Friday, September 11, 2015

Today by Michael Lucy

Reshuffle rumours
The government’s moment in the sun was all too brief


The Coalition was on the verge of having a good week.

The announcement on Wednesday that Australia will take in 12,000 Syrian refugees was the closest the government has come to a good news story in quite some time. It was a display of generosity from a government with a reputation for meanness, and it also seemed to show that Tony Abbott had for once listened to public opinion rather than making an autocratic captain’s call. Labor backed it, and while there were criticisms that we should take more refugees, and qualms about the likely Christians-first nature of the intake, they were relatively muted.

Things went pear-shaped this morning, however, when a story in the Daily Telegraph (paywalled) claimed that Abbott is planning a large Cabinet reshuffle that may involve sacking as many as six current ministers. Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews and Ian Macfarlane are among those reported to be in trouble. The report by Simon Benson and Daniel Meers attributes the story to a “senior source” in the government – it has credibility, as Benson often receives government “drops” of information. In the words of Anthony Albanese, quoted in the Telegraph story, “These stories don’t come and go when they are in the Daily Telegraph.” Part of the problem is that many of Abbott’s own MPs believe the story came from the PM’s office.

The government spent the day responding. While Joe Hockey was not on the list of the threatened, Sydney radio host Ray Hadley this morning asked him whether he would “take one for the team” and step down for the good of the government. Christopher Pyne dismissed reshuffle talk, as did Peter Dutton. Abbott himself said that “Reports of end of year reshuffles are absolutely a dime a dozen.”

A reshuffle would be a sensible move for Abbott, as Cabinet has its share of poor performers and promoting younger MPs and women might address concerns that the government is out of touch and does not reflect the community. But the timing of the leak is something else: it has taken attention off the good news story, and redirected it to the story of a floundering government beset by infighting. The question, as always, is Who leaked?

While Abbott may or may not be plotting against certain members of the Cabinet, Philip Coorey at the AFR reports that certain Cabinet members are once again plotting against Abbott.

And to top it all off, there was this: in a display of bad taste and incompetence, Peter Dutton made a joke about Pacific islands under threat from rising sea levels to Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, in front of a live camera and microphone. The video is worth watching: whatever else you say about Scott Morrison, he’s a pro. On the upside, it’s a sign that the government believes climate change is real.

It’s going to be a rough weekend in Canberra.


Today’s links


Michael Lucy

Michael Lucy is a writer based in Melbourne.



The Monthly Today

Tamil family remains in limbo

The asylum-seeker family’s experience highlights the system’s deliberate cruelty

Hanson family values

The family law inquiry is shaping up to be an exercise in bad faith

Failure to launch

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

Big stick, no carrot

The Coalition’s fixation on energy prices distracts from wage stagnation

From the front page

Tamil family remains in limbo

The asylum-seeker family’s experience highlights the system’s deliberate cruelty

Image from ‘Ad Astra’

Interplanetary, mostly ordinary: James Gray’s ‘Ad Astra’

Brad Pitt’s interstellar family-therapy odyssey struggles with earthbound sentiment

Detail of Yanni Florence photograph

Losing yourself

How can we be transformed by music if online platforms mean we will always remain ourselves?


Spiralling admissions

Victoria’s royal commission hears stories of a dysfunctional, under-resourced mental health system