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Is there a Federal Opposition in Australia?

June 29th, 2009 · Greg Atkinson · 17 Comments

We all know the theory of how our Westminster flavoured form of democracy is suppose to work. We the people vote, the votes are counted and we end up with one of the two main political groups running the country. To make sure the group that wins the election and forms government does not get out of control, the losing side is suppose to keep an eye on things and be ready to take over if the people  decide to make a change at the next election. But clearly things are not working that way in Australia at the moment.

I am not very impressed with the way the Rudd Government is managing the country but sadly it is starting to look like there is no alternative. The Federal Opposition is in complete disarray and Malcolm Turnbull is as popular with the people as flies are at a BBQ. What is even more frightening is that Joe Hockey is even considered leadership material and this just shows how shallow the Coalition’s talent pool is these days. Would anyone seriously put Joe Hockey in the Lodge?

Malcolm Turnbull is without doubt a smart and talented chap but he does seem to be fearless to the point of just being reckless. He pushed his luck too far going after Kevin Rudd over “utegate” and has now effectively diminished the Opposition’s ability keep the Rudd Government in check.

I did my best to ignore all the fuss regarding if Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan tried to do a mate a favour. Of course they did in some shape or form, but what exactly is so surprising about that? Both major political parties rake in millions of dollars in donations from individuals, interest groups, companies, unions and even foreign multi-millionaires like Lord Ashcroft. Does anyone seriously think that most of this donation money is handed over because the donors are simply generous?

The truth is that a large political donation buys access to either a politician or a political party. There are even fund raising dinners where if you pay more you can sit at the same table as a prominent politician. I would call this selling access to a politician (who is a publicly paid official) but I am sure the major political parties would call it something else.

In theory we all have access to our political leaders but the chances are if you write a letter to a Government Minister you will get a form letter reply from one of his staff with the Minister probably unlikely to pay much attention to your views or concerns. However if you had provided  say a ten thousand dollar donation to help that Minister win his/her local electorate then  I am guessing you would get little more attention.

So a car dealer lent Rudd a vehicle to use during his election campaign and in return this dealer might have got some extra attention when he was looking for some Government what?  If the Federal Opposition wanted to take the high moral ground then they should have also presented a bill to overhaul the way political donations are handled.

Instead we have had Malcolm Turnbull lead the Opposition on a witch hunt that achieved absolutely nothing except that a public servant was used and hung out to dry. (oh and a lot of time was wasted by the Federal Police and undoubtedly a lot of other public servants as well)

Have we had a rigorous debate about wasteful Government spending lately? No. Has the Opposition clearly conveyed some alternative policies in the last few weeks? No. Has the Opposition being doing a good job of being in Opposition? No.  So if they cannot even manage being out of government properly then why do they expect anyone will ever vote them back into power again?

I do feel Malcom Turnbull would be a good leader and Prime Minister but he needs to learn when to attack and when to bide his time. He reportedly gave Brenden Nelson a hard time for being too weak when Nelson took over the leadership of the Coalition in 2007, but now that Malcolm’s approval rating is lower than Nelson’s was it seems like some bad karma catching up with Mal.

Sometimes it is good to be tough, but sometimes it just means you are on an ego trip and I think Turnbull has let his ego get the better of him recently.

You might be wondering what has any of this got to with with the stock market or the economy? The answer is everything, because both the Government and The Opposition need to function properly for the economy to be well managed.

We need the Government to be held accountable for how they spend our money, we need Government forecasts challenged and most importantly we need to have a viable alternative to the current Government at the next election so we do actually have a choice when we cast our vote.

If the Rudd Government is returned at the next election simply because the Coalition cannot sort themselves out then this would be a major blow to democracy in Australia. It is bad enough that we have so little choice to start off with but to essentially have no choice at all would be a tragedy for the nation.

Finally here is a classic clip from the classic movie “This is Spinal Tap” which pretty much sums up how Federal Opposition is performing at the moment. At least Spinal Tap eventually made it to the stage…I wonder if Malcolm and his gang will ever make it. Enjoy!

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gary // Jul 10, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I just hope Turnbull pulls himself together because Rudd is looking unbearably smug for my liking.

