If only we could afford to live the way we do, lamented Europe’s entitled nobility as its privilege crumbled in the 1930s.
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Eighty odd years later, the Turnbull government might feel the same way. Trapped between the world as it should be, and the world that is.

Its response is uncannily similar: spend more than it earns, and then wonder why it is unpopular.

And like previous governments, it is also engaging in the standard subterfuges, from proclaiming its low tax bona fides while increasing taxes, to invoking a higher national interest and seeking anything to distract from its own inadequacies.

Not only have its circumstances failed to improve, this year has brought a new variable: the temporary emergence of a tri-cameral system as the High Court effectively becomes the third house, vetting the executive’s extra-parliamentary postal plebiscite “camel”, and ruling on the very legitimacy of its majority.

The more the government is slave to these externalities, the weaker it looks. Negation of its novel mail-in on constitutional grounds, followed by the possible ejection of one or more of its MPs, would fall somewhere between corrosive and explosive.

Enter the distractions. This week (again) it is soaring power prices. That, and people smuggling – apparently there’s still some bilge water in which to slosh around even after the vessels in question have long been dry-docked, their shattered human cargo banished off-shore.

First to power. In addition to re-emphasising his Chifley-style nation-building plan for the Snowy 2.0 initiative, Malcolm Turnbull has called in electricity executives to see what progress they’ve made since a stern lecture delivered three weeks ago. The answers will be underwhelming.

This kind of “out there” governing makes a show of the Prime Minister’s determination, but it also points up the modesty of any changes secured. Structural reform inevitably takes longer – like Snowy 2.0 ironically.

On borders, Turnbull and his hardline Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, have finally found the point of official human callousness beyond which an acquiescent Labor opposition will not tread. At last!

Out of the blue, asylum seekers granted access to for medical treatment, and refusing to return offshore are to be summarily denied government assistance. Dutton believes people will applaud his resolve and further, that lawyers representing their rights are being “un-n”.

Pure theatre. Beyond its actual cruelty, this shift has more to do with departing votes than any arriving boats.

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