The Politics    Thursday, May 28, 2015

It’s 1996 again

By Sean Kelly

The government reheats some old welfare rhetoric

Minister For Everything The Abbott Government Does That’s Popular, Scott Morrison, held a press conference today.

He was talking about the new social services bill, and announcing that the government would be dropping the six-month waiting period before somebody under 30 could get the dole.

Six months – in which the unemployed person might have gotten pretty hungry – was brutal. It was terrible, punitive, political policy, especially at a time when the unemployment rate is higher than everyone would like it to be.

The government dropping it is a good thing. But not without caveat.

First, let’s not make the mistake of thinking the government has suddenly come over all compassionate. The senate had made pretty bloody clear the six-month waiting period wasn’t going to be passed. The government didn’t have a lot of choice.

Second, the government is not abolishing the waiting period altogether. They’re making it a month, instead: a month in addition to the existing one-week waiting time. And they’re only applying it to people under 25. (There are also exemptions.)

A month is still a while to wait. Luckily, though, it looks as if the new plan may already be doomed in the senate.

But this is just a taste. What should perhaps be even more concerning is the rhetorical framework all this is happening within, because of what it suggests about what the Coalition might do down the track. 

Tony Abbott told parliament this week that Labor MPs “rejoice when people are trapped in welfare”. 

“Members opposite want to trap people in welfare because members opposite just hate aspiration. They just cannot handle the decent people of our country who want to have a go and want to get ahead.”

That sounds an awful lot to me like a PM trying to set up an old-school dole bludgers debate for the next election. Terrifying stuff. And isn’t that type of trick at least 20 years old by now? Sounds a lot like John Howard’s “welfare state to an opportunity society” rhetoric, too (which in turn came from Tony Blair). I know Howard was good at politics, but gee, sometimes I wish today’s Liberal MPs could come up with an idea the old PM hadn’t vetted first.   

Bill Shorten responded to Tony Abbott’s accusations he was playing politics with gay marriage by saying that was “a little cute”, and that "the only reason Tony Abbott was talking about marriage equality yesterday was because Labor put it on the agenda.” (Also in that link: a great photo of George Brandis with his glasses off.)

Mark Kenny and Judith Ireland look at how the actual vote is likely to proceed.

I missed this yesterday: shock jock Alan Jones spent some of yesterday morning’s show advocating for gay marriage. I don’t know how I feel about this. My initial reaction is that those of us who usually disagree with Jones shouldn’t be suddenly paying attention to him because he has one good opinion. On the other hand, he’s making the argument to an audience probably less inclined to agree with him on this one, and that’s pretty important. His argument is also beautifully put.

Another day, another Abbott vs Hockey contradiction.

Dancing tampons outside Parliament House (scroll for the photo).

A Coalition senator has told ABC Managing Director Mark Scott that Q&A is biased to the left, while Senator Arthur Sinodinos has said he wishes the show would focus more on macroeconomic issues.

Bestower of a certain type of cool and founder of magazines Monocle and Wallpaper, Tyler Brûlé, says Sydney is “on the verge of becoming the world’s dumbest nation” because of excessive regulation of things like bar opening hours and airport curfews. Liam Hogan responds.

Lots of arrests at soccer’s governing body FIFA. An explainer here. A granular description of events at the hotel where the arrests were made.  And will this give Australia another chance at hosting the World Cup? A great shot of the UK front pages on the matter.

Powerful Labor senator Sam Dastyari has said Labor supporting proposed changes to how the senate is elected would be “madness”.  It looks like Labor may be a little divided on this.

Barnaby Joyce announced that new tax breaks for farmers would be able to be accessed this year, and not next year as originally planned. ABC’s AM host Michael Brissenden had a good question about the “lifestyle choices” of people on farms as opposed to indigenous people in remote communities. (H/t to Katherine Murphy for the steer.) Joyce has also called on Australia’s media watchdog to look at Kyle Sandilands’ abuse of him on air.

The US Supreme Court will review what I think is a horrifying case of racial injustice.

Evacuations because of old WWII bombs are still routine in Germany.

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.


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