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Thursday, 2nd October 2014

GUNS AND BUTTER

The Abbott government now wants to cut more spending to pay for its military activity in Iraq and the beefed-up security at home. Julie Bishop this morning denied the Australian's report that those savings would come out of the foreign aid budget, so presumably the choice is now between defence and social security, or "guns and butter". Bishop also defended the government's lack of response on the Ebola threat on the grounds that it doesn't want to put Australians in harm's way when there's no exit plan. But that contradicts the logic of sending troops into a war zone.

A split-off section of the social security bills passed the House of Representatives this morning after the government made the pragmatic decision to push through what changes it could. Tony Abbott is now calling that alternative plan a "restructure", but he's strenuously denying any suggestion that the government is abandoning plans to change pension indexation and impose a 6-month payment freeze on unemployed people under 30. "We don't give up on good policy," Joe Hockey says. Or bad policy, it seems.

To describe the government's approach to policymaking and budget negotiations to date as shambolic would be kind. But in the wake of what Van Badham in The Guardian describes as a "cringeworthy" performance by Labor leader Bill Shorten during an hour-long "live Q&A" session last night, the inability of Labor to capitalise politically has to be acknowledged. As Badham writes, Abbott has presented the opposition with a gift: multiple broken promises, continuing gaffes, unpopular policy. Yet the polls have narrowed dramatically since July while the opposition has fallen into line on security legislation and has consistently declined to present an alternative policy vision.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Protests on Nauru over Cambodia resettlement deal

Some terrible scenes on Nauru as detained refugees and asylum seekers stage "daily protests" at the Abbott government's plans to resettle a handful of people in Cambodia. The Guardian reports that men and boys have sewn their lips shut and one man has been hospitalised after refusing food and water for two days. The Guardian also hosts a video showing one of the protests.

National security laws and the burqa distraction

Draconian laws which allow for the imprisonment of journalists for up to a decade for reporting on certain intelligence operations passed the Lower House with Labor Party support yesterday (Australian). Andrew Wilkie warns of an impending "police state" (Fairfax), while George Brandis dismisses any need for alarm (Guardian). The Guardian also carries ALP backbencher Melissa Parke's dissenting speech.

As Tony Abbott expressed reservations about the burqa, Michelle Grattan in the Conversation points out that it's really not a security issue at all.

Turnbull rejects NBN recommendations; ABC board rejects Jonathan Holmes

The AFR reports that Malcolm Turnbull has largely rejected most of the recommendations of the government-appointed panel which looked at the National Broadband Network. The Vertigan panel wants a radical restructuring of the NBN along pro-competition lines. The Conversation, however, suggests that Turnbull has left the door open to the Vertigan recommendations.

Myriam Robin of Crikey reports on Turnbull's other portfolio responsibility – ABC cuts – and a demonstration of hundreds outside an ABC board meeting yesterday.

Equity concerns over education reforms

The Times Higher Education's 11th annual World University Rankings are out, and the ABC reports that while Australian universities have generally climbed, the magazine has also queried the government's proposed higher education reforms on equity grounds. The Conversation reports that the non-Go8 universities share those concerns.

Meanwhile Christopher Pyne is reconsidering his plan to impose a real interest rate on student loans, according to the Australian.

Three stories that show how Australia is changing

Young women report that sexism is on the rise (Guardian).

Infrastructure spending is at its lowest level in six years (Australian).

The prime minister's business adviser calls for the government to fund an inquiry into the Bureau of Meteorology's "warmist" bias (Guardian).