Thursday, February 21, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

“Hockey owes me”
The Canberra bubble has popped

AAP Image / Sam Mooy

On the back foot over Helloworld, on the last day of a torturous fortnight’s sittings, Christopher Pyne paid a stunning backhanded compliment to Labor this afternoon. Goaded by repeated questions from shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers about the bombshell “Hockey owes me” email revealed in Senate Estimates today, Pyne snapped: “You have known about this for months. If you really thought this was as serious as you are pretending with all of your fake gravity, you would have raised this months ago. This feigned indignation. You might have even decided to try to refer it to one of the agencies if you thought it was that serious, but, no, you didn't do that, the Labor Party didn’t do that, Mr Speaker, they waited, until their political fortunes dipped … This is what happened in the last fortnight, because, inexplicably, the Labor Party decided it was a good idea to pass legislation to weaken Australia's border protection!” Is Labor so smart, that it would save a scandal like Helloworld for a rainy day? File it under “huge, if true”.

To back up slightly, as The Guardian’s live blog has tracked in detail this afternoon, just before Question Time Labor’s leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, stunned Senate Estimates by releasing an email from former Helloworld executive Russell Carstensen. Carstensen was on leave in Europe in April last year when he was contacted by CEO Andrew Burnes to say that a meeting had been arranged with US Ambassador Joe Hockey at short notice, and Carstensen had to fly home via Washington to pitch to him. When Carstensen asked Burnes how such a meeting could be arranged so quickly, Burnes verbally advised him that “Hockey owes me.” Carsten writes that he “found that ‘owes me’ comment strange in the circumstances”.

At the end of Question Time, after calling for the recall of Hockey and the sacking of Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Shorten ripped into the government, moving for a suspension of standing orders to move a motion as follows:

“That the House, one, notes:

A, the foreign minister abolished the Labor government’s travel panel and made it compulsory for all government travel to be booked through Helloworld companies.

B, the finance minister received free flights to Singapore from Helloworld just before it was awarded a multimillion-dollar whole-of-government contract by the minister’s own department;

C, the CEO of Helloworld and one of its largest shareholders, Mr Andrew Burnes, is the Liberal Party treasurer;

D, the US ambassador Joe Hockey helped Helloworld lobby for embassy travel arrangements, but embassy staff were not aware of Mr Hockey’s million-dollar Helloworld shareholding when he directed them to set up the meeting with a Helloworld company, a meeting which Mr Hockey personally attended;

E, DFAT officials in Australia were not told about Mr Hockey’s conflict of interest until after the meeting, and Mr Hockey did not list his million-dollar Helloworld shareholding on his DFAT register of interests until the month after that meeting;

F, explosive estimates evidence today confirms that the meeting was arranged, because in the words of Mr Andrew Burnes – ‘Hockey owes me’; and

G, these are the latest examples of members of this government acting as if they are above the rules, treating taxpayers’ money as their own.

He continued to rip into the “born to rule” Liberals, and promised a National Integrity Commission to clean it all up: “This is a Liberal government of their donors, by the donors, for the donors.” Coming on top of everything else, Helloworld has blunted any government attack on medical evacuations, or on franking credits, or on the risk of a recession, or anything else. Canberra bubble? It’s popped.


“[The Morrison government is] already campaigning on fear, seeking to incite hysteria about asylum seekers and border security … If such appeals to fear are to win the government a fillip in the polls, we must anticipate the likelihood of an escalation in rhetoric … We must prepare ourselves for a potential race election, and all that that would involve.” THE GUARDIAN

Former race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, in a preview of his John Curtin lecture tonight.


“In this case, although I am satisfied there has been the potential for interference with the evidence given at the committee, I have not been provided with material to demonstrate any interference has unduly prevented the committee from performing its work. If there is such evidence, for example by members of the committee itself, I would be happy to consider the matter further.”SPEAKER TONY SMITH

Tony Smith, Speaker of the House of Representatives, raps Tim Wilson over the knuckles in response to allegations that Wilson improperly interfered with the franking credits inquiry he chairs.

The Number

The number of women to have contested the leadership ballot in the Liberal Party’s history, as noted by Julie Bishop, who announced her retirement from federal politics this afternoon. READ ON

The Policy

“High costs are putting continued pressure on Australian farmers, resulting in lower milk production due to reduced supplementary feeding, herd size reductions, and farm exits. Global dairy markets are relatively well balanced whilst premium offerings are driving value growth in the domestic market.” DAIRY AUSTRALIA

The list

“Brady Corbet’s new feature imagines the rise of a teenage pop star and random gun violence as inseparable strands of modern cultural myth ... Armed with a star turn from Natalie Portman, whose real-life rise from precocious tween to Hollywood darling spans much of the narrative’s purview, and an original soundtrack shared between hitmaker Sia and avant-garde doomsman Scott Walker, it’s an audacious proposition – or so it seems.” the monthly


From sand in every nook and cranny to huntsman spiders galore, accidentally seeing a stranger naked, drones aplenty, a gazillion mosquito bites and noisy birds waking you up at 4am, spot the things that cheesed Oslo Davis off at the campsite this year.  the monthly


“In the past, Letissier has spoken about her sense that people perceive her to be too rude, too aggressive, too much. But that seems to be of little concern to her now. Earnest statements are punctuated with absurd dramatic flourishes, diffusing any idea that she’s pretentious or taking herself too seriously. When people say she’s too intense, she tells me, leaning in closer, she simply asks herself, ‘What would Madonna do?’” The saturday paper

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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