Bleats

John Howard Thinks Victoria Is The Massachusetts Of Australia But Why Stop There, Mate?

Look, Mr Former Prime Minister, you're not the only one that can make spurious US-To-Australia state comparisons.

John Winston Howard, former Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, doesn’t think that the thumping great election loss his party received in the Victorian state election last weekend is much to worry about as far as the upcoming federal election is concerned.

“Victoria has had a history for quite some years now, some decades, in fact, of being slightly more to the centre-left,” he explained. “The Massachusetts of Australia, some people call it.”

Ah yes, the Massachusetts of Australia.

You know, that meaningful comparison that everyone makes all the time? It’s amazing they haven’t adopted it as the new licence plate slogan, so common has it become in day to day parlance.

The identities of these shadowy “some people” to which Howard refers isn’t clear. Neither is whether Howard has noticed that Massachusetts is one of fifty states and has nine senators and nine members of the House of Representatives while Victoria, the second most populous of Australia’s eight states and territories, has 12 senators and 37 MPs.

Thus Victoria is a tiny weeny bit more politically influential on the federal body politic, and probably something about which it would be prudent to panic.

However, in the interests of future weird political discussions involving state-comparing, let’s clarify which is which:

QLD: The Florida of Australia. Slogan: Beautiful One Day, Every Three Months Someone’s Torn To Pieces By A Crocodile The Next

NSW: The California of Australia. Slogan: No Other State Exists And We’re Not Listening La La La La La

WA: The Texas of Australia. Slogan: Making Empty Threats To Secede Since 1901

SA: The Colorado of Australia. Slogan: We Are Also A State

NT: The Arizona of Australia. Slogan: You Will Vanish Here And Never Be Found

ACT: The Rhode Island of Australia. Slogan: Why Are We A Thing?

Tasmania: The Alaska of Australia. Slogan: Stop Leaving Us Off Your Maps, You Bastards

Make your political comparisons accordingly, nation.

Julia Banks Just Quit The Liberal Party And Completely Overshadowed The PM's Big Election Announcement

In politics and comedy, timing is everything. And this is both.

Scott Morrison was feeling happy as he walked up to the podium this morning.

He was going to announce that the federal budget would be handed down on April 2, clearly indicating that the nation would be going to an election in May 2019, and that it would be in surplus for the first time since the GFC. What a happy piece of news to announce – and since he was treasurer before somehow becoming PM, what a happy reflection on what a good boy he is!

That happiness lasted, by our reckoning, about eight minutes.

For while Scott was telling people his happy news, Liberal MP Julia Banks was issuing a statement which rather sucked all the news-oxygen out of the current affairs-room: she was quitting the government and would sit on the crossbench as an independent MP instead.

Banks had already announced plans not to run for the party again in the Melbourne seat of Chisholm in the aftermath of the leadership spill which removed Malcolm Turnbull as leader.

“Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence,” she said in her statement. “Their actions were undeniably for themselves, for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition – not for the Australian people who we represent, not for what people voted for in the 2016 election, not for stability.”

“My sensible and centrist values, belief in economic responsibility and always putting the people first and acting in the nation’s interest have not changed. The Liberal Party has changed, largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and talk to themselves rather than listening to the people.”

Just as a quick reminder of how things have gone since Malcolm Turnbull fell over the line at the 2016 with a majority of 76 seats in the lower house: Kevin Hogan quit the government to sit as an “independent National” on the cross bench when Morrison became PM, then Turnbull’s vacated seat of Wentworth was lost to independent Kerryn Phelps, and now Banks has quit the government.

This leaves the government with 73 seats – which is actually 72 since Liberal MP Tony Smith is the Speaker of the House. And this means that unwanted things which the government would normally be able to easily block suddenly become a lot more possible.

Like, for example, legislation for a federal ICAC, or the referral of Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton to the High Court for possible disqualification.

#neverforget

The questions that remain are whether or not Banks will run as an independent, and also if she will do so while living on $40 a day, which she memorably claimed she totally could do when arguing that Newstart didn’t need to be raised.

In any case, Morrison’s happy day has just got very, very sad instead.

Poor sad Scott.

Victorian Voters Sent A Loud Message To Scott Morrison Which He's Already Ignoring Because Why Stop Now?

In a nutshell: the Coalition can have fears about immigration and climate denial or they can have political power, but they can no longer have both.

A year ago the Liberal National Party of Queensland lost a supposedly unlosable election running on race-based fear mongering and a pro-coal agenda which was supposed to hand them victory, the only risk being that One Nation and/or Katter’s Australia were going to be more successful at terrifying the base.

That, as you may have noticed, didn’t happen.

The Labor government of Annastacia Palaszczuk won, increasing its margin. But this was supposedly an outlier, a unique confluence of issues which was easy to ignore.

Other outliers with unique confluences of issues which were to prove easy to ignore included: the “Super Saturday” by election results in July which saw five non-Coalition seats increase their swing against the government, the loss of the NSW seat of Wagga Wagga in September, the Wentworth by-election in October that saw the safe Liberal federal seat go to an independent, and now the Victorian election which saw a predicted narrow win to the incumbent government blow out to an absolute rout.

“Maybe the problem is that we’re not swinging the face hammer hard enough?”

In every instance the results were dismissed as definitely not showing what it looked appeared to show – that the current suite of Liberal-National policies were loathed by the public who voted accordingly.

Indeed, a large slab of the right-leaning observers of the Victorian election are making the incoherent argument that it was Matthew Guy’s failure to go full-on frothing right wing that… um, convinced record numbers of Victorians to vote for Daniel Andrews and Labor’s progressive-flavoured agenda?

Andrew Bolt insisted that the public voted for Labor because Matthew Guy failed to “argue against the global warming scare.” His colleague Miranda Devine, meanwhile, claimed that Guy didn’t go on about Safe Schools enough, and that “If you don’t engage with the culture wars, you are complicit, and the electorate will view that as a betrayal.”

And these betrayed voters then instead cast a ballot for a government who… um, specified that they would continue and expand Safe Schools?

And Prue McSween had the intriguing idea that Victoria would have swung in behind the steady hand and incandescent personal charisma of Peter Dutton: an idea which is, to be polite, exceedingly optimistic.

Despite this peculiar zeal for hard-right policy, all of the aforementioned examples supports old Australian political truism – that elections are always won in the centre, which is where the majority of the voters are.

Even victories like the Liberal win at the SA election earlier this year follow the pattern – aside from the lacklustre Labor campaign, Steven Marshall’s campaign winning pitch included a commitment to renewable energy projects and an already-backtracked promise to re-open the Repatriation Hospital.

So the lesson here is if the federal government want any chance at staying in power (which, with this week’s Newspoll showing a ten per cent deficit, feels ambitious), or even merely wish to avoid being smashed to pieces and ground into a fine powder at the next election, then they need to shut up the gender fluidity and about funding new coal-fired power generation and socialising the electricity companies, and embrace some sensible centrist policies quick smart.

And there are some signs that might happen. Some of the more moderate Liberals have finally found the guts to speak of the need to move away from conservative talking points and toward things people actually care about.

Then again, mere hours after parliament resumed the government gave a non-binding vote for a federal anti-corruption body – a wildly popular policy which seems all but inevitable given Labor and crossbench support – in order to not lose a vote on it or force any debate on the matter, while simultaneously insisting they have zero intention of actually creating one.

Some lessons take more than a weekend to learn. Maybe six or so years languishing in opposition will do the trick.

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