Monday, May 6, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Smugged by the PM
It’s as though Scott Morrison has something up his sleeve

Source: Twitter

Where the bloody hell is Scott Morrison’s campaign? A crackdown on trolling and a few bucks to promote the Australian Made logo would hardly make the grade on a slow news day, and are woefully inadequate announcements from a depleted government in desperate need of a case for re-election, 13 days out. With his frontbench team barely visible and the policy cupboard bare, the prime minister smugs on alone, propelled by his apparent popularity edge over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. The contrast with Labor’s policy-rich campaign, led by a frontbench team bristling with talent and hungry for power, could not be sharper. Yet somehow Morrison pushes on, keeping the Coalition in contention.

There were decidedly mixed signals in today’s Newspoll and Ipsos surveys, but both showed Labor in an election-winning lead and a tightening in the government’s favour: according to The Australian, voters were [$] “turning sharply against Bill Shorten”, while the Nine newspapers reported that voters had marked Morrison down over the past month and were “turning towards Opposition Leader Bill Shorten”. The picture is confusing. David Crowe observed this morning that “there is something missing from this campaign”, and it’s hard to disagree.

It’s not policy substance that’s missing. In the wake of today’s debate between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and his shadow, Chris Bowen, ACOSS released research from the Parliamentary Budget Office. The numbers back up earlier analysis by the Grattan Institute – airily dismissed by the government without explanation – showing that the 2019 budget is built on the dubious assumption that, without major new spending cuts, public spending over the next four years will have to be held at the lowest levels of growth in 50 years. “How will the future be funded?” ACOSS asks. It’s a key question getting lost in the campaign.

Bowen warned Frydenberg that Labor, if elected, would have a mandate to implement its franking credit reforms, and complained about the government’s lack of policy. “We come to the table with a lot. Josh comes to the table with not very many at all. No policies because they have no vision. No big-picture view of what this country should look like for the generations to come.” The Opposition, rather than the government, is boxing at shadows.

As the two leaders haggle over a third debate on Wednesday night, shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese got stuck into his opposite number, Michael McCormack: “I’ve written to Michael McCormack, I’ve sent text messages, I’ve sent smoke signals to try and find him. He can’t be found. He’s the deputy PM of Australia, he’s in charge of infrastructure, but I can’t find him to have a debate.” 

After Friday’s effort, Albo reckons, Shorten has got Morrison licked, “creamed absolutely. 1–0. Then 2–0. There were going to be three rounds. When you’re 2–0 behind, you maybe concede.”

It’s almost as though Morrison has something up his sleeve for the last week, as the Liberals did in the New South Wales election.


“Among the many issues needing early attention from the winner of the federal election is universities. Trouble is, neither side seems to have much idea of how to fix the mess both parties spent decades creating.”

Sydney Morning Herald economics editor Ross Gittins condemns both sides of politics over the dumbing down of Australia’s universities.


“Because he’s so physically and mentally disciplined, 24 hours of his day is really given to others. He is really a person for others and he takes that commitment so seriously.”

Former Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen endorses the member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, in a new Liberal Party advertisement.

The Number

The amount that the prime minister has committed to reinvigorate and promote the “Australian Made” logo in key export markets, “backing Australia’s manufacturing sector to expand and create more jobs”.

The Policy

“The likely communications minister in a Labor government has put the tech giants on notice, declaring the party is ready to act on a range of issues including market dominance, use of consumers’ data and harmful online content.”

In an exclusive interview, shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland acknowledges a “lack of goodwill” between Canberra and companies such as Facebook and Google, and vows to take action.

The list

“Installing three prime ministers in six years has destroyed the Liberal Party’s claim to provide stable leadership. This election campaign there seems little left to the party but appeals to the hip pocket. Even the politics of race have turned against it.”


“Federal Coalition and Labor MPs and candidates are pledging billions of dollars in local grants for roads, commuter car parks, mental health centres and sports facilities in a frenzied sandbagging exercise in their most vulnerable marginal seats. Victorian Liberal MPs appear to be leading the charge with commitments worth nearly $1 billion made in the Liberal-held seat of La Trobe alone.”  


“Surely, after last year’s traumas over section 44 of the Constitution, you would expect a modicum of due diligence with an election looming. And with social media proving to be a rich source of evidence of behaviour that is out of step with community standards, this is doubly so. But no – even when nominations have closed and how-to-vote cards have been printed, they have been dropping like flies.”


The Monthly invites readers to enter the draw for the chance to win a double pass to special event screenings, in selected cities nationally, of Acute Misfortune.

Acute Misfortune is the award-winning film adaptation of Erik Jensen’s biography of artist Adam Cullen. It is a closely researched film that reveals an iconic artist and an acclaimed journalist in unsparing detail. It is also a film about theft and the commerce of theft; the instability of lies and the consequences of a flawed contract; and coming through a relationship to find meaning in its wake.

Special event screenings will take place nationally from May 9 to May 26. Entries close at noon AEST on Tuesday, May 7.  ENTER HERE

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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