16.3 C
Byron Shire
October 3, 2022

Thus Spake Mungo: the barnacles keep clinging

Latest News

‘Sad and distressing’: massive numbers of bird deaths in Australian heatwaves reveal a profound loss is looming

Heatwaves linked to climate change have already led to mass deaths of birds and other wildlife around the world. To stem the loss of biodiversity as the climate warms, we need to better understand how birds respond.

Other News

Comment: Why we need a federal ICAC

I’ve been thinking about very slow things. Thinking about very fast trains that are very slow coming. Thinking about the never-ending Ballina-Byron Airport upgrade – build a new entry, take it out. Build a new, new entry. Take it out. Rinse, repeat.

CWA push for improved maternity services

The W in CWA stands for Women and the CWA have been standing up for women yet again during their recent webinar and annual Awareness Week campaign.

Woman critically injured in fight; second woman charged with attempted murder – Tweed Heads

A woman remains in hospital in a critical condition and a second woman has been charged following an alleged stabbing at Tweed Heads yesterday.

Woman dies in multi-vehicle crash near Lismore

A woman has died in a multi-vehicle crash south-west of Lismore yesterday.

Wahlburgers in Byron

Walking into Wahlburgers on Sunday arvo, the sun was shining, the staff were smiling, there was a nice vibe...

Torres Strait Islanders win historic human rights fight

A group of eight Torres Strait Islander people have made international legal history, after the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the Australian Government is violating its human rights obligations to them through climate change inaction.

By Mungo MacCallum

When, battered, bewildered and haggard, the coalition troops staggered back to their electorates after Tony Abbott’s year of achievement, there was just one shred of comfort: the beloved leader had finally back-flipped on his Paid Parental Leave scheme.

Well, not quite back-flipped: let’s say downsized, recalibrated, or, as he himself might say, tweaked. At least that’s what we think has happened: as always, there was no real explanation or detail, and certainly no mea culpa.

But it appears that one barnacle has been scraped off, and that’s a start. Of course, it was a no-brainer: the scheme was clearly unaffordable, widely derided and had no chance of passing though the parliament: if the crossbenchers did not scuttle it, some of Abbott’s own government senators were willing and eager to do the job for them.

But this has been the case for months, years even; so why the procrastination? Well, just the prime minister’s stubbornness: it was his baby and he was determined to protect it no matter what – or at least until it was dragged from his grasp. And when it was, it wasn’t going to be when parliament was sitting. There had been quite enough gloating already.

The dying days had finally produced what the commentators called a win: Scott Morrison, through a mixture of bribery and extortion, got through his Temporary Protection Visas and, incidentally, was allowed to tear up the United Nations Convention on Refugees and the rule of international law in process. But for the long-suffering backbenchers, it was too little and too late.

What they were on about was the economy, stupid: more specifically the budget. And on that front, there was still no discernible movement. The polls were dire and getting direr, and it appeared that for everyone but Abbott, Joe Hockey and the irrepressible Christopher Pyne, the government was in a much worse shape than it had been a year ago. Hence the rumblings: leadership tensions, suggestions of a rift between Abbott and his deputy Julie Bishop, and the suggestion that Hockey should be dumped, perhaps in favour of Malcolm Turnbull.

It should be said at once that the latter is just not going to happen. Hockey is frequently accident prone and regularly ridiculed by the public and even by some of his colleagues but he is invulnerable: to bring him down would be an admission of total defeat for the whole government strategy, and while that might increasingly be called into question, if it is to collapse it will do so with a prolonged and gradual whimper, not with a catastrophic bang.

And the idea that Abbott would give the popular and charismatic Turnbull the job is absurd: having relegated his predecessor to the thankless tasks of cobbling up a parody of the NBN and whittling away at the even more popular ABC, he intends to keep him down where he belongs, a comfortable place to sit on.

But Bishop is another story. When she was informed that she was to be accompanied by Abbott’s trusted enforcer Andrew Robb for her trip to the climate change conference in Lima, she was reportedly furious. For starters, the conference was her initiative: Abbott did not want any ministerial representation at all, and Bishop had to insist on her prerogative. Then there was the way it was done: Abbott did not tell her in person – according to some reports she had to find out through the media.

But more importantly it was a deliberate slap in the face – a declaration that she was not to be trusted by herself. Robb may be a very successful trade minister, but he has absolutely nothing to do with climate change – in fact he has the reputation of a climate sceptic. If another minister was really needed to hold Bishop’s hand it should surely have been the environment minister, the hapless and ineffectual Greg Hunt.

Since Robb could not contribute to the policy deliberations in Lima, it could only be that he was there to play bad cop to Bishop’s good cop: to make clear that whatever aspirations might be floated, Australia’s (meaning Abbott’s) economic imperatives were respected and that coal was to remain good for exports and therefore good for humanity. The message would be offensive for just everyone in Lima, but mainly for Bishop, who was mightily miffed and will not easily forgive or forget.

Which brings us back, as it should, to Abbott himself: the buck stops with him. In spite of the forced concession on the PPL, he is still not for turning. No changes to his office, no reshuffle, and no serious changes of either direction or style. He seems to really believe his pre-election prediction that the mere fact that Labor has been defeated and that he is in government is all that is needed: a sort of universal application of the born-to-rule mentality that characterised the Liberals for much of the Menzies years.

Hockey is rather more forward thinking, but no less delusional: after ranting away in the parliament about Labor’s debt and deficit disaster and the urgent need for budget repair, he told the punters to spend, spend, spend: the situation would improve next year and even more so the near after. Every day in every way things are getting better and better. Well, that’s not what we will hear from MYEFO, in spite of the improbable assumption that the whole of the 2014 budget measures will be passed.

As a result the voters are confused, a bewilderment shared by their elected representatives. What Abbott’s backbenchers want is not constant reassurances of delivery, but deliverance. And as for Abbott and his cabinet, it seems they are getting ready to fall back on the Brechtian solution: if the people continue to refuse to wake up to themselves and see that the government is in good hands, there will be no alternative except to abolish the people.

Of course, the great German playwright was being ironical. But there are moments when Abbott and his tame media supporters seem to be getting serious.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. hey Mungo, don’t forget to mention the GREAT achievements the Abbott Government has brought about!!
    like SPC now being one of the highest achieving Companies in Australia, all because Mr. Hockey would not give them ‘sit down money’! they now produce a fruit sorbet that is the envy of the world. there are so many people trying to get the product SPC can’t keep up the machines!!
    don’t forget that cattle station in the NT & Kimberleys, are turning off cattle for the first time in 30 years, all because Mr. Hockey refuses to give them welfare!!

  2. Oh Yes, Lets not forget that SPC is wholly owned by Coca cola/Amatill & perhaps they wouldn’t like to lose that arm of the manufacturing process, Maybe they’d like to grow tobacco in the future………….


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

CWA push for improved maternity services

The W in CWA stands for Women and the CWA have been standing up for women yet again during their recent webinar and annual Awareness Week campaign.

Chris Minns visits Kingscliff to look at floodplain development risks

The potential future risks and costs of flooding to the community and government if approved, but yet to be built, housing is allowed to go ahead in floodplains was under the spotlight last week in Kingscliff.

The Tweed Artisan Food Festival is almost here

The sixth Tweed Artisan Food Festival will be held at the end of the month – the festival runs for 10 days with 20 curated events showcasing the people, the place and the produce of the Tweed.

$30 million Aboriginal Community and Place Grants

Eligible Aboriginal community organisations and groups can apply for funding through the new solutions-focused $30 million Aboriginal Community and Place Grants program.