Friday, September 11, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Nats splatter
Gladys Berejiklian puts down a revolt

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Via Twitter

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called the bluff of her deputy, state Nationals leader John Barilaro, whose bizarre threat to move his whole party to the crossbench (while those with ministries remained in cabinet) did not last 24 hours. In a joint statement released this afternoon, the two leaders confirmed that the Coalition between the Liberals and Nationals remained in place and that “this includes a commitment to supporting cabinet conventions and processes”. The statement indicates that the contentious environmental planning policy known as SEPP 44 – the subject of the dispute between the two parties – would return to cabinet for consideration. Barilaro has tried to dress that up as a victory, telling 2GB this morning, “We’ve got the win there today.” But a Liberal source has said Barilaro had “100 per cent capitulated and could not even secure a date to discuss the koala SEPP [State Environmental Planning Policy], and it will come to cabinet in due course”. Barilaro, who has already flagged he will not contest the state election due in 2023, is now a laughing-stock, and his leadership is widely considered “untenable”. Alternative leaders from within the NSW Nationals party room are now being canvassed, and Guardian Australia reports that possible candidates include Water Minister Melinda Pavey, Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall and Regional Transport Minister Paul Toole. 

There will be some federal fallout from Barilaro’s failed revolt, which has strengthened the hand of federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack, the deputy prime minister. McCormack fended off a challenge from his predecessor, Barnaby Joyce, in February, but his position has nevertheless been subject to “on-again off-again” speculation from almost the moment he started in the job. Barilaro was supported overnight by Joyce and former Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie, who resigned after the “sports rorts” affair (which is back in the news today and remains unresolved). Interestingly, current deputy leader David Littleproud has also expressed support for Barilaro’s stand, telling Sky News:  

This is all about policy and not about personalities. Some of the deputy premier’s opponents have been personalising the attack … There is a conga line of people like the National Farmers’ Federation or the NSW Farmers [Association], the surveyors, landholders, people who are trying to get residential development done in our country towns. They are all being hamstrung by this SEPP 44. I’ve had representations into my office for most of this year from people in the timber industry, private and native forestry. It is an imposition on private property rights. We have a desire to protect koalas and koala habitat, but it’s nonsensical to go from 10 koala trees to 123 – including pests and weeds like camphor laurels, which are now mysteriously called koala habitat. We are just trying to get commonsense policy. I support John Barilaro. He was never trying to change the government; he was just trying to change the policy.

But Barilaro has not managed to change the koala policy, so – by this yardstick – he’s failed. Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Helen Dalton, a family farmer who took the electorate of Murray from the Nationals at the last state election, agrees that there are genuine concerns in the bush about SEPP 44, but says that Barilaro himself rubber-stamped it into law and country voters are sick of him backflipping. “It’s typical of what John Barilaro has been doing for the last few years,” she says. “He comes out, he talks big in the bush, and then when he goes to Sydney he does the exact opposite … Do the job properly in the first place instead of doing all this bravado and chest-thumping right now. People are over it. He’s talked about a lot of things. He’s talked about walking away from the Murray–Darling Basin Plan. He’s talked about having a royal commission into water mismanagement … nothing gets done. I mean, we’ve really worked him out.”  

Perhaps, by now, Barilaro’s party colleagues have too. 

“We can’t rely on the goodwill of mining companies; we need the law strengthened. We can’t rely on their word that things will get better.”

National Native Title Council chief executive Jamie Lowe responds to the news that Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques and two senior executives have resigned, after pressure from investors over the company’s decision to blow up 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge.

“She is intimately involved in the two major problems: hotel quarantine and contact tracing. Both are her responsibility. And they are the two biggest fuck-ups in the history of the state, and she’s at the top of both.”

An unnamed source speaking about Victoria’s health minister, Jenny Mikakos, who has reportedly been sidelined in the wake of lockdown missteps.

Scott Morrison’s shattered cabinet
Scott Morrison is waging a war on two fronts this week. He’s locked in a battle with state governments to reopen borders, and he’s increasingly blaming the Victorian government for the severity of the state’s second wave. Today, Paul Bongiorno on the growing political divide across the country.


The number of years it took for The Age to appoint its first female editor, Gay Alcorn, currently the Melbourne editor of Guardian Australia.

“When we asked respondents about how the $300 a fortnight cut to JobSeeker … will affect them, the picture is stark: 80 per cent said they will definitely have to both skip meals and reduce how much fresh fruit and vegetables they buy; over half said the cut will make it much harder to pay their rent, and that they will need to forego essentials like food, medicine, and other expenses; 40 per cent said they will have less than $14 a day, after paying their rent.”

Some of the key findings of an August survey of more than 600 people receiving JobSeeker or related income-support payments.

The list

“Graeber stopped us in our tracks by asking us if we really have a moral obligation to pay our debts. Why should we pay back our bank? Or our neighbour? Or our government? We think it’s common sense that one must pay one’s debts, but as Graeber shows, our ideas about debt and morality are cultural, not natural.”

“There are 16 of us at Wikiclub NT, volunteering our Sunday afternoon to add and update Wikipedia pages about the Top End. We’ve assembled at Darwin’s Northern Territory Library, which is inside Parliament House, a building that looks like a tropical wedding cake floating at the edge of the Timor Sea. The ground floor of the library is quiet and sparsely populated with elderly people reading newspapers. We’re at a large rectangular desk in the far corner, amid a tangle of extension cables, chargers and laptops.”

“John Nixon’s presence over almost five decades is unusual among Australian artists. There was no flare, burn and sputter. Until his death last month, he remained an important figure, unavoidable for two generations from most accounts of Australian art history.” 

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?


The Monthly Today

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Tax cuts loom

In Josh Frydenberg’s budget, the Coalition looks like reverting to type

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison


On a practical day, the PM got practically none of what he wanted

Image of Co-CEO of Atlassian Mike Cannon-Brookes

A million jobs

A plan to tackle unemployment and climate change is staring the government in the face

Image of Andrew Liveris at the National Press Club today.

Hot air

Businessman Andrew Liveris undercuts his own rhetoric by championing fossil fuels

From the front page

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Tax cuts loom

In Josh Frydenberg’s budget, the Coalition looks like reverting to type

Image of the Aboriginal flag

Freeing the flag

Allowing the Aboriginal flag to be used freely is an important step towards self-determination

Image of Dolly Parton

Audio tapestry

A tangle of red tape is robbing us of music podcasts in Australia

In the red

Inside the modern debt-collection industry