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Dec 16, 2013

Crikey Awards: in a year of incompetence, Abbott was the best

It's been a Melbourne Cup field for incompetence this year in politics, but Crikey has spotted those who have managed to stand out from the pack. None more than the Prime Minister.


Most years, deciding which frontbenchers have performed best and worst isn’t too difficult. But 2013 poses particular problems, not merely because there’s been both numerous reshuffles and a change of government, but because the new government has stumbled badly since getting into office, meaning there’s a Melbourne Cup field of incompetence to choose from — either from Labor, which lost office, or from the Coalition, which has made every post a loser in its first 100 days. But here goes …

Most effective minister: Jenny Macklin

Jenny Macklin’s success in establishing the National Disability Insurance Scheme, complete with partial funding from a tax increase, is one of the few uncontested legacies of the Gillard government, even if the Abbott government is making noises about reducing funding. After three years of bitter and febrile partisanship, that there was a major policy initiative that Tony Abbott scrambled desperately to declare his support for was remarkable, and Macklin, its co-author along with her prime minister, deserves credit in a period when few colleagues on either side distinguished themselves.

Special mentions: Joe Hockey — he worked out that he had to abandon his commitment to return immediately to surplus in favour of actual economic management, and led the way against more handouts to Detroit. But he also got rolled on GrainCorp and flagrantly breached the Charter of Budget Honesty. And Chris Bowen — copped it sweet and walked in March after the abortive Rudd challenge, then returned for a brief stint as treasurer to produce some quality savings, before doing an excellent job as interim leader post-election.

Least effective minister: Greg Hunt

History will record Greg Hunt as a blackly humorous footnote, a symbol of everything that was screwed up about the political and economic systems that led to massive climate change. An alleged believer in the science and a proponent of action to address it, Hunt’s first three months have been dedicated — unsuccessfully — to removing an effective, functional carbon pricing scheme, lying about its impacts and failing to do anything to advance his ludicrous Direct Action scheme, a policy he has had since January 2010 and on which he appears to have done precisely no work during that entire time. As Santa preps the sleigh for take off, we’re still waiting for his green paper on Direct Action, while Hunt’s own climate action budget has already been slashed, and the PM declared that even if Direct Action fails to achieve the bipartisan 5% emissions reduction target there will be no additional funding for it. Throw in approving sludge dumping near the Great Barrier Reef and the review of the Renewable Energy Target that is likely to see Hunt rolled by RET opponents and his stint as minister looms as disastrous.

Dishonourable mentions: Christopher Pyne — a near-run thing, Pyne’s Gonski debacle inflicted huge damage on the government, and established a dud policy as well. And Bob Carr — far from being the astute party elder he promised to be, Carr treated voters with contempt, treated taxpayers as mugs and managed to embroil himself in US politics. Good riddance.

Most effective shadow minister: Malcolm Turnbull

Regarded with ill-disguised contempt by much of the tech press, Turnbull still managed to nullify the electoral positive that the National Broadband Network was for Labor through a combination of attacks on its roll-out delays, an invented claim about a massive cost blowout (alas, later rejected even by his own hand-picked review panel) and his own policy that, for the first time, saw the Coalition finally accept the need for a government role in broadband networks. In government, of course, it didn’t work out so neatly — Turnbull has been forced to abandon his promises and the nightmare of the government acquiring Telstra’s mess of a copper network remains, but winners are grinners.

“Abbott has consistently demonstrated a capacity to adapt his political tactics to changing circumstances.”

Least effective shadow minister: Kate Ellis

An early call, sure, and she may well improve with time, but having been gifted Pyne’s Gonski debacle, Ellis struggled to inflict any parliamentary damage on the government. Fortunately for Labor the stuff-up was of such a magnitude that voters couldn’t help but notice, but education will be a key battleground over the next three years and Labor desperately needs an adroit and effective shadow.

Mentioned in dispatches: serial contender Peter “the invisible man” Dutton, a man for whom “failed to trouble the scorers” is a lifetime appellation.

