Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Slowly but surely, Labor is developing a plan for the COVID recovery

Image of Labor leader Anthony Albanese

Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Via Twitter

Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s seventh “vision statement”, presented in Coffs Harbour today, was notable as much for what it did not contain as for what it did. Namely, there were no hidden ideological, religious or cultural agendas in Albanese’s speech, titled “Tapping the potential of regional Australia”. Labor’s emphasis on investment in infrastructure, education and aged care is a hopeful alternative to the government’s emphasis on fast-forwarding tax cuts, which will lead directly to radical austerity not too far down the track. Albanese, who last week declared Labor’s draft platform for the next election was ready to go, said that COVID-19 has opened up the possibilities of decentralisation into the regions, a policy with a long history for Labor. “Just as technology has evolved to the point where it can let us spread out, the pandemic has accelerated the evolution of our mindsets and let us realise we can,” he said. That’s a constructive (rather than destructive) argument for the Opposition to make right now, although Albanese struck a clearly partisan note by framing the downturn as “the Morrison recession”. Pointing out that Coffs Harbour had fibre-to-the-premise NBN installed when he was communications minister in 2013, Albanese lambasted the government for finishing the network with copper-based fibre-to-the-node connections, which now need upgrading, and he lamented the Coalition’s “sentimental attachment to 19th-century technology” as “surely one of the most costly exercises in nostalgia this nation has ever seen”. He did not mention another outdated technology – coal-fired power – but it was implicit as he argued that Australia should become a renewables superpower.  

On the same day, The Land (not exactly a radical left-wing publication) published an article titled “Nationals out of touch on climate change as farmers bear its brunt”, in which winemaker Mike Hayes warns that “Akubra and RM Williams will be the only regional companies left supporting [farmers], because when they come out here to kick dust, that’s what they wear.” As an example of where that voter sentiment might lead, think about Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Helen Dalton, who yesterday vowed in the same newspaper to reintroduce her water transparency bill, which would establish a public register of companies and individuals who hold water entitlements or have applied for a water-access licence (a move opposed by the Liberals and Nationals last month). Meanwhile, the Nationals in NSW under shock-polly and deputy premier John Barilaro think the way forward is to threaten to bring down the government over the right to push the state’s koalas to the brink of extinction. And at a federal level, LNP backbencher Senator Matt Canavan plays parlour games on Twitter asking followers to nominate their favourite coal-fired power station. Really? These guys are having us all on. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack today flagged that there would be significant new infrastructure spending in the October budget, on top of the existing $100 billion pipeline over the next decade, but said there would be an emphasis on water projects. That should raise eyebrows, as some of the Nationals-backed dams are exceedingly dubious on cost-benefit grounds, undermine the Murray–Darling Basin Plan and ignore climate science. Additionally, the G20-linked Global Infrastructure Hub this week declared Australian governments have already committed enough to road and water networks and the biggest problems concern railways and ports.

Albanese spoke today about high-speed rail from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra – a pet project of his, and a visionary one – and the idea has support on the government side, including from Liberal MP John Alexander, who is chairing a parliamentary inquiry into funding a bullet train. This week Alexander told the Nine newspapers, “The position that high-speed rail can’t pay for itself has been totally refuted.” At the same time, the Grattan Institute’s transport director, Marion Terrill, warns that the population growth forecasts (on which many of our current projects are based) are unrealistic post-pandemic. 

Investing and building our way out of the COVID-19 recession is going to be the way forward, and it’s too serious a business for ideologues and culture warriors. 

“In 30 years I have never seen such behaviour by any leader in politics … If he finds his position untenable then the proper approach is to resign – not remain in office using and abusing his position to split a properly elected government.”

NSW Liberal upper house MP Catherine Cusack calls for Deputy Premier John Barilaro to resign as state leader of the Nationals for emboldening four of his party colleagues to move to the crossbench in protest over a state planning policy, which would strip the government of its majority.

“[Modern communities management] is no longer about anthropologists running around a field.”


After blowing up the ancient Juukan Gorge caves, Rio Tinto tells a federal parliamentary inquiry into the disaster just how cultural heritage protection and Indigenous relations works these days.

Death tax for booty
Inheritance taxes are a feature of most advanced economies, including the UK and the US. But in Australia they haven’t been levied for 40 years, and their abolition has contributed to growing inequality in the country. Today, James Boyce on why it’s time to restart the conversation on death taxes.


The proportion of Australian government ecologists and conservation experts who told an academic survey that they had been prohibited from communicating scientific information, including on threatened species, mining and logging.

“The law operates to protect vulnerable people by saying that people in power have a duty to protect them. In this particular case, we say that the environment minister has a duty to protect vulnerable people. What this case does is say that ‘the coal needs to stay in the ground and it can’t be burnt’. And the minister has the obligation to protect younger people and not approve the mine.”

Climate litigation expert David Barnden explains the thrust of the class action launched today on behalf of young people seeking an injunction to stop the federal government approving an extension to Whitehaven’s Vickery coalmine.

The list

“The police presence in Ürümqi was ubiquitous. There were checkpoints seemingly on every corner, more than 700 in the city centre alone. A squadron of helmeted officers stood outside the entrance to Ürümqi’s latest tourist attraction, the Hongguangshan Ecological Garden, with its giant golden Buddha. Built around five years ago, the Buddha is the same age as the Hilton Hotel located nearby.”

“Monopoly control of newswire services would effectively give NewsCorp total control of the wholesale news market – and, therefore, substantial control over the content produced even by its competitors. It’s a move that Jacqui Lambie and others have likened to what would happen if Coles and Woolworths suddenly conspired to buy up the trucks, warehouses, docks and airports that form the supply chain for their supermarket products. It’s an apt analogy.”

“World No.  40 [Nick] Kyrgios – a wildly unexpected poster boy for COVID-19 common sense – was joined by the likes of defending champion Rafael Nadal, women’s No.  1 Ash Barty and five other members of the women’s top 10 in skipping the coronavirus-compromised US Open that began on Monday.”

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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