Breaking Bad, The Aussie Way

It’s Only Been Two Months, Phoney Rabid!

I don’t exactly know what you can chalk this up to, but Tony Abbott has managed to drive the delicate Australian diplomatic relationship with Indonesia into a ditch at full throttle. Who gave him the bloody keys? Oh we did. There are a few interesting things about this turn of events.

Tony Abbott essentially came to power believing that his election win validated all of his  tightly-held views. He is interpreting his election win as a massive endorsement of his various policy foibles. Considering he is the least popular Opposition leader to win a Federal election, it might behoove him to consider that he might have the least endorsement by the people as far as election winners go. In deliberately ignoring such nuances to the election result, he has tried turning back to boats to mixed results. he has not managed to buy a single boat (which is probably a good thing given how stupid is the very idea) and went to Jakarta to talk to the Indonesian leadership but ended up getting no sizable deal worthy of calling a deal.

In fact, if anything, the Indonesians have been pretty blunt in expressing their distrust of Tony Abbott, and have repeatedly contradicted Abbott, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison at various points. The point – so to speak – is that Abbot has failed to score any exchange with the Indonesian government and by extension the Indonesian polity, and has expended what little good will we had with them all for the sake of the asylum seeker issue.

Compounding the issue has been this business of leaked documents by Edward Snowden which essentially fingered Australia as espionage aficionados of the South Pacific, and that our spy agencies had attempted to bug the phone calls of the Indonesian leadership. naturally, this has poured gasoline on to the fire that was already burning and so, Indonesia has resorted to calling its ambassador back. It’s like they’re playing a cheap replica of Cold War politics with us, with Australia as the potential enemy. If both sides  keep talking this way, it may end up being that way. You’d think wiser heads will prevail but unfortunately the outgoing Susilo Yudhoyono Bambang is a lame duck going into the election next year, and wisdom and the current Coalition government are like matter and anti-matter. They just don’t seem to coexist.

The shocking thing about all this is that the negotiations with Indonesia was the first real diplomatic challenge for the incoming Abbott government and not only have they failed to do a good job, they’ve sort of set it alight as a monument to their failure. If the relationship is going to take years to repair, well, we can point at Tony Abbott for decades to come as the idiot who flushed the relationship down the drain. It’s rather ironic given that these guys came in promising to be steady and sure handed.

The Peter Hartcher Post-Mortem

Peter Hartcher is writing his elaborate account of how the ALP blew itself up over 5 episodes. As of this writing, it’s up to episode 4. It’s the same old story with not many new information, but it does offer some tidbits. I’m not sure the union movement comes across as being a positive influence in the events and Paul Howes is definitely answerable for how things turned out the way it did. The bit about Kevin Rudd being like paralysed after climate talks in Copenhagen fell apart is revealing. In fact it says in passing that Mark Arbib wasn’t the same after Copenhagen. When you consider how much our commitment was riding on an agreement at Copenhagen, you ca understand the policy paralysis. There are no good ways to sell an ETS without that agreement in Copenhagen. There was no alternative path, no other option; which explains why Gillard and Swan opted to just postpone it for expediency.

The other revealing thing about the Rudd coup is that Gillard did have ambitions for the top job and essentially jumped the gun. She has been putting out a narrative that she hadn’t made up her mind until that day and it was Bill Shorten and others who conscripted her into the top job – to which I only have the playground retort “as if!” It is very obvious that dating back to 2006 when the two of them deposed Kim Beazley, that the partnership was out of expedience and that deep down she had contempt for Kevin Rudd. Now, that’s fine except that she can’t very well go around telling the world how treacherous Kevin Rudd was when she pretty much did to him what ended up being done to her. The outrage really is a bit rich.

Now that the historic moment has passed and Kevin Rudd too has declared he’s leaving Parliament, I have to confess I’m quite glad it’s over. I did warm to Kevin Rudd in the end but only because his replacement drove me to that appreciation.

The problem of Julia Gillard as Prime Minster was compounded by the fact that she was exactly the kind of person who combats rhetoric with rhetoric and therefore hypocrisy with hypocrisy. Even her much-lauded “Misogyny Speech” comes with the caveat that she said that in response to Tony Abbott questioning Peter Slipper’s character when everybody knew that Slipper was a Liberal at heart as well as the linchpin holding together the slightest of margins for Julia Gillard. Maybe they teach this stuff as a virtue in law school, but the more you look at context, the more the “misogyny speech” loses its power; and it happens because even in her angriest rhetorical flourish, Julia Gillard was the kind of hypocrite who would take Slipper as speaker to shore up her numbers.

And there’s *nothing* wrong with that in my humble opinion, but I just want to be spared this notion that a great injustice was righted by that speech. If you believe that, then you probably believe that a pumpkin patch doll is a radical new form of soft sculpture. It was possibly her biggest nonsequitur moment as Prime Minister.

Which is to say, this was the worst aspect of the Rudd-Gillard ALP government. They were more often than not, people who believed that symbolic gestures changed the world and that the right kind of hypocrisy was better than bad solutions. We can’t complain because they got us through the GFC at its crescendo. At the same time they deserve the political wilderness they cast themselves into as a result of events this year. For all the good they allegedly did, it was a pretty sorry ALP government when compared to the Hawke Keating ALP government. The ghastliness of the Coalition during their time in Opposition merely adds to the misery of this time.

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