No one wants this government to succeed more than I do. So when I write about something I see as a wrong step taken, I do it in the hope that the Government will see what I write – assuming they take any notice at all – as advice from a friend. I am a citizen blogger and we are a site that almost overwhelmingly has high hopes that this government will stay around for a long time to come. But this blog is like closed-circuit TV. We are a small close knit group who speak to each other although there are, I understand, quite a few others looking in.
A story like this on the other hand from Tuesday’s AFR, with the following headline across the front page – Reith accuses Abbott of orchestrating GrainCorp veto – is different. And when we go into the text, this is what we find:
One of the most senior figures of the Howard government and a leading figure of the Liberal Party’s conservative wing, Peter Reith, has accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of orchestrating the veto of a $3.4 billion US bid for GrainCorp, which he described as the latest of several botched decisions.
Mr Reith called on the new government to show more leadership and resist the push for government subsidies and assistance for business, and raised concerns that the GrainCorp decision, which was supposed to have been made by Treasurer Joe Hockey, makes a bailout of Qantas Airways more likely.
Here’s the difference between myself and Peter Reith. He can pick up the phone and talk to the Prime Minister, not all the time perhaps but at least some of the time. He has the ear of most of the front bench and he can tell them privately what his concerns are.
Here is another difference. It would not be a news story if I thought that the government had “botched” something. It would not potentially swing a single vote or help alienate any part of the voting public. A former government Minister in John Howard’s government, however, is in an entirely different place. He does cause people to become disaffected. He loosens the hold of the Coalition on government.
He and others like him should stay out of it. They had their moment and that moment is gone. Their public criticisms only do harm. Malcolm Fraser became Labor’s greatest shill but we had stopped paying attention to him years ago.
Coalition unity is more important than GrainCorp. I have never understood the full complexity of the issue but the Nationals are dead against the sale. From what I understand, they are wrong to be opposed but that’s how it is. What’s the advice therefore being offered? Ram it through? Create a split in the government? Demonstrate to National Party voters there’s no point in voting National?
If I thought it was a bad decision I could say it but so what. For people a phone call away from making these point personally, people whose name recognition is high and who are associated with this government by being former high profile politicians on the Coalition side, their responsibility is to avoid at all costs the damage they have most clearly done. Their responsibility should be to ensure this government has a long life. In the meantime, they should keep such criticism for private communication to their friends in the government. And barring that, they should keep it to themselves.