  • 2 Senator13 // Jul 12, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Yes he is looking smug alright. He is up there in Italy strutting with the G8 countries and lecturing everyone about the importance of an emissions trading scheme. Maybe Rudd does not realise this but Australia is not actually part of the G8 group of countries!

  • 3 Greg Atkinson // Jul 12, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I see he is also pushing “clean coal” again which is nothing more than a way for coal exporting nations to try keep exports flowing. If you were really serious about saving the planet you would be finding ways to stop burning fossil fuels, not hide the emissions underground and hope they never leak out!

    The better option (as I have ranted on about a few times) would be nuclear power. Not only is clean a source of energy but it would create a whole new industry with hi-techs jobs and flow on benefits in areas such as healthcare.

    I wonder if the Opposition supports the nuclear power option these days?

  • 4 Ned S // Jul 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I found the following interesting:
    Then Senator Obama’s (and Bunning’s) 2007 bill on turning coal into useful stuff (oil?) gets a mention.
    I’d hate to be an energy investor – Just who could guess what sectors of that industry might be favoured by which governments and why?

  • 5 Greg Atkinson // Jul 13, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Ned it is all pretty confusing isn’t. On one hand we have world leaders telling us we need to use fossil fuels less but on the other hand they are pumping money into ways to allow fossil fuel to be burnt for decades to come.

    If Rudd and Wong really thought the planet was in trouble then they would commit to the phasing out of coal power stations in Australia and send us down the wind/solar/nuclear/geothermal path.

  • 6 Dan // Jul 13, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Greg this again comes down to the art of politics, which frequently requires the politicians to sell a policy as exactly the opposite of what it really is. The FHBG for example should have been called a “REABSS” .. a Real Estate Market And Banking Sector Stimulus package. The Carbon Tax (or whatever it will be called) should just have been called Just Another GST (JAGST).

    When I used to be a fly on the wall in political board room meetings, it was all laid bare – they had to work out a way of selling a policy that sounded like something coming from grass roots, but which really was written for the real financial benefactors (big business and big media) and word it so that the opposition couldn’t decipher the trick in the bill before it was passed (or at least if they did, they would keep mum because it would show them up also). Call me a cynic, but it’s only because I saw and heard it happen. The biggest saves Australia has had over the past few decades have come from independent senators who benefit from being blunt.

    Just for the record.. “duhh.. Rudd I do Wong?”

  • 7 Ned S // Jul 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    The art of politics lies (pun intended) in keeping the majority of the people happy all of the time. Kev is doing mind blowingly well in that regard. I can’t see him getting knocked off at the next election.

  • 8 Senator13 // Jul 13, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I am not even convinced that the science of climate change has even been settled. Let alone see this dire need to implement carbon trading.

    There are a lot of questions still up in the air about levels of carbon dioxide and its relationship with global temperatures rising (or lack of over recent years).

    Let’s say the Australian Government does implement its Emissions Trading Scheme… Then what? Cost of living goes up for Australians yet no change to the environment. What would the point of that be?

    Here is an interesting article worth considering:,,25656849-17803,00.html

    Also, what are the Governments motivations for introducing the ETS? Is it just more grand standing so that Rudd can jet around and say “look at us we have an ETS”? Are its motivations genuine? If so, how do you definitively and unconditionally rule out an alternative energy sources such as nuclear? The Earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years – in which it has experienced more rapid and extreme temperature raising and cooling then at present – is another few years to get the science right really that catastrophic?

  • 9 Greg Atkinson // Jul 13, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Dan what you say seems spot on to me. I guess we could call it policy marketing hey?

    On climate change I am a bit of a sceptic but I still think we should use less oil, coal etc. and try to pollute the planet a lot less. But the answer is not by taxing companies more but rather by using technology to reduce emissions and use energy more efficiently.

    Instead of an ETS why not just give companies a tax break if they meet certain “green” criteria? This means companies that do nothing will end up paying more taxes than those who do and market forces will eventually pressure most companies to toe the line so to speak. No messy ETS, less impact on consumers and emissions would be reduced.

