Aug 252011

Why can’t the Abbott Liberal Party be more like the Howardian Liberal Party? This is the question being asked by Arthur Sinodinos today.

Sinodinos, chief of staff to former PM John Howard, is banker, consultant with NAB currently and proposed Liberal Party Senate candidate for Helen Coonan’s NSW Senate seat. He is yet to decide whether he’ll nominate while the Party is holding the door open for him as the principal pre-selection. Sinodinos has been more visible of late, especially in the op-ed pages of The Australian, espousing the values and beliefs of his former lord & master.

His piece today is among the most hypocritical I’ve yet read from someone touted to become another member of Australia’s Conservative Parliamentary presence. Citing the current row over whether or not the Member for Dobell, Craig Thomson, rorted his entitlements as head of the Health Services Union in NSW back in 2005, Sinodinos treds on unstable ground making by pretending to equate Thomson’s current position with Whitlam’s Dismissal. A dangerous subject filled to the brim with irony & hypocrisy, given the seven coalition ministers – that’s ministers, not back-benchers – who had to admit to and resign their ministries because of improprieties in the early years of the Howardian reign. In the latter years, we saw cover-up, obfuscation and all manner of political game-playing to protect the likes of Downer over the AWB scandal. Yet this same political collective seeks to call a man guilty and pass sentence before any allegations are proven or evidence supporting the outrageous & ever-shifting claims is brought to light. Thomson at the current stage of trial-by-media has no case to answer, yet according to Tony Abbott, is already a dead duck and should resign from Parliament as a result. Hyperbole is the only real weapon Abbott has at his disposal.

Sinodinos’s piece is nothing short of a series of fantasies plucked from the man’s wish-list of things he’d hoped had happened, and haven’t. Sinodinos believes that Whitlam reforms to tariffs & trade of the mid 1970’s backfired, instead of placing this country at the fore-front of world trade negotiations, strengthening and providing the platform for reforms in Australia’s manufacturing industries, which sadly were not followed through on by Fraser. Only with the Button Plan during the Hawke-Keating years did the work of Whitlam see advancement. Then along came Howard, who did next to nothing about reform on any level save for Industrial Relations, which was Howard’s one and only true policy belief, pursued with all the vigour of a 16th century Catholic inquisitor.

Sinodinos may well nominate for Helen Coonan’s seat, my belief being bolstered by today’s piece and earlier scribblings praising the Abbott stance of saying ‘NO’ to everything the current government wants to do. If he does nominate, he’s a fairly sure punt to win the seat and take a cabinet position in any new Abbott government, hence the schmoozing he’s currently engaged in. Even to the point of claiming that…

Abbott’s remarkable performance in effectively defeating Labor last year and his single-minded focus since on Labor’s carbon tax and other negatives has created the preconditions for a big victory sometime between now and 2013, with the odds on sooner rather than later.

Remarkable performance??? Remarkable because no-one in his own party thought he could win? One wonders. It’s strange that Sinodinos should espouse the belief that Abbott ‘effectively’ defeated Labor, yet his party remains in opposition. It’s a dark mark against the man that he failed miserably in the negotiation stage of forming the current minority government, so just how effective he was at that time is highly debateable. That he wasn’t at all an attractive alternative to the independents speaks volumes for his ineptitude, and explains why we see today this spite-driven push for a fresh election, 2 years out from the next due date.

Sinodinos is clearly one of the ‘dries’ he identifies with, espousing the Howard years as the model for the Liberal Party to follow. That simple identification, and the fact that he promotes and agrees with the ideas of ‘radical’ reform paints him as a Howard look alike. Amusingly, Sinodinos makes reference to ‘radical’ reforms no less than five times in his piece, in conjunction with his praise of either Abbott or Howard, yet it was John Howard who admitted that his 2007 election and seat loss lay squarely at the feet of his own attempt to reform Industrial Relations to his own views. Australians will not accept radical change. Reform can only be achieved progressively and Sinodinos, like Howard before him, simply refuses to understand this simple but important paradigm. Even Abbott, for all his flaws, realises that Workchoices and similarly styled radical reforms are political curare. With Sinodinos there seems to be a blithe belief that once in office, Abbott can simply call a double dissolution, automatically anticipate balance of power in both houses and a replicate the farce which was Parliamentary democracy under Howard.

I’d quit writing op-eds, Arthur Sinodinos, if today’s effort is an example of the anachronistic thinking you’d bring to your party. It needs your kind of thinking like it needs a nay-sayer at the helm.

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