Predictably, Abbott fights on

Abbott watchers will not be surprised that this week our recently departed PM has confirmed that he will re-contest his seat of Warringah. From his days at university, Tony Abbott has shown a loathing of defeat, smashing glass doors and intimidating an opponent after losing in student elections. Predictably, after suffering the most humiliating defeat of all: expulsion from prime ministership by his own Liberal Party, Abbott has decided to ‘fight on’.

Fighting is in Abbott’s DNA. While a ‘fighting spirit’ is considered a desirable attribute, Abbott’s fighting is a different kettle of fish. He is a pugilist. He earned his blue for boxing at Oxford. He called himself ‘the whirling dervisher’. The Marquess of Queensberry rules that apply to the sport of boxing are not for Abbott. He is a bare-knuckle street brawler, ready to take on those that cross him. He even named his political book: Battlelines. Read The pugilistic politician published on The Political Sword in December 2009 for all the ugly details of Abbott’s political pugilism.

Paul Kelly, writing today in The Australian considers: “ Abbott’s decision to remain in politics is remarkable…” Kelly goes on to cite offers of a diplomatic post, UK High Commissioner in London, or heading up a well-funded think tank that would have given Abbott “…complete freedom in giving speeches and shaping the nation’s political agenda,” as attractive alternatives. Kelly ought not to be surprised; he ought to know Abbott better than that. Abbott needs to be the centre of attention, to be in the headlines, to appear on TV, Facebook and Twitter regularly. He would never opt to ride off into the sunset even if still able to influence the nation’s political agenda.

I am not surprised that he has decided he stay on.

His natural instinct is to fight, to get into scraps with those with whom he disagrees or who he despises, like he always has. And of course he would like to ‘do a Rudd’ – to return to his ‘rightful’ place as prime minister and ignominiously turf out his nemesis Malcolm Turnbull in the process.

Kelly addresses his surprise at Abbott’s decision when he writes: “ “Having decided to stay, Abbott will be determined to leave his mark. His intention is to operate as the banner-carrier for the conservative wing of the Liberal Party on a range of issues at home and internationally.

“Abbott’s focus will be policies and values. He sees the Liberal Party as Australia’s right-of-centre party. He believes its loyalists want cultural conservatism to be championed. He intends to operate as the true conscience of the party on these values. That means using his influence from the backbench to impose limits on Turnbull’s policies on social, national security, climate change and border protection issues.

“Abbott is planning a series of articles to expound upon and defend his policy record as prime minister. They will begin in March with a detailed account of his economic policies.”

The electorate, having breathed a collective sigh of relief when his party extruded him as leader, having relished seeing him sitting on the backbench quietly fuming, having hoped that he would disappear from public life, now faces the prospect of seeing him time and again, popping up in newspaper headlines, in opinion pieces, on TV and in overseas media as he travels to make speeches in support of his conservative beliefs. This week he will speak at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative US Christian lobby group that opposes homosexuality and abortion.

Abbott is not gone and has no intention of going. He intends to fight for his conservative values. That might be construed as a worthy pursuit of his ideals, but knowing Abbott, who does not believe that his subterranean aim is to put pressure on PM Turnbull, to force Turnbull to comply with his conservative agenda, to wit same sex marriage, global warming, the ‘war on terror’ and border security. And his ultra-conservative spear-carriers are at the ready to march with him, ready to genuflect before him, ready to skewer Turnbull as they attack his fortifications, and attempt to seize his throne.

In his ‘departure’ speech as ex-PM Abbott promised: “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.” We all know that will be ‘more honored in the breach than the observance’, just as were his pre-election promises. Who believes any promise Abbott makes?

Kelly believes that Turnbull will not offer him a front bench position. Commentators almost universally believe that an Abbott comeback is a very remote possibility, and restoration to prime ministership an impossibility. But is anything, even as grotesque as Abbott as PM again, impossible in the crazy world of Australian federal politics?

What a sad way to start a new year with the prospect of the nastiest, most pugilistic, most incompetent, most ineffectual and belligerent leader we have ever had, reappearing as the smiling would-be assassin, determined to show us all that he was right in the first place, that his values are the only ones, and with an unwavering intention to seize the prime ministership again that he believes is rightfully his, and his alone.

Abbott is a pugilist. This trait was obvious in his student days; it is still apparent; it will not go away. Expect the Abbott aroma to linger heavily in the political atmosphere for a long while yet.

What do you think?
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The bigger they are . . .

