The Politics    Friday, July 31, 2020

Falling apart

By Paddy Manning

Image of Scott Morrison arriving at Parliament House on July 30, 2020.

Scott Morrison arrives at Parliament House on July 30, 2020. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP

There’s less solidarity in COVID’s second wave

The politics of COVID-19 are becoming increasingly rancorous as the second wave of infections turns Australians against each other and the economic fallout intensifies. Scott Morrison, at the risk of sounding like the prime minister for NSW, talks about the “Victorian wave” of cases and has sided with mining mogul Clive Palmer in his legal challenge against WA’s border closure, saying Palmer will likely win in the High Court. Queensland picks a fight with NSW by declaring the whole of Sydney a COVID hotspot, while communities straddling Victoria’s borders with NSW and South Australia are in a diabolical situation. In NSW, Labor attacks the Coalition over the Ruby Princess debacle, with fresh claims on the ABC last night that a mistake by the Australian Border Force was at least partly responsible for sick passengers being allowed off the stricken ship. In Victoria, the Coalition attacks Labor over the failure, months back, to take up the offer of Defence personnel assistance with hotel quarantine. And The Courier-Mail decides to brand two young women as “enemies of the state”, vilifying them for an outbreak that has yet to occur, resulting in the pair being placed under police protection. 

Bringing the pressure of the second wave down on the heads of two young women of colour is outrageous. In a welcome intervention, Queensland Human Rights commissioner Scott McDougall issued a statement yesterday expressing concern about the widespread publication of their personal details. “Other Queenslanders and people from interstate caught breaching restrictions have not been publicly identified, even when their activities have led to infections or outbreaks – including the Noosa birthday party cluster and many other similar situations,” he said. 

The PM’s finger-pointing at Victoria is strange given epidemiologists say that NSW is on a knife edge and, with more than 150 cases reported in the past 14 days, the virus could easily get out of control. Morrison and Andrews held crisis talks overnight, but today’s stubbornly high case numbers in Victoria – 627 new cases and eight more deaths – show that tougher restrictions are likely to be necessary in both states. The reluctance to toughen up – whether on moving to stage-four restrictions in Melbourne or mask-wearing in Sydney – is disconcerting. The June-quarter economic data coming out is simply stunning, whether it’s the United States’ record [$] GDP plunge (showing a 33 per cent contraction over the year) or this week’s consumer price index fall [$] of nearly 2 per cent, which showed Australia suffering its first bout of deflation in 22 years. The result is that the much-trumpeted economic update that was handed down by the treasurer only a week ago is already out of date, according [$] to Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy’s evidence to the Senate select committee on COVID-19. 

As restrictions tighten, some of the hardest hit are those in towns on Victoria’s border. Electorates affected include Indi – which takes in Wodonga – as well as Nicholls, Mallee, Gippsland and, in NSW, Farrer. Federal MPs Helen Haines, Anne Webster and Sussan Ley are among those who have been holding daily briefings with the NSW Cross-Border Commissioner, James McTavish, about the ballooning impact of the border lockdown. In a statement this week, Haines said thousands of lives along the Murray River had been turned upside down for no good reason. “The fact remains, many people in our border communities, where there is no incidence of COVID-19 community transmission, are unable to go to work and transact business because of the NSW government’s border restrictions. But if you live in Melbourne and Sydney, you can go still go to work. It’s unfair and illogical. We need a better way.”

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

“I have concluded that, in addition to evidence demonstrating that these officers assaulted the deceased, there is sufficient force in the evidence about Mr Dungay’s cause of death such as to make a prosecution for manslaughter viable.”

In legal advice provided to the family of Dunghutti man David Dungay Jr, who died in custody in 2015, criminal barrister Phillip Boulten SC says there is a reasonable prospect that guards would be convicted of manslaughter or assault, if charged.

“The government’s heavy-handed intervention threatens to impede Australia’s digital economy and impacts the services we can deliver to Australians.”

Google Australia managing director Mel Silva responds to the release of a draft mandatory code of conduct governing digital platforms and media companies, drawn up by the ACCC.

