Wednesday, December 10, 2014

In which the pond adopts a Siamese fighting fish, dabbles in Kultur, and re-lives Kill Bill ...

Yes, yes, it's a strange New Yorker cartoon to be running this fine mid-week morning, but the pond has an excuse, and here it is:

It's another piece of common gossip from the sordid, subversive Peter van Onselen:

Is it part of an Oz agenda to get Peta Credlin?

Who knows, but along the way, Abbott also cops some collateral gossip, as the poorly performing PM gets his tarnished star contrasted to the pertly gleaming Julie Bishop's solar splendour.

After the obligatory, ritual and necessary denials from both parties to his opening pars above, van Onselen recycled the "Julie goes bananas" riff taken from Fairfax, throws down some more Peta abuse - "She is without doubt the square root of a lot of this governments problems," one MP said - no, don't ask the pond where the apostrophe went - and then concluded with an ominous three pars:

With the parliamentary year out of the way, the Prime Minister’s diary is a little more open to accommodate meetings with MPs, giving them a chance to air grievances and to allow Mr Abbott to communicate his plans for a political recovery next year. 
That said, marginal seat Liberal MP Craig Laundy confirmed that when his electorate was chosen for a prime ministerial visit on Sunday to announce the backdown on the paid parental leave policy, he was not informed of the purpose of the visit, rather simply told to assemble families for a community event. 
Yesterday, cabinet met to discuss several policy settings ahead of next week’s release of mid-year budget update, including the announced change to the Medicare co-payment. Ms Bishop called in for the meeting from Lima; Mr Robb did not.

Too much information!

By golly that cabinet must be as tight and as solid as the sieve the pond prefers in the kitchen ...

If you believe the subversive van Onselen, the PM's office is a seething cesspit of hate, fear and loathing, willing to turn hapless marginal members into family wranglers ... mere pawns shuffling the decorative furniture on the deck of the Titanic ...

Quick, someone double the dose of the kool aid in the inner 'leet Surry Hills bunker, things are going badly wrong.

Time for a mid-column cartoon, thanks to David Rowe, and more excellent Rowe here.

By golly, what excellent pan pipes. Peter Weir missed out when he was doing Picnic ... and that's as fine an example of a hand-crafted artisanal death's head rattle the pond has seen in many a year, with just a hint of outsider art ...

Meanwhile, speaking of a storm in a cultural teacup, Abbott did his best to retrieve the situation he got himself into with his ongoing cultivation of ideological and cultural wars:

Yes, only a little while after Flanagan was ashamed to be Australian, there he was standing cheek by jowl with the coal-loving man who'd made him ashamed, and it was all group hug and forgiveness time, and let's not let any little ideological tiffs get in the road of Kultur:

Though conspicuously silent on the day Flanagan won the Booker — becoming the first ­Australian in a decade to do so — Mr Abbott revealed he wrote to the author privately to congratulate him. “To not to have done that would have been churlish,’’ Mr Abbott told The Australian. 
An exchange ensued, with Flanagan expressing the hope that Australia’s cultural life could be quarantined from any Left-Right political divide. He wrote to the Prime Minister that Australia’s strength as a nation was about inclusion, not exclusion. Mr Abbott said he endorsed that sentiment.

Another happy member of Team Australia, and politics thoughtfully removed from Australia's kultural life ...

Well that's excellent news. Shinzo Abe will be mightily pleased:

As a result of savage treatment by the Japanese and Korean guards, tropical diseases, starvation, and merciless hard labor, especially during the insane “speedo” (high-speed) campaign in 1943, more than 12,000 Westerners died, and possibly more than 100,000 Asians. Even though the first locomotive to run on the Death Railway is still proudly displayed at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where the souls of imperial Japanese soldiers are worshiped by Japanese nationalists, including the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, the tracks were so shoddy that most of the railroad had to be rebuilt by the Thais after the war. (here, currently behind the NYRB paywall).

Yes, here's an inclusive moment for Team Japan:

But seeing there's no need to conflate politics with kultur, who minds?

Meanwhile, great fun and fuss has erupted around the award for Hal Colebatch's book, ostensibly historical, but perceived by many as a simple-minded, error-laden exercise in union bashing.

On the night, Colebatch made for a fumbling, pitiful sight, and all the prize did was revive a controversy that had been done and dusted in the earlier reaches of the year.

