Friday, July 27, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Pub test: Emma Husar
It’s been a shocking week for the member for Lindsay

It’s another non-story at the Australian Arms, two doors down from the Western Sydney electorate office of Emma Husar, the embattled member for Lindsay. They’ve all heard of her, of course, especially in a week when she’s all over the papers, as the ALP investigates allegations of workplace bullying against her. Until the investigation is finished, however, it seems the fuss is not going to change a lot of votes. As one woman quips: “She gets someone to pick up her dog poo – big deal! – while Barnaby gets to f--k his staff?”

It’s been more than a week since Alice Workman broke the story on BuzzFeed, reporting that an investigation was underway into the bullying allegations. Since then the story has escalated, with reports that Husar had claimed thousands of dollars for limousine travel, including to visit her divorce lawyer [$], despite leasing her own taxpayer-funded car. On The Drum, Workman had to defend reporting the initial story when she did, ahead of tomorrow’s Super Saturday by-elections: “I hate to break anyone’s bubble or dismiss anyone’s ideas when it comes to making decisions about what we report,” Workman said. “There is no big conspiracy here.” When a lumbering troll asked why there was nothing on Michaelia Cash, another tweeted: “You mean the senator cash scandal that @workmanalice broke? And has pursued at every cash presser since? That one?”

Husar took personal leave earlier this week after receiving threats of violence that she reported to the police, but blood is in the water and this morning’s headlines were ominous. The Australian reported [$] that Husar was forced to appear before a Labor internal committee before she was confirmed as the Lindsay candidate in 2016 to account for $29,000 she fundraised through local charities for an assistance dog. Meanwhile, senior Labor figures have told the SMH that Husar should step down from her seat: “Either way, this does not end well for her.”

Husar is a single mum who grew up amid domestic violence, and is juggling three kids, including a son with autism (Bill Shorten pointed out this week that the assistance dog she fundraised for is a therapy dog for her son). There is a lot of sympathy there for her, and support from current and former colleagues, from Sam Dastyari to Anthony Albanese to Dee Madigan.

The timing could not be worse, and not just because of Super Saturday. Like Longman, it will be critical for Labor to hold Lindsay at the next election. It’s the fifth-most marginal electorate in the country in what should be the western suburbs heartland, on a margin of 1 per cent. It changed hands in 2007, 2013 and 2016, and Husar has not yet had a chance to get a lock on the electorate.

So what do the people of Lindsay think? No one can name anything Husar has yet done for the area, but there’s no doubt that there are plenty of Labor voters here, who aren’t paying attention to the latest scandal and won’t be changing their vote, regardless.

Liam, 21, a solid Labor voter and unionist, says Husar is an active member and “if you need to have a chat with her and stop her on the street, she’s happy to have a chat with you. She’s a single mum, she’s done it tough. We need a strong female in politics, especially in the Penrith area.”

A swinging voter, Colleen, 49, voted Liberal last time, and admired former member Jackie Kelly, a Howard favourite. “Jackie was all over the place … I’ve just not seen or heard of anything Emma’s done locally that’s impressed me, frankly.” Colleen says she would vote Labor if they put up the right candidate, implying that the controversy surrounding Husar might be taking a toll: “I’m not going to repeat what my husband said this morning, it was pretty derogatory.”

A year ago Steve, 66, a solid conservative voter, got a questionnaire from Husar, asking about issues including school funding. He sent back a blunt letter, complaining about Labor’s crap policies, and was surprised to get a response. “She had the guts to contradict me and ask me to come in and have a meeting with her about it. So I admired that in her … we had a meeting, knowing that I was a conservative voter. I did notice she’s a strong person, so it’s a disappointment in some ways, if these allegations are true.” It’s a big if? “A big if, it has to be proven.” Did she win your vote? “No, of course not!”

since this morning

Senior figures in the Turnbull government have told the ABC that they believe the United States is prepared to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, perhaps as early as next month, and that Australia is poised to help identify possible targets.

Fairfax Media reports that a visit to a Queensland pub on the day before the Super Saturday by-elections that will decide the government’s majority in parliament has backfired on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after voters turned on him over penalty rates and the ABC.

Victoria Police has launched a criminal investigation into Victorian Labor’s so-called Red Shirt Rorts in a major pre-election blow to the Andrews government, The Australian reports [$].


Of the extensive coverage of the Nine-Fairfax deal this morning, don’t miss the AFR’s Street Talk column [$], which tips a quick sale of the regional and rural mastheads to News Corp. It also includes a useful breakdown of the implied valuations of Fairfax’s assets, indicating the value for Nine is clearly in Domain, not the print mastheads. Also, last night’s interview with Paul Keating on the ABC’s 7.30 is a must-watch.

The Guardian reports that the One Nation candidate for Longman, Matthew Stephen, sold his tiling company on paper and disclaimed its debts, less than three weeks after his firm received payment of $66,000 from a long-running legal dispute.

Also in The Guardian, peak bodies for general practitioners and social services have united to call for major changes to My Health Record to ensure that it can only be used for medical purposes. Malcolm Turnbull has signalled that the government will make “refinements” to the scheme.

Fairfax Media reports that three directors of the charity the Great Barrier Reef Foundation entrusted with almost half a billion dollars in public money have refused to give evidence to a Senate inquiry scrutinising the controversial deal, raising the prospect they will be forced to appear.

The National Energy Guarantee is under pressure from all sides, with key Senate crossbenchers Pauline Hanson and David Leyonhjelm [$] as well as the Queensland government warning they could block it, for opposing reasons.

Attorney-General Christian Porter has announced that former High Court judge Ian Callinan will conduct a review of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, following a series of controversial decisions relating to deportations and visa cancellations.

by Joanna Di Mattia
The persistence of curiosity in documentary profiles
‘RBG’, ‘Whitney’, ‘The Gospel According to André’ and ‘McQueen’ ask: “Who are you?”

by Benjamin Law
Lee Lin’s double life
Lee Lin Chin’s rise from SBS newsreader to queen of satire

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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