Cross Post: Terry Barnes Dear Malcolm: better to die on your feet than live on your knees

Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata once said, “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees”.

Contrast Malcolm Turnbull. Our Prime Minister is like Napoleon in Russia in 1812. He’s retreating from his electoral Moscow, harassed and attacked every step of the way by a rampantly populist Bill Shorten and Labor from the left, picked off from the right by snipers like Pauline Hanson and Cory Bernardi, and his troops’ discipline is crumbling.

Turnbull isn’t helping himself either. Last week, just for starters, he excruciatingly dodged attributable positions over the Fair Work Commission penalty rates decision, the hate speech section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, and overreacted to the latest criticism by the man he rolled 18 months ago, Tony Abbott.

Flattened by Labor

On penalty rates, Shorten, Labor, and the unions are flattening a tentative Coalition simply by rejecting the FWC decision – pursuing populism over policy just as they did so devastatingly last year with Mediscare, and in gainsaying almost every significant Coalition attempt since 2013 to rein in the burgeoning deficit Labor themselves left.

Even with two years to the next election, the Turnbull government is living on its knees. It’s high time it prepared to die on its feet.

The May budget is the government’s survival tipping point. The first budget after an election is where the toughest political and economic calls are made. It is always high-risk but, if successful like John Howard and Peter Costello’s in 1996, a tough, saving budget can set up the government for the term and beyond. If botched like Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s in 2014 it can cause a world of pain, leaving the Turnbull government’s chances of recovery at slim to zero.

Senior minister and self-styled “fixer” Christopher Pyne has said the government will not push its luck in putting big bold savings plans to the Senate and the populists controlling the political agenda. But even the fixer should know this fixes nothing. Worryingly, insiders indicate a piecemeal budget reflecting Pyne’s risk-averseness, Band-Aiding political problems like housing affordability and Medicare but capitulating to the Senate on debt and deficit.

Time to go for broke

Instead, Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison should imagine they have clear majorities in both houses of Parliament, and frame a go-for-broke budget for Australia, not their political survival.

They should embody Liberal core beliefs in free enterprise and personal responsibility. Set out a clear, understandable narrative. Reject big-spending populism for fiscally responsible centre-right policies and mainstream community values. Ensure each new dollar spent is at least matched by one saved. Scrap the questionable $50 billion submarine project, not the $50 billion company tax cuts. Find offsets to fund unfreezing GP Medicare rebates. Go further with labour market reform. Take ideology out of energy security. Embrace penalty rate reform that keeps small businesses open. Maintain a strong social safety net but reduce welfare dependence, slash waste and red tape, and reduce public debt. Balance tolerance and respect with fixing the excessive reach of 18C and the obscene human rights industry it has spawned. Anticipate the looming impacts of huge disruptive technological change, robotics and automation on jobs and the economy.

In short, show some leadership and ticker.

Stop retreating

Malcolm, use your budget and remaining political capital to bell the populist cat. Stop retreating and take a stand. Choose your ground, challenge your opponents, and make them account for their irresponsibility when they inevitably move to block you. Negotiate with the Senate opportunists but, if all else fails, do not cave in and be prepared to take your reasoned case to the people.

Done boldly but strategically, framed by a clearly understood vision calling out its shamelessly populist antagonists, the Coalition can yet claw back lost support and give business added confidence. But if it can’t, it’s better the government tries and fails, standing for more than itself by confronting populism on all sides.

Voters and businesses want a government that governs, not necessarily yet another leadership change. Turnbull and his team can win back doubters by boldness and courage – but only if they dare to fail. If the Coalition’s drift and lack of cohesion, conviction and purpose continues, and the Prime Minister’s own vacillation persists, it is doomed to a political generation in opposition. Turnbull must channel Zapata, and get his struggling government off its knees and on its feet. He has nothing to lose.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant and former Howard government adviser. This op-ed first appeared in the AFR.

This entry was posted in Budget, Cross Post, Federal Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Cross Post: Terry Barnes Dear Malcolm: better to die on your feet than live on your knees

  1. teddy bear

    How is “Find offsets to fund unfreezing GP Medicare rebates” going for broke?

