Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

The only way is up
The 46th parliament has got to be better than the 45th

Image of Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison at the official opening of the 46th parliament

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the official opening of the 46th parliament. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

This morning’s smoking ceremony to mark the swearing-in of Australia’s 46th parliament – occurring on the same day the RBA cut the cash rate to a new emergency low of 1 per cent – sets a new tone for the next three years in federal politics. Both sides have conflict fatigue, reconciliation appears to be back on the agenda after fine gestures from both leaders this morning, and a stalling economy is crying out for attention. The unopposed election of House of Representatives speaker Tony Smith for the third time was an auspicious sign today. As Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese observed generously: “That is the first time that that has occurred in more than a century since the beginning of … this parliament going back to federation.” After the mayhem of the 45th parliament – nine byelections, one prime ministerial assassination and near-miss on a constitutional crisis, and one Barnababy scandal – surely the only way is up.

At the time of writing, the new governor-general, David Hurley, was beginning to outline the Coalition’s agenda for its third term, which we know to be embarrassingly thin, as the Morrison government was not expecting to be re-elected. Beyond the tax-cut package and a religious freedom bill, there was not much else to talk about in the prime minister’s interview on ABC TV’s 7.30 last night. This agenda will need to be fleshed out quickly, because the centrepiece tax cuts are highly likely to be done and dusted this week, given this morning’s comments by Senator Stirling Griff of new powerbrokers the Centre Alliance that: “We’re broadly on board with the key proposition but we just need to cross the t’s and dot the i’s. I’m confident we’ll get there in the next day or two.”

Today’s statement by the Reserve Bank – which is doing exactly what it said it would do – spells out that while the outlook remains reasonable, the risks to the global economy are tilted to the downside, and the Australian economy is growing below trend at 1.8 per cent. “Consumption growth has been subdued, weighed down by a protracted period of low income growth and declining housing prices,” the bank said. The RBA sees signs of a pick-up in wage growth – and expects this will lift gradually – and there are indications that house prices may have bottomed out.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said today that the RBA’s interest rate cut “bolsters the case for Labor’s tax-cut proposal to get more money into workers’ hands sooner, to help the Reserve Bank boost the floundering economy”. History may or may not record that Labor may have had a better idea for tax reform in July 2019, but the government remains committed to the tax-cut package it took to the election six weeks ago. The real question is not whether Labor agrees to pass the package in full; the question is whether it has learnt the lesson that whatever it does it will face an all-out scare campaign on tax at the next election. Death taxes? Refundable franking credits? A stage-three tax cut repeal? They will all be hurled at the party in 2022, whether Labor has plans in that direction or not.

The interesting dynamic now is between the government and Centre Alliance. If Centre Alliance succeeds in establishing an effective domestic gas reservation policy to control prices for homes and businesses on the east coast – just like the successful policy established in 2006 in Western Australia – that will be a real win for consumers, over a largely foreign-owned, tax-dodging – not to mention climate-wrecking – oil and gas industry. If Centre Alliance is able to persuade the government to adopt a more humane policy towards asylum seekers by retaining the medivac laws, well and good. Centre Alliance may be able to live up to its name, and knock some sharp edges off the Morrison government’s agenda.

“It is more than a decade since the apology. It is time to go further in reconciliation. The parliament should show its respect for the strength and determination of First Nations peoples by working with you to progress the agenda of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to establish a voice, recognise First Nations people in our Constitution and to close the gap.”

Labor Leader Anthony Albanese speaks to Ngunnawal representatives before the swearing-in of the 46th parliament today in Canberra.

“It’s made perfect sense for Australia not to contemplate nuclear weapons for the last 40 years because we’ve enjoyed a very high level of confidence in the American nuclear umbrella, but America provided that umbrella because it secured its position as the primary power in Asia. If the chances of [maintaining] that position are much lower, then our circumstances will be very different.”

ANU professor Hugh White, author of the new book How to Defend Australia, argues for a debate on whether the country needs a nuclear arsenal.

Mine on the moon
The discovery of water ice on the moon has started a new race in space exploration. Ceridwen Dovey on the legal framework that governs this race and Australia’s unique role in it.


The amount that the ABC has spent in compensation and legal fees on the sacking of former managing director Michelle Guthrie, according to documents obtained through a freedom of information application by Crikey.

“All media must pay for access to lodged documents and historical extracts, including but not limited to: Form 388 Copy of financial statements and reports; Form 201 Application for registration as an Australian company; Historical company extracts (including current information).”

The federal government reneges on a promise, made last year by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and former revenue minister Kelly O’Dwyer, to remove registry search fees for all journalists, in order to facilitate corporate transparency.

The list

“‘We had a slave trade.’ Emelda Davis speaks these words quietly, as if in deference to their gravity ... Though she is repeating herself, in the way of professional advocates who spend their lives drawing attention to a cause, Davis will never speak of hers as a matter of rote. She can’t. Davis is an Australian South Sea Islander – one of the descendants of between 55,000 and 62,500 Pacific Islanders transported to Australia in the 19th century to work the cane fields of Queensland and northern New South Wales. The practice was termed ‘blackbirding’.”

“[The] move reflected a pattern of mutual assistance between Morrison, his centre-right New South Wales Liberal power base, and others who need or are needed by him – or whom he needs to keep happy. It is a pattern that reaches back beyond Morrison’s preselection 12 years ago, to his time as the party’s NSW state director. As well, it offered another glimpse of the prime minister’s network of friends, associates, rivals, confidants and beneficiaries who have risen through the ranks of government to serve alongside him..”

“Set across 33-year intervals – 1953, 1986, and 2019 – in the small town of Winden, where the main employer is the nuclear power plant, the first season opening gambit of a missing child and unnatural events drew initial comparisons to Netflix’s retro American hit Stranger Things. But Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese’s Dark operates at a grim pitch, with mournful regret, doom-laden cello scrapes, and fate’s cruel compunction to the fore. Season one began with an Einstein quote; season two turned to Nietzsche.”

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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