September 12th 2015


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Arab world must help fix Syria and Libya crises

FAMILY AND SOCIETY They don't want diversity but to impose conformity

CANBERRA OBSERVED Young Nats jump aboard generational juggernaut

TRADE UNIONS Why royal commissioner declined to step down

RESEARCH Spin on the contraceptive pill a bit hard to swallow

LIFE ISSUES Singer escapes Fisher's net in euthanasia debate

HISTORY OF INDONESIA Suharto's "New Order" a period of stability

CULTURE Academic centres turn on Western civilisation

FAMILY LIFE A father's presence in the home: part II

OBITUARY Historian Robert Conquest documented the horrors of Stalinism

PUBLIC HEALTH UN knows: harm reduction does not reduce harm

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Witness to Marriage Day, August 1

CINEMA On the rough road away from loneliness: Last Cab to Darwin

BOOK REVIEW Good science, specious argumentation

LETTERS

The coup against Tony Abbott

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The coup against Tony Abbott


by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, September 12, 2015

The overthrow of Tony Abbott as leader of the Liberal Party, and his replacement as Prime Minister by Malcolm Turnbull was the culmination of an effective campaign waged by an array of forces which consolidated against him.

Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

mentors youngest MP, Wyatt Roy

Apart from Labor and the Greens, for many months, a long campaign has been conducted by the Fairfax media and the ABC against the Abbott government. For the Fairfax media, this was the result of the former prime minister’s strong stance on border protection, against the global warming campaign, in favour of development of the country’s national resources including coal, against “same-sex marriage”, and the ex-Treasurer’s pursuit of the Fairfax media over the notorious “Treasurer for sale” attack.

Almost daily, the Fairfax media conducted a relentless campaign against the Abbott government.

At the same time, a range of radical environmental organisations campaigned against its actions on issues including subsidies for wind and solar power, the abolition of the National Climate Authority led by Tim Flannery, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and setting mandatory greenhouse gas targets ahead of the IPCC Climate Conference in Paris in December.

The Abbott government was also attacked by members of the human rights lobby unhappy with its policies on asylum seekers and “same-sex marriage”.

Some business groups joined the chorus of criticism, complaining that the former Prime Minister had “dropped the ball” on economic reform, citing his failure to cut business taxes, raise the GST rate to 15 per cent, introduce labour market reform – code for cutting employment conditions including casual and penalty pay rates – and Abbott’s failure to get the budget back into surplus, a consequence of the stalemate between the government and the Senate since the 2013 election.

Some of Australia’s largest corporations backed the campaign for “same-sex marraige”.

Turnbull's coup against Abbott

Turnbull overthrows Abbott

All these factors meant that the government was unable to get sufficient clear air in which to highlight its undoubted successes, contributing to a succession of negative opinion polls.

To have survived all this, the government would have needed to be extraordinarily cohesive and disciplined. This was not to be.

Over recent months, all this has been compounded by a succession of embarrassing “leaks” highlighting divisions within Cabinet.

The perception that an Abbott-led government could not recover apparently persuaded enough nervous MPs to support Malcolm Turnbull when he threw down the gauntlet to the former Prime Minister.

Turnbull’s position on almost all the contested issues is the opposite of Tony Abbott’s.

In the end, Turnbull defeated Mr Abbott by a relatively narrow margin, 54 to 44, in a Liberal Party-room ballot. If National Party MPs, who are part of the government, had voted, the outcome would have been very different.

In his victory speech, Malcolm Turnbull declared that he wanted to reset the government’s economic agenda. His speech was long on rhetoric but short on detail. Quite what this means has not been spelled out, but the government’s business critics have called for deregulation of the labour market, increasing the GST, cuts to government spending, and cuts to business taxes.

Malcolm Turnbull has a long history of business involvement, including a successful career as a high-flying corporate lawyer and later as an investment banker which made him a multi-millionaire.

He headed the Australian arm of the global merchant banker, Goldman Sachs. In this sense, he is similar to the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, also an economic and social libertarian, who went into politics after a successful career in the finance industry.

Interestingly, Mr Turnbull said there would be no change to the government’s position on climate change, immigration and “same-sex marriage”, despite his well-known differences with the former leader on all these issues. This is a reflection of his desire not to further destabilise coalition ranks.

It may be that those sections of the media which were so implacable to Abbott, will now become neutral towards the Turnbull government. But don’t bet on it.

In relation to Malcolm Turnbull’s well-known libertarian economic agenda, he faces exactly the same parliamentary opposition as did Tony Abbott. This includes not merely the Labor Party and the Greens, but a number of independents, including ex-members of Clive Palmer’s Party, who are most unlikely to sign up for an agenda of tax cuts for business and cuts to social welfare in the run-up to the 2016 Federal Election.

If Malcolm Turnbull’s new economic policy includes an increase in the GST, and cuts to wage rates and superannuation concessions, he will alienate the large number of blue-collar voters who supported Tony Abbott in 2013, putting Bill Shorten back into calculation to win the 2016 election.




























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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99


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