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Monday, 24th November 2014

PUP SPLITS, SENATE STUFFED

Senator Jacqui Lambie has at last formally quit the Palmer United Party. She will remain in the Senate as an independent. It was hardly a surprise. Last week her party leader, Clive Palmer, publicly accused her of lying to Parliament. Over the weekend he suggested she'd been deliberately "sent in [to the PUP] by someone to disrupt" it, and raised the possibility that Lambie had rorted the Disability Support Pension while she was campaigning before last year's election. None of this was said under parliamentary privilege, but it's unlikely Lambie will want to engage the deep-pocketed Palmer in a legal dispute.

Lambie's chief of staff, Rob Messenger, said yesterday that Liberal Party members had been urging Lambie to stay with the PUP, and it's easy to understand why. The Abbott government's task of finding six of the eight cross-benchers to vote with it just got even more difficult – especially as Lambie has now given a "100 per cent guarantee" that she won't vote in favour of university fee deregulation or the $7 GP "co-payment". The co-payment seems to be on ice, though Education Minister Christopher Pyne and the Go8 universities are hoping to get the legislation through in the next fortnight – the last of the sittings before Christmas.

The government now faces the real prospect of returning next year with its legislative program in tatters. The Mid-Year Economic & Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) is due out in December and will confirm a worsening budget position. The government's low polls are unprecedented so soon into a first term. And the government's media cheer squad is becoming increasingly frustrated, with Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and the Australian's editorial laying the boot in during the last week.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Fallout

Just what the government's 5 per cent efficiency cuts mean for the ABC are becoming clearer (Fairfax). Today's statement from Mark Scott confirms that 10 per cent of all staff will lose their jobs, production will be centralised in Sydney and Melbourne, and sport and regional-focussed programming will be scaled back.

At a 'Save Our ABC' rally in Melbourne yesterday, Bill Shorten described the Coalition as a "government of censorship" and a "government of savages" (Fairfax). But former Radio National manager (and former managing editor at the Australian) Louise Evans believes there's a lot of flab to be cut (Fairfax).

Ten per cent of staff face the axe, but one of them won't be the Institute of Public Affairs' Tom Switzer, hired recently to present a new Radio National program (Australian).

Stalling

Colin Barnett is refusing to name which particular remote communities he's slating for closure, saying it would unnecessarily alarm people (Australian). Meanwhile, the Abbott government has extended the period for funding applications by Aboriginal organisations, which until last night feared closure at the end of this year (Australian).

In the Saturday Paper, David Marr reflects on the stalled campaign for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.

Privatised

By all reports, Mathias Cormann has received a high price for Medibank Private's sale (AFR) – but Alan Kohler at the Business Spectator (paywalled) argues that taxpayers will bear the brunt of a deal that benefits a select few.

Warnings

As another teenaged asylum seeker was violently assaulted and hospitalised on Nauru on Saturday (New Matilda), Indonesia has formally warned the Australian ambassador of its "strong concern" about the Abbott government's new policy denying resettlement to any refugee who arrived in Indonesia after 1 July this year (Australian).

Climate

Mike Seccombe in the Saturday Paper investigates the Newman government's pursuit of Indian mining giant Adani to exploit the Galilee Basin, and Fergus Green takes a closer look at the Abbott government's approach to international cooperation on climate change in the wake of the US-China deal and the G20 debacle (Inside Story).

And Michael Cooney argues in the Drum that the backlash against Barack Obama's Barrier Reef comments among the Australian Right suggests that they were always less supporters of the American alliance per se than they were friends with the American Right.