Pandemic politics: Morrison vs Andrews
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional political hostilities have been dialled back, and governments have tried to project a sense of national unity. But that’s starting to fray. Today, Paul Bongiorno on the growing political stoush over the crisis in Victoria’s aged-care system.


The percentage of Australia’s power generation that will come from renewables by 2040 under a “do-nothing” business-as-usual scenario, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator. A step-change scenario could deliver a 94 per cent share.

“The new system established with the Coalition of the Peaks has no mandate from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and therefore does not represent the views of Indigenous Australians … Given the failures of the past Closing the Gap system and the entrenched bureaucracy that continues in this current system, the only way to achieve true accountability and deliver substantial change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is through the establishment of an independent, constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament.”

In a joint statement, Indigenous leaders Noel Pearson, Professor Megan Davis and Roy Ah-See say the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap does not represent the consensus of Indigenous people.

The list

“Film critics love to complain that things are getting worse, but it truly has been a terrible year for the movies. As festivals started cancelling in March and theatres closed doors globally like a wave of falling dominos, stockpiles of new titles were promptly put on ice, productions were halted, and the whole notion of contemporary cinema was thrown into quotation marks. Instead of the new Sofia Coppola or Apichatpong Weerasethakul films we were promised, we got Tiger King … Thankfully for us, the Melbourne International Film Festival (6–23 August) had enough forewarning to regroup as a virtual festival.”

“Brian Houston doesn’t just thrive on persecution. He monetises it via Hillsong’s convenient iPhone app. Notoriety, and the hatred of copious opponents, has reinforced his influence among believers, because there’s nothing more Christ-like than fighting an epic PR battle against condescending heathens.”

“I’m at a class called Foundations of Creative Perfumery. Also here is a healer, a jewellery designer, a psychologist, a storyteller and a guy who’d googled ‘other fun things to do in Los Angeles’. There’s a lady who has chaperoned her teenage grandson. ‘He has an amazing nose,’ she says. ‘He can smell spoiled broccoli in the refrigerator from the other side of the house.’”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning 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 Politics

Image of Health Minister Mark Butler during a press conference at Parliament House, June 22, 2022. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

Taking stock

From vaccines to carbon credits, the new government announces more reviews into the old one’s messes

Image of then NSW deputy premier John Barilaro and then treasurer Dominic Perrottet enjoy a Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2021. Image © Dean Lewins / AAP Images

The tool of the trade

What made John Barilaro and the NSW Coalition think they could get away with such blatant nepotism?

Image of Fatima Payman, Labor senator for Western Australia, May 28, 2022. Image © Richard Wainwright / AAP Images

Census and sensibility

Between the census data and orientation day for incoming MPs, this is clearly no longer Scott Morrison’s Australia, if it ever was

Image of Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall speaking in the House of Representatives, October 27, 2021. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Very cross bench

Labor appeals to fairness to justify a crossbench staffing decision that looks distinctly unfair

From the front page

Composite image showing John Hughes (image via Giramondo Publishing) and the cover of his novel The Dogs (Upswell Publishing)

A dog’s breakfast

Notes on John Hughes’s plagiarism scandal

Image of Erin Doherty as Becky Green in Chloe. Image supplied

App trap: ‘Chloe’

‘Sex Education’ writer Alice Seabright’s new psychological thriller probing social media leads this month’s streaming highlights

Pablo Picasso, Figures by the sea (Figures au bord de la mer), January 12, 1931, oil on canvas, 130.0 × 195.0 cm, Musée national Picasso-Paris. © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022. Photo: © RMN - Grand Palais - Mathieu Rabeau

‘The Picasso Century’ at the NGV

The NGV’s exhibition offers a fascinating history of the avant-garde across the Spanish artist’s lifetime

Cover image of Paul Dalla Rosa’s ‘An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life’

‘An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life’

Alienations and fantasies of escape unify the stories in Australian author Paul Dalla Rosa’s debut collection