The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull is ALMOST HERE!

Dear the Internet,

If you have been looking at the current nightmare of bad policy, internal discord in the Coalition, Liberal backbenchers openly contradicting their leader amid upper- and lower-house embarrassments and thinking “how the actual hell did Malcolm Turnbull manage to go from record high popularity to… well, this… all in twelve short months?” then I have some good news!

9781760294885-1The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat is mere days away from release, once again through the good people of Allen & Unwin!

It lands on shelves on Monday 26 September, which is… good god, that’s soon. Very soon.

And you can order it from Booktopia RIGHT NOW if you fancy it: here’s a link! Also, how beautiful is that cover? Robert Polmear, you’re a staggeringly talented human being. I think we should run off some posters and/or beach towels.

And if you’re thinking “heavens, APS, how did you write 85k words in the space of a few months while also holding down your regular column and that other writing you seem to do?” then know it’s because I love democracy, this nation and, most of all, you. And also because I’m a bloodyminded bastard with easy access to caffeine and a playful disregard for living a balanced life.

ALSO! There will be an In Conversation event happening in October at Gleebooks on Tuesday 11 October, where I shall be chatting away with the charming and erudite Rebecca Huntley, she of Radio National and the ABC and book-writin’ and generally being an exceptional brainbox. I shall put details up as we get ’em.

I’m really proud of this book (and the last one, I should add). I hope you enjoy it too – or whatever the equivalent of “enjoy” is when you’re getting more and more frustrated about parliamentary inaction and find yourself yelling “seriously? What say you just do your damn job, you muppets!” at a book.

There’ll be more events, hopefully in non-Sydney locations, that I’ll rattle off as we lock ’em down.

Please pop along and say hi. I’ll write something illegible in your book, if you like. It needn’t even be one of mine, I’m not fussy.

Yours ever,

APS

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Marriage Equality Plebiscite: or, how to decide to have the free vote we apparently can’t have

Presumably that's where the mouth controls are located.

Presumably that’s where the mouth controls are located.

So, the Prime Minister has just confirmed that Coalition MPs will not be bound by the result of the $160 million national plebiscite on whether or not Australia should recognise same sex marriage, and that they will enjoy a “free vote” (ie: not bound by the party’s position) on the matter.

As Malcolm Turnbull explained on Friday 24 June, once the plebiscite is done and if a majority of Australians vote yes, then… um, parliament will vote on legislation to pass marriage equality, which then may or may not happen depending on whether there’s enough support for it among the individual MPs and senators.

“The tradition in the Liberal Party is that on matters of this kind it is a free vote,” Turnbull announced, adding “I have no doubt that if the plebiscite is carried, as I believe it will be, that you will see an overwhelming majority of MPs and senators voting for it.”

In other words, rather than have the federal parliament legislate over marriage (which, as we discovered when the high court overturned the ACT’s brief attempt at legalising same sex marriage in December 2013, is the sole and exclusive preserve of the federal parliament), we’ll have a plebiscite to… um, determine whether or not marriage equality should be debated in parliament.

And that’s an interesting – some might say “nonsensical” – sort of an argument, since the entire justification of the plebiscite was that the Liberal Party could not settle the issue this via a free vote. The very existence of the plebiscite, in other words, undermines the justification for the existence of the plebiscite.

Or, to put it another way, if we can apparently have a free vote, why not just have a goddamn free vote? 

The argument is that we can’t, obviously, since legislating about the legal definition of marriage is far too important a change for the parliament to do. You know, despite having done exactly that in 2004.

When marriage equality bills were introduced into the 44th Parliament by senator David Leyonhjelm, the Greens and Labor, then-PM Tony Abbott refused to even table them on the grounds that “If our parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, it ought to be owned by the parliament and not by any particular party.”

Weirdly enough, when a bill which was owned “not by any particular party” was subsequently introduced by Liberal backbencher Warren Entsch and Labor MP Terri Butler and seconded by a multi-party coalition of Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro, Labor MP Laurie Ferguson, independents Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie, and the Greens’ Adam Bandt, the song abruptly changed.

