Wren's week: Abbott's fantasy world, Wilson's corruption and Medevac

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Tony Abbot (left) and Tim Wilson (right) (Images via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons)

This week, John Wren catches up on Tony Abbott, gives us the details on Tim Wilson's corruption and also the Medevac Bill passing.

Wren’s Week


I'M NOT SURE where to start this week. It’s literally a perfect storm for the Government. Their own hubris and incompetence intersecting with Parliament sitting again and external scandals erupting all over the place. I won’t be able to cover it all, but I’ll have a crack.

First off, Tony Abbott. He’s a man rightly under pressure. Utterly incompetent as PM and, as time has progressed, he has lurched further and further to the fruit-loop Right. By all accounts, he has delivered very little for his Warringah electorate over the 25 years he’s spent in Parliament. His wealthy Northern Beaches electorate has been dominated by the aging blue-rinse and pearls set who were welded to the Liberal Party. That set has been slowly dying off though and the demographics have changed.

Unfortunately for Tony, he hasn’t. Voters now want action on climate change, compassionate treatment of refugees and other more progressive initiatives. Suddenly, Abbott, by his own admission, is in the fight of his life against a well-funded quality independent Liberal candidate, Zali Steggall.

All of a sudden, Abbott is everywhere. He was seen handing out pamphlets at Manly Ferry wharf, opining about the lack of public toilets at Manly Beach and on Sunday published his own Op-ed on why he should be elected. This was a marvellous piece of fantasy. Apparently, the Northern Beaches tunnel (a state project) will not get underway without him. He also implies that 10,000 Warringah residents will lose their franking credits. Not one of those retirees will lose their credits, of course. A few of them will rightly lose their ability to exchange them for cash, though.

He also claimed credit for the good government since 2013 (he lives in a fantasy world of his own). He also tried to justify his lack of action on climate change while acknowledging it is real (bizarre). But his coup de grace was where he appeared to take credit for same-sex marriage through supporting the plebiscite (even though he acknowledges that he does not support gay marriage). I can only hope the good burghers of Warringah see him for the waste of space he is.

Also closely linked to Abbott (and one of his pre-eminent failures) was the omnishambles that is the NBN. The NBN is a disaster, a running cancerous sore for the Government, that is largely of Abbott’s making. When Abbott became PM, he was ideologically opposed to Labor’s excellent FTTP model. It is also strongly rumoured that he set out to degrade the model so that it would not compete with sponsor Rupert Murdoch’s Foxtel.

Abbott accordingly stopped the FTTP rollout and implemented his MTM (largely antiquated copper) model. It is now not fit for purpose, has cost over $50 billion and will need at least that again invested by a future government to reinstitute the original FTTP plan. Mike Quigley, the former CEO of NBN Co came out saying a write-down of the NBN is inevitable. It is important to remember that Australian taxpayers are the shareholders of NBN, so any write-down means a reduction of our common wealth. We can thank Abbott for flushing that money straight down the drain and we still haven’t got a functioning broadband network. Double whammy.

The Tim Wilson franking credits roadshow rolled on. It is proving an electoral winner for the Labor Party. The more it rolls on and the more voters see of the dreadful self-entitled wealthy elderly who attend these franking credit pity parties, the worse it gets for the Liberals. Further since last week’s corruption, it has been confirmed that Geoff Wilson did indeed fund a portion of the website and that the Commonwealth coat of arms was used on it illegally. Further, passing on of harvested attendee details appears to be in breach of National Privacy Legislation.

Labor has referred Wilson to the AFP for further investigation. It just gets worse for Wilson and his party. Murdoch’s Sky News ran a poll to gauge voter interest in Labor’s policies on franking credits. To their chagrin, 77 per cent stated they supported them. Wilson has done an admirable job of bringing the entrenched rort to the surface and voters don’t like what they see. Labor is in touch with voters. Clearly the Liberals are not.

It also emerged that before Christmas, the Liberal Party, so fearful of losing a vote on the floor of the house, secretly flew retiring Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis back from New York and hid her in her office in case they needed her vote on the floor. Sudmalis was meant to be on a U.N. exchange and was paired with retiring Labor frontbencher Jenny Macklin, also at the U.N. The Liberals did not use Sudmalis, but the clear intent was there. They were planning to breach the decades-old parliamentary pairs convention just to save themselves.

This is a dog act and is exactly what happened in the Victorian Parliament last year when then State Liberal leader Matthew Guy ordered two paired Liberal MPs back to the House (after they had left) so they could win a vote against the depleted government. Clearly, the Liberals are desperate and no act is too low for them anymore. The Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke, promptly issued a press release stating all pairs with the Government would now no longer be entertained. Morrison will be praying no one gets sick.

And, of course, the final big piece of news was the passing of the amended Phelps Medical Evacuation Bill, the passing of this Bill initiated on the crossbench and won against the wishes of the Government is a de facto no-confidence vote in the Government. The Coalition has lost control of the Parliament.

As I sit here typing this, they are filibustering to avoid a vote on a Royal Commission into the care of the disabled. Imagine how morally debased a Government must be to filibuster rather than vote for such an investigation. Ponder that for a moment or two. The fact that Morrison refuses to visit the Governor-General shows that the normal standards of parliamentary behaviour simply don’t apply to him. Our democracy is weaker because of him.

The passing of the Phelps Bill brought hysterical howls from the Government, none of them based in reality. The Bill only applies to the current cohort on Nauru and Manus. The thought that this could motivate asylum seekers to come to Australia deliberately to get locked up on Nauru and then hopefully get a serious illness in a few years’ time to get to Australia is just insane. The bill does not weaken Australia’s borders in any way shape or form. Christopher Pyne, Dutton and Morrison as well as the usual Sky News hangers-on all stated that if any boats arrive between now and the election, it would be Bill Shorten’s fault.

Morrison then ordered the reopening of the Christmas Island Detention Centre. He is clearly inviting the boats to start up again (even though they never really stopped) to manufacture his own Tampa-style crisis before the election. Shameful stuff that fortunately most voters have seen right through already. Even the Murdoch hacks have called him out on it. If it does happen, Senate Estimates will have a field day with senior Border Force Personnel — “who ordered you let the boat through?” As soon as Dutton’s name is mentioned it will be all over. It’s likely that Dutton could be in gaol by then anyway on other related matters…  but that’s for next week.

You can follow John Wren on Twitter @JohnWren1950.

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