A credibility gap continues to consume politics this week as the chasm between the official and real is stretched ever wider with gob-smacking lies about carbon emissions, an unbelievable tribute to Abbott’s charismatic leadership and the danger of safe schools while Turnbull capitulates to his tin foil hatters thus kissing goodbye all future claim to authority or respect while being forced to concede publicly Tuesday that his Innovation Policy is boring.
The senate continues to behave in free-booting, freewheeling freedom loving ways which confirm why it is an upper house and not a tightly disciplined major party like the Liberals whose divisions threaten to lose it government. Turnbull says he wants to end the circus in the senate with a law which extinguishes minor parties. He is excited by experts which predict that this will give the LNP a much better chance of controlling the senate.
Thanks to a deal between the government and the greens and Nick Xenophon it passes a law which will make it harder for those like Ricky Muir to be elected on only 0.51% of the vote, a law which experts suggest is likely to give the government more chance of controlling both the upper and lower houses.
The legislation passes parliament after a marathon Senate sitting on Friday. Turnbull watchers suggest that the move could pave the way for the federal government to call a July double-dissolution election, clearing out both chambers. Many Greens supporters are displeased with their leader Richard Di Natale whose recent fashion photographic session depicting him in a black top may add to his being re-named The Dark Wiggle.
It is “a great day for democracy”, according to the PM but will it also be a great day for Bob Day who mounts a legal challenge on the somewhat tenuous grounds that 3 million voters will be disenfranchised by the laws because their votes will no longer result in electing political candidates?
Day is also seeking an injunction from the High Court to intervene before the election to decide whether the electoral changes are constitutionally valid.
Family First senator Bob (The builder) Day recruits Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm who believes that universal gun ownership guarantees public safety as seen in the US. What could possibly go wrong?
Senate drama to one side, at the heart of the week, the national agenda and reflecting some of the deepest issues which beset a beleaguered Turnbull government’s tenuous hold on reality and legitimacy is his government’s Innovation Policy, a failure to inspire or convince which the PM decided to re-present to an underwhelmed Canberra Press Gallery on Tuesday. No-one knows why. Bravely the PM goes to the heart of the problem with a forlorn, final petition to the vast yawning indifference of the assembled Canberra hacks.
“Christopher and I failed to inspire one question about innovation. Is there a question – one more question – if it is on innovation?” A journalist put up his hand to ask a question about cigarettes. The room breaks up laughing. Turnbull gives up and leaves.
His innovation policy a load of old cobblers, his indecision and uncertainty over election dates, tax policy, senate voting reform or budget plans all equally risible, the briefing’s sole achievement is to confirm the government’s determination to give tax cuts to fat cats.
“This week we’ll be introducing legislation to provide the tax incentives and CGT exemptions, Capital Gains Tax exemptions for investments in early stage start-ups,” Turnbull says. Sadly, no-one can give a toss, except wealthy, experienced investors who stand to gain hundreds of millions of dollars.
On the other hand, the Environment Minister never fails to inspire questions about his innovative take on most things.
February is reported to be hotter than ever; a shocking 1.35 per cent above average but Australia’s World’s Best Minister, Greg Hunt, is not having an isobar of any suggestion that Australia is any part of the problem. Instead, Hunt claims that Australia’s emissions peaked 10 years ago.
It must just be a 21st century climate vibe thing, the Environment Minister is picking up because Hunt’s view, like his Direct Action policy has no foundation in reality whatsoever. Hugh Grossman, Executive Director of Reputex, says his company’s analysis of the government’s own data shows Australia’s emissions will continue to grow with “no peak in sight”. Australia’s growth rate will be among the highest of all developed countries.
“Extraordinary comments” says Climate Institute CEO, John Connor, who also points to “the enormous credibility gap in the government’s current policies.” Equally extraordinary is Billson’s fulsome tribute to his leader.
“The wisdom, the insight, the personal feng shui, (literally wind and water)” Billson fawns this week in a valedictory surely a golden grovel benchmark even for him. But just who is his personal guru, his Great Harmoniser?
