This is a classic send up of Donald Trump! And Donald hates it!
This is a classic send up of Donald Trump! And Donald hates it!
With a flagged $4 billion to be recovered over four years, Centrelink’s demand letters over alleged debts could be just the start.
The Turnbull government’s mass invoices – constructed from data matching to claim discrepancies exist with Centrelink’s casual, disabled and vulnerable income earners – are expected to be used across the entire pensioner and social security sector. New discrepancies can be created over a recipient’s claimed asset values to substantiate invoices for ‘over-payments’.
Data matching and garnishee was originally implemented by Labor in government, but it was the Turnbull government that devised the more aggressive, presumptive and system-wide invoicing strategy.
While a responsible government has every right on behalf of taxpayers to eliminate fraud and ensure financial control in a country under deficit distress, the anecdotal hypocrisy of MPs who are extended travel allowance indulgences under lax rules adds fuel to what is becoming an explosive backlash across Australian postcodes.
A crowd funded court challenge to the legality of the alleged debt invoices is now expected.
Often stereotyped by tabloid media as dole bludgers exploiting a sense of entitlement, this time many articulate Centrelink recipients are fighting back.
Using the Not My Debt website they are sharing their stories of having been coerced by the Department of Human Services to agree to fortnightly repayments even though many dispute any debt exists.
They have taken their income statements and their Centrelink letters to A Current Affair, other TV shows and Facebook to give public evidence of unfairness.
Distressed and agitated when they have received what appears to be a letter of demand, they have hit the phones to (when they can get through) dispute the claimed amount of Centrelink ‘overpayment’.
The automated matching of their Centrelink-declared casual or irregular incomes, when averaged over 12 months with the amount declared on their Australian Tax Office income tax returns, has created what appears to be a discrepancy or ‘overpayment’.
The onus of proof is immediately placed on the recipient, many of whom have to scramble to find pay slips from employers from five or more years ago, or pay their banks to recover archived bank statements showing the date and amount of income received.
A series of Centrelink letters have initiated what looks like a ‘Catch-22’: a bureaucratic entrapment made famous by Joseph Heller’s wartime novel where a paradoxical situation is created from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules.
The first letter logged on a recipient’s MyGov account politely asks recipients to check online that their income details are correct.
Many recipients do not regularly access their MyGov accounts. If or when no response is logged a second Centrelink/ATO data matching letter quantifying the ‘overpayment’ is dispatched. Distress quickly ensues, as the quantum of the ‘debt’, in many cases thousands of dollars, is boldly displayed in what looks like an invoice, with credit card and Biller payments options listed at the bottom.
But instead of resolving the factual accuracy of the data matched quantum, the Centrelink call centre staffer says that unless the recipient immediately agrees to at least a minimum repayment (say $15 a fortnight for three months) of the disputed amount, under DHS policy the staffer has no alternative but to send the ‘debt’ for collection to outsourced collectors Dun and Bradstreet or Probe Group. Hence, ‘Catch-22’.
These debt collectors are on multi-million-dollar contracts with DHS. It remains commercial-in-confidence whether or not these companies receive a percentage of the money successfully collected. Opposition spokesperson Linda Burney has asked for the outsourcers’ incentive details to be released.
The strategy has enabled DHS’s Hank Jongen to claim, in an ABC interview, that debt recovery is working and had “identified” up to $300 million in overpayments since 169,000 letters were dispatched.
Mr Jongen claimed eight out of 10 “customers” had thus acknowledged the “overpayment”.
This official claim from DHS will be tested in coming weeks and months. The Australian National Audit Office, which coincidentally is due to report next month on DHS, has been asked to conduct a performance audit of Centrelink’s methodology.
In the current clawback, Centrelink has repeated its customer risk protocol by referring any distressed recipients to Lifeline for psychological support. More petrol on the fire.
One Centrelink senior staffer, who asked not to be named, told The New Daily the anger and rage generated by the data matching strategy had placed counter staff under confronting pressure.
