Leading article Australia

Juggling chainsaws

19 March 2016

9:00 AM

19 March 2016

9:00 AM

The Greens refuse a vote on gay marriage. The government refuses to vote on restoring the desperately-needed union watchdog, the ABCC. The Greens refuse a vote on coal seam gas. Senator Ricky Muir, he of the kangaroo poo throwing skills, stands up in the senate and makes a speech worth listening to. Penny Wong sounds plausible. Bill Shorten promises ‘full employment’ where ‘full’ equals, um, 95%. And the press gallery aren’t particularly excited about ‘innovation’ anymore. What on earth is going on? Who turned the world upside down?

Independent Senator Bob Day made a valid point when he referred to the danger of the Turnbull government ‘juggling chainsaws’ in its attempts to reform the gaming of Senate preferences, find a credible double dissolution trigger, and bring down a workable budget; not necessarily in that order but all within the few short parliamentary days that remain. Mr Day’s analogy does not have a happy ending.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that there is either a grand masterplan unfolding mysteriously before our very eyes, as many a Coalition supporter fervently hopes and/or believes, or alternatively, not to put too fine a point on it, that the Coalition have bungled the budget, fumbled Senate reform and may well fall in a heap over the double dissolution. As David Flint argues in this issue, unless Mr Turnbull has entered into a secret Greens deal as a precursor of some post election Lib-Greens Alliance unbeknown to the supporters of both parties, the Governor-General would be constitutionally bound to refuse to grant a double dissolution to a government clearly unable to guarantee supply.


If Mr Turnbull and his team manage to juggle the aforementioned tree-lopping implements with sufficient dexterity to win the next election with a workable majority in both houses, then it will probably have been worth the nail-biting brinkmanship and game playing. It was mainly the dysfunctional nature of the Senate, rather than of the government, that has done most damage to our economy since the Coalition’s 2013 victory.

The appetite for reform of the Senate was largely fuelled by the unpredictable and unconstructive performances of what began as the Palmer United Party and descended into a mish mash of embarrassing Independents. Yet for every unpalatable maverick, we have also been blessed to have talented and constructive individuals in our parliament, such as occasional Speccie columnists Senators Day and David Leyonhjelm. If, instead, we now end up with what increasingly appears to be some form of Liberals-Green coalition, however informal, the pain will not have been worth the gain. Quite the reverse. Mr Turnbull has already stated, and shown, his preference for dealing exclusively with the Greens, rather than taking the time to woo any wayward Independents, but it is hard to believe that this is in the national interest. As Chris Kenny (coincidentally this week’s Diarist) pointed out recently on his Viewpoint show on Sky News, the Greens are ideologically and passionately opposed to every key conservative belief and policy. This marriage of convenience can only be a disaster for conservative governance of Australia.

All of which pales when compared to the other Damoclean chainsaw swinging madly over our heads, namely the possibility – even the vaguest, faintest, teensiest, most unlikely possibility – of Labor and Bill Shorten somehow or other scraping together enough votes to creep back into power.

Mr Shorten’s recent National Press Club speech was a farce, with Labor committing to nothing more than raising revenue by stealing from an ever-dwindling pool of productive taxpayers in order to fund a myriad of leftist, juvenile, undergraduate socialist fantasies. With Swan-like stupidity, Labor fail to distinguish between concessions (which stimulate innovation, growth, productivity etc) and welfare spending (which saps the economy and breeds higher unemployment).

We wish Mr Turnbull and his team every success with landing their chainsaws safely. But time is running out for them to focus on the main game: chopping an irresponsible and spendthrift Labor Party off at the knees.

Is he ‘aving a laugh?

Visiting our tolerant, multicultural, diverse shores, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif was quick to tell a simpering ABC that he is unhappy about Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers. He has a point. Our failure to throw gay asylum-seekers off buildings, chop the limbs off thieving refugees and apostates, stone asylum-seeking adulteresses to death and gouge the eyes out of dissident refugees shows just how behind the times we are.

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  • Sue Smith

    Well, two Wongs don’t make a White.

  • maic

    And they thought Tony Abbott was not up to the job? Well, disloyalty seems to have brought about its own reward – if reward is the word to use.
    There is an element of nit picking when any political leader tries to steer the country in what he or she perceives to be the right direction. We get silly media nonsense about real or imagined personal deficiencies or limitations rather than adult reporting. discussion and debate on the issues.
    I suggest that most voters out there (whatever their party) understand that you can support a political leader without agreeing with every sentence he or she utters.
    All that being said I don’t think that many Abbott supporters want the Coalition to lose the election – rather they will support what they see as the least worst option. They may not be happy voters but I believe they will still vote.

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