Thursday, April 11, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

It’s onnnnn
Scott Morrison has (finally) called the election

AAP Image / Lukas Coch

If it’s a climate-change election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison doesn’t get it. To underline that point in thick black crayon, he seems to have waited until Adani’s Carmichael coalmine was approved before visiting the governor-general this morning, as if to placate his Queensland colleagues. Morrison will now face voters as the person who a) brought a lump of coal into parliament; b) replaced a prime minister over a National Energy Guarantee that was designed to reduce emissions; and c) just approved the most hated mine in Australia, throwing open a whole new coal province in the Galilee Basin in the 21st century. Chuck in a bit of retrograde nonsense about electric vehicles and you have the perfect pitch – a veritable prime ministerial “up yours” to anyone concerned about climate change. Another hottest summer ever, a million dead fish in the Darling River, wildfires, cyclones, school students on strike, 19 per cent swings in the Liberal heartland… None of it sinks in. Remarkable.

It’s not the first time that climate change has been a defining election issue – it was in 2007, and arguably in the 2013 poll that gave us arch-denier Tony Abbott – and it won’t be the last. But the election is also about more than climate change. It’s also an election about the future of the tax system, with a yawning half-trillion dollar gap between Labor promising to raise $200 billion in Commonwealth revenues over the next decade and the Coalition planning to slash $300 billion in revenue with its radical stage-two and stage-three income tax cuts.

It’s an election about education, with Labor promising a $14 billion investment in public schools, which the Coalition has no intention of matching. It’s an election about the dire state of the NBN. Having built Turnbull’s obsolete mixed-technology network, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield had the gall to claim it as a win when Labor this week accepted that the Commonwealth cannot afford to simply rip it out of the ground and replace it. It’s a referendum on wages. It’s a referendum on Michaelia Cash, Barnaby Joyce, Reefgate, robodebt, the Indigenous voice to parliament, offshore detention, the independence of the ABC, and on and on.

Hopefully, the election will also be a referendum on turmoil. Possibly, maybe, whoever wins, the 2019 election will rule a line under the most frustrating decade of Australian politics in living memory, starting when Abbott knifed Turnbull on December 1, 2009 – thereby tossing evidence-based policy-making out the window, torching the sensible centre, and ushering in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd-Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison turnstile of prime ministers. Hopefully, for the first time since Howard’s last term in 2004–07 – as Morrison said today – whoever gets elected in May will remain the prime minister until the next election, and the leadershite will be done with once and for all.

In his first press conference this morning, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said, “That’s what Australians want – one prime minister for three years, not a revolving door.” On that, if nothing else, he and the PM are singing from the same song-sheet, with Morrison explaining that the change to the Liberals’ rules on leadership were the biggest since Menzies created the party: “It is crystal clear, at this election, it is a choice between me as prime minister and Bill Shorten as prime minister. You vote for me, you’ll get me. You vote for Bill Shorten and you’ll get Bill Shorten.”

With Labor ahead in the last 50 Newspolls, and trading at $1.16 versus the Coalition on $4.85, who do you like?


“The Coalition has bet the house on the frontier states [of Western Australia and Queensland] at the worst possible time. The election is Labor’s to lose because demography is finally moving in its urban direction after a generation when Queensland decided who ruled the nation.”

George Megalogenis argues that Victoria, not Queensland, will be the swing state in this election.


“To pay someone else more, you’ve got to sack someone else to do it, which is the policies of the Labor Party. I don’t think any Australian wants to get paid more in this country as a result of their workmate having to get sacked.”

The prime minister makes no sense on wages at the Launceston Chamber of Commerce.

The Number

Days to go until the federal election on May 18.

The Policy

“This federal election we need candidates who are committed to standing up for Queensland coal mining and energy workers’ rights and jobs … I support coal mining jobs and recognise their value to our communities and economy. I support approval of coal mining developments that meet regulatory requirements. I commit to holding coal mining industry to account for providing permanent, safe, well-paid, local jobs.”

The list

“Nearly three agonised decades in the making, it’s a minor miracle that a movie that once seemed as fanciful as its eponymous crackpot’s tall tales actually exists. Conceived all the way back in 1989, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote originally began shooting in 2000, starring Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort, before infamously falling apart thanks to various acts of God and man alike (the trail of wreckage is cringingly surveyed in the 2002 production documentary, Lost in La Mancha). Since then, Gilliam’s white whale surfaced and sank so many times that it’d become an industry punchline; a cursed project that made the news whenever one veteran lead expired and another was cast.” 


“Labor’s target of 50 per cent fossil-fuel-free vehicle sales by 2030 is comparatively modest. The only political party committed to a complete ban on internal combustion engines by that date is the Greens. It is an indicator of how far behind the game Australia is in addressing climate issues that the Greens’ policy is widely considered radical in Australia, but in fact aligns with what much of the world already is doing. The NRMA, not usually considered a hotbed of radicalism, also advocates a ban on petrol cars by 2025 or 2030.” 


“Even its most ardent critics wouldn’t claim the family law courts have an easy task. Child custody cases can be wickedly complex, especially when one or both parents are alleging abuse. Making the wrong decision can be devastating; children may be ordered into the care of an abusive parent, or prohibited from seeing a safe and loving one. They are not easy decisions, and they require great skill and understanding to get right. Such skill and understanding, however, is dangerously inconsistent across the family law system.”


The Monthly invites Melbourne readers to enter the draw for a chance to win two tickets to a screening of The Scribe on April 17 at ACMI, followed by a panel discussion on speechwriting. The Scribe examines the career of legendary speechwriter Graham Freudenberg, who was at the epicentre of Australian government for nearly 50 years. Former speechwriter and contributor to The Monthly James Button will be on the panel of experts. You can read Button’s Walkley Award–winning essay “Dutton’s Dark Victory” here.

Entries close at 11:59pm AEDT on Monday, April 15, and the winner will be notified on Tuesday, April 16. 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 also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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