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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Prime Puppet Malcolm Turnbull's 'Captain's picks'

Prime Puppet Malcolm Turnbull's 'Captain's picks'

In the couple of weeks since the double dissolution federal election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has managed to display to the electorate that he is nothing more than a puppet of the Liberal Party's far-right.

Rather than being Malcolm in Charge, he is merely the Prime Puppet of the racist and bigoted right-wing who are more concerned with money and power than people or the good of the country.

The first big decision for Turnbull followed the harrowing Four Corners story on Monday, 25 July 2016, which exposed gross human rights abuses of juveniles detained in the Northern Territory 'corrections' system(1).

Northern Territory prison officials placing a juvenile prisoner, Dylan Voller, in a restraint chair and spit hood.

Initially, Turnbull's reaction appeared appropriate. He immediately announced a Royal Commission into the abuse(2). However, amid calls for the Terms of Reference to include all state jurisdictions following similar allegations in Queensland and other states, Turnbull announced it would be restricted to the Northern Territory.

Overshadowing this restriction however, was the bombshell that Justice Brian Martin QC would head the Royal Commission. Martin has presided over a number of high profile cases and delivered what would appear to be some bizarre sentences. For instance, he described five white men as being of 'good character' after they went on a racially motivated crime spree in which they deliberately terrorised aborigines by driving their car over their camps and at the people. Their Klan-like behaviour culminated in them bashing to death 33 year old aboriginal man Kwementyaye Ryder(3). Martin was so impressed by their 'good character' that the men received sentences ranging from 12 months to four years(4). Clearly in Martin's interpretation of the law, the life of an aboriginal man is worth less than the 'good character' of five white killers.

Following the airing of the Four Corners program, Adam Giles, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, removed the Corrections portfolio from John Elferink, however, Elferink retains a number of portfolios(5) including being the Attorney-General which one would expect to be a pivotal position during the Royal Commission. The Northern Territory also counter-sued the boys who made the claims of abuse, over damage caused during an escape attempt. Amid uproar, Giles announced the lawsuit was to be dropped(6).

Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has written to the Australian Government for an explanation of the allegations of abuse in the Northern Territory. Mendez stated that while Australia was yet to respond, the footage he has seen could amount to torture or crimes against humanity(7).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that multiple international conventions may have been broken, including the Convention for the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture. Given the severity of the allegations of human rights abuses, the UNHCR stated that the Royal Commission needs to be independent, however, it has emerged that the Terms of Reference were formulated in consultation with the Northern Territory Government; the very government under whom the alleged abuses occurred(8). Compounding this lack of independence, there was no consultation with indigenous leaders before appointing Martin(9).

The appointment of Martin sends the message that the racists in the Liberal Party are looking after their racist mates in the Northern Territory.

The second issue in which Turnbull showed that he was merely a puppet of the far right-wing, was in rejecting the nomination of Kevin Rudd for United Nations Secretary-General(10). Julie Bishop, as Foreign Minister, was happy to endorse Rudd for the position, however, the extreme right-wing wanted to play politics and so their puppet Turnbull rejected the nomination at their behest, saying Rudd was unsuitable.

Cory Bernardi, right-wing extremist extraordinaire, clearly influenced Turnbull's decision(11). In a Tweet, Bernardi unbelievably made the statement that Turnbull was correct in stifling Rudd's personal ambition while boasting of his own appointment to the United Nations in a media statement which read:

  • 'I welcome the Prime Minister's decision as it reflects the sentiments of a great many Australians. Our participation in international institutions is more important than an individual's ambition. While seeking to advance Australia's stature on the world stage, we've got to do what's right, rather than what's politically expedient. The Prime Minister has done exactly that today. I look forward to my secondment to the United Nations later in the year'.(12)

Pot/kettle, Cory?

Turnbull, a man who once led Australia's push for a republic, who supported marriage equality, who supported an emissions trading scheme(13), a man who originally backed Rudd for the UN job(14), is now kowtowing to the extreme right of the Liberal Party on all of these matters.

Turnbull's failed strategy of calling the double dissolution was aimed at clearing the decks in the Senate and ensuring that smaller parties and independents were removed. He now has a Senate that is less malleable than the previous one and which is comprised of the likes of Pauline Hanson whose xenophobic, fear-mongering politics are a fine match for the bigotry of the Liberal Party's extreme right-wing. If Turnbull thought that this election was going to make his job as Prime Minister easier, then he has been sorely mistaken.

