Monday, September 11, 2017

Today by Sean Kelly

Business as usual, for once
It was a surprisingly quiet day in parliament


Today was … I’m having difficulty locating the right phrase, so long has it been since I’ve had cause to use it … an ordinary parliamentary day.

There were no constitutional crises (or at least no new constitutional crises). There were no major gaffes. No shock political manoeuvres from the prime minister. No massive policy announcements on either side. Even Pauline Hanson couldn’t find it in herself to do something reprehensible. Things just kind of … rolled along, all very ordinary-like.

Which, these days, is somewhat extraordinary.

There was a new poll from Fairfax-Ipsos this morning, which showed two things: the government remains a long way behind Labor, and Bill Shorten is becoming less popular. Both these things are, by now, fairly ordinary, but the fact that neither provoked much reaction from either side is itself mildly extraordinary.

What on earth is happening?

It seems a little as though, for a brief clear moment, the incentives for both sides have coincided. The government needs to present itself as the dogged swot of politics: quietly going about its business, unshowily getting things done. Hence its continued focus on electricity prices and energy policy.

The Opposition, meanwhile, seems to be recognising that it cannot afford to seem all-politics-all-the-time, lest it begin to look petulant and petty in comparison, and cede advantage to the prime minister. Labor will largely dismiss Shorten’s low approval rating as trivial as long as it remains well in front on actual votes, but politicians can’t help but be affected by these things, and I will not be surprised if we see a slow shift in approach. It’s true that in Question Time Labor arrived eventually where it tends to these days, which is at Barnaby Joyce’s citizenship, but the first question was about electricity prices. Last Thursday, Labor began with electricity as well, but only by tying it into a question about Joyce.

All that said, these are minor observations of minor events on a minor day. The government will be very pleased – a quiet slow hum tends to suit prime ministers. The Opposition will not want this to last for long, but it might be wise to resist trying to end the quiet itself. The experience of recent years suggests silence rarely lasts for long.

In other news

• Read of the day: Jacqueline Maley on the dumb baby–beer controversy.

• Marriage equality: No campaign documents [$]. The National Mental Health Commission warns of damage to LGBTQ people from the same-sex marriage debate.

• International criticism of the government’s latest mean-spirited attack on asylum seekers.

• Fairfax-Ipsos poll: Labor ahead, but Shorten falls. Peter Hartcher on the terrible political show we’re all condemned to watch. Some good news for the government on the economy, poll-wise. Peter Martin praises Scott Morrison.

• Energy: The Nationals have rejected support for renewables, and the Clean Energy Target [$] at the level suggested. Some interesting comments on energy policy from Andrew Broad, chairman of federal parliament’s environment and energy committee.

• Ross Gittins questions the “bigger Australia” economic consensus


A beautiful chaos

The Artful Dodgers Studios is a haven for young artists and musicians

Jaye Kranz

“The Artful Dodgers Studios is an art and music space for disadvantaged and at-risk youth, a block downhill from Collingwood’s cafe and fashion strip. A program of the Jesuit Social Services, it has had to reduce its open-studio days from five to three. The funding situation is vertiginous, but as the ADS rounds its 20th year, the place remains lively and, as one attendee describes, ‘often crowded, which I like’.” READ ON


An ugly same-sex marriage debate is just beginning

Malcolm Turnbull got his postal survey win in the High Court but still stands to lose

Mungo MacCallum

“The High Court has at last fanned the long-smouldering same-sex marriage debate into flame, and now it has become a question of not if but how the inferno will play out and how many victims it will consume. But for the moment, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s only emotion was one of joy and relief – had the High Court found the other way it would have precipitated yet another crisis for his government, yet another shit fight in the party room.” READ ON

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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