Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Today by Rachel Withers

The party faithful
How much emphasis should we place on the new NSW premier’s faith?

Image of Dominic Perrottet, who has been sworn in as the 46th premier of New South Wales. Image via ABC News

Dominic Perrottet has been sworn in as the 46th premier of New South Wales. Image via ABC News

Australia now has deeply conservative Christian men running both the nation and its most populous state, after the NSW Liberal Party elected Dominic Perrottet as leader. Perrottet, a member of the religious right, defeated Planning Minister Rob Stokes in this morning’s vote, 39–5, having struck a deal with moderates Matt Kean and Stuart Ayres. (Ayres was reportedly made deputy to appeal to western Sydney.) Speaking after the meeting, Perrottet promised to be an “infrastructure premier” and a “family premier”, and there were refreshing questions asked (usually reserved for women leaders) about how the father of six would manage to juggle his large family and his workload. “Ultimately, I think what I might lose in time I gain in perspective,” he said, adding that he hadn’t yet had the conversations about the family sacrifices he was going to have to make.

Questions quickly turned to his Catholic faith, with reporters asking how Perrottet’s deeply conservative views (he has opposed same-sex marriage, the decriminalisation of abortion and laws forcing priests to disclose child abuse, to name but a few) would affect how he runs the state. “Diversity should be celebrated, it shouldn’t be criticised,” said the man who has been known to attack the “pronoun police”, adding that he was incredibly proud of his faith – as if the issue is with his private religious practice, not with how it might influence his leadership. Many have claimed that scrutinising Perrottet’s faith is unfair, and suggested this is dangerous territory for Labor, having (supposedly) already alienated many individuals of faith. But how much emphasis should be placed on Perrottet’s religious views, especially those vastly out of step with the Australian community? The answer depends on how much emphasis he places on them himself.

Concerns over the new premier’s on-the-record views have continued to swirl in recent days, with an enlivened Labor gearing up to attack him over issues ranging from Trump to climate change. (The state opposition has reportedly been readying its Perrottet hit list ever since Gladys Berejiklian first appeared before ICAC in October last year.) As activist and interfaith minister Stephanie Dowrick wrote on Monday, Perrottet’s brand of Catholicism represents “the most extreme end of a rigidly male-dominated institutional church”, with strong views about identity, sexuality and gender politics. And NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman last night warned a conference call of moderate Liberals that Perrottet would be the “most conservative premier the state has had since World War Two”. (Outgoing Deputy Premier John Barilaro has since tried to clarify that “Dom” is no “extremist”, and that his views have “matured” over the past five years. Indeed, Perrottet is expected to tone down some of his most ideological views, as outlets from Crikey to The Australian note, in order for him to be successful as leader in the more moderate NSW.)

In the hours since Perrottet’s election, abortion advocates have sought assurance that recent hard-won rights will not be rolled back, and the new premier has reportedly promised to allow a conscience vote on forthcoming voluntary assisted dying laws, as part of his efforts to placate the moderates. Many in the Coalition have pushed back against scrutiny, implying that questions about the premier’s faith should be off-limits – something commentator Ronni Salt rightfully slammed as “male focused, privileged garbage” from those whose rights were not going to be affected.

It will be essential for Labor to tread carefully, and not be seen to be belittling Perrottet’s religiosity, even when raising very valid concerns. Perrottet, likewise, should not be underestimated by Labor, Guardian Australia’s Anne Davies writes, characterising the new premier as a “cutting, spiky character and not your everyman”.

Many are also wondering how Perrottet will get on with the prime minister, with whom he has had differences. Scott Morrison all but confirmed during this morning’s media interviews that he recently called the outgoing NSW treasurer a “fuckwit” during a dispute over JobKeeper, as first reported by Niki Savva. (“If anyone has had a go at Perrottet he probably deserved it,” a federal government source told news.com.au, labelling him “very painful to deal with”.) But both leaders have downplayed their issues today. “We have got an honest relationship,’’ Morrison told Sunrise. “When we disagree, we disagree. But the next day we get back to work.” After his election, Perrottet admitted he had not spoken to the PM yet today, but soon would, noting they had known each other for years. “Disagreement is good,” he added.

