Crikey’s new team blog The Stump kicked off on Monday and the week threw up plenty of fodder for our new stable of bloggers to fight over: Blackface! Polanski arrested! Liberal leadership speculation! Tsunami warnings! Kokoda deaths! Climate change debate! An interest rate rise!

Here are a few highlights from the week — click on whatever takes your fancy, have a read, and get stuck in there. This blog will thrive on your contribution, in fact it’ll feed off it, so get lippy people and start commenting.

Bernard Keane on The Adventures of Buster Turnbull:

I’m not sure of the exact moment, but at some point in the last week, Malcolm Turnbull’s stint as Opposition Leader reached a height of comedic inspiration never seen before in Australian politics.

We’ve seen hapless Opposition Leaders before. We’ve seen them overwhelmed by events, unable to withstand the onslaught of political misfortune, exposed as unfit for the position to which they aspire.

But because Malcolm Turnbull is clever, and wily, because he never gives up, because you’d need an elephant gun to stop him, to watch his current travails is to watch a particularly ingenious comedy. The more disasters pile up, the more complications set in upon complications, the more determined Turnbull appears to be. Fate, or rather his own party, is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him and he’s ducking and weaving, bloodied but unbowed, pausing only to demand “bring it on”

It’s like watching a Buster Keaton film as a stonefaced Turnbull endures any amount of misadventure armed only with his wits. Maybe Cops, the masterpiece in which Keaton dodges, dives, balances, blocks, outruns, outwits and outlasts what looks like several thousand policemen pursuing him. Read more here.

Mel Campbell, editor and publisher of The Enthusiast on The Pointlessness Of Trekking Kokoda:

…the way to prevent more deaths on Kokoda is forehead-smackingly simple – don’t do the frickin’ trek. The rhetoric of war is that soldiers undergo hardship and risk their lives as sacrificial lambs for their nations. In short, the diggers trekked Kokoda so we don’t have to.

Trekking Kokoda smacks of an irritating literal-mindedness. To honour the suffering of Australian soldiers, you re-enact that suffering – but to what purpose? Sure, you might come back with a deeper appreciation of what previous generations went through. Perhaps you could also make a pilgrimage to your local RSL to gain a deeper appreciation for the pokies that Australian soldiers have played and the meat raffles they have won. Or perhaps you and your mates can beat each other up and spit on each other, just to give yourselves a deeper appreciation of what it’s like in the Royal Australian Navy. Read more here.

Charles Richardson (currently blogging from Europe) on GFC atmospherics in Britain:

…Britain is the first country I’ve been to where the global financial crisis really seems to be biting. In Germany, Sweden and of course Australia, it’s an incovenience rather than a serious social problem. Britain certainly could be worse – it’s not Latvia – but with bank failures, high unemployment, ballooning public debt and the pound heading relentlessly for parity with the Euro, there’s a real atmosphere of crisis here. Read more here.

Guy Rundle on Traffic Cones!:

What the Liberal Party need now is a traffic cone. Someone with no leadership ambitions, who can keep the spot open until after the 2010 loss.

Joe Hockey is a car, not a traffic cone. A Trabant maybe, but certainly a car.

Nick Minchin. Perfect traffic cone. Sadly, in the Senate.

In the House…Philip Ruddock? No. Seen as Howard-era deathcar. Georgiou? Leaving and everyone knows it.

Billson? Moylan? Too lllllliberal.

Sharman Stone. Sadly, not even a traffic cone.

Russell Broadbent? David Hawker? Quite possible. They’re older, they have no real leadership ambitions. What do they get? A turn at the wheel, a name on the honours board, a bump in the Super, and the gratitude of a grateful party for taking out the garbage. They retire post 2010 loss, and Jumpin Joe or The Mad Monk takes over.

Think traffic cones. Read more here.

Sophie Black says Hey Hey misguided patriotism’s back:

The reaction to Hey Hey’s ill advised Red Faces Blackfaces act is rapidly dividing into two camps: outrage and outrage.

