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May 18, 2022

Thus Spake Mungo: Malcolm’s choice – Blackout Bill or the Abominable Abbott

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Liberal backbencher Tony Abbott after he was attacked in Hobart by a man he claimed was a ‘marriage equality campaigner’ but who turned out to be a disgruntled anarchist with ‘a skinful’. Photo ABC

ABC news flashed the headline last Thursday: ‘Abbott head-butted by SSM supporter.’

For a delirious moment I thought that Malcolm Turnbull had finally run out of patience with his sniping, undermining, wrecking tormentor and replied to his latest provocation with a full-blown Liverpool kiss.

But alas, it was not to be; the Mad Monk’s fat lip was just the result of a drunk Tasmanian anarchist going a little over the top in his quest for freedom of expression. Turnbull was as conciliatory as ever, deploring any such incidents as unfortunate aberrations in the debate, to use the word loosely, that had been thrust upon him.

So Abbott will continue to play the role of the Liberals’ Kim Jong Un, escalating his threats in the certain knowledge that Turnbull will not, cannot, respond.

Abbott dominated the start of last week’s news cycle with his declaration that he would be ready to lead a band of insurgents to cross the floor of parliament if Turnbull dared to put forward even a modified Clean Energy Target as suggested by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel. ‘The party,’ thundered the member for Warringah, ‘may have to save the government from itself’ – a line ominously reminiscent of General William Westmoreland, the US commander in Vietnam who boasted that he had been forced to destroy a village to save it.

It is not at all clear how many in the party share Abbott’s conviction: some reports say six, others ten. But they are definitely a relatively small minority, and given very few are prepared to name themselves (and those are the lunar extremists) it may well be that not all – in fact barely any – would go through with Abbott’s ultimatum.

But that does not really matter; even a handful of nutters would be enough to produce a crisis that Turnbull would be lucky to survive.

Abbott knows this, of course: earlier in the year he talked about the gravity of any backbencher crossing the floor against government policy. ‘It’s obviously a dramatic loss of discipline inside the government and it’s a serous attack on the authority of the leadership,’ he warned when it appeared possible that some of his colleagues might attempt to bring on a bill to enable same sex marriage without a plebiscite, or even a postal survey. And he’s right, which is precisely the point of his threat.

Abbott is not about policy; he is about tactics, the need to ensure that Turnbull is compelled to continue the hyperpartisan attacks on Bill Shorten…

And there is to be no compromise – not even a hint of subsidies for renewable energy, although coal is, as always, sacrosanct, something to be cosseted, cherished and protected at all costs especially the cost to the taxpayers. He has no actual plan, and certainly not one that would produce any benefit to consumers in the next few years, but that doesn’t matter.

Abbott is not about policy; he is about tactics, the need to ensure that Turnbull is compelled to continue the hyperpartisan attacks on Bill Shorten and indeed anything and everything that Labor might propose, however worthwhile it may be – indeed, the more worthwhile is appears, the more brutally it must be bashed down.

Thus Shorten’s offer of an olive branch, a negotiated solution that could have the support of substantial majorities in both government and opposition, is utterly off the table. In fact, if Turnbull could come to arrangement with Shorten, Abbott’s rebels would become numerically irrelevant; energy could again become a bipartisan issue in the manner the industry (and just about everyone else) is pleading for it to be.

But the politics make this impossible; if Shorten voted with Turnbull as Abbott voted against him, the shit would really hit the fan. Thus, yet again, Abbott’s bluff (if it is a bluff) will not be called; Turnbull will continue to negotiate on his knees before those who are determined to destroy him.

Absurdly, he even said at one point that the party was of one mind, totally united to deliver affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. Well, perhaps, but they have very different ideas about how to go about it, and some, like Abbott, regard this laudable aim only as a means to make Turnbull’s life, as Shorten correctly said, hell.

But the facts are irrelevant to Abbott; what matters is the war, even if his determination to pursue it at all costs is utterly irrational – indeed, it is literally MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction.