“They just want to spit on us,” he said.
He asked why DHS had not quarantined vulnerable recipients, many of whom were intellectually disabled, from the more able casual income earners.
If DHS had a genuine “customer focus” the entire casual income reporting process would be “bulletproof” for recipients so they could neither calculatedly defraud nor inadvertently fall into error. A department wanting to engender trust with Australians striving to earn sustaining incomes in a now highly casualised economy would act protectively towards them.
“One intellectually disabled bloke screamed, ‘I’ve had a go mate … I did some work’.”
Our informant said the Centrelink data matching strategy would soon be exposed as counter-productive, with recipients now likely to desist in seeking any paid work for fear of losing any of their welfare payments.
With a Newstart allowance at $34 a day and city rents now at extortionate levels, many vulnerable people had little money left with which to clothe and feed themselves.
“We are dealing with the most impoverished and vulnerable sectors of the community. This is cruelty.”
Source: Quentin Dempster is a Walkley Award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster with decades of experience. He is a veteran of the ABC newsroom and has worked with a number of print titles including the Sydney Morning Herald. He was awarded an Order of Australia in 1992 for services to journalism.
Tony Abbott supporters are agitating to get him back into cabinet?
With elements of the Liberal Party agitated by the government’s loss of its 21-seat buffer in the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now faces a Shakespearean dilemma.
Tony Abbott: “To be or not to be … that is the question”.
Had Mr Turnbull won the election by half a dozen seats and not just two, the Prime Minister would be in a stronger position.
But with Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews, among others, pointing their angry fingers at him over the Liberal MPs who lost their seats, Mr Turnbull is under pressure internally as never before.
On Thursday, Mr Andrews publicly advocated for fallen PM Abbott’s rehabilitation to the Turnbull cabinet.
From Tasmania, Senator Abetz joined the chorus lamenting the leadership change last September which, according to some analysts, provoked one million voters to change their vote to the minor parties, including Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and The Nick Xenophon Team.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare has the king contemplating suicide at what his ambition has wrought.
“Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles And by opposing, end them …”
In 2016 Australia, Mr Turnbull is living this nightmare dilemma.
Have no sympathy. He happily knifed Mr Abbott in yet another coup australis. He must now consider his future as leader of what is left of his government.
Over the next three days he must consider the appointment of a front bench after already having endured a spiteful negotiation with Barnaby Joyce, leader of the National Party, upon whom the survival of his government and his prime ministership now depend.
The Nationals will earn two extra cabinet spots because of the proportionate rule convention of the confidential Coalition agreement.
Mr Turnbull has some Liberal vacancies to fill and it is in this context that Mr Abbott’s return to the cabinet is on the agenda.
In the months preceding the election campaign, Mr Abbott conspicuously became a “team player”, earning credit points with the Canberra press gallery for his discipline.
During the campaign Mr Turnbull indicated the two had reconciled during a private meeting.
He even suggested he would kayak from his Point Piper jetty to Manly to join Mr Abbott’s Warringah campaign.
That photo opportunity did not eventuate, but even through the 10 days it took to determine the election count and the government, Mr Abbott has held his tongue.
There is speculation that he has reached some sort of agreement with Mr Turnbull for his return to the Liberal front bench, either now or at some future time in the life of the government.
If Mr Abbott were to return to cabinet now, it would send an immediate signal confirming, if confirmation was really needed, that Mr Turnbull is not his own man.
He will be seen as a creature of the Liberal Party – bound by its factional influences.
Mr Turnbull, who possess thespian skills, undoubtedly will be able to sell Mr Abbott’s return as a government of renewed unity and concord.
But if he takes the risk of letting Mr Abbott back in to the seats of power, he may sew the seeds of his own destruction. He knows this, but will he do it for short-term party stability?
