Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Today by Elle Hardy

Phone a friend
Morrison’s involvement in the Trump impeachment saga could drag on until next year

© Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spent another day drawn into the Donald Trump impeachment saga, and it’s something that he ought to get used to. The proceedings in both the US Congress and the media look likely be stretch out to next year, possibly until the US elections in November 2020.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne this morning rejected the idea that Australia is being “dragged into a US political issue” following the government’s confirmation that it offered to assist Trump in his attempt to discredit the Mueller inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections.

Labor has sensed an opportunity to tie Morrison to Trump and to question his handling of the situation, and has spent the past two days calling for the prime minister to release the transcript of his conversation with the president where the issue was first discussed.

“The prime minister needs to explain what exactly went on here. He needs to release any transcript or information which is out there,” Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said. “This is quite extraordinary. These revelations are of concern. The prime minister needs to make a full statement and not say ‘this is just gossip’, [and] not give one of his usual prevarications.”

It’s not only Labor weighing in, with former ambassador to the US John McCarthy telling the ABC that Morrison ought to have handled it differently. “The way to do this is to duck it, frankly,” he said, suggesting that Morrison should delegate the matter to specialists to avoid getting involved with messy and legally fraught domestic US politics.

Time will tell whether voters care that Morrison appears to be sticking his neck out to help the president. But one poll of Australians before the 2016 US election found that close to 80 per cent of Australians preferred Hillary Clinton, while 45 per cent agreed that “Australia should distance itself from the United States if it elects a president like Donald Trump”.

Meanwhile, the man who once called himself a “very stable genius” is already proving that he will be an erratic ally. Taking to Twitter today, Trump demonstrated that the attempt to bring him down is foremost in his mind.

“As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”

Trump’s golfing buddy Senator Lindsey Graham declared that the administration will double down on involving Australia and other countries in its investigation into the origins of the Mueller inquiry.

“These countries should be cooperating with [Attorney-General] Barr,” he said, and ambassador Joe Hockey’s letter from May this year would certainly indicate that Australia offered help before it was explicitly sought. “It’s clear to me that liberals are starting an attack against Barr to shut him down from going to Italy, Australia and the UK to find out if there was something wrong regarding opening up the investigation of the Trump campaign to begin with.”

Today SBS obtained a heavily redacted copy of the diplomatic cable then high commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer wrote following his meeting with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos in May 2016 (the details of which were subsequently reported to the FBI, which later launched the Mueller inquiry). Reporter Brett Mason said in a tweet that SBS understands it is among “several” documents passed to the US Justice Department.

There is no question that Trump has put Morrison in a difficult position. However, this is no ordinary US president, and this is far from business as usual: the old rules no longer apply.

The prime minister and Joe Hockey will only remain close personal allies of the president so long as they are useful to him – which presumably means the extent to which they are prepared to sacrifice Alexander Downer to advance Trump’s case against Mueller.

“The banks have a lot of explaining to do because this is very disappointing.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg slams the big four banks for failing to pass on the Reserve Bank’s interest rate cut in full.

“They don’t think it’s going to rain again.”

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack attacks the Victorian government after its water minister, Lisa Neville, said dams were not feasible in her state. Meanwhile, the National Water Grid Authority, launched last month by McCormack, currently has no boss and no expert advisers or staff.

Almonds are the devil’s nut
The Murray–Darling Basin is being ruined by cronyism and incompetence. But there is a new problem, too: high-yield almond crops.


The proportion of Australians who think that Prime Minister Scott Morrison was wrong to snub the United Nations climate summit last week.

Universities will have funding tied to graduate employment outcomes, after the federal government said these would be prioritised over other measures of success when considering funding.

The list

“By any measure, culture is a major Australian industry … The contribution of cultural and creative industries to the economy in 2016–17 was $86 billion, or 5.2 per cent. That’s more than half that of the mining industry ($148 billion in 2017–18). Yet, cultural spending represents just 0.5 per cent of the federal budget – approximately $2.6 billion. For comparison, subsidies to the Australian fossil-fuel industry alone amount to $29 billion a year.”

“My curiosity about the extent to which governments in Adelaide condoned or turned a blind eye to frontier massacres in the Gulf Country of the Northern Territory, up until 1910, has led me to fresh evidence that has shocked me … Sir John Downer, one of the founding fathers of Australian federation, was equally complicit in all this. An examination of the injustices and massacres of the frontier period reveals his name more frequently than any other Adelaide politician.”

Ride Like a Girl is a ‘very Catholic film’, says Griffiths, ‘in terms of redemption and wrestling with moral implications’, identifying a scene where Payne’s strapper brother, Stevie, who has Down syndrome and is played by himself, asks, ‘What happens if Dad dies?’ Payne, played by Teresa Palmer, answers, ‘I’ll look after you.’ Stevie responds: ‘What happens if you die?’”

Elle Hardy

Elle Hardy is an Australian journalist based in the United States. She can be found at



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