Monday, April 26, 2021

Today by Rachel Withers

Poll dancing
Morrison rebounds and Labor goes on the attack

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese at press conference last week. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese at press conference last week. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

Scott Morrison is on the rebound. At least, according to the latest Newspoll, with the latest results showing the prime minister’s approval rating and standing as preferred PM both up four points (to 59 and 56 per cent respectively). This is a result – The Australian’s political editor Simon Benson suggests – of the public’s greater interest in the pandemic recovery than on the recent sexism crisis (though one wonders, following the latest vaccine debacles, why such a focus would be good news for Morrison). Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is down in both his approval and PM standing due to his relative silence last week, Benson suspects, or maybe due to “the absence of the heated parliamentary contest”. It’s not a bad time, then, for Labor to return to the fray, today attempting to up the pressure in the areas in which Morrison is doing well (apparently) as well as those in which he is not, with renewed calls for federally run quarantine facilities and greater action on domestic violence.

Federal Labor has joined WA Labor in calling – once again – for the federal government to pull its weight on quarantining returning Australians, no doubt frustrated by Morrison’s pass mark on the pandemic when he’s still dodging the risks of managing quarantine (which is, as has been pointed out ad nauseam, a federal responsibility), and is hoping to lay some of the blame for Perth’s lockdown ­– which lifts at midnight tonight – at the PM’s feet. WA Premier Mark McGowan spent the weekend railing against the Commonwealth’s dereliction of its quarantine duty, along with its loose departure exemptions, and was backed today by shadow health minister Mark Butler, who called for federally run quarantine facilities, saying Morrison has “done nothing” on quarantine. “It is his responsibility,” he told reporters. “It is his job to fix this mess.” Albanese brought back his highlighted Constitution tweet, reminding Twitter users that quarantine is a federal power.

Tanya Plibersek was also out and about this morning, backing McGowan in his border criticisms, and slamming the federal government for its failures on everything from the vaccine rollout to aged care to the contact-tracing app. Although the state premiers from across party lines have formed a united front of late, it’s clear that this was a Labor versus Liberal issue: NSW Liberal premier Gladys Berejiklian stepped in to defend her federal counterparts (as she did when the “who owns quarantine?” debate flared up in February, following a spate of outbreaks), while Victoria’s acting premier, James Merlino, joined the Labor pile-on, blasting the Morrison government for its lax exemptions.

And despite the latest analysis suggesting that the “women problem” is no longer at the front of voters’ minds, the government is still keen to be seen to be addressing it, with Labor just as keen to press its relative advantage in this area. Weekend reports in the Nine papers teased the fact that the government would unveil “billions of dollars in new measures to ensure women’s economic security and personal safety” in the upcoming budget, while a report this morning suggested the government was examining lifting the maximum childcare subsidy from 85 per cent to 95 per cent for families earning less than $800,000, and scrapping the annual cap – a decision that Albanese appears to want some credit for, noting that this is a Labor policy that the government was, until recently, quite scathing of.

The sidelined Opposition leader knows that the prime minister is likely to receive plenty of praise for his upcoming budget commitments, and Albanese wants voters to know that Labor would go further. “A Labor Government would legislate for 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave,” he tweeted this morning. “We would properly fund frontline services. And we would create a national definition of domestic violence to include coercive control.” Unfortunately for Labor, it’s the government that gets to set the budget, and it’s only Morrison’s women-focused promises that are currently making headlines.

The government gets to control the May 11 budget, and may now be “beginning to wrestle back control of the political agenda” too, according to the pollsters. But while Morrison may appear to be back in the driver’s seat, both leaders will be meeting with former Liberal staffer and alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins this Friday. And if there is one person who is good at wrestling control of the agenda from the prime minister, it is Higgins.

“It’s a modest and gracious request that First Nations be consulted about policies that affect them.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese intends to ramp-up pressure for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament, as he visits Uluru this week ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“Yes just heard him say he was an army officer and they were his medals – but he did not see armed combat.”

Controversial Perth lord mayor Basil Zempilas steps in to defend The West Australian’s “LONE HERO” front page, after it was revealed the defiant marcher was not a veteran but an anti-lockdown, former One Nation staffer.

Richard Flanagan on Tasmania’s toxic secret
The billion-dollar Tasmanian salmon industry promotes itself as environmentally friendly, healthy and good for the state. But when you look a little closer, the environmental and social impacts are alarming. Today, Richard Flanagan on the real impacts of Tasmania’s salmon farms.

The amount Australian governments spent on fossil fuel subsidies over the past financial year – $19,686 per minute – according to a new report.

“Australians will be able to continue to access Medicare-subsidised telehealth services until the end of the year, with the federal government set to include a six-month extension in May’s budget.”

Medicare support for telehealth services, introduced in March 2020, will be extended until the end of the year.

The list

Minari is drenched in the kind of honeyed hue that evokes the lightness of memory, elevating ordinary events to nostalgic signifiers of an ‘easier’ time, where people were unburdened by current pressures. It helps, too, that Chung and cinematographer Lachlan Milne wield a Malick-esque reverence for the bucolic. The haloed glow around blades of grass shivering in the breeze, or an insect buzzing in dappled sunlight can often approach something like the divine – their 50-acre plot is a ‘Garden of Eden’, Jacob says.”

“If there were any doubt that the purported history of the Gallipoli campaign – built on a midden of historical half-truths and outright falsehoods – had fallen prey to contemporary politics and commercialisation, the spate of centennial memorialisation and relentless Anzackery provided ample evidence. Last February, hundreds gathered in the Sydney municipality of Auburn, home to approximately 5000 residents of Turkish ancestry, for the unveiling of a 20-metre Wall of Friendship. The wall’s central plaque depicts a Turkish soldier carrying a wounded Allied soldier, a facsimile of a statue that the Turkish government erected in 1997 at Pine Ridge on the Gallipoli battlefields … the much-lauded statue of the Turkish soldier carrying his enemy is entirely bogus.”

“Peter Dutton is shaking things up. But those at the top of the Australian Defence Force are mindful that, in his new job, the Defence minister wields a sword with a double blade. Dutton’s reversal of Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell’s plan to strip 3000 special forces personnel of a meritorious unit citation for their service in Afghanistan is being seen as decisive, if controversial. But while it demonstrates power, the move also underlined the former Home Affairs minister’s willingness – and that of his prime minister – to prioritise the government’s political fortunes over some other considerations in Defence.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Monthly Today.



The Monthly Today

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