Knowing when to attack
By Barry Tucker January 8, 2013
FOR months now I have been puzzled by the Australian Labor government’s failure to retaliate against the Opposition’s attack campaign of lie, fear and smear.
It has been keeping me awake at night because the campaign is damaging the government and the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in the opinion polls.
Then it hit me. There’s a possibility the government has deployed one of the most successful military strategies of all: draw the enemy deep into your territory, surround them and annihilate them.
It’s a tactic that has been successfully used by the Russians to defeat giant armies of the French and, later, the Germans, combined with the effects of the brutal Russian winter. Napoleon used something similar in the Battle of Austerlitz. He abandoned a dominating central position, withdrawing to give the Russians the impression he was weak. When the enemy surged into the gap, Napoleon counter-attacked and scored a magnificent victory. Because Napoleon was initially vastly outnumbered, it’s regarded as a brilliant military strategy.
I’m reminded also of the repeatedly successful African Zulu tactic of holding a strong frontal position while the left and right wings move out and around, surrounding the enemy before the trap is sprung. An enemy that’s attacked from all sides simultaneously is quickly demoralised.
So I’m lying in bed, unable to sleep at 3am today, wondering why the Labor government simply absorbs (for the most part) the various body blows of the Opposition, seeming to retreat, rarely defending itself or attacking. Then, my Eureka moment! The government has been luring the Opposition into a trap. Give us all you’ve got. Fire your last shell. When your locker is empty, we’ll counter-atttack.
As Napoleon is famous for saying: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has been going for the government like there’s no tomorrow. His goal has been to wreck the government as quickly as possible. He feels he was robbed because the last federal election produced a 50/50 result.
He might have, by now, fired every shell in the locker. There might be more to come, but I doubt it. He might have a real bombshell up his sleeve, but I don’t think so. His four frontal assaults so far have been furphies. The first (carbon “tax”) relied on the distortion of a political reality; the second (AWU “slush fund”) alleged the Prime Minister was guilty of something but failed to provide proof; the third and the fourth (Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper) demanded the government do the impossible: abandon the Separation of Powers and the rule of law. Ridiculous, but damaging due to unbalanced and unprofessional reporting by the Mainstream News Media (MNM).
By standing on a stage before derogatory signs (which he said he didn’t see), by accusing the Prime Minister of lying and committing a criminal act, by demanding the government abandon the rule of law to benefit the Opposition, by smearing the character of the PM in a way that left his own reputation in tatters, by casting aspersions on government supporters while ignoring the sins of his own team (Senator Bernardi and Deputy Leader Julie Bishop come to mind), thereby declaring himself a hypocrite, Mr Abbott is now sitting on the end of a creaky branch, deep inside enemy territory, running out of ammo and with a supply line stretched thin. As we say in Australia: up Shit Creek in a barbed wire canoe without a paddle. With an election scheduled for the second half of the year, the time for a counter-attack is approaching.
I haven’t spoken to anyone in the government about this, so it’s pure speculation. It’s what I would be preparing for at about this time. The Opposition (in fact the modern Liberal Party of Australia and its rabid fans) is remarkable for its ability to attack and then cry foul when it is counter-attacked. The hypocrisy, the preciousness, the disconnect from reality is staggering. It’s also, I’m sure, a fairly new thing – or on a scale that is unprecedented.
So, I would be taking the Opposition Leader’s attack points one by one, tearing them apart piece by piece and hurling them in his face – much as Prime Minister Julia Gillard did with her now famous, viral, “misogyny speech”. There’s no evidence the Opposition Leader is a misogynist. He’s just an old-fashioned Catholic when it comes to the role of women in the world. But the speech wasn’t off target, as some have suggested. Apart from that one word, the rest of the PM’s speech hit the bull’s eye.
There’s only one problem with a government counter-attack. It will go unnoticed by the biased MSM and its supposedly neutral counterpart, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Some of the MSM is beginning to see the light, their conscience pricked by the reality behind the “misogyny speech”.
The government might not have to launch a Winter Offensive. There’s a chance that with the Opposition Leader way out on a limb, the weight of his lies and hypocrisy weighing him down, the MSM cosying up to him, the bough might break, dumping the OL and the MSM in Shit Creek – where they belong.
Postscript, 28 May: On 30 January the Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of announcing the election date of 14 November, 2013, months ahead of the usual notice of several weeks. Ms Gillard said she was not doing it to announce the longest election campaign in history but to encourage Mr Abbott to drop his campaign of negativity and announce some alternative policies.
Of course, the biased MSM went beserk but the PM’s strategy has effected a change in Mr Abbott’s approach. He now appears almost everywhere in blue suit, white shirt, pale blue tie and clutching to his chest a thin blue magazine-size publication containing his plan for Australia’s future. Some who’ve read it describe it as “a pamphlet” containing policy outlines.
