Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Two years in - almost

It is now very nearly two years since the last Federal election. In the week just passed the Prime Minister cancelled a scheduled Cabinet meeting that despite reports to the contrary did actually have items on the agenda. He went bush to revere the grave of Eddie Mabo - the man responsible for winning a court case under British common law that found there was such a thing as native title, a thing the Coalition opposition at the time claimed would make no one's home safe.

Two years ago on the morning after the election, Andrew Robb (then Finance spokesman) announced on ABC's Insiders 

We're ready to do the job I can tell you...

The minority government - there was no sense of direction, you know people felt there was no-one in charge, we're heading different directions every week in response to the Greens' demands and the crossbenchers and all the rest. So it led to a situation where Australia's been on hold for 12 months now. We are open for business I can tell you.

As of today the mining boom will be rebooted, right. Under Labor it was finished because of the cost uncompetitiveness that we now have. We will change that. There's $150 billion worth of projects there to be grabbed. We can do so much. We can get Australia open for business. We'll restore an appetite for risk and investment, people's jobs will grow massively. Small business will come out from under the huge shadow that they've had for the last two years.

The Prime Minister stayed in the Northern Territory while the National Reform Summit was held. Here's a question - if Cabinet had been scheduled then cancelled when did the PM decide to be away that week? Was it before or after the date for the summit was announced.

In her closing remarks to the summit BCA CEO Jennifer Westacott declared "We will not stand by and have the next election be a race to the bottom of the things politicians will not do."

But there's the rub - because that is certainly all this Government promises; it is all it has ever promised. This is the government that believes in small government - led by a Prime Minister who is fundamentally caught in a contradiction. As I wrote previously "He dislikes Government and so really doesn't know what to do when in charge of one."

The embarrassing thing for the business community is that they backed this horse in. The over the top campaign on the mining tax was the start of it. The incredibly conflicted position on carbon - demanding that Government provide certainty for investment and then attacking the tax once it was implemented perpetuated it.

Tax reform has become a laughing stock. More things have been ruled out than in, the GST is touted as a way to close the $50 billion funding cut to state health and education budgets, yet kind uncle Joe wants tax cuts. Uncle Joe's speech last Monday was decried as the greatest embarrassment, conflating as it did bracket creep and high tax rats at the top.

Every time he opens his mouth Joe makes the case to reduce the tax burden on the richest Australians.

 And so the Prime Minister plays the national security card - some research somewhere tells him that its the economy and national security that the conservatives are traditionally strong on. At great pains to stability inside the ALP Bill Shorten refuses to bite.

Even last weekend when the Operation Fortitude media release first made the airwaves Bill was vaguely supportive of the plans to enforce immigration laws. It was only once the nonsense had collapsed that he was more strident.

The ABF is right, of course, that the kind of operation actually planned was the kind of operation immigration officers have assisted with in the past. What was different was that the attempt to politicise border security, including the uniformed Border Force.

So some well intentioned media adviser wrote a release designed to make it sound more dramatic, that the ABF would be pounding the pavement to keep Melbournians safe. Only a fool wouldn't realise that this sounded like a regime in which everyone had to cover their papers for presentation to the police - name your undemocratic state of choice for a comparison.

Then it transpires that the fool wasn't the guy who drafted it, but a guy in the Minister's office. The release was sent up first on Wednesday and not opened. Concerned he'd had no reply the officer sent it back up on Thursday, at which point he got approval.

And the Minister's response? He was crook on the weekend which is why he laid low. The Prime Minister's response - that it was an operational matter that didn't involve the executive.

Well he's wrong. Because the problem never was the operation that the ABF planned to be part of nor its role in it. The problem was the ham fisted attempt at politicising national security that was approved by the executive.

As a Labor man there is nothing I want more than Tony Abbott to stay PM right up to the next election. But as an Australian I simply don't think the country can afford another year of ineptitude on this scale.

Dutton, Hockey and Abbott - and probably Robb as well - need to be pensioned off by their party. Some of their junior ministers and parliamentary secretaries are more suited to their seats at the Cabinet table. And take your pick between Turnbull, Morrison or Bishop (J) - any one of them is a Poirot compared to Abbott's Inspector Clouseau.

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