forward to the abyss ....
Thursday's sound and fury in Canberra changed only one thing. A government that was on the ropes now has the smell of death to it.
The chaos of this week, including the humiliating extinction of the media "reforms", reminds me of Labor's dark days of 1975. Not the famous dismissal itself, but the relentless collapse of good governance that went before. It recalls the farce of Gough Whitlam's energy minister Rex Connor sleeping by his office telex machine each night in the vain hope that a shadowy Pakistani spiv would come up with a loan of 4 billion dodgy petrodollars. That was a government on the edge of the abyss and so, now, is this one. The odour rises.
That bizarre non-ballot for the leadership leaves Labor and the caucus more split than ever. It is an iron law of Australian politics that the people will not elect a party to govern the nation when it cannot govern itself. The Liberals learnt that the hard way in the 1980s when John Howard and Andrew Peacock pirouetted in and out of the revolving door. This lesson will be beaten into Labor in September, with those proverbial baseball bats.
It should have been, could have been, so different. When Julia Gillard took over from Kevin Rudd, I wrote here that I thought she'd be "stonkingly good at the job". In so many ways she has been. Her worst enemies would concede that she is as tough as steel. Against all the odds, she bolted together a minority government. She can boast a string of good Labor policy initiatives, such as the national broadband network, the disability insurance scheme and the Gonski education reforms. Despite the howls of the Tories, the economy is indeed the envy of the developed world.
But Gillard's grasp of electoral strategy is abysmal and her failure to carry the people with her is complete. To wage war on every media baron in the nation, just six months from an election, was reckless bravado. When your reforms look like they were banged together on the back of a restaurant menu, and you blindside the crossbenchers whose support is crucial, it ranks right up there with the charge of the Light Brigade. The crowning folly was to throw out an ultimatum saying there would be no "bartering" and to demand that the bills should be rammed through Parliament in a week. Stephen Conroy, too, bears a heavy responsibility for this debacle.
So, gentle reader, we get Tony Abbott in The Lodge next spring, probably with Barnaby Joyce as his deputy, although not everyone is rejoicing at the thought of barmy Barnaby replacing Tony Windsor as the member for New England. A reader there sent me an email within minutes of the news getting out.
"We are all horrified at the prospect of having Barnaby Joyce up here anywhere near Armidale,'' he wrote. "It was bad enough when he was a bouncer at the New England Hotel years ago. He was out of his depth then."
Be careful what you wish for.