Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Today by Elle Hardy

Failure to launch
The Berejiklian spill has been cancelled, but coup attempts are unlikely to stop anytime soon

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Source: Twitter

Would-be renegade NSW Liberals Tanya Davies, Matthew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato this morning abandoned their planned leadership spill against Premier Gladys Berejiklian – who won the state election just shy of six months ago – over dissatisfaction with the handling of a bill to decriminalise abortion. Similar legislation has been passed by Queensland, Victoria, and the Northern Territory over the past 11 years.

“Since releasing our statement last night, we have received confirmation that further concessions will be forthcoming in relation to the amendments to the abortion bill,” the three said in a statement withdrawing the spill motion.

But shock jock Ray Hadley told listeners to his radio show that it was political cunning that saw the spill called off, after the premier directed that the vote would be conducted as a show of hands as opposed to a secret ballot.

“There’d be many people – somewhere between 10 or 11 – that would be prepared to put their secret ballot in but not prepared to put their hand up, because it could cost them a ministry. If they were to put their hand up they’d be sacked immediately from cabinet, so self-preservation takes over,” Hadley said.

“She’s playing the political game … She’s called their bluff.”

Hadley said he understands that only the three rebel MPs and one other, Riverstone MP Kevin Conolly, could be guaranteed to raise their hands at a spill motion.

This show of hands would have highlighted that the rebel MPs are, as Paul Keating might say, “unrepresentative swill”. A poll commissioned by Family Planning NSW found that 71 per cent of Liberal Party voters want to see abortion decriminalised. Writing in The Conversation, UNSW’s Helen Pringle points out that “no public opinion poll in Australia in 50 years has found a popular majority opposed to broad access to abortion. In fact, no opinion poll has found more than 5–10% of voters opposed to abortion in all or almost all circumstances.”

Berejiklian was fighting for her job shortly after winning an election because three MPs in the party wanted to blow up the government, despite having a free vote on the abortion bill. Having a conscience vote was not enough – they wanted to install a premier whose views are considerably out of step with public opinion.

The spill-that-wasn’t highlights a growing structural problem in Australian politics that has emboldened extremist ideologies within the Liberal Party. That is the growing disconnection between party membership bases and the general public.

Membership of major Australian political parties is in steep decline, as is the case in much of the Western world. The parties don’t have to disclose their figures under Australian law, but we do know that in 1967, 4 per cent of the electorate were formal members of a party; this had dropped to 2 per cent in 1996, and we can be almost certain [$] that the figures are far lower today.

This means that it’s easy for elements with extreme views to get a foothold within parties. Compulsory voting can also breed complacency, as the parties have less of a need to establish a loyal party base than in countries where turnout is not mandatory. Furthermore, the shrinking of dues-paying members means that there is a financial hole that can easily be filled by wealthy donors with their own policy agendas.

That hugely unpopular coup attempts continue to occur is proof alone that the major political parties are drifting unmoored from their constituents. Without consideration given to changing our political structure to try to make it more representative, such as state funding of elections or changes to the voting system, there is little incentive for the coup attempts to cease anytime soon.

“There is a sickness at the heart of robodebt which needs to be cured.”

Shadow minister for government services Bill Shorten today announced, with Gordon Legal senior partner Peter Gordon, a class action on robodebt.

“There’s no evidence that I will rob a bank but there’s definitely a law that stops me from robbing a bank.”

Federal Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce outlines why he believes there needs to be a specific law outlawing sex-selective abortions under the proposed NSW abortion bill.

Scott Morrison’s poverty fix
As Scott Morrison announces punitive welfare plans, Rick Morton asks what happens when you treat poverty as a moral problem.

The amount that offshore detention security contractor Paladin has had to repay the federal government due to thousands of breaches of its key performance indicators.

“A group of eminent Australians has been established to help deliver $100 million in drought resilience and preparedness programs to communities every year through the Future Drought Fund … The committee will now develop the Drought Resilience Funding Plan for the Fund, which begins with a $3.9 billion credit that will grow to $5 billion.”

David Littleproud today announced the Future Drought Fund Consultative Committee as “an important milestone in taking action on drought”.

The list

“In the Newcastle District Court on July 26, the former dean of the Newcastle’s Anglican cathedral, Graeme Lawrence, was found guilty of aggravated indecent assault and aggravated sexual assault – termed rape in most Australian states – of a 15-year-old boy, Ben Giggins, in 1991 ... Lawrence is the second most senior churchman in Australia – after Cardinal George Pell – to be convicted of child sexual abuse.”

Here We Are is a new exhibition of women artists at the Art Gallery of NSW. It gives an opportunity for thinking anew about the position of women in art today. The works take up four rooms and are acquisitions that date from 2015, when the gallery initiated a policy designed to increase the percentage of women artists it collected.”

“He has told Australian workers they should demand higher pay from their employers and told employers, including Australia’s governments, they should give it. In speech after speech, he has urged governments – state and federal – to invest much more in building infrastructure and to do it quickly ... Has Australia ever had a Reserve Bank governor as public and as publicly opinionated as Philip Lowe?” 

Elle Hardy

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



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