Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Today by Sean Kelly

Remember policy?
Today offered a small glimpse of a better type of political debate


I confess to feeling a sense of whiplash today. For the past two months, we’ve been charging along through relentlessly political terrain. Every day it’s been either gamesmanship over dual citizens, or calls for resignations (Michaelia Cash, Sam Dastyari), or byelection battling, or fears for Malcolm Turnbull’s job. Significant national events have occurred during that time – the crisis on Manus Island, the Don Dale youth detention royal commission report, marriage – but they have been the result of processes already set in motion.

And then today, we seemed to emerge out of the thicket of Politics with a capital P and out into … bright open space. It was startling.

There was a significant report on the gas market, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission finding that the government’s intervention has increased the supply of gas, but also that the market is still not functioning effectively. It’s a complex landscape, with geographic variations and separate aspects of the market operating differently.

Analysis by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Australian Conservation Fund found that spending on the environment has been cut by a third since the Coalition took office. Meanwhile, across the world, powerful investors have begun muscling up against polluting companies.

Interesting things are afoot in the economy, with consumer confidence rising to a four-year high. This, in turn, may be partly connected to what is shaping up to be a defining debate of 2018, over tax cuts of various types [$].

For the second time in a month, we had state politicians taking the lead on social change, with the Tasmanian opposition announcing plans to ban pokies from pubs and clubs. In late November, Victoria legalised assisted dying.

And on Friday – though this, too, was set in motion a long time ago – we will see the report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Today was one of those rare days that enabled you to imagine what it might be like if our politics settled down a little, allowing policy to return to the centre of attention.

It wasn’t entirely open space, unfortunately. There was discussion of the internal Labor fallout [$] over Dastyari’s resignation. The Liberal Party was forced to defend receiving donations from Huang Xiangmo. The Bennelong byelection got even more willing [$].

Still, it was a tantalising glimpse.

In other news


Unfinished business

Can a young wartime couple pick up where they left off?

Anna Goldsworthy

“And so instead they had cleaved to each other all night, too aroused to sleep, too innocent to do anything about it. And the next day, she had seen him off on the ship to New Guinea.

‘Be sure to come back,’ she had said. ‘Unfinished business.’

She blushes now at her immodesty. But for weeks afterwards, she had seen the keen, blind angle of his sex everywhere: in the railway crossings, in the bows of the violinists at the Palais. She didn’t know how she would bear it.

He takes her hand and helps her onto the bus. She has planned some conversation, for fear that they will have nothing to say.” read on


‘Barbara and the Camp Dogs’: politics and heart in the pub

Pub gig, polemic and family drama jostle alongside one another in a powerful new work

Fiona McGregor

“Ursula Yovich and Alana Valentine’s script literally pulls no punches, with Barbara’s first victim, a racist in the casino, floored in the first five minutes. This pint-sized meld of muscle and mishap then takes on the security guard, shoving his head in the fountain outside. Barbara ‘doesn’t give a bag full of smashed arseholes’. The language is relentlessly, necessarily obscene, recalling the golden age of surreal Australian vernacular, inflected with contemporary Aboriginality. As funny as the fights are, their tragedy is never elided. There’s a mood change precipitated by mother Jill’s failing health, and Barbara’s soliloquy about this ‘meanest, pettiest, most ungenerous country in the world’ hits home. The bedrock of her anger lies beneath us all.” 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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