Turnbull ascended to the nation's top job following a coup that deposed then Prime Minister Tony Abbott. This was not a popular decision within the Liberal Party's extreme right-wing, who considered Turnbull to be far too left-wing for their fascist ideology. Many voters with moderate or left-leaning political inclinations felt that Turnbull would be better for the country than the bumbling, fear-mongering Abbott. Yet within a few short months it has become abundantly clear that even though Abbott is on the back-bench, the right-wing is still in charge(15) and Turnbull is but their puppet.

In both cases, the NT Royal Commission and Kevin Rudd's UN bid, Turnbull has been thrown under the bus by appearing to make Captain's Calls (as Abbott was fond of calling them), yet they are decisions that have been heavily driven by the right-wing faction of the Liberal Party.

With friends like these in his party, who needs enemies?

Turnbull will be lucky to survive a full term with his puppet-masters engineering his downfall.

Update 1 August 2016

Following uproar across the country, Brian Martin stands down from heading the Royal Commission 'in the public interest'. Prime Minister Turnbull has replaced him with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, and former Supreme Court judge, Margaret White(16). This would appear to present a more balanced and potentially less biased Royal Commission.

Supporting the perception of Turnbull being merely a puppet of his right-wing, it has now emerged that he rejected the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which found that Rudd was 'qualified for the job' and a 'better candidate than previous Secretaries-General'(17).


1. ABC Four Corners, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, Mary Fallon, Elise Worthington, 'Australia's shame - The brutalisation of children behind bars', 25 July 2016. Accessed 30 July 2016.

2. Al Jazeera, 'Australia: PM orders inquiry into juvenile prison abuse', 27 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

3. Overland, Michael Brull, 'Top blokes, totally out of character: when five white men beat an Aboriginal man to death', 14 May 2010, Accessed 30 July 2016.

4. New Matilda, Chris Graham, 'NT Juvenile Detention Abuse Royal Commissioner Needs No Introduction to Black Territorians', 28 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

5. ABC News, 'John Elferink sacked from Corrections in wake of Four Corners report; Adam Giles alleges culture of cover-up', 27 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

6. Huffington Post, Eoin Blackwell, 'NT Government Withdraws $160,000 Law Suit Against Don Dale Teens', 29 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

7. ABC Radio National, RN Breakfast, Ellen Fanning, 'Does abuse of children in juvenile detention qualify as torture?', 28 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

8. ABC News, Timothy Fernandez, 'Four Corners: NT youth detention treatment may breach two human rights conventions, UNHCR says', 30 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

9. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, 'Indigenous leaders 'disgusted' they were not consulted on detention inquiry', 29 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

10. ABC News, Stephanie Anderson, 'Kevin Rudd: Malcolm Turnbull rules out nominating former PM for UN secretary-general job', 29 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

11. The Australian, Jared Owens, Joe Kelly, 'Cory Bernardi says Coalition should not support Kevin Rudd's UN bid', 20 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

12. Twitter, Cory Bernardi @corybernardi, 29 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

13. New Matilda, Ben Eltham, 'Agile Government: Turnbull Has Notched 17 Backflips In Seven Months',  12 April 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

14. ABC News, Eliza Borello and Stephanie Anderson, 'Kevin Rudd releases letters claiming Malcolm Turnbull backed him for United Nations secretary-general job', 30 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

15. The Age, Mark Kenny, 'Turnbull hamstrung by divided party even after the election', 29 July 2016, Accessed 30 July 2016.

16. ABC News, Anna Henderson, 'Mick Gooda, Margaret White named royal commission heads after Brian Martin stands down', 1 August 2016, Accessed 1 August 2016.

17. SBS, 'PM rejected DFAT advice on Rudd's bid', 1 August 2016, Accessed 1 August 2016.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

ISIS - who's your daddy? The war crimes of Bush, Blair, Howard

ISIS - who's your daddy? The war crimes of Bush, Blair, Howard

After seven years of comprehensive investigation, the Chilcot report into Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 has been released. The 2.6 million word report reveals that the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and by default the so-called Coalition of the Willing, had no justification for invading Iraq.