Best parliamentary performer: Malcolm Turnbull

An easy pick, to be sure, but the Coalition’s return to government means Turnbull gets to hold forth regularly at the dispatch box and demonstrate that a modicum of wit and intelligence goes a long way, particularly when contrasted with the poor rhetorical styles of both Abbott and Bill Shorten. His attacks on Labor over the NBN are already the highlight of Abbott-era question times.

Special mention to Julia Gillard for March 21, when she walked into question time after Simon Crean had tried to initiate a Rudd challenge and coolly declared: “For the information of the House, I have determined that there will be a ballot for the leadership and deputy leadership of the Labor Party at 4.30 today. In the meantime, take your best shot.” Coolness under extreme pressure was her forté.

Worst political gaffe: Kevin Rudd

Precisely what Kevin Rudd spent his time doing on the backbench up until June 2013 is a mystery, because it wasn’t spent developing any policies that might have been used to kickstart his prime ministership, beyond moving more quickly to a floating carbon price. In the pressures of an election campaign, during which even well-grounded politicians feel the urge to improvise, this meant Rudd became prone to some of the crassest policy free-forming from Labor in years, embracing economic nationalism, relocating major naval facilities and contemplating a northern Australia economic zone with differential tax rates. A policy disaster. Still, selfies.

Politician of the year: Tony Abbott

Well, he did it. He wobbled occasionally, and seemed briefly fazed when Rudd was restored at the last minute, but he held on to achieve a huge victory for his party and return it to power after just six years in opposition. Abbott remained disciplined and focused throughout, always keeping his eyes on the prize, and always displaying a ruthless pragmatism. For an opposition leader who had devoted his entire leadership to ferociously opposing virtually everything proposed by Labor, he ended up going to the election with a host of unity tickets — on Gonski, on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, on the budget, on the GST, on the need for an NBN — all with the intention of shutting down whatever political advantages Labor held over the Coalition. He was never going to take the risk of repeating the mistake of his one-time boss, John Hewson, and losing an unloseable election through ideological rigidity.

The results of this approach have been demonstrated since the election, with cynical backflips, the “discovery” that policies are much more costly than expected and a visible frustration that events refuse to conform to Coalition demands. As a consequence, the Abbott government has already suffered a serious decline in public support.  Be that as it may, however, Abbott has consistently demonstrated a capacity to adapt his political tactics to changing circumstances. It is likely he will return in 2014 a more adept and effective leader. As the last four years have displayed, he’s too good a politician not to.



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37 thoughts on “Crikey Awards: in a year of incompetence, Abbott was the best

  1. Tamas Calderwood

    “a symbol of everything that was screwed up about the political and economic systems that led to massive climate change.”

    …but…but… There hasn’t been any “massive climate change”. Just 0.8c warming in 150 years and none in the past 15! We’re saved!

  2. paddy

    LOL It’s obviously time you had a holiday Bernard.
    I suppose Tony’s got to be the pyrrhic victor this year.
    But awarding Abbott politician of the year, is a bit like awarding a goldfish, the prize for leaping the greatest distance out of the fishtank. The poor botoxed numpty appears to be in terminal trouble after a mere 100 days.

    BTW Agree with your choice of Greg Hunt. But you’ve short changed him on stuff ups. He also trashed the previous Govts marine park boundaries last Friday at 5.00pm

  3. klewso

    Poor Mrs Penberthy – you know what this award means don’t you?

  4. drmick

    Unbelievable rubbish. Paddy, its worse than that; its like giving an ar5e a prize for farting.
    The shite joke that is his “political skill” is called “peta credlin”. He has no credibility and no particular skill beyond negativity, destruction and fanatical devotion to the genie with a bottle problem and the church.

  5. Anne M F

    I suppose Abbott has been the most talked-about of the Liberal party politicians and they did win the election so perhaps he does deserve the award. I had hoped this would be an amusing piece but sadly it is all too true.

  6. Yclept

    Hmmm… Politician of the year… really? I suppose in the sense that the word politician now means hypocrite, untrustworthy, arsehole and a litany of other descriptions then the Mad Monk romps it it in.