“To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub”
Source: Quentin Dempster, ABC TV
Brussels has simply gone too far. They have crossed the line moving from an economic union to the political subordination of Europe. Now five more countries seek to hold referenda to exit the EU – France, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Finland and Hungary all could leave. With Hollande approval rating at about 11%, Merkel is lucky that she is not tarred & feathered, the Front National leader Marine Le Pen has pledged to hold a French referendum. If she emerges victorious in next year’s presidential elections, that means the next major player in the EU after Germany is out and there goes the EU.
This entire civil uprising in Europe is underway ever since two months ago when Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected a Ukraine-European Union treaty. Angela Merkel’s Germany now faces having to pay an extra 3 billion euros a year to the annual EU budget once Britain leaves. This alone is prompting German government officials to propose that Britain is offered “constructive exit negotiations” to keep their dues coming in. Some are now talking about a quasi-membership for the UK calling it an “associated partner country” to keep the money flowing.
Yet the French government of Hollande just does not understand. The governor of the French central bank will exert pressure on UK banks. They are taking the view that it would be paradoxical if Britain could retain privileges after the withdrawal from the EU. First Banks are preparing apparently preparing to shift part of its employees in London to the continent. They obviously fail to grasp that it is European continental banks that are on the brink of collapse – not British.
Italian ministers warned on Saturday that the European Union MUST change course or risk total collapse after Britain’s vote to leave the bloc. The Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said. “A double reaction to Brexit is under way, one financial, one political. The financial one, at least until now, is limited. I am more worried about the political one.” Indeed, the unthinkable is happening. And they worry the pound might crash? Pay attention to the euro.
Meanwhile, another critic of the EU has been the leader of Poland’s ruling party. Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski also now responded and said that the UK referendum result shows the need for reform of the EU. “This is bad news for Europe, for Poland. This is a great dilemma for the eurocrats, we all want to keep the EU, the question is in what shape.” He continued: “We will be trying to use this situation to make the European politicians aware why this happened. And it happened because this concept, which was created some time ago, is no longer popular in Europe.” Then again, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán intends to campaign in the British press for the UK to remain in the EU, according to a Hungarian government spokesman. Orbán is clearly one of those who is out of touch with the people and fails to understand that a federalized Europe is not going down very well with the people. He is extremely arrogant to think that he has any right to intervene or suggest that the vote be ignored.
To add insult to injury, Turkey proclaims the “Crusader union falls apart” demonstrating that memories in Europe go back centuries, and yet they might be fast-tracked into the Union. Americans did not want to enter World War II. Roosevelt even traveled to Boston promising that American boys would never defend Europe. Boston was a very Irish community and they were upset at being asked to defend Britain after their migration to the USA because of Britain. Old wounds never quite die.
Source: Armstrong Economics
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia must boost its combat readiness in response to NATO’s “aggressive actions” near its borders.
Addressing the Russian parliament Putin also criticised the West for its reluctance to build a collective security system with Russia.
‘‘NATO is strengthening its aggressive rhetoric and its aggressive actions near our borders. In these conditions, we are duty-bound to pay special attention to solving the task of strengthening the combat defences of our country,” he declared.
Last month, Moscow announced plans to create three new divisions to meet what it described as a dangerous military build-up on its borders.
NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg urged dialogue.
“The important thing is that we need the NATO/Russia Council to have a chance of political dialogue open with Russia and especially when tensions are high. It is important that we talk, that we meet and that we do whatever we can to prevent misunderstandings, miscalculations, and try to reduce tensions,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO is also set to send four battalions to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in an attempt to prevent a repeat of Russian actions, such as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Russia has openly stated that it wishes to regain those states or territories lost after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. The simple solution to this problem is for Russia not to covet those now independent states and to clearly and unequivocally denounce any intention to attempt to annex them.
In a matter of days, the UK electorate faces its biggest choice in more than a generation — whether to remain in the EU.
While the campaign to exit the bloc says a decision to remain would be the bigger risk, its opponents contend that breaking up with Brussels would be a leap in the dark.