Photo – Courier Mail

The Queensland Nickel Refinery went into receivership this week as it’s beneficial owner Clive Palmer (Federal Member for Fairfax) attempted to justify the $20Million in donations the refinery had made to Palmer United Party over the past two years including $290,000 declared on 31 December (and donated in the previous  six months).  Queensland Nickel’s Chief Finance Officer claimed Mr Palmer paid $2.5 million out of his own pocket so workers could be paid over Christmas.

The ABC’s Antony Green gives an account of the rise and potential fall of the Palmer United Party on his blog and while every article former Nationals Senator Bill O’Chee writes for Fairfax seems to demonstrate his inbuilt conservative bias, he correctly points out  

PUP will almost certainly have to pay back the $288,000 donation it received at the end of December.

That could just be the start though. If the $21.1 million paid to the PUP in the previous two years is found to be "uncommercial" or an "unreasonable director-related" payment, and the company was insolvent at the time, then that money will also have to be paid back.


Palmer has a number of ‘business interests’ and has also been a political ‘player’ for decades.  Given that Palmer’s companies are generally privately owned, no one can be certain of his financial position but this biography on Wikipedia gives some insight into his wealth, business and political interests.

It would be unfair to suggest that Palmer only failed because he went into politics.  Nathan Tinkler at one stage had interests in mining, construction, sports management and horse racing.  He started out as an electrician in a BHP mine in the Hunter Valley.  Again Wikipedia has a potted biography of Tinkler which goes into his current financial issues.

Christopher Skase was a prominent Australian in the 1980s – when apparently ‘greed was good’.  He was a journalist who turned a small Tasmanian company Quintex into a large multi-national conglomerate.  Skase fell afoul of financial laws, exiled himself to Spain and died there in 2001, despite efforts by the Australian Government and the administrator of the Quintex group to force him back to Australia to answer the claims against him.

Alan Bond started as a signwriter in Perth.  He came to prominence through property development and has gone from the highs of winning the Americas Cup in 1983 to the lows of having his Order of Australia revoked and serving a six  year jail sentence in the late 1990’s.  Bond died in 2015.

It seems that Australia has a history of people that ‘make good’ then perform a spectacular ‘flame out’.  Bond served jail time, Skase probably would have if he returned to Australia and, as they say, the investigations continue in regards to Tinkler and Palmer. 

Larger than life personalities are not the only ones with the ‘get rich quick with scant regard for the ethics’ attitude also extended to ‘Funds Management’ companies that seem to purchase assets with financial problems, fiddle with the balance sheet then on-sell the company with little regard for the damage that invariably will be done to the ultimate owners – as Dick Smith (the person) alluded to in this report on the current financial woes of the chain of shops that still bear his name — although he has no financial interest in them..

Clearly there is a need for regulation.  Unfortunately, regulation will not keep up with those who are paid to invent new ways to profit which while (barely) legal are certainly not moral or ethical.  Perhaps the best solution is to question those that have apparently turned nothing into something quickly a lot earlier and with more diligence.  Some better investigation of the worth of ‘personality business people’ by the media and various government bodies may protect those who do not have the wherewithal to do the work themselves is probably also overdue.

In closing, the recent request by Palmer for a bailout to keep Queensland Nickel operating is not the first.  The previous request was made by Alan Bond as his business empire was crashing down in the 1980’s.   "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" – the more it changes – the more it’s the same thing.

There seems to be a pattern where the latest ‘wiz kid’ operates a business successfully then diversifies into businesses they probably don’t know much about.  The current ‘dramas’ with Dick Smith Electronics and Masters Hardware demonstrate that the corporate world is no better at times.  Unfortunately, there seems to be little to stop the next ‘wiz kid’ making the same errors.

What do you think? 

How about a drink after the game?

Samantha Maiden is a journalist with News Corp. She was recently harassed in a text message Peter Dutton (Immigration Minister) meant to send to demoted colleague Jamie Briggs. The message called Maiden a ‘******** witch’ — and we all know the first letter in the last word quoted was a typo. The message was sent directly to Maiden.

Maiden claims she wasn’t offended and Dutton shouldn’t lose his Ministry after he apologised. Let’s look at the logic here.

Jamie Briggs was a minister in the Australian government who did something inappropriate to a government employee overseas after ‘a few drinks’. Media reporting since has suggested that it isn’t the first time that Jamie Briggs has acted inappropriately ‘after a few drinks’. Briggs was effectively sacked for breaching common moral and ethical standards that apply in any workplace. Soon after the sacking, a photo of the government employee (albeit pixelated) was featured on the front page of The Australian, Briggs has admitted the photo originated from his mobile phone. Most of us don’t know the man and have no basis in fact to determine if he has a problem that he needs to seek some professional assistance to overcome, however there does seem to be a trend here.

