Posts Tagged ‘National Press Club’

abbott angry

There is a scenario that could see embattled Aussie Prime Minister Tony Abbott overturned as quickly as next week.

This weekend, the election in Queensland will be a disaster for the governing Liberals, or as they are in Queensland, the merged Liberal National Party. Such an outcome is hard to imagine, given their massive majority in Brisbane, but disaster it will be nevertheless, in this most reliably conservative of conservative Australian states.

Not happy, Tony. Not happy.

Not happy, Tony. Not happy.

We think it unlikely that the LNP will lose Government, although it is possible. Labor needs to achieve a 12 per cent swing to gain 36 seats if it is to win a majority government and recent polls have put the party within striking distance. But we think the swing is likely to be nearer 8-10%, especially as we expect Newman to do marginally better than Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk in the leader’s debate in Brisbane at 1pm today.

In that case what will happen is their majority will be slashed and loads of their seats lost. And we expect their leader, Campbell Newman, to lose his seat, too. Already desperate right-wing constitutional nerds are taking to the airwaves to argue he can stay as leader even if he’s outside the Parliament, ignoring the obvious fact that his personal standing will have been effectively rubbished by such an outcome.

Given the scale of the debacle, the blame will inevitably be sheeted home to Abbott on analysis TV and all the major talk shows on radio, worsening the standing of a man who is now so noxiously unpopular that he was effectively banned from campaigning in Queensland during the election.

What will make the sting deep and enduring is that Palaszczuk’s campaign has focussed repeatedly on health and education – the very areas Abbott has been foolish enough to attack repeatedly at a Federal level. The contrast can hardly be more stark or more telling if the Queensland election plays out as we expect.

But amongst all this gloom, what is even worse is that Abbott is slated to talk to the influential National Press Club lunch on Monday immediately after all that sickening analysis.


“Eli eli, lama sabachthani?”

Never at his best when challenged publicly, there is no doubt that he will be embarrassedly umming and erring his way through a barrage of amused questions first of all keeping the “Why knight Prince Phillip?” hare running, (which he will seek, but fail, to deflect), but then, more importantly, questions seeking to pin the blame for the Victorian election, the Queensland election, and the Government’s low standing on him personally.

Speculation on his leadership will not be put to his ministers, as in the last few painful days, it will be put to him personally.

In response, he will seek to combattively state that, “Er, um, I will be taking our great party to the next election, I am focused on selling the Government’s successes”, and end up sounding, in other words, exactly like every other party leader has sounded just before they’re rolled. And reminding everyone that selling his Government’s “successes” is exactly – precisely – what he has failed to do.

There will be nowhere for him to hide from this grilling, (we could almost feel sorry for him if he had not brought this all down on his own head), and he will wilt under its blistering heat, looking ever more uncertain and strained as it wears on.

Journos in the audience will have been assisted by plentiful leaks and background briefings from anti-Abbott forces in his party room, manoeuvring to get their preferred replacement into a position where the crisis has become so awful as to prompt their immediate elevation to the top job.

If, by some miracle, Abbott performs strongly at the Press Club, the inevitable chippy-chippy-chop may be delayed a little, but we repeat our oft-stated opinion that his metaphorical decapitation is now inevitable. Indeed, as we stated before he won the last election, it always was going to be.

He just has the wrong skills to be PM – always did have – and he has not managed to curb those elements of his personality that make him so self-evidently unfitted for the role. The Liberal Party is infinitely more ruthless than its Labor opponents, even though that is not generally understood. They know any replacement – and it would take a miracle for them not to choose the country’s most popular politician in Malcolm Turnbull – will need time to settle the ship before the next election. They will not risk losing what should have been an unloseable election against the largely inoffensive but also un-inspirational policy-lite Bill Shorten.

Time marches on, but Abbott’s Prime Ministership will not. Like some awful, inevitable Shakesperian tragedy, he will pay the ultimate price for the hubris that saw him persuaded to stand against the infinitely smarter and more electorally appealing Turnbull in the first place.

And if Turnbull does take over, we don’t expect to see Hockey moved from the role of Treasurer, in which he has been an unmitigated disaster. One thing will save him. If he were moved, we think Julie Bishop will put her hand up for that role – a step too far for the mad-eyed Western Australian in our view – and she would fail in it just as Abbott has failed as PM. It’s one thing to blather on aggressively about how rotten Vlad Putin is for shooting Australians out of the sky. It’s quite another to steer the ship of state’s financial well-being. Nothing in her period of Opposition or in Government shows her up to such a task.

Turnbull will not risk her messing things up for him, so will be inclined to leave Hockey in place.