This is the scheduled nice Mr Abbott switcheroo I have referred to elsewhere. He hasn’t fooled me, but there must be many watching it all unfold on their tv screens while scratching their heads and wondering who is this dude and what’s in that pamphlet. A doppelganger has popped up. Tony Two Face in the blue suit has exhausted his nasty explosives and is running another kind of campaign.
There were suggestion today, in the Fairfax Press and The Australian, that Mr Abbott seems to be suffering a lack of confidence. This relates to a pre-announced, promised, intention to move a Motion of No Confidence against the government in this post-Budget session. Mr Abbott must know that the two key Independents (Windsor and Oakeshott) have guaranteed to support the government on Confidence (and Supply). They will vote to allow the debate, but they will vote against No Confidence in the final vote.
Observers are saying there is no point in moving for No Confidence at this late stage. If that’s true, Mr Abbott has failed in his declared aim of bringing down this “illegitimate” government and forcing an early election. I say there would be negative news coverage of the debate, of course, but Ms Gillard is so conversant with policy, figures and Mr Abbott’s tricks that he risks getting another hiding in the House.
Earlier this year Mr Abbott announced his party would be campaigning on “trust”. How ironic. The very reason that Mr Windsor gave for denying him support to form a government. More recently, Mr Abbott said that, “unlike the government”, what he promised before the election he would deliver after the election. In some cases, it’s looking increasing unlikely that he will be able to do that.
The policy part of his campaign is slowly unravelling. His flagship Paid Parental Leave scheme, probably the most generous in the world, has taken a couple of torpedo hits of “friendly fire” — launched from his own back bench and supporters in Big Business. Fellow Liberals are not happy about taxing business to pay for it. Plans to fiddle with superannuation are making a lot of people nervous. Pensioners are going to get slugged — only a brave man or a fool messes with Australia’s pensioners. Trust, indeed. No confidence — absolutely.
It’s not clear what the Liberals will do about a number of things. That’s not unusual for any Opposition at this stage, but it’s still worrying. Oh, they will “Stop the boats!” Drones and Stinger missiles have been mentioned, along with saving money by “culling” poor people and other losers — all said in jest, apparently, as some of the Tinfoil Hats managed to slip a few remarks past the censors in the party that believes in free speech and hates censorship. A multiple failure and yet more hypocrisy.
The major newspapers are occasionally running articles that are favourable towards the government and others that are critical of the Opposition. I detect no change in radio and tv, except for the fact that the ABC’s Media Watch on 27 May concluded with an item that gave some background to the think tanks that so often provide guest commentators on ABC tv programs. The item was critical of some aspects of the ABC’s handling of these appearances. You can catch a re-run on the Media Watch website. The long-awaited Guardian on-line launched on the same day, promising to provide quality, balanced journalism.
The Labor government’s ministers have been more vocal and more forthright in getting their message across since the announcement of the election date, although the Prime Minister said that until the election writs are issued these will be the days of governing, not the days of campaigning.
With Winter just a few days away, the Prime Minister was certainly more vocal in Question Time on Tuesday, 28 May. People have commented on the contrast with the previous dull day. There were fireworks, several MPs (including the Attorney-General) got kicked out. The PM made it clear to anyone who is still listening and watching that the Liberal Party’s tactics of constant negativity have not changed at all.
I feel confident I can announce that the Winter Campaign has begun. Never mind the real Julia, the real Mr Abbott has been revealed: Tony Two Face, the IPA Hit Man, has been drawn out. He’s perched on a shaky branch, his policy ducks and his media mates lined up behind him and taking hits. I can’t wait for that bloody branch to break.
PPostscript, 27 June, 2013: Earlier today the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, swore into office Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister of Australia. This followed a leadership ballot in the federal Parliamentary Labor Party caucus early yesterday evening. The ballot was called by the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in response to rumours that a petition calling for a leadership ballot was circulating. Mr Rudd won the ballot 57-45. The deal was that the loser of the ballot would not contest the federal election due before the end of this year, possibly still 14 September. Seven ministers resigned and moved to the back bench following the spill. Mr Rudd appointed the Leader of the Government, Anthony Albanese, as Deputy Prime Minister. The Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, resigned his portfolio and the Senate leader position. Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Finance and Deregulation, became the Senate leader.
Mr Rudd, who was deposed by Ms Gillard on 24 June, 2010, said he had challenged for the leadership because “I simply do not have it in my nature to stand idly by and to allow an Abbott government to come to power in this country by default. I recognise his strengths. I also recognise, however, that Mr Abbott is a man steeped in the power of negative politics. And he is formidable at negative politics. But I see no evidence of a real positive plan for our country’s future.”