  7. cairns50

    so the politician of the year is tony abbott and you predict him to get his act together in 2014

    put your money where your pen is ill bet you 5000K he doesnt

  8. CML

    Absolutely outrageous, Crikey. Abbott as politician of the year? Only for those who are very cynical.
    One ly*ng, misogynistic, insincere, uncaring and arrogant bast*rd! Abbott is the last person who should receive ANY award.
    If we are now going to reward politicians for winning ‘the big prize’ without any regard for the way they did it, then we are just as bad as they are. If this particular cap fits, you can wear it, Crikey!
    I am disgusted with your choice!!!

  9. botanista

    It’s always nice when the comments are led off by the regular stand-up comic. Though I think I’ve heard that one before.

    And coming after a lead story that gives Misterabbott a politician of the year award,! Oh I laughed till I cried, then cried some more and poured a very early G&T. Damn hot today.

  10. Tyler T

    when has abbott ever changed his political approach one iota in the last 4 years what a farce Bernard

  11. Gene Roddenberry

    actually abbott won due to rudd and fitzgibbon being thorough ***** rather than any “skill” he might have. besides, what skill is there in saying “hay we’ll do everything you want it’ll be awesome ZOMG CARBON TAX WWUT!!?!?!”

  12. Gene Roddenberry

    actually there should be a **** of the decade award. i still think howard deserves that one but rudd, my word that rudd is flat out…..

  13. Gene Roddenberry

    ” It is likely he will return in 2014 a more adept and effective leader.”

    he can’t get by on motherhood statements and bagging gillard anymore. he actually has to deliver something, and i don’t think he has a lot in his kit bag to win over voters.

  14. Suziekue

    Abbott as Polly of the year! WTF! Have you been imbibing the Christmas drinks a tad early Bernard? I was hoping by the end of your article, I would be able to see your tongue stuck firmly in your cheek. But nope, you are serious. Hmmmm. Somehow did it slip your mind about the part that Murdoch played in this debacle? Abbott could have recited fairy stories for the past 6 years, and he would still have romped in. Hang on….

  15. tonyfunnywalker

    This is like nominating Kevin Petersen as the player of the Ashes series. Abbott best politician – you cannot be serious – most hated–yes–most incompetent– yes again —leader- he gets the Alistair Cook Award — butter fingers and batting down the wrong line with the repeal of the Carbon Tax.
    Tanya Plibersek takes the George Bailey Award for the Opposition hitting the Government for a world record 6 as the most effective member of the Opposition. The Anderson/ Prior/ Warner Award for inane sledging goes to Hockey and Truss with Pyne the winner of the Bob the Camera Man award for being totally useless at everything and a liability to the remote chance that the Abbott Government will ever be re-elected. The surprise is Morrison- that prize is supposed to be a secret – but a DOD leak suggests that they want him appointed manager and coach of the Afghanistan 20/20 side.

  16. klewso

    It’s like hanging out with fatter people ……?

  17. zut alors

    BK, on reading the headline ‘in a year of incompetence, Abbott was the best’, one couldn’t disagree. Definitely the best… as an incompetent, that is.

    But then the article reveals he’s actually the recipient of your Best In Show award. And now I’m speechless.

  18. graybul

    I cannot seriously award or respect Abbott as Polly of the Year, or Leader of the Nation . . he has few applaudable values, little evident compassion, and no integrity. Bernard, the fate of this Nation is not a game! Okay, now removing broom handle from orifice . . you’ve been on the sauce again Bernie or you fair dinkum think it’s April!!

  19. Salamander

    Abbott is not a respectable politician. He has trashed all civil conventions on which society depends, and has sold his arse to Murdoch. If these are acceptable tactics for a politician, we are in deep shit.

  20. knight

    I was listening to that subversive ABC News Radio this morning as I was ironing my husband’s shirts, when I heard our esteemed Prime Minister, and your Politician of the Year say that he had to “regain co-operation FROM Indonesia.”

