4
Mar
2017

Turnbull on the Fence

The Weekend Australian is replete with discussion about Turnbull’s incapacity to govern and about possible changes in leadership. The editorial below suggests “Mr Abbott’s urgings for the Prime Minister to take up the positive, economic liberation arguments on penalty rates and to deliver reform on 18C are wise” and, rather than rejecting them, Turnbull should “lead the debate rather than aspire to acting as a chief national conciliator hoping to broker consensus on every contentious issue”.  As it concludes, “the markets, the public and Mr Turnbull’s own culpable colleagues are running out of patience”.

Strangely in one sense, the AFR’s chief political correspondent also claimed “the Turnbull government did not help itself choosing to sit on the fence during the review and not make a submission” on the FWC’s review of penalty rates (see Coorey on Penalty Rates). But his sympathies tend to be in accord with Shorten’s and, despite him being a writer for our main economic newspaper, he overlooks that the economic case for reducing penalty rates is that even FWC head Ross indicated the cut may increase employment and the income of those consequentially employed. Coorey’s final aim seems to be to let Turnbull off the hook and to ensure no credit is given to Abbott or the so-called conservatives in the Coalition (my attempt earlier last week to point out Coorey’s analytical errors did not find any space in the AFR, pesumably because they failed to publish any letters on two days last week).

Discussion of the current situation in Canberra at Prahran market this morning led to a reference HG Wells  and his attempts to predict the future, on which he was only four months out in predicting in the early 1930s the start of the second world war. One of his novels The Island of Doctor Moreau attempts to portray the significance of a doctor on an island using his surgical skills to transform animals into men. This is described in this summary as, “among other things, an exploration of unchecked ambition”, which might be regarded as relevant in current Canberra circumstances.The horror of the story comes from the suffering of the animals, which two shipwrecked human arrivals on the island witness. They find that Moreau argues that the pain from his surgery is “needless” and that as we evolve our need for pain will be redundant because our intellect will protect and preserve us. In the face of the suffering, however, the two arrivals don’t do anything to stop Moreau’s cruelty. Wells seems to present a very pessimistic view that in our regard for others man is perhaps the most beastly creature. This morning’s discussants concluded that “something needs to be done” in Canberra and our pain and suffering needs to be stopped.

John Stone has previously predicted the need for a radical change. In this week’s Spectator he takes another step and predicts what an Abbott Cabinet might comprise (see below). As Parliament is not sitting for the next two weeks, there will be an opportunity for such a change during that period .

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