Monday, 11 December 2017

Of Geoffrey Rush, Australia's racist press, songs of aggression and links to other interesting news and views

The naming and framing of actor Geoffrey Rush - Alex Mitchell's The Weekly Notebook
The Sydney Theatre Company is responsible for naming and framing actor Geoffrey Rush as a sex predator. In doing so, it has behaved disgracefully and probably illegally.
China's top paper says Australian media reports are racist - Reuters
The reports in Australian media have been full of imagination, making baseless attacks on the Chinese government and have maliciously slandered Chinese students and people living in Australia, the paper said in a commentary.
“This type of hysterical paranoia had racist undertones, and is a stain on Australia’s image as a multicultural society,” the People’s Daily said.
Inequality and the Coming Storm - Project Syndicate
In recent decades, the wealth gap between a narrow upper class and the rest of the human population has become a gaping chasm, with far-reaching implications for most countries around the world. Rising inequality may be the greatest economic challenge of our time, but it’s not the first time human civilization has faced it.
A second referendum is in the Tory party’s interests - Financial Times
Voters need to endorse a deal or the government will be punished in a general election
Songs of Aggression - The Nation
A review of popular music reveals striking and distressing similarities in the way men talk about and deal with women in today’s society.
Donald Trump’s Brains - New York Review of Books
Among the many anomalies of Donald Trump’s presidency has been the near invisibility of institutions that for many years served as a bulwark of Republican policymaking. ...
At the moment, Trump’s detractors in the conservative movement can do little more than engage in handwringing about what they have helped to bring about.
The Fall of the House of Mugabe - The Times Literary Supplement
Ultimately, the recent transition in Zimbabwe is the fall of the House of Mugabe, a story of greed, ambition and envy, love, betrayal and human frailty. At the core of Mugabe’s downfall was his failure to understand that the steel that forged him had also forged the men around him. The contradiction of Mugabe is that he is all that the various narratives about him say he is. Ultimately, he is a flawed hero in the Greek tragic tradition, blinded by hubris, unable to face his own mortality, the man who turned a cherished and urgent dream into a tarnished, and maybe irreparable, legacy.

The Scoundrel theory of politics and other news and views

The Scoundrel Theory of American Politics - New York Times
It is no surprise that politics, a realm of compromise and clashing interests, does not conform to standards of abstract rationality — nor should it. But a political act is a product of the statesman as an organic human being whose judgment is inevitably bound up with his or her character. Character is not reducible to private morality alone, but the person of the statesman makes an inescapable difference in politics. His or her character — that is, who he or she essentially is — matters. It is clear enough that each party knows this to be the case, for each asserts that character is important when attacking the opposition even while denying it when protecting its own.
Lost in Translation? Pope Ponders an Update to Lord’s Prayer - New York Times
In a new television interview, Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.
Archive of The Courier Mail’s front pages during election 2017 - NoFibs

Is Trump going to fire Mueller? 6 disturbing signs. Think Progress

Corporate execs are obsessed with blockchain because they can’t afford to ignore it anymore - Quartz

Sunday, 10 December 2017

While Malcolm warns the Chinese in pidgin mandarin, singalong to "I Like Chinese"

While Malcom warns off the Chinese in pidgin mandarin, we in the suburbs continue to singalong while still offering a lychee branch of friendship.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has doubled down on his criticism of the Chinese interfering in domestic politics, while insisting the communist leadership will respect his tough talk.
Mr Turnbull said he wasn’t intimidated by Beijing expressing “strong dissatisfaction” over his remarks earlier this week about foreign interference. He spoke Mandarin when noting China was founded in 1949 with the words “the Chinese people have stood up”.
“It was an assertion of sovereignty, it was an assertion of pride,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.
“And so we say ‘the Australian people stand up’.” Mr Turnbull this week in parliament cited “disturbing reports about Chinese influence”, but he was blunter on Saturday.

Friday, 8 December 2017

How a restaurant that does not exist became London Trip Adviser's number one and other news and views

I Made My Shed the Top Rated Restaurant On TripAdvisor - Vice
TripAdvisor’s top-rated London eatery is an old shed. Its owner posted fake food photos and glowing (false) reviews for The Shed at Dulwich, which never existed.
If Damian Green lied about looking at porn, I don’t blame him one bit - The Spectator
The berserk climate in which we live now leaves anyone facing this sort of charge no option
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks face US election probes - The New Daily

“We have to acknowledge that Trump could be re-elected”: my interview with Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook - Lord Ashcroft Polls

Educational Opportunity For All - OECD Children, students and adults from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds receive too little support to succeed in school and in learning opportunities later in life.
OECD data shows that social background, in particular parental educational background, plays a significant role in influencing children’s opportunities. On average, in OECD countries, children with lower-educated parents have just a 15% chance of attaining tertiary education, whereas, they are four times more likely (63%) to finish university if at least one of their parents has attained tertiary education. Children with better-educated parents are six times less likely to drop out at lower secondary level or before, compared to students whose parents have a lower educational background.

To help ensure societies are more inclusive, governments should support education for life and throughout people’s lives. To create an equitable lifelong learning system, equity must be made an explicit priority, says the report, with progress rewarded systematically through monitoring and evaluations. Goals for reducing inequality in education should be set at local and national levels in schools and classrooms, and the best principals and teachers attracted to work in disadvantaged schools.

