Tuesday, July 09, 2013

From a dull Uhlmann to a desiccated Hendo as the hotheads come out to play ...

(Above: the pond usually opens with a cartoon, but this will probably do).

So to the first order of business, which saw Tony Abbott flushed out of the woods to make an appearance on the ABC on 7.30.

Oh dear, the very name of the segment, Tony Abbott calls on PM to 'name the date' gives the game away.

Yep, it was Chris Uhlmann on duty. No wonder Abbott fronted to end all the taunts about being an ABC no-show.

But how would it feel to be the soft fop Chris Uhlmann, designated pinch hinter and soft cop, given the task of smoothing the way for Mr. Abbott?

Uhlmann didn't lay a glove on Dr No, possibly because he thought it beneath him to put on any kind of glove at all, and the result was a deadly dull interview.

The bumbling dullard Uhlmann bowled, or pitched, or rolled up lollipop after lollipop, and is it possible to imagine a better one than the question which rounded out the interview?

CHRIS UHLMANN: Finally, briefly, what would an Abbott Australia look like?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, under a Coalition government, we'll build a stronger economy, we'll abolish unnecessary taxes, we'll get the budget back into the black and we'll stop the boats. We will be a consultative, collegial government. No surprises, no excuses. That's what you'll get under the Coalition. CHRIS UHLMANN: Tony Abbott, thank you. 
TONY ABBOTT: Thank you, Chris.

Fancy that. And we were thinking he'd talk about a weaker economy. necessary taxes, climate science, copper wire as a futurist NBN dream, and bunging on a do with Indonesia, with plenty of surprises  and excuses.

Well no thank you, "ever so chummy, lay down and let it all roll over you", Chris.

If that's your idea of a penetrating, incisive interview, have you thought about a career as a butter cutter? Remember, getting the knife hot will help a lot ...

Meanwhile, the punters are wildly excited about current Chairman Rudd's new "democratic initiative", details unclear, which might lead either to the ALP's leadership resembling the joys of a fixed four year parliamentary term - no way to get rid of the ratbag in charge - or resembling the incredible problems people face genuinely trying to reform the constitution in useful ways, by carrying all states and the popular vote. No reform at all.

The pond was fondly reminded of the Democrats, now dead as the proverbial dodo, and their experiment with democracy, as summarised in Cathy Madden's research paper here in pdf form:

The Democrats established a practice of participatory democracy unusual in Australian parties. The concept was inherited from the Australia Party and was reflected in the new party’s constitution. Party policies were developed with the maximum participation of members, and determined by the direct and equal say of the membership by means of a voluntary postal vote. The leadership of the party was also decided by postal ballot. Party members could also remove their party leaders, a spill requiring only 100 signatures from members.

That's more extreme than what's being proposed by the Ruddster, but it didn't stop the Democrats in their dying days from being riven by factional and leadership disputes, with a revolving door specially built for their many feuding, fussin', fighting leaders.

What's more the Democrats found only 10-20% participated in the decision-making process, with the collective mechanism cumbersome and time-consuming. By 1993, the leadership had enough with the process, and thereafter members voted on general principles with details left to the engaged and involved.

The UK Labor party mechanism has also been trotted out in recent days, but it didn't stop Gordon Brown stalking Tony Blair, nor did it stop a couple of brothers feuding, and one heading off to exile.

Now should it, or would it have stopped the necessary removal of Bill Hayden, drover's dog, by Bob Hawke? Or Keating's assassination of Hawke? Or for that matter Kevin the assassin taking out Bomber Beazley for Roving McManus with Karl? Will the Liberal party ever attempt to imitate the system, thereby denying Tony Abbott's ascension to nattering negativity by a single vote?

The most profound irony of all of course is that Gillard helped Rudd nail Beazley, and then nailed Rudd and then Rudd nailed her, and that somehow this parade of egos will be ended by engaging the "rank and file", as opposed to spreading more widely the dispute throughout the community, as if branches aren't already riven with stacking, and as if the most important issue - the election of candidates by the local membership - has been resolved, or will be sorted in the future, with parachutes still much in favour ...

