Good performance, mediocre results or even downright ugly returns. When it comes to hedge funds, it scarcely matters. The 25 best-paid hedge fund managers earned a collective $14.8 billion last year.
With yesterday’s “Message from the Prime Minister”, delivered to camera and without the presence of reporters, Tony Abbott signalled that he’s chosen populism as the way out of his self-inflicted leadership crisis. No longer will Australia give the “benefit of the doubt” (at the border, in their citizenship application, at Centrelink) to “those who might be a threat to our country”. He advanced no supporting evidence that such benefit is being given, but did promise a fuller statement next Monday. Posing a largely unspecified threat are vaguely identified others – “extremists” influenced by the “Islamic death cult” – for whom the only course of action available is to toughen security laws so as to prevent “evil people” from “exploit[ing] our freedom”.
In the world outside the bubble of prime ministerial rhetoric, there is a debate about how authorities should respond to the threat of “lone wolf” attacks. Experts in “radicalisation” – the process by which alienated individuals adopt increasingly extreme ideas – suggest that tough, us-versus-them talk may have the undesired effect of encouraging radicalisation, by confirming the world-view propagated by advocates. A more effective strategy, experts say, combines social inclusion and explicit de-radicalisation efforts.
But Abbott is desperately seeking a reversal in opinion polling to short-circuit the inevitable second challenge, and he knows that a population fearful of their security can potentially deliver it. Like all political leaders, Abbott mixes populism (he exploited fears of boat people, debt and power prices in opposition) with conviction (breaking electoral promises, cutting spending and awarding a knighthood to Prince Philip, which “wasn’t so much a question” of popularity, Abbott confirmed yesterday). If he’s got the balance wrong in recent months, it’s not that Joe Hockey is a dud treasurer or Peta Credlin is running too tight a ship – it’s that his Chief Whip, Phillip Ruddock, wasn’t communicating to him the mood of his backbench. So this is Operation Save Abbott: a new Whip to open up dialogue with the backbench, a renewed focus on national security and, despite the budget “crisis”, more money for pensioners and the mentally ill.
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