Investment in good quality early childhood education and care is needed, especially for children from poorer families. Family and community-based support and programmes can help, as well as targeted support for low performing students from disadvantaged backgrounds and schools.

To help all adults do well in today’s changing world of work, governments, employers and local communities should pool their efforts to offer adult learning programmes that focus on employability, through a combination of education, training and practical job training. Support should be targeted to the most vulnerable in society.
Will abuse commission be another damp squib? - Eureka Street

Institutions feel confident that most survivors of abuse don't sue, and most victims can't afford to. And in reality, no apology nor even bigly compensation can take away the pain or fix the damage done to a child when they were very young. What happened to so many of these children, much of the time, deformed their spirit. As an adult, a victim of sexual violence, humiliation and pain as a child shapes his or her life around great pits and scars of these experiences and the memories of confusion, shame and retribution.

The cause of the misuse of power over children was our refusal to take a child's world view as seriously as our own adult priorities.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Death of Fleet Street confirmed plus other news and views

James Murdoch tipped for Disney role in Fox deal - Financial Times

James Murdoch has been suggested as a potential successor to Bob Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney, in deal discussions with the US media company over the sale of 21st Century Fox entertainment assets, according to people briefed on the talks.

Bah hiccup! Mirror journalists are limited to five free drinks at Christmas party - Press Gazette

Keith Waterhouse must be turning in his grave. Bosses at the Mirror titles have told journalists they will have to make do with just five drinks on the company at this year’s Christmas Party, in place of the usual fill-your-boots policy.
Turnbull friendly fire is mostly undeserved - John Warhurst in Eureka Street
Malcolm Turnbull continues to cop plenty of friendly fire. He has both a leadership and a Coalition problem. He is blamed for the ills of the Coalition government whether or not he can be reasonably held responsible for them.

The art of influence: how China's spies operate in Australia - Charles Wallace, a former Australian intelligence officer, in The Canberra Times
Leading politicians and power brokers from both our main parties have, in the past, been prepared to accept China's largesse; some more blatantly than others.
Indeed, our federal parliamentarians have often been guilty of lapses of integrity that would simply not be tolerated of federal public servants.
The simple rule of integrity for current and past politicians, and particularly former prime ministers and ministers, is that they should not accept foreign benefits – no matter what the source – when the obvious intention is to influence or undermine Australian government policy.
Are smartphones making us less productive? Quartz

Teenagers Embrace JUUL, Saying It's Discreet Enough To Vape In Class - NPR
Devices like these might be introducing a new generation of teenagers to nicotine addiction and leading some vapers to take up smoking tobacco cigarettes, a study out in Pediatrics on Monday suggests. That would buck a national trend of teens drifting away from certain risky behaviors like drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex.

Messrs Dastyari and Robb join Doris Day singing "why don't you stop me when I talk about Shanghai"

Especially now we are all allergic to rice.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

A quote of the day by a Liberal Senator critical of his mate Milo and Andrew Bolt does not approve

The quote of the day

"You know, young man swaggers into Canberra, attention seeking, saying outrageous things and appeasing the far right, and getting some media coverage. Sounds like the coalition party room."
   - Liberal Senator Jane Hume bemused about the fuss surrounding a visit by controversial right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos to Parliament House
But Andrew Bolt does not approve.
"For a Liberal not to get the fuss about Milo - and the 14,000 tickets sold to libertarians and conservatives around the country - explains perfectly why the Liberals are losing members and donations."
She's a Liberal? item on the Bolt blog

Of Bitcoins, Nazis, boos at the opera and other news and views

Bitcoin Is Now Bigger Than Buffett, Boeing and New Zealand - Bloomberg
Bitcoin’s extraordinary price surge means its market capitalization now exceeds the annual output of whole economies, and the estimated worth of some of the world’s top billionaires.
Enter the 'petro': Venezuela to launch oil-backed cryptocurrency - Reuters
“Venezuela will create a cryptocurrency,” backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves, [ President Nicolas] Maduro said in his regular Sunday televised broadcast, a five-hour showcase of Christmas songs and dancing.
CBOE to launch bitcoin futures trading on December 10 - Financial Times
Bitcoin futures trading is almost here. CBOE Global Markets said on Monday it will launch trading in futures tracking the controversial cryptocurrency next week, giving many mainstream investors their first shot at speculating on its price.
Bitcoin and Fundamentals - Money and Banking
So, the price of Bitcoin has all the hallmarks of a bubble. What could puncture it?
One possibility is the advent of derivatives. ... It seems possible that the introduction of Bitcoin futures, which facilitate short positions, will eventually turn the boom into a bust.
Another threat to Bitcoin is a broader international crackdown on the concealment of cross-border transactions, perhaps for national security reasons (think North Korea), or to retrieve funds from tax havens, in addition to all the familiar concerns about illegal activity.
Our bottom line: when unsophisticated investors start buying an asset whose key virtue is that they can sell it to others with similarly limited knowledge, then it is time to worry.
The Real Story of How the Nazis Have Returned to Germany's Parliament - Haaretz
Why denazification failed in communist East Germany – and how that fuels today's Holocaust-denying, anti-immigrant German far right, the Alternative for Germany
A storm of boos for La Bohème at the Paris Opera - Financial Times
A new production of La Bohème in Paris involves a defective spacecraft and is set on an alien planet. It was not well received.
Top companies face legal action over sexual harassment - Financial Times
Equality commission warns FTSE chairs of repercussions from systemic failings