The most important question is whether, under the Ruddster's proposal, an under-performing leader can be given the royal order of the boot, without an extended bout of widespread navel-gazing and introspection.

Probably not, which means, should the Ruddster win the current election, the most important order of business - how can he be got rid of, and someone less prone to fits of enthusiasm be appointed in his place - will forever be placed on the backburner.

It'll develop quickly enough, should he manage to pull it off (the odds remain slightly against him, no matter the universal loathing of Abbott), and then we'll discover how the enforced parliamentary term works out. The moment that Peter Beattie spoke in favour of the proposal, the pond had a sinking feeling ... is there any more useless shop-worn second hand op shop politician doing the rounds, apart from Jeff Kennett?

Never mind, the pond isn't, and hasn't ever been a member of the Labor party. Let them sort it out, and let them explain why this high-minded imitation of the Democrats will draw the punters.

It is passing strange however that you don't find the Liberals indulging in anti-business rhetoric, yet every day of the week, you'll find someone in the Labor party ready to put the boot into organised labour ... as if everyone should revert to contractor status on short term contracts, and unions need to be conspired against because they're a bunch of conspirators.

Toujours gai, Archie, toujours gai, and so the pond bravely decided to round out  thisTuesday by spending another of its precious Fairfax hits on catching up with prattling Polonius, who has been given a plum spot in today's paper under the header A problem shared demands solution (careful, it will cost you a Fairfax hit, is it truly worth it?)

Wouldn't you know it, but Hendo delivers right away, in the very first line:

Once upon a time, many members of the intelligentsia criticised Coalition and Labor governments for being too beholden to the foreign policy of the United States.

Oh that shocking, shameful intelligentsia, and following the United States into Iraq and Afghanistan turned out spiffingly well, and not a single boat refugee resulting from the colonial adventurism.

And then the droning Polonius doubles down:

Now many of this same group effectively argue that Australian foreign policy should be in accordance with the wishes of the communist rulers in China. Others are determined that Australia's approach to the attempted unlawful arrival of non-citizens should be consistent with the wishes of the democratically elected leaders of Indonesia.

You can't argue with these sorts of bizarre assertions - Henderson grows more doddery by the day, as was shown when an ailing pond took to bed and watched his actual appearance on last Sunday's Insiders (as you can, if qualified as a masochist, by heading off here). The pond was startled to see Henderson actually hanging out with the intelligentsia, the China lovers and the Indonesian lickspittles ...

Not to worry, the rest of today's piece is the standard hagiography of John Howard, a bit of revisionist history, and a standard swipe at mortal enemy Malcolm Fraser:

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser has taken over the holier-than-thou role as he campaigns for Greens candidates in the Senate. It is true that, between late 1975 and early 1983, Fraser exhibited tolerance and compassion to Indo-Chinese asylum seekers. However, the circumstances were different. Only 2059 asylum seekers arrived in Australia by boat in this period. This is close to the monthly arrivals in recent times. 

Surely this has to be dissembling at its finest, and revolving around the matter of boats, since the boats v other methods of arrival argument continues to this day, with other methods of arrival far outweighing boats.

During the Fraser years, from 1975 to 1982, some 200,000 migrants arrived from Asian countries, including nearly 56,000 from Vietnam, who had applied as refugees (or so it says here), thereby permanently solving the pond's goi cuon, dry cleaning and bakery problems. Now that's more than a couple of thousand ...

And it's hard to see how the circumstances are that much different, at least for those wanting to flee the ongoing turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan - perhaps Hendo would have been better joining with the intelligentsia in opposing these colonial forays (leaving the matter of Sri Lanka's turmoil as a different affair).

