Call me paranoid but I have to confess that it’s not my real name on this article. I run a business, you see, and I depend on things like deliveries to make it prosper, so I’m not going to make an enemy of the union thugs who might decide to cut off my lifeblood. This is Victoria where I am writing and I know the police wouldn’t help if there was a blockade at my front gate. They didn’t move along the CFMEU hoods from the front of that chicken factory, they let every second bunch of ratbags blockade Flinders Street anytime they feel like it, and they spent months not noticing that a stinking army of drug addicts, thieves, drunks, no-hopers and people who should be in padded cells was camped and crapping on one of the busiest stretches of footpath in the CBD. It’s sad that it has come to this, but I don’t have an ounce of faith anymore in the institutions and leaders I was told I could always trust and respect.
Then again, perhaps I am paranoid because most of what I have to say is more about Malcolm Turnbull — the man I voted for at the last election, God forgive me — and the party he leads than the weekend penalty rates which have the unions so upset.
The Liberal Party was the smart one, I’d always believed. They had their Hewsons and McMahons, sure, and there was the spectacle of Malcolm Fraser going slowly silly and sillier, but collectively they represented the smarter money, the people who could balance their cheque books and the nation’s, too, when Labor had taken its turn at bankrupting us. Liberals are supposed to be the smart ones, not just the sly ones, and Turnbull’s advance publicity insisted before his assassination of Abbott that he was one of the brightest in decades. Then something like the penalty rates business comes along and you realise our Prime Minister isn’t just a mug, he’s a mug with no handle and a dirty big crack full of the ideological bacteria you expect to find in other parties, but not in purported pro-business conservatives.
Does Turnbull think we’re all stupid? He never misses an opportunity to let his erstwhile supporters know as much. There he was, poncing for the TV cameras the other week, saying how so-called renewable energy has to be deployed rationally and why the taxes my business pays are going to be researching some mythical creature called “clean coal”. Does he think we’ve all forgotten that crippling the economy with green hobbles was his idea, that thousands of wind generators are chopping up birds and ruining landscapes everywhere his smart alek mates suck up the subsidies to put them there. He supported Tim Flannery’s dribble during his turn as opposition leader and, if I remember, he even crossed the floor to back a carbon tax? (editor: you’re not wrong, Ken) Does he think we’ve forgotten he was the man who made cheap, off-patent iridescent light bulbs illegal, so now we pay $5 apiece for those compact fluorescent ones? Turnbulbs, I call them, and like their namesake they’re just not as bright as we were led to believe.
I guess after being told for your entire life that the sun shines out of your every orifice, it must be the most natural thing in the world to expect everyone lse will agree.
Would I want to see Abbott back in charge? Hmmmmm. He was in charge and, yes, he stopped the boats and all the rest, but he struck me as someone who wanted to be liked, and that was his fatal flaw. Jesus turned the other cheek and they hung him on a cross. Abbott tried being nice to his enemies and they crucified him for it too. When I turned on the ABC, it was Turnbull they were pushing as the saviour of the country because why exactly? He wore a leather jacket, sooked about hot weather and treated Tim Flannery with respect. If there is one thing that justified Abbott’s ouster it was his refusal to beat the stuffing out of the ABC. Would he be any more likely to go for the throat if he gets back. Who knows, but that temperament of his is a definitely a worry.
Think about the way Turnbull has marched into the Fair Work trap. Like Abbott he wants to be liked. The penalty-rates case goes to Fair Work, which is a Labor creature all the way from soft palate to posterior and staffed by Labor creatures. So it cuts the rates, but not by very much: from 200% to 175%? That’s not a cut, it’s a scratch, and don’t expect it to get too many businesses re-opening on Sundays. But it is enough for Bill Shorten to go berserk. A smart operator, which Turnbull clearly isn’t, would have seen it coming, figured out that sob stories about consumptive widows feeding cat food to starving kids around the warmth of a single candle would feature in the next election season’s ads he sould have sen this coming and prepared his ground. But not our agile PM, who has jumped with self-admiring glances straight into the pit of his party’s lowest-ever election prospects. He should be beating Shorten viciously about union thuggery and corruption and making lots of hay. Instead, he’s the one on the defensive. You need to be some sort of genius to hold all the trump cards and still play a losing hand.
On the radio this morning Turnbull couldn’t even bring himself to stand by the principle that the rate cuts will – might, actually – generate more jobs, a few more anyway. Instead he was doing a Shorten-lite and fretting about the suffering it would cause. Well I think that’s what he was saying because, as usual, it was a double order of waffle.
Look, I’m not political, not at all. I voted for Hawke and I voted for Keating. Once. What I am is someone who is trying to run a business, pay my taxes, mind my own business and enjoy my grandkids, who might still have a nice country to live if we could ever get a government that has their best interests at heart.
I can live with the political correct stuff. I don’t call soccer “wogball” anymore, so I move with the times. And when I hear so many Aborigines are in a bad way, I’ll refrain from saying that they are welcome to do what I did: grow up in a slum, leave school at sixteen, learn a business from the ground up and then start my own. Good on ’em if they want to have a shot.
What I can’t live with, what my business won’t survive, is too many governments that reckon I’m a stupid, complacent cow to be ignored, abused and milked dry with taxes, charges, fees, fines and paperwork that should be nailed to the back of an outhouse door, because that’s all its good for apart from helping public servants build up their flexitime.
The country is built on coal and gas but we pay some of the highest energy prices in the world. Cut my fuel bills and I’ll love you. Cut my office overheads and I’ll love you even more.
Turnbull won’t do that and Abbott probably lacks the ticker.
So who should replace Turnbull?
Well, there’s a bloke in Washington who is big on draining swamps, but he’ll be tied up for the next eight years. Maybe there is an Australian Trump, but I doubt it. We’re so whipped and docile and accustomed to doing what we’re told without protest that it is impossible to imagine our nation producing such a specimen. Even more than Turnbull, that is Australia’s bigger tragedy.
Ken Harney is the pseudonym of a Melbourne entrepreneur who makes his money in the transport game