Editor’s Note

December/January Editor's Note

Regents of The Abbott Government, After Karel Dujardin, by Ben Gerber.
L to R: Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey, Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton and George Brandis.

One of this magazine’s most popular contributors, someone not known for subscribing to partisan opinion, demurred when asked to comment on the current government for this issue. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a cabinet of creeps,” he said. “I can’t bear to take them seriously yet.”

Fair call. Let’s be charitable and hope it’s all vaudeville. They’ve not been in government three months, so there’s a chance they may yet prove halfway competent. After all, how to take seriously Joe Hockey, who bleated incessantly pre-election about a budget emergency but now wants to borrow by the hundred billion? What of Christopher Pyne, whose reversal of support for the Gonski education reforms was delivered last week with trademark up-yours smugness? Meanwhile, we have a prime minister who continues to sledge “Electricity Bill” Shorten as if he were in Opposition, an immigration minister who makes Philip Ruddock look warm-hearted, an environment minister who thinks global warming and bushfire risk are unrelated, an attorney-general who thinks it’s OK for taxpayers to fund his trips to attend the weddings of shock jocks, and a Liberal Party strategist who tweeted that the already perilously offended Indonesian foreign minister resembles a “Pilipino” porn star. (Ah, he’s Asian – of course he does.) And we have yet to hear from Peter Dutton how he plans to cruel the public health system. Against this lot, Barnaby Joyce and Clive Palmer can claim gravitas.

The government’s only evident agenda so far is an “undo” agenda. Undo Gonski. Undo the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Undo the carbon tax. Undo the ABC. Undo the mining resources rent tax. Undo the national curriculum. Undo Kyoto. Undo sound foreign relations. Undo the National Broadband Network. Undo World Heritage Area protections. Undo anything that gets between them and their onanistic reverence for John Howard.

It’s an altogether unsavoury tableau, this frat party of Young Liberals who refuse to grow up. With or without the Filipino porn nights, this is as close to an undergraduate government as this country has had: one that enjoys ministerial dress-ups and playing “culture war” games with its cheerleaders in the Murdoch press in lieu of having anything to offer. The lot of them may as well be running through Parliament House shouting, “To-ga, to-ga, to-ga!” Somewhere in the wings, keeping himself nice and, one expects, averting his gaze, is Malcolm Turnbull. What must he be thinking?

John van Tiggelen

John van Tiggelen is a freelance writer and the author of Mango Country.

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