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Wednesday, 28th January 2015

IS SHORTEN ELECTABLE?

If Australia's media wasn't already set on exploiting the question of leadership of the Liberal Party last week, it certainly is now, following Prime Minister Tony Abbott's bizarre decision to confer an Australian knighthood on Prince Philip. That decision confirms growing impressions about Abbott among commentators and the public – especially that he is non-consultative and dangerously out of touch with the electorate. The Coalition party room is getting jumpy, and the news for the Abbott government is unlikely to improve in coming months, with last year's budget debates still unresolved, and a debate over workplace entitlements all but guaranteed to raise the spectre of WorkChoices.

Media outlets are beginning to speculate on potential replacements and dates. But there are two factors which make the current situation very different to that which haunted first Kevin Rudd and then Julia Gillard: the lack of any outstanding replacement candidate within the Coalition; and the lack of any real sense that voters are preparing to kick the government out.

The electorate seems very unsure about Bill Shorten. Abbott is still the one generating headlines, and very few of Shorten's criticisms are cutting through. We're debating Abbott's policies, not Shorten's. The government will lose further ground if this year's budget isn't received well, but it remains electorally competitive. If the polls this year stay roughly where they are now – at about 53-47 to Labor – the Coalition may be confident of making up that ground against a small-target opposition during a well-fought campaign next year.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Educating Ricky

James Bennett at ABC News: "Key crossbench senator Ricky Muir has revealed he would consider the Federal Government's latest plans for deregulating university fees, following a call from Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office."

Josie Taylor and Alison Branley at ABC News: "The industry body representing private training has removed up to 100 colleges from its books in the past two years because of quality concerns."

Kevin Donnelly at The Drum: "The move towards school autonomy is part of a wider movement arguing that choice and diversity in education is ‘a tide that lifts all boats’."

Knightmare

Lisa Cox in Fairfax: "When Tony Abbott was peppered with questions about why Prince Philip was worthy of a knighthood, the Prime Minister quickly spruiked the Duke of Edinburgh's role as patron of ‘hundreds’ of organisations. But fewer than 50 of those are in Australia, the British Monarchy's own official website reveals."

First Dog on the Moon at Guardian Australia: "It's over. It's now impossible to satirise Tony Abbott."

Seeking refuge

Ben Doherty at Guardian Australia: "Detainees on Manus Island have declared a two-week long hunger strike over. Up to 700 men were refusing all food and fluid at the height of the protest, but several sources on the island confirmed that almost all men had resumed eating now."

Max Chalmers at New Matilda: "It's 145 days since Hamid Kehazaei died, and the Abbott government is still keeping the final report into his death secret."

Stephanie March at ABC News: "The High Court will hand down its decision today on a legal challenge to the Australian government's detention of 157 asylum seekers on board a Customs vessel for almost a month."

Queensland

Daniel Hurst, Joshua Robertson and Bridie Jabour at Guardian Australia: The 6 key issues of the Queensland election.

Thom Mitchell at New Matilda: Video emerges of Campbell Newman criticising Galilee Basin coal mine as Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

The IR debate

Greg Jericho at Guardian Australia: "While business leaders suggest our high minimum wage hurts our competitiveness, the value of the wage has fallen significantly in the past decade."

Greg Jericho at The Drum: "The IR debate is often suggested to be important - for economic reasons, we are told - even though in reality it is more about politics than anything that will lead to a stronger economy."

Mungo MacCallum at The Drum: "The Productivity Commission inquiry into employment laws may not literally lead to WorkChoices, but it could look like a bloody good imitation of it. This could end in tears for Tony Abbott."

Steven Kates at The Drum: "Any industrial system that doesn't recognise the importance of fairness is destined to fail. That's why we need tribunals and can't simply ‘leave things to the market’."

Tim Dick in Fairfax: "People shouldn't have to ask permission to work better. The conversation should be started by bosses, because it benefits them too."

Chris Berg at The Drum: "Another review has set its sights on the minimum wage. Hopefully it realises that by keeping people out of the labour market, the minimum wage is creating the very poverty trap it is supposed to alleviate."