The promise: the UK would seek to leave the EU by 2019 and would be prepared to defy Brussels over immigration laws, according to a leading pro-Brexit minister.
The risk: George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, has warned of a £30bn black hole in public finances if Britain should vote to leave on June 23.
The immediate aftermath: David Cameron would probably face the end of his career as prime minister as EU membership was put aside.
The politics: the political and constitutional questions caused by a vote to leave could open up a period of profound uncertainty for the UK and the EU.
The legal analysis: the referendum is advisory rather than mandatory; what happens next is a matter of politics, not law.
The mechanics: the UK would have two years to negotiate a deal after triggering the exit clause of the EU treaties; extending talks beyond that would require unanimity.
The economics: the professional consensus is clear – leaving the EU would hit growth. The size of that impact would depend on factors such as trade, productivity and foreign direct investment. But champions of Brexit argue that the economy would prosper outside the EU.
Immigration: the record influx of EU nationals has proved a powerful rallying call for the Leave campaign. Some three-quarters of EU citizens working in the UK would not meet current visa requirements for non-EU overseas workers if Britain left the bloc. But such restrictions are likely to apply to new entrants rather than to EU migrants already in the UK.
Trade options: leading Leave campaigners say they would not seek to join the EU’s single market — which requires free movement of labour. Instead they would seek a trade deal with the bloc. Treatment of the service sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of UK gross domestic product, would be a huge issue.
The European response: European leaders have stepped up secret discussions for an EU without Britain, drawing up a plan B focused on closer security and defence co-operation.
Source: Financial Times
To piously impose a pay freeze on the men and women who keep the state running, paramedics, nurses, firefighters and teachers, while simultaneously helping themselves to tens of thousands of dollars – often for doing absolutely nothing – is an absolute farce.
It is a damning indictment on Premier Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian when they declare the state is broke when it comes to improving the modest salaries of public sector workers, but they can easily find a lazy two million to shovel at their mates.
New South Wales is a state being run for the one per cent, and the first members of the elite to get their gravy train top ups are the members of the Baird Government.
It seems Mr Baird is never short of a quid when it comes to bonuses for his MPs and funding for his social media advisers. But when it comes to paying public sector workers with dignity suddenly there’s not a cent.
The State’s public services have been cut to the bone. If there is money to spent it should be on these emergency service personnel and teachers, and not on wholly unnecessary bonuses to government MPs.
Like their Federal Liberal counterparts, the NSW politicians too have their snout in the pay and allowance trough!
By Mark Morey, Secretary, Unions NSW (as edited)
Primarily, the Russian people have only been driving for a short time. Prior to the fall of communism in 1989, private ownership of motor vehicles was severely restricted by cost, but more importantly, to restrict the free movement of the population within the former Soviet Union. Access to motor vehicle ownership in the last 27 years has increased exponentially! What has not increased however is the skill, ability, psyche and consideration that goes with the operation of a motor vehicle. Accompanied by this, is a distinct lack of experience, discipline and courtesy needed when driving on a public road.
There also appears to be no concept of consequence in Russia. This results from a lack of lateral thinking which is not nurtured in Russian society as well as their education. So they drive like aggressively without regard for road rules believing they’re not causing any harm. Russians believe the bigger the car they drive, the safer they are. Hence why drivers of 4x4s tend to be even more aggressive then drivers of a Fiat Punto.
Russia: The only place where you can be rear-ended whilst overtaking, driving the wrong way up a one way street!
Corruption is rife in Russian which means that money can buy anything, including a driver’s licence. Russian get drivers licences with no knowledge of road rules or even the ability to drive a car! As a result there is little reason to learn the highway code. Thus everyone has their own view as to what the laws of the road really are. Continuing with corruption, if you drive like a idiot and get stopped, you can generally bribe your way our of being punished. Thus there is basically no fear of punishment which reinforces the belief that Russian drivers can behave at the wheel as they wish with impunity. Police are generally nowhere to be seen. They might occasionally pull you over nearer the centre of a city by being flagged down but a police car pulling someone over? Never! There are no cameras, except around the city centre but even if you are sent a fine, there is no system in place to actually guarantee payment of that fine. Many Russians who have been sent a fine have never paid it. So again, you can act without fear of punishment,
“There are only two types of Russians – those who give bribes and those who take them.”
