29.4 C
Byron Shire
January 17, 2022

Thus Spake Mungo: Victorians come down to earth

Latest News

The earliest unequivocally modern human remains in Africa

There may be earlier remains of modern humans – but science is certain about these ones.

Other News

Djokovic saga exemplifies the joke Australia has become

Tennis Australia officials and a good number of Aussie tennis fans were relieved to hear the ruling made by Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly on Monday that Novak Djokovic can stay in Melbourne – for now.

Degustation for health

Whilst you may not initially associate a six-course degustation with matching wines, prepared by the region’s finest chefs, with...

Queensland NSW border to open up this Saturday

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced today (Thursday, 13 January) that the Queensland NSW border would no longer require a...

776 cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Rivers in last 24 hours

There’s no shortage of positive COVID-19 cases in the Northern NSW Health District with the current count likely to be an underestimation of the numbers due to the overwhelmed testing capacity.

Southern Cross University awarded almost $2 million for innovative research

Southern Cross University has received more than $1.94 million in government funding for innovative research at the institution.

The earliest unequivocally modern human remains in Africa

There may be earlier remains of modern humans – but science is certain about these ones.

By Mungo MacCallum

Well, there goes the jewel in the crown, as Robert Menzies used to describe, rather smugly, the Victorian Liberal Party.

His smugness was justified: the Libs held power in the cabbage patch state from 1955 until 1982 – 27 years, even longer than the seemingly endless federal regime inaugurated by Ming the Merciless himself.

But since then, Victoria has come down to earth, and last weekend with a resounding thud. Denis Napthine, the less than one term premier, has joined the elite ranks of the leaders who have never won an election.

His had been a fraught administration – a change of premiers, the looming demise of the car industry and the soapie shemozzle of Geoff Shaw, which led to minority government.

But for all that, it was not widely disliked or resented and his Labor opponent was somewhere between undistinguished and anonymous. In the normal course of events he could have looked forward to a second term with at least a measure of confidence. But everything changed in May, when his own generally praised state budget was overwhelmed by the avalanche from Canberra.

Napthine himself has been too tactful to sheet the entire blame for his demise on Tony Abbott, but his defeated colleagues and their supporters have not been so restrained. Almost from the start they saw that Abbott was electoral poison, and then it got worse.

The campaign itself was largely absent from the prime minister in person, but he featured prominently in the advertising – the Labor advertising, of course, not from those endorsed by his party but desperately shunning any mention of it and from him.

And when the polls had made it clear that the voters had made up their minds and the change was inevitable, Abbott announced that if they exercised their democratic right he would rip some $1.5 billion from their infrastructure spending as a condign punishment. It looked petulant and spiteful, and will do nothing to mollify Victorians as they prepare to wait for the next federal election. If they have to make a choice between Abbott and the CFMEU, there is no doubt which they see as the lesser of two evils.

So Victoria has been well and truly scraped off: but this was presumably not one of the barnacles Abbott was referring to when he told the troops he was going to do a bit of careening before Christmas. Then, just what were they?

Not, it appears, the much loathed $7 GP co-payment, the increases in university fees, or the cancelling of the dole for the young unemployed; after some obfuscation and confusion, all have finally confirmed as unwavering commitments. And not the raft of under-performing ministers, long overdue for reshuffling: even the widely ridiculed defence minister, David Johnston, has Abbott’s full confidence. Which brings us, or at least it should bring us, to the prime minister himself, and his weirdly dysfunctional office.

It is not that the problem is new, or that it has not attracted widespread comment. In the past fortnight, Abbott’s most desperate supporters have bombarded him with advice, much of it contradictory: be more flexible, be more adamant – be both; be more aggressive, more conciliatory; return to your model in opposition, remake yourself in government; explain your policies in more detail, keep them simple and concise; go back to the speedos, buy more blue ties.

And of course, do something about the office. But within that sanctum, there is one barnacle that dare not speak its name: the paramount limpet, She Who Must Be Obeyed, Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin.

The timid and deafening silence about naming Credlin comes only from the Abbott acolytes: his critics and opponents have been rather more vocal. Credlin has been accused of all kinds of offences, some of them improbable, many even scurrilous. But one thing is agreed: Credlin is the immovable, implacable, barrier between the prime minister and the outside world.

She demands subservience not only to backbenchers and ordinary functionaries, but to ministers and to the heads of the public service – even, some say, to Abbott himself. She is authoritarian, obsessive and remorseless; no detail escapes her, no peccadillo remains unpunished.

Those with long memories recall the days of Juni Morosi in the office of Labor treasurer Jim Cairns and even further back to Liberal prime minister John Gorton’s factotum Ainsley Gotto. One common element is sexism, misogyny even, but a more important one was that all three were outsiders: none had spent much previous time or experience in the culture of parliament house and all were resented by those who had.

And as a result they became zealously protective gatekeepers, installing their own apparatchiks as loyal and obedient guard dogs and shielding their respective bosses from any influences that might disrupt their cabals. The inevitable outcome was a pre-emption of eccentric and unworkable policies, a total lack of frank and fruitful advice, a breakdown of communication, confusion, resentment and chaos. And in the end – and they were pretty brief ends — the first two political masters they dominated crashed spectacularly.

Those government supporters intent on reform rather than simple vengeance are genuinely concerned that their own leader may suffer the same fate. But so far Abbott seemed determined to stand firm: he is, he has said, quoting his mentor Margaret Thatcher, not for turning.

It might work; he might still muddle through for another two years, turn the polls around and prevail over an uninspiring opposition and its leader. But barnacles, if not attended to, can eventually sink the boat altogether. I recall a wonderful cartoon from the dying days of the government of Billy McMahon, when Bruce Patty drew the hapless prime minster clinging to a piece of smouldering wreckage.

The caption, adapted from the poem Casabianca by Felicia Hemans, read: The boy stood on the burning deck/ Whence all but he had fled./ And a staggering piece of insight/ Kept going around in his head./ When the flame of truth hits the ship of state/ And the tides of time are turning/ They tend to bucket the captain/ When the ship is what is burning.

Is history repeating?


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.

2 COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The Greens launch NurseKeeper for nurses and paramedics

The Greens have written to the Premier to ask him to immediately introduce ‘NurseKeeper’ to urgently introduce pandemic pay and bonuses for nurses and paramedics. 

Lung specialist ‘we’re doing the best we can’ and Hazzard lays it on the line for the unvaccinated

At this morning's COVID-19 update press conference, Concord and Nepean Hospitals lung specialist Dr Lucy Morgan gave an update on COVID-19. Dr Morgan says she works as part of a team of people looking after patients with COVID.

Lismore’s Australia Day Ambassadors

Ahead of the Australia Day celebrations Olympians Kaarle McCulloch and Kevin Chavez have been announced as Lismore’s 2022 Australia Day Ambassadors.

Northern Rivers Animal Services needs helpers

Ballina-based animal welfare organisation Northern Rivers Animal Services Inc is on the lookout for cat-lovers to help at their cat cottage, and foster carers for both dogs and cats.