Friday, September 7, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Pub test: ScoMo country
The PM’s electorate is as conservative as they come

Memories of the Cronulla riots are still fresh at Northies, the beachside pub at the heart of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s electorate of Cook. The riots started right out the front 13 years ago, and a couple of the blokes I’m talking to know some of the local tough guys involved in the initial retaliation over the alleged bashing of a lifesaver by some Lebanese youths, reported in the Daily Telegraph, which sparked the ugly violence that followed. They reckon the way Maroubra’s Bra Boys handled it was smart – a joint surfer-bikie press conference that brought Aussies and Lebanese together and restored order. The cops? They did their best, which was bugger all. It’s still raw – the drinkers choose their words carefully and soon the pub manager asks me to stop.

There are Morrison Liberals here, and Abbott Liberals too, but no Turnbull Liberals. “Burchy”, a well-tattooed pool builder, has lived in the area all his life and voted Liberal for years (although as a young apprentice he voted Labor). He will vote Liberal next time, notwithstanding reservations about how his local member got the top job. He likes Morrison, who supports the local rugby league team, the Cronulla Sharks, and he is philosophical about the leadership spill: “I’m sure it’s a dog-eat-dog scenario over there in Canberra, but I’m glad he’s got the job now … I’d like to meet him one day.” Burchy describes Morrison as “a bit more approachable, doesn’t seem to be an elitist the way Turnbull was … He’s easy for me to relate to, as in, I don’t live in Point Piper.” [Message to the PM from Burchy: “If you’re reading this, Scott, I’d like to have a beer with you, mate, just down here at Northies.”]

Burchy’s mate Chris, another local tradesman, reckons the Liberals are going to lose next year anyway. Chris tells me that “Pauline’s starting to get a bit of traction down here.” Whatever the outcome of the election overall, Cook hasn’t elected a Labor member since 1975, and Morrison holds the seat on a 15 per cent margin.

A day after his first headland speech, however, it is already clear that the new PM’s everyman image will only take him so far. The speech was pretty empty: in this morning’s AFR, the IPA’s John Roskam warns [$] Morrison against being a Labor-lite, policy-free zone. “Prime Minister Scott Morrison must not only say he’s different from Malcolm Turnbull – from the Labor Party – he must also prove it.” In today’s Crikey, Bernard Keane asks [$] what’s behind the Morrison façade, “if there’s anything more to him than a suburban dad happiest heading to church”.

That sense of an absence of conviction is probably why retiree Kevin, who has lived here 30 years, still pines for Abbott: “I think he got a rough deal, a very rough deal.” Kevin preferred Morrison to Turnbull who – “bloody oath!” – they needed to get rid of. His wife, Joan, has been a swinging voter in the past, but admires Morrison’s time as immigration minister and is hoping that the Liberals get back next year. Although the polls are against the Liberal Party now, Joan says, “I think it’s a bit early to say.”

The one guy I speak to here who won’t vote Liberal is Gary, a coalminer of 40 years who lives in Camden, and who voted for the Greens in 2016. He is so over the major parties, and what’s happened in the past fortnight, that he can barely contain his anger. His wife, Lynn, is from Cronulla and they’ve been coming here for years. Gary says, “It’s abhorrent what’s gone on with the Liberal Party in the past two weeks, totally unacceptable and destructive of the political sphere in Australia. We cannot and will not tolerate it.” Asked about the Liberals’ brawl over energy and emissions, he says that if the federal government really wanted to help Australians with their electricity bills, the government would be paying people to install solar panels and get off the grid. “It’s not all about this electorate, it’s about Australia,” says Gary. “This part of Australia has Scott Morrison as our pretend prime minister at the present moment, and he’s going to stand on very shaky ground at the next election.”

since this morning

The Australian reports [$] that Catherine Marriott, the rural leader who made a sexual harassment complaint against Barnaby Joyce to the Nationals, is disappointed the party’s eight-month investigation has been wound down without a finding.

Former prime minister John Howard has told [$] the Spectator Anglo-Australian Forum in Sydney that Brexit would be positive for Australia.

The Guardian reports that Labor senator Murray Watt says the Senate’s one-day inquiry into the Peter Dutton au pair controversy needs to be extended because there are too many unanswered questions.

According to a Fairfax Media investigation, Geoff Summerhayes, a commissioner at the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, had oversight of a Suncorp division when it may have breached laws and put profits ahead of the interests of its superannuation customers.


WAtoday reports that Iraqi man Saruuan Aljhelie, 22, who attempted suicide while detained at Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in Perth on Sunday night, has died in hospital.

The Guardian reports that staff at the University of Sydney say the objectives of the Ramsay Centre are “incompatible” with academic autonomy.

A 13-year-old transgender student has challenged Scott Morrison on national television about his recent “gender whisperers” tweet.

by Shane Danielsen
The hermitic world of Debra Granik’s ‘Leave No Trace’
The ‘Winter’s Bone’ director takes her exploration of family ties off the grid

by Anne Manne
Making women’s unpaid work count
Feminist economics pioneer Marilyn Waring on care and the unfinished feminist revolution

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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