When Alaska was purchased, it was almost universally condemned as Seward’s folly. Funnily enough the action strengthened both Canada and the United States of America whilst weakening Russia and England.
But the same cannot be said of Christopher Pyne‘s folly. To recap, to encourage the Senate to pass the latest version of his contentious university funding legislation, he is threatening to cut university research funds. The condemnation has been quite vociferous including doubts raised by Government backbenchers. It would be too easy to join the long queue condemning him. Pyne’s folly really is in the long-term to weaken the House of Representatives and the Liberal and National parties whilst strengthening the Senate, the ALP, the Greens and the too many to mention Senators that hold the balance of power.
Clearly, Pyne has created an atmosphere where this particular bill will not be passed. Again it has shown the incredible failure of the Government to negotiate. With the exception of perhaps the carbon and mining tax repeals, the Government simply does not have the skills to negotiate with stakeholders, the 2014 Budget being the prime example.
But what Pyne and the Abbott Government have overlooked are the long-term effects of the short term tactics of bullying and threatening (that is linking passing one piece of legislation to another). Christopher Pyne foolishly has started a process that will almost certainly backfire on him as follows.
First, due to these bullying and threatening tactics, the Senators who hold the balance of power will have even less contact with him due to these tactics, in which case legislation will take even longer to pass if at all.
Secondly, Labor, The Greens and sufficient Senators could group together to also tie the passing of Government legislation to a broader agenda or no agenda at all, either of which couldn’t favour the Government. Already this has been hinted at through the potential tabling of a motion safeguarding both the research funds and jobs. Pyne’s most response to this has been to decouple the link between deregulation and research funds (with the cuts to funds occurring later). But it’s too late.
In either case, the Senate and House of Representatives ultimately will be deadlocked. All because of Christopher Pyne.
There has been much written about the Abbott Government and its achievements in its first 100 days.
They’ve even brought out a pamphlett of their achievements.
But if one had studied their election pamphlett, the clues to their performance were already there.
And the giveaway is mainly in the presentation and only some of the content! Which describes the last 100 days!
The introduction stated the election was still on September 14. Perhaps a government out-of-date with voter expectations. Or perhaps a government looking forward to an election after September 7.
The document uses quotes inconsistently. There are double quotes on page 4 and single quotes on page 8. Maybe they knew there would be problems remembering who said what and when.
The document also uses numbering inconsistently with a full stop after last point on page 9 but no full stops anywhere else. An omen that they would have some issues around policy prioritisation.
Use of semi colons at the end of bullet points and the use of commas elsewhere. A portent of a possible policy backflip perhaps.
Misspelling on page 5 Australian. The LNP perhaps are unsure about this country’s place in the world.
Yes it was all there in black and blue in the pamphlett.
To misquote Bob Hawke, if you can’t format your documents properly you can’t govern the country.
A month ago, I wrote a post on Gonski and here’s an update:
But that is merely focussing on tactics instead of strategy. The reforms and their introduction are a strategic masterstroke for the following reasons:
- They are a clear and understandable reform to educational funding. The Gonski reforms mean that schools will be funded per student with extra to overcome disadvantage. Prior to Gonski, educational funding arrangements in Australia were incomprehensible.
- These reforms have been generally well received. There were protests regarding university funding changes (cutbacks or spending deferrals) made to finance these reforms. There have been some voices of dissent stating Gonski favours the haves over the have nots. But no educational counter revolution has occurred! The streets aren’t full of parents, teachers and students saying No to Gonski!
- Even in the ALP, where public versus private school funding has been a issue for decades, Gonski has laid the issue to rest. Because of Gonski, there will be no more hit lists as per Mark Latham in the 2004 Federal Election campaign.
- Most critically, the reforms have outflanked the LNP premiers, Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne presenting them with an issue that they cannot circumvent.
The LNP Premiers’ Dilemma:
- If the LNP Premiers sign up to Gonski they’re seen as supporting the Gillard ALP Government. Worse, they are prevented by the Gonski conditions from making cuts to education spending (already occurring in NSW, Victoria and Queensland). O’Farrell has stated that he is in favour of Gonski on its own merits.
- If the LNP Premiers don’t sign up to Gonski, it automatically (and has now) becomes a Federal and State election issue. Anyone who votes for the Gonski reforms is automatically registering a protest vote against the burgeoning State education spending cuts and the current educational funding model.
Tony Abbott’s and Christopher Pyne’s Dilemma:
- If they agree with Gonski they’re seen as supporting the Gillard ALP Government. Even if Abbott had agreed in principle with the Gonski reforms and said they were too expensive, he would still be seen as supporting the centrepiece of the Gillard ALP Government re-election platform.
- If they disagree with Gonski and support the current educational funding model, the current squabbling will worsen as education spending cuts (State and possibly Federal) bite.
- Unfortunately, the position Pyne and Abbott have chosen is to criticise Gonski and state that the present system is better and that topping it up will make it even so. Their response is confusing and unclear.
So why is the title of this article not misleading?
- In time, at least the ALP State Premiers will sign up to the Gonski reforms.
- Gonski is now an election issue because of Abbott’s and the LNP State Premiers’ (except NSW’s O’Farrell) refusal to engage.
- Consequently, the IGiveAGonski grassroots campaign will continue up until September 14th and beyond if there is a change of Government.
- Abbott, Pyne and the LNP Premiers alternative to Gonski is the existing incomprehensible funding model and spending cuts which is no policy at all.
This issue is not going away. And it hasn’t!
Yet again I turn to the political section of the newspaper. Yet again I feel I am reading the script of a soap opera. But the same scene and same dialogue is being replayed.
More stories on the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard leadership crisis! Should Kevin be leader instead of Julia? Should some one else? It should be newsworthy. It isn’t. It’s boring. I’ve heard it all before. Sorry Michelle Grattan, Peter Hartcher, Paul Sheehan, Katharine Murphy and Stephanie Peatling and your colleagues, I’m not interested any more. Here’s why.
Who leads the country is important, that is true. But changing leaders doesn’t change what politics is really about:
- What will the leaders and their parties do in the short term and long term?
- How will they do it?
- And most importantly why?
The leadership soap opera doesn’t answer these questions. Neither does your coverage of it.