Letting Andrew Bolt off the hook

An endorsement from this man:

George Christensen slammed as ‘weak’ after backing down from penalty rates threat - The New Daily
Nationals MP George Christensen has been criticised as “weak” and “all talk” after backing down from his threat to cross the floor to protect penalty rates.
Mr Christensen revealed on Monday he would not back a bill amended by Labor that would reinstate penalty rates cut by the Fair Work Commission earlier in the year, despite his frequent threats to do so.
 See also:
It is the word of Andrew Bolt that we cannot trust

Monday, 4 December 2017

The hoe down at Barnaby's Canberra ranch - singalong

When Mother's Milk goes sour - Bad taste in the wine industry

I remember the initial audience mutterings followed by a rather stunned silence even 30 years after the event. It was a speech to a who's who of the Australian wine industry in a posh hotel dining room. I had dared to begin: "Fellow drug pushers ...".
It was a concept quite alien to these alcohol manufacturers; that being legal was the only thing differentiating the product they made, and I sold, from other things that you could end up in jail for being associated with.
That government granted privilege of being a legal drug has slowly dawned on many in the wine industry since then. When my brother and I started putting "drink in moderation" on our Farmer Bros wine labels back in 1982 we were considered odd-balls. Such slogans are now mandatory.
But not everyone has got the message that being a drug seller carries with it a responsibility to act with some restraint when it comes to marketing. Those canned vodka and fruit mixtures come close to being targeted at children even if not as blatantly as Lindemans did back in there 1980's with its Tropicana in little Tetra packs complete with a strawer. [For those of you too young to remember that particular episode I have reprinted the original story on my Wine and other alcoholic things Facebook page.]
A blatant current example:

Now this Mother's Milk is a Barossa Shiraz and the bright young fellows at First Drop probably giggled when they named it. And even though it's not to my sense of humour I guess I could tolerate the bad taste of the name if they had left it in the bottled form that the Dan Murphy chain saw fit to stock.
In the mock milk bottle form it is just too clever by half and makes a mockery of the wine industry's pretence that it takes drinking in moderation seriously.

A dismal Newspoll showing. No, not by the Coalition. By The Owl and his readers

And the actual result? Labor 53%, Coalition 47%.
Not flash for the Turnbull led team by any means but far from brilliant by mine.

The free speech wedding cake case gets under way, Dennis the Menace is back and other news and views

Even the Bernini of Buttercream Has to Serve Gay Couples - New York Times
The Supreme Court is to hear arguments Tuesday in the case of a Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for two gay men, Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The legal issues in this case are potentially vexing and complicated, but there is a simple way the court could avoid most of them and resolve this case through the application of well-established law. ... 
No one has required Mr. Phillips to pledge allegiance to gay marriage. Nor has anyone denied him the freedom to speak, write or pray against it. Mr. Phillips is not a church, a political pamphleteer or a schoolchild being forced to honor a graven image. He is a small-business owner who makes and sells pretty things to eat.
That is honest and important work, but the First Amendment does not give merchants like him the right to refuse to comply with anti-discrimination statutes just because they think their personal beliefs are more important. Beliefs may not be regulated by the government, but business practices can be. This principle is well settled, and applying it to Mr. Phillips would make this a much easier case.
Hawaii Initiates A New Monthly Test Of A Nuclear Siren - NPR

The Rupert Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox has restarted talks to sell most of the company, including UK broadcaster Sky, to Walt Disney, it was reported on Sunday.

Republicans Are Looting the Treasury While They Still Can - The Nation
They know a backlash is coming, and they’re making the most of their power while they have it.
How the Republicans Broke Congress - New York Times
In the past three days, Republican leaders in the Senate scrambled to corral votes for a tax bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would add $1 trillion to the deficit — without holding any meaningful committee hearings. Worse, Republican leaders have been blunt about their motivation: to deliver on their promises to wealthy donors, and down the road, to use the leverage of huge deficits to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security. Congress no longer works the way it’s supposed to.
Look who’s back! Dennis the Menace wows new generation of mischief-loving children
The Beano, the UK’s longest-running comic, is revitalised by digital spin-offs promoting the joys of youthful rebellion
White evangelicals stand by Roy Moore: poll shows candidates neck-and-neck: Allegations against Moore haven't cost him his base. - Think Progress
Alabama’s Senate race is now neck-and-neck with one crucial demographic holding on to support for Republican candidate and accused serial sexual predator Roy Moore: white evangelical Christians. With the election less than two weeks away, a new Washington Post-Schar School poll shows Democrat Doug Jones leading his opponent 50 to 47 among voters. That poll, published Saturday, notes that a margin of more than nine points is needed to be significant. If the poll is correct, the race is a toss-up — remarkable in overwhelmingly conservative Alabama.
Japan’s much-maligned ‘research whaling’ draws fire for possible violation of international treaty - Japan Times
GENEVA – Japan has found itself in hot water over its “research whaling” in the Northwest Pacific amid a possible violation of an international treaty on endangered species.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

It is the word of Andrew Bolt that we cannot trust

So you have a mischievous little fib to spread. Well, first of all find a gullible journalist or, even better, one who is prepared to peddle nonsense as long as it suits his political prejudices. And so this came to pass:
Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun December 3, 2017 10:46am

