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December 09th 2016 print

Peter O'Brien

Mrs Woolcock’s Fevered Imagination

Most of us have better things to do than wade through a Niki Savva column, especially as the theme will be grimly predictable: the sun shining from our PM's every orifice would be even more blindingly brilliant if not for that irredeemable agent of darkness, Tony Abbott

niki savageIt was Thursday morning and time once again to sample into Niki Savva’s regular column in The Australian – what I have come to think of as the Weekly Delcon Diatribe.  It’s rather like the temptation to scratch an itchy, infected mosquito bite, this perverse desire to examine Mrs Woolcock’s latest innovative and always imaginative defence of the Prime Minister who employs her hubby, a fact she never quite manages to mention in the course of her paeans to the smartest man in Australia. You know no good will come of it, that you will roll your eyes and wonder why you bothered, reminded once again that life on Planet Niki is like no other sphere of existence. But you set aside those reservations in order to learn just what evil and treachery Tony Abbott has perpetrated this week.

The headline on Ms Savva’s latest effort suggests that Abbott’s sniping, rather than his own PM’s duplicity, threw Josh Freydenberg off course when he canvassed the possibility of an ETS, which was, of course, never on the table. For those  unwilling to risk the entire column, here are a couple of its gems:

One minute Abbott is lecturing the government on the need to double down on budget repair, the next he complains about the axing of one of his pet projects. One minute he is ringing editors-in-chief to get journalists sacked for writing what he doesn’t like, the next he is lecturing the government to move quickly to protect freedom of speech by changing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, something he earlier had decided was not worth doing.

I can find no evidence to support the assertion that it was Abbott who rang The Australian’s then-editor in chief Chris Mitchell to demand Savva’s sacking. Rather, what has been claimed is that Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, texted Mitchell to that effect. It is more than likely that she acted on her own initiative without Abbott’s knowledge.

One minute he is promising “no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping” and the next he is saying if he isn’t reappointed to cabinet he will do what grumpy backbenchers do when they don’t get what they want, which is to wreck, undermine or snipe.

Abbott has made no secret of the fact that he would like to return to Cabinet; also, that as a backbencher he will not feel constrained to keep quiet when he disagrees with government policy. Like Cory Bernardi’s position, as it happens.  Worth noting and just by the way, Abbott never complained or threatened retribution when Bernardi exercised his prerogative against Abbott government positions with which he disagreed.

One minute he is supporting a carbon tax, the next he is its fiercest opponent.

This is the biggest faux diamond of them all. Back in 2009, in the same interview (which can be viewed via this link) in which Abbott expressed his CAGW scepticism, he also went on to say, “If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax?”  In other words, a carbon tax is the better alternative to an ETS — what was then being proposed by the Rudd government.  In this commentary, and in a subsequent Radio National encounter with Fran Kelly, it was clear he was hedging his bets regarding the hot-button political issue of CAGW. To claim that Abbott ever supported a carbon tax is just laughable. One more example of the alternate reality that prevails on Planet Niki.

I’ll finish with Savva’s own  concluding paragraph (emphasis added in the ink of irony):

Treasurer Scott Morrison used the negative growth figure to make the case for company tax cuts, again arguing the potential boost for the economy, but facts seem to matter only if they suit a particular narrative. The vibe reigns supreme. Whatever the weather, whatever the economic climate, emoting is better because it makes us feel good or arouses our partisan passions. Better than facing up to what is really happening.

Couldn’t agree more, Mrs Woolcock.