February 02, 2015

Horse 1833 - The Captain Is Not The Issue

As I write this on the train to work, I note that the Daily Telegraph has called today "D-Day" for Prime Minister Tony Abbott; whilst other pundits have said that this will be one of the most important weeks of his premiership. The reason given is the removal of Campbell Newman from his own seat by his electorate in the Queensland state election, which as at the time of writing is still in the process of vote counting to find a result.
The media is reporting the reason for Tony's removal as his refusal to take advice and this is evidenced by his "Captain's Call" to award a knighthood to Prince Phillip on Australia Day. Can I suggest that there is another reason why Campbell Newman lost his seat in the election, why the LNP in Queensland suffered a greater than expected swing in the election and why Tony will still be Prime Minister at the end of the day and at the end of this term of government.

Not even the Courier-Mail which stands alone as Queensland's daily newspaper, with three weeks of trying to rubbish the Labor Party and a leader who no-one had heard of, could drown out the LNP's message that it intended to sell off what little remains of Queensland's public assets. The alternatives presented were either to spend less on infrastructure and cut government services or to sell off what little remaining assets Queensland has. The other option of increasing taxation or putting pressure on the Federal Government to increase income tax (and thus roll back some of the ten sets of tax cuts between 2001- 2013) at the next  COAG meeting was never even considered. The problem was presented as a false dichotomy and to be honest, the people of Queensland saw right through it.
Try as they could, the LNP just couldn't disguise the fact that their election campaign was basically one giant protection racket - give us what we want or we will hurt you. The upcoming NSW state election which is also later this years and has been dubbed a "Poles and Wires" election is shaping up to be the same argument; to be played out for the same reasons. The message that the Queensland election should have sent to the Liberal-National coalition in NSW and nationally is if you pluck enough feathers from a live chicken, it will squeal and then fight back.
Given this, why do I think that Tony will continue his premiership right up until election day? Because the lesson which should be learned, will not be allowed to be learned by the LNP's minders.

One thing that I've learnt after watching the best part of 30 seasons of football is that when a team is doing well, no-one criticises the manager. When a team is doing badly and faces relegation, even in spite of the fact that the players might not be good enough and that the team is rubbish, everyone starts calling for the manager to be sacked.
It should be noted that in 2007 when Kevin Rudd's government was swept to power on the back of a very large swing, John Howard became only the second Prime Minister to lose his own seat. Probably this should have sent a message to the Liberal-National coalition but it did not. Even installing Julia Gillard as Prime Minister in the run up to the 2010 election although it was the result of a fractious Labor caucus, wasn't enough for the electorate to decisively vote to remove the Labor Party. During those six years in the wilderness, what did the LNP learn about the electorate? Precisely nothing. Part of the manifesto of the Liberal-National coalition's 2013 campaign was the sell off of Medibank Private, just as the sale of Telstra had been 17 years' previous. The manager had changed a few times but the team was pretty well much the same.

The sad thing is that Labor hasn't really learned the lesson either. True, they're not actively looking to sell off assets but they've failed to prosecute the case for increasing taxation for fear of being kicked into the cold. The two-party preferred choice in Australia is one of timid incompetence versus cruel arrogance.
You can't go to an election promising to steal away the people's stuff and expect them to be happy about it. Making babies swallow unpalatable and foul tasting formula only produces the results of them screwing up their faces and spitting it out.

The lesson that should be learned is simple:
We like stuff. Don't sell our stuff. We don't want you to sell our stuff. Why are you selling our stuff?!

No lessons have been learned and the Liberal-National coalition will peddle the message that the leadership is united right up until the next polling day. They won't change the captain. The problem is that they should change the game plan - otherwise the people will continue to react like this.

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