We soon reach the point of all the side-swiping, which is to endorse Bob Carr's proposal that these days everyone is an economic refugee and how it will all turn out for the best of all possible worlds in Tony Abbott's new regime:

Even so, Indonesia and Australia have a common interest in stopping people-smugglers from plying their trade. If the Coalition wins, and Abbott implements his turn-back-the-boats policy, this would be unlikely to cause conflict with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or his successor. 
The influential Indonesian political operative Dewi Fortuna Anwar was asked on QandA what would be Jakarta's response if an Abbott government turned back boats. She replied: "Not confrontation, as some people have mentioned lately", but did concede that Indonesia would convey its concerns. The relationship between Indonesia and Australia is strong enough to survive a disagreement about the proper response to a problem in which, as Anwar commented, "Indonesia and Australia are both victims". 

Now this would all be well if in the past day the barking mad Scott Morrison had already gone out and about saying he was going to send in the SAS here there and everywhere, which might well bring Australia into conflict not just with Indonesia, but with the rest of the international community, as noted by Lenore Taylor in The Guardian in Morrison: send navy into international waters if asylum seekers threaten crews.

Abbott backed away at a rate of knots, refusing to talk about "operational matters", but it's a truism the pond has known from childhood is that if you keep playing with matches or the military, things are likely to go wrong.

That mood was reinforced by watching Lateline last night, and the remarkable belligerence of Major General Jim Molan in Indonesia could close down people smugglers, demanding that Indonesia get off its backside, and in any case Aussies, oi oi, were standing by to give any derelict backside a damned good kicking ...

No wonder poor old Hendo wants to assume everything will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds between Australia and Indonesia, but the hotheads want to bung on a do, and at that point, it will be useless to turn and rail at the intelligentsia or Malcolm Fraser ...

And now the pond feels compelled to publish this poignant note from Hendo:

Postscript: There was a typographical error in last week's column. William McMahon married Sonia Hopkins in 1965 (not 1975), aged 57, on the eve of Robert Menzies' retirement. 

It makes the pond feel ever so much better about its own typos, errors and omissions and self-loathing, as we ponder the mystery of an inner Sydney urban elitist who sits down to sup with the intelligentsia on the ABC, and blames it on a typo, when it's surely an errant keystroke by a dodderer up there with Chris Uhlmann in the tedium stakes ...

(Below: Geoff Pryor on the good old days of 2002, when Megawati Sukarnoputri was the Indonesian president)


  1. "[Peter Beattie]... is there any more useless shop-worn second hand op shop politician doing the rounds, apart from Jeff Kennett?"

    Oooh yes, I nominate Bob Carr.

    Oh wait, he got resurrected just in time to help knife Julia, didn't he.

  2. I'll have a flutter that Abbott was given Uhlmann's questions prior to the interview - no um, ah, ah, er, um, ah.

  3. Uhlmann is a weak wonk and was just the fillip that Abbott needed to say he has appeared on 7.30
    The promotion of Uhlmann to become a political commentator on the 7.30 show did not happen just by chance it was a planed move by the structure of management put in place by Howard after the inquiry set up under Richard Alston so the change of direction to right wing politics has been driven by a management structure changes.
    Uhlmann is a co author of a book with Lewis from Murdoch that tells every one a lot about Uhlmanns origins and preferences politically. He may be married to a labor politician but that does not mean he or she are in place to promote labor values.

  4. It was interesting that Abbott fronted up on a night when Leigh Sales wasn't there. Unlike Uhlmann, she occassionally remembers she's a journalist.

  5. Does Leigh Sales have a Dr's certificate, or was she asked by friends of ABC at Institute of Public Affairs to have some time off because they don't want any questions above primary school intelligence for Abbott. Seriously, that was the most pathetic "interview" I have seen.

  6. Glad to see I wasn't wrong in boycotting The Interview. But it wasn't exactly hard to predict. But credit where it's due, it's given the ABC a day's worth of talking points & now Tony can say he HAS been on a serious show. It 'aint anymore but that'll get him over the line.


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