Nationals MP George Christensen privately told me, Peta Credlin and Cory Bernardi that he would quit the Turnbull Government if Malcolm Turnbull was still Prime Minister this week.
He authorised me and Peta to spread the word, without using his name, hoping to create maximum pressure on Turnbull. Twice more he urged me on, even after lying to Samantha Maiden of Sky News, telling her he was not the MP I'd referred to.
He told me that he meant his threat and explicitly told me I should report it without fear that he'd back down and make me look like a party to mischief.
Now he's piked, and I must say he has behaved very badly. I cannot now trust his word.
He also damaged the Government without actually following through with serious intent. He should either have said nothing or done everything.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Leader of the Free World is now completely unhinged and other news and views

For more than nine months now (at least) a dreadfully adverse electoral verdict has become ‘baked in’. Voters are no longer listening to Turnbull, whose own tin ear for them, in turn, is notorious. Nothing the current Coalition leadership can do will change this. As others have said, voters’ apparent resignation to this debacle can now only be changed by some kind of circuit breaker. ... So it’s time for that – in the form of a Liberal leadership change – to be brought on.
An Economist's Take on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies: It's a Giant Scam and the Mother of All Bubbles - Douglas L. Campbell blog
The difficulty I went through in trying to purchase bitcoin only confirmed my worst fears of why I think it is a scam/ponzi scheme.
Bitcoin: an investment mania for the fake news era - Financial Times
The cryptocurrency has attracted people who mistrust institutions — and those looking for a way to get rich quick
Meghan Markle: a breath of fresh air for the royal family - Financial Times
Like a TV serial, the monarchy benefits from a strong supporting cast. As a duchess, and wife to the fifth in line to the throne, Ms Markle will be expected to look glamorous and to find pleasure in vague motivational statements. If her Instagram account is any guide, she has those two skills nailed. All Buckingham Palace needs do is prepare the almond milk cappuccino. If she yearns for normality or freedom, that is when it becomes trickier. 
Trump likely to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital next week: official - Reuters

Friday, 1 December 2017

A salutary tale for Bitcoin buyers, a link to sex and power and other news and views

Bitcoin’s surge little comfort for burned Mt. Gox clients in international legal limbo - Japan Times
When Mt. Gox, the world’s largest bitcoin trading exchange, collapsed in early 2014, more than 24,000 customers around the world lost access to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency and cash.
More than three years later, with the price of bitcoin skyrocketing to more than $10,000 in some markets, not a single customer has recouped a single cent, crypto or otherwise. It’s not clear when they will. The failed exchange has become stuck in a morass of litigation — a Russian doll of bankruptcies in Japan and New Zealand, four in all, plus lawsuits in the United States and competing claims from creditors.
And although the Mt. Gox bankruptcy trustee recovered digital currency now worth more than $1.6 billion, under Japanese law the exchange’s customers likely will recover only a fraction of that.
Potential Catastrophe: How the Irish Border Became Brexit's Biggest Hurdle - Der Spiegel
A new "hard" border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could have dire economic consequences for both sides -- and reignite old feuds. Now Dublin is playing hardball with British negotiators.
How to Tame Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple - Bloomberg
There hasn’t been a concerted effort to stop the runaway tech giants—yet. Would today’s laws even be up to the challenge?
Here's what makes a successful public-private partnership - In the Black
Public-private partnerships are a common way of getting major infrastructure projects across the line, but some failed deals have left governments and investors with burnt fingers.
Sex and Power in Washington - New Republic
Why the capital is ripe for sexual abuse—and why that’s unlikely to change

Barnaby the clear New England favourite as The Australian sends in its "Social Affairs" reporter

New England voters tipped to return Joyce
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is tipped to comfortably win the New England by-election this weekend but his primary vote could take a hit if voters punish the troubled Turnbull government.
Mr Joyce will almost certainly regain the NSW seat in the absence of a high-profile opponent when almost 110,000 voters go to the polls on Saturday.
Betting websites have Mr Joyce as the overwhelming favourite.

Low-key Barnaby Joyce campaigns under a veil of secrecy - The Australian

RICK MORTON Social Affairs reporter writes: Barnaby Joyce’s campaign for the seat of New England is in lockdown in its final days after his team received “security advice” that has seen the former deputy prime minister duck the media spotlight. Mr Joyce, who had to resign from the seat he won at last year’s federal election after it was revealed he was a dual New Zealand citizen, has continued campaigning across the electorate under a veil of secrecy. He is expected to make one official appearance today, although details are being kept under wraps.
'Get on with the job', voters tell Barnaby Joyce ahead of New England by-election - SBS
While he is undoubtedly the star candidate in Saturday's New England by-election, Barnaby Joyce has been keeping a much lower profile in recent weeks.
He has reined in media appearances as he battles to win back the seat after being struck out by the High Court last month for being a dual New Zealand citizen.

Once again Cut & Paste in The Australian tells you all you need to know

No royal commission into banks. Say that again, PM

Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra, yesterday:
Cabinet has met this morning and is determined that the only way we can give all Australians a greater degree of assurance about the financial system is through a royal commission …

The Prime Minister addresses the media in Bennelong, Tuesday:

Let me tell you, if we had set up a royal commission into banks two years ago, none of the reforms that we have undertaken would have been able to be achieved. You know why? Because people would have said: “Oh, don’t do that. Wait for the royal commission’s report. Wait for the report. Wait for the report. Wait for the report.”

Turnbull on the Nine Network’s Today show, Monday:

Karl Stefanovic: But let’s make it ­simple, just to write that one off. While you are PM, under your watch, there will be no banking royal commission?

