The Politics    Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Waning trust

By Paddy Manning

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Image via Facebook

The Morrison government lurches from scandal to incompetence

Question Time in federal parliament this afternoon was dominated by debate over whether a loophole in the JobMaker hiring-credit scheme – which was designed to tackle youth unemployment during the COVID-19 recession – would incentivise employers to sack workers over 35 and replace them with cheaper, younger workers. The Senate last night passed a Greens-initiated amendment – co-sponsored by Labor and supported by every non-government member – to the enabling legislation, which would guard against businesses firing workers or reducing their hours in order to make new hires who would receive the government subsidy, but the government rejected the amendments in the lower house this morning.

Labor bowled up question after question about the plight of older workers left stranded as income support is progressively wound back. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese asked: “Why is the prime minister undermining job security for workers aged over 35? Isn’t the middle of a recession the very worst time to be attacking job security?” In response, Scott Morrison renewed his attack on Albanese for having an each-way bet on the pandemic response – both supporting and opposing the government’s initiatives – and for fearmongering. “What the leader of the Opposition is putting forward in this place is simply untrue and [he is] seeking to create fear in a pandemic,” said Morrison. “It is irresponsible and it is reckless.” Then – and this is the problem for the Morrison government – the PM called on Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter to add to his answer. Porter said the normal unfair dismissal protections would continue to apply, and he accused Albanese of sending “precisely the wrong message” to employers, by describing “something as potentially lawful which is absolutely unlawful”.

After Monday night’s Four Corners – implicating both Porter and his colleague Alan Tudge in a parliamentary culture of sexism and bullying, which led to former PM Malcolm Turnbull introducing the “bonk ban” in 2018 – the attorney-general has joined the long list of senior members of the government who have been tarnished by one scandal or another. So far, the PM appears determined to put the whole thing behind him, while Porter has rejected the allegations of sexism and is considering legal action. But after two coups and seven years in power, it is getting hard to think of a Coalition cabinet minister who gets on with their portfolio, is capable of carrying a public message and is not tainted by scandal. 

The fate of the JobMaker subsidy now hangs on a resolution of the difference between the House and Senate. The government is trying to talk up the economy, and today pointed to figures showing that consumer confidence rebounded in October. Morrison referred to the “Great Australian comeback”, and for those who have lost track of all the programs announced during the pandemic, the government has even launched an official website – – touting its “economic recovery plan”. But during the pandemic, scheme after scheme has fallen short or has resulted in unintended consequences. Who remembers the COVIDsafe app? Meanwhile, HomeBuilder is in disrepair and JobKeeper has turned into “BonusKeeper”. Will JobMaker be any different? And who is going to help the PM sell it?

At the current rate of scandals, Morrison – who was pretty much a one-man band throughout the 2019 election – might have to win the 2022 election on his own as well. 

“There’s a risk here – of being driven by rage. That we let our anger take over rational thinking. Because, as republicans, I don’t think we should let this episode define our national story. We can’t let the Dismissal and its resentments shape our case for a truly independent nation.”

Shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek – at the launch of a new book on the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government, written by Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston – says that the republican story should “project confidence – not bitterness”.

“We are a young nation. We have old civilisations and we have a rich history over tens of thousands of years. But we are a young country.”

Queensland LNP senator Matt Canavan responds to the news that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has backed a campaign to change the second line of “Advance Australia Fair” from “young and free” to “one and free” to recognise Indigenous Australians.

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The number of times more effective – in terms of job creation – an increase in public funding for childcare would be compared to tax cuts of the same size, according to new modelling.

“The provisional pathway provides a formal and transparent mechanism for speeding up the registration of promising new medicines with preliminary clinical data.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration paves the way for an early release of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine by placing the drug on a priority path to approval.

The list

“Indonesian political dissident Veronica Koman is a hard person to pin down. It takes three postponed appointments organised over an encrypted messaging service to finally get her on the line. Still, for someone who receives regular death and rape threats, it’s notable she allows herself to be contactable at all. The public-interest lawyer and Australian National University alumnus has been in exile in Australia since last year, when she was indicted in her home country for her alleged role in triggering a wave of violent protests.”

“Usually nobody blinks an eyelid when players don’t sing the national anthem. At this game, however, black athletes have given their silence a motive, led by the example of Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker, a 29-year-old late bloomer on debut for the Blues. ‘For we are young and free’ is the lyric that many dissenters take particular exception with, given that Aboriginal Australians have the world’s oldest continuous culture, as well as now being the most incarcerated people on earth.”

“COVID-19 was the last straw for what used to be known as capitalism: the causal link between innovation, profitability, stock prices and capital accumulation. Unbeknown to both leftists and conservatives, post-2008 secular stagnation combined forces with the economic impact of COVID-19 to drag us into a variety of post-capitalism … If I am right that we are already in the early phase of a spontaneously evolved grim post-capitalism, maybe it is time to start designing, rationally and together, a desirable post-capitalism.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor at The Monthly and the author of Inside the Greens and Body Count.

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