June 06, 2014

Horse 1687 - The Leadership Challenge That Not Only Never Was But Also Was Actually Never Was

In fact, Turnbull has lavished a lot of charm lately on Abbott’s natural predators, even last week launching a new parliamentary group of friends of the ABC, which got a (small) cut in the Budget.

“I think the ABC is more important than ever,” declared Turnbull, even though it is in fact dangerously huge and biased, stifling competition and punishing conservatives on its five radio stations, four TV networks and online newspaper.
This is Turnbull, on the far Left of the Liberal Party, charming a constituency that hates Abbott and which would back Turnbull to replace him — even if it still wouldn’t vote Liberal.
- Andrew Bolt, Herald-Sun, 2nd Jun 2014

On Monday this week, Mr Bolt's comments launched a wave of discussions which questioned Malcolm Turnbull's disloyalty to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Turnbull's supposed disloyalty stems from the suggesting above that he actually had the temerity to stand up in defence of the ABC.
Meanwhile, Alan Jones over on 2GB, also decided to jump upon this idea that because Malcolm had stood up for the national broadcaster, then that was a display of disloyalty.
Since the budget though, Malcolm Turnbull has cancelled appearances on ABC Local Radio's AM program, cancelled two appearances on ABC1's 7.30 and also an upcoming appointment on Insiders.

I find some of Andrew Bolt's comments particularly confusing. I am really confused. I mean really really confused. Really really really ('chazakah' - the emphatic Semitic triplet type) confused. Specifically I'm confused about this phrase "stifling competition".
Admittedly this column appeared in print in all daily drabloid News Corp rags around the nation on Monday but for several of those rags, such as Brisbane's Courier-Mail or Adelaide's Advertiser, there was no competition. I'm really confused at this point how a newspaper with no other competitors actually has the temerity to print something like this, suggesting that the ABC is stifling competition when from many news-stands across Adelaide and Brisbane, if you wanted to pick a newspaper, you had a choice of ONE.
This is quite apart from the fact that  News Corp Australia owns 50% of Foxtel, Lachlan Murdoch owns Illyria Pty Ltd which holds both the Nova FM and Smooth FM Networks, who by the way also sat on the board of Network Ten Holdings (which by the way, I'm betting has been deliberately run into the ground, just so Lachlan can force the government's hand into changing the way that media ownership rules work).
I'm also a little confused as to how a person who even has his own private Human Rights Commissioner (and we all know that's precisely why Tim Wilson of the IPA was given a golden ticket into the job) can even bandy about the words "stifling competition" in the first place.

When I had started this post on Monday night, it looked pretty simple to tie off. However, fast forward to today the 6th of June and Tony Abbott gave a press conference trying to quell the rumours that Messrs Bolt and Jones had stirred up. Prime Minister Abbott passed off the rumours as "meaningless chatter" and that in itself makes me wonder who the puppet masters are in all of this.

Aside. The following did not appear in the print versions of either the Courier-Mail, The Herald-Sun or The Daily Telegraph. News Corp Australia or rather its version of Minipax has gone back and changed the online version of this article.
"That said, a disclaimer: I’m sure Turnbull isn’t contemplating any imminent challenge or is fostering destabilisation.
Nor do I think the Liberals are considering any such switch at the moment, especially not to a man whose strategic nous is so lousy that he last led the Liberals into the toilet."
- Was not in the physical papers on June 2.

This all brings me around to the concept of plausible deniability. Andrew Bolt can very easily deny that he was directed either by his bosses at News Corp or the Prime Minister's Office that he was told to write this article. Alan Jones also can deny that he was given any scoops or inside information from the Prime Minister's Office. The Prime Minister's Office and even Mr Abbott can deny that they either leaked any directives, press releases or other information.
So who is pulling the strings here? Bolt? Jones? Abbott? Turnbull? Rupert? Lachlan? The IPA? Who knows? I honestly have no idea.

I do know that Malcolm Turnbull who has been in parliament since 2004, certainly saw from the other side of the chamber as Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd pulled ribs out of each other. Even Blind Freddy who was the fictional member for Leichhardt from 1910-1928 could see that it would be an inherently stupid idea to make a leadership challenge during the first term of office of a government. If there is one fixed point in this entire swirling galaxy of intrigue and subterfuge, then this is that.
Malcolm Turnbull can definitely deny that there's a leadership challenge because of the incredibly obvious fact that there is no leadership challenge. Plausible deniability works its best when the thing that you happen to be denying, never actually happened.

No the real reason why Turnbull has been gagged here has nothing to do with a supposed leadership challenge but his statement that “I think the ABC is more important than ever." It is very much in Andrew Bolt's interest as a News Corp lackey to see the ABC kneecapped, as it is for Alan Jones who in effect is John Singleton's. Any dollar pulled from the national broadcaster is a victory for them and this is a classic move in playing the man and not the ball.

There is however one grain of truth in Mr Bolt's initial column that started off this mess:
This is Turnbull, on the far Left of the Liberal Party, charming a constituency that hates Abbott and which would back Turnbull to replace him — even if it still wouldn’t vote Liberal.
Okay, as far as Mr Bolt is concerned, everyone in the world is on the far left to him. He's been on the bus to Far Right Town for a long time now but the truth is that being charming certainly is a good way to win over a constituency - you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
Right now, a great deal of the electorate actually does hate Abbott and probably would back Turnbull to replace him — even if it still wouldn’t vote Liberal, but I'd suggest that's mainly because that's because of everything that his government has said and done, and cutting the budget of the ABC is only the first in a very very very long line of thing.

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