The basic premise for the invasion was that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat. This was in direct contradiction to advice from United Nations weapons inspectors, such as Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, who warned numerous times that Hussein didn't possess, nor was he developing, WMDs. This advice didn't suit the plans of US President George W. Bush who wasn't renowned either for his intelligence or his decision making. Bush wanted Iraq by hook or by crook, so he invented a threat and ran with it in the face of opposition from weapons inspectors, the UN Security Council and a number of nations. Bush made the childish statement that Hussein was the 'guy who tried to kill my daddy'. Mic drop. Invade Iraq.

When George Dubya's daddy was President of the USA, he attacked Hussein in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991. Hussein claimed that Kuwait was stealing Iraqi oil. It was a momentous victory. Bush Senior drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait but resisted a further push to drive Hussein out of power. The reason was because of intelligence warning that deposing Hussein would create a power vacuum in the Middle East, potentially causing the region to descend into chaos as multiple players vied for power.

George W decided this wasn't good enough. In an act of blatant hegemony (and looking every bit like a petulant teenager trying to prove himself to a demanding daddy) he found a reason, albeit a flimsy one, to invade Iraq, overthrow Hussein and establish a US presence and puppet government in the area. He ignored warnings that there were no WMDs and most seriously the warnings about the fall-out from such actions.

The result was up to one million Iraqi civilians dead, and the deaths of thousands of US soldiers, 179 British soldiers and two Australian soldiers. It also created the power vacuum that Dubya and his daddy had been warned about(1). The upshot was a dysfunctional and vindictive Shia government that sought retribution against Sunnis who'd support Hussein's Baath party.

Prior to the invasion, the biggest terrorist threat in the world was Al Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden. Hussein and Bin Laden hated each other. While Hussein was in power, there was little to no presence of Al Qaeda in his country. In 2004, the year after the invasion, the Salafist terrorist group Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad joined forces with Bin Laden and established Al Qaeda in Iraq. Two years later the group renamed themselves Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). As the last of the American troops withdrew from Iraq and more than a thousand militant groups fought within Syria's civil war, ISIL, now Islamic State, came to prominence, occupying large areas through Syria and Iraq, and killing thousands of people.

The Coalition of the Willing was comprised of a number of states, particularly the USA, Britain and Australia. Then Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has remained unrepentant about Australia's involvement in the Iraq war.

In the lead up to the invasion, Howard and his Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, made many ludicrous claims about Saddam Hussein, such as him having a human mincing machine(2). Hussein was an evil dictator who was responsible for horrendous human rights abuses so there was no need to exaggerate his malevolence, but exaggerate they did.

Howard blames the decision to invade on faulty intelligence. Others claim that the war was waged on the basis of a lie. Given the advice that there were no WMDs and that the invasion would dangerously destabilise the region, it is hard to accept Howard's assertion that he made the best decision on the information at hand.

This 'information' was plagiarised from a report written by a university student and then altered to suit the narrative used to justify the war. It became known as the 'dodgy dossier'(3). So was the Iraq invasion a lie or bad intelligence? I'm calling 'lie'.

Andrew Wilkie, an Australian intelligence analyst with the Office of National Assessments, was so concerned by the false intelligence being used to justify the war that he blew the whistle and resigned from his job. He later entered politics as an Independent.

Howard ignored the advice of Australia's intelligence agencies and chose an unnecessary and illegal war(4).

Tony Blair had been told by his Attorney-General that an invasion without UN Security Council resolution would be illegal. After pressure from Blair, the Attorney-General changed his advice to suit the government narrative(5). Sound familiar? The reasons for the war were a concoction and Prime Minister Howard bought into it.

The Chilcot Report states there was no justification for war and that the justification used did not have any evidence to support it. Howard may argue that this report has the advantage of hindsight. Yet, most telling of all is that at the time of the decision, the United Nations Security Council refused to sanction the invasion because of lack of evidence and the risk of regional destablisation. Countries such as Russia, Germany and France refused to partake in the illegal US-led invasion.

There are now calls for Tony Blair to be charged with war crimes in the wake of the Chilcot Report. While the report investigated Britain's reasons for the invasion, it is a damning indictment on Howard's judgement and honesty.

At the very least, a Royal Commission should be held into Australia's involvement in the disastrous war. Even before the release of the Chilcot Report, there were calls in Australia for an investigation or a Royal Commission. The Liberal Party has resisted the urge claiming that it is ancient history and there is no need for it. In the wake of the Chilcot Report, Paul Barratt, former head of the Defence Department, is also calling for an Inquiry into Australia's involvement in the war(6).