In which place, he will be told to smoke no cigars in public, to stop shooting from the lip about the poor driving less than the rest of us, and essentially to shut up and leave it all to Malcolm. You’ll hear a whole lot less about “structural deficit” under Turnbull and much vaguery about “good management”. The great irony of the Abbott experiment for him and his backers like Nick Minchin is that his failure will kill hard right economic solutions for a decade.

Australia will return quietly comfortably to “tax and spend”, and not even notice the difference. and all of Abbott and Hockey’s painful Thatcherite striving will be forgotten. Shakespearian indeed.

The one thing against Abbott being moved against next week, of course, is that Parliament is not sitting again till 9th February. Liberal MPs would have to be called back to gather specially for a party room spill. Such an outcome is rare, but not unknown. It could, though, just save his bacon. But not for long.

Our older people deserve better from us. Happy birthday, Mum.

Those who have followed this blog for a while know that I have a personal interest in Alzheimer’s Disease. Yesterday would have been my mother’s 96th birthday, perhaps, had Alzheimer’s not claimed her three years ago.

I have previously written about my mother’s struggle, and other people’s here.

I have also written about the week of my mother’s death in the short story that is at the back of my book, 71 Poems & One Story.

Get behind Ms Buttrose’s campaign, before it’s too late

So I was doubly interested today to turn on the TV and catch famous Australian journalist and editor Ita Buttrose speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra today. The indomitable Ms Buttrose is now President and Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Australia, the peak advocacy body for those working in the field in Australia, and for the dementia patients they care for.

Her organisation is pleading with the Government to increase funding for research into this hideous illness by $200 million in the next 18 months. An ambitious target, but one that knowing Ms Buttrose’s indefatigable energy (and contacts) could hopefully be seen as realistic.

And a boost in research is long overdue. This most persistent and widespread disease, which robs its victims of dignity, capacity, and eventually their life, receives far less in research funding than HIV, heart disease, cancer, and even mental illness – which itself is appallingly badly funded.

A worthwhile goal

Whilst it is easy to get swept up by the emotion of the topic, I was very struck by Ita’s point that if researchers could delay the onset of dementia by just five years then the number of people with the problem would be halved.

In Australia, that would mean savings to the healthcare and aged care sector of 67 billion dollars by 2040. If that, in itself, doesn’t make the argument for significantly increased spending incontrovertibly one that should be supported, then the world – not just the sufferers – has gone mad.

By 2030, if nothing changes, 500,000 Australians will have dementia. By 2050, that figure will reach one million. That’s the equivalent of a city three times the size of Canberra: a city full of people who were once proud, strong and independent, and who are now lost, frightened, sick, and – especially as the illness increases its grip – frequently despairing.

Ms Buttrose is, quite rightly, keen to emphasise the positives, to hold out hope for a cure or better treatment, and to advocate for the support and well-being of sufferers, who deserve dignity and optimism in their care.

But if we do not accede to her demands, our caring systems, (which are already, as I sadly know, stretched to breaking point), will simply collapse. Sometimes, the cheery insistence of those who must, per se, strike a positive note, needs to be balanced with a little stark truth as well.

Because if we do nothing?

If we fail in this task, then the effect on families and individuals of the lack of care will be too horrible to contemplate.

Aged care facilities will become increasingly like prisons, effectively incarcerating sufferers for their own protection through lack of staff and money to take care of them properly.

Aware of the issues surrounding residential care, families will increasingly keep their aged dementia sufferers with them – leading to increased neglect and even abuse as the healthy buckle under the strain of caring for their elderly relatives without necessary facilities, drugs, or training. The blunt truth is that this is already happening.

Single demented people without social support structures – already a common sight in our shops and on our streets – will wander the bye-ways of life, confused, angry and frightened – burdening passers-by and the police and ambulance services.

Elderly suicides will spike dramatically. So will murder-suicides.

What can you do?

If you support Ita Buttrose’s campaign, please take a moment to write about it yourself, or re-blog or tweet this article.

Please also write to Alzheimer’s Australia at expressing your support, and also visit their website where you can discover a vast array of resources, and opportunities for you to help. And if you need immediate, direct advice, just call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

Please also write to your local MP, or email the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, urging our politicians to agree to an immediate substantial increase in research funding.

And if you are reading this overseas, please contact your local organisation, and politicians, to urge an increased effort in your country, too. And in America, specifically, you might like to join the fight for a fundraising stamp to be produced for Alzheimers research by clicking here.

This means you. Yes, you.

If for no other reason, make some active move in support of this campaign out of enlightened self interest. I am now 55. I really don’t want to get to 65 or 75 without some substantial progress having been made.

Like many, I have seen what Alzheimer’s does at first hand. No thank you, very much. If you doubt me, visit your local acute aged care facility and offer to volunteer for an afternoon. Then imagine you’re the patient, not the volunteer.

You won’t need any other motivation to get involved, believe me.

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