Lost in a mid-winter Canberra fog

Laura Tingle’s Friday AFR column ends with:

The despair in Coalition ranks is extraordinary. As thick as a mid-winter Canberra fog.

At the beginning:

“What on earth does the government think it is doing?” was the mystified question du jour in Parliament House. You might expect it from business executives who don’t have time to focus day to day on politics. It’s just a little more alarming coming from government backbenchers and even ministers’ staff.

The latest kerfuffle is over the use or non-use of the term “occupied” to refer to East Jerusalem and occupied West Bank territories. Apparently the term “disputed” preferred by Israel has been used. Rural Liberals are seething over Attorney-General George Brandis’s remarks about East Jerusalem, accusing him of “intellectual arrogance”.

They have very real concerns over live cattle exports. In Jedda, 57 Arab foreign ministers condemned the Federal Government’s decision not to use the term “occupied” when referring to east Jerusalem.

Their statement, issued in Jeddah, also calls on member states to “take necessary measures” in response.

The declaration was made as the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop sought to assure ambassadors from many of those countries that Australia’s position hasn’t changed.

It’s not clear if her efforts will have the desired effect.

Tingle says that Bishop apologised. No-one seems to know whether there has been a considered change in position, or whether it was a Brandis stuff-up. Bishop claimed on Insiders that there had been no change in position, claiming that practice is to use “East Jerusalem”, “West Bank” or “occupied territories”, but not in combination. She claims that they were verballed by Lee Rhiannon. Nevertheless they seem to have gotten themselves into a twist.

Beyond the East Jerusalem dispute Tingle says:

the government is under deadly attack from those communists at the Australian Medical Association. Its new president, associate professor Brian Owler, wrote this week the health measures in the budget “add up to bad health policy”.

“The health of Australians is too important for healthcare to be an ideological toy,” he said.

“The AMA is supportive of some co-payments, but not the one proposed by the government.”

This is the AMA leading the fight against a co-payment, an organisation that fought Medicare for decades.

Then business is reconsidering their relations with government finding Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen “are open to talking and that there are some Labor policies that are actually more pro-business than those of the government.”

Then there are all the welfare bludgers, the people Joe Hockey refers to as parasitic “leaners”. Tingle continues:

Liberal MPs report the outrage of aged voters who will lose their $800 seniors supplement.

But what is striking is that these voters aren’t angry about losing the $800 as much as they are about feeling they have been portrayed as welfare bludgers.

The feedback about an anger that is not going away is it is very different to what MPs have felt before because it isn’t just about hip pockets but a sense the budget has broken something at a community level, particularly universal healthcare and access to education.

What causes despair on the Coalition backbench is that the senior ranks of the government don’t seem to recognise that something has been genuinely broken that the Coalition team will never be able to get back. That an electorate that never quite got a handle on Tony Abbott has one it will now never let go.

You will recall back in May the fearsome grilling Abbott suffered from ABC talkback radio callers who accused him of lying, fearmongering and endangering the health of pensioners. Photographers can be cruel. This was the occasion of Abbott’s famous wink, but take a look at this shot by Penny Stephens:


This post can serve open thread on politics.

13 thoughts on “Lost in a mid-winter Canberra fog”

  1. Oh go on. That’s nothing. Senator whatshisname from Victoria, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs can beat that. Incredibly, he chose a major conference of war veterans and peacekeepers to come out with his It-Seemed-Like-A-Good-Idea-At-The-Time Award Winner for 2014.

    Yessir! All the younger veterans don’t want to be on “welfare(???)” for the rest of their days; they want the dignity of work.

    Fair enough, all veterans, including the old codgers like me, would prefer earning REAL MONEY instead of having to have treatment and to have rehabilitation training as well as having to have their ENTITLEMENT to a DVA (not Centrelink) pension if they are unable to work because of injuries and illnesses that came about through the hazards of being on Active Service.

    But you do not try to win the votes of war veterans and peacekeepers for your Party by appearing to insinuate, without actually saying;
    (a). They are leaners and bludgers.
    (b). The government is more Entitled to their money than they and their families are.
    (c). Any Job Is A Good Job – so those who were harmed in serving their nation should be quite delighted with any casual, underpaid job that comes along.

