Keeping things in perspective

Tim Blair blogs approvingly on (of all things) an Alan Ramsey column in the Silly Moaning Hillmer which castigates Labor frontbencher Craig Emerson for his apparently inept performance when interviewed by Laurie Oakes about the Hanson/Abbott affair on the Nine Network Sunday program.

However, implicit in both Ramsey’s column and Blair’s reaction to it is a fairly typical political insider’s distorted vision of what is politically significant. For politicial aficionados, a bad performance on a program like Sunday (or Lateline) is noteworthy. For the voting punters it’s simply irrelevant, because almost none of them watch these programs.

In the world of realpolitik, Emerson’s conduct of the ALP’s strategy over the Hanson/Abbott affair has been very successful. The ALP managed to deflect much of the public anger arising from Hanson’s conviction and imprisonment onto the Coalition because (as Oakes succinctly pointed out) Emerson “took a story that was so old it had cobwebs all over it, pretended it was new, and kept it going for a week.”

The fact that the Labor strategy was successful is underlined by another story on Sunday, which describes the Hanson/Abbott affair as a “crisis” for the Coalition and reports:

But the bid to defeat Pauline Hanson through the courts has backfired badly on its chief architect, Tony Abbott. The PM’s right-hand man is now copping much of the blame for Hanson’s three-year jail sentence. That may be unfair. But Mr Abbott certainly has questions to answer about his ludicrously misnamed slush fund, “Australians for Honest Politics” “¦ a group whose membership he refuses to reveal …

That has been the general tone of media reporting of the affair. I suspect that Emerson would regard taking a bit of a pasting from Laurie Oakes as a small price to pay for creating a “crisis” for the Coalition out of such a situation.

Similarly, I doubt that Tony Abbott is losing huge amounts of sleep over the affair either (although his next conversation with Peter Costello should be very entertaining for politically aware flies on the wall). Abbott’s efforts clearly played a major role in eliminating One Nation as an electoral threat to the Coalition, and the short-term opprobrium he’s currently copping is equally a small price to pay in political terms.

The Hanson/Abbott affair is probably a nine day political wonder. There are only two reasonably likely long-term effects IMO. The first is its possible (but unlikely while Crean remains leader) contribution to a future “tipping point” in favour of Labor. The second is that I think Costello’s thinly veiled swipe at both Howard and Abbott may ultimately be seen as a major tactical error on his part, and a decisive turning point whose eventual result will be to destroy his ambitions to succeed Howard as leader. It probably won’t be portrayed that way in the mainstream media, but I suspect that Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party members other than core Costello groupies are likely to be mightily unimpressed by Costello’s self-servingly opportunistic statement.

PS – Scott Wickstein has a post about the current state of federal politics with which I mostly concur. Go read.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

“The Hanson/Abbott affair is probably a nine day political wonder.”

It won’t be a nine day wonder, because Hanson’s appeal is in November. After a short break for the football finals and the Spring racing, it will all be back on again, with one of two outcomes

1. Hanson wins her appeal and is released with her political career refreshed as she flies from coast to coast addressing her adoring public on the inequities of the establishment political system, blah blah blah. It will be 1997 – 1998 all over again.

2. She loses her appeal, and we get political prisoner sob stories until Christmas, if not longer.

More to the point, even when the story is out of the media, that doesn’t mean the punters will have forgotten. Those Deliverance types in Gympie and beyond have long memories. These are the same people that Wayne Goss memorably described as waiting for Paul Keating sitting patiently on their porches with their baseball bats. They might decide to do the same to Johnny.

Tim
Tim
2022 years ago

On point one from Dave – Nah: Hanson’s moment has gone and she’ll never be the force she once was or could’ve been.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

The main point why oxygen keeps this story alive is that it keeps changing.
This in turn is because people such as Abbott avoid telling the truth.
I suspect this must be something a little bigger to come otherwise why not hang it all out and let it dry.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I can’t actually recall a time when polling showed both the PM and the Leader of the Opposition vanishing backwards at a roughly commensurate rate. Normally you’d anticipate the one superseding the other in voter preference.

