Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

A bland finale
The election campaign is all over bar the shouting

Source: Sky News

En garde! We are at the silly end of the 2019 election campaign: from here on in, nothing that is said or done can be relied upon or will necessarily even make much difference amid the cacophony of advertising and panicked last words before we reach blackout. The Australian says [$] “Defiant Shorten set to wage war with Senate”. Er, not so much. The Australian Financial Review this afternoon reports [$]: “Labor accused of $9b secret spending cuts”, but this is based on unseen analysis by the Liberals, who won’t release their own costings until tomorrow. Some of the media coverage is getting hysterical: Studio 10 co-host Kerri-Anne Kennerley this morning said that a Shorten win would mean the “end to life as we know it”. Analysis by The New Daily shows that over three nights Sky News’s “after dark” made 194 negative comments about Labor compared with 27 for the Liberals, a ratio of more than seven to one. One Nation got more favourable mentions than Labor.

There may well be some desperate stunt ahead of the prime minister’s final National Press Club speech tomorrow, but it is hard to think what might turn the campaign around from here. It was on the Wednesday before the 1996 federal election that Labor treasurer Ralph Willis released a stunning letter, purportedly from then Victorian premier Jeff Kennett to Opposition leader John Howard, complaining about an apparent secret policy of the incoming Liberal government to cut payments to the states by 15 per cent. Kennett immediately denied writing any such thing, and within 45 minutes Willis had to put out a correction, titled “Fraudulent Letters”, which made him look stupid and Labor look desperate. Willis complained that he was victim of a Liberal Party dirt unit (and, in a fascinating footnote, as ABC political editor Andrew Probyn wrote recently, it was Nicola Gobbo, or Lawyer X, then working for the ALP, who in a statement to the federal police pointed the finger at Senator Scott Ryan for writing the letters). Was the course of the election changed? No. Howard was six points up in the polls, and had it in the bag.

In 2010 it was the Monday of the campaign’s last week when Julia Gillard said that “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”. (Technically she was right about that, but slipped up later by calling her own emissions trading scheme a tax.) It was the night before the 2013 election that Tony Abbott promised “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”.

There is real news today: the latest official wage price index for the March quarter shows growth of just 0.5 per cent, confirming what The Australia Institute called the “worst wages slowdown in postwar history”. The real purchasing power of Australian wages has been falling since 2012–13 when the slowdown took hold, according to the Institute. The two major parties have very different answers: Labor today announced a crackdown on wage theft, while Nationals MP Kevin Hogan told ABC Radio that penalty rate cuts were “great for our youth”.

The choice is pretty clear already.

“Not only has Bill led a united Labor team, as a former trade union leader he has the track record of bringing workers and business together … It gives him the experience to achieve consensus with business, unions and community-based organisations for the challenges that lie ahead.”

Former prime minister Bob Hawke endorses Labor leader Bill Shorten in an open letter today.

“I don’t believe her, given that she’s said her biggest issue by far is climate change and Labor has a much better climate change policy than the Coalition.”

Tony Abbott tells The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher that he doesn’t believe independent candidate for Warringah Zali Steggall would help the Liberals form government in the event of a hung parliament, despite Steggall having indicated otherwise.


The growth in combined state and federal funding for non-government schools between the 2007–08 and 2016–17 financial years, which compares with 22 per cent funding growth for public schools.

“Australia is the only OECD country to outsource the entire delivery of publicly funded employment services. The Greens will ensure the public service is responsible for delivering employment services to unemployed workers who face minimal barriers to employment … We will immediately abolish the Targeted Compliance Framework from all employment related programs, including Jobactive, PaTH, Work for the Dole and ParentsNext.”

From the Greens’ plan to transform employment services, released by community services spokesperson Rachel Siewert today.

The list

“According to news reports on May 13 – five days before polling day – Labor would just sneak into government. A full 49 per cent of voters are apparently willing to endure another three years under the Coalition – even after most of its leading members have resigned – rather than risk giving a Bill Shorten–led ALP a go. How to make sense of this state of affairs?”

“Israel Folau became the first Australian athlete sanctioned for expressing religious belief. The effect of Rugby Australia’s pursuit of sanctions against Folau suggests a de facto ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy on religion. Which is difficult for those whose faith, such as Pentecostals, compels them to share the good news.”  

“Morrison is the first Pentecostal to lead a national government in the English-speaking world. There is no readily available retort when the PM states that ‘The Bible is not a policy handbook’, that ‘faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda’ and that there’s no direct connection between his religious beliefs and political perspective ... The unsurprising truth is that an informed understanding of the PM’s political career is impossible without considering his religion.”

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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