Paul Kelly moans as the centre he abondoned collapses

Some folks just don’t get it and when that includes the nation’s leading intellects you know that revolution is afoot. From Paul Kelly today:

The great political lesson of the “black swan” 2016 year of disruption is the tearing apart of the political centre and the rise of radicals, populists and frauds from opposing ends of the political spectrum defying conventional wisdoms and up-ending weary orthodoxies.

Amid the confusing trends in varying countries, the weakening of the political centre — once the main battleground of politics — and the rise of polarising forces on the Left and Right is the pivotal event with the most alarming consequences. This model is most obvious in the US, where Bernie Sanders erupted from the Left in the Democratic primaries and Don­ald Trump took over the Republican Party from the populist Right.

…Australia has no Trump or Sanders or Le Pen. What happens if their equivalent does emerge? Australia exhibits to a far less ­degree the trends in other Western democracies. But distrust of the major parties is growing as part of system disillusionment, with the recent Newspoll showing a total of 75 per cent primary vote support for the major parties and the Fairfax/Ipsos poll showing only 66 per cent such support.

Every sign is that politics is being reshaped, with the Greens, Pauline Hanson’s party, Nick Xenophon’s party and a “revolving door” of Senate minor party candidates now entrenched in influential positions in the Australian parliament. The appeal of the “outsider” trading on grievance and exploiting regional and demographic alienation is the new gospel. The question for Australia becomes: is such disillusionment now factored into our system or does the tidal wave of disruption still lie ahead fed by economic downturn and cultural conflict?

Malcolm Turnbull was re-elected this year and Labor under Bill Shorten staged a year-long surge in the polls. Yet neither looks convincing. The latest trend in political discourse cannot be missed: lumping Turnbull and Shorten ­together — despite their hefty policy differences — as figureheads of a discredited system and a polemic technique to promote the out­siders to “shake up the system”.

Let me remind Paul of something I wrote two years ago when he whined about nobody supporting the egregious Abbott Budget:

Political partisanship may be blocking any sensible description of Australia’s economic circumstances, but media partisanship is ensuring that there is no centrist discourse in which it can be delivered.

And that’s why the “death of reform” is your fault, Paul. You, your clique of media storm troopers, and your boss, are not cultivating that centre ground. On the contrary, you’re driving a very deliberate and very partisan wedge straight into it. The ideology being spun out of the Murdoch press is not reform-friendly, on the contrary. It is an oligarchic putsch by rent-seeking business hostile to markets, biased towards rentier profits over labour income, dedicated to covering-up the disastrous capital inefficiency killing Australian productivity.

This reached its crescendo in your embrace of Tony Abbott, Paul, and your open drive for him to enter the Lodge, even though he and his brown shirts had clearly demonstrated themselves as Tea Party mini-me’s with no idea about effective markets or productivity-driven economics.

Then, when they assumed power and rendered decision after decision in favour of vested interests (except cars which was a disaster in itself for other reasons), you cheered them on, failed utterly to bring them to account, and stoked hubris in their ranks. Philosophical pygmies with very little electoral mandate (other than tossing out Labor) looked into the mirror held up by The Australian and saw giants with their pockets stuffed with political capital.

And so, egged on by your pandering, they produced a Budget of epic folly that spent big on political capital that did not exist. Instead of showing the steady hand of conservative government and aiming to stem a deteriorating economic environment via shared burden over time, arrogance produced a radical embrace of the few.

Meanwhile, media on the Left in Australia seized the commercial opportunity of opposing your increasingly extreme embrace of the 1%. The Fairfax metropolitans, The Guardian and Crikey have occupied the ground on the other side of the political isle and driven a massive wedge straight into the new government. With the Australian ethos of “fairness” on their side, they’ve gleefully “pulled a Murdoch” of their own.

More broadly and worse for liberalism, Paul, you’re supporting an ideology that’s driving the global rise of extreme groups of the Left and Right, most obviously in Europe. It’s simple common sense that liberal capitalism and democracy cannot be sustained on individualism without responsibility, on freedom without ethics, on privilege without noblesse oblige. Without balance, the Tea Party vision is hack libertarianism that is no more than a scab grab for millionaires and billionaires.

…It’s you, Paul, that wrote the defining scripture of Australia’s twentieth century journey to liberal capitalism. The End of Certainty remains a text from which I have drawn tremendous understanding. It is you that is the rudder of the national broadsheet, preventing its complete disintegration into a lunatic pamphlet as deranged as Fox News. Yet it is as plain as the nose on your face, Paul, that your publishing house has been a major force in the destruction of Australian reform.

You can’t see it because you’ve bathed in the loon pond that is drowning the Liberal Party. It has stuck to you now and won’t come off until you embrace apostasy.

Take responsibility, Paul, you did it, now you can reap the whirlwind with the rest of us.

Houses and Holes
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  1. Ouch… but fair. Abbott lost it when it wasn’t perceived as fair. But the whole idea of a “Fair-go” I think is a dying tradition. Will it survive the next decade. Doubt it. there are now too many Australians who don’t share that value.