The Liberal Pary's refusal to investigate Howard's war is a little ironic. This from a party that held a number of investigations and a Royal Commission into the pink batts fiasco in which Labor ignored advice regarding the installation of ceiling insulation, resulting in the deaths of four young men. This from a party who held a Royal Commission into Union corruption which was nothing more than a witch-hunt to weaken Unions and ulimately discredit the Labor Party. This from a party that demands an investigation into an allegedly fraudulent text message that Labor sent under the auspices of Medicare during an election campaign. Yet the Liberal Party flippantly rejects calls for a Royal Commission into a decision that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and gave impetus to the most dangerous terrorist group the world has seen. It is clear where the Liberal Party's values lie. It is clear the Liberal Party is shackled hand and foot to its American overlords. It is clear they are content in covering up war-crimes and illegal invasions. This isn't really a surprise given their willingness to commit human rights abuses against asylum seekers, to breach international conventions on refugees, torture and the treatment of children.

Lying wasn't new to Howard. Nor was destroying innocent lives. In order to secure his re-election in 2001 and to retain power at subsequent elections, Howard used the fear generated from 9/11 to demonise and victimise asylum seekers in a number of incidents which he either manipulated for political gain or failed to tell the truth about as revealed in a Senate Inquiry, including the Tampa crisis, Children Overboard scandal and SIEV-X (in which 353 innocent people drowned).

'Honest' John Howard as some called him, must be investigated and should be charged with war-crimes along with members of his Cabinet, including then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

The Chilcot Report has vindicated what many of us already knew; that there was no justification for the war,  that the invasion had no legal basis, Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat, that the invasion would cost a vast number of lives, the blowback would be significant and would result in a Pyrrhic victory.

If it had been a Labor Party Prime Minister who did this, the Liberal Party would be apoplectic and screaming for blood.

John Howard led Australia to an illegal war on the basis of doctored and false intelligence costing hundreds of thousands of lives and creating a situation that has significantly increased terrorism across the globe.


1. International New York Times, Joel Brinkley and Eric Schmitt, 'Iraqi Leaders Say U.S. Was Warned of Disorder After Hussein, but Little Was Done', 30 November 2003, Accessed 7 July 2016.

2. Crikey, 'Howard's biggest Iraq porky', 4 March 2004, Accessed 7 July 2016.

3. Independent, Andrew Buncombe, 'Chilcot report: Student whose thesis became Tony Blair's 'dodgy dossier' accuses UK of systematic failure', 6 July 2016, Accessed 7 July 2016.

4. Sydney Morning Herald, Margaret Swieringa, 'Howard ignored official advice on Iraq's weapons and chose war', 12 April 2013, Accessed 7 July 2016.

5. Independent, Kim Sengupta, 'How Goldsmith changed advice on legality of war', 1 July 2010, Accessed 7 July 2016.

6. The Guardian, Ben Doherty and Kate Lyons, 'Australia needs its own Chilcot inquiry into Iraq war, former defence head says', 7 July 2016, Accessed 7 July 2016.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Benighted & bigoted - The Hanson Treachery

Benighted & bigoted - The Hanson Treachery

Australia's 2016 federal election is one for the ages. With the closest result in years that will probably deliver a minority government and both Houses likely reliant on deals and haggling with the Greens, One Nation, the Jackie Lambie Network, the Nick Xenophon Team, other minor parties and independents.

The election had its share of right-wing parties including the Australian Liberty Alliance and Rise Up Australia; parties whose raison d'ĂȘtre was nothing short of nationalistic bigotry and Islamophobia. None of these parties secured a seat in the parliament.

Unfortunately, the perennial Pauline Hanson appears to have successfully resurrected her old party One Nation and will likely end up with at least one, if not more, seats in the Senate.

Her first post-election media conference was a rambling diatribe of insanity(1) as she unleashed a horrendous and disgraceful attack on Muslim Australians. She immediately called for the banning of halal certification, sharia law and burqas while accusing mosques of being hotbeds of hatred.

She also demanded that Muslims follow the Constitution. This last accusation was a little ironic considering that Hanson's anti-Islam policies are unconstitutional.

To legitimise her Islamophobia, she has called for a royal commission into whether Islam is a religion or an ideology(2). Of course, she needs it to be an ideology so that she can get around the Constitution and then try to implement her fascist and neo-Nazi policies.

