Friday, October 9, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Each-way bet?
Labor attacks the budget while supporting it

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese delivering Labor’s response to the federal budget.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese delivers Labor’s response to the federal budget. Image via Twitter

Anthony Albanese’s budget reply last night ­– in which he proposed a universal childcare subsidy covering 90 per cent of costs and a $20 billion investment in the electricity grid – did enough to stave off fears that the Labor leader has zero appetite for policy risk. Describing this week’s historic budget as a missed opportunity and a “reform desert”, Albanese channelled his mentor, the left luminary and World War Two POW Tom Uren, who said that Australians survived the Burma Railway because they lived by a simple code: “The healthy looked after the sick, the strong looked after the weak, the young looked after the old.” Hear, hear. Call it economic nationalism, but the most stirring part of Albanese’s speech was his discussion of the Coalition’s failure to support Australian manufacturing, from killing off the car industry in 2013 to failed defence minister David Johnston’s memorable attack on local shipbuilders, whom he “wouldn’t trust” to build a canoe. “Last December,” Albanese said, “I visited the Downer EDI site in Maryborough, Queensland, where skilled Aussie workers are refitting rail carriages purchased from overseas by the former Newman LNP government. This work is being done in a factory that’s been building quality trains since the 19th century.” Inexcusable and gutting. Albanese proposed a national rail manufacturing plan, and if the Opposition can come up with an optimistic platform that restores economic sovereignty and creates blue-collar jobs by revitalising local manufacturing, powered by cheap renewable energy, it will be onto something.  

Albanese needed to come up with something because Scott Morrison has been sharpening his lines lately, accusing the Labor leader of taking an each-way bet on everything. On the floor of Parliament House, Morrison gives the appearance of being sublimely untroubled by his opponent. This week, Morrison gave Albanese a backhander during his tribute to the late Labor pioneer Susan Ryan, who Morrison said “was not a two-bob-each-way politician”. There is more than a grain of truth in the PM’s criticism, or at least there has been to date. In return, Albanese has flagged a more combative approach from here on in, and went the niggle this week, as David Crowe observed in the Nine newspapers, when he goaded Morrison for being disrespectful by naming his chooks at the Lodge after Hazel Hawke and Tamie Fraser.  

The stiff opposition in Albanese’s budget reply, however, is softened by the support Labor gave yesterday to waving through the Senate the omnibus legislation enabling the key tax-and-spend measures. Greens leader Adam Bandt slammed Labor’s capitulation: “Instead of fighting Tories, Labor is cuddling them … This budget is a trickle-down con job that spends big, but spends badly, and will prolong the recession. It favours millionaires over the millions, and puts corporate welfare ahead of helping people recover from the pandemic. This was a chance for our government to invest in delivering full employment and meaningful work in clean industries, as well as investing in the care economy, education, affordable housing, renewables and sustainable infrastructure. Instead, Liberals and Labor chose a gas-powered future that delivers billions in corporate welfare and tax cuts for millionaires.”

The Morrison government has squibbed the opportunity to build back better and greener, opting for a hugely expensive business tax giveaway, which journalist Ben Eltham describes as a move that “takes from the poor to give to the rich”. After this year from hell, Albanese asked: “Do we want to return to the same work insecurity, the same cuts to TAFE and unis, the same second-rate services for the bush, the same stale arguments over climate change?” The answer, surely, is no. It will be interesting to see whether Labor can make a policy fist of it. 

“This is a show trial, a farce.”

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson tells the Senate that the UK trial of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, who faces extradition to the US, is politically motivated.

“I don’t want grandma to die. I want grandma to be protected, unlike what Cuomo did in NY. But we can do both, allow young people to go to school and live a normal life while protecting the most vulnerable. The neurotic just need to pull themselves together.”

New York Post columnist Miranda Devine walks back her inflammatory comments on Fox News.

Albanese draws the political battlelines
In his budget reply speech last night, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese outlined his alternative response to the economic crisis and criticised the federal government for spending in the wrong places. Today, Paul Bongiorno on how the political battlelines between the major parties are being drawn.

The number of NBN Co employees earning about the same or more than the base salary of a federal backbench MP ($211,250 per year). Three quarters of the company’s employees are on six-figure salaries.

“It would be a nonsense, it is submitted, for the DHHS, and through it, Ms Mikakos, to be considered to be solely responsible and solely accountable for the hotel quarantine program during the relevant period, by reason of the DHHS’s ‘control agency’ status in respect of the pandemic as a whole. The DHHS held no contracts with the hotels, nor with security guard contractors or providers of cleaning services, and was not responsible for contract management in respect of those services.”

Former Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos, in a bombshell final submission, urges the state hotel-quarantine inquiry to treat Premier Daniel Andrews’ evidence “with caution”.

The list

“Sayaka Murata shot to global fame after her novel Convenience Store Woman was translated into English in 2018, becoming the first book by the already bestselling Japanese author to reach a larger English-language audience. Now, two years later, Murata gives us another dark tale of alienation and belonging in Earthlings, an unsettling and gripping novel that locates the tenuous foundations of productive society and violently tears them down. Like Convenience Store Woman, Murata’s latest novel tells the story of a strange woman living on the fringes of society.”

“Why don’t I hate Sufjan Stevens? He plays the banjo. He plays the oboe. His stage shows have included hula hoops and cheerleaders. He has yet to meet an encyclopaedia entry that he couldn’t turn into a concept album, and he has released two five-disc box sets of Christmas songs (sample title: ‘Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!’). He plays the glockenspiel. Daub me in glitter glue and truss me up with pipe cleaners if there’s any more perfect poster boy than Sufjan Stevens for the whitest, cleanest, quaintest sort of contemporary songwriting. He’s Captain Chenille on the Good Ship Indie Pop.”

The Vow – a new documentary series on American cult NXIVM – offers an extraordinarily detailed investigation into the crimes and mind-bending methods of a powerful cult, and cults in general. Told with a huge amount of intimate insider footage, it shows how NXIVM’s mass ‘life-coaching’ recruitment and brainwashing evolved into its eventual sexual violence against women.”

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 Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


The Monthly Today

Queensland votes

COVID dominates the final leaders’ debate

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time today.

Having us on

What job is the Morrison government getting on with, exactly?

Image of NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean

Kean on action

A moderate Liberal adds pressure on the PM over climate policy

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Question Time today

Less is less

The Morrison government’s underspending ways are catching up with it

From the front page

Queensland votes

COVID dominates the final leaders’ debate

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Airbrushed horror: Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca’

The new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale is visually lush, but lacks the novel’s nuance