  2. Jannie

    Terry, you are talking about Malcolm Lord Windbag Turnbull, he is the one who dragged the Liberals to the Left of Hawke/Keating. He is a Leftist. that’s why people on the centre right are leaving. It doesn’t matter what he says anymore, too many people can see right through it. If you Libs cared about your party you would have long ago taken him out the back for a cigarette and a firing squad, like Zapata would have done.

  3. woolfe

    taken him out the back for a cigarette and a firing squad

    Lucy won’t let Malcolm smoke.

  4. Muddy

    “I reject your reality and substitute my own.”
    (h/t Adam @ Mythbusters).

  5. Nathan

    The problem they have is best described in Spanish – ‘Testículos pequeños’

  6. Philippa Martyr

    Suffer in yer jocks, so-called Terry Barnes.

    Talk about stating the bleeding obvious.

  7. duncanm

    The May budget is the government’s survival tipping point. The first budget after an election is where the toughest political and economic calls are made. It is always high-risk but, if successful like John Howard and Peter Costello’s in 1996, a tough, saving budget can set up the government for the term and beyond

    really – why bother? No meaningful outcomes will occur in the time before an election; and you’re just setting it up so the ALP and Greens can come along and be sugar daddy’s by ‘reversing all those horrible LNP policies’

    May as well leave the train wreck in place and have them deal with it for a term.

  8. Muddy

    Even with two years to the next election, the Putrid Corpse Party is living on its knees. It’s high time it [is] prepared to be staked through the heart and buried.

    Reality. Smack ya face.

  9. jupes

    Ensure each new dollar spent is at least matched by one saved.

    The appalling David Speers was on Sky tonight discussing Pauline Hansen with another couple of numptie journalists. One of them reckoned that Hanson wanted to “cut spending and cut taxes”.

    All three agreed that she was clueless.

  10. Cradock's Choice

    Yeah, right.

    The only thing that Turnbull lacks to implement such a program is the brains, spine, competence, honour, intelligence, courage, virtue, intellect, grit, determination, public spirit, honesty, integrity, self-discipline and conservative values it needs.

    What we will actually get is snivelling, waffle, lies and grovelling from worthless incompetent neo-lefties like Turnbull and the ‘Mincing Poodle’, more debt and national disaster.

    I wish to God the libs had lost just two more seats at the last election. Turnbull would be a rotting political corpse and so would every one of the backstabbing swine who supported this worthless, incompetent dud. If they ahd lost two more seats, a staggeringly incompetent ‘Tits’ Shorten government would be on the nose for further wrecking the place and would be facing electoral annihilation. Lose-win.

    Instead, that incompetent elitist bozo Turnbull is destroying the conservatives and prepping the way for a government that’s even worse.
    Lose-lose.

    And the country pays the price.

  11. Driftforge

    Balance tolerance and respect with fixing the excessive reach of 18C

    Terry, ditch the Leftist frame.

    ‘Tolerance and Respect’ is wormtongue.

    Screw that; the entire act is an abomination against the nation. Repeal the entire thing.

  12. Leo G

    Dying on your knees is another unpleasant option for wannabe Machiavellis.

    “it is a disease that is somehow inherent in tyranny to have no faith in friends” – Promethius Bound

  13. Entropy

    If you can cut spending then the senate, you need to do it through administrative process. There is football stadium of fat cats in QANGOs that could be culled, or have their pay cut. In fact where possible get rid of the QANGO altogether. The only ones where it would be a problem are the legislated ones. Drop any activity that is also done by a state government. Basically if it has to go through the senate, forget it. Go elsewhere. The elsewhere is probably chock full of enemies anyway, the only downside is the trough for life after politics would be smaller.

  14. Entropy

    Should be “If you can’t cut spending then the senate”

  15. min

    Insipid weak stand against the CMFEU. TURC recommended that police investigate something like 68 members. No follow up by Malcolm. Shorten has Given Senate seat to someone who perjured herself at TURC and Richo says nothing will happen. No morals no ethics I reckon he would have peed his pants if he had what was done to Howard, done to him.

  16. Ruprect

    Knees, feet. Whatever. Just die already.

  17. duncanm

    really – there are two options.

    1. Lay down and die — wait for the ALP to deal with the mess and it’ll be so bad that you’re probably a shoe-in next election+ 1.

