Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Today by Sean Kelly

The daily grind
The PM is doing what he should be doing


It’s important to note that Malcolm Turnbull is doing exactly what any sensible politician should do at this point.

Having suffered through a dreadful month, and finding himself (still) a long way behind in the polls, the prime minister is doing his best to get on with the basic job of governing.

Today he met with power company chiefs for the second time in a month to tell them to help their customers with electricity bills. Write to families and explain how they can get a better deal, he said. He’s talking about improving bills to the tune of somewhere between $400 and $1500. He said, plainly and correctly, “These are very large sums of money for Australian families.”

He also wants customers to be able to switch between retailers more easily.  

This comes after his visit to the Snowy Hydro on Monday, where he announced a small sum of money to help the project along.

It’s not just him, either: his education minister, Simon Birmingham, is urging universities to accept funding cuts. This might not be popular policy, but at least it drags debate back to what the government is doing.

Turnbull’s been hitting different forms of media, too. On Monday night he talked to Leigh Sales on the ABC’s 7.30. There were reports that he looked cranky, and I could see that, but I also thought he was clear and had come prepared. He was fluent without waffling. Early in his prime ministership Turnbull looked awful on 7.30: he would turn up having done not a jot of study, and resort either to condescension or fluffy babbling. I reckon Monday was a marked improvement.

He’s been doing FM radio, too, and handling it fairly well. Most importantly, he’s been putting the case strongly for a Yes vote on marriage equality. For a voluntary vote, getting the message out is a big part of both sides’ strategies, and the prime minister’s contribution is essential. But it’s also useful for him politically: Australians know he believes in the cause and seeing him fight for something he believes in is something they haven’t had much of.

Turnbull needs to do three things from here. The first is desperately hope that various High Court cases go his way. The second is to continue looking like he did this week: back to basics. Sometimes this won’t work – marriage equality and statues are getting more attention again today – but as the saying goes, you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. Which brings us to the third thing. At some point, Turnbull will have to do more than the day-to-day grind. One day, he’ll have to surprise us all with a big policy (or several) that makes it clear he’s still the visionary ideas man people once thought he was. Snowy Hydro wasn’t a bad attempt, but he’ll need more. And between those bursts of excitement, he’ll have to keep up the grind.

In other news


Torch songs

Lana Del Rey gets a little happier on ‘Lust for Life’

Anwen Crawford

“Since her breakthrough six years ago with the single ‘Video Games’, the American singer and songwriter has evinced a gloomy, glamorous fatalism that feels much more aligned with the values of Classical Hollywood than with our own time. She carries herself like Lizabeth Scott, one of Hollywood’s great femmes fatales, who played a torch singer several times.”  READ ON


Blurring the lines

‘The Silent Eye’ is the latest of Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s films to resist easy categorisation

Lauren Carroll Harris

“What makes an art documentary in Australia today? While most filmmakers adopt the talking heads conventions of television factual programming, The Silent Eye, the latest work from Amiel Courtin-Wilson, which screened recently at the Melbourne International Film Festival, continues the filmmaker’s genre fluidity by approaching documentary as an artist rather than as a journalist.”  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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