Monday, March 25, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

The Coalition’s win in NSW was hardly emphatic


There are some positive outcomes from the re-election of the Berejiklian government in New South Wales on Saturday: it will strengthen the arm of “moderates” inside the Liberal Party against the conservative culture warriors; the Nationals got a much-deserved drubbing from country voters, particularly in the western half of the state, over the mismanagement of the Murray–Darling Basin; and it is likely to result in more power and influence for the three lower-house independents who are committed to action on climate change and cleaner state politics.

The weekend vote also cast a harsh verdict on that very familiar, casual racism suggested by Opposition leader Michael Daley’s remarks that “people from Asia typically with PhDs” were pushing up Australian house prices. Hopefully, given the way last week unfolded for an apologetic Daley, no mainstream politician will ever again see fit to make that kind of dog-whistling comment in public or in private. “It’s not even that you shouldn’t say them, you shouldn’t think them,” federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten told journalists in Melbourne this morning.

Gladys Berejiklian has been widely and rightly congratulated for being the first woman elected as premier of New South Wales, and the first leader of a Liberal government re-elected for a third term in the state since Robert Askin in 1971. Let’s hope Berejiklian does not emulate the corruption of Askin, who sold knighthoods to businesspeople in an earlier outbreak of the NSW disease.

There are plenty of worrying signs, including last week’s Sydney Morning Herald report that the senior Treasury official who drove the $2.6 billion privatisation of the land titles registry subsequently became its chief financial officer. Not to mention dubious, cosy contracts from the demolition and rebuild of Allianz Stadium to the construction and operation of Northern Beaches Hospital to WestConnex. In casting their vote on Saturday, voters were simply unready to forgive Labor the corruption that flourished after long-serving premier Bob Carr stepped down in 2005, when corrupt powerbrokers Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi ruled the roost and took the party over an electoral cliff in 2011. The Liberal campaign tried hard to link Daley – who had name-checked Obeid in his first speech to parliament – to the corruption of those years, and no doubt some of that mud stuck.

Berejiklian has been dubbed the “Gladiator” and is assured her place in the Liberal pantheon, but her victory on Saturday was only emphatic because her party was steeled for defeat. At the time of writing, counting increased the chance that the Nationals would hold Dubbo, suggesting that the Coalition will govern with a reduced majority. But the premier herself has already indicated she will work closely with the three independents who were re-elected – Sydney’s Alex Greenwich, Lake Macquarie’s Greg Piper and Wagga Wagga’s Joe McGirr.

To the extent that NSW voters seem to prefer living under state and federal governments of different political persuasions, as they have done for 47 of the 74 years since the end of World War Two, the result on Saturday could remove a potential barrier to the election of a Shorten government. If they had punished the Berejiklian government for the sins of her party colleagues in Canberra, NSW voters may have felt satisfied and a degree less vengeful come the federal election in May. Saturday’s result suggests that the NSW election was fought on state issues.

Unfortunately for Shorten, however, we have to go back to Whitlam to find a Labor leader who took his party from Opposition into government while a Liberal government held power in NSW. Bob Hawke in 1983 and Kevin Rudd in 2007 both took office when Labor governments ruled NSW. Shorten is often compared to Whitlam in terms of left-wing policy adventurism, but I suspect this is one comparison he would prefer to ignore.


“QE [quantitative easing] has dramatically increased inequality globally. It’s a large part of what’s behind the yellow vest protests in France. It’s what’s caused Trump’s election, fundamentally – massive inequality.”

Economic historian Steve Keen tells RN Breakfast that the RBA is bound to implement quantitative easing as Australian house prices fall and the economy softens.


“The cashless debit card offers a more streamlined approach to welfare quarantining and benefits to taxpayers.”

Federal social services minister Paul Fletcher announces that another 22,500 people in Cape York and the Northern Territory will go on the cashless debit card that quarantines 80 per cent of each welfare payment.

The Number

The number of Australia’s largest companies that are actively working to undermine Paris agreement targets, and which should be “uninvestable” according to advocacy group Market Forces.

The Policy

“Bill Shorten will confirm on Monday Labor will end the remaining freeze for 100 GP items – including family counselling, urgent after-hours care, mental health care and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health checks – within 50 days if he wins the election in May.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten and shadow health minister Catherine King today announced that, should Labor win in May, one of the first acts of a Labor government will be to end the Medicare freeze.

The list

“Having caught their breath over the weekend, they were back to their dog-whistling best: of course the Christchurch tragedy was an unforgiveable atrocity, but … And then followed the usual lines about how Jihadists are the real terrorists, the extremes of the left are just as culpable as the extremes of the right, and the usual self-serving sophistry.”


“[Kon] Karapanagiotidis is firmly of the view that, like him, other Australians find themselves feeling envious of the leadership of our small neighbour nation. ‘When you look at Jacinda and then you look at Scott, the contrast is so stark: between the one who seeks to unite us and to find a space where we come together in a sense of love, compassion and inclusion, and one who has sought to do the opposite, and spread fear, disunity and paranoia.’” 


“During the period of the negotiations over Trump Tower in Moscow, at a time when Trump was emerging as a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump praised Putin as someone who was ‘running his country … a leader … unlike what we have in this country’, while, in return, Putin praised Trump as ‘a very colourful and talented man’.” 

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?


The Monthly Today

Failure to launch

The Berejiklian spill has been cancelled, but coup attempts are unlikely to stop anytime soon

Big stick, no carrot

The Coalition’s fixation on energy prices distracts from wage stagnation

Another Liu blow

What does the scandal surrounding Gladys Liu tell us about Australian politics?

In Liu of a defence

When Bolt asks if Beijing’s writing Morrison’s speeches, the PM has a problem

From the front page


Spiralling admissions

Victoria’s royal commission hears stories of a dysfunctional, under-resourced mental health system

Failure to launch

The Berejiklian spill has been cancelled, but coup attempts are unlikely to stop anytime soon

Image of ‘Sachiko’ my Miwa Yanagi

‘Here We Are’ at the Art Gallery of NSW

An opportunity for rethinking the position of women in contemporary art


The Newcastle trial of Graeme Lawrence

The second most senior churchman in Australia to be found guilty of child sexual abuse