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06 January 2015
by Edward Eastwood

It’s the Chalice from the Palace that has the pellet with the poison!

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall at the LNP Headquarters at this moment?

As most of Australia swelters in the summer heat, quietly, oh so very quietly, in ‘the smoke filled back-rooms’ of the Liberal Party, tactics are being discussed while promises are made and gifts exchanged.

For the Coalition, the electoral barometer has plummeted from ‘change’ to ‘stormy’ and shows no sign of movement nor is it likely to.

Through his bungling and imperialist bluster demonstrated toward both Indonesia and China during the first two months of his term while at the same time shamelessly toadying to the US and Japan, and followed swiftly by the delivery of a budget hated by the community for its unfairness and blatant bias, Abbott had already set in motion the end of his leadership before it had even begun.

As early as its first quarter, the government’s approval rating began to slide and after May steadily declined to its present rating of 42.5% to the ALP’s 57.5% on a two party preferred basis.

This is not surprising considering the electorate has been a horrified witness to a government which careens from crisis to crisis in the pursuit of God only knows what, while leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Arguably, whilst the budget dug the government’s grave, the cuts to the ABC, SBS, and the underhanded implementation of the Medicare co-payment. screwed down the lid on the coffin.

As early as January 2014 the public began to develop selective deafness where Abbott’s statements were concerned about the need for tough budget measures, and by November they had stopped listening – entirely.

Despite the best efforts of the Coalition spin doctors to paint Abbott as a credible leader, nothing has worked.

Not the threat of terrorist attacks, not the deployment of troops to fight terrorist threats – real or imagined, and certainly not ‘shirt-front’ diplomacy. The gaffes and parochialism of Davos were repeated at the G20, and Abbott side-lined and reduced to insignificance by Obama and Xi’s declaration to combat climate change.

Mid term now looms, and the LNP power brokers are on the verge of panic.

When the electorate loses all faith in the government and treats it with ignore, there can only be one outcome and on the results of polls such as this they know that as far as a second term goes, alles verloren.

Their only option is to try and limit the damage.
This leaves two courses of action.

Keep Abbott as leader and try to tough it out with the threat of a double dissolution if the government’s bills continued to be blocked in the Senate.

A double dissolution however carries a high risk. With all seats in both houses open to contest, the results are unpredictable and neither Abbott, Palmer, or the independents are likely to relish another round of electioneering so soon.

In Abbott’s case, even if the Coalition were to be returned with a majority in the lower house, it may also mean that the government could face an even more intractable and hostile Senate than it does at present.

For Palmer and PUP, it would be at best a loss of their present power bloc; at worst, obliteration as the electorate tires of both Palmer’s antics and his caprices.

In the minor league, neither Leyonhjelm nor Lambie are likely to be re-elected due to their innate stupidity and the Motoring Enthusiasts Party are also unlikely to drive much further.

A double dissolution is not entirely risk free for the ALP either. Shorten has been able to profit through the strategy of adapting a ‘small target’ stance (and been roundly criticised for it) while standing back and allowing the government’s own ineptitude to seal its fate.

An election campaign however, would require a far more aggressive stance by Labor than demonstrated since its time in opposition, and next few months will also be critical for Shorten to prove beyond doubt to the public that he’s P.M. material.

The other option is to replace Abbott as leader. While pundits argue that this would open the LNP to the same accusations of disunity, disloyalty and disorganisation levelled at the Gillard government, the Coalition’s backers know that the urgency of the necessity to sacrifice the crown in order to save the purse grows by the day.

In less than half a term, the ‘Iron Throne’ of Abbott style Conservative government has become one of porcelain located not in a gleaming bathroom of ‘free markets and workplace reform’ but rather in a political outhouse infested by Red-backed spiders.

But who will ascend it? Truss, Hunt, and Robb are nolo contendere, and Macfarlane would do little more that to cause a rise in sales of throat lozenges.

Pyne will never lead the party as long as his Gluteus Maximus points to the ground, and while Hockey and Morrison may be palatable to the right wing of the party, as far as the electorate is concerned; both are in the same category as Pyne.

This leaves a choice between either Turnbull or Bishop. Arguably Turnbull is far more likely to be acceptable to the public despite blotting his copy book with the NBN and the defence of Abbott’s cuts to the ABC, but Malcolm is so utterly despised by both the right and centre right of the Coalition, that he is unlikely to be able to garner enough support to mount a successful challenge.

For the power brokers, Bishop is the only option but it’s not going to be easy to sell a someone who has been described by a Right wing US think tank as; “Australia’s Margret Thatcher and who is as tough as a woodpecker’s lips”.

Australian’s have had more than enough of chest beating, beak whetting Conservative politicians vowing to implement ‘tough measures’ against the most vulnerable in the community in order to drive down a non-existent ‘debt’.

For her own part, Bishop surely knows that to assume leadership is to accept that the chalice from the palace has the pellet with the poison and most of the next eighteen months will be spent in frenzied efforts to reverse the government’s fortunes.

The replacement of Abbott as leader of the LNP is a foregone conclusion. In back-rooms of the party he has been weighed and measured and now stands on the trap-door of the gallows.

It’s only a matter of time before the lever is pushed.