Australian politics, society & culture

Thursday, 23rd October 2014


Scott Morrison is generating critics not just outside the government – Andrew Wilkie and Greg Barnes yesterday asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Morrison's treatment of asylum seekers – but also inside it. AM reports that Morrison has been telling his colleagues that his Operation Sovereign Borders team should take control of a hard-line Ebola quarantine system for people returning from west Africa, and reaction has been uncontained. Morrison denies making any such proposals, but someone or something is driving a movement against him in Cabinet. Accounts of its National Security Committee's discussions on Ebola have been leaked to AM, and anonymous "senior Coalition sources" have spoken to the ABC expressing their frustration at Morrison's "out of control" ego.

It's not the first time that Morrison's ambitions have caused friction recently. At the end of last month, suggestions that the government would establish a "homeland security super-ministry" were scuttled, largely, it seems, because many in the Cabinet were too wary of the immigration minister (Morrison would have been the obvious choice to head it). Both Julie Bishop (on the foreign aid budget) and Barnaby Joyce (whose agriculture department currently handles all quarantine procedures) have publicly pushed back against what is clearly being interpreted as Morrison's power grab, ostensibly because it would tread on their policy patches.

Whatever the case, we can be reasonably sure that the leaks from the Committee didn't come from the Defence Minister: Despite ongoing developments in Australia's Iraq mission, David Johnston skipped Wednesday's National Security Committee meeting because he said he "wasn't going to add too much".

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Vale Whitlam

Some good analyses on aspects of the Whitlam era, including the re-engagement with China (Inside Story), legal advice which led to the Dismissal (Australian) and the 'It's Time' campaign (ABC). Myf Warhurst asks where the campaign song went (Guardian), and Tom Uren remembers Whitlam in a Fairfax report.

Labor's touchiness on Whitlam's legacy has generated an unedifying spat over a Facebook post by Lee Rhiannon which appears to claim Whitlam's progressive legacy for the Greens (Fairfax). But former Greens adviser Robert Simms argues in the Drum that Whitlam's legacy "belongs to all progressives".

As it looks likely that Whitlam will lend his name to a new Canberran suburb (Australian), analyses of the Whitlam era and its legacy are provided by Jonathan Green (Drum) and at the Piping Shrike blog. The Guardian has a long piece combining the recollections of 16 prominent Australians.

The Coal-ition government

A standoff looms over the Renewable Energy Target after the government confirmed it would push for a reduced "real 20%" target, which the ALP confirmed it would reject (AFR). Tristan Edis at the Business Spectator comments.

Greg Jericho musters data to reject the prime minister's commitment to coal (Drum), and Indian conservationist Debi Goenka implores Australia to stop sending the world more coal (Guardian).

Dropping the ball on education

Labor and the Greens have accused the Abbott government's appointment process for the subject "experts" who participated in the recently-completed review of the National Curriculum as lacking transparency and rigour (Fairfax).

And Inside Story looks at MySchool data to track 7 of the Gonski school funding review's 26 findings – and concludes that school equity has gone from bad to worse.

Probing corruption

Norman Abjorensen looks at the G20's prospects for tackling corruption in Inside Story. But there are some troubling developments at home. The Northern Territory's governing Country Liberal Party has recinded on an apparent promise to hold an inquiry into political donations (Australian), and somehow, Andrew Robb's restaurant in Sydney gets a free plug from Tourism Australia (Fairfax).

Foreign follies

The chief of Australia's defence force has confirmed that at least one pallet of weapons intended for Kurdish forces in Iraq may have been dropped by mistake into Islamic State territory (ABC).

Meanwhile a senior Russian politician is demanding that Tony Abbott apologise for threatening Vladimir Putin with physical violence (Australian), and Fairfax adds up the mounting financial cost of hosting the G20 summit – including $150,000 spent on transporting a $70,000 table to Brisbane.