, and it shows.

  17. @Collin Street
    Teriary campus green networks are extensive, talented, financed and otherwise well organized. I know of one group of graduates who commit to providing service at an annual conference (hosting, housing, feeding, co-ordinating) for the undergraduates. They do this for a couple of years to provide infrastructure and institutional memory.

    God alon knows where the Young Libs recruit from. The residential colleges, I suppose, with a solid background in elite schools. But they all look and sound insane to me. Pyne in particular but otherwise all of the front bench, including Bishop, who will learn one day, as all such people do, that it still matters that two and two still make four. She can pretend all she likes that two and two make five but that is delusional thinking.

    Sorry to psychologize the Coalition, but I think it is the grip of a mass delusion, probably and air born bug that they picked up from the coal and other miners, which manifests as a steely resolve to ignore reality and, best of all, where reality resists your madness, sometimes you can succeed in infecting the public realm with a sort of mass version of a ‘folie Ć  deux’. All utterly, barking effing mad so far as I am concerned.

    What is it that private schools do to create such intellectual and psychological wreckage among a whole class of people?

  18. Cormann today “In fact, arguably, the Palmer United Party has achieved more for the environment in three months than the Greens have in all the years they have been here in the Senate.”

    Is he making a statement of fact, or, just arguing?

  19. What is it that private schools do to create such intellectual and psychological wreckage among a whole class of people?

    I have a theory.
    + lack of any discernable high-level talent [not that they’re bad people or stupid or anything, it’s just that they aren’t smart enough or X enough to “succeed” on that X alone]
    + upper-middle-class upbringing that — because of the proceeding — you can’t replicate through your own efforts, and
    + lack of unconditional love/respect from parents/peers [competitive schooling kicks in here] that means the lower-middle-class lifestyle you’d be bound for is a sign of “failure” and thus unworthiness.
    + a — healthy! — sense of self-worth, that rejects the assessment of you as a failure/worthless, but isn’t coupled with enough insight to see that the success-based assessment you’re judging yourself by is all kindsa screwed up.

    [autism? autism, even mild autism, makes it extremely difficult to do anything with moderate talents, because it’s harder for you to work with others. Worse the autism the more your talents are derated.]

  20. @Collin Street

    I have noticed the latitude that elite owners and managers give themselves and their favoured operatives for mistakes compared to the lack of latitude they give to low-level employees for mistakes. The contrast is very stark. If a bigwig makes million dollar mistakes it simply doesn’t matter. Indeed, they continue to get their bonuses after the most egregious series of mistakes. QANTAS chief Alan Joyce is a case in point. He and his board have just about destroyed QANTAS and yet he gets a bigger bonus than ever. Yet if a check-in clerk makes a few mistakes, management will pounce on him or her.

    The supercilious arrogance of the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin in a recent senate enquiry was breath-taking.

    “In a Senate estimates committee in Canberra, the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, was asked about reports that not all weapon drops reach their intended target.

    MARK BINSKIN: They’re airdropped, they’re airdropped in from quite high level, with parachutes. Now that’s actually precision drops, but sometimes, when you’ve got a complex environment like that, you’ve got a front line that may not be defined in Kobane itself, you may find that one might not drop right into the area that it needs to.

    NAOMI WOODLEY: But the CDF then told Labor’s Defence spokesman, Stephen Conroy, that it doesn’t concern him.

    MARK BINSKIN: What I understand that might have happened here is probably one parachute worth of palate (sic) has dropped into an area where ISIL might be. My answer to that is so what? Would you stop doing that to stop supplying the Kurds that are actually defending that town?

    No you wouldn’t, it’s a risk you take and there might have been a palate or whatever that’s gone to the other side – it’s immaterial to be quite honest with you. It’s not something… you would assess why that was the case, tactically you might adjust your drops next time along so you minimise the chance, but you wouldn’t have that affect your ability to go in and keep resupplying these people, these brave fighters that are actually holding ground against these thugs at the moment.”

    When Binskin said “My answer to that is so what?” his voice was dripping with arrogance, scorn and derision for anyone who would question him and his favoured operatives. He did then attempt a “save” and some of his subsequent rationales might indeed have some (partial) validity. However, the indicative and revealing moment was the reflex reply of superior scorn redolent with the flavour of “how dare you question me about anything”.

    This kind of self-serving arrogance, shamelessness and thick-hided ability to shrug of any feeling of responsibility for mistakes is very typical of the ruling class and boss class. Something in their upbringing, education and favoured status instills an impenetrable sense of superiority, privilege and non-accountability.

  21. What worries me more about this mob, is their reluctance to have legislation scrutinised as it goes through both houses. This is a dangerous procedure for any government., Simply errors are not picked up, mistakes in drafting, especially when the legalisation leads to people being charged and taken to court. We could see terrorist walk, because of poor wording.

    That is what the senate is there to do. Yes, a house of review.

    We know that Brandis has put forward legislation that does not approximately define metadata. Imagine the fun defence lawyers are going to have with that in the courts.

    No one knows how many other errors there are.

    Last night, Cormann whined more than once, he could not see what that DA bill could not go through, Has been more scrutinised than any other bill. Said this in spite that most in the chamber had just seen the bill, along with numerous amendments.

    Cormann kept saying people should know, as it was taken to two elections.

    Sorry since the election, there has been a white and green paper. That only suggests what goes in the legislation. There has been amendments that came from Palmer and independents, The bill is nothing like what was originally put before the house.

    What goes into law, is not green or white papers. Not policies taken to an election.

    It is what is written in the legislation that counts, Yes, every sentence, every word needs to be scrutinised.

    Cormann spent the night, acting as if he was personally affronted because of being asked questions, I did not pick up, as if he was just being difficult, I picked up that is the way he felt. That the Opposition were deliberately making things hard for them. Wasting their time.

    Same seems to be true of this mob from Abbott down. One has to agree in full, otherwise one is an enemy, out to pick on them.

    I cannot understand their attitude.

    I did not find the Opposition unreasonable. Nothing like the behaviour of this government when in Opposition with their theatrics, drama and tears.

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