So all in all, this theme finds its way into the Russian psyche. The Russians are not stupid because, if you are stupid, you still know the difference between right and wrong. 80 years of communism has lead Russians to be disillusioned and somewhat primitive. There is a big difference.
Driving in Russia is hazardous: Last year, 200,000 traffic accidents killed 27.025 people in Russia in 2013. Addressing those high levels, President Dmitry Medvedev blamed the “undisciplined, criminally careless behaviour of our drivers,” along with poor road conditions. However, Medvedev made no mention of the totally dysfunctional Russian traffic police!
Russians consistently ignore red lights, overtake on the inside, overtake on the outside when unsafe or blind, speed and couple this with little or no technical expertise or driving ability, this is a recipe for disaster!
While accepting that drivers certainly play a role, Medvedev did not mention Russia’s traffic police, which, “is known throughout their land for brutality, corruption, extortion and making an income on bribes.”
According to information published by New Times(2009), one day’s corrupt income for a traffic policeman is $1000. Everyone regards the law enforcement agencies, chiefly the police, as extortioners in uniform and it is generally recognised that a policeman’s official salary is only part of his income. Medvedev’s police reform, carried out by the police establishment itself, has failed. The overwhelming majority of Russians have no more faith in the police than they did in the Soviet past.
Russia ranks 133rd among the world’s nations in corruption (where number one is the least corrupt), according to Transparency International. So going to the police with a legitimate complaint is far from sure to produce a good result.
In addition to authorities they deem untrustworthy, Russian drivers must contend with the possibility of being attacked by another driver. The below video compiles fights between drivers that feature crowbars, slapping, punching, and worse.
Then there are pedestrians who get themselves hit by cars on purpose, for a payoff. A video compilation (below) of failed scams offers a few examples.
Overall, in a country where traffic conditions are horrible, insurance scams and roadside fights are always a possibility, and the police are widely viewed as corrupt, video evidence of one’s innocence can be a very valuable thing.
There are are number of things which also contribute to this situation:
Vehicles and Vodka
Russia has a long history of alcohol consumption. The average Russian drinks 20 litres of pure alcohol per annum, nearly twice as much as their nearest rival. This of course carries onto the streets of Russia.
According to data, the number of drunk drivers has been steadily increasing in the past few years. In the last eight months of 2012, the number of accidents caused by drunk drivers rose by 3.5%. In that time, there were 152 alcohol related accidents in Moscow, which caused 15 deaths. And Moscow is far from being the worst city in Russia: in the Krasnoyarsk region there were 433 drunk driving accidents over the same period.
Some worry that stricter laws will mean serious punishment even for drivers who don’t drink, since Russia’s laws don’t specify a blood alcohol level at which one is considered drunk. United Russia lawmakers think that establishing specific criteria for drunk drivers is essential to the success of a stricter law. A threshold is important because human blood will always contain some alcohol, which could be detected in blood tests. Russia had an alcohol limit until 2010, but then-President Medvedev thought drivers interpreted the law to mean they could drink up to that point, and changed the law to zero-tolerance.
On the other hand, people who knowingly drink and drive might not be deterred by the new law at all. The police say people who regularly drive under the influence and accumulate suspended licenses for years simply ignore the sanctions (such as the driver in the recent accident in Moscow, whose license had been suspended in 2010 for drunk driving).
In the past two years, more than 18,000 drivers have had their license suspended for drunk driving. Among those drivers, some had been punished for drunk driving 100 times or put in administrative arrest 16 times for driving without a license. The law has no effect on this type of person, so a completely different approach is needed with them. It has been suggested that if they can’t stop themselves from drinking and driving, they need to be under the strict control of the courts and medical staff.”