Peter Dutton, a ‘high ranking’ minister in the Australian government, attempts to send Briggs a text message around the time Briggs was sacked as a minister which effectively says ‘don’t worry about it mate – you don’t have the problem, the female reporter who wrote one of the stories about it does. As a matter of fact, she’s a ‘******** witch’. Hardly appropriate behaviour is it? Dutton also has previous similar form. Remember a few months ago when Dutton was accidently caught by a boom microphone at an official function slinging off at the concerns of the Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands — a country that may be uninhabitable inside most of our lifetimes due to climate change.  The President of Kiribati who was also at the meeting called the claimed joke ‘vulgar’, and claimed Dutton demonstrated ‘a sense of moral irresponsibility quite unbecoming of leadership in any capacity.’

Mal Brough is the LNP member for the seat of Fisher — based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. He won the seat from the ex-Speaker of the parliament Peter Slipper. You may remember that Slipper resigned his membership of the LNP when he took on the Speaker position. You might also remember that one of Slipper’s staff took him to court for inappropriate behaviour. Brough was forced to stand aside from his ministerial position after some pressure from the opposition when the ‘penny finally dropped’ within the government that he lied to either Parliament or the 60 Minutes program on Channel 9. Brough, apparently along with fellow conspirators, Government Ministers Pyne and Roy and some former Slipper staff members, are under police investigation for offences in relation to some official documents held in the office of former Speaker Slipper.

Chris Gayle is a West Indian cricketer. He used to be the captain of the West Indian cricket team and for the past couple of summers has been playing cricket in Cricket Australia’s “Big Bash League’. This week he half-heartedly apologised to a Channel 10 journalist for attempting to ask her out on a date while the journalist was attempting to do a live interview. Gayle claimed ‘cultural differences’ as the reason for the actions that are considered to be inappropriate in Australia. While the argument may have some credibility if Gayle had just gotten off the 747 for the first time, the reality is that the claimed defence could be politely described as bollocks. Gayle has represented his country (while technically the West Indies cricket team are the best cricketers in the Caribbean), accordingly he has been responsible to demonstrate ‘correct’ behaviour to those who play with and under him across a range of cultural and social situations across the world. Subsequent to the event, others have claimed that Gayle has acted with the same degree of inappropriateness in the past. Cricket Australia has fined him $10,000, but the same general reporting is a constant theme in relation to elite footballers and other sportsmen across the year.

Part of Dutton’s explanation for the language used in the text was that he and Maiden had had some robust conversations in the past. Again the reality is different — Australia has an Immigration Minister making decisions on who enters the country and he clearly has no empathy for a public servant from his department who was treated inappropriately by a fellow minister; or the Foreign Minister or President of countries that may be erased from the globe in the next 50 years. As well as a lack of empathy, his moral and ethical compass is so skewed that he tries to send a text message to the offender (Briggs) that suggests he is the victim here. Dutton also has previous form in preselection contests in the Queensland LNP.

Brough was stood aside when he tried to ‘clarify’ competing claims and frankly made a bigger mess of it. Clearly his moral and ethical compass is skewed to the extent that he believed that being a part of a plan (that is suspicious enough for a police investigation, if not illegal) to neuter a political rival were warranted. The police investigation has been going on for a while. Brough was on 60 Minutes in mid 2015 discussing the issue and members of the 5th estate (bloggers and alternative media organisations) such as Independent Australia have been writing about the shenanigans in Fisher for years.

Gayle is a professional cricketer. He travels the world doing something he apparently loves and you would have to assume he gets paid handsomely for the work he does — including the many unseen hours of training and practice that goes into the performance we see at our arenas or on our TV screens. He, like other sportspeople, are feted for their brilliance in their chosen endeavours. Their position in society demands that they display the highest levels of morals and ethics — something Gayle clearly didn’t display the other night in that interview.

It is obvious that the media is aware of a lot of foibles of noteworthy people and fair enough — people’s private lives are personal.  However, when the media go along with the feeble excuses of Dutton, Brough or Gayle (to name just a few — we could also include Abbott’s bullying here) they are also displaying a lack of empathy, morals, ethics and leadership to their staff, their customers and society generally — as issues such as the ones discussed here shouldn’t be swept under the carpet.  

Those that choose to live in the public eye are role models regardless of their desire to act in that role. Those that fall short of that standard should be held to account. In short, we shouldn’t be reading about Dutton, Briggs and Gayle and just being told in essence ‘it’s not the first time you know’.

What do you think?