Abbott is right

The LNP, with Turnbull as frontman, will be campaigning on the Abbott government’s record and policies. Apart from a few symbolic and rhetorical shifts (the re-abolition of Knights and Dames, for example), Turnbull has neither deviated from, nor added to, Abbott’s policy program.

There’s a notion being pushed in the media that a big win for the LNP would constitute a mandate to “let Malcolm be Malcolm”. This is nonsense. A mandate isn’t a free pass. It is, literally, a command, to implement the policies on which you have campaigned [1]

Turnbull can’t campaign on Abbott’s policies, then say he has been commanded to implement his own (whatever they might be). So, unless he breaks with Abbott before the election, he might as hand back the job to someone who really believes in the program he is proposing.

Update 25/3 Turnbull has obviously been stung by Abbott’s attack, and is spinning some minor course adjustments (explicitly dumping some policies from which Abbott had already resiled) as a major break

fn1. The mandate idea is most powerful in a bicameral system with an unelected or highly unrepresentative upper house. In Australia, the unrepresentative aspects of the Senate (equal state representation and long terms) are matched by the spurious lower house majority produced by single-member constituencies. So, senators have just as much a mandate to block legislation they have campaigned against as the government has to push it forward. The Double Dissolution is, of course, the way we can resolve this.

45 thoughts on “Abbott is right

  1. On Turnbull funding renewables, offshore energy and biofuels got a mention. Which is code for saying that they still hate land based wind turbines and there will be pork barrelling for farmers.

    It looks really insincere to me.

    And I note that the sitting Liberal member for Durack, Melissa Price, is being challenged for preselection by David Archibald, a climate denier of some note. The hard right are shameless and feral. It will take some sort of DLP like split to heal the Libs.

  2. The Coalition and renewables work like this. When they want to appeal to voters they make positive sounding noises about forms of renewable energy that are not yet ready to be deployed on Australia. But as soon as a form of renewable energy is cost effective enough to be deployed on a large scale they act to block it. They have done this with both rooftop solar and wind, having more success with wind because of the greater public support for rooftop solar. As soon as utility scale solar falls in cost enough to be a threat to the coal industry and incumbent generators, the Coal-ition will act to block it and they will do the same if offshore wind becomes cheap enough. Unless they are no longer powerful enough to do so at that point, in which case they might just go back to picking on gay kids or something.

  3. The limited data I have looked at indicate that offshore wind power is about twice as expensive as onshore wind power. I am not sure why Australia, with ample land and ample coastal onshore wind power sites, would be the slightest bit interested in offshore wind power. I mean other than wind assisted ships which would make sense.

  4. Ikonoclast, your are definitely not wrong about offshore wind. It makes no sense at all in Australia given its cost and that high quality wind resources are available over a vast area on land. Any politician suggesting that Australia should develop offshore wind either doesn’t know what they are talking about, or is just lying in order to appear concerned about the environment while having no intention of ever deploying off shore wind.

    Or both. That can’t be ruled out.

  5. john – Good point. One of the reasons I don’t think Turnbull has a prayer is that I have never seen a Prime Minister go to the polls seeking a mandate to stamp his authority on his OWN party. The whole concept is ridiculous. You vote for a parties policies, not to give a PM the upper hand in the civil war that will break out in his party after the election. Not that the electorate would give him the upper hand anyway. Tony and the Right won’t give a fig about what the electorate says. The moment the election is over, Turnbull is dead meat, win lose or draw.
    I’m pretty sure that on 18 April the Senate will adjourn to 10 May and then stonewall the government (maybe debating the Marriage Equality Bill) so that Malcolm doesn’t get the interim supply he needs if he wants a 2 July election (forget about the ABCC Bill – he’ll get that trigger). When it’s seen that despite his “Machiavellian” brilliance, he couldn’t even organise a DD, he’ll get whacked by his own party.

  6. GREG – You’re dreaming if you think Turnbull is cunning. Turnbull has charged headlong into a trap. The Senate will give him the ABCC trigger and delay (not even debate) the interim supply he needs before 12 May if he wants a 2 July election. So his political “masterstroke” (recalling the Senate) will end in abject humiliation, because he won’t get a DD. Don’t be misled by the fact that his psychotically greedy, selfish, aggressive and arrogant man has made a lot of money. He’s a nong.