No longer was it enough for the matter to be owned by the parliament: “The disposition,” the PM Tony Abbott proudly explained in August 2015, “is that it should happen through a people’s vote rather than simply through a Parliament’s vote.”

Turnbull maintained this line after taking power, partially because it was a condition that the National Party set in order to maintain the Coalition.

“When the Australian people make their decision, that decision will stick. It will be decisive. It will be respected by this government and by this parliament and this nation,” he insisted. “Let me tell you this. If you imagine that any government… would spend over $150 million consulting every Australian on an issue of this kind and then ignore their decision, then they really are not living in the real world.”

However, the problem was that many members of the government were perfectly happy to ignore the decision: Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz made clear that “Every member of parliament will make up his or her mind after the plebiscite is held,” and questions were asked about how a non-binding public vote was going to somehow oblige MPs and senators to vote in a law.

And it turns out the answer is simple: it can’t! And it won’t!

As we just learned, in the event that the majority of Australians (calculated in a way yet to be determined) vote yes on a question (which is also yet to be determined) to recognise same sex marriage, that will not actually result in a law, which will evidently be passed or defeated in the usual way – almost as though this is just like every other law, and maybe doesn’t need some huge song and dance around it.

And of course, this wildly contradictory series of obvious rule-changing and evasions would all makes sense if the plebiscite was just an expensive, time-wasting method of placating the special terror-feelings of social conservatives in the Liberal and National Parties, but that would be cynical.

No, clearly the plebiscite was a great way to settle a controversial issue by spending $160 million in order to decide… er, whether or not to have a free vote.

You know, identical to the one which is apparently not an option.

Sydney book launch, another lovely review, shameless attention-seeking

Dear the Internet,

So the Sydney Morning Herald have reviewed …Captain Abbott – more specifically, they ask the author Anson Cameron to review it – and he was very, very kind indeed.

In fact, the review is both glowing, and also really beautifully written: I wish I’d come up with a metaphor as strong as “politics is a black swamp that breeds this type of animal, a place from which another Abbott will soon stumble, breathing his repetitious dreck. The Captain was just the latest political reptile to dig his way to the sun from the depths of the compost in which those eggs are, even now, incubating.”

(And yes, I do write for the Herald – as you probably realise, and which they acknowledge in the review. However, I don’t write for the Weekend Australian and they also reviewed it positively, and with great style, so th… hold on, am I the thing that News Corp and Fairfax agree upon? ANDREW P STREET, UNITER OF WORLDS!)

APS, earlier

APS, earlier

Also, if you’re in Sydney on Tuesday December 1st and would like to enjoy the pleasant experience of watching TV’s Marc Fennell – you know, the author, broadcaster and genuinely lovely human being that’s on SBS, Triple J and loads of other things – have a chat with me at Gleebooks, you should book yourself some tickets because I’m assured they’re selling at a healthy clip. And yes, I’m as surprised as you.

In case you’ve not read the acknowledgements/blame chapter at the end of the book, it was Marc that very kindly convinced me that I could write the thing when I was first approached by Allen & Unwin and was certain that I couldn’t possibly do it. So he’s significantly culpable, really. Indeed, on the night I’m basically going to accuse him of being Accessory to the Book.

I will also be signing copies the book, so bring it along if you already have one and want me to deface it, thereby significantly diminishing its resell value.

And not that I’m wanting to bring a venal, commercial element into this discussion, but Xmas is coming up and my publishers have inexplicably rejected by suggested advertising campaign “The perfect gift for the lefty in your life, or the conservative type that you’re obliged to buy something for and want to annoy”.

So instead I will quote Peter Humphries’ review at Amazon: “it is well crafted very funny and all the things in it can be referenced as fact , this will make a great CHRISTMAS Present.”

You make a strong case, Peter Humphries on Amazon. A very strong case indeed.