    2. the nuclear option. Campbell Newman ^ 10

    Either way – the election is lost. #2 might actually do some good and lay the groundwork for a future government that isn’t constantly getting white-anted by leftie commisars and quangos.

    I’d prefer option 2.

    Your ‘go for broke’ option is not nearly strong enough.

    There should be *no* new spending. There should be axing of useless departments everywhere, and a wholesale 25% cut in government budgets across all remaining departments.

  18. Peted

    No new spending would be a nice start.

    Including ditching the DOA childcare spending increases.

  19. struth

    Terry, where have you been the last few years?
    Your post is mundane.
    You are making a fool of yourself.
    Catch up and then comment.

  20. Motelier

    LOL. The Libs are screwed and by association so are the Nats.

    The problem is with the members. Cambell Newmann got nowhere with his lot of underperformers who could not prosecute any case, managed to get rolled after one term, and, now sits on the sidelines sniping at Tim Nichols.

    The whole LNP has been doing the timewarp for a while now.

  21. Neilo

    You’ll be whistlin’ Dixie to your grave if you expect Windbag to do anything meaningful. He has achieved his lifelong ambition and now will await patiently until his term ends and written history will allow him to bask in the glory of a full term “elected” PM .. replete with appropriate portrait in the “house”… and a grossly inappropriate pension to boot.

  22. Zyconoclast

    Time to go for broke

    We are going broke.

  23. All irrelevant.
    By Christmas, households in NSW, VIC and SA will be on power rationing.
    Their anger will decide the result of the next federal election.
    All other issues are now irrelevant.

  24. Rob

    Turnbull is constantly 10 days off the pace because his political instinct is always well to the left of what is needed.
    Let’s face it, Turnbull’s heart simply isn’t in the Liberal leadership.

  25. egg_

    Quoting from ‘Catch 22’ to Mal Trumble is very apt.

  26. OneWorldGovernment

    Terry,

    Whilst they shut down and blow up coal fired power stations I cannot understand why they haven’t started blowing up dams.

    Get rid of them all.

    And let’s bulldoze Sydney into the sea.

    Wont someone think of the fish.

  27. stackja

    MT wanted to be PM.
    Doing anything as PM doesn’t interest him.

  28. bushwalker

    The idea of the urbane Mr. Turnbull channelling Zapata is ludicrous. Malcolm is happy to see his supporters on the right disappear; he never wanted them in “his” party anyway. For him leadership consists of trying to attract the bien-pensant from the left.

  29. Jannie

    “it is a disease that is somehow inherent in tyranny to have no faith in friends”

    Caesar had faith in his friends.

  30. Combine Dave

    Malcolm, use your budget and remaining political capital to bell the populist cat.

    haha!

  31. Cui bono

    No. These bedwetters have grown used to lying down and enjoying it.

  32. Zyconoclast

    No. These bedwetters have grown used to lying down and enjoying it.

    Bending over, lube free is more apt.

  33. Texas Jack

    There are so many simple issues a genuine centre-right LNP Coalition could and should be sinking their teeth into right now without giving a toss what anyone thinks a-la Trump. The squandering of target-rich political opportunities by Quisling Turnbull is so massive there should be a picture of him hung in every shitter in the country to remind people of what happens when you piss opportunity away. Failed multiculturalism, 18c, Shorten et-al in TURC, power, government waste, federal-state duplication, Shorten and Bowen. The far king list is amazing but Liberal parliamentarians don’t seem capable of doing anything other than piss their pants the moment they’re asked to look into an ABC camera. The exception is Dutton.

  34. meher baba

    I’m no fan of Turnbull, but my sense is that things are slightly improving for him rather than getting worse. Abbott came out and made a speech that sounded like some sort of first step towards a Rudd-style return, and it went down like the proverbial lead balloon. Now Pauline Hanson’s party is showing the first signs of imploding yet again, suggesting that this might be an inevitable consequence of her leadership style and the ragtag party membership she attracts.

    I know it won’t be a welcome message to many on here, but, as I see it, Turnbull has a bit more spring in his step at the moment. Sure, the debate over penalty rates wasn’t handled particularly well, but it’s receding and it might not come back. If it does, it will probably feature TV shots of angry people chanting “the people united will never be defeated”: an image which tends to boost the Liberal vote, rather than detract from it.

