15 September 2016
by Martin Hirst
Welcome home Fizza: Turnbull returns to troubled days in Parliament
Turnbull is a lame duck PM with a poor track record and little chance of winning another election either inside or outside the parliamentary Liberal caucus rooms.
Last week Prime Minister Turnbull celebrated 12 months in office with a nice getaway among friends.
This week it’s back to business as usual, which in the 45th Parliament looks a lot like not getting anything done.
No, Malcolm didn’t join Tony on his annual outback retreat — instead he went overseas on a week-long jaunt around the region.
Fizza took Julie Bishop with him, either on the principle of keep your friends close and your backstabbing deputy even closer, or on advice of DFAT that Malcolm needed someone memorable or distracting so that no one would notice him lurking in the official photos like some unwelcome but necessary family guest at a wedding.
He made some pointless comments about rule of law in the South China Sea knowing full-well that China will do what it wants and no amount of death stare diplomacy from the Bish is going to deter them.
By all accounts the trip was a success. His hosts had never heard of Sam Dastyari so Malcolm could avoid embarrassment by not mentioning the war.
Not that it’s an actual shooting war yet, but the confrontation between China and the rest-of-the world in the South China Sea is not impossible.
In a world of unstable empires and weak nation-states an angry little war between our neighbours could escalate rather quickly if the U.S. decides to get involved.
But anyway, all that’s just a distraction for the Fizza, who by his own accounting has had a thumping good first year as Prime Minister.
Turnbull told anyone who’d listen:
"It has been a year of considerable progress and considerable achievement."
And why shouldn’t we believe Malcolm? After all, he is a successful merchant banker, a remarkably rich “self-made” millionaire, he’s lifted himself up by the bootstraps and he deserves every laundered penny of his obscene wealth.
Of course, the mainstream media would go all negative on him wouldn’t they? After all, it’s only jealousy and hubris and mean-spirited Tony-lovers who don’t wish the PM well.
As for the rest of us, we just adore the Fizza and it’s obvious from the large spontaneous crowds that gathered in the early gloom at Fairbairn airbase in Canberra to welcome home a tired but triumphant PM at the end of his busy week abroad. [Ed’s note: I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen.]
So what did the rest of us happy campers get up to while Malcolm and Julie “short shorts” Bishop were off saving the free world from heavily-armed Chinese junks, Islamic terrorisms and an imminent economic Armageddon?
We got on with totting up the Fizza’s successes.
I eagerly took off my shoes and socks in anticipation of all the high numbers counting I was about to do, but I soon realised it was cold and put my socks back on. That was OK though because by the time I got through the adding up exercise I had plenty of fingers left over — I didn’t need them to total up all the good things that Malcolm has done for us as Prime Minister.
For mine, I felt that Jeff Kennett was being a bit harsh, he only counted as far as “zero” before his list of Fizza achievements was full as a goog.
You know what was really funny about that? Kennett gave his withering assessment of Turnbull on the Tony Abbott Appreciation Hour broadcast on the Sky News network.
If you close your eyes, wish really hard and stamp your feet three times you end up inside the Canberra beltway and from there, the view of Malcolm doesn’t look all that bad.
Just ask John Howard who has suddenly been pushed back on to the public stage as the Liberals cast around for someone to replace the Fizza.
Howard is loved by the blue rinse set inside the Liberal Party but the rest of the country hates the rancid old goat, though he is the last Liberal PM who did anything of any note (gun buybacks) so he’s a bit of a hero to the rusted-on true believers.
Howard believes that the Fizza will serve out the rest of his term of office – that is, until the 2019 election – something that fills Tony Abbott and his cronies with dread and leaves the rest of us feeling numb with loathing at the prospect.
Come on Tony, for the sake of the country you need to mount a challenge and knife this loser in the back. Just like he did to you. You know you want to, Tony. What are you waiting for?
Well not much it seems. While Turnbull was out of the country, Abbott kept up his strategic sniping of well-placed media hits amounting to a running commentary on the PM’s many shortcomings.
Come on Tones, this is your one chance to earn redemption and the gratitude of the nation. You can bask in the moment of warm public adoration as the man who brought down one of the nation’s most disliked prime ministers.
That should last all of two minutes before the punters realise what you’ve done and #auspol will resume normal transmission. We will all go back to hating you and life will move on — till we get a chance to throw you out too at the next election.
So, while we wait for your next move Tony, we should see what the shadow prime minister is up to.
No, I don’t mean Bill Shorten.
What will Fizza do next?
Parliament is sitting this week and it didn’t start well for the Turnbull Government.
Due to a fortuitous combination of successful Labor tactics and the Government’s own lack of leadership, Monday was a disaster for Turnbull. It’s not a good sign that the Liberal’s overblown agenda of “reform” of superannuation of its “Budget repair” bills will have an easy time.
Senate delaying tactics, like referring the broadcast legislation to a committee will also slow things down. And that’s probably a good thing.
You see, it’s not Turnbull’s lack of achievement that has me worried or angry. On the contrary, I’m pleased that the Fizza is well, a fizzer. He’s a lame duck PM with a poor track record and little chance of winning another election either inside or outside the parliamentary Liberal caucus rooms.
What bothers me is what Turnbull will try to do during the course of this Parliament.
The list of draconian cuts to welfare for everyone from newborn babies to the elderly and dying will be, if it gets past the house and the senate, a kick in the guts for every worker in the country.
Unfortunately, Labor is going to sign up to most of this while claiming the moral high ground on a paltry reversal of cuts such as NewStart. Young mums will take the hit instead.
The Government’s anti-union agenda is also alarming.
While 55 Melbourne brewery workers are fighting for their jobs, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash is gearing up to squash the building industry unions and keep wages low for everyone else.
The PM did finally announce that the marriage equality plebiscite legislation will be tabled this week. What is that about? The only people who want it are the bigots who oppose gay rights. Everyone else thinks it’s a waste of money and a waste of time.
Not only that, unless they mount a campaign of dreadful homophobic fear (think Bernardi’s bestiality claims but worse) the ‘No’ campaign has no chance of winning.
The logic of the plebiscite doesn’t add up. Would you hold a plebiscite to determine climate policy and allow the skeptics to mount a serious challenge? No, you wouldn’t but Turnbull probably would. He is wedded to the plebiscite proposal because he is beholden to the Tony faction and the conservative right.
There’s also something not quite right about funding both sides of this unequal and unnecessary "debate". It’s as if the Government is trying to control the whole discussion perhaps within "safe" guidelines.
But who gets to decide where the funding is allocated? How all that’s to be decided and the detail is murky. If allegations of Turnbull’s backroom deal with the Christian lobby are true, it doesn’t bode well for either side.
This is a sign of Malcolm the man and he is a failure. After banging on about how fixing the economy via "Jobson Grothe" is a moral issue, on the big moral issue of the day, the PM is missing in action.
He’s bungled this badly. Rather than come back from his overseas jaunt refreshed, he returned to a complete stuff up in the Senate which made the government look stupid.
Cabinet began leaking after its first meeting of the year and the Parliamentary agenda looks stuffed.
The Fizza’s flagship bills – on Budget savings, taxing the "taxed-nots" and not taxing those who should be taxed and on same sex marriage – are barely on life support and the chance of them going through the house and senate unmolested is rapidly approaching a negative number.
Maybe I’m too pessimistic, while there’s nothing more dangerous than an ambitious, cornered egomaniac, the lack of organisation on the Government side gives me hope.
Is it the Abbottistas laying waste to the empire before they seize it or is it incompetence?
I don’t care — but I like it.