Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Biden win hits Hunter
Joel Fitzgibbon’s sudden resignation could help Labor

Image of Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon announcing his decision to quit the shadow cabinet.

Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon announces his decision to quit the shadow cabinet. Image via ABC News

The shock resignation from the front bench of shadow resources and agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon – the pro-coal member for Hunter – can be interpreted in various ways, but the most optimistic reading is that it will free Labor to lift its ambition on climate policy in the wake of US President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Over the weekend, Fitzgibbon had already voiced his fear that Labor would commit electoral suicide by taking Biden’s win as a “green light for climate-change policies that leave Labor’s traditional base behind”. The timing of Fitzgibbon’s announcement may be unrelated – he told 2GB’s Ray Hadley that he had given Labor leader Anthony Albanese some months’ warning of his decision, and thanked him for keeping it in confidence. At his press conference this morning, Fitzgibbon insisted he had no intention of challenging Albanese for the leadership, but again urged Labor to back the Coalition’s 2030 emissions targets and its “technology, not taxes” approach to emissions cuts. “Let Scott Morrison govern it,” said Fitzgibbon, who is head of Labor’s right-wing faction and a darling of conservatives in the government and media alike. “Let’s hold him to account. Let’s see what he sets. And let’s take some time to see whether he’s on track to meeting the commitment he makes.” 

Albanese has announced that Fitzgibbon will be replaced in shadow cabinet by the well-regarded Western Sydney MP Ed Husic – a former frontbencher who made way for Kristina Keneally in the immediate wake of the 2019 election – until the prime minister’s pending reshuffle. The Opposition leader bristled at a question about Labor’s own 2030 target following Fitzgibbon’s resignation, pointing to Biden’s win as proof of the wisdom of holding off until closer to the next election. “The position is pretty clear,” said Albanese. “We have net-zero emissions by 2050. And we will have a complete announcement, including how we get there, before the election.”

Husic is not from a farming or mining district – as Nationals leader Michael McCormack was keen to point out in Question Time today – but he made clear that he was proud to serve in the agriculture and resources portfolios, “two industries that have been the absolute bedrock of the Australian economy … [which] have not only generated enormous wealth for the nation, but they’ve created jobs for people, really good jobs”. No doubt about that, but the question is whether Labor thinks the best way to pursue the interests of blue-collar workers (or white- or fluoro-collar workers) is to fight to preserve the jobs of the past, or to set them up for the jobs of the future. Hopefully the lesson of the Queensland election, and the Biden election, is to talk less about shutting down the old industries and more about building up the new ones. 

Curiously, Fitzgibbon’s announcement took some pressure off the Morrison government, which was reeling from last night’s episode of Four Corners – an exposé of the toxic culture inside parliament, particularly for female staffers, and events that led to the infamous “bonk ban” introduced by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. Scott Morrison got shirty at a press conference today, urging the media to refrain from using the term “bonk ban”, claiming that it trivialised the issue. But it was Morrison who trivialised the issue, by refusing to do anything about it or sanction the two ministers subject to the ABC investigation, Christian Porter and Alan Tudge.

Greens leader Adam Bandt asked a serious question: “This is the parliament’s #MeToo moment and women in this place and around the country want you to act. Will you immediately commence an investigation into what’s going on in ministers’ offices, stand aside the ministers involved with the Four Corners story while the investigation takes place, and put in place a proper framework for sexual misconduct to be reported and investigated, so that every woman working in parliament feels confident they can come forward without fear of reprisal?” He got short shrift, with the PM standing by the ministerial code revised by Turnbull, and attempting to turn the tables on Labor and the Greens. “Those standards – in my government, that are set out in that code – will be upheld, and I would invite the leader of the Greens, and I would invite the leaders of other political parties in this place, to ensure that their staff have the same protection that staff in my ministers’ offices have,” Morrison said.

In another bit of curious timing – and a development that will impact more than a million Australians outside the Canberra bubble – Morrison finally confirmed that those on income support (including JobSeeker) would face another cut to the coronavirus supplement, from $250 a fortnight to $150 a fortnight, with the payment extended until the end of March. This will take JobSeeker – the old Newstart – to just $51 a day, and the cut will be in place just after Christmas. And still, Morrison refused to say what the permanent rate will be. 

“Saying that you believe or disbelieve in global warming is like saying you believe or disbelieve in gravity. You’ve turned something that should be a question of engineering and economics into undiluted ideology and idiocy, and we are paying the price in delayed action to address global warming.”


Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, on the ABC’s Q&A last night, calls out the destructive influence of the Murdoch media on the issue of climate change.

“The combined risks associated with the company’s recent financial results, market conditions, additional collateral demands and potential credit agreement non-compliance raise substantial doubt about whether the company will meet its obligations as they become due.”


Coalminer Peabody Energy prepares to declare bankruptcy in Australia for the second time in five years, after racking up US$2.1 billion of losses over the past 15 months.

When police charge the victim
A new report collating experiences of hundreds of frontline workers has revealed how criminal and judicial systems are failing victims of family violence. Today, Rick Morton on how we’re still letting down survivors, and what needs to change. This episode contains descriptions of family violence.

The number of JobSeeker payments suspended between August and October due to breaches of mutual obligation requirements.

“As the dust is now settling on the US presidential election, Australia is facing a new opportunity to choose the trajectory of its ties with China. It has a choice between allowing such anti-China organisations to continue to hold bilateral ties hostage or it can ignore their manipulations and seek to fix bilateral ties. The ball is in Canberra’s court.”


An editorial in the state-sponsored China Daily urges the Morrison government not to allow the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) think tank to “hold bilateral ties hostage”.

The list

“I think cancel culture demands discussion. Not as a sui generis phenomenon that should worry us in isolation, but as a symptom of something broken in our social and political life … I don’t think cancel culture can adequately be understood as some mass act of bad-faith intimidation. Rather, cancel culture is the story of a young, socially conscious generation trying desperately to remedy the injustices they see, but having been left with wholly inadequate tools for the job.”

“Musically, the album draws not just on Motown legends like [Marvin] Gaye and Stevie Wonder, but also the classic runs enjoyed by other American soul labels, whether the raw and funky snap of Stax (think Otis Redding) or the devotional glow of Hi Records (think Al Green). Informed as much by those individual dynasties of soul music as by the church songs of her youth, Donovan inevitably recalls Aretha Franklin, especially in the way she commands the utmost emotional power without it ever feeling showy.”

“At her lowest point in her early 40s, Fargher was grieving the breakdown of her marriage and learning to accept that her dream of starting a family of her own would never come to fruition. She frequently spent entire weekends alone. It was a state of being that suddenly people right around the world were feeling. For some, the loneliness that ensued was a new experience, directly linked to COVID-19 lockdowns, working from home and more limited opportunities to socialise in person. But for others, it merely highlighted feelings they’d been dealing with for years.”

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

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Cold comfort

The Morrison government gave us a recession we didn’t have to have

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Government dis-services

Stuart Robert is doing the PM’s dirty work

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The government’s response to the Richardson review needs close scrutiny

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Shamelessly derivative summer puzzle!
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