    I note that the media has now caught up with the problem posed by Scott Morrison’s mediocre performance. He was a great Immigration minister, but he’s not cutting it as Treasurer. Not really surprising: Immigration is a portfolio about doing stuff, whereas Treasury is mainly a portfolio about making the right sort of rhetorical pronouncements, which doesn’t seem to be one of Scott’s strengths.

    My prediction is that Turnbull will be allowed to continue to muddle through for quite some time to come. And that it is possible that the polls might get a little better for him fairly soon.

  35. incoherent rambler

    Voters and businesses want a government that governs, …

    Wrong.

    We want a government that gets out of lives and governs less things less. Start repealing laws!

  36. Mother Lode

    I sat down to my pre-train coffee this morning and had to share the table with a incontinently gasping and sneering woman reading the Sickly Moaning Haemorrhoid.

    Apparently Pauline Hanson is on the front page.

    This wretched woman kept telling me about Hanson is an idiot and how she couldn’t believe they put her on the cover.

    Most striking is this woman’s assumption that other people would agree with her – a thought which the SMH encourages, but its sales discourage.

    It is a grimy forgotten petrie dish they inhabit, that’s for sure. But it is the only one Trumball licks.

  37. A Lurker

    The Liberal house is riddled with Termites.
    The house needs to be demolished because no-one is willing to step up and exterminate them – and no, a single spray-can of Mortein won’t do the job.

  38. Anonandon

    I have an instinctive hatred of Turnbull but if he does all, or even some of what you suggest, I’m willing to put that to one side.

  39. Philby

    “I reject your reality and substitute my own.”
    (h/t Adam @ Mythbusters).

    A more apt response to Mr Barnes I cannot think of.

  40. Grandma

    You’re funny Mr Barnes. If Malcolm and the bedwetters were capable of the behaviours you describe, they wouldn’t be the bad smell they are. And the only thing Prissy Pyne has ever “fixed” is an endless stream of OPM for the SA begging bowl. Good riddance.

  41. Megan

    The only thing that Turnbull lacks to implement such a program is the brains, spine, competence, honour, intelligence, courage, virtue, intellect, grit, determination, public spirit, honesty, integrity, self-discipline and conservative values it needs.

    You forgot humility.

  42. Deplorable

    Can someone show me some difference between liberal and labor? The unions are still in charge,the Marxist plants are still in every office, the borrowings are still spiralling out of control, stupid government policy is still the order of the day. There is no daylight between them. Both leaders live in lala land. One Nation looks more like the Liberal party of old every day and there is growing daylight.

  43. Mr Skeletor

    Malcolm is too busy maneuvering to push Morrison under the Bus and blame him for the loss in credit rating.

  44. Exit Stage Right

    “Turnbull and his team can win back doubters by boldness and courage”.
    With all due respect Terry, it ain’t going to happen. The Libs, particularly Maladroit, sold out their base some time back and there will be no quick return. You cannot muster the troops by leading the charge from the rear and boldness and courage will never be used to describe this lot. No fire in the belly, no
    commitment to core beliefs (do they still exist?). You can’t paper over cracks this wide. Your wish list looks like something taken from the butchers paper hung around the walls after a Lib caucus brainstorming session, but still misses the main problem. Mal!
    You’ve over done the populist/populism descriptor as well. All the people want is a PM that is a doer, not a waffler.

  45. Cui bono

    Spot on Mr S. They’ll botch the reaction to this necessary bad news. Rather than use it as a marker for the public to acknowledge the budgetary problems facing the nation, they’ll get sucked into a tit-for-tat with those street brawlers aka the ALP.

  46. Dr Faustus

    Negotiate with the Senate opportunists but, if all else fails, do not cave in and be prepared to take your reasoned case to the people.

    Done boldly but strategically, framed by a clearly understood vision calling out its shamelessly populist antagonists, the Coalition can yet claw back lost support and give business added confidence.

    That’s yer actual problem, right there.

    Michael Trumbull has now had 18 months to frame a ‘clear vision’ and establish a ‘reasoned case’ – and it’s exactly what he promised to do when he took the job. What he has delivered is Jobson Grothe, agility, and flabby prevarication tricked-up to make inaction look like considered leadership.