Section 116 of that Constitution states:

'The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth'.

In reality, no Royal Commissioner will overturn 1400 years of history or break the news to 1.5 billion Muslims that their religion doesn't exist.

Would Hanson accept the umpire's decision if the Royal Commission confirms that Islam is a religion? Anyway, many Christians go to great lengths to state that Christianity isn't a religion but a relationship. Perhaps we should remove Christianity from the list of religions. While we're at, let's remove its tax exemptions as well, but that's another story.

Hanson wants the Royal Commission to investigate 'hate-preaching' in Mosques. Perhaps the Royal Commission could be expanded into hate-preaching by Hanson and One Nation.

Hanson is out of control with such ludicrous fear-mongering and hatred ... and she hasn't even been sworn in yet. In fact, the dust is yet to settle on the election result.

With the exhuming of the benighted and bigoted Pauline Hanson and her war on Islam, I can't help but ponder the Monty Python declaration:

'Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government'.

Hanson has made many ignorant claims, including the unfounded statement that 98% of Australians opposed halal certification. Most Aussies couldn't care less about whether food was halal certified or not. It's only the bigots that have created such a stir about it.

Hanson claims that she isn't a racist. Yet she has previously attacked indigenous people, Asians and now Muslims. She recently warned that Australia risked being 'swamped by Asians'(3). Racists generalise their hatred and fear by portraying everyone in a particular people group as having the same characteristics. Hanson is doing this with Muslims, she is doing it with Asians and she has previously done it with indigenous people. If she doesn't want to be labelled a racist, then she shouldn't act like one.

Another of her statements is that Muslims put God before Australia. Perhaps Hanson might want to spend some time in a fundamentalist church ... the same sort of church which is attended by many of the right-wing Christians who voted for her. Those churches put God before everything else. Yes, they'll preach that they must follow the laws of the land, just as Muslims preach. However, if push comes to shove, fundamentalist Christians will rise up against governments or laws that require them to do things that go against their beliefs. One only has to look at the passionate campaigning against marriage equality by Christian pastors who refuse to marry LGBTI people if it were ever to be made law.

Hanson's racist attacks are putrid and dangerous. Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner has warned that they are likely to incite violent hate crimes(4).

Hatred and bigotry are not patriotism. Being wrapped in the Australian flag doesn't make a person patriotic. Nationalist maybe, but not patriotic. George Orwell stated that 'nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception'.

Pauline Hanson claims that her life is at risk because of her statements. Yet she is the biggest risk to Australia. Her dog-whistling is appealing to racists who may well feel empowered & legitimised by this hate speech. She warns of Islamic terrorism, however, counter-terrorism experts warn that right-wing extremism is as big a threat as Islamic radicalisation, if not bigger(5).

If she genuinely wants to combat extremism, she should start with herself and those like her. If she wants to address Islamic extremism, then she should be inclusive not exclusive. Excluding people from society is the quickest way to alienate and radicalise them. Embracing the Muslim community and make them feel welcome and a part of Australian society is the best way to reduce radicalisation(6).

This next government is going to be marred by Hanson and the bigotry of One Nation. Thankfully there are already politicians who have stated they will stand up against her hate speech.

Hanson is a politician and leader of a political party, which means she and her One Nation colleagues are supposed to represent the electorate; an electorate comprised of hundreds of thousands of Australians who are Muslim or of Asian descent ... or both. If she hates Australians so much and clearly doesn't like the Australian Constitution, she can't claim to be a proud Australian defending Australian culture? She certainly isn't loyal to her country if she can't accept the demographic composition of it. At the very least she is unsuitable as a politician if she won't represent the electorate.

Australia doesn't belong to white people or Christians. It is a secular nation whose Constitution protects freedom of religion. Australia is a nation built by migrants whose culture has been shaped by the cultures of other nations. Attacking and vilifying other cultures, other peoples, other religions is not patriotism, it is treachery.

If Hanson doesn't love Australia, she should leave!


1. The Huffington Post, Josh Butler, 'Pauline Hanson's First Press Conference As a Senator Was INSANE', 4 July 2016, Accessed 5 July 2016.

2. ABC News, Kym Agius, 'Election 2016: Pauline Hanson not backing down on call for royal commission into Islam', 4 July 2016, Accessed 5 July 2016.