The Russian Dash-Cam
In Russia, everyone should (and does) have a camera on their dashboard. It’s better than keeping a lead pipe under your seat for protection (but you might still want that lead pipe).
The conditions of Russian roads are perilous, with an insane gridlock in the city and gigantic ditches, endless swamps and severe wintry emptiness of the back roads and highways. Then there are large, lawless areas you don’t just ride into, the police with a penchant for extortion and deeply frustrated drivers who want to smash your face.
Psychopaths are abundant on Russian roads. You best not cut anyone off or undertake some other type of maneuver that might inconvenience the 200-pound, six-foot-five brawling children you see on YouTube hopping out of their SUVs with their dukes up. They will go ballistic in a snap, drive in front of you, brake suddenly, block you off, jump out and run towards your vehicle. Next thing you start getting punches in your face because your didn’t roll up your windows, or getting pulled out of the car and beaten because you didn’t lock the doors. These fights happen all the time and you can’t really press charges. Point to your broken nose or smashed windows all you want. The Russian courts don’t like verbal claims. They do, however, like to send people to jail for battery and property destruction if there’s definite video proof. That is why there’s a new, growing crop of dash-cam videos featuring would-be face-beaters backing away to the shouts of “You’re on camera, fucker! I’m calling the cops!”
Dash-cam footage is the only real way to substantiate your claims in the court of law. Forget witnesses. Hit and runs are very common and insurance companies notoriously specialize in denying claims. Two-way insurance coverage is very expensive and almost completely unavailable for vehicles over ten years old–the drivers can only get basic liability. Get into a minor or major accident and expect the other party to lie to the police or better yet, flee after rear-ending you. Since your insurance won’t pay unless the offender is found and sued, you’ll see dash-cam videos of post hit and run pursuits for plate numbers.
And sometimes drivers back up or bump their pre-dented car into yours. It used to be a mob thing, with the accident-staging specialists working in groups. After the “accident,” the offending driver–often an elderly lady–is confronted by a crowd of “witnesses,” psychologically pressured and intimidated to pay up cash on the spot. Since the Age of the Dash-cam, hustle has withered from a flourishing enterprise to a dying trade, mainly thriving in the provinces where dash-cams are less prevalent.
And then, sometimes, someone will jump under your car at a crossing, laying on the asphalt, simulating a badly hurt pedestrian waiting for that cop conveniently parked nearby. This dramatic extortion scheme was common, until the Age of the Dash-cam. Oh, and there are such juicy, triumphant tales about of would-be extortion victims turning the scheme around and telling the cast members to pay them money or they’re going to jail for this little performance! Don’t try it.
While those lucky enough to traverse the Russian roads with an American or other Western passport are hassled less, the Russian Highway Patrol is notorious throughout their land for brutality, corruption, extortion and making an income on bribes.
Russian websites go for the uncut, the horrible accidents–trucks flipping over, people being smashed into pieces and sedans flying up in the air and exploding. Given that television programing is mostly vacuous and heavily censored, dash-cam videos are very popular in Russia. It’s uncensored–drama, comedy, tragedy, horror, thriller and educational genres fused into one super-genre of “dash-cam.” Who needs Klitschko when you can watch to tough guys box in the street?
To better understand and navigate this “community service”, here’s a Russian Dash-cam Video Thesaurus for the blog tag cloud. It is comprised of purposely misspelled hick and thug slang and phrases used sarcastically…while people die. Ah, Russian humour.
But there are moments of humanity among the Russian people,. At a city accident scene, you could see as many as twenty cars pulling over, drivers running out to the scene. This comes from the recognition of the fact that on a 300-mile stretch of uninhabited territory, help can only come from passing vehicles and not emergency services. Most Russian long-distance routes East of the Ural Mountains are that way. There is really only one highway like that in North America: the Western Canadian to Alaskan Stretch of the Pan-American Highway. The camaraderie between strangers, shoveling the snow and hailing a freight truck or tractor to pull the car out. The kudos. The cheers. The knowledge that you could be very well be next.