Naturally the likes of Miranda the Devine and Tim Bleagh enthusiastically cheered on the prize, as sure a sign as could be sent down from the heavens that Gerard "prattling Polonius" Henderson had indeed achieved a splendid outcome, the continuation of the cultural wars by way of rewarding dubious history.

Bleagh in particular demonstrated an enormous capacity for drivel, scribbling:

Colebatch’s victory (shared with Joan Beaumont’s Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War) marks the first time in global history that a major literature prize has gone to a conservative author writing from a conservative point of view.

What a remarkably stupid man.

And when called out by Helen Razer, this is the best he could offer. First he recycled Razer:

Today, Right-thinking writers thank goodness for the perfume of reason and Tim Blair applauds the happy day that “marks the first time in global history that a major literature prize has gone to a conservative author writing from a conservative point of view”. Either Blair has the same revulsion for historical research that Colebatch seems to or he doesn’t think that Winston Churchill, recipient of a Nobel Prize for literature, is creditably “conservative”. 

Then came the Bleagh zinger:

I await humourless Helen’s devastating discovery that Carlton’s book isn’t really called I Like Boats! 

Yes, it's humourless to point out that Bleagh is a remarkably stupid man, so let humourlessness rain down ... and yes, Churchill's award was for literature and yes he was a conservative (Nobel prize it here), and no, you can't be a prat and a fop, and make a remarkably stupid remark, and then toss it away as a bit of huma, and anyone who points out its stupidity just lacks a sensa huma ...

In fact prizes have always been wreathed in controversy and there have been exceptionally strange decisions, like handing Henry Kissinger the Nobel Prize for Peace. Indeed, it wasn't so long ago that Helen Demidenko won the Miles Franklin award in 1995, thanks to the likes of journalist Jill Kitson and the deeply conservative Leonie Kramer, senior fellow at the IPA.

So when you scribble like a twit "first time in global history" you can't be a twat and pretend your tongue was in your distended cheek ...

Unfortunately Mike Carlton had an oar in this particular canoe, so his assault could be dismissed as special pleading, but Colebatch had been given a dust up by Rowan Cahill as long ago as January in Overland, here.

And even the reptiles in their story on the awards felt the need to quote others:

Colebatch’s book accuses the union movement of undermining Australia’s war ­effort in World War II. Several historians expressed dismay that his argument had been recognised with a PM’s award. “If the history/culture wars break out again, last night may be seen as one of the frontier clashes that presage that renewed conflict,’’ said historian and author Peter Stanley.

Razer also quoted another player:

Macintyre, an academic who works within the margins of evidence, is far less inclined than Carlton, a journalist whose mood becomes freer with every tweet, to call the award for Australia’s Secret War a numb act of pure ideology. But, he does say, “It is a pity that changes in government see changes in composition of the panel”; a matter reported earlier this year in Daily Review. And he does say of Colebatch’s pieces in Quadrant—also the publisher for his prize-winning book—that the view that unions did their bit to ruin the war effort is not informed “by the methodology expected of historians”. 

One does not need to be credentialed to write good history, says Macintyre, but one does need to consult the National Archive when making an argument that precious hours were lost to industrial action. “Based on my previous readings of Colebatch in Quadrant and my own research, the argument is moonshine.” 
According to Macintyre, Colebatch’s assertion that Australian man-hours were needlessly haunted by the spectre of communism during World War II can be easily refuted by recourse to research. Industrial accidents were significantly more lethal to Australian wartime efforts than industrial action and there were “more hours lost in the US and the UK on a population basis” than that due to industrial action locally. 
But good historiography was not the point last night. Reigniting the history wars seemed to be the statement made. (And so on, here).

And so on and on, and despite the best endeavours of Abbott and Flanagan to declare peace, and Abbott's attempt to re-occupy centre ground, the history and culture wars broke out again ...

And why is the pond knee deep in this fuss, since kultur has no relevance to politics?

Well it's because politics on the federal level continues on its Siamese fish-fighting ways as the reptiles do their level best in the lizard Oz to sell the new deal:

Yes there's the assiduous knob polisher and forelock tugger, Dennis "the sort of bouffant one" Shanahan, back in business, and out selling the goods, and there's David Crowe pretending that doctors will pass on the five dollar cut to rebates.

You need to step outside the reptile house to get a reality check, thoughtfully provided by Amy Corderoy in Fairfax with Tony Abbott's GP co-payment plan clever politics but it will cost you (forced video at end of link).