3. Sydney Morning Herald, Nicole Hasham, 'Election 2016: Pauline Hanson warns of terror on the street and suburbs swamped by Asians', 4 July 2016, Accessed 5 July 2016.

4. ABC News, Jean Kennedy, 'Election 2016: Pauline Hanson's comments could lead to violence, Tim Soutphommasane', 5 July 2016,'s-comments-could-lead-to-violence:-soutphommosane/7568608. Accessed 5 July 2016.

5. Sydney Morning Herald, Rachel Olding, 'Right wing extremism equal to Muslim radicalisation, say academics', 17 July 2015, Accessed 5 July 2016.

6. United Nations, General Assembly 86th meeting, 'Links between Extreme Poverty, Violent Extremism Can Be Broken by Creating Jobs, Reducing Inequalities, General Assembly Hears as Debate Concludes', 16 February 2016, Accessed 5 July 2016.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Turnbull's pyrrhic victory

Turnbull's pyrrhic victory

The results of the 2016 Australian federal election are on a knife-edge. The morning after the night before is no closer to determining who will lead Australia for the next three years. What is clear however, is that the Liberal and National Party coalition who were the incumbent government have been decimated, losing a raft of seats while the Labor Party have picked up a significant number. It is also clear that there has been a large swing to the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and some independents.

Whoever, forms government will likely have to negotiate with the cross-benches in order to have legislation pass. Not that this is necessarily bad. After all, instead of one party pushing through their own legislation it will be on terms agreeable to all sitting MPs. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard made this work during her term in which she presided over a hung parliament. In fact, she was Australia's most productive Prime Minister, passing more legislation than any other(1).

Courtesy of Guardian Australia
The hand-wringing, soul-searching and character assassinations have already commenced within the Liberal Party, blaming Turnbull for the massive swing against the LNP. However, this swing cannot be placed solely at the feet of Turnbull as there were a number of factors that contributed to it.

First and foremost was the arrogance of the Liberals in thinking they were better than the Labor Party because of their stability and cohesion. They gained so much mileage from Labor's disunity when then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was axed in lieu of Gillard in 2010. In 2013, she was replaced by Rudd because of the internal party ructions which greatly damaged Labor's credibility. It was no great shock then that the 2013 election saw the Liberal Party elected with a massive majority of 35 seats and Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the helm spruiking Liberal Party unity. And then the unthinkable happened and the Liberal Party axed a sitting prime minister. Abbott was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull. The often incoherent Abbott had made numerous blunders and his popularity was plummeting. Turnbull's rise to the top job came with much expectation.

However, the Turnbull administration continued on in the same vein that Abbott had. There were few changes and it became clear that Turnbull was not in charge of the party. Where the Liberals accused Labor of being controlled by the unions, it was obvious that the Libs had two masters: the religious right wing and the neo-liberal Institute of Public Affairs(2) which had demanded the abolition of the clean energy fund and the Department of Climate Change, not too mention a number of demands that the Liberal Party sought to implement in one manner or another, including repealing the mining tax, cutting company tax and privatising Medicare.

Turnbull delivered a budget only weeks before the federal election gifting a $50 million tax cut to big business in line with the IPA and big business wishes, at the expense of funding for Health and Education. He also attempted to limit funding for Medicare by freezing the rebate rate at 37% for six years. Some doctors announced that they could no longer be bulk-billing, but instead pass on the gap payments to customers(3). Allegations from Labor that the Liberal Party were privatising Medicare were not far off the mark. While not privatising as such, the Libs clearly have an agenda to reduce the public funding of it. Abbott had tried to introduce a GP co-payment. While the co-payment failed, Turnbull has effectively implemented it through the freeze on the rebate threshold. Abbott closed the Medicare Local network and cut bulk-billing for pathology and diagnostic imaging(4). The Liberals had planned to privatise the Medicare payments system, but Turnbull ruled it out only after it became clear that Labor would make much mileage from it(5).

Prior to being dumped, Abbott had promised a plebiscite on marriage equality. During the 2016 election campaign, Turnbull reiterated there would be a plebiscite if the Liberal Party won, but then he stated that it wouldn't be binding and that MPs could vote according to conscience. Religious Right members, Cory Bernardi and George Christensen stated that regardless of the wishes of the Australian electorate, they would oppose marriage equality.