    Does he not understand that co-operation is WITH? Or even BETWEEN?

    How tin-eared can anyone be in his own language, let alone someone else’s?

    Janice Knight

  21. Salamander

    Abbott has a social IQ at the moron level. Sadly this disability is difficult if not impossible to remediate in an adult. There are few if any known effective interventions. Unfortunately for our international reputation, Abbott’s incompetence in this area impinges on his forays into international diplomacy rendering them counterproductive.
    It is understandable given media suport but a pity he got elected. We have to get rid of him asap.

  22. Hamis Hill

    Can anyone leave the Murdoch out of the Murdoch -Abbott political chimaera and expect to be taken seriously?

  23. Interrobanging On

    BK might have indulged in a little bit of early Chrissie cheer, or more likely is still within the press gallery bubble, where success is seen as the measure of ‘quality’ in a pollie.

    And let’s keep perspective, Abbott has won Politician Of The Year. This is like winning Liver Fluke of the Year.

    Although I disagree with the result. POTY should have been Peta Credlin, as Australia’s second female PM.

  24. Salamander

    Honestly I don’t get this anti-Credlin thing. Who is the boss again?

  25. barbs

    Yeah right. Depends on the criteria I guess. Totally disagree with your choice/s.

  26. klewso

    Look at what they’ve done – look at the team – would you like to be called a “politician”?

  27. klewso

    …. almost as bad as being branded a “Murdoch germo”?

  28. Jimmyhaz

    I think that that capacity to adapt you speak of is more a total lack of morals or any central defining feature whatsoever. The man is slime, and would murder his family on TV if he thought it would increase his electability.

  29. Jill Whitford

    You had me until the last paragraph then it all turned to shit..

  30. john willoughby

    and the winner is Rupert..

  31. klewso

    And that makes Australia the Biggest Loser?

  32. Andrew Dolt

    Looking forward to the day Tamas realises what a public idiot he has making of himself all these years. What an emperor-has-no-clothes moment that is going to be! Most deniers, like Abbott, at least pretend to accept climate science at least some of the time, but Tamas is right out there without even a pair of budgie-smugglers. Granted, given he has an industrial-strength idiocy shield against reality, it will take a while. As for Abbott, he gets the prize for pollie doing the most damage for the least reason in the shortest possible time. Bernard, why did not the fact only Tamas was going to agree with you give you some pause for thought?

  33. tonyfunnywalker

    Following an excruciating experience of economic incompetence at the National Press Club today then Hockey and Corman take the trophy – The Laurel and Hardy of Economics Award – outright winners. A special mention for Corman – I think he still thinks in Flemish as his answers beyond parroting were verbal gobbledygook. Kerin and Joyce lost their portfolio’s for less.

  34. Blair Rideout

    Tamas Calderwood – just repeating the ongoing myth that there has been no warming for 15 years doesn’t make it true. You might maintain that IPCC AR5 backs this up, as you do on your blog, but anybody who reads that document will quickly realise you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  35. Hamis Hill

    So Abbott is being framed as the “Man For All Seasons”, just like the patron saint of politicians, Thomas More, to whom he must have been praying for intercession, and instruction?
    More had some early political success, gleefully burning his enemies alive.
    But alas, ended up losing his head as a traitor.
    Tony the Traitor?; has a ring to it?
    He certainly has betrayed the Liberal Party, and as anointed by that John to whom the voters delivered him his own head on a plate?
    Here’s to Tony following his heroes.

  36. jimmila555

    “Best Politician” ? ….isn’t this an oxymoron ?

    …if you define “politician” as a self-serving career- liar and ruthlessly opportunistic party-ass-kisser….well it’s gotta be ‘tricky’ Tony Abbott, although the Australian Federal, State and Local political landscape of our tiny nation oozes(/sleazes?) with abundant talent.

  37. Albion Harrison-Naish

    I’m sure it’s been said above already, but basing your awards on ideas of politicking rather than the substance of their actions seems to be falling down the same hole that the msm is mired in. I would have expected better from both Crikey and Mr. Keane.

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