    It is exactly this vacuum of coordinated ideas and vision that has allowed the shameful Shorten – identified as the turd in the swimming pool by 70% of the voting population – to survive and prosper.

    At this late stage in the game, there’s no cavalry coming.

    (And while I’m at it, as meher baba notes above, it’s hard to miss the irony of Turnbull’s failure being compounded by his dud Treasurer – just as Abbott’s was by the useless bladder, Hockey.)

  47. B Shaw

    Mother Lode encounters a woman who assumes other people will agree with her.
    A supermarket employee at the checkout assumed the same when she spotted my paper – a triumphant Trump on the front page.
    It was almost hatred issuing forth. “You know he hates women!!”
    The nerve.

  48. Nick

    Turnbull inherited a large majority and created his ‘own’ modified Senate. He’s had plenty of time and space to show leadership and hasn’t. He’s a dud any which way you look at it.

  49. Senile Old Guy

    Oh, dear! Certain people at the Cat were enthusiastic supporters of Lord Waffle. Now that reality has set in and he has proved as useless as certain other people predicted, the Cat (and some of the MSM) keep writing articles saying how Lord Waffle can get back on track. He cannot. If he could get back on track he would not have gone off track to start with.

    I know it won’t be a welcome message to many on here, but, as I see it, Turnbull has a bit more spring in his step at the moment. Sure, the debate over penalty rates wasn’t handled particularly well, but it’s receding and it might not come back.

    Not ‘handled particularly well’. It was a disaster. Lord Waffle gave interviews and, well, waffled. It was never clear whether he agreed or disagreed with the FWC. He could, justifiably, have done either but, in typical Turnbull style, he did…well, I write ‘neither’ because I listened to the interviews and I don’t know what his position was. (In contrast, Shorten was clear, articulate and, dare I say it, compelling.)

    All irrelevant. By Christmas, households in NSW, VIC and SA will be on power rationing. Their anger will decide the result of the next federal election. All other issues are now irrelevant.

    This is very likely true. SA will certainly be in strife, with either NSW or VIC likely to also have problems. This will go through politics like a wrecking ball. Lord Waffle has made a statement and called a meeting. This is likely all he will do, so nothing will change. What he should be doing is everything possible to get the government out of the way of cheap energy. But that would require actually doing something.

  50. rtp

    Some people are evil because they genuinely want other people to suffer.

    Others are evil because they are just so gutless.

    The Liberals are the latter. But they are still evil.

    They can’t just magically change their MO because it is not in their nature to do the right thing.

  51. H B Bear

    Lord Waffleworth can’t fight for any of this stuff because he doesn’t believe in any of it.

    Sorry folks, there is no Potential Greatness.The Point Piper Cuckoo just shat in the Lieborals nest.

  52. Cui bono

    The penalty rates decision provided an opportunity to pursue the jobs and growth agenda. The gutless incompetents weren’t even ready for it.

  53. Mark M

    2008: THE Rudd Government has moved to ease fears about the impact of its emissions trading scheme, releasing Treasury modelling showing the scheme is affordable, with households paying up to $7 a week more for electricity and gas, and no industries forced offshore.

    But Malcolm Turnbull criticised the modelling because it did “not take into account a scenario where Australia engages in an emissions trading scheme and cuts its emissions significantly but the rest of the world does not follow suit.”
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/archive/business-old/a-dollar-a-day-to-save-the-planet/news-story/0c5735a3f4e702c9d7dd2264658c4758
    Perhaps Truffles believed Rudd in 2007 when he claimed it would cost $1 a week.
    Truffles crossed the floor for it:
    “KEVIN RUDD: In terms of the whole economy what the modelling from MMA demonstrates is that the total impact on the economy will be marginal over time. That is that they calculate that between now and about 2045 that you’d be looking at a total impact on the economy of somewhere between $600 and $800 million or something in the vicinity of $45 per person over that period of time or something like $1 per person per year.”
    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2007/s2076131.htm

  54. classical_hero

    We are down the path towards Venezuela. It was nice knowing what prosperity was once like.

  55. TP

    To all the piss weak pussies at the Cat who dare not mention the name Abbott now , I will — bring back Abbott & make the Party relevant again or you can all eat shit while talking about The Termite for the next 2 years.

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