Turnbull: Karl, there is not going to be a banking royal commission and look, can I just say Karl, the reason for that is that banking royal commission is a long inquiry, it’s very expensive. But it doesn’t do anything other than write a report.

Turnbull on the Seven Network’s Sunrise program, Monday:

I can tell you that we as a government, we have decided not to have a royal commission … A royal commission would simply be an inquiry, take a long time, cost a lot of money and make recommendations which would no doubt be to do precisely what we’re already doing.

Turnbull speaking to the media in Sydney, November 17:
All of the recommendations that a royal commission would be likely to make are being undertaken now … So that is why we have not established a royal commission.

Turnbull on Sky News, May 10:

Well, look, the royal commission idea was always a waste of money. My objection to the royal commission was not that I thought there was nothing wrong with the banking sector. My objection to it was that it would take years, cost hundreds of millions of dollars, half a billion dollars or something of that order, and it would make a bunch of recommendations which you could write now.

Turnbull argues against a royal commission in the House of Representatives, May 10:

What is a royal commission into the banks going to tell us that we do not know? What recommendations is it going to make that we have not implemented? … the banks are not scared of a royal commission, sunshine.

Turnbull during the election campaign on Fiveaa Adelaide Radio, June 28 last year:
… a royal commission won’t address any of those issues. A royal commission would result in years of delay, enormous expense — the legal profession I guess would do very well out of it — but there would be absolutely nothing in terms of action.

Turnbull in parliament, April 18 last year:
It cannot compensate anyone … The only cheques that are written in ­respect of royal commissions are to the lawyers, and they do very well out of it.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Nationals force reluctant Turnbull to dress in Shorten's banking clothes

Grattan on Friday:

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Only a few months ago Bill Shorten would have thought that if he won the election he’d be delivering same-sex marriage and a royal commission into banks early in his government.

Now Malcolm Turnbull is bringing us both – in each case, his hand forced by a (different) group of rebel backbenchers.

The marriage bill, which will go through the House of Representatives next week, has some disgruntled conservatives arcing up after the Senate rejected their amendments, but Turnbull will mark it down as one of the achievements of his prime ministership.

It’s another matter with the banking royal commission. Seldom is a government’s impotence and frustration as much on display as it was when Turnbull finally capitulated and announced on Thursday that the government would establish the inquiry it has so long resisted and denounced.

For quite a time political hardheads had been arguing the government should accept the inevitable and “own” an inquiry. Well, now it does - and what a reluctant owner it is, miserable and bitter.

Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison lamented that setting up the royal commission, which covers superannuation and insurance providers as well as banking, was “regrettable but necessary”, driven by the political circumstances in which they found themselves.

In the end, there wasn’t a choice.

The bad result for the Liberal National Party in Saturday’s Queensland election strengthened the hand and determination of the federal rebel Nationals, set on pushing Nationals Barry O'Sullivan’s private senator’s bill for parliament to set up a commission of inquiry.

Two lower House Nationals, George Christensen and Llew O'Brien, were willing to cross the floor to give the bill the numbers there. In the background Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, on the New England campaign trail, was not resisting the flow. Joyce judged that if the issue reached the Nationals party room, the commission would get support.

The Nationals also knew an inquiry had strong public backing, a point underlined by an Essential poll this week showing 64% wanted a royal commission. That included 62% of Coalition voters.

The banks themselves came to accept that opposition had become too costly. In their Thursday letter to the government (flagged late Wednesday) advocating “a properly constituted inquiry”, the chairmen and chief executives of the four major banks said it was “in the national interest for the political uncertainty to end.

"It is hurting confidence in our financial services system, including in offshore markets, and has diminished trust and respect for our sector and people”, they wrote.

As Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Anna Bligh, former Queensland Labor premier, put it bluntly, it was too a big a risk to have a inquiry where the terms of reference and choice of commissioner were in “the hands of minor parties and fringe elements of the parliament”.

On Tuesday and Wednesday O'Sullivan, Turnbull and senior ministers sparred over the issue. O'Sullivan, a tough ex-cop from Queensland, says the government didn’t try to get him to drop his bill. Rather, it was attempting to “manage time”. He knew it was working on something, though he didn’t know what.

The ministers wanted to find out when his bill would be ready for the Senate. Some say O'Sullivan put it on pause. He denies this, saying his negotiations with the Greens and others and the preparation and printing processes pushed it back to early Thursday, which helped the government.

Cabinet met first thing that morning – Turnbull’s announcement was at a 9am news conference. The bill had done its job without having to make an actual appearance in parliament.

The government’s perennial arguments – until Thursday - against a royal commission have included that it would undermine international investor confidence in Australia’s banks and that an inevitably prolonged inquiry would have delayed the reforms the government has introduced or proposed.

The first proposition will be tested now that the inquiry is to proceed. It is doubtful, however, that overseas investors are as easily frightened as the government has been suggesting. They’re surely sophisticated enough to understand the fundamentals of our banking system, and those are sound.

The government has maintained its measures are adequate to address the issues but O'Sullivan and other proponents of an inquiry insisted they would not deal with the dimension of “culture”. The banks’ “profit before people” attitude, as Nationals senator John Williams puts it.

A circuit breaker is needed to restore public confidence in banks. But the material to emerge during the inquiry may lower that confidence further before there is any sign of its restoration.

