The problems of being all things to all people

Under John Key, Steve Joyce and Bill English National tried to be all things to all people in an attempt to get more than 50% of the vote. They never succeeded.

In Australia Malcolm Turnbull is also trying to be all things to all people and it is failing.  Joe Hildebrand explains: Quote:

Why are the Prime Minister and his government in crisis?

The truth is that despite his record-breaking effort at losing Newspolls, Turnbull has not been a bad prime minister — and certainly not a monstrous one.

Indeed, virtually everything he’s done has previously been actively championed by the two main forces out to destroy him, namely the Labor Party and Tony Abbott. He has fully funded and committed to the ALP’s two main signature policies of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski education reforms and he has held fast on Abbott’s key promises of stopping the boats and axing the carbon tax.

And when it comes to other taxes, let’s not forget that Abbott jacked them up while Turnbull is actually cutting them and somehow this is used as ammunition against him by the right. Funny old world.

Pretty much everything he does is within the bandwidth of reasonableness and almost all his policies are cautiously calibrated compromises. Indeed, the most shocking thing about the $444 million Great Barrier Reef funding scandal is that it appears to be evidence that Turnbull once made a hard and fast decision.

And this, ironically enough, is precisely the problem. In trying to be all things to all people Turnbull has become nothing to no one. He is the nowhere man of Australian politics. End quote.

We’ve seen this with Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little. Now we are seeing it with Simon Bridges. Quote:

He is, what they call in politics, trying to walk both sides of the street. In attempting to straddle the left and right divide and navigate a path through the sensible centre, he has become exposed to attacks from both sides and as soon as he attempts to defend himself from one it only provides more ammunition to the other.

The end result is that he is unable to articulate a strong narrative about where the Government is going or what its values are and he is unable to define who he is and what he stands for. In short, he has become a gibberer.

In the world of politics and the media this is a certain death sentence if left untreated. And how do I know all this? Because I too was a gibberer. End quote.

Bridges is at risk of becoming a gibberer as well. Quote:

It was 2014, my first year on a daily TV show based wholly on free discussion and robust debate. Back then I thought you could just say things, have a bit of a chat or an argument, and then move on to the next topic. What a naive fool I was.

In quick succession, I found myself smashed from pillar to post in a series of exchanges that have been well documented. Panel discussions became lead stories on the evening news, Twitter posts became serious news stories in the “respectable” press. Funny old world indeed.

Sarah Harris laughingly referred to it as “My Year of Saying Sorry” and by the end of it I was sh*tscared of saying anything ever again.

This was brought into sharp relief when I was asked to appear in the ABC series Agony Uncles, a show entirely predicated on people stating their positions on things. I was enthusiastically approached and generously interviewed for hours but when it finally went to air almost nothing I said appeared in any of the six episodes.

I was hardly offended but I was a tad confused. What had happened? Had I done something terribly wrong? In the end the show’s creator had to kindly intimate that, in the world of communication at least, I most certainly had.

As it turned out I was so terrified of causing offence or being misunderstood or seeming too left or too right that I buried every word that came out of my mouth in so many layers of context and qualifiers and disclaimers that nothing was usable.

In fact I had tried so hard to explain what I was saying that the producers could hardly even find a spare millisecond to cut what I was saying into anything usable. I had suffocated everything I wanted to say and the more I talked the less I said.

And that is where Turnbull is now. Perennially smashed by the hard left and hard right, he is constantly attempting to justify himself to one or the other and thus at the same time getting doubly smashed by the other or the one. Little wonder he can hardly win a trick, let alone a vote.

If you actually pull back and look at the big issue — in this case an energy policy which promises to reduce both power prices and greenhouse emissions — you’d think he was on an unbackable winner. Indeed, virtually all of the moderate voices in politics, the business community, expert think tanks like the Grattan Institute and anyone with half a brain thinks it’s a pretty good plan, or at the very least better than nothing.

But that hardly matters. They probably all like apricots too.

Politics in the twenty-teens is the domain of the hardliners and extremists. The fact that Tony Abbott and the Greens look like voting the same way on a climate change policy tells you all you need to know about that.

Of course there are two further compromises Turnbull could make to appease the restless natives in his party room and supposedly shore up his leadership. One is bringing Abbott back into the Cabinet and the other is dropping the big fat company tax.

There is a strong argument that the PM should have done both years ago but this only makes it even more vital for Turnbull that he doesn’t do either now. Politics is a lot like Sydney’s Parramatta Rd: all U-turns are illegal and if you try to turn left or right from the centre lane you only end up pissing off everyone who’s behind you.

It is obvious that nothing can be done now to dissolve the enmity that exists between Abbott and Turnbull and so Malcolm may as well double-down and show him who’s boss.

Likewise, for a PM who torched so much political capital on various attempts at tax reform he can’t afford to look weak anymore. Better to believe in something unpopular — as Howard did with the GST — than to believe in nothing at all. At least that way when you believe in something that is popular, people will believe you’re actually going to do it.

Because there is only one thing that the mob hates more than the gibberer, and that is the genuflector.

In politics, as in life, it is always better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. End quote.

Amen to that. For too long we have seen governments treading the centre line and therefore not doing anything. Bring back conviction politicians please.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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