Monday, February 10, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

LNP circus
The Queensland tail is wagging the Coalition dog

Former Nationals MP Llew O’Brien (top) speaks to Nationals MPs Barnaby Joyce, George Christensen and David Gillespie during Question Time, Monday, February 10, 2020. © Lukas Coch / AAP Image

The “Clayton’s” defection of Coalition backbencher Llew O’Brien underlines both the fragility of the Morrison government and the growing tendency for representatives of the LNP to put Queensland first, whether or not that suits the federal Coalition. O’Brien’s decision is not completely out of the blue – the former police officer flagged last year that he could cross the floor over “serious concerns” with the government’s proposed national integrity commission, and his support for last week’s leadership challenge by Barnaby Joyce against Michael McCormack has left him on the outer. O’Brien will not sit within either the National or the Liberal party rooms, but will remain a member of the Coalition and sit in joint partyroom meetings. Today’s reports suggest O’Brien has guaranteed the PM supply, but not confidence – we may learn more at a press conference scheduled for this evening. So while the Morrison government therefore maintains its working majority in the lower house, it continues to suffer from bitter division in the Nationals party room. And if he is not careful, the PM will find the Nationals backbench wedging their own side of politics on coal and climate – issues that the Liberals are also deeply split upon.

When the Queensland divisions of the Liberals and the Nationals combined to form the LNP in 2008, it was probably not envisaged that the new party’s representatives would have diminished loyalty to their respective party rooms in Canberra, or to the federal Coalition itself. But there appears to be wriggle room here under the party rules, leaving members of the LNP free to choose which federal party, if any, they will sit with – as when in 2015 the then resources minister, Ian Macfarlane, decided to switch from the Liberal to the Nationals party room when he was dumped in a surprise decision by then PM Malcolm Turnbull.

Why should Queensland MPs have a latitude that other Coalition MPs do not have? Increasingly, Queensland LNP representatives seem prepared to throw their weight around. The botched 2018 coup against Malcolm Turnbull was a case in point, driven out of Queensland and no doubt, the LNP feels, vindicated by the state’s contribution to last year’s election win. Last week’s anti-environment challenge against McCormack’s leadership was madly parochial, particularly its ridiculous demand for a new coal-fired power station at Collinsville. Member for Manila George Christensen reckons five seats in northern Queensland depend on it. I’d credit North Queensland voters with more intelligence than that, but even so the rest of the country knows the whole idea is absurd. How long can the Queensland tail wag the Coalition dog?

As everyone from Malcolm Turnbull to Joel Fitzgibbon has pointed out today, a new coal-fired power station is wildly uneconomic compared with the cost of new renewables plus storage – and Fitzgibbon made the further point that North Queensland doesn’t even need the power, because of all the renewables already underway up there. Christensen and Matt Canavan are not talking facts, they are culture warring, but though the dogs bark, the caravan rolls on. Labor deputy leader Richard Marles squirmed his way through Insiders yesterday on a purely hypothetical question of whether Labor would approve or reject a new coal-fired generator proposed by the private sector. The burden of Marles’s argument was that Labor is still hoping for a bipartisan solution on climate with the government.

Lo and behold independent MP Zali Steggall today released her draft Climate Change Bill – a genuine effort to break the deadlock, with a constructive proposal that does not rely on new taxes and provides a credible pathway to a net-zero-emissions-by-2050 target that could otherwise remain purely symbolic. If the government was smart it would ignore the renegades and grasp the opportunity with both hands.

In late-breaking news compounding the sense of division and chaos around the government, O’Brien has won the support of Labor and the cross bench in a contest for the deputy speakership of the House of Representatives. McCormack’s nominee, chief Nationals whip Damian Drum, lost by 67 votes to O’Brien’s 75. A gleeful Labor leader Anthony Albanese congratulated O’Brien, adding: “No amount of marketing and spin can hide the humiliation from that vote.” 

“Through this IA-CEPA Indonesia hopes Australia can become an important partner with us on infrastructure investment as well as on education … and we are hopeful that stability, peace and prosperity can be equally created and maintained in the Indo-Pacific region. We also agreed to enhance cooperation in the South Pacific, among others, focusing on ocean related issues and climate change.”

The Indonesian president, marking the signing of the Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

“Anyone who didn’t stand up and support John in his family violence case is now, in his mind, public enemy number one.”

An unnamed CFMEU official, speaking off the record about the civil war inside the union between national secretary Michael O’Connor and Victorian state secretary John Setka.

Profiting from Auschwitz: How 4 million books were sold on fabrications
Australian author Heather Morris has made millions selling books about the Holocaust. But the people she writes about are in many ways unrecognisable, to their families and the historical record. Investigative journalist Christine Kenneally on the dangers of falsifying history.

The increase last financial year in tax garnishees under the robodebt scheme who were receiving Sickness Allowance and Disability Support Pension payments, according to shadow minister for the NDIS and government services Bill Shorten.

“While providers feel reforms are heading in the right direction, there are high levels of frustration with processes of, and communication with, the main implementation agency – the NDIA [National Disability Insurance Agency]. In order to balance out the necessary policy adjustments to the scheme, the NDIA needs to be reliable and consistent. At present, due to a lack of NDIA resourcing, providers report this is not the case. Moreover, the survey highlighted a sense of distrust from the NDIA towards providers. If not addressed, this could become a major threat to the scheme.”

From the conclusions of the UNSW Centre for Social Impact’s report on the National Disability Services’ latest annual market survey.

The list

“Morris began to read, and over the next 20 minutes Kovach could feel his smile become stiffer and stiffer. Next to him, Odegard’s eyes grew ever wider. There was so much that was wrong. Worse was that Morris’s main characters were not recognisable. ‘This is not my father at all,’ Kovach said to Morris. After Morris left that night, Kovach asked Odegard if she thought Morris’s project could be salvaged. She did not. Neither did he.”

“Like the Lord, Clive Palmer giveth and taketh away. In 2016, when the price of nickel crashed, he mothballed his nickel operation and sacked his workers. In 2019, having failed to win a single seat in either the senate or house of representatives, he mothballed his party and consigned his candidates back into the obscurity from which they had come.”

“Like every other local government around the Australian coastline, Shoalhaven City Council has spent much of the past decade trying to figure out what to do about that wickedest of problems: 85 per cent of us live in proximity to the coast, and as the climate warms and sea levels rise, bringing bigger tides and more frequent storms, the ocean is coming for many of our homes … In 2015, Shoalhaven councillors solved the problem by voting to plan for a future in which sea-level rise will not be so bad after all.”

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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