The royal commission will be led by a former or serving judicial figure and will be asked to deliver a final report by February 1, 2019, with an interim report before that. The terms of reference will be tight: “it’s not going to be an inquiry into capitalism”, Turnbull said.

The Nationals’ brutal power play may deepen tensions between Liberals and the junior Coalition partner. Not that the Nationals care that much. Christensen didn’t hesitate to rub salt into Turnbull’s open wound. “I just don’t understand why it took a number of National Party backbenchers to drag the Prime Minister kicking and screaming to this decision,” he said, in a cutting but pertinent observation.

O'Sullivan was more diplomatic, speaking of Turnbull “making his own journey.” A journey, it might be said, under armed escort.

Meanwhile the Nationals were relishing shades of the 1937 royal commission into the banking system. As a Senate report of a few years ago recounted,
“At the 1935 election the Country Party (and the Labor Party) had promised an inquiry and when the conservative government led by Joseph Lyons was forced to form a coalition with the Country Party, he agreed to establish an inquiry”.

If it had responded much earlier to the pressure for an inquiry the government could have hoped to reap credit for appreciating the depth of public complaints and concerns.

As it is, with its grudging decision through gritted teeth, it doesn’t seem to be looking for plaudits.

But the political reality is that by establishing the royal commission it has neutralised one of Shorten’s issues.

The ConversationFor all that, it could be a Shorten government that deals with the commission’s ultimate recommendations. By the time the final report rolls round, an election will be imminent, assuming the royal commission runs on time and the government runs full term.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The remark of a personal nature that angered Barnaby Joyce

Man on other side of Barnaby Joyce stalking accusation speaks up about hat-flicking pub incident - Northern Daily Leader
The man, a one-time Tony Windsor supporter who said he is no longer aligned with any political party, said the first time he had met Mr Joyce was unplanned at a Bingara pub.
The second time was the Graman Hotel.
The man said he had canvassed friends on “What would you like me to ask Barnaby?” before he arrived, so “I had a big list of questions to ask”.
"He was friendly initially and then I asked him whether he was going to pay back the money he had earned while he was illegally in parliament. That obviously hit a nerve,” the man said.
"Then he's like, ‘Who are you with? Who sent you?’ I'm like, ‘I'm with no one’.”
The man said that he had mentioned mining magnate Gina Rinehart's $40,000 agriculture award (which Mr Joyce declined) and “he took umbrage with that”.
"His supporters, of which most of the people in the pub were, sort of started to round on me a bit,” the man said.
“One of them threatened to throw me down the stairs,” he said.
"Barnaby said, ‘Mate, you're being a goose ... I’m going over there’ and he walked off.”
The man said about half an hour later, as Mr Joyce was leaving, he came back over .
"He shook my hand and I said, ‘Barnaby, I'd like to make your life difficult because it seems nobody is asking you the difficult questions’ or words to that effect,” the man said.
“He said, I'll be at the Tamworth Leagues Club, as if it was an invitation, and walked out.”
As Mr Joyce moved to the door the man made the statement about the candidate’s personal life.
"He stormed back in … and loomed over me, hissing ‘What did you just say’? He was definitely being very threatening,” the man said.
"My friend grabbed him by the elbow and then he flicked my hat off and stormed out.
"They're the only encounters I have ever had with Barnaby."
The pub incident was backed up by a witness, who is also a friend of the man.
The witness said he believed Mr Joyce had assumed his friend was a Greens supporter and, as a result, “had immediately dismissed him, his questions and the relevance of his questions”.
The witness confirmed that a comment of a personal nature was made towards Mr Joyce as he was leaving the pub.
The man said Mr Joyce did a U-turn and came back at his friend in a “very aggressive manner”.
“I intervened in a placid way to try to prevent Barnaby from escalating [the incident],” the man said.
He said he encouraged Mr Joyce to leave, saying that “it's probably not worth it”.
NOT stalked or ambushed! Aggro Joyce gets in another Barney with constituents - Independent Australia
Barnaby Joyce, the man who wants to be deputy PM again, has a volatile temper and deals with constituents by denigrating them if they disagree with him.Barnaby Joyce, the man who wants to be deputy PM again, has a volatile temper and deals with constituents by denigrating them if they disagree with him. ...
Barnaby was halfway out the front door when the environmentalist bloke bade him farewell by saying:
“Say hello to your mistress for me.”
It wasn’t said loudly, but Barnaby, who is clearly not hard of hearing, spun on his heels as if stung and, fists clenched, stormed back into the bar.
Face bright red and spitting chips, Barnaby loomed his 1.85-metre frame over the smaller man and demanded:
“What did you say?”
There was silence in the bar. Slack jaws all around, including Barnaby’s minder, who you would think would be equipped to handle these kinds of situations — it’s hard to think it was his first.
The martial arts guy stepped in. He took a gentle hold of Barnaby’s elbow to stop his arm moving about and said something like,
“Mate, he said don’t miss us, now calm down.”
Barnaby sort of did but, in a final act of petulant defiance, reached down and knocked the environmentalist’s hat from his head.
It was a near thing.
New England by-election: Barnaby Joyce up for fight - The Weekly Times
BARNABY Joyce says he’s “not taking anything for granted” as he faces voters this Saturday in a bid to win back the seat of New England. While the Nationals leader — who was disqualified from Parliament in October due to his dual citizenship — is hotly anticipated to win easily, rival candidates maintain Mr Joyce is “out of touch” with the electorate.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Memories. Memories. Sam flies to Melbourne for 2 minute tv cameo re-enactment ... tonight gets 30 minutes on every careful what you wish for....