    • Far too many Australians are already missing out and being treated unfairly, so why would they ever consider the “fair go” as anything other than a me-grab when opportunity arises. Abbott’s and the Loonpond’s mantra of “treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen”, to be followed by “WTF happened to the fair go?” is exactly what short sighted, ideology driven claptrap will bring.
      Why the surprise?

  2. Paul is right

    Every sign is that politics is being reshaped, with the Greens, Pauline Hanson’s party, Nick Xenophon’s party and a “revolving door” of Senate minor party candidates now entrenched in influential positions in the Australian parliament. The appeal of the “outsider” trading on grievance and exploiting regional and demographic alienation is the new gospel. The question for Australia becomes: is such disillusionment now factored into our system or does the tidal wave of disruption still lie ahead fed by economic downturn and cultural conflict?

    The rise of the grievance politician is a direct result of the Whaddaboutme Culture endemic in Australia. This Whaddaboutme Culture is not a cohesive unit as you seem to suggest. Rather it is a disparate collection of interests, mostly petty and hip pocket related, or misguided and selfish in nature. Sucking the nation into a vortex of short-term, inadequate and/or unmanageable ‘policy’ directions (both major parties) as they attempt to appease these annoying noisy egotists and their equally annoying minority constituents. All this because democracy has been turned on its head whereby the House of Representatives Government is denied its right to govern by opportunistic single issue or outright whacky self important political flunkies in the Senate.

    The Senate is not the seat of Government. A minority of players and an irresponsible opposition preference point scoring and politicking over acting in the national interest.

    Once the two major parties generally shared a common interest in the long term wellbeing of the country. Now only one does, as evidenced by the Opposition’s refusal to support many Government measures through the Senate. As long as Labor dances to the tune of Mediscare Bill and the Spendometers, as long as Chris Bowen is rolled by Andrew Leigh and Wayne Swan and their inclusive economics agenda, as long as Bill only stands for Bill and not the longer term interests of the nation, as long as Labor continues to support the rabble in the Senate – we are doomed – genuine long term policy, budget prudence, fiscal responsibility will remain lost, forever at the mercy of a minority in the Senate.

    Democracy has a problem.

    • The 2014 budget was the epitome of that whaddaboutme culture you are talking about. Truly a budget crafted by people who went straight from uni politics to Canberra, and with precious little real life experience in between.

      • The Budget was not that bad – apart from the youth/newstart fiasco – that was petty and should have not made the grade. But at least there was some attempt to recalibrate trajectory the Labor years had cultivated, or better, embedded.

      • I disagree. It is important to stand up for our minerals export sector – a sector under constantly under attack overtly or covertly from ‘progressive’ think tanks and even on occasion, Labor, itself.

        As for the Whaddaboutme Culture – it is endemic – Duncanomics Rulz.

    • “Now only one does, as evidenced by the Opposition’s refusal to support many Government measures through the Senate. ” Short memory – must have a… This describes Abbott in opposition to a T.
      And its still Labors fault? Who has been in power since 2013? The adults? Gillard led a minority government and managed to get stuff done. You were better when you just spruiked iron ore – you were more coherant and there was a point to it.

    • Jumping jack flash

      When you’re steeped in debt, your knees buckling under a debt mountain that was instantly given away to someone else to enjoy, whaddaboutme mentality is almost required to survive.

      Its dog-eat-dog and a lot of people still maintain the ideal that the government should provide them a standard of living. “We pay tax so give us a standard of living you sods!”
      “House prices are high because somehow the government allowed it to happen, which forced us to take on all this debt, so give us a standard of living you sods!”

      Its not going to happen any more because the government doesn’t control anything any more that can directly affect standards of living, and the government has morphed over time into a collection of individuals that are all looking out to service their own debt mountains too, with a minimum of effort.

    • When plutocrats start complaining that “Democracy has a problem” they really mean we are shifting back to democracy and that “Plutocracy has a problem”.

    • – “Democracy has a problem” – you mean democracy is the problem.
      – “The Senate is not the seat of Government” – you mean you want a tyranny of the executive and no protection for smaller states.

  3. Very prescient!
    Was just a matter of time before the country outgrew the old ‘ways’ of a deteriorating constitutional monarchy where privilege and being on the inside ensured /maintained the benefits for the ‘few’ at the large expense of the many. It’s been so for so long that it’s nearly impossible for most in the club to see over the wrought iron fence and observe the tumult that is advancing rapidly.

    Retreating deeper into the castle and the methods that once worked so well to keep order and status quo may buy some time but the inevitable re-org of this broken system will still advance. Pretending that all is fine will just ensure that any vestige of control or influence that might be kept when the ‘new’ eventually replaces the ‘old’ will be lost. Like most M & A’s, there is an element of hostility in the action and the besieged will certainly be made to know their place.

  4. Meh, political centre is where it’s always been in a liberal democracy. Re-posting my comment from a few weeks back:

    And they wonder why One Nation is back with a vengeance.

