Monday 28th of May 2018




Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been roasted on a satirical US TV show that presented a highlight reel of some of his stickiest slip-ups and cringe-worthy comments.

HBO satirical news program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver aired a segment mercilessly lambasting Mr Abbott, and presenting clips of his most embarrassing career gaffes in a tongue-in-cheek effort to explain why his personal approval rating may have plunged to 30 per cent.

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a quick reminder...

y-front man

what floats is more visible...

floating on topfloating on top

Are the standards of debate between politicians and the ways in which they speak to their electoral masters worse now than they have been? It's hard to tell, but it can be said with confidence that, at present, these standards are low.

Former federal Coalition leader John Hewson recently remarked on what he called ''the devastated state of political debate in Australia'' and lamented that ''policy substance … has been almost totally eschewed''. Hewson ran one of the most honest election campaigns in modern Australia history and he lost; it's an example that may have been taken too much to heart.

Of course it's unreasonable to expect politicians to promote their fortunes in an even-handed way. To gain electoral support, they must stress their policies' merits and expose the flaws in those of their opponents. Through such contests, degrees of balance can be achieved in political debate - provided that participants behave reasonably and honestly. Unfortunately, reason and honesty are now being significantly displaced by deception, exaggeration and a willingness to speak in riddles. In the befuddling murk, the public interest is left gasping for air.

The Abbott government is not solely responsible for the predicament but it has things to answer for. As much as the budget's substance is affecting its fortunes, the government's political strategy and the ways in which it is communicated seem to be making matters worse for it.

Let's look at some of the Coalition's strategic themes.

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a one track mind with many crappy options...

extreme right turn

Abbott says there's only one plan, it's his and there's no alternative. He has to say that because he's caught in his own policy trap that distances him from any number of meritorious options.

For example, economics professor Ross Garnaut has said: ''Australia can stay within the boundaries of fiscal responsibility over the next four years … by retaining carbon pricing rather than the array of changes that are at risk in the Senate.''

If that's too much of a U-turn, the government could move now on the fundamentally inequitable superannuation and capital gains tax concessions, negative gearing, trusts and, as Australia Institute head Richard Dennis has suggested, consider extending the GST to private school fees and private health insurance - the burden of which would fall more on the better-off. These are rich revenue sources that would not need to be pressed far to make more significant contributions towards getting the budget back into the black than all of the measures Abbott is now taking.

As the Coalition's broad strategies have hamstrung it in government, it has tied itself into numerous tactical knots.

Hockey's spiel on the budget has been full of riddles. At the National Press Club, he said: ''Last night's budget was forged on the values that modern Australia embodies: the values of enterprise, of hard work, of self-reliance, of control of your destiny, of the fact that we've got to move away from a culture of entitlement in some areas to a culture of opportunity and hope.'' What on earth does this string of false opposites mean? Most likely not very much. Certainly exhorting unemployed young people about getting with opportunity and hope might not cut a lot of ice while they're being refused any benefits for six months and perhaps more. It's no wonder this speech is not on Hockey's website.

Then the Prime Minister put his foot in it.

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Toon on this comment: Revisiting old Gus toons about Abbott from about four years ago...