  7. @FREDDO

    You are right about Turnbull trying to stamp his authority on his own party – and he has no chance of doing that. Even if he wins the election, it will be with a reduced majority, and the hard right nutters opposed to Turnbull tend to be in the safer seats, so they will wield more power after the election.

    I’m disappointed in the press. If the ALP was in power and had a seemingly dysfunctional relationship between the PM and the Treasurer, a disgruntled ex-leader firing shots, an inability to actually do anything, a lack of policy, the likes of Bronwyn Bishop refusing to quite for the good of the party, and a mob of recalcitrant nutters standing in the way of anything moderate, they would be absolutely crucified by the press.

    But so far its pretty muted criticism, and even praise for the “bold” double dissolution.

  8. Of course, on 18 April, the Senate could just adjourn to 12 May 2016 (the day after a DD had to be called) without even having received an interim supply bill from the House. It’s just a question of how the ALP/Greens/Cross-benchers want to twist the knife in Turnbull’s gut: decisions, decisions, decisions …

  9. I suspect that the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull to the role of Prime Minister has also resulted in the Liberal Party theo-neo-cons playing hardball at the ground level of preselection of candidates. If they can’t win in the cabinet, then they win at the root level. There are a number of harder than Flint ultra-right candidates now, essentially an extremely narrow white Christian, wealthy, self entitled and well-connected class that find ways of putting their own kind into political power. If not directly via being a candidate for election, then as a political staffer, or on a government board or two, or a stint in the diplomatic corp, helicoptered into the media for a regular slot as an self-opinionating head, and so on. This group are in ascension here, as well as elsewhere.

    Witness the USA with Donald Trump as the least right wing of the Republican runners, something that would have been laughable if it were 20 years ago, and yet here we are, Trump strangely the least extreme of the contenders, despite his racially inflammatory remarks and behaviour. How could Trump be the “voice of reason” among the contenders? We may laugh and deride the GOP for this development, but we Australians have a very similar slow-moving train crash happening in the Liberal Party. Even as Australia becomes a richly diverse country, a thinner pool of political wannabes are being helped into the Liberal Party by like-minded individuals of a very narrow kind.

    If Turnbull lasts long enough for the LNP to be re-elected, I doubt he’ll hold onto the PM job for too much longer after that. There will simply be too many Abbott robots by then.

  10. If you search “Bernardi risks Liberal split” you’ll see that the feral right are getting more strident, and threatening to take the bat and ball and go home if Malcolm fails to be uphold the “distinctly conservative” character of the party.

    This is starting to become fun.

  11. @FREDDO

    I do not think Labor will support with-holding supply in these circumstances.

    The gain for the ALP is not worth the risk – particularly as this could result in nothing but a delay.

    Supply should never be blocked except for extremely dire circumstances.

  12. When a party starts ignoring basic reality such as what actually causes climate change and what actually helps an economy to function, it’s not surprising that they also eventually become a bit detached from what actually gets votes and what actually gets them reelected.

  13. IVOR – Labor would not be blocking supply. Supply isn’t usually voted on until about 26 June. It is fully entitled to say around 11 May that it wants to debate the bill (or debate something else, like the Marriage Equality Bill). It doesn’t have to jump through hoops to satisfy Turnbull’s DD agenda. It could, for instance, say that it is very happy to debate (and pass) the bill on 12 May.
    There is no big downside for Labor. There is a massive one for turnbull. He’s told the public that unless the ABCC bill is passed there will be a double DD. He will suffer a shocking humiliation if he can’t even achieve that. The electorate will not be happy with Turnbull when they find out they’re going to have to wait until August.

  14. @FREDDO

    I do not thibk that Labor will support any tricks or games over supply irrespective of the words used to describe them.

    Time will tell.

  15. Ian Verrender (ABC Drum, 29/3) on the economic record of the Howard government attempts to makes the point:

    We’ve just emerged from a once-in-history resources boom, with virtually nothing to show for it.

    Well not according to the hoi polloi, the common people, because it ended it up in extraordinary real-estate prices, Moranbah and Port Hedland being the most egregious examples, but Sydney and Melbourne being the primary beneficiaries.
    How do you handle the deflation of a mining boom? Call a depression or do something really different. Fat chance.

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