  • 10 Senator13 // Jul 14, 2009 at 10:37 am

    People need to keep in mind that there are a lot of other harmful atmospheric acids in aerosol form that are the cause of elevated mortality rates other then just poor old carbon dioxide (CO2) – which I think gets a bad rap. CO2 is only a trace gas and makes up a very small percentage of all gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Also what needs to be kept in mind is that CO2 is a natural gas and used by plants during photosynthesis to make them grow. Carbon dioxide is also used in soft drinks to make them fizz! Even renewable energy such as geothermal power emits CO2.

    I think there have been a lot of scare mongering going on from a certain Academy Award winning former vice President. If you believe the rhetoric we will all die of carbon dioxide poisoning unless we put a price on emissions by the end of the year…? I think we are more at risk from carbon dioxide poisoning if there is a massive volcano eruption then from industry.

    Everybody would like to pollute less so that we have a cleaner environment and fresh air but coming up with a rash solution by the end of the year is not going to be beneficial for the environment or anybody else for that matter. I am all for coming up with alternative; sustainable energy sources and in-fact think that it is very important for Australia to be a leading player in this. I think developing new energy technologies would be good for Australia to export to the world.

    Maybe there needs to be more focus on tidal/wave power generation since we are surrounded by ocean?

    I agree with you Greg in that there should be positive incentives for industry to be “green” instead of just whacking them for producing all of the nation’s electricity. All these industries are doing is what they were designed to do. I think it is a little unfair to penalise them for that. Even more unfair is if their international competitors don’t have such a disadvantage.

    I think just taking a step back and having a breather and looking at the entire picture and evaluating the entire situation is the only way to go. The Rudd Government has already clocked up $300bn worth of debt. Do we really want to add increased cost of living and unnecessary job losses into the mix at this very point in time?

  • 11 IanP // Jul 23, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Greg, Looks like the Opposition did as you wanted – announced support for Nuclear energy policy for Australia this morning. I think this is unfortunate – I don’t believe Australia’s energy needs are great enough to support nuclear. But I do believe in nuclear as the only viable clean option for the likes of China and India. Unless multiple power stations are built in Australia transmission losses impose too much burden – nuclear power stations are significantly polluting in terms of their construction and the mining and purification of the fuel. Not to mention the long delays and significant costs to build. Ian MacFarlane has dismissed both Solar and Geothermal capabilities to deliver base-load power. We have a huge safe Geothermal resource being developed in the Cooper basin – and the use of molten salts to store energy generated by Solar seems to offer a solution to 24 hour supply for this clean energy source. Not to mention wind power which is well established in Europe.

  • 12 Greg Atkinson // Jul 24, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Ian I think we should at least have a really good look at the nuclear power option. Personally I think getting up a trial reactor would be a good move and this would also create entirely new jobs in Australia.

    I am not suggesting Australian should build dozens of reactors but at least we should get a foot in the door and not ignore an obvious source of energy.

    Of course nuclear power has drawbacks, but so does coal. Arguably coal is a much worse polluter than and certainly is much worse in terms of CO2 emissions.

  • 13 Senator13 // Aug 16, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Rudd seems too busy sabotaging his own policies in search of an excuse to go to an early election then the search for innovative renewable energy solutions.

  • 14 Greg Atkinson // Oct 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Well I may be no fan of Rudd & Co but the The Federal Opposition are starting to make the Goths look peaceful and well organised. Goodness me, someone please tell me that they aren’t seriously thinking of picking Joe Hockey as the next leader if Turnbull falls on his sword.

  • 15 Ralph // Oct 8, 2009 at 8:58 am

    That’s funny. And sad. I too am disgusted with Rudd & Co, but it’s disheatening to see the opposition like this. All we hear in the news is who is fighting with who in the Liberal and National parties. The government isn’t even being held to account.

    So we’re going to get Bomber II? Just like Bomber I, he’s undoubtedly an affable guy, but he’s unelectable. I thought Bomber I proved beyond all doubt that Australia does not want a windbag for a PM. Sorry, Joe.

  • 16 Greg Atkinson // Oct 8, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Ralph, Bomber II that suits Hockey alright. He is probably a good guy to have at a party but let’s not let allow him to run the nation please!

  • 17 Greg Atkinson // Dec 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Maybe now that Turnbull has been shown the door Tony Abbott will get the Opposition busy doing what they should be doing? This speech he gave recently indicates he is ready to hold the Government accountable:

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