Yours ever,

APS

Book! BOOOOOOOKKK!!!

Here's the book cover! If you pass by a book store and see this, put it at the front of the display.

Here’s the book cover! If you pass by a book store and see this, put it at the front of the display, and then knock all the other books on the floor.

Well, The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott is out in stores now – seriously, I’ve seen it with my own eyes! – and I have literally zero idea of how well it’s doing beyond seeing people post photos of their new purchases on Facebook and Twitter. Which I appreciate beyond all measure, might I just add. Please don’t stop.

In the event that you feel like praising and/or complaining about the book on Goodreads, please do. Here’s the link: let your restless muse take flight!

And the first review was at The Weekend Australian by Richard King, and it was very reasonable indeed. And the comments, predictably, are hilarious.

There’s also an interview with me at The Clothesline, the arts and culture portal from my former hometown of Adelaide, in which you can correctly assume that every ellipsis is me rambling for minutes at a time. Dave Bradley did a fine job of editing me down.

And if you’ve read the book and thought “I wonder if this jerk has a website” then yes, I do and this is it. I know, I expected there to be more here too. But: if you check out the View from the Street page you’ll see that I write five – FIVE! – freakin’ columns a week for Fairfax, because I am relentlessly writerly.

Speaking of which, I’m going to start putting some of my older pieces on this site because I’ve discovered that all the utopian claims that The Internet Is Forever is a filthy lie and that the majority of the pieces linked in the Word Jockey Archive are dead. So that’ll be an ongoing project, as I am horribly disorganised.

And look, if you’ve read the book, thank you so much. I genuinely hope that you found it interesting and amusing.

(Or incredibly infuriating. Either’s fine.)

Cheers,

APS

Hello. Sorry this place has been a bit quiet. But there’s a book coming.

Dear the Internet,

I’ve been horribly neglectful of this site of late. To be fair, I’ve been horribly neglectful of most things in my life for the last few months because I’ve been writing a book. And now it’s actually finished and is going to the magical book-making machine which I like to imagine is sort of like a whimsical Dr Suess illustration rather than what I assume is a large series of printing presses in an industrial warehouse in China or something.

The book has a name and a cover and a release date. The name is The Inexplicably Long and Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott. The cover is by my friend and former Time Out Sydney colleague Robert Polmear and looks like this:

The release date is December 2015, making it both the perfect Xmas gift for any progressive type that you love, or the conservative that you are obliged to buy for but really want to annoy.

If you’ve read my regular View from the Street column around the Fairfax sites – and to be honest, I can’t imagine why you’d be here if you didn’t – then you’re probably correctly imagining what’s in the book: snarky rants about how relentlessly silly the last two years of Australian politics has been.

It’s an incomplete overview of many of the most frustratingly ridiculous things said (“I’m a fixer!”, “Poor people don’t drive cars!”, “People have a right to be a bigot!”, “I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin!”), done (the onions! The helicopters! The submarines! Sir Prince Philip!) and legislated, from offshore detention to Direct Action and all the stupid points in between.

And while it’s relentlessly snarky about Abbott and his merry band of largely terrible frontbenchers, there’s a larger philosophical point in there: we’re better off if we work together and look after one another, and that we can do so, so much better.

I mention this because all this economic turmoil and political division isn’t a tough but unavoidable necessity: it’s a choice that we’re making, and we we can make different ones.

A society is not the same thing as an economy, and pretending that the former is magically sorted out by fixing the latter is straight-up incorrect (not helped by the fact that this government is also failing at that, mind). But I won’t go on about that now: hell, I spent 320 pages going on about it in this thing you can read for yourself in a couple of months.

And I do very much hope you like it. I’ve read it several times during the proofing process and still laughed at jokes I’d forgotten, which means that either there are some really good lines in there and/or I have early onset dementia. Time will doubtlessly tell.

And now that I’m slightly less frantic, I might actually do more stuff on here. Let’s see how that pans out, eh?

Cheers,

Andrew