    Ultimately I think One Nation, Trump, Brexit and Bernie Sanders are all appealing to the political center that the major parties have abandoned.

    And in my opinion the political center is where it always has been in a liberal democracy:
    1. I want a job.
    2. I want job security (whether it’s union stability or a strong economy with low unemployment, these are means to that end).
    3. I want a home. And by “home” I think Robert Menzies Forgotten People speech still stands in spirit.
    4. I want to feel secure in my community (crime) and that my country is safe (defense and border protection).
    5. I want to know that my elected government is in control – feeling assured that the people I voted for are not the plaything of big business, economic demagogues and social engineers, whether they come from left or right.
    6. But ultimately, I want a feeling of being in control of my destiny and my future. I want to know that the society and economy I live in provides me with opportunities to take hold of, not one that deliberately shuts me out.

    It’s the last bit that the Liberals are particularly useless at currently. More and more people feel like they’re being shut out of opportunities to put themselves to the best possible use and make for a better future for themselves. One Nation may not be providing actual solutions, but at least people felt like some nasty red haired woman from Ipswich is listening.

    Paul Kelly backed the housing bubble and attacks on the labor market so it’s a bit rich to bemoan the fact that a heap of pissed off people are turning on the very parties that sold them out to vested interests. Paul Kelly should get out of his fancy Sydney home and hang out with some down and outers in Pauline’s home town of Ipswich and see how great things are. Or even have a chat to my well educated, white collar workmates on contract and see how good they feel about their future prospects in a world of insanely priced houses, dangerously insecure work and practically zilch real wage growth.

    ‘aylite wankers like Kelly and Kohler should just sack themselves right now. The neoliberal world they spent the past 30 years masturbating over is crumbling in a heap around them and they’re still in denial.

    • “The neoliberal world they spent the past 30 years masturbating over is crumbling in a heap around them and they’re still in denial”

      Yes, deep denial. Although I’d argue that this goes for much of the mainstream media, including the ABC.

    • “appealing to the political center that the major parties have abandoned”

      I agree. In pursuit of Globalisation the centre-left parties have abandoned their traditional working class voters. There is the gaping hole in the centre.

      Unfortunately, the only current opposition to globalisation sit on the far right, and that is who disgruntled workers will vote for.

      • workers also abandoned their centre left parties. when they money started to flow it was goodbye solidarity and hello mcmansion lifestyle. and then the new groups of workers – women, part time workers, public servants, GPs, academics on contract, call centre workers, sebben-eleben employees – failed to see that they were workers.

    • Jumping jack flash

      I would remark that of all your points regarding the political centre, the government (the centre for politicians), is unable to provide most of them, and would probably not provide any at all, if at all possible.

      In fact the government has almost successfully managed itself out of relevance, entirely.

      Devoid of most basic social responsibilities, “government” largely exists to collect taxes from the people to pay themselves (and their cronies) for doing as little as possible, saying as much as possible, and outsourcing anything they possibly can to the private sector (generally a collection of their cronies) to further reduce their responsibilities. Upon receiving/purchasing the responsibilities from the government, the private sector immediately gouges them for all they’re worth to maximise profit (the sole purpose of private enterprise).

      • A government can provide those things, and did until the notion of the market and Central Banks being everything came in. Whether or not they are capable of doing so again with the dearth of talent in the parties and the hollowing out of the Public Service is the more appropriate question.

      • What footsore said.

        The rise of “middle Australia” was no accident or work of a “pure market”. Read up on the work done by both Chifley and Menzies, who used their legislative powers and commonwealth funds to boost home ownership and ensure full employment. There were some clear differences on how they wanted to achieve this, but the goal was essentially the same and both saw government as having a crucial role.

        And the image of Menzies as this frugal PM making sure he counted all the pennies in and out so that budgets were balanced is nonsense. The Menzies government ran persistent deficits in order to fund infrastructure projects from roads and rails to ports, to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme to building new universities and expanding existing ones – not to mention introducing grants to the states for improved school and technical education, as well as opening up university education to the less well off via the Commonwealth Scholarship scheme.

        Recurrent funding for social services and government bureaucracies was kept tight, but deficits weren’t considered a bad thing in the interests of nation building.

  5. Paul Kelly… one of Australia’s leading intellects? Self crowned I hope?

    Jesus christ. What an indictment of this country.

    • The real reason for the upset and rise of the ‘grievance’ politician, is the unstoppable rising of inequality… Blue collar punters see their pocket lining is shrinking while rent-seeker Real Estate Joe up the road just got a new boat after closing that multi-million deal at Point Piper.

      I actually really like the point made by Damien Klassen in his intro post… that the rising inequality is really a function of the fall of Communism. Once there was no threat from communism the elites may have realised that they don’t need to be so generous any more to keep the proles on their side. Replace redistributive taxes with deregulation of debt issuance and they’re none the wiser.. that is until there is too much debt and the spigots freeze up.

  6. Keep the Murdoch Vanity Press alive. It offers an important occupation and diversion function for its clientele.