Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Albo vs Setka
CFMMEU, ICAC… Labor’s punch-ons are getting nasty

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

With a points win today over Victorian CFMEU secretary John Setka in the state’s Supreme Court, the NSW ICAC trawling through sordid donations to the state ALP branch, and fractious state conferences in Queensland and Western Australia last weekend, it is a safe bet that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better for Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Lucky that Albanese’s motto has been to “hasten slowly”, because the troublemakers inside his party appear to have all the time in the world. It’s a challenge to maintain discipline inside Labor once the blood is up, and a resurgence of factional brawling can hardly be ruled out after six years of apparent calm. It doesn’t help that the Coalition governments in Canberra, New South Wales and even South Australia are setting a bad example, but bitter internal divisions playing out in public do not appear to have cost votes. Disunity is death? Not so much, these days. In fact, it sometimes seems more sport than politics – Albo vs Setka – and the dirtier the fight the more entertaining it is.

Commentators on the ABC’s Insiders agreed that there was a lot riding on today’s Victorian Supreme Court verdict on Setka’s effort to stop the ALP’s national executive from expelling him at Albanese’s request, arguing that it was up to the state branch. Justice Peter Riordan threw out Setka’s case, saying the court did not have jurisdiction to interfere in the decisions of a volunteer association like the Labor Party, but then gave a confounding qualification: “In case I am wrong and the court does have jurisdiction, I have determined that the powers of the National Executive of the ALP to expel a member … are subject to the compliance with the preconditions set out in … the ALP Victorian Branch Rules.” The Age reports that the decision creates more uncertainty and potential delays in Setka’s expulsion – a saga that has already dragged on for months.

The CFMMEU appears to be ripping itself apart in at least three states, with fresh leaks this week against Setka, now at loggerheads with national secretary and ALP executive member Michael O’Connor. O’Connor happens to be overseas on holidays, but is reportedly [$] about to take legal action against Setka over allegations he sought to “pinch” members from the manufacturing division. This comes after recent reports that the union’s former South Australian branch secretary Aaron Cartledge was forced [$] out by Setka in a brutal turf war.

Meanwhile, the Queensland construction division boss, Michael Ravbar, has questioned the CFMMEU’s pro-Adani tactics ahead of the recent federal election, warning that the Palaszczuk government was “being taken for a ride by a shonky multinational with a chequered corporate history”. At the Queensland Labor conference on the weekend, Ravbar backed off [$] from a threat to demand the resignation of Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, who is subject of a Crime and Corruption Commission probe, but he’s clearly building his powerbase.

With Senator Jacqui Lambie yesterday telling [$] O’Connor to “grow a set” and kick Setka out of the CFMMEU or risk watching the crossbenchers in the upper house back the government’s Ensuring Integrity bill, the stakes are ratcheting ever higher for Labor. Albanese has already made his position clear. So has ACTU secretary Sally McManus. Something has to give.

To make things worse, Emma Husar resurfaced on the weekend, with an account of the events last year that shows Labor at its worst – tying her hands while a confidential-but-leaking investigation was underway, and forcing her out as a candidate for Lindsay. The result? Lose–lose–lose.

2019 has been a terrible year for Labor, and Albanese must pick up the pieces. He will be glad when it’s over and done with.

“It is beyond belief that the government would consider expanding robodebt to vulnerable groups, considering the scheme continues to cause so much harm in our community.”

ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie warns against applying the robodebt scheme to pensioners and others, after Guardian Australia reported on leaked official documents advising how Government Services Minister Stuart Robert could plug a $600 million program shortfall.

“A spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, Geng Shuang, said Yang’s case was proceeding ‘in accordance with the law’ and that the state had ‘fully guaranteed’ the protection of his rights.”

A Chinese official confirms that Australian novelist and former Chinese diplomat Yang Hengjun, a pro-democracy blogger, has been charged with espionage in Beijing, an offence that potentially carries the death penalty.

Scott Morrison’s middle class
Scott Morrison says the middle class doesn’t trust the public service. The problem - as Rick Morton reports - is available research says the opposite.


The number of advertisers who have now withdrawn from 2GB after Sydney shock jock Alan Jones disparaged New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. His ratings dropped in the latest survey but he remains Sydney’s most popular radio presenter.

“We can – and should – consider introducing a permanent broad-based investment allowance. For any eligible business that makes an investment, it can immediately deduct a proportion of the asset’s value today. This is on top of depreciation. Say we have a banana grower in Cairns looking to invest in a few sheds for packing, packaging and grading bananas. The whole fit-out might come to $1 million. While this can be depreciated, with a 10 per cent investment allowance they would also get a $100,000 extra deduction this year. Now that’s $100,000 they can re-invest in their company, employ more people, grow more and so on.”

Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott, in a speech a fortnight ago, calling for the kind of investment tax credit Labor introduced temporarily during the financial crisis – a measure The Australian Financial Review today confirms [$] that the treasurer is considering.

The list

“Now on Instagram, #figure8pools has more than 24,000 posts and there are new images posted using the hashtag nearly every day. According to recent figures provided by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, there are 90,000 annual visitors to the pools. [Surf lifesaver Peter] Pearce says that on some weekends the track down from the car park is ‘like a conga line’. He has witnessed many strange sights since the pools became famous on social media.”

“All in all, it’s quite a saga, even without the raids. For more than 40 years, Australia has played hardball with some of the poorest people on earth. It is one thing to be caught out spying to protect citizens from terrorism or for national security, but the allegation that Australia spied for commercial gain, under the cover of an aid program, is something else entirely.”

“If Morrison wants to win the Coalition a fourth consecutive term, sooner or later he will have to show he has a plan to deliver the Australia he says he wants, explaining clearly not only where we are headed but also how we will get there.”

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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