In due course, punters will realise it's just another tax, and still targeted at setting up a medical research fund, rather than helping the alleged national budget emergency and with some unfortunate outcomes:

Tony Abbott has not given you a Christmas bonus in scrapping his widely disliked co-payment plan – he's given himself one. 
By opting for a $5 cut to the Medicare rebate Mr Abbott has essentially left it up to the nation's doctors to impose the fee of their own accord. 
And they will impose it. 
Australia's doctors have never been against the idea that people should pay more for their services, in fact, many welcome it.

Indeed. The pond on occasions has to listen to a doctor friend bleat, whine and moan about how life is totally unfair to doctors ... the resentment is palpable, the sense of privilege done down impenetrable ...

So the pond chortled deep and hard at David Crowe's "doctors will face pressure" ...

Can the pond order a bulk supply of whatever he's got in the water cooler?

In due course, doctors will realise that Abbott has done a flick pass in the blame game, and punters, as they front up and stump up, will work out who really added to the cost of a GP visit.

The longer term result? Cue Corderoy:

...not everyone who is struggling has a health care card that will protect them from the cut, particularly in the parts of Sydney where health services are already struggling to meet demand. 
And these cuts may be the straw that broke the camel's back for many GP clinics that will decide they simply cannot absorb the fee, and so will no longer bulk bill. 
Once that happens, it's not a leap to assume many will go further than simply $5, and start to recoup the many years of fee increases they have missed out on.

It's not a leap, but for the moment it's an unnecessary one, because the alleged price signal is likely, as Corderoy notes, to increase pressures on already pressed hospitals, which are a much more expensive way of sorting out medical issues and problems, and are already beset by long waiting lists, and interminable queues ...

As for that budget emergency, that crisis coming down the line like a freight train obscuring the light in the tunnel?

The patient contributions were touted at budget time as saving $3.5 billion over five years - savings that were to be invested into a Medicare Research Future Fund. 
Mr Abbott said the new plan would result in the same amount of savings and the research fund will still be established. (more here at the ABC).

Sic transit crisis.

But really all this analysis could be wrapped up in a David Pope cartoon, and handily Pope has done just that, and as always, the larger, enhanced Pope gallery is here.

But first please allow the pond to do a warm-up for Pope with a still from Kill Bill channeling Carrie:

Now carry on:


  1. Some people claim the jackets favoured by the trout-mouthed Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister are synthetic garments featuring reptile-skin prints.
    I disagree.
    I think they are custom garments made from real reptile skin, donated as a gift to Peta by Tony each time he sheds.

    1. 'Fess up, you've been looking at David Rowe cartoons,

  2. We rarely hear from Peter Dutton but Twitter can be a treasure trove of his razor-sharp observations that prove he is another pinheaded minister amongst the other pinheads in this pathetic Abbott government.

    1. Great link. Oh the twits will always twitter ...

  3. It's obvious the spill's on.

    Julie clearly wants to go to Lima alone. Why?

    Only one reason makes sense. She intends to talk up a (to some degree) less toxic climate policy direction under her prime ministership, or at least promise not be willfully obstructive.

    Doing so will shore up the international leadership's support for the putsch, particularly in Beijing and Washington. She can then come home and beat the backbench into submission with her backing.

    She can't do that with a chaperone. Everyone knows what the outcome of her successful networking would be, so Robb is sent to prevent this. Abbott knows it's coming.

    A challenger to the PM with both a US and Chinese President clearly onside gets the numbers on the day in the Party room. Bye bye, Tony.

  4. In today’s SMH is an article titled “Julie Bishop denies backdown over Green Climate Fund” which in part states:

    “The Abbott government has denied international pressure forced its decision to commit $200 million to a global climate fund it had previously said it could not support.”

    And then there is this:

    “In an interview with the ABC in 2012 while in opposition, Ms Bishop said climate change funding should not be disguised as foreign aid funding.

    'We would certainly not spend our foreign aid budget on climate change programs," she [Bishop] said at the time.’ ”.

    I wouldn’t like to be standing behind Bishop at a sandwich shop waiting for her to order: one minute it’s this then it’s that, then this, then that, bloody hell, can’t this government make up its mind.

  5. It's pretty clear to this political observer that Ms.(Mesma) Bishop desires to have some privacy to consult certain Inca practitioners of the ancient arts of "the Evil Eye" to perfect and add to that vicious, lethal "Death Stare" to extend it's fatal effect with more accuracy over a greater; across to the PM. chief of staff advisor's seat in next year's Parliamentary sit!...I am already, in expectation, crafting a thriller on the result..: "Murder on The Floor of The House" ..a best-seller for certain!


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