Friday, August 2, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Farewell to empathy
Worshipping wealth will make Australia poorer

This week’s shock at the line-up of speakers for the coming Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney shows the Coalition’s hardliners ever more fervently embracing Brexit and Trumpism, even as moderates such as minister Simon Birmingham push back on protectionism, hoping to advance an EU-style pan-Asian trade pact at talks in Beijing this weekend. A different internal rift is apparent on Newstart, with Coalition backbenchers, like former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Liberal Dean Smith, speaking up in favour of an increase, while Employment Minister Michaelia Cash retaliated midweek on Channel 7’s Sunrise, pushing statistics that 78 per cent of recipients had had payments suspended. Cash also claimed that a small minority were “actively saying ‘no’ to a job”. Sunrise attacked “dole bludgers” in a promo tweet, and ABC newsreader Juanita Phillips captured what’s going wrong in this country in her sharp response: “These days I often find myself asking ‘Is this really who we’ve become?’ Then I read something like the @sunriseon7 tweet and realise: yes. Yes it is.”

Sunrise subsequently apologised, but Cash hasn’t and won’t. After all, she is only articulating the firm policy of the prime minister, who calls Labor’s plan to review and raise Newstart “unfunded empathy”, and for whom it is an article of faith that “the harder (people) work, the more they earn, the more they keep of what they earn”. As investigative journalist for The Age Ben Schneiders tweeted in relation to a report about the exploitation of Pacific Island farm workers: “[The] hardest workers I’ve met have tended to be paid the least.” Keeping Newstart at $40 a day and issuing robodebt notices to the dead while giving light punishment for wage theft is all part of the Coalition’s plan to increase rewards for the wealthy and punish the poor. Today, via Radio National’s Background Briefing we learn of private providers making $600 to “tick and flick” clients on the ParentsNext program, even as the government yesterday rejected recommendations to overhaul or dump the scheme.

This week’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey showed a rise in poverty in Australia. As Labor frontbencher and former economics professor Andrew Leigh told parliament yesterday, the figures actually show that, after adjusting for inflation, “Australians are poorer now than when the Liberals came to office.” Interviewed on that claim by 2GB Money News host Ross Greenwood, Leigh explained: “When Tony Abbott took office, the typical Australian household earned $80,600 in disposable terms, and now after inflation they’re down to $80,100. So when people ask the question, ‘Am I better or worse off than when Tony Abbott became prime minister?’ the typical Australian household would have to say, ‘I’m worse off’.” In an op-ed [$] in Crikey today, Leigh writes that in some parts of the country unemployment is worse than it was during the Great Depression, and 21 per cent of Indigenous Australians can’t get work.

Wage stagnation and no plan to deal with it. Underemployment, casualisation and moonlighting on the rise. Retail heading into recession. Achieving a budget surplus is one thing, but at some point the Morrison government’s austerity will prove self-defeating. After being warned that his government was perceived as “mean and tricky”, John Howard loosened the purse strings during the mining boom. Having given away so much future revenue with his unfunded tax cuts, Morrison will struggle to do a repeat performance.

Oh no, not again

“We’ve seen this story before, we know how it goes and we absolutely cannot get sucked into this madness again. That’s why I am calling on Scott Morrison to immediately rule out contributing any Australian military forces to help Donald Trump carry out his vendetta against Iran.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale calls on the prime minister to immediately rule out contributing Australian forces to any US-led military operations against Iran.

“They didn’t want it at all initially … They pushed back and back, and while there was some sympathy about some of the arguments they clearly did not understand the public mood around this stuff.”

A member of former Labor leader Bill Shorten’s shadow cabinet tells the Nine newspapers that senior frontbenchers Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong and Tony Burke all voiced concerns about the party’s policy for a federal ICAC.

Betting against integrity
Amid claims of misconduct against Crown Casino, Labor and the Coalition voted down a parliamentary inquiry into the affair.

The number of tonnes of CO2, representing just 0.01 per cent of Australia’s annual emissions, to be cut following the latest auction – the first since the election – through the Coalition’s Emissions Reduction Fund. The cuts are to be made across three projects at a total cost of less than $1 million.

“[The Committee will examine] The impact of changes to service delivery models on the administration and running of Government programs, with particular reference to: (a) the privatisation of Australia’s visa and citizenship program … (b) Centrelink’s Robodebt compliance and outsourced debt collection program … (c) the broader outsourcing of functions in the Human Services portfolio and at the National Disability Insurance Agency …. (d) the outsourcing of security vetting services in the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency … (e) any related matters.”

From yesterday’s Senate referral to the Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which will report by October 16.

The list

“Despite its iconoclasm, Gladwell’s work isn’t presented as pyrotechnics: it is neither striking in colour and form, nor is it aggressive in its dialogue with the viewer. Rather, one has to let each piece unfold, to sink into it, to suspend the idea that skateboarding or surfing holds no interest and examine what the artist is trying to say, and what the piece in itself is saying.

“This year, seven Australian universities made it into the top 100 in the QS World University Rankings. Their vice-chancellors cheered. International students use this, as well as the Times Higher Education league table, to guide their choices, and their fees are crucial to universities’ revenue ... Yet dig into the data from the QS rankings and a dismal picture emerges of the state of teaching in Australian universities.”

“A product of the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg, Pavlova had driven herself relentlessly, overcoming a lowly birth and weak ankles to enchant the world with her ethereal fragility and peerless bourrées ... Helpman thought her ‘a goddess’, the greatest possible creature on the stage. Every night for 15 months he watched ‘this lonely figure’ practising right up to the moment the curtain rose, when magic began.

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?


The Monthly Today

Spooked on China

The prime minister is backing Australia into a corner

Hartzer must go

Westpac stands universally condemned and the CEO has to take responsibility

Crisis, what crisis?

The PM’s don’t-you-worry-about-that schtick is unconvincing


Today’s humiliating backdown could jeopardise the return to surplus

From the front page

Spooked on China

The prime minister is backing Australia into a corner

Installation view of Tarnanthi at the AGSA

Coming forth like the first light: Tarnanthi 2019

This South Australian festival celebrates the rich diversity of contemporary Indigenous art

Image of Steve Kilbey

The Church frontman Steve Kilbey

The prolific singer-songwriter reflects on four decades and counting in music


Bait and switch

Lumping dingoes in with “wild dogs” means the native animals are being deliberately culled