Billson’s high praise is for his former PM Tony Abbott, now Monkey Pod faction Captain and leader of the Abbott government in exile, a gang of four whose latest move to destabilise Malcolm Turnbull sees him sign a petition against Safe Schools, an initiative of his own brief, unsafe government. Now Abbott bitterly opposes Safe Schools because “new material has come to light” and it gives him a chance for revenge on Turnbull. He signs Christensen’s petition to reject the Safe Schools’ review.
Gorgeous George Christensen, Australian Christian Lobby stooge continues his homophobic attack on Safe Schools with allegations of paedophilia. Urged on by Abbott, Christensen dismisses the government’s inquiry as a joke. Gorgeous is happy to do the bidding of the ACL, which requires children to be bullied at school because of their gender identity or uncertainty or just because they are children.
By Friday, Turnbull’s government announces it will gut the Safe Schools programme and impose restrictions which are likely to scupper the whole programme. These including limiting it to secondary students and only those who have their parents’ permission, the parent body’s permission. A delighted Christensen is the voice of adult, reasonable, fundamentalist, homophobic government saying:
“We’re not going to have students exposed to websites that take them off to adult shops or to groups that are running sex toy workshops for youth and that sort of thing. That’s got no place in this program.”
In other words, whatever it may reveal of his own preoccupations, Christensen’s objection has nothing to do with the programme. It is an open challenge to Turnbull’s authority. Obligingly, the PM caves in; something Abbott managed to avoid on this very same but not quite same-sex issue.
When a few right wing tossers last got hot and flustered about Safe Schools in the Abbott government party room, their ranting was hosed down by Christopher Pyne who said the government “did not, as a rule, defund programmes which were already running.” This time, however, the homophobic, fundamentalist push has Tony’s signature on their petition. The non-sniper’s moniker makes all the difference.
Out to wedge his PM as a closet Marxist, Abbott has now succeeded in making Turnbull even further beholden to the right wing. Turnbull’s government will continue to be fearlessly innovative and agile in education or any other policy area it may have unless any right wing nut job or pal of Tony Abbott’s objects and organises a petition. Then it will be even more benighted than its predecessor. Nowhere is this better seen than on the issue of marriage equality where it is about to do nothing.
Unable to agree on public funding or granting exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, a deeply divided Turnbull government is about to renege on its promise to reveal the fine print in its planned marriage equality plebiscite before the next election.
Being unable to keep Abbott’s dodgy plebiscite promise may even amount to a bizarre keeping of faith with the great communicator. The former PM stacked caucus with conservative Nationals and called for a plebiscite as a cunning diversion. Doing nothing was always where his duck-shoving of responsibility was headed anyway.
Ducking for cover, Deputy dog, Barnaby Joyce, is baying at the moon and chasing parked tractors over the prospect of a dog-fight with Independent Tony Windsor for his seat of New England. He may be the first sitting deputy PM in Australian political history to lose his seat. Newspoll suggests a two-dog swing against the Nationals leader of 16 percentage points.
A recent Newspoll, for The Australian, suggests Joyce is neck-and-neck with Windsor on the primary vote but the independent former MP would win back the seat by 52 per cent to 48 per cent based on preference flows.
A close contest at home may prevent Joyce from dogging his pal Mal on the campaign trail. Whilst some may say this may be a good thing, a solo tour of duty may not flatter Turnbull, especially if his campaign is a repeat of the dog’s breakfast he is making of tax reform, budget strategy or even leading his party. What is certain is that junkyard dog Abbott will be up on his hind legs to assist his PM in deputy dog’s absence with his non-sniping, non-wrecking, non- undermining vendetta against Turnbull for deposing him.
Far from chastened by his recent rebuke from his master, over when submarines could and should be built, Tony Abbott recently made mention of Malcolm Turnbull’s name at a Balgowlah RSL in the Warringah electorate Sunday only to draw jeers. Almost straight-faced, Abbott was explaining how important it was for his audience to do all they could, as he himself is, to see that Malcolm Turnbull wins the election.
Endorse the Turnbull government. This is doubtless what Abbot was doing when he attacked Labor over what he termed the workers’ tax for increased excise on tobacco. It looks as if LNP budget will have an increase in tax on tobacco.
Labor’s Anthony Albanese believes the Liberal Party is like Sharknado, a film in which a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, and nature’s deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorise a sodden populace.
