Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

John Setka quits Labor
Anthony Albanese gets a much-needed win… of sorts

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka. Source: Facebook and Lukas Coch / AAP Image

Rogue Victorian CFMEU secretary John Setka has probably done the Opposition leader Anthony Albanese a favour by launching a bitter personal attack against him as he quit the Labor Party today. Setka accused Albanese of “selling out Australian workers and turning his back on the values that underpin both the party and the union movement. Under his leadership, the Labor Party has lost its spine. Worse still, it is in danger of losing its soul.” Not many people will want to side with Setka over Albanese – most will want to do the opposite, and rally around the Labor leader. But the truth is that Setka has given voice to genuine concerns about where Albanese is taking the Opposition, which earlier this week led to a damaging report [$] that some in the party were questioning the leader’s strategy, and had “buyer’s remorse” about electing him leader.

In that report, which came out on the same day Newspoll suggested voters were still happy [$] with the May election result, The Australian’s Troy Bramston wrote that the PM was contemplating an early 2021 election because he was increasingly confident he had Albanese’s measure. Bramston wrote that Labor MPs thought the party was paralysed and directionless, and the “general view” was that Albanese had turned out to be worse than most had expected. He quoted one Labor frontbencher saying: “For a guy who wanted to be leader so bad, and couldn’t wait to announce he was running for it less than 24 hours after the election, he does not know what to do with the job.” Morrison joyfully wheeled out those quotes in parliament this week, as he rejected the Opposition’s proposal for a war cabinet to deal with the drought – a dead horse that shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon is still flogging [$] today.

In what is probably a convenient bit of posturing, Setka today said his decision to drop a legal challenge to Albanese’s expulsion motion was driven by the Opposition’s controversial decision to side with the government on new free-trade deals with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru. “These agreements are a disaster for Australian jobs and living standards. Talk about sending a signal to unions and workers on where the party stands. And, it no longer appears to be on their side.” Plenty of those in the Labor movement would no doubt agree with that point, right up to and including ACTU president Michele O’Neil, who said much the same thing this week.

More importantly, the whole strategy of cuddling up to this government is deeply problematic. Albanese struck a welcome note when he first talked about conflict fatigue, and hastening slowly kind of makes sense at this point in the cycle. He is wrong to reject the title of Opposition leader, however. True, former Liberal leader Tony Abbott kicked off Australia’s lost decade by declaring when he took over in 2009 that the job of the Opposition is to oppose, embracing destructive, polarised hyper-partisan politics. But Albanese is over-correcting, and in his short stint as leader has racked up a string of capitulations that would leave many progressive voters breathless: why vote with the government on bills that Labor fundamentally opposes?

Today the Opposition voted with the Coalition on the “big stick” energy legislation, rejecting Adam Bandt’s amendments that would have stopped the government forcing coal-fired power stations to stay open, or give them taxpayer dollars. Why? What brownie points does Labor expect to get? It’s a chimera that will only benefit the Greens in the end.

For obvious reasons that have been well-traversed, Setka is friendless. Doubtless he is also a liability to the workers’ cause, as he vows to continue a fight against the government’s union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill, which his continuing presence in the CFMEU almost guarantees will pass, assuming Jacqui Lambie means what she says.

Today’s resignation is a win for Albanese, who this afternoon said he had sought Setka’s expulsion because “over a long period of time through his actions, he demonstrated values that were not consistent with the values which the Australian Labor Party holds dear. One of those values is respect for women. The fact that he’s been convicted of breaching a family violence order and the fact that he was also convicted and pleaded guilty to harassment indicates that that’s the case. But there’s also been a range of activities which are in breach of both the Victorian rules of the ALP and the values of the Australian Labor Party.”

But it will be a pyhrric victory for Albanese if he makes the mistake of believing Setka is the only one wondering where he is taking the ALP.

“The settings are right for the economy to strengthen… The circumstances of crisis that would warrant temporary fiscal responses are uncommon.”

Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy, in his first Senate estimates appearance, says the economy is performing only “modestly” but plays down the need for economic stimulus.

“The Coalition government is committed to ensuring Australians have the right skills for the workforce of today and the future, and is funding skills through a number of different components.”

Skills and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, rejecting Labor claims the government has underspent on vocational education and training by $1 billion since 2014.

Out of office
As Labor waits for a review of its election loss, and another into the operations of its NSW branch, Anthony Albanese is wrestling with divisions inside the party. Karen Middleton on the crisis it faces out of office.


The number of people with security cards at Australian airports and seaports who have links to outlaw motorcycle gangs or who are on the National Crime Target List, and hence may be involved in the distribution of drugs, according to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

“Drought is forecast to become more prevalent in future with climate change likely to exacerbate drought conditions and contribute to increased climate volatility and variability that particularly impacts the farming community.”

From the preamble to the National Farmers’ Federation’s National Drought Policy, released today.

The list

“At 80 square metres, Ngurrara Canvas II is a truly immense painting, its overwhelming scale commensurate with its importance in Aboriginal lore and Australian history. The painting, with subject matter encompassing the Ngurrara country of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia, was created by the Aboriginal people of that place as proof of an ongoing claim to their ancestral lands.”

“Thousands of robo-debt notices were issued by accident to Centrelink recipients after an error saw the program’s automated algorithm restart in April this year.”

“Morgan Stanley analysts have estimated that the global space industry will be worth more than $1 trillion by 2040. These new space-mining corporations are keen to get in early on what they see as an emerging market of untold riches. Goldman Sachs Research has predicted that the world’s first trillionaire will make their fortune mining asteroids.”

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?


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