Thursday, October 29, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Having us on
What job is the Morrison government getting on with, exactly?

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time today.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time today. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Image

“We are getting on with the job” was the Morrison government’s message today, but with the second wave of the pandemic now beaten (thank you, Victoria), it is not quite clear what “job” the Commonwealth is getting on with. Is it cutting JobKeeper as fast as possible? Is it continuing to torture JobSeeker recipients over the future of the coronavirus supplement? Is it underspending on the half-baked JobMaker or HomeBuilder schemes? Certainly, when it comes to constructive plans for the recovery, there is not a lot of policy substance that the government can point to. Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor, who was one of the frontbenchers to wheel out the phrase, tried dividing the Opposition by praising pro-coal unions who want Labor to crab-walk away from an ambitious climate policy. “We have seen more constructive policy from the CFMEU and the AWU this week than we have seen from the member for Hindmarsh for seven years as shadow minister,” said Taylor, in a crack at his Labor counterpart, Mark Butler. “While those opposite fight among themselves, we are getting on with the job,” he said. But all Taylor has got to talk about on energy is a Technology Investment Roadmap that – as his own officials admitted last week – changes nothing. Okay, Taylor’s got a map of some sort, but who’s driving? 

Another minister to wheel out the dreaded phrase was Deputy PM and Minister for Infrastructure Michael McCormack. Shadow environment minister Terri Butler had tried to ask why the government had wound up its much-hyped National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility in the last budget without it making a single loan, but she flubbed the delivery by asking instead why the government was all photo-op and no follow-up. That gave McCormack licence to say whatever he liked – and he did.

The October budget, with its $3.5 billion for water infrastructure, was a “plan for the future, a blueprint, a vision for what we laid out,” McCormack said. “We are getting on with the job of building water infrastructure,” he said, adding, “I look forward to working with a Deb Frecklington Liberal National state government in Queensland after Saturday.” Then he blamed the state Labor government for delays with dam building in Queensland – as though the Coalition has not been in power for seven years.

Independent MP Zali Steggall asked the PM a pointed question, which he handballed straight to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton: “Yesterday, I along with others received a petition from the #GameOver campaign – championed by Craig Foster and Sonny Bill Williams, with Amnesty International – calling on you to accept the New Zealand offer to accept 150 asylum seekers from Manus Island and Papua New Guinea. It’s been on the table for several years now, and the refugees could have been settled by now. You have opposed today a permanent increase to Newstart for the most vulnerable, yet you are prepared to pay an estimated cost of $573,000 per year, per person, in offshore detention. This is obscene. Minister, will you commit to accepting the New Zealand offer?” Duttton gave an answer that he could have given in his sleep, reminding all and sundry about the deaths at sea under Labor, before equivocating: “We have not ruled out an arrangement with New Zealand and I said that … we will work with New Zealand as we do on many, many issues.” There was no answer at all, in other words.

Right now, the government is being defined by what it’s not doing – on energy, on infrastructure, on income support, on establishing a federal corruption body – rather than on what it is doing. 

“This is not about the fact that the Herald Sun is a conservative newspaper … This is about the fact that the Herald Sun is a stupid newspaper … It lies, and deceives, and twists the truth into pathetic racist little climate-denying, pandemic-denying knots. It failed the city it was meant to serve during its time of greatest need.”

Journalist David Milner calls on Melbourne to boycott the Herald Sun – just as Liverpudlians boycotted The Sun after its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

“Now is not the time to risk an anti-development, anti-construction Green-like independent, when we need local construction jobs to drag us out of recession.”

A statement from the ultraconservative LNP member for the Brisbane seat of Oodgeroo, evangelical pastor Mark Robinson, who is facing possible defeat at Saturday’s Queensland election by independent Claire Richardson.

Cutting down the Djab Wurrung trees
This week, the Victorian government began cutting down sacred Djab Wurrung trees to make way for a highway expansion between Melbourne and Adelaide. Today, Djab Wurrung woman and Greens senator Lidia Thorpe on the fight to save her peoples’ heritage.


The number of press releases the federal government released over four years, announcing and reannouncing the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility, which was wound up in the last budget without writing a loan, according to shadow environment minister Terri Butler.

“The Nationals will review every policy lever at the federal government’s disposal – including the availability of deposit guarantees – to protect Australian farmers from these sorts of arbitrary boardroom ideological agendas.”

Agriculture Minister and Deputy Nationals Leader David Littleproud denounces ANZ’s new climate policies, although he admitted they would not impact family farms.

The list

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is writer-director Eliza Hittman’s third feature film. All three have featured a teenage protagonist flailing in the water of ordinary life … Hittman, who was raised in Flatbush, has a great eye for the visual surreality of suburbia, and a feel for the quiet desperation of young lives lived on the perimeter of a big city. Manhattan might be only a subway ride away, but imaginatively, for these teens, it’s as distant as the moon.”

“In the wake of the Rudd–Gillard trauma, Wong was one of the few senior Labor politicians to emerge with increased public respect. Since then, as Simons observes, she has since become something of a cult figure among progressives (this despite being less radical than her left-leaning admirers assume her to be). There is even a Twitter account devoted to the famous eyebrows, so often raised in contempt of prevaricating opponents. But after 18 years in politics Penny Wong remains an enigma.”

“Even by the usual standards of populist campaigning, Queensland Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington’s policy announcement this week was stunningly unsubtle. If elected next Saturday, she promised, her government would impose curfews on all children in Cairns and Townsville … Behind in the polls and just days out from an election likely to turn on a few seats in the far north, particularly in Townsville, Frecklington is desperate for an issue that might move undecided voters.”

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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