Friday, February 15, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Pub test: restart the boats
The Coalition’s scare campaign is no sure thing in the suburbs


The beast is stirring alright: defeated on the medical evacuation bill this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton have played the border protection card – not to say the race card – as they were probably always going to, one way or the other. How will this play out in the electorate?

One take is that of The Australian’s Peter van Onselen, who argued [$] yesterday that the Coalition has been handed an opportunity: “Labor cannot win, politically speaking on this issue.” Similarly, David Crowe for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age wrote: “Labor may have just lost the election.” Another take is that of the person who abused a Liberal state candidate for Sydney’s East Hills electorate yesterday, telling her that “the Libs are refugee abusers and you’re disgusting”. Independent senator Derryn Hinch, who provided the last crucial vote to ensure the medical transfer law would pass, pondered on-air this week whether Labor might have had a win in the parliament but would lose out in the pubs. At Punchbowl’s Mirage Hotel, in the extremely safe inner–Western Sydney electorate of Opposition business manager Tony Burke, it’s far from certain.

On Punchbowl Road, no one I stop and ask about the medical evacuation bill and refugee policy has the faintest clue what I’m talking about – whether their background is Anglo, Asian, African or Middle Eastern – which suggests that not much of what happened in parliament this week has made an impression in the real world.

In the Mirage Hotel, when I ask about refugees, a grumpy old codger drinking alone in the smoking area says something unprintably racist, and points out that no, there is no other pub in Punchbowl since Woolworths swallowed up the RSL. He asks why politicians don’t do something about CPI pushing his rent up 20 per cent a year, then adds that “the biggest problem with Punchbowl is the cops won’t come here”.

Later I talk to his mate, a salt-of-the-earth bloke in hi-vis. Geoff, 62, is a produce buyer who works out of the nearby Flemington markets and who has lived in the electorate for 35 years. Geoff donkey-voted last time – “a sad state of affairs” – and is not sure yet how he’ll vote next time. He says the parliament made the right decision on the medivac bill this week, adding, “I thought it would have been a little bit bigger margin, instead of one vote. I thought they might have won by a couple more votes than they did.” Which is a point worth making: Liberals like Craig Laundy and Russell Broadbent – who were thought to be a chance of crossing the floor – toed the party line this week.

Geoff has no problem with Australia taking “proper refugees” in fear of persecution, and basically says if they’re sick, they’re sick. “A politician says, ‘We should make the decisions on this, and don’t worry about the experts, the doctors.’ Well … how about we get a mechanic to operate on you in the operating theatre? It should be up to the doctors, 100 per cent.” Asked who he credits with the outcome – Labor, the Greens, Kerryn Phelps? – he is certain: “Kerryn Phelps, 100 per cent.”

Geoff is not buying the Coalition’s argument that passing the medical evacuation bill means the boats will start coming again. “They’re only saying it’s not new arrivals that are going to get all this treatment – so far as they’ll be able to come onshore and get medical treatment and all that – it’s only the ones that are already in the camps. So what are they opening Christmas Island back up for? It’s a waste of time. It’s only a scare tactic.” Does he think the general public will be swayed? “There’s a lot of people that are racist,” he says. “They’re the ones that are going to be scared by it. I work with all races, have done for 40 years. As far as I’m concerned, everyone, you treat them as they treat you.”


“We can’t come to Australia because … when we stay on Manus we’re worth more to the politicians in Australia. I have been put in a cage for six years. But instead of making me weak, the cage made me so strong.” THE GUARDIAN

Asylum seeker Abdul Aziz Muhamat, held on Manus Island for six years, accepting the 2019 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders in Geneva.


“Badgerys Creek airport might have a real problem if you apply the principles associated with this particular judgment … I think it’s unhelpful.”THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW [$]

Paul Flynn, CEO of coal miner Whitehaven, responding to the recent Land and Environment Court ruling against the new Rocky Hill coal mine on climate change grounds.

The Number

Staffers to former employment minister Michaelia Cash who had advance warning of federal police raids on the AWU in 2017, according to evidence heard in the Federal Court today. At the time she said one staffer knew of the imminent raids. READ ON [$]

The Policy

“The committee recommends that all unspent Foundation Partnership funds be returned to the Commonwealth immediately; and that these funds be earmarked for expenditure on projects to protect and preserve the Reef, to be expended by 30 June 2024.” senate inquiry into great barrier reef 2050 partnership program

The list

“You don’t need to be cool to be transported upon first hearing Buzzcocks’ indelible ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)‘, to feel Shelley’s ache as he sings ‘You make me feel like dirt, and I’m hurt‘, or to recognise his conflicted desire – queer, straight, whatever. Buzzcocks peeled back punk rock’s sometimes prohibitive, macho posturing.” the MONTHLY


“On average we discard 20 per cent of the food we purchase, which amounts to one out of five of our shopping bags at the supermarket. Up to 40 per cent of the average household bin waste is food. ‘The beautiful part of that is if we have caused that problem, we can solve that problem … it is up to us,’ Ronni says.” the SATURDAY PAPER


“Those with a political interest in using Hanson to their advantage have been cultivating the myth that her views have evolved and softened. No amount of media spin will alter the fact that Hanson and her party have changed remarkably little since the 1990s.” the MONTHLY

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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