Tony Abbott’s days as leader of the Coalition are numbered.
Whether or not he takes the LNP down with him remains to be seen.
This weeks Senate debacle was simply another of a long line marked by
inept leadership which rests on a conceit that the government has carte blanche to mold Australian society ‘in their own image’ without opposition or accountability.
It is not the failure of Abbott’s efforts to rush the repeal of the
Carbon Tax through the Senate, nor is it the government’s inhumane
treatment of asylum seekers and the arrogance of the Minister for
Immigration Scott Morrison in refusing to reveal information ‘for
operational reasons’ that has driven the final nail in the coffin of
Abbott’s leadership, although these have certainly been deciding factors
in the mind of the Australian public.
The deciding blow fell far more quietly when a panel of leading
economists who took part in Business Day’s mid-year survey rejected the
government’s claims of ‘a budget emergency’ with former chief economist
of ANZ and now senior economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Saul
Eslake, labelling the government’s claims as ‘an abuse of the English language.’
Eslake was not alone in his condemnation. Chris Caton from BT Financial dismissed the claims as; “Simply absurd.”
Those who took part in the survey ranged from market economists, academics, consultants, industry and unions.
Opinions varied but most like AMP Capital’s Shane Oliver, agreed that “Australia was not facing a budget or public debt crisis.”
While the government’s claims of a ‘budget emergency’ had been
challenged even before it was delivered by the Treasurer in May, the
added weight of the ‘doyens of the dollar’ such as Eslake and Caton, and
academics such as Mitchell and Madsen, have effectively sunk any
remaining credibility of what Tony Abbott had hoped to be the showpiece
of the LNP’s ‘reforms’.
Faced with the combination of a hostile Senate led by the
unpredictable cross-benches, and plummeting polls that reflect the
electorate’s dissatisfaction – if not outright loathing of the
government and its ministers – the LNP now faces a number of choices –
none of them palatable.
In the first instance, the government can back down and attempt to negotiate with the cross benches to pass its bills.
In the face of Abbott’s statements that he would not negotiate with
independents or minor parties, the back down would leave the LNP
humiliated in the extreme, and effectively neutered in the eyes of the
In the second instance, the LNP could replace Abbott as leader,
modify the budget and attempt to win over the cross benches with a
Once again, this may prove embarrassing but much less humiliating and
may serve to shore up electoral support in order to stave off the very
real possibility of becoming a one term government.
The third option carries far more risk.
Abbott can declare a double dissolution, claiming an obstructionist
Senate is preventing governance and take his budget policies to the
electorate in the hope that the Murdoch machine and to a lesser degree
Fairfax, will throw their weight behind his claims.
This can only be done however, if the Senate rejects the Carbon Tax repeal bill for a second time.
The double dissolution option is unlikely due to the fact that it
requires both the House of Reps and the Senate seats to be declared open
Neither Abbott nor Palmer want to risk this occurring.
Abbott for fear of losing the LNP’s majority in the lower House, and Palmer for losing his leverage in the Senate.
What is likely, is that the repeal will be passed with the amendments demanded by PUP.
If not, then despite Minister for the Environmen Greg Hunt’s
posturing, it’s a fairly safe bet that the government will shelve the
repeal in an humiliating climb down, and attempt to justify this as
‘bowing to the will of the people’ rather than face an election.
Whatever the outcome next week, the results do not bode well for Abbott and his hold on the leadership of the LNP.
The father of modern political strategy Niccolo Machiavelli, observed
that if you find your enemy waist deep in a mire then it is prudent to
lend aid in helping him freeing himself.
If however, your enemy is up to his neck then it is good sense to push him under.
Abbott is not yet up to his neck in the mire but he’s certainly up
past his waist, and while the ALP have largely remained silent and
content to give the Coalition enough rope to hang themselves, the time
for action draws nigh.
Since coming to office, there have been few Coalition governments
that have galvanized the Left, and indeed most of the moderate Right in
the way which the Abbott government has.
From its inept and post-Colonial attitudes to foreign policy, its
secretive and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, to its utter
determination to create a poorly educated underclass in order to create a
‘market driven’ economy, the Abbott government has been able to
alienate Australians in a manner unlike any government before it.
This has resulted in the majority of voters now ‘waiting for Lefty’ –
a political party whose premises rest on social justice and the
entrenched Australian notion of a ‘fair go for all’ coupled with
intelligent approach to climate change.
In the past, this role has largely fallen to the Labor Party with the Greens as a second preference.
Over the last two decades however, the ALP has steadily become almost barely distinguishable from its conservative counterpart.
Much of this shift can be traced to its abandonment of a commitment
to full employment and embracing ‘supply side’ economic theory over the
Keynesian applications that had served as the central plank of its
policies for nearly four decades.
The current situation enables the ALP to re-invent itself as a
revitalized and credible alternative to the execrable policies of the
Coalition’s Neo-liberalism agenda.
While there are many fronts that afford the Labor party an
opportunity to do this, the primary concerns should be focused on
rejecting ‘supply side’ economics in favour of post-Keynesian economics
in order to stimulate the economy by a return to full employment coupled
with a determination to fully fund the public education system.
Other initiatives should include a humane approach to asylum seekers
under the UN guidelines, and perhaps the most important issue that faces
us all – climate change – should take the highest priority.
Rarely is an opposition party afforded the opportunity which lies before them at the moment.
With a government in disarray and its leader’s credibility in tatters, the ALP’s best strategy is to carpe deim
and take the fight to the enemy while at the same time clearly
delineating themselves as a viable political alternative to
Neo-liberalism and not simply as the modified version which has plagued
them for the past two decades and resulted in a shift of voter
preference to the Greens or minor parties.
A total rejection of Chicago School Theory and an embrace of
post-Keynesian economics would the most positive step that the ALP could
take to cement its reputation as a Party dedicated to progressive
political change on the behalf of the community as a whole and not
simply as a slightly different version of a tool to serve corporate
In the main, it can be argued that the bulk of Australian voters are
counting the days until the demise of the Coalition as government, or at
the very least, the demise of Tony Abbott as leader.
In the wake of the ‘Marches’ that are becoming more frequent and
attracting larger sections of the community, the time grows ripe for the
emergence of a new Left; one that is focused on social justice as its raison d’etre.
It’s crystal clear that most of the Australian electorate are now waiting for Lefty.
Let’s hope that we’re not keep waiting much longer.
the Abbott was telling us that it wouldn't comment on the Marie Celeste
boatload of asylum seekers because it was an "operational matter",
whereas today they're not commenting because the matter is before the
court. Perhaps, next week they won't be commenting because - like the
East/West Tunnel in Victoria - they have written…
Bolt and Alan Jones are distressed. Their good friend and hero Tony
Abbott is flailing from crisis to crisis, embarrassment to
embarrassment. Struggling to develop a cohesive palatable message. The
polls are stubbornly bad for his government and it appears any
credibility or integrity he had left in the eyes of the public is…