And don’t you forget it. Aside from the kindness of strangers, it’s just you and that little gadget versus the hell that is the Russian people on the road.
When deposed as prime minister, Tony Abbott pledged: “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.” We all knew what he meant: he would be no Kevin Rudd.
His pledge lasted all of a week before the wrecking, undermining and sniping began. It’s continued this weekend. L’esprit de Rudd is back in the air.
In two interviews with News Corp since his demise – the first brief, the next long and considered – Abbott has shown an embarrassing determination to play the sore loser in spite of his promise that he would not.
He first undermined Scott Morrison’s reputation just as he took over as Treasurer by effectively calling him a traitor, telling the Daily Telegraph after the top job was already long lost: “I’m afraid Scott badly misled people. He badly misled people. I was doing all I could to save the government, that’s what I was doing.”
Then on Saturday, in another interview with News Corp, he doubled down, this time wrecking Malcolm Turnbull’s pitch that his is a new administration – new people, new approach. As George Brandis went on to fashion it on Insiders on Sunday: “This is a very different government.”
Except not really, according to the leader of the old one. “In a policy sense there is very little departure,” Abbott said, referring to the differences between the Turnbull administration from his. “Border protection policy the same, national security policy the same, economic policy the same … even same-sex marriage policy the same, and climate-change policy the same.
“The policy hasn’t changed and indeed the rhetoric hasn’t changed. Again, it is not about me but obviously these are questions that people may ponder.”
Yet, in giving those interviews, he has made it all about him. He seeks to salvage his trashed reputation, aiming for a long-term revision of it from a disastrous premiership into faithful service of the Australian people which was not given credit for the far-reaching, future-proofing measures he introduced.
His attempt to fashion himself as hero misunderstood is classic myth-making, glossing over the greatest failure of a prime ministership since, well, the last two.
Anyone so brutally kicked out of a job – even if he was not up to it – is entitled to be bitter and surly for a while, but only if kept to a small circle. You can whinge to your family, and to your mates at the pub, but being bitter in public helps no one but your opposition.
Abbott has now managed to kick his successor, his party’s bid for re-election and only helped Labor in its attack lines.
In doing so, he has confirmed the correctness of the Liberal party room’s decision to dump him, and increased the community’s relief that he has gone.
For his sake, and for the prospects of the Turnbull government, he should finish off the business of his departure. Given an apparent inability to play the elder statesman with more grace than he led the nation, he should leave the Parliament and give his reputation a chance of some small recovery with time, service and silence.
He should read The President’s Club, a 2012 account of how former US presidents have found their feet – or not – after leaving office. No one wins when former leaders carp about new ones or the manner of their demise. Reputations are built not by revisionism as to their time in office, but by later actions for the good of the country. Even Richard Nixon managed to recoup some of his lost reputation through service to subsequent presidents.
Abbott’s inspiration should be more George Bush the elder, not Rudd the underminer.
Bush was a oncer, like Abbott, although he got four years in power rather than two. He was defeated by Bill Clinton in a bruising election.
Yet he wrote his successor a letter, left in the White House to be read after the inauguration, which read: “You will be our President when you read this note. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”
Leaving the odd Americanism aside, the sentiment is astonishing, not that it should be. Bush was no longer his nation’s leader; Clinton was. The patriotic duty of a patriotic American was to wish for the team leader to succeed.
If Abbott was serious about his team Australia rhetoric, he would see that the country would be better served by him leaving politics. He doesn’t need to be Pope Benedict and disappear, but there’s nothing as damaging to the country than the presence of a bitter ex who’s outstayed his welcome.
Source: Tim Dick is a Sydney lawyer. Twitter: @dick_tim Sydney Morning Herald 27/09/2015
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