Either you’re:

a) outraged that the Jackson Jive idea managed to get the tick from several producers, a talent scout, the host of the show and the six guys who took the time to sit in front of a mirror and apply boot polish to their visages

OR you’re

b) outraged that people don’t get “our Australian sense of humour” and that, sure, blackface may not be appropriate in the US, but over here, we have a special kind of humour, and that poncy Harry Connick Jnr and the “PC brigade” should rack off.

In camp A: pretty much the entire Twitterverse. Yes twits (myself included) love nothing more than tweeting their moral outrage and indignation about everything from Cheesybite to racism and everything in between.

But things get much more interesting in camp B. In the space of just a few hours, Hey Hey has become a calling card for misguided patriotism, in the same way that the flag took on an unsettling significance around the Cronulla riots… Read more here.

Jason Soon on Turnbull – the failed libertarian hope:

Were we too naive in expecting that someone of such Bobo sensibilities (to use the coinage of David Brooks) in what is essentially a Bobo electorate would be the closest the Liberal party could come to a principled classical liberal leader?

Turnbull was a hero to many civil libertarians for his role in the Spycatcher case. He was, even before he became leader, part of a ginger group within the party during Howard’s leadership that saw Howard-Costello as too tame on tax cuts and cuts to government spending. Turnbull showed some backbone early on in his leadership defending Bill Henson, placing himself briefly to the left of Kevin Rudd. He commissioned (but ultimately did not release) a review of the taxation system by Henry Ergas (disclosure – my former employer) that would have called for a transition over 15 years to a fully flat income tax system combined with a Friedman-style minimum income guarantee. Perhaps the last act was already an indication of his general pattern of political timidity though who can blame him given the relatively radical nature of some of the proposals? Read more here.

Eva Cox on Forget the facts and feel the prejudices:

People seem to be puzzled at politicians’ inability to respond to apparently clear data that suggests something ought to be done. I am putting up the proposal that the current crop are following a long tradition of if you don’t like the data, ignore it, or keep looking for some that confirms your prejudices.

Take a simple issue like abortion law reform and see why even politicians those who, according to new data support change and have electoral support as well may still do nothing, This can be seen in the latest flurry of this debate which again has raised questions on why politicians are not responding to obvious popular support for changing the laws. Katherine Betts’ latest effort (People and Place) reiterates her earlier figures that show the majority of voters, and even of politicians, are in favor of women’s right to choose. Yet in Queensland and NSW there are serious concerns, including by Anna Bligh, that any attempt to remove abortion from the Crimes Act, may not only be lost but may also wind back the current reasonably functional status quo that follows precedent judgments. Read more here.

Chris Berg on Polanski — The rule of law as it is applied to ageing rape fugitives:

…I’m all for the hard cases, and I heart the rule of law. So what would be more capricious or arbitrary: a scenario where prosecutors fail to pursue a fugitive for 30 years, and then let him off once he files to have it dismissed, or the current scenario where prosecutors fail to pursue a fugitive for 30 years, and then do pursue him when he tries to use that failure to avoid any legal consequences at all? We’ve had three decades of the rule of law arbitrarily applied to Polanski; this latest episode is, you’d hope, an attempt to rectify past errors, not the birth of a new one. Read more here.

Andrew Bartlett on the last Democrat MP to resign from the party:

News reports today indicate that the sole remaining Australian Democrat Member of Parliament, David Winderlich, has resigned from the party. However, he is staying in the Parliament and will recontest the next state election in March next year as a ‘community independent’.

As he noted in explaining his decision, Democrat party members did vote about a year and a half ago to explore merging with other parties such as the Climate Change Coalition. While nothing came of that, I suppose it is plausible to take that as an indication that Democrat members might have wanted to transform their party into something else. Read more here.

and Jonathan Green liveblogged the Malcolm Turnbull/Joe Hockey presser:

Turnbull and Hockey doing their combined presser right now, hoping to take our minds off the chaotic mish mash of liberal leadership. The real issues, apparently that all Australians are focused on are government debt and rising interest rates. That seems a long way from convincing the assembled press team.

Every question is on leadership. No one is deflected. How could they possibly have thought that this would be given clear air?

The job I want is Wayne Swan’s job says Joe. Fair enough. Who’d want Malcolm’s. Read more here.

There’s more too. Go on, get in there!


The Stump, Crikey’s blog on the world of politics, policy and affairs

Peter Fray

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