Monday, April 8, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

But wait there’s more …
A bonus week of government, brought to you by the ocker-in-chief


“Accountability never sleeps,” joked Senate clerk Richard Pye today in an estimates hearing for which neither witnesses nor senators were prepared. Today, as the 45th parliament comes back from the grave to haunt us, we heard that last week’s backflip to extend the energy supplements outlined in the budget to Newstart recipients was confirmed at 11.40pm on the night. We also learned [$] that the parliament building’s bungled security upgrade led to an assistant secretary retiring on Friday, and two other senior employees taking personal leave. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a press conference to share some boofheaded observations about the kind of car Australians like to drive – that “have a bit of grunt” and are definitely not the electric kind – and how Labor wants to “end the weekend” [$].

As with his idea of “fair dinkum” power – definitely not renewable – or his predecessor Tony Abbott’s dismissal of Labor’s “wacko” fibre-to-the-premises version of the NBN, Scott Morrison anchors the Coalition ever more firmly in the past. The Morrison government gives off its own sense of range anxiety: when the campaign finally comes, how are they going to last the requisite four to six weeks? Apart from rubbishing Labor, what on earth are they going to talk about? Will the prime minister run out of words?

This bonus week of government serves no apparent purpose, apart from running up the taxpayer-funded ad-spend-o-meter, ticking over at somewhere around $600,000 [$] a day, to sell us on last week’s budget. That may not be necessary: the budget has gone down fairly well, according to the two polls published in The Australian and the Nine newspapers today. Setting aside the predictable skew in the headlines and analysis, a story [$] in The Australian itself suggests that the underlying results were very similar. Newspoll had Labor ahead by 52:48, and Ipsos by 53:47, David Briggs wrote: “the Ipsos poll confirmed that voters rated the federal budget as one of the fairest in years with 38 per cent expecting to be better off and 24 per cent worse off. The Newspoll respondents also gave the thumbs up to the budget with 34 per cent expecting to be better off and 19 per cent worse off.” The polling changes very little: far from getting a bounce, the government remains in an election-losing position, as it has for almost all of the last term.

What mileage does the government expect to get from attacking Labor’s innocuous new electric vehicles sales target, anyway? It is not so different from the government’s own policy, as The Guardian pointed out yesterday; Crikey has wrapped up [$] the weekend’s embarrassing gaffe by Energy Minister Angus Taylor, who shared a discredited anti-EV story by Top Gear in a tweet he has since deleted. 

The Courier Mail speculated [$] that the delay gives time for Adani’s coal mine to gain its final sub-approvals from Environment Minister Melissa Price, amid sensational warnings from Queensland senator James McGrath that he would call for her resignation if the groundwater management plan was not signed off before the election. The PM, and the Nationals’ Matt Canavan and David Littleproud, all played a straight bat today, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was “extraordinary” to read in the newspapers today that “LNP politicians are bullying the minister for the environment – saying, ‘You will lose your job if you don’t give us the answer we want on Adani.’” A final approval could really fire up the campaign – already today a “Stop Adani” protester disrupted the PM’s speech in Brisbane.

Just call the election already.


“All the polling and electoral evidence for 30 years tells us the same thing – that government handouts have not influenced voter behaviour one jot.”

Political editor Peter Hartcher on why last week’s budget, the most well received in the past five years, has not improved the government’s chances of winning.


“Slalom skiing is by its nature a selfish sport and many of us regard Zali as selfish. She has mentored no one on the slopes here since her retirement.”

An anonymous alpine ski business owner takes a cheap shot at independent candidate for Warringah Zali Steggall via Chris Mitchell’s column in The Australian today.

The Number

The cost to taxpayers of federal government advertising contracts struck this year, according to tender documents tallied by The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Policy

“Australia’s cultural and creative industries are a $111 billion sector and employ 399,000 workers nationally. Cultural symbols lie at the heart of what it means to be Australian. Yet the Commonwealth government has no formal national policy for this sector.”

From the outline of the “Australian Cultural Policy: the next decade” symposium, being held at State Library of Victoria today and live tweeted at #policydecade.

The list

“The Coorong has long been recognised as the barometer of the health of the Murray–Darling. As the damning Murray–Darling Basin Royal Commission into the system’s management recently observed, en route to excoriating authorities for maladministration, negligence and ignoring catastrophic risks of climate change, ‘it is a generally accepted truism that a river dies from the mouth’. So, as thousands of fish go belly up in New South Wales, it’s timely to check in on the Coorong.” 


“The energy supplement is not just mean and tricky; it is devoid of policy, and is an admission of total defeat. When Scott Morrison stumbled into office, his focus on energy policy was to bring down power prices – indeed it was not just the focus, it was the only thing that mattered. He re-christened his new minister, Angus Taylor, the Minister for Bringing Down Energy Bills. But after all the bluster and ballyhoo, the threats and ultimatums against the power companies, and the chatter of the since-abandoned big stick, almost nothing has been achieved.” 


“With the government behind in the opinion polls and needing to win every seat it holds and more to stay in office, the budget’s contents and proximity to the election reflect the sky-high political stakes. Overall, it has been designed primarily to back in the Coalition’s main campaign argument: that it can be trusted to run the economy and Labor can’t.”

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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