Thursday, June 11, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Mean and tricky
Scott Morrison is heading down a well-worn path

Three events that occurred today show why the Morrison government is likely to carry on the way it has been going, putting one wrong foot after the other. First, the Nine newspapers reported claims by shadow industry minister Brendan O’Connor that, prior to the election, the Coalition had awarded 97 per cent of first-round funding for the Export Hubs Initiative to Liberal or National seats. Second, all six crossbenchers in the lower house declared that after two years the Morrison government had run out of time to introduce legislation to establish a national integrity commission, already passed by the Senate, and they would move to suspend standing orders and bring it on today. “After sports rorts, now more than ever we need an independent federal corruption watchdog,” said Greens leader Adam Bandt. Third, the Morrison government gagged the debate, moving that neither Bandt nor seconder Helen Haines, the independent member for Indi, be heard – and so it was all over in minutes. Labor voted to bring on the debate, and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said in a statement: “The truth is that the Morrison government is trying to delay this debate for as long as possible because it does not want a national integrity commission.” It seems Dreyfus is right, and that joins a long and growing list of bad political judgements by the prime minister. COVID-19 can’t cover everything up forever.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his colleagues are basking in the apparent success of Australia’s pandemic response, especially after a favourable review by the OECD [$] overnight, which commended the JobKeeper scheme and forecast that Australia would suffer only a 5 per cent downturn this year – the fourth-best performance among developed economies. JobKeeper was also given the thumbs up by the Australian Institute of Company Directors in a survey released today. However, both the OECD and AICD voiced fears that JobKeeper would be withdrawn too early in September, sending businesses and employees off a fiscal cliff. In Question Time this afternoon the PM turned a deaf ear, insisting that the government will be sticking to its six-month timetable for the withdrawal of JobKeeper, and all signs suggest there is zero appetite for the scheme to be extended to any of the millions of short-term casuals, migrant workers or employees from other sectors who have missed out and have flipped the switch back to austerity. That’s despite the program coming in $60 billion cheaper than expected, and seemingly without regard for some sensible, affordable suggestions being put forward by, for example, the Grattan Institute

The flipside of the government’s poorly targeted stimulus response is a selective austerity that punishes the Coalition’s ideological foes in the university sector, the media, and the arts and entertainment industries – not to mention women, migrants and the unemployed. Combine that with the perception of sleaze created by the failure to introduce a federal ICAC despite overwhelming support – and amid a string of integrity scandals – and you have a government that could easily go off the rails. At the last two federal elections the Liberal Party has managed to sell Australians old wine in new bottles, dumping an unpopular leader just before a losing election in favour of some new bloke who manages to convince voters he’s going to be different. But the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison governments are not very different – they’re “mean and tricky”, as former Liberal Party president Shane Stone once said. A change of leadership is out of the question, so between now and the election voters will see exactly what they’re going to get. At the moment, they like Scott Morrison, but not his government. And we don’t have presidents here – it’s the government that matters.

“This is further proof that the Liberals’ cuts to TAFE created a tradie shortage before coronavirus. Under Scott Morrison, Australia has gone from having a tradie shortage before coronavirus, to having a tradie crisis now.”

Shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek cites fresh figures from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, which show that the number of people taking up construction trades last year plunged by nearly 12 per cent.

“Australia is now getting hijacked by the usual sort of band of noisemakers who just want to make an attack on Australia and its society. And, you know, they’ve got to pull their heads in.”


The prime minister turns a deaf ear to the concerns of Black Lives Matter protesters, saying that anyone who protests again this weekend should be charged.

The theme park and the trillion-dollar investment scheme
As Scott Morrison resists signing up to the Belt and Road Initiative, China has begun focusing on lower levels of power – the Victorian state government and even the Gold Coast council. Rick Morton on what the scheme means and why it should be reviewed.


The number of significant Aboriginal sites in the central Pilbara region that BHP Billiton is poised to legally destroy in order to expand its $4.5 billion South Flank iron-ore mining operation.

“The biggest priorities should be moving to upfront payments, expanding the scheme to cover temporary workers and short-term casuals, and avoiding the looming government support cliff. The government should also introduce a separate part-time payment rate, to better target the scheme and provide greater bang for buck. The biggest barrier to the effectiveness of JobKeeper is the fact that the employer gets it in arrears, weeks after she or he has paid it to employees.”

Grattan Institute economists Danielle Wood and Nathan Blane on how to fix the $70 billion JobKeeper scheme, currently under review by Treasury.

The list

“Pre COVID-19, you’d find Sir James in such a dungeon, in a uniform of crisp shirt, leather braces, black pants, lace-up boots and surgical gloves. The tools of his trade were paddles and anal hooks. Now he’s manning different tools in his shed, using lockdown to focus on what had previously been more of a hobby: making and selling leather harnesses, straps and leashes for BDSM play.”

“The series favours the sombre techniques of tradecraft over flashier firearms, while the narrative reflects recent history: the conflict in Syria, returning foreign-trained jihadists, Iranian reformers and Russian disinformation tools all feature … The Bureau doesn’t reset with each new season, instead it refocuses. It’s not afraid of narrative ploys (such as a suggestive flash-forward that’s explained over the course of a season), but it’s also deeply attuned to the work’s contradictory impulses – duty requires duplicity, loyalty is isolating.”

“Since 2017, Scarce has been on the move. Defying Empire, the 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia, was one of the biggest national art shows that year. I remember art fans from Narrm taking long road trips to see it. People still talk about it. The triennial featured the large-scale installation Thunder Raining Poison, which Scarce described at the time as her biggest work yet, involving more than 2000 hand-blown glass yams. It told the story of the impact of nuclear testing at Maralinga on Aboriginal communities in South Australia.”

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.


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