The Politics    Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Slow on the uptake

By Rachel Withers

Image of Nationals leader David Littleproud, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Deputy Liberal Party leader Sussan Ley during a shadow cabinet meeting in Perth, June 15, 2022. Image © Trevor Collens / AAP Images

From left: Nationals leader David Littleproud, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Deputy Liberal Party leader Sussan Ley during a shadow cabinet meeting in Perth, June 15, 2022. Image © Trevor Collens / AAP Images

The Coalition accuses Labor of a “go-slow”, but it’s the Coalition that is especially dunderheaded when it comes to climate and energy

There was no small irony in the Coalition accusing Labor of a “go-slow”, after the new government released its parliamentary sitting calendar overnight. With parliament to sit for only eight weeks between now and December, manager of Opposition business Paul Fletcher labelled it “remarkably light on”, accusing Labor of a “leisurely approach to reconvening the parliament”, before popping up on Sky News today to make the same hypocritical point. As many were quick to point out, the Coalition’s proposed calendar was set to run to nearly the same schedule, with only two extra sitting days over the same period, and the limited yearly total Fletcher keeps railing against (“just 40”) is mostly due to the fact that the previous government held only a handful of sitting days prior to the election. But the greater irony might be that these allegations are coming from a party that, as Nine revealed today, failed to add any power to the national electricity market in the three years since unveiling plans to spend $1 billion to fix supply shortages – something that would almost certainly be helping with the current energy crisis had it acted with haste.

When former PM Scott Morrison announced the Underwriting New Generation Investments (UNGI) program in March 2019, he said, “What the Morrison government understands but Labor doesn’t is that we need enough reliable 24/7 baseload power to ensure that the lights come on when you flick the switch.” But if the previous government understood that, it didn’t bother to act with any real urgency. As David Crowe reports today, not one of the 12 projects the Morrison government shortlisted at the time has been built, and several have been abandoned, with none of the pledged $1 billion having been spent. There’s no doubt that the current energy crisis is of the former government’s making. It’s the result – as Labor’s talking points put it – of “nearly a decade of denial and delay” on energy policy. But it’s exasperating to be reminded that the government recognised the impending supply shortage, and yet was totally unhurried when it came to doing anything about it. Once again it seems the Coalition government was all announcement and no delivery, with the UNGI program joining the long list of Morrison non-actions.

That’s not the only policy area in which the Opposition appears painfully unrushed. As the AFR reports, the scant remaining moderate Liberals are deeply concerned by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s unilateral declaration that the Coalition will oppose Labor’s 43 per cent emissions-reduction target, aware as they are of the role that climate change played in the downfall of their departed colleagues. The anonymous moderates say the party position should be debated in the party room, with some reportedly considering crossing the floor should it not go their way. But Dutton has doubled down, telling 2GB radio this morning that his party would not be changing its policy, because “millions of Australians voted for us on that basis”. It’s clear that Dutton intends to go on ignoring the climate lessons of the election, just as the party ignored them in appointing him as leader.

The incoming government is indeed approaching things in a “slow and careful” manner as it sets out its new path, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese “drafting a timetable to minimise risk”, as Crowe put it yesterday. Perhaps Dutton could pause here, and take a moment to contemplate what it was that the electorate said, before he stubbornly commits his party to yet more backwards policy. There is, after all, no rush for the Opposition to commit to a stance – parliament won’t be meeting until July 26, so there’s plenty of time for the Coalition to decide if it wants to remain stuck in the past. 

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


The Politics

Image of Health Minister Mark Butler during a press conference at Parliament House, June 22, 2022. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

Taking stock

From vaccines to carbon credits, the new government announces more reviews into the old one’s messes

Image of then NSW deputy premier John Barilaro and then treasurer Dominic Perrottet enjoy a Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2021. Image © Dean Lewins / AAP Images

The tool of the trade

What made John Barilaro and the NSW Coalition think they could get away with such blatant nepotism?

Image of Fatima Payman, Labor senator for Western Australia, May 28, 2022. Image © Richard Wainwright / AAP Images

Census and sensibility

Between the census data and orientation day for incoming MPs, this is clearly no longer Scott Morrison’s Australia, if it ever was

Image of Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall speaking in the House of Representatives, October 27, 2021. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Very cross bench

Labor appeals to fairness to justify a crossbench staffing decision that looks distinctly unfair

From the front page

Composite image showing John Hughes (image via Giramondo Publishing) and the cover of his novel The Dogs (Upswell Publishing)

A dog’s breakfast

Notes on John Hughes’s plagiarism scandal

Image of Erin Doherty as Becky Green in Chloe. Image supplied

App trap: ‘Chloe’

‘Sex Education’ writer Alice Seabright’s new psychological thriller probing social media leads this month’s streaming highlights

Pablo Picasso, Figures by the sea (Figures au bord de la mer), January 12, 1931, oil on canvas, 130.0 × 195.0 cm, Musée national Picasso-Paris. © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022. Photo: © RMN - Grand Palais - Mathieu Rabeau

‘The Picasso Century’ at the NGV

The NGV’s exhibition offers a fascinating history of the avant-garde across the Spanish artist’s lifetime

Cover image of Paul Dalla Rosa’s ‘An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life’

‘An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life’

Alienations and fantasies of escape unify the stories in Australian author Paul Dalla Rosa’s debut collection