Monday, July 22, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Whose side are you on?
The Opposition can’t keep joining the government

Source: AAP Image / Lukas Coch

Labor leader Anthony Albanese struck the right note in the wake of the May election defeat, recognising that there was conflict fatigue in the electorate, but his pitch for more bipartisanship has been thrown right back in his face. Prime Minister Scott Morrison today called Albanese the “Opposition leader with a capital O” and the refrain from government ministers is all about emphasising division: “Whose side are you on?” Two weeks ago it was “take it or leave it” from the government on the $158 billion income tax cut package, and Labor finally capitulated. Far from crediting the Opposition for eventually supporting bills, the government humiliates them for vacillating: on foreign fighters, on the $5 billion drought relief fund… Sooner rather than later Labor must surely get capitulation fatigue and rebound as a genuine opposition.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s bill to prevent foreign fighters returning to Australia, reintroduced in July and up for debate in both houses this week, has a long history which was outlined [$] in this handy explainer by Crikey today. Some have asked whether the laws were either necessary or effective amid revelations that as many as 40 “jihadis” have already come back here. The Australian this morning reported [$] that Labor’s shadow minister for home affairs, Kristina Keneally, was to be briefed by ASIO today, but was concerned that the government implement the 18 recommendations of the powerful Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Meanwhile, however, Dutton amped up the rhetoric and the chair of the JCIS Andrew Hastie tells the newspaper he is “very comfortable” with the bill as it stands. Going by past form, it is hard to see Labor picking a fight with the government on this issue. 

On the $5 billion drought fund, Labor was under pressure from farmers today [$] to back the government’s bill, and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud was also amping up the partisan rhetoric, stoking division by calling out “whose side are you on?” In an op-ed in this morning’s Daily Telegraph, Albanese accused [$] the government of doubling down on partisan politics by making the drought fund conditional on abolishing the existing Building Australia Fund, which is used to fund new infrastructure projects, including in rural and regional Australia.

In Question Time this afternoon, shadow minister Joel Fitzgibbon pressed the government on why the fund would not make any payments until next financial year – which seems ludicrous – but got short shrift. 

The government’s determination to play hardball was obvious in Question Time, when it shut down a question from Opposition business manager Tony Burke, about how Martin Parkinson’s letter clearing former ministers Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop from any breach of the ministerial standards was consistent with reports that the then foreign minister once spruiked for Palladium in a video. The government moved that Burke no longer be heard, and after 10 minutes of mucking about in silent divisions using the new iPads, he wasn’t.

The government holds all the cards at the moment.

“I think that Liberals should pay very close attention to the comments of former leader John Howard on this matter … I am someone who believes the Newstart allowance amount should be more than reviewed, which was Labor’s last position, it should be increased.”

Liberal senator Dean Smith, debating a Greens bill to increase the Newstart payment by $75 a week.

“The detention centre on Manus Island is closed, has been closed for some time. There is no detention centre on Manus Island. I think it’s important that Australians are no longer told that somehow there is a detention centre that’s operating on Manus Island.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison talking semantics at a press conference with PNG Prime Minister James Marape. Morrison rejected Marape’s call for a timetable to shut down the processing of asylum seekers on Manus Island.

China’s military and the plan for dominance
As China seeks to assert dominance, Australia finds itself upping the stakes in a game it doesn’t want to play. Hugh White on the gamble with China’s military dominance.

The amount that Masterchef star George Calombaris would have made on the ASX if he had invested the $7.8 million wages taken from his restaurants’ employees, during the period of investigation by Fair Work Australia, according to the ACTU. Instead, his company made a contrition payment of $200,000.

“That the following matter be referred to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee for inquiry and report by 10 September 2019: (a) compliance by former Ministers of State with … the Prime Minister’s Statement of Ministerial Standards … and (b) any related matters.”

From Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick’s motion to appoint an inquiry into the new jobs of former ministers Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne, which is likely to succeed with support of Labor and the crossbench.

The list

“The wider pledge from the landing on our satellite – ‘We came in peace for all mankind’ – seemed problematic. If there was any peace, it was only a blip – a momentary truce in the Cold War that was fuelling the horrors of Vietnam and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. And for all mankind?”

“In the end, the election was not a referendum on wages, as Bill Shorten predicted. Nor was it the climate change election, as progressives hoped and science demanded. Instead, it became a generational contest between the aged and the rest. And as so many times before, older voters delivered for the Coalition.”

“In mid 1990 I talked to José Ramos-Horta. He was the resistance’s key diplomatic voice, keeping his nation’s cause alive on the international stage. I wanted to find out about smuggling someone into the rugged mountains from where Gusmão directed military and political activities. After a month the answer came back: Gusmão was keen to seize the opportunity to have his voice heard by the outside world.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


The Monthly Today

Image of prime minister Gough Whitlam addressing reporters outside Parliament after his dismissal by governor-general John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Palace fetters

An elected Australian government could still be dismissed by the Queen

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cluster struck

A second wave of COVID-19 cases is dragging the country down

Image of Barnaby Joyce

‘It’s our fault’

Barnaby Joyce says Nats to blame for the Coalition’s Eden-Monaro defeat

Welcome flat

Australia will not take tens of thousands of Hong Kongers

From the front page

Image of prime minister Gough Whitlam addressing reporters outside Parliament after his dismissal by governor-general John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Palace fetters

An elected Australian government could still be dismissed by the Queen

David Gulpilil at the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 2016.

The many faces of David Gulpilil

Gulpilil’s surrealist performances reveal our collective unconscious

Still from ‘Contempt’

The death of cool: Michel Piccoli, 1925–2020

Re-watching the films of the most successful screen actor of the 20th century

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cluster struck

A second wave of COVID-19 cases is dragging the country down