The Liberal Party showed their true colours by attacking Turnbull's character. He was seen as being a lefty, pro-gay, pro-Islam, pro-tolerance. Turnbull dared to tone down Abbott's vitriolic attack on Islam and the right wing was apoplectic. Turnbull even attended a community Iftar event during Ramadan. The right-wing gained mileage in the character assassination of Turnbull when it was revealed that one of his guests, Sheikh Shady, held ... wait for it ... homophobic views. Yes, the pro-Abbott, anti-gay, religious right wing were upset that a Muslim had stolen their homophobic thunder. The stench of irony and hypocrisy reeked across conservative Australia.

It was no wonder that the Liberal Party was savaged in the election. Abbott was displaced because of his unpopularity, yet Turnbull was unable to change direction because of the very culture of the Liberal Party.

The pressure was telling on him. Following the election, Labor leader Bill Shorten delivered an eloquent speech which was full of hope for the future. Turnbull wasn't to be seen. In a farce worthy of a Laurel and Hardy movie, Turnbull holed up in his house, unwilling to come out. So absured did it become that the media drove there and set up camp. Turnbull eventually showed his face and delivered a speech reminiscent of the ungracious and self-serving speech that former Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman delivered on his spectacular defeat in the Queensland election. An election result that is beginning to mirror the federal election. Both Newman and Turnbull led parties with large majorities, in Newman's case, he'd won the 2010 election with 78 seats to Labor's 6 seats. Both the Newman and Abbott/Turnbull governments led with a toxic culture that waged war on workers and the poor, while lining the pockets of big business, both led parties that supported neo-liberal austerity measures, and both displayed extreme arrogance believing they would easily win the election given their massive majorities. How wrong they were. Newman was ousted and replaced by a Labor minority government. Meanwhile, it is apparent that Turnbull will be lucky to have any majority and if successful, may well be leading a minority government. Turnbull's speech(6), instead of being gracious and acknowledging that perhaps he and his party were responsible for the swing against them, he blamed Labor and the electorate, just as Newman had. The only difference is that it is not yet clear if the Coalition will win or lose the election.

Malcolm Turnbull believes the Coalition will be returned to government(7)

Turnbull called the double dissolution that led to the election and replacement of the full Senate. The trigger for the double dissolution was the failure to pass the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) bill. Funnily enough, during the election campaign, the ABCC wasn't mentioned once. It was merely an excuse for the election which Turnbull saw as an opportunity to clean house in the Senate. He had thought he'd end up with a more favourable upper house, but his plan backfired spectacularly.

However, win or lose, this will be a pyrrhic victory for Turnbull. The old adage, 'be careful what you wish for because you just may get it', will apply. If he does remain Prime Minister he will need to negotiate with the cross-benches while trying to deal with the massive internal power-plays within the Liberal party as well as the external influences from the religious right-wing, the IPA and a hostile media, some of whom are already calling for Turnbull to resign.

If the Liberal Party wins the election, it will likely deliver a government whose term will be marked by great instability and in-fighting, which will further disenfranchise an already jaded electorate. Turnbull is unlikely to survive the term or to lead the Liberal Party at the next election.


1. The Guardian, 'Was Julia Gillard the most productive prime minister in Australia's history', Nick Evershed, 28 June 2013, Accessed 3 July 2016.

2. Independent Australia, Pearls and Irritations, 'The Liberal Party and the Institute of Public Affairs: Who is Whose?', 2 April 2016,,8837. Accessed 3 July 2016.

3., 'Doctors around the country bringing an end to bulk billing', 26 May 2016, Accessed 3 July 2016.

4. The Guardian, Shalailah Medhora, 'Medicare cuts to diagnostic scans will cost cancer patients, say radiologists', 9 January 2016, Accessed 3 July 2016.

5. New Matilda, Ben Eltham, 'Under Turnbull's Government, Health is becoming a private affair', 21 June 2016, Accessed 4 July 2016.

6. Daily Mail, Max Margan and Australian Associated Press, 'Malcolm Turnbull slammed by Laurie Oakes and Alan Jones for his 'pathetic' and 'rancorous' speech on election night', 3 July 2016, Accessed 3 July 2016.

7. Australian Financial Review, Laura Tingle, 'Election 2016: Malcolm Turnbull short of votes, Bill Shorten short of dollars', 26 June 2016, Accessed 3 July 2016.