Jul 8, 2014

‘Perpetual-motion Palmer’ leaves government in turmoil

The Abbott government is in trouble. So does it wait for Clive Palmer to burn out, or the PUP to break up -- or rethink its key messages?

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

While the commencement of the new Senate has given the Abbott government an opportunity to start passing its legislative agenda, at the moment the political narrative is still outside its control, as it has been since its pre-budget positioning went off the rails in April. The risk is that July 1 ends up like January -- that was when the government was going to use the summer break to re-establish its political footing after a bad start, only to keep on stumbling. At the moment Tony Abbott remains deeply disliked, Labor is well ahead in the polls, and the federal damage has reinforced the problems of inept Coalition governments in Victoria and Queensland. It wasn't supposed to be like this. In particular, Clive Palmer continues to dominate the agenda. In probably the shortest National Press Club address in history, yesterday Palmer casually announced he was blowing another multi-billion dollar hole in the budget, while at the same time backflipping on Direct Action and declaring it would be passed if the government backed ETS Mark Clive, the trading scheme that will be priced at zero until the Republican Party decides to accept basic science again. Plainly Clive has been stung by the criticism that his ETS will never be more than a bizarre announcement with Al Gore. Further, it had been at least five minutes since the last Palmer announcement about anything, and Palmer must keep moving or die, always pushing on to the next announcement, the next stunt, the next media opportunity. Where he's been is of no interest -- don't you worry about that -- because it's where he's going next that's important. And thus he keeps the political agenda in a constant state of turmoil. At some point, the government must be hoping, Palmer burns out -- either he overplays his hand with the electorate, or he simply runs out of backflips and new positions to announce (the 10-minute Press Club speech yesterday might suggest that has started to happen) and slides to a halt, or News Corporation's incessant campaign against him on behalf of the Coalition scores a hit of some kind. Or, as seems more likely, his party of neophytes cracks under pressure and the strangely familiar Jacqui "not backing down" Lambie, leviathan Glenn Lazarus and, um, the other one, Dio Wang, go their separate ways, as history suggests microparties inevitably do, and deliver the government some wins. At which point, given Clive's history, the recriminations, abuse and CIA conspiracy theories will start. Accordingly, the government's best strategy might simply be patience, waiting for the political cycle to move on, for the media to tire of Palmer, for the pressure of being the key to every piece of contested legislation to wear down people with no experience of politics, let alone the parliamentary variety. A break will surely come -- won't it? In the meanwhile, however, there is the small matter of its fiscal consolidation plans looking more and more tattered -- and vindicating the criticism of Joe Hockey deciding to take a holiday this week. The Treasurer has indeed more than earned a break and some time with his young family, but taking it at the moment when the fate of some key budget measures is in the balance won't do much to secure their passage. A significant political problem for the government is that at the moment, the opposition is paying no political price for blocking the bulk of its savings measures; even without Clive, the government's message about fiscal vandalism isn't cutting through. Indeed, if anything, voters are only too pleased to see the government's will being thwarted. Maybe it's time to reset the government's key messages. What's happening at the moment isn't working, and the government is being forced to wait for its opponents to mess up.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

12 thoughts on “‘Perpetual-motion Palmer’ leaves government in turmoil

  1. negativegearmiddleclasswelfarenow.com

    Clive Palmer is likely aware of CIA Dispatch # 1035-960
    and a step ahead of the barking in the News Corp kennels.

  2. zut alors

    Palmer behaves like the classic only child ie: not truly fulfilled unless the centre of attention.

  3. AR

    BK – stop trying to be Grundle, you don’t have the weight.
    Stick to what you do so tediously, bean counting and traducing the Greens.

  4. Bill Hilliger

    …if anything, voters are only too pleased to see the government’s will being thwarted. And yes CP is smarter than the average bear when it comes to dealing with churnalists and news corpse. You betcha, all lovely to see it all unfold and ravel couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of venal political riff-raff.

  5. Jimmyhaz

    ‘the trading scheme that will be priced at zero until the Republican Party decides to accept basic science again.’

    Sooooooo, never?

  6. Jimmyhaz

    Or forever, take your pick.

  7. Ken Lambert

    Don’t worry about Clive folks….Oz’s answer to Mr Creosote will resolve himself. It won’t be an implode…more like an explode.

    I wouldn’t want to be in the House when it happens…

  8. Bill

    Clive has Tony by the balls and he is squeezing. Whatever the outcome, it does bring a smile.

  9. zut alors

    Bill @ #8, Clive is using Tony as a warm-up for what he has in store for Enemy No 1, Campbell Newman.

  10. Nomad

    Where are coalition supporters?

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details