If you’re a progressive in Australia this has been a good weekend and much more fun than the official “Australia Day” of last week.
The Soceroos beat South Korea 2-1 to win the Asian Cup in soccer.
But even better, Campbell “Can Do” Newman got smashed in the Queensland state election and the knives are being sharpened in the Liberal caucus to stab Two Punch Tony Abbott in the back, the ribs, stomach and the neck.
In fact, by the end of the week he is likely to have more punctures than a balloon after a fight with a porcupine.
To top it off, the kool-aid slurping columnists on Rupert Murdoch’s Aussie rags are beside themselves with hubris and confusion.
So forget the soccer and the tennis; this weekend has been all about the politics.
After backing Two Punch Tony all the way for the past 16 months the NewsCorpse minions are now falling over each other in an attempt to explain away Abbott’s obvious failings and to shift the blame elsewhere.
Even the rusted-on Liberal editbot Chris Kenny is getting twitchy about Abbott’s chances.
It’s no surprise really because Rupert himself has been Twittering his thoughts to all and sundry; his editors could hardly miss the point:
Peta Credlin is Tony Abbott’s chief of staff and for months she has been the story, which is not where a CoS should really be if they’re doing their job properly.
According to insiders, Credlin is the real power in the PM’s office and it is she who calls the shots; including, it seems, telling senior ministers who they can and cannot employ. You hardly ever see a picture of Abbott without Credlin in the shot — even when he is meeting other heads of state and prime ministers, her grey presence is there, lurking in the background.
Now the calls are coming loud and clear that Credlin should be sacked, or as Uncle Rupert put it so elegantly on Twitter:
In a display of just how tightly Rupert holds the reins at News Corp Australia, one of his “top” columnists, Miranda Devine, acted (of her own volition, I’m sure) to put the boot into Peta Credlin again.
May we live in interesting times
Those of us with long memories cannot remember a more volatile or interesting time in Australian politics. It’s not the constitutional coup of 1975 when Kerr’s cur replaced Gough Whitlam, but it is pretty damned exciting none the less.
Despite his “no surprises” quip during the election, the Prime Ministership of Tony “Two Punch” Abbott has been full of the unexpected and is perhaps now in terminal decline after one “surprise” too many. And this weekend a sitting state premier lost his seat and his government was routed in Queensland.
“So what?” you might ask. It is not unusual for a prime minister to become unpopular, nor is it unusual for a state government to lose office. Electorates are fickle beasts.
“Yes,” I would respond…”but…”
And it’s s big but:
- But it is unusual for a prime minister to be so unpopular just 16 months into a four year term.
- But it is almost unheard of for a first time government to be so on the nose with voters so soon.
- But it is almost unheard of for a state premier who won in a landslide to be turfed out of office by an even bigger swing the other way.
And, what’s most unusual in a country with three layers of government (local, state & federal) is for there to be an almost one-to-one correspondence between the visceral hatred of a prime minister and personal loathing of a state premier.
The bottom line is that conservative politicians in Australia are almost universally on the nose.
No, let me rephrase that: Conservative politicians in Australia carry the stink of death.
No matter how many hot showers or how often they wash their grey suits and blue ties the smell of decay sticks to them like flies on shit.
Now it looks like Labor will form a government in Queensland and even 18 months out from the next federal election the writing is on the wall for Abbott — or more fittingly, the “electronic grafitti” of social media points to Two Punch being gone by Easter.
Yes, Tony Abbott is clearly getting good communications advice from someone in his office; dismissing social media as “electronic graffiti” makes as much sense as, Oh, I don’t know…randomly thinking outloud:
As…making a British royal a knight in the Order of Australia.
Oh yeah, that’s what Two Punch did on Australia Day this year.
It is a sign of just how disconnected Abbott is from the sentiments of most Australians that he could think — even for a split second — that knighting Prince “Phil the Greek” Philip was a good move.
But it shows how arrogant Two Punch really is. He described the decision on Phil the Greek’s imperial honour as a “captain’s pick” — that is he thought of it himself and didn’t consult anyone else.
It went down like a lead balloon and became just another lightning rod for discontent with Abbott both inside the party and among the generally restive populus.
With Labor’s cheering still ringing in her ears, federal Liberal MP, Jane Prentice, declared that Tony Abbott’s leadership of the party (and therefore his grasp on the title of Prime Minister) is a big part of the problem, not the solution.
The stage whispers, rumours and even loud arguments can be heard coming from the government bunkers in Canberra. There’s even public discussion of a leadership challenge as soon as this week.
However, it may not yet be all over for Two Punch. On Monday he is to give keynote speech at the National Press Club in Canberra and he must be fervently hoping that he can persuade enough of his toey party members to continue backing his leadership.
How did it all come so spectacularly unstuck for a prime minister who was gifted the job in September 2013, because of in-fighting and instability in the ranks of the Labor opposition?
The key problem for Abbott is that hardly anybody actually likes him, even fewer people actually trust him and nobody believes him after a barrel full of broken promises, mis-steps in diplomacy and kack-handed domestic policy.
As usual the sorry and obsequious pundits in the mainstream media tried all sorts of excuses to separate Two Punch and Can’t Do after this weekend.
Conservative columnists — who will say and do anything for a price — quickly abandonded all previously held “truths” about politics to intone solemnly that Queensland is different and that we cannot read too many national implications from the state election tea leaves.
However, not even a blitz of front pages from Murdoch’s Curious Snail could save Can’t Do from the voters’ wrath.
Forgetting what they said less than 12 months ago, they are now trying to make us believe that Can’t Do’s problems were all of his own making and that none of the failings in Queensland have anything to do with federal issues.
That is just rubbish. Newman and Abbott are cut from the same neo-conservative cloth; they share the same political DNA and they are in politics to further the same interests — those of the bosses and the big end of town.
Privatisation of state assets, attacks on public sector employment, cuts to health and education funding and support for environmental vandalism — fracking, mining, and despoiling the Great Barrier Reef — are their shared priorities.
It seems that Australian voters have said “Enough!” to these corrosive policies.
Abbott’s attempts to cripple Australia’s universal health care system have been stopped in their tracks; his moves to hollow out the higher education sector have been defeated by consistent and militant student protests and his “signature” but expensive policy folly Paid Parental Leave for middle class mums has been dumped.
Abbott is now in a corner with nowhere to go and no allies to back him in a fight.
And you know you really do suck when your BFF in the news media turns his back on you and sicks the spin dogs on to you and your team.
The electronic graffiti is on the wall; dissent in the streets
Perhaps the defeat of Can’t Do in Queensland was a bit of an outlier; but the polls have been consistent since the start of the year: Newman was on the nose and so too is Abbott. Their fates were interconnected too.
Abbott was unpopular from almost day one of his term. He has broken nearly all the major promises he took to the 2013 election and as his ministers prepare for the 2015 budget in May the key planks of his 2014 budget remain in disarray.
Abbott’s unpopularity is also visceral — it extends beyond the echo chamber of social media. In March last year over 200,000 people marched against the Abbott government across Australia. This was followed up with marches in May and August.
There will be more marches this year too, particularly against industrial relations policy. Attacks on wages and conditions at both state and federal levels have played a role in recent elections — including the recent reelection of Labor in Victoria.
The trade unions are now mobilising against Tony Abbott and the defeat of Campbell Newman’s anti-union politics in Queensland will give Australian workers more confidence to take on unpopular and anti-working class policies.
Newman is gone, Abbott is fatally wounded and we will not be stopped.