The attack on renewables is, essentially, fraudulent. As Rod Sims of the Competition and Consumer Commission pointed out last week, renewables make up less than one sixth of the increases in power prices. The real culprits are the gold-plating of poles and wires exploited by the privatised companies, the excessive retail margins and, most recently, rises in the wholesale price of gas. Turnbull himself claims to champion renewables, especially his beloved Hydro 2.0.

But the facts are irrelevant to Abbott; what matters is the war, even if his determination to pursue it at all costs is utterly irrational – indeed, it is literally MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction. Presumably Abbott still hopes to overthrow his supplanter and resurrect his own interrupted regime. This is clearly delusional, but even if it happened, what would be the consequence?

The melancholy example of Kevin Rudd is there for all to see. When a desperate Labor replaced Julia Gillard with Rudd, they were hoping to save not the government, but the furniture: Rudd, an ostensibly popular figure, achieved a dead cat bounce, and then succumbed. Abbott, generally disliked (and not only by Astro Funknukle Labe) would sink without trace, taking a large chunk of the coalition with him.

Most of his parliamentary colleagues, except the vengeful has-beens of the far right, have come to realise that; if there is to be a replacement (and there is no real push for one) it will not be a recycled failure like the former incumbent. And the polling is turning around even further; the demand for Abbott to retire from parliament and politics is steadily growing.

But none of that matters to Abbott, and eventually Turnbull will have to deal with it – to find the guts to tell his predecessor the time is up. In the end, it may be easier – and a lot more useful – to deal with Blackout Bill than with the Abominable Abbott.


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  1. When Tony retires, maybe he can share a program with that other well know ex-pollie, Mark Latham.

    That would be a wonderful program: full of fruit-cakes!

    (Glad I still have some Abbott Toilet tissue!)

  2. I enjoyed the National Times when it was one of few independants, and dug deep. I respect your grace still has the ear for politics. I deplored the book, as far as I could get, that likened John Howard to a fact of nature (cannot myself bring to repeat), even though not your words themselves, they were on the back cover and front and centre, I voted No which makes me according to your analysis a bigot. I feel no need to respond. The best of journalism digs, the worst digs … again I cannot say.

  3. Politics is a moment prolonged til we forget what it started with. Renewables were about saving the world from destruction, a notion less evident as time goes on. Now it is about electing the people that will save the world. And a hundred percent renewable energy is akin to the idea of perpetual motion. In every protest there is that one sign, like it is photo shopped. Now we are back with the hydrogen car, but no, need the money before the prototype. Lithium Ion is explosive bloody stuff, look at the Notebook 7, and where do all these resources come from, if not the ground. That’s it, I’m finished with it. The Echo, if Quadrant is steering Right, is steering Outerspace.

  4. Oh Dear, all the snowflakes are up in arms. Even to the petty, pathetic name calling that substitutes for rational debate. Sort of analogous to the use of polysyllabic words imitating in its own embarrassing way, intelligence.
    Its the old saying, “Its better to shut up and appear stupid than…………..”. Well, you know the rest dont you, I,m sure you,ve heard it said often enough.
    As an aside the USA is abandoning the Embassy in Cuba because of subsonic frequency attacks causing neurological damage. Just like subsonics from windfarms that are perfectly safe. Just like Marohasy has proven manipulation of climate records by BOM. Just like IPCC has admitted the warming pause of last 17 years that didnt happen actually did happen and not a single model predicted it.
    Disgruntled Voter, Your toilet paper comment is a trifle overdone. How old are you, 9, 10?

  5. The continuing mystery is why Talcum persists in copping the daily, hourly humiliations of the knuckledraggers in the party room.
    He doesn’t need the money, nor the tied cottage – Yarralumla isn’ta patch on Mr Harbourside Mansion’s current digs – and he can’t be hanging around to ensure a legacy as he has shed everything he for which he once (claimed) he stood.
    He showed a spark a month ago when he told them that he would not return to the backbench but resign and the chances of a government so on the nose of holding Wentworth (which in the 80s was held by the Left’s Jeannette McHugh) are slim indeed.
    In other words he can tell the bigots, trogs & rightards to back him or sack him – if the latter the government is toast and they’d have to get their snouts out of the trough.
    Simple really


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