Turnbull would be helped if he actually had an election platform according to one senior Liberal Party figure. Or is he were not a failure as a Prime Minister. “This talk about an early election,” Jeff Kennett tells 2UE, “is an indication sadly that the government does not have a plan for the future of the country, and they are trying, I think, to use this talk of a double dissolution, an early election, simply to cover up their own failings.”
One of these failings is Scott Morrison whose grasp of his own party’s policy appears tenuous at best.
“What this government is doing through changes to the tax system is backing in Australians who we know will innovate and create the growth and therefore the jobs…”
He shouts as if volume will compensate for his deficit of understanding, a Blimp-like caricature shouting at foreigners to improve their understanding of his language.
“The plan on this side of the house is to reduce the tax burden on investment. That is the key ingredient to support the transition in our economy.” If only it were that simple. If only there were signs of transition and not the opposite.
Despite the empty rhetoric, despite all the scandal, division, discontent and negative publicity, the Government’s two-party preferred lead is extending to 53-47 it is announced Monday in a Fairfax-Ipsos Poll. Bob Ellis and others dispute the methodology and the timing of any poll on a long weekend but what is clear is the rapid rate of decline in Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity which is down 15 percentage points to 55% net since its high of 69 last November.
Yet NSW pre-selection news bears little to reassure nervous LNP punters as the party without factions, in Turnbull’s eyes, declares factional war on itself.
Tony Abbott’s ideological love mother Bronwyn Bishop is not feeling the love from Tony as pre-selection turns ugly in her NSW seat of McKellar. Niki Savva claims the PMO made Bronwyn Bishop delay apologising for her helicopter ride.
Monday, Bishop issues a statement that she has nothing further to add, effectively endorsing Savva’s version of events. Abbott is said to be enraged. He has endorsed a candidate to run against Bishop in McKellar. His campaign manager Walter Villatora was the first to nominate against Bronnie.
Onions are placed in protective custody across the nation, Monday 14 March but the anniversary of Tony Abbott’s terror attack on an innocent unarmed onion in Tasmania goes without incident.
When asked to nominate his achievements after two years in government, the naturally reticent former Rhodes Scholar modestly leaves out onion eating in favour of stopping the boats and the TPP. Sadly, the boats stopped under Rudd’s announcement in 2013 and the TPP is probably worth half of bugger all.
World Bank, staff recently produces a study finding the Trans-Pacific Partnership would boost Australia’s economy by a whopping 0.7 per cent by 2030. On the other hand, it will give multinational companies a lawful excuse to contest any environmental laws, for example, or other national legislation which might come between them and their capacity to make a profit.
Little profit seems to have been gained by Labor’s leader however. Tuesday Bill Shorten gives a competent and convincing speech to the Press Club in which he largely wasted his breath outlining Labor’s policies and answering a few half-arsed questions from Leigh Sales about Labor accepting fees from criminal unionists on ABC’s 7:30 Report. Shorten’s speech is largely ignored by much of the media afterwards yet
“I thought when Malcolm – or Mr Turnbull – took over, while it would be harder for me, we’d take politics to a better place,” Shorten says. “He just hasn’t. But we have. We think that we’re talking about ideas which are relevant to the social and economic future of Australia.” This does not include the effects test.
Section 46 should prohibit conduct by firms with substantial market power that has the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition, consistent with other prohibitions in the competition law.
Aimed at preventing big firms from misusing their market power, such a test has been popular with National politicians for decades and is a flip flop for Turnbull who opposed it six months ago. Its adoption as policy splits the coalition and is opposed by Labor which describes the effects test as a lawyer’s picnic. Amazingly, Labor proposes alternative legislation making it easier to bring litigation.
In the meantime, the battle for market share should not obscure the battle of ordinary Australian working families to afford leave to have a baby. New parents in low-paid jobs stand to be $10,500 worse off under a Turnbull government paid parental leave plan intended as a compromise on cuts proposed by Tony Abbott, according to new university research.
The research, commissioned by women’s group Fair Agenda and conducted by the University of Sydney’s Women and Work Research Group, shows mothers who work in healthcare, teaching and retail could lose between $3942 and $10,512 under the compromise policy. It is revealing indication of the government’s priorities even if its plans, its policies and its leader’s authority look increasingly conflicted and compromised.