Someone tell that to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who the PM this morning accused of “extortion” over her calls for more hospital funding to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases, and her warning the border may have to remain shut without it. “I mean, to suggest that they’re not going to open the borders unless I send them cash, how else would you like me to call it?” Morrison said when questioned on his word choice. Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath has since responded, reminding the PM that every jurisdiction wrote to him seeking extra funding for the health system. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has publicly called for the newly instated NSW premier to help lead the states push for funds, arguing that, as the largest state, NSW stands the most to gain. It’s not clear yet what role Perrottet intends to play in this dispute, or in national cabinet more broadly, but the politics of the pandemic make it likely that the “fuckwit” episode won’t be Perrottet’s last spat with the PM.

“Blue hydrogen is not ‘clean’ and, tragically, most governments – without a scintilla of science – are throwing tens of billions of dollars in subsidies at it.”

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has attacked the federal government’s commitment of public funding to subsidise the production of “blue hydrogen”, which uses gas, coal and carbon capture to make hydrogen fuel.

“We need to also ask: who’s going to watch these all-powerful armies of lawyers who are able to hide under the veil of independence?”

Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker has described the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption as a “monster”, as the federal Coalition attempts to justify its draft proposal for a more toothless corruption watchdog.

The people most at risk when lockdown ends
Australia’s two largest states are getting ready to end their long lockdowns and reopen when 80 per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. But what does reopening with that target mean for the 20 per cent who are yet to receive their vaccines?

The number of JobKeeper applicants with high turnovers that recorded revenue “significantly divergent” from their forecasted downturns, which the ATO warned Treasurer Josh Frydenberg about in July 2020. It wasn’t until October 2020 that payments were restricted to firms that suffered an “actual” revenue decline, rather than a forecast.


“Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill says the Pandora Papers expose the potential for accountants to turn a blind eye to financial crime and has called for long-delayed reforms to be implemented that would enforce stricter requirements on the industry to report suspicious transactions.”

Senator Deborah O’Neill, who in June launched an inquiry into Australia’s anti-money laundering regime, says carve-outs in the law that excuse accountants and lawyers from reporting suspected crimes are undermining the integrity of the financial system.

The list

“Grant wrote the script in five weeks without telling Kurzel, then emailed it to him. The director took a deep breath and started reading, certain that this was a film he wasn’t going to make, not least because he lives in Tasmania with his Tasmanian-born wife, actor Essie Davis. But he was quickly disarmed by the screenplay … There was a restraint to the material, with no violence shown onscreen, but a ‘palpable tension’ too. And he was chilled by the scene in which the main character buys guns as though they’re so many fishing rods.”

“[Zuckerberg’s] promises to build a better network – to counter misinformation, for example, in a veiled reference to the US election campaign, or filter out abuse – rely to some extent on our goodwill and credulity. We’re denied access to Facebook’s internal workings, and that’s as Zuckerberg intends it. Which is within his right as chairman and CEO of a business. But a network this large, this influential, this secretive is more than a business. In many ways, it’s a test of our belief in the market.”

“In a few weeks, the veteran refugee activist will be in court again, facing jail for defacing a statue. For now, though, he seems indifferent towards the charges … The incident for which the retired nurse is due to face a Sydney court this month involves some scissors, glue and a sheet of A4 paper that Langford stuck onto a monument of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in Sydney’s Hyde Park. On the sheet were the British military officer’s own words.” 

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Monthly Today.



The Monthly Today

Image of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in Question Time today. Image via ABC News

Rush hour

The Nationals have had far more than four hours to figure out their position on net zero

Composite image of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (images via ABC News)

Border farce

So much for the national plan

Image of Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud, leader Barnaby Joyce and leader in the Senate Bridget McKenzie, June 21, 2021. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Image

Fear and showboating

The Nationals are worried about a net-zero backlash of their own making

Composite image of Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie (via ABC News) and News Corp presenter Andrew Bolt (via Sky News)

The little guys

A vocal minority that has for so long controlled the climate debate is now painting itself as marginalised

From the front page

Image of ‘Scary Monsters’

‘Scary Monsters’ by Michelle de Kretser

Two satirical stories about fitting in, from the two-time Miles Franklin–winner

Image of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in Question Time today. Image via ABC News

Rush hour

The Nationals have had far more than four hours to figure out their position on net zero

Image of Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy in HBO’s Succession season 3. Photograph by David Russell/HBO

Ties that bind: ‘Succession’ season three

Jeremy Strong’s performance in the HBO drama’s third season is masterful

Image of a tampon and a sanitary pad viewed from above

A bloody shame: Paid period leave should be law

Australia’s workplace laws must better accommodate the reproductive body