Friday, December 7, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

This week’s parliamentary shenanigans resolved nothing

Attorney-General Christian Porter, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne during the debate on the government's encryption bill in the House of Representatives. Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

The close of federal parliament for 2018 left many commentators dismayed. Bad laws passed, in the form of encryption legislation, which, because of a fake rush, left amendments supported by both major parties on the floor of the Senate. The laws will have to be revisited in the new year. A sensible law, which might have eased the humanitarian crisis on Manus and Nauru was delayed, courtesy of embarrassing filibustering by the Coalition, Cory Bernardi and Pauline Hanson. This too will be revisited next year when it must come to the House. Tony Abbott loyalists scored it a “win/win for ScoMo!” If that’s a win, what on earth will defeat look like?

In the middle of last night’s farce, BuzzFeed’s Alice Workman tweeted: “This last day of parliamentary sitting is without a doubt the worse of the year.” This morning’s newspaper headlines spoke of dispiriting chaos, and RN Breakfast host Fran Kelly said she could make neither head nor tail of what went on yesterday.

The bifurcation of the media was evident as always. The Guardian observed that the PM’s “authority is waning”, and The SMH editorialised that the Coalition’s “shrill demand to pass this [encryption] bill before Christmas risked looking like a political stunt”, while The Daily Telegraph wrote that Bill Shorten had gifted the PM an opportunity to play to his “strong suit”, and The Australian wrote that it was a “Christmas gift” for Morrison, and ran an op-ed by him headed “ALP Plays Politics Over Security”. 

But on RN Breakfast’s political panel, Katharine Murphy and Chris Uhlmann were in agreement: Bill Shorten ends the year on a high, and at the next election the Morrison government is facing what they described as an “epic defeat” or “shellacking”.

The Coalition is hoping to pull off a repeat of its comeback in 2001, as I wrote here yesterday, but do national security fear campaigns resonate anymore? Senior Liberals running Malcolm Turnbull’s 2016 election campaign discovered early on that the electorate was no longer as exercised by fears about refugees, taking for granted that the boats had stopped. Notwithstanding the recent Bourke Street attack in Melbourne, deaths from terrorism are falling worldwide as the ISIS threat recedes. That doesn’t mean the Liberal Party will stop trying to politicise each and every incident – Sky News host Peta Credlin admitted she thought Matthew Guy’s Opposition missed an opportunity to do just that in the lead-up to the recent Victorian election. But one thing that that election showed is that Credlin and Sky News “after dark” are completely out of touch with middle Australia, and the politics of race and fear are backfiring. 

Which only makes more inexplicable why Labor caved in to Morrison’s hollow threats last night. There will no doubt prove to be wiggle room in government assurances that it will reconsider the encryption law amendments recommended by the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in the new year. As Bernard Keane writes [$] powerfully in Crikey today, Labor must finally own up to the consequences of five years’ cooperation on a succession of attacks on Australians’ privacy in the name of national security, over which the Coalition is going to continue to target them regardless. 

since this morning

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says [$] he does not want controversial Labor MP Emma Husar to run for the ALP in Lindsay, The Australian reports. The backbencher yesterday launched defamation proceedings against BuzzFeed.

in case you missed it

The Morrison government has appointed [$] six new deputy presidents with employer backgrounds to the Fair Work Commission, ignoring a recommendation by tribunal president Iain Ross and sparking Labor and union claims it has stacked the workplace umpire ahead of the federal election. 

The federal government’s “big stick” legislation aimed at forcing price-gouging energy companies to sell assets will be stuck [$] in parliament until April, a month before a likely May election, after Labor successfully referred the laws to a Senate inquiry. 

Fairfax Media reports on leaks that show Border Force slashing airport staff at Christmas as budget cuts bite.

FOI documents obtained by The Guardian show that the former Labor federal government knew of bribery claims against Sinclair Knight Merz but continued giving the firm work and was advised to withhold details unless the claims became public.

The Guardian reports that commentator Jane Caro, touted as an independent candidate in Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah, last night told a candidates forum in the electorate that independents must not split the vote.

The Australian reports [$] that Malcolm Turnbull has finally campaigned for Dave Sharma, seven weeks after the crucial Wentworth by-election.

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Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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