Anyway, I’m sure Dave’s right: l’affaire Hanson will rumble on. I’m thinking a Bob Katter-led 4wheel drive ram-raid on Wacol with Pauline spirited to freedom in a split to the thigh prison number, clinging on to Bob’s Roo-Bar. Holed up in the Glass House Mountains, protected by the Gympie Baseball Bat Volunteers, Pauline will hire Margo Kingston to run her PR. Capital Punishment will be re-instituted as a result. Meanwhile, David Oldfield flees Australia disguised as a parrot and the number of people threatened with defamation proceedings by Terry Sharples reaches 9,554 by Xmas.

Can’t think why Scott and Ken are being all lemon-lipped about politics. It’s fun city…..

Jimbo
Jimbo
2022 years ago

What’s the significance of 9,554, Geoff? And why a parrot?

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

I think the Hanson saga has legs. After all the evil political elite has been dismissing her for years while angelic ordinary Australians have gone right on believing. I suspect Howard has real problems with this chapter of the story because for once he’s been caught behaving like, well, a member of the elite instead of an ordinary Australian. If the Little Johnny and the Chamber of Elites bestseller starts losing readership he’s in big trouble.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

And wasn’t it helpful of Peter Costello to stir the pot yesterday by saying that Hanson got a fair trial and her sentence was in keeping with what convicted Queensland pollies have been getting, post Fitzgerald?

No doubt Howard will now say to Costello, “if you undermine again, I won’t retire when I said I would, and you’ll have to wait indefinitely to become leader, if you do at all”.

Oh that’s right, I forgot ….

There’s nothing quite like an ambitious deputy leader who has the leader in his cross hairs. This should be fun to watch.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Wendy – I’m afraid you’ll never be “Jimbo” to me – David Oldfield recently attempted to elicit sympathy, (in the unlikely event that such a diversion might be necessary), by “revealing” that the love of his life had expired. Surprisingly, this wasn’t himself. It seems it was a parrot with whom he shared his daily shower – and for all we know, other things that he showed unusually good taste in not revealing.

9,554 has no significance other than to serve as a caricature of the legendary Sharples’ tendency to threaten litigation.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

I agree Ken. What’s more, like most (almost all?) folks, I can’t remember the story from its first outing anyway. Meanwhile, can you imagine the impact on Australian politics if today’s leading SMH letter was implemented?

Niall
2022 years ago

So, Ken, does that all mean we’ll be stuck with Howard until the next generation of Liberal wannabes is old enough to take the reins? Certainly, Little johnny won’t want to be sliding over for Costello, and Abbott has clearly displayed his naivety. Surely they’d both have ruled themselves out b’now?

adam
2022 years ago

The second is that I think Costello’s thinly veiled swipe at both Howard and Abbott may ultimately be seen as a major tactical error on his part, and a decisive turning point whose eventual result will be to destroy his ambitions to succeed Howard as leader.

this, presumably, means that the next prime minister will be tony abbott. i’ll have trouble sleeping tonight.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

What about Phil … could there be a horse more dark?

mark
2022 years ago

“And please let me assure members of the media that, despite what the High Court would have you think, ‘Dark Horse’ refers only to the presence (or lack thereof) of thought regarding the possibilities of my leadership in the average Australia’s mind, and is not a reference to my black, black heart.”

Well, it was funny when I thought it up.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

I’m staggered by the superficial non-analysis of that Newspoll result by bloggers and commentors on this blog. Blind Freddy should see that the Liberals went up by a statistically insignificant 1 percent and the Nationals down by a statistically significant one percent with One Nation picking up from nil to 2. The statistically insignificant increase of one-percent to Labor only restored its vote to the early July poll and is thus a meaningless fluctuation. The transfer of votes from the Nationals to One Nation in rural areas was lost to the Coalition in the notional distribution of preferences (probably 60-40 to the Coalition – i.e. one-fifth of a vote gained for each whole vote lost. Direct result – a drop in two-party preferred from 52-48 to 51-49. The far left (Democrats-Greens) vote went down from 8 to 7.

So by a quirk of statistics, a swing to the right (ie One Nation) resulted in a loss of two-party preferred votes to the Coalition.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

I nearly agree Ron … and while the Newspoll trend is consistent with Morgan, I have blogged much more cautiously over at John Quiggin’s place.