    There is absolutely no truth whatsoever in suggestions that Talib hero, Abdul bin Wheelbarrow, has rejected overtures from the current temporary government to become the next Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

  2. Isn’t it strange that “[insert target group here] want the dignity of work” is never followed by an explanation of how the speaker is going to create worthwhile jobs? It appears the only way they know to instil dignity is by cutting benefits.
    Might I suggest we rehabilitate the occupation of politician by removing all of the perks and making the remuneration equal to Newstart? It might give them some dignity and help reduce the overwhelming smell which permeates the cohort.

  3. Oh Zoot! How could you be so unkind! Doesn’t imposing reality, consistency, tolerance, understanding, observation, common sense and knowledge on our glorious decision-makers constitute ‘cruel-and-unusual punishment’?

  4. Forgot to mention – speaking of our glorious decision-makers – and in line with what Zoot said: apparently, tonight’s ABC Four Corners is to be on political corruption in Australia.

    Although, in my opinion, Australian politics today is as dodgy as was Latin American or Emerging African politics back in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies …. I really do feel sorry for the many Australian parliamentarians, in all parties, who themselves are honest and who do act with the will to do their best for their constituents.

  5. Any Government ( either side ) speaker that says they create jobs is being mendacious.
    The best they can boast is ” We got outa the way and allowed [ insert number ] jobs to be created “

  6. Hate to disagree with you jumpy (no, really) but I believe a large Public Service could be construed as a government creating jobs. Of course the Austrians and the Chicago School probably disagree, and you’ll let me know why.

  7. zoot, currently about 2 million jobs to be roughly exact.

    Add to that the $40 billion/year tendered to the private sector by the federal government.

    And who knows how many billions from all the states and councils?

    I’m pretty sure all of that creates a few jobs too.

  8. Another mystifying move I forgot to mention is the part repeal of financial planning regulations Labor introduced to stop financial advisors benefiting from high commissions on investments that were disadvantageous to their clients.

    Basically the Govt are saying they are cutting red tape. Others, not just Labor, are saying the fox will be back in the chook house.

    This one is complex. It’s clear that we won’t be going back to the situation that prevailed prior to Labor’s regulations. Most who know and are disinterested have concerns that background incentives could be introduced, by big banks in particular who control 80% of the industry, in spite of what they say.

    However, Clive Palmer thinks it’s a rotten proposal, so probably we won’t be going anywhere.

  9. Brian @ 8: Nothing mysterious nor complex at all about robbing people. It is all merely another aspect of how the Kleptocracy Of Australia operates these days. The English-speaking world hasn’t seen anything like this since The Enclosures, The Clearances, the West Indies Plantations and the early days of The Industrial Revolution.

  10. If you behave as though you hate the environment, the old, the young, the poor, anyone with a different background to to you and… you can expect to be tad unpopular. Even more so if it looks like the only people you sort of love are the entitled rich.
    Then there are the stupid decisions from people like the minister supporting bigots. Even if you do think East Jerusalem is “disputed” it makes no foreign affairs sense to say so.

  11. Zoot @6
    I think you may be confusing ” create ” and ” conjure “.
    Governments only responsibility is to respond to the demand created by the private citizens. Some time they conjure this demand from thin air, this needs to stop.
    The private citizens even created the politicians jobs.
    If the politician needs assistance to perform a task demanded of them by the private citizens, then, a new job ( or 1000 jobs) is created.
    Governments do not create jobs.
    Politicians do not create jobs.

    Anyway, that’s the way I see it at present.
    Please try and change my perception if you want to, I’ll listen.
    ( Ive never been to or met Austria/ns nor California/ns, why, what is their take on it? )

  12. Sorry jumpy, you’re way too erudite for me. I have no idea what you mean by “conjure”, so I’m afraid your comment is totally meaningless to me. My fault entirely.

  13. Aww, c’mon Zoot, don’t be so hard on ya self.
    Or are you trying to replace me as ” least educated in the room ” ?
    And I’m not an Erudite, I’m a bloody Australian !!&!! mate ay.

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