'Pathetic' and 'pitiful': Veteran Labor MP Laurie Ferguson takes a swing at colleague Sam Dastyari for cameo in The Killing Season - Sydney Morning Herald June 17, 2015
Veteran Labor MP Laurie Ferguson has hit out at his colleagues taking part in dramatic re-enactments of Labor's leadership wars in the sensational ABC television documentary The Killing Season.
Mr Ferguson singled out parliamentary newcomer Senator Sam Dastyari, who served as the ALP's New South Wales state secretary when Kevin Rudd was rolled, for particular criticism.
Senator Dastyari was filmed talking on his iPhone 6 walking down Lonsdale Street in Melbourne and sitting at a park bench.
He recounted receiving a phone call from the ALP's pollster in 2010 warning the Labor Party would be "bloody stuffed" at an election if Mr Rudd remained leader.
Mr Ferguson told Fairfax Media Senator Dastyari's performance was "pitiful".

Hats off for Barnaby - Is New England all over bar the voting?

Bill Shorten avoids New England byelection for entire campaign - Financial Review
Barnaby Joyce has complained about being stalked throughout the New England byelection, but not by Bill Shorten.
The Labor leader will not make a single visit to the seat which goes to the polls on Saturday. It is expected that Mr Joyce, who was dismissed from Parliament for being a dual citizen, will be re-elected.
On the campaign trail in the New England by-election, but where's Barnaby Joyce? - ABC
Is the outcome of this weekend's New England by-election a foregone conclusion?
Judging by the way Barnaby Joyce is campaigning, you could be forgiven for thinking it is.
"Barnaby Joyce believes that he is going to win this seat on his reputation and he doesn't need to campaign," said CountryMinded Party candidate, Peter Mailler.
Barnaby Joyce claims he is being stalked following a heated encounter at a New England pub - Brisbane Times
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce claims he is being stalked but won't deny flicking a man's hat off during a heated encounter in a New England pub.
Fairfax Media can reveal the Nationals candidate was confronted in the Graman Hotel near Inverell on Monday night and questioned about family matters.
Greens Party's Peter Wills meets Tenterfield supporters - Tenterfield Star
Mr Wills is positioning himself as a link between Greens supporters and agricultural communities, being known as a staunch activist in the long campaigns against the Shenhua coal project, BHP Caroona mine, and against Santos CSG projects in the Pilliga. A CSG exploration licence covers the family farm.
Mr Wills said the Greens campaign will focus on protecting land and water from unwanted and unnecessary coal mines and CSG wells development into the region, and helping workers transition to sustainable jobs in the renewable energy economy.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Singalong for the prospect that a politician's child will be Australia's number 25 million

Twitter tells us that a politician will be father of a child due in February or March. The ABS population clock predicts the country's population to reach 25 million about the same time. So singalong and wish him luck.

Ringo Starr for the defence of older men preying on teenagers and other news and views

Breitbart editor says 1973 Ringo Starr song proves Roy Moore didn’t do anything wrong - Think Progress
During a CNN appearance Monday morning, Breitbart senior editor Joel Pollak attempted to justify Roy Moore against allegations that he molested children and sexually assaulted teenagers by citing a lyric from a song popularized by Ringo Starr more than 40 years ago.
“You know, in 1973 Ringo Starr hit number one on the Billboard charts with the song, ‘You’re 16, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine,'” Pollack said. “He was 30-something at the time singing about a 16-year-old — you want to take away Ringo Starr’s achievement?”
Why are the banks so scared of a commission of inquiry? - SMH

Banks And Governments Paying Attention As Bitcoin Hits Record Highs - NPR
Over the past year, Bitcoin's price has gone up more than 900 percent. It's a level of growth unheard of in traditional investing markets. Now, banks, governments, and everyday people are wondering if Bitcoin is the future of money, a giant bubble ready to pop or something in between.
Queensland election: a policy challenge for the Coalition - Pearls and Irritations
The Queensland election has been a disaster for the Liberal-National Party. There is a risk that the Coalition will misinterpret the result and become even more alienated from the Australian electorate.
There was no way one party could satisfy the demands of non-metropolitan Queensland and the people of the urbanised south east with one suite of policies or one election pitch. ... The Labor Party, with its last-minute rejection of support for a loan for Adani (and perhaps a reading of the extraordinary Green win in Northcote, Victoria), went for a strategy of sacrificing support in the north and building support in Brisbane. It worked – just – but demographic movements mean that it should be a successful strategy for the future. And what goes for Queensland goes more strongly for the nation’s more urbanised other states and territories. A swing to the socially-conservative right would not be a sound strategy for any party.
NBN rollout delay a blow to Turnbull government in Bennelong - The New Daily

Gun Sellers Rebound a Bit From Trump Slump - Bloomberg
Black Friday deals and an advertising blitz help make up for slow sales tied to Republican control of Congress and the White House.
While no exact count of firearms sold in America exists, a common barometer is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This year, the FBI said it received just over 203,000 requests on the mega shopping day, up from 185,713 last year and twice as many as in 2008.

