The Politics    Friday, October 22, 2021

How you finish the race

By Rachel Withers

Image of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans standing in front of a Qantas plane. Image via Facebook

From left: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans. Image via Facebook

The PM is looking to the finish line, in more ways than one

Today it was Victoria’s turn to lift restrictions, with the people of Melbourne celebrating the end of “the world’s longest lockdown”. The Victorian Labor government this afternoon echoed the NSW Liberal government’s decision last week to scrap both home and hotel quarantine for the fully vaccinated, though it garnered a rather different reaction compared to last week’s border farce. After last Friday being forced to reassert his authority over NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet on tourism, Scott Morrison was out bright and early with his own border announcement today – this one undertaken alongside Perrottet, as well as Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, and in one of the PM’s favourite settings: an airport hangar. Qantas, the trio announced, would be resuming international flights ahead of schedule, while Morrison confirmed that he was close to securing a quarantine-free travel bubble for Australia and Singapore, with plans to lobby Indonesia for one too. Welcoming international tourists by the end of the year was “very possible”, the PM added, insisting he and the premier were “on the same page”. Morrison is keen to push ahead with Australia’s reopening, and to claim as much credit for it as possible, even if his government’s sudden pivot to toasting Victoria’s success is falling rather flat. (Mind you, someone forgot tell the Victorian Libs about the switch to positivity.) The PM is well aware that moving past this phase of the pandemic, and returning Australians their freedoms, is necessary to his standing being restored ahead of the next election, with voters still holding him largely responsible for mismanaging the vaccine rollout. He’s got his eyes firmly on that finish line.

But the election is not the only finish line the PM had his eyes fixed on today. The Nationals last night finalised their list of demands for signing up to a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, leaving leader Barnaby Joyce free to broker a deal with Morrison (which Joyce will then return to his party with at 3pm on Sunday). The list is reported to include transition packages for the mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors; a “socioeconomic safety valve”, allowing for “pauses” on the plan if necessary; and changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, enabling farmers to clear more land. Weirdly, the final list reportedly wasn’t shown to the Nationals’ party room. Deputy leader David Littleproud today told media that the party’s position would be decided by the majority, and wouldn’t be held hostage to holdouts like Matt Canavan. “There’s this thing called democracy,” Littleproud added, in comments apparently devoid of irony. 

If Morrison does manage to strike a net-zero deal ahead of the Glasgow climate talks, for which he will depart next Thursday, it will be just in the nick of time – you can already imagine the News Corp op-eds praising Morrison as a strategic genius for bringing an end to the multi-year deadlock. But the last-minute nature of the negotiations, not to mention how badly the PM needs this bare-minimum commitment for COP26, leave him in a terrible bargaining position. Morrison will have little power to negotiate over Joyce’s demands, and it doesn’t seem as if his own party will get much of a look-in over what is agreed, given there is no time to lose. Regional Liberals, who form a larger voting bloc than the Nats, are reportedly already warning that the deal better not favour rural communities and industries in seats held by the junior Coalition partner, The Australian reports. Regardless, as Phil Coorey writes in the AFR, the main thing for Morrison is that we stop talking about this and move on. “When Morrison returns from Glasgow, he will want to talk about the economy and national security all the way to the election,” Coorey adds, noting that the vaccine rollout has been “more than rectified”.

As the PM became fond of saying for a while there, “It doesn’t matter how you start the race, it is how you finish the race.” That may turn out to be the case when it comes to the election, expected to be in March or May, with Morrison clearly hoping that the country will have moved on from his spectacular mismanagement of the pandemic after a few months of summer freedom and travel. But it’s patently untrue when it comes to the vaccine rollout, the race to net zero (which the government is obviously not planning to make a serious start on this decade), and, clearly, this weekend’s rushed attempt to strike a deal on net zero. How and when you start these things matters very much. Morrison’s delays have had, and will continue to have, untold costs for Australians.


“We here on the South Coast are taking a stand against that. The way the government is treating us is wrecking our families, putting the whole heap of stress on householders and extended families.”

Walbunja man Danny Chapman, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council’s councillor for the South Coast region, calls on the government to end cultural fishing prosecutions.

“Just as Indigenous Australians (and other Australians) celebrate and fiercely defend Indigenous culture and heritage, we should all celebrate and fiercely defend our Western liberal culture.”

Education Minister Alan Tudge rails against the new draft curriculum, asserting that it has a “negative view of our history” and will leave young Australians unwilling to defend their country in a military crisis.

Barnaby Joyce is holding Australia hostage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under pressure, both from voters and Australia’s international allies, to publicly support a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. But his coalition partners, the Nationals, are yet to support the policy.

The number of refugee and humanitarian visas granted by Australia last year – the smallest number in in 45 years, and less than half of an already reduced program of 13,750 places.

“In a submission to a federal inquiry on housing affordability, the [NSW] state government is suggesting the federal government review the 50 per cent capital gains tax discount.”

Inquiry chair and Liberal MP Jason Falinski says he is open to a review of tax breaks for property investors, which some say are pushing first home buyers out of the market. The Coalition campaigned heavily against Labor’s proposal to halve the capital gains discount at the last election.

The list

“When your child stops breathing, time dilates. Seconds are experienced as long and hysterical days. There’s a wickedly vivid compression of thoughts – thoughts that mark like a tattooist’s pen; thoughts that I can’t describe here. She choked. On the food I gave her. I was right beside her. I always am, anxiously tethered like an astronaut on a spacewalk.”

“If Australia was a fair-go country for First Peoples, Yuin nation elder Keith Nye, 64, might be a multi-millionaire looking forward to a comfortable retirement after decades of fishing for abalone in his traditional waters on the New South Wales South Coast. Instead, Nye is impoverished and looking down the barrel of a second jail term for trafficking them.”

“There has been a noticeable surge in tinnitus distress during the pandemic, with Tinnitus Australia reporting ‘a huge increase in the demand for advice’ via their social media accounts and telephone helpline … ‘Tinnitus is notoriously reactive to stress, anxiety, fatigue. For a lot of people, there’s a lot of anxiety about feeling unsafe. The part of the brain that is subconsciously involved in us needing to be safe in our environment is under threat with the pandemic.’” 

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

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