Labor’s big move during anti-poverty week

The verdict is in. With the latest Fairfax/Ipsos poll showing Malcolm Turnbull pretty much trashing Bill Shorten on every count of what Australia considers their PM should be, Labor’s desperate and quite pathetic attempt at smearing attracting attention to Malcolm Turnbull’s personal wealth and tax affairs has failed miserably.

It also gave Mr Turnbull a chance to demonstrate yet again that he has the gift of the gab:

“This country is built upon hard work, people having a go and enterprise. Some of us will be more successful than others. Some of us are fortunate in the turn of business. Some of us are fortunate in the intellect we inherit from our parents. There is a lot of luck in life, and that is why all of us should say, when we see somebody less fortunate than ourselves, ‘there but the grace of God goes me’.”

The unfortunate thing is that inequality and poverty are both increasing in Australia and last week being anti-poverty week would have been good timing for Labor to focus on how this government has done very little on both fronts. Instead, they opt for a policy-free personal attack.

Bravo, Bill, bravo!

PS: the paper on poverty by St Vincent de Paul, “Sick with Worry”, makes for harrowing reading. The society decided to focus on individual stories to paint a picture that statistics cannot easily tell: the misfortune and suffering of the poor. I guess that it is also an attempt to bring compassion back into the hearts of people who’ve had 2 years of the Abbott government and their media lackeys sinking the boot into the poor.

Talking the talk

Violent extremism is a challenge to the most fundamental Australian values. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. None of us can look in the mirror and say “All Australians look like me.” Australians look like every race, like every culture, like every ethnic group in the world…

Posted by Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday, 8 October 2015

If one has to look for differences between our previous PM and our current one, you don’t need to look much further than the opening paragraph in Mr Turnbull’s facebook post. Where Abbott always sought to divide us, Mr Turnbull seeks to unite. This is a no-brainer basic criteria for any national leader and it’s terrible that what should be taken for granted in our political leadership is now something that I am lauding.

Lest readers think that Mr Turnbull then goes on to hector about the rights of minorities within a multicultural society (as sometimes happens from the left), he instead reminds us of our responsibilities:

“Every religion, every faith, every moral doctrine understands the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So if we want to be respected, if we want our faith, our cultural background to be respected, then we have to respect others. That is a fundamental part of the Australian project.”

Without having to state it, we know that this applies equally to haters of all stripes.

I’m still not decided if Mr Turnbull will be able to walk the talk, but at least on the level of principles, I am proud for the first time in years of our PM.

A new hope (?)

Two nights ago, I listened to the youngest minister ever appointed in Australia, Wyatt Roy (25), on RN. I was skeptical to say the least. Ah, good old Malcolm, I thought, using his commercial marketing background to ensure he is covering as much of his audience as possible. What better than an actual living signboard that the new Coalition has been rejuvenated so much that they are almost newborn? And who knows, the younger generation who have primarily deserted fossil Abbott and cardboard Shorten might even return from the Greens.

But after a few minutes of listening to Roy’s high pitched barely broken voice, I found myself being more and more impressed. I began to realise that this was not just a tokenistic appointment, a shadow play of style and no substance. Mr Roy is intelligent, confident and articulate. He appears to answer from both the head and the heart. And he seems to take his role as a minister and a political voice for his generation with all the respect, dedication and consideration that it deserves.

Later, the new minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, another progressive Liberal, came on and again I was impressed by his ability to maintain a considered narrative, one that focused on reason, reasonableness and balance. Even the digs at Labor didn’t come across as attacks so much more as actual points of argument against their policy.

I began to understand that something has happened in Australia. That the tone of government brought down into the mindless aggressive gutter by Abbott has actually shifted. It was just the first day of course. There’s plenty of time for corruption, cynicism, despair and aggression to re-emerge (see this excellent article on the Conversation on how being PM effectively lobotomised our last two). But looking at the fresh faces on the frontbench, some of whom had jumped up many levels, I began to suspect that Mr Turnbull’s claim to have appointed on merit with a vision of Australia’s future was not just empty rhetoric.

And for the first time in many years, I started to think of the current government not as Turnbull’s government (as it was always Abbott’s government) but as my government.

Why is Malcolm so attractive?

I mean attractive to certain elements of the center and the center left of course. Seemingly immune to his charms, Van Badham in a great article reminds us all to not be fooled by Mr Suave. However, her argument hinges primarily on policy and there’s plenty of that to wave around given that none of them are at all attractive. And there are portions of the Opposition who like to remind the starry-eyed types in their ranks of that too.

I don’t believe that policy arguments is going to win away much of Turnbull’s popularity however. He is our equivalent of America’s Donald Trump and unfortunately, in the reverse-mirror-down-under world of Australia, our silver haired Trump has won.

Trump is a master of affinity politics, so much so that Americans prefer the same policy more if it’s indicated that it was Trump’s policy as opposed to Obama’s. The article in HuffPo is here (although mind it’s a yougov poll so science is debatable).  Turnbull and now the Coalition has clearly learned the same lesson.

You need to have a PM who people feel some affinity with. The policies, so long as they do not immediately clash with deeply held cultural values, are almost secondary. Mind you, the Coalition was very good at being bad at both affinity and at policy: Hockey smoking a cigar to an unfair budget, Abbott’s captain call of knighting Prince Phillip etc etc.

Turnbull, however, is someone that the soft-left aspirational class can feel affinity towards. He is confident, successful, intelligent, wealthy, articulate and projects a degree of humour and geniality. In short, he is almost the archetype of a good-sort old-school professional: a doctor, lawyer or banker. He is probably genial enough that he shouldn’t arouse as much antipathy from the soft-left (or soft-right) working-class either. He may even be able to pull off the fatherly rich-uncle gimmick on traditional battler types.

Labor is waking up to this of course – they’ve started to point out his $50 million mansion (or whatever), his %1 banker background and the general smugness that coats his skin with an unwashable oily sheen. Their tactics are right: you have to fight affinity with affinity. And until they do it successfully, Turnbull may well keep charming away the centre from Labor.

Have we achieved peak gloat?

As a proud member of the capering, leering, whooping and vile-spouting leftists, I hold First Dog in the highest esteem and while I think we have not yet achieved peak gloat (and may that day be a little further in the future than is comfortable for Andrew Bolt and his readers), First Dog has certainly set a new high for the gloat bar.

Well done First Dog, well done!