Friday, October 12, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Election fatigue already
We’ve been on the campaign trail since 2016

As the run-up to the federal election begins, Australians will be digging deep into their reserves of patience with our political leaders. In the past 12 months alone we have already had several isolated by-elections, then we had eight weeks of campaigning in the lead-up to the Super Saturday by-elections, and now the crucial Wentworth by-election campaign is underway. Memories of the marathon eight-week campaign in 2016 have not been entirely repressed. Has any federal parliament ever inflicted more electioneering on the people? Another nine months of Liberal and Labor going at each other over lower taxes v better services is a dreadful prospect – tiring before it begins. If only the vote could happen tomorrow, and we could be done with it.

We all have a fair idea by now what the major parties stand for. One state Liberal MP, picking over the implications of the recent leadership coup against Malcolm Turnbull, stresses that Tony Abbott’s remorseless thirst for vengeance was not the only factor. Don’t forget the Liberals’ “nervous nellies” sitting in marginal seats, the MP says, worried that with opinion polls sitting on 53–47, or thereabouts, they won’t be re-elected. “If you actually go back and check, literally every published poll since July 2006 fell within the 53–47 range, plus or minus the margin of error. Literally every one. How do I know that? Because I went back and checked every one of them, on a bet.” They’re right to be nervous, then. The Coalition has been behind Labor for more than a decade.

So many of the wars between the two major parties are phoney. Is there very much difference between Scott Morrison’s backpedalling on his support earlier this week for a recommendation to “back in the existing law” allowing religious institutions to discriminate against LGBTI people, and Tanya Plibersek’s commitment today [$] that, if elected, Labor would not remove the existing laws?

On school funding, both sides trumpet their fidelity to the nth iteration of the Gonski reforms, and tout billion-dollar packages costed out to the never-never … and neither side is talking about stopping the rush of millions of taxpayer dollars to elite private schools, which is frustrating on a daily basis to parents of public school children. (A small request: would both sides please stop throwing the phrase “record funding” at us? Given inflation and population growth, we should by rights see record funding of education every year.)

In the never-ending debate on business tax cuts, with its myriad rates and thresholds, again phased out to the never-never, punters are supposed to get excited about a fast-tracking from 2026–27 to 2020–21? Is that what counts for a vote-winner these days? Yesterday shadow treasurer Chris Bowen was saying that Labor would take time to consider its position, put it to shadow cabinet, follow due process etc., etc. Today, following reports that Senate crossbenchers were in favour of the cuts, Labor has confirmed that it will back [$] will back the move.

Then there’s the wars that aren’t being fought, but should be. As Médecins Sans Frontières is evicted from Nauru, neither side has an answer to the humanitarian crisis that’s unfolding there on our watch. As Peter Dutton goads Labor to back another draconian surveillance law, we hear only that there cannot be a cigarette paper’s difference between the two parties on national security.

On at least one issue, the difference is stark. Whether the climate wars are on or off, we now know for certain that the Coalition is chronically, definitively, helplessly, laughably unable to respond effectively to climate change, which is accelerating before our eyes.

since this morning

Fairfax Media has published the full 20 recommendations from the Ruddock review into religious freedom, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison backtracked, saying he was “not comfortable” with schools turning children away because of their sexuality.

Fairfax Media, Nine Entertainment and Domain shares have been hit [$] in morning trade after the release of trading updates and ahead of the release of the merger scheme booklet to shareholders on Friday afternoon.

in case you missed it

Alex Turnbull has again intervened in the Wentworth by-election, calling for a vote for Labor as a protest against the Liberals’ climate policies, but the prime minister has told the ABC that Malcolm Turnbull disagrees with his son.

Médecins Sans Frontières has called for the immediate evacuation of all refugees on Nauru. MSF was ordered to leave the country following a Nauruan government order.

The defence department is yet to confirm if Australia’s new F-35 strike fighters have been grounded [$] as part of a US ban on flights by the jets following investigations into a crash last month.

Fairfax Media reports that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the non-profit group that received a controversial $443.4 million grant from the Turnbull government, has launched a bid to secure further donations of as much as $400 million.

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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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