Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Shorten keeps on winning
The election coverage is stuck in sideshow alley

You might not notice from the coverage, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten keeps, rather boringly, racking up wins. An innocent line in The Australian’s PoliticsNow blog last night captured the news dilemma, flagging [$] that Shorten “got the audience vote in the leaders’ debate, but what do our experts have to say?” The audience in last night’s leaders’ debate scored Shorten as the emphatic victor by 25 to 12, and by my tally he won the all-important bursts-of-applause count by four to one. This morning’s Essential poll again has Labor ahead, with an election-winning lead of 51–49, just like yesterday’s Newspoll. There’s a reason the coverage feels all over the place: this election is highly unpredictable, with an ugly far-right circus in town, from One Nation to Clive Palmer and the rest; 19 seats are held on margins of less than 2 per cent (and 10 of 1 per cent or less); and a swag of ordinarily super-safe Liberal- and National-held seats are under assault from viable independents. There is so much going on in sideshow alley it is hard to stay focused on the main arena. The contest there might be less colourful, but the truth is this: Labor is in front and keeps on staying in front.

Labor is ahead for good reason. Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them, as the saying goes, and this Coalition government has done everything that would normally be considered necessary. The leadership is tarnished with a mid-term switch to Morrison (although notice how commentary about voters punishing the Coalition for getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull has gone into hibernation as the daggy dad proves competitive), and there has been a string of heavyweight departures. The government is mired in a sea of scandals that leave a bad taste. And on policy (which used to be good politics), as Guardian Australia’s political editor Katharine Murphy wrote after last night’s debate, “Morrison really has nothing to say beyond don’t vote for Shorten. That is it.”

On policy, there is an interesting debate today. Not about cash refunds for unused franking credits. The pensioner who asked Shorten about them last night got an unusually straightforward answer – that he would not be affected, end of story – despite the PM’s bluster. And not the “give us the cost of your climate policy” line that the PM tried to bully Shorten with last night – if we’re going to be balanced, we might as well ask Morrison for the cost of his non-climate policy. (While we’re on the subject, notice that Morrison’s claim last night on how the Coalition turned around Labor’s 1.1 billion-tonne emissions deficit were rated “misleading” by an exhaustive RMIT ABC Fact Check a fortnight ago, when they were wheeled out by Energy Minister Angus Taylor, and was the one downright misleading statement of the debate.)

Labor’s unprecedented plan to boost the wages of child-care workers, announced yesterday, resulted in a backlash from business fearing similar intervention in other sectors, and Shorten has been forced today to rule out any extension of the plan. “We think childcare is a unique sector,” he told [$] reporters on the campaign trail in Perth. “So the model that we’re going to finally sort out the underpayment of early childhood educators is a template that we will only use for childcare … We have other mechanisms to help other industries.”

But the story dominating today’s election coverage is the freakshow that is One Nation, with the abrupt-but-arguably-belated resignation of its number-two Senate candidate for Queensland, “family man” Steve Dickson. Though Pauline Hanson will continue in the Senate until 2022, perhaps this election will mark the beginning of the end One Nation's second wave. It will not, however, mark the end of the parade of far-right, racist, Trumpist clowns trying to feed the outrage cycle and shock their way into parliament. They are fake politicians; we should stop going to their press conferences.


“I think most Australians would be outraged if they knew the full story. The Coalition Government has slashed climate science funding, censored important information and repeatedly made false claims.”

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie on the release of the council’s new report, “Climate Cuts, Cover-ups and Censorship”.


“If it’s a deal that benefits the National Party … then I’m certainly not against it. The fact is [Pauline Hanson] acknowledges that our policies are more closely aligned with the interests and wants of her voters than the Greens or Labor … So it just makes sense that she has put us above other candidates.”

Nationals Leader Michael McCormack discussing a preference deal with One Nation.

The Number

The number of times that Barnaby Joyce said “Hamish” as he stumbled through 57 seconds of torturous questioning by The Project’s Hamish Macdonald, conceding he had done some accountancy work for the previous owners of two properties subsequently bought by Eastern Australia Agriculture.

The Policy

“800,000 electricity customers in South Australia, New South Wales and South-East Queensland will get a better energy deal as the Morrison Government continues to drive down power prices.”

Angus Taylor announces the release of the Australian Energy Regulator’s final determination for the default market offer to cap electricity prices in three states.

The list

“For Murray’s eye and ear, which are the best in the business, the world’s a romp. His gift is to defamiliarise, even denature, shared perception – its mesh of acculturated assumptions and emotions (he has placed himself on the autism spectrum) – then recombine it in his idiolect. To say things differently is to read things differently is to see and hear (and feel) them differently.”


“For all its reckoning with the father–son relationship, what really drives this book is a political rage that few of Louis’ contemporaries can harness. The book ends with a virulent j’accuse aimed at a string of politicians whose decisions have pushed Louis’ father closer to death through callous economic rationalisation, falling hardest on the poor.”  


“When Celeste’s titular opera singer (Radha Mitchell) is asked by an interviewer why, as ‘one of Australia’s most promising young sopranos’, she gave it up right at her peak, one suspects that Hackworth hasn’t yet entirely given up his meta-games. Some may have asked the same of a precociously gifted filmmaker whose sophomore feature took 11 years. The highly strung Celeste evades the interviewer’s eyes. ‘Yeah, well, I’d spent a few years in the spotlight and I’d had enough.’” 


“Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty is examining links between political donations and the issuing and buyback of agricultural water licences, amid concerns that undeclared conflicts of interest could be fuelling corruption. Keelty told The Saturday Paper this week he is concerned about the extent of undeclared conflicts of interest among politicians, lobby groups and businesses operating in the water market.”

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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