The Politics    Friday, November 5, 2021

Domestic ground

By Rachel Withers

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and others promoting the M4–M5 Link tunnels project. Image via Twitter

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and others promote the M4–M5 Link tunnels project. Image via Twitter

Scott Morrison prepares to go local

It’s been a quiet end to a hectic week, as the French fallout begins to dissipate and the prime minister attempts to shift the focus back to more comfortable domestic territory. Federal, state and territory leaders are this afternoon in a lengthy national cabinet meeting, the first in more than a month. The meeting is expected to address hospital capacity, international borders and a range of vaccine-related issues (the papers were “as thick as a Tolstoy novel,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk quipped earlier). The PM reportedly plans to offer the states and territories additional hospital funding to speed up the nation’s reopening, though not nearly as much as they’d been asking for, and likely not enough to address the strain they are under. The Victorian and NSW premiers have teamed up to push for the nation to start vaccinating children under 12 – a move reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic, when the two largest states presented a nonpartisan united front. The meeting comes amid a series of state border announcements: the border between NSW and Victoria is now open to fully vaccinated travellers, Tasmania will be relaxing testing for low-risk travellers from December 15, and Western Australia has confirmed it will ease border restrictions when 90 per cent of the 12+ population is fully vaccinated, expected around late January. Much of this will please Tourism Minister Dan Tehan, who spent the morning encouraging Australians to holiday domestically this summer (the former diplomat did not want to talk about the leaked French texts, strangely). But it will especially please Scott Morrison, as he embarks on a week-long “post-COVID blitz” – the first in a series of pre-election mini campaigns. Prepare the hard hats.

This first “pre-election campaign salvo”, The Australian reports, will focus on Victoria and NSW, as Morrison attempts to “reconnect with voters personally” following months of lockdown, though it remains to be seen whether they want to reconnect with him. The PM intends to be photographed in the most domestic of settings (“RSL clubs, community centres, cafes and pubs”, the paper reports), and he will also be spruiking “energy-investment announcements” in key marginal regional seats (but of course). The high-vis/hard-hat combo already got a workout this morning: Morrison appeared beside NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to announce the “final tunnelling breakthrough” on the M4–M5 Link tunnels project (an announcement the leader of the nation surely did not need to attend) and to pose for selfies with workers. Asked about Morrison’s “blitz” this morning, Labor leader Anthony Albanese was dismissive, telling reporters that visiting and talking to people was “something I do every day”. Unfortunately for Albanese, it rarely seems to attract the same level of attention.

Morrison would have been disappointed that he was in Glasgow for the scrapping of hotel quarantine in Melbourne and Sydney earlier this week, and the tearfully happy airport scenes that went along with it. But he’s certainly not going to miss the chance to take credit for the (genuinely impressive) milestone of 80 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 being fully vaccinated – a marker we are expected to reach in the coming days. Speaking from the M4–M5 Link tunnel today, Morrison talked of what Australia had achieved, conveniently forgetting that his government was the key reason the nation hadn’t been able to achieve that sooner, and the fact that millions of people had spent unnecessary months in lockdown because of it. He might want to hope the people of “inner-city Melbourne”, who he also intends to visit on his upcoming mini campaign, conveniently forget that too.

“Governments should remove distortions that divert investment away from the transition to net zero.”

OECD secretary-general Mathias Cormann continues his shameless but welcome climate pivot, urging world leaders to axe taxpayer-funded fossil-fuel subsidies.

“People could ask questions as to whether it was wise for journalists to pressure the French president, in regards to the comments he made.”

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham tries to blame Australian journalists for escalating the French dispute, questioning whether they acted in the “national interest” (read: the government’s interest).

The prime minister, the president and the leaked texts
Scott Morrison returns from the G20 in Rome and COP26 in Glasgow with less domestic and international credibility than he left Australia with. While a stoush over a $100 billion submarine contract plays out on a global stage, it casts a shadow over the PM’s domestic political ambitions.

The approximate amount that YouTuber Jordan Shanks (friendlyjordies) will pay in legal costs, after former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro settled his defamation claim against the comedian.

“The Coalition’s voter ID bill could be challenged in court as a disproportionate measure that excludes people from voting, constitutional law expert Prof Anne Twomey has warned.”

Professor Anne Twomey argues that the government’s proposed voter ID legislation could be struck down for the “imposition of additional administrative burdens that make it more difficult to vote”.

The list

“For me, the most unstable part of Jones’s schtick as The People’s Man was not his employment of a butler, but his amazing immunity to proportionate consequence. I don’t know anyone whose job would’ve survived a fraction of Jones’s slander, sloppiness and impropriety. But in 2019, Jones was offered another contract; and his radio retirement last year was acknowledged with rhetorical bouquets from past prime ministers. For decades, he was too big to fail – until the ratings became too small.”

“Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s camera is mostly static, moving very rarely, if at all. It is an observer, yes, but not an impassive one. At various points his characters address the camera directly, face and body centre of frame, speaking as if the material world has melted away with nothing but the raw, contradictory details of verbal expression left in its wake. At other times his camera is curiously distant. We see, with few cuts, whole scenes played out almost entirely in master shot. Key to this approach – and much of Hamaguchi’s cinema more generally – is an underlying trust in his audience. Hamaguchi’s camera observes but, perhaps more pointedly, it also asks us to observe in the process.”

“There is a deeper cancer eating at the Biden presidency and the country. Trump remains obsessed with the ‘stolen’ 2020 election, seeding Republican sentiment. He did not concede, retire or retreat from the field after his defeat. In fact, Trump owns the Republican field. He is fielding Republicans who will try to replace the party ‘traitors’ in congress who had the temerity to vote to impeach Trump for the insurrection. Republicans massively want Trump to run again.” 

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


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