Barnaby Joyce faces death threats on his campaign trail

We don’t take it as a joke. If they’ve got a bullet, they’ve probably got a fire-arm to use it. We've been to the police but it’s not going to change the way I do things.
Barnaby Joyce
The Nationals candidate for the New England by-election, Barnaby Joyce, met party workers in Glen Innes and told them he thought they were “going to get a handy sort of result”.
He faced some barracking from a few people outside the newly rented Nationals’ office on Grey Street as he addressed about thirty people inside.
His visit to Glen Innes was only announced to local media a few hours before and no crowds of either supporters or opponents greeted him.
He’s had death threats and a bullet sent to his office but said it wouldn’t change the way he worked (in the video, it’s his first answer).
Is he shunning big public events? “I’ve done a number of forums. I’m here. I’m walking up and down the halls. I’m making sure I’m publicly available.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Our New England election update an other news and views

New England by-election: what voters want to hear - The Glen Innes Examiner
The desire for more renewable energy projects in the electorate was one of the most popular answers. ... Another issue of concern for voters was the National Broadband Network (NBN). While Armidale has fibre to the premise, the rest of the region will receive fibre to the node (FTTN). Critics say FTTN is inferior technology, which will not meet the nation’s digital needs as more and more business is conducted online.
Medical cannabis, a topic close to the heart of New England, particularly those in Tamworth, is an issue many within the electorate are keen to see progress on.
... Respondents said their biggest concern with the Shenhua Watermark coal mine and the Santos Narrabri Gas Project was the potential damage and contamination the developments could have on the under ground water table, which is an important source of water for farmers across the greater region.
Bubble or breakthrough? Bitcoin keeps central bankers on edge - Reuters
Central bankers say the success of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is just a bubble.
If Trump’s FCC Repeals Net Neutrality, Elites Will Rule the Internet—and the Future
“This naked corporatism is Washington at its worst,” says former FCC commissioner Michael Copps.
How Our Broken Justice System Led to a Sexual Harassment Crisis
A series of powerful men have been accused of serious crimes, with little legal accountability. Sound familiar?
Former U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman says use of nukes ‘more probable’ with ‘unpredictable’ Kim - Japan Rimes

Bank inquiry almost certain after Nationals secure crucial second vote - AFR
Government in crisis :Ireland on the verge of a general election - Irish Times

Xi Jinping bids adieu to his fellow princelings - Nijjei Asian Review
Obedience, not bloodline, is the currency that counts in the new team

Pauline's Bundy rum and the LNP aftertaste

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Barnaby Joyce's behaviour finally becomes a New England campaign issue

Perhaps now the mainstream media will break its silence and start reporting on the allegations being made in New England about unseemly behaviour by former deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. The former independent member for the electorate Joyce is standing in this Saturday took to Twitter today with this comment:

While it is just the latest in a series of tweets by Tony Windsor, it is one of the most specific. You can put it into context by reading this item  by the Owl on 21 November "Trying to make sense of the social media references to the problems of Barnaby Joyce." As Mr Windsor has tweeted, "If sexual harassment to be really dealt with ppl need to out these people ..silence means complicence , time to stare it down." And in another tweet from Mr Windsor: "Petrified girl ,Mother worried about consequences , prominent figure ...frightened ppl believe the system will fail them."
The members of the federal press gallery have squibbed writing about these issues which involve allegations that that an MP chased a young women into a toilet & molested another after the 2012 Rural Women Awards.
See also Sexual harassment and a shocking failure by the Canberra press gallery

The intimidating strategy of Alan Jones and Ray Hadley plus some other news and views

Bennelong by the numbers: The voters who could decide Malcolm Turnbull’s fate - The New Daily
More Bennelong residents describe their ancestry as Chinese than Australian or English. In total, 51.7 per cent were born overseas.
Gone to the dogs: intimidating strategy Alan Jones and Ray Hadley used in war against Mike Baird - Imre Salusinszky who was media director for former premier Mike Baird on the SMH website
Make a ludicrous claim and say you don't buy the denials. But even if the denials are true, "this is what is being said" ... by you. ... You can see the strategy: before you do any "checking whether that's true or not", quickly put the slur to air, and accuse the Premier of "corruption of process". ... Tabloid media in NSW is collapsing. Younger audiences have no interest in its agenda, and its power resides largely in the minds of the Coalition MPs it seeks periodically to intimidate and terrorise. But in the meantime, rather than arguing about scalps, it would be worth discussing whether this behaviour serves the interests of journalism, of rational public policy, or indeed of democracy in NSW.
The effects of employer payroll tax cuts on employment, business activity and wages - Vox
Cuts to the employer portion of payroll taxes are often discussed as a policy lever to reduce labour costs for firms. This column examines the effects of a Swedish experiment which dramatically cut employer payroll taxes for young workers between 2007 and 2015. The tax cut reduced youth unemployment by 2-3 percentage points, without any differential increase in wages of young workers. Firms used the tax windfall to expand employment and business activity, and firms with larger tax windfalls raised wages for workers – both young and old – collectively.
Why England and Australia love to hate each other: Anglo-Australian sport is invariably played with unusual and sometimes disturbing fervour. - The New Statesman

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago, study shows - Science Daily

Sunday Morning Coming Down for Pauline's One Nation

The Owl's Queensland election commentary:

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Waiting for Amazon in Australia and other news and views

The Amazon Effect - Conversable Economist
One of the ongoing puzzles of the US economy in recent decades is why inflation has stayed so low. Even outgoing Fed Chair Janet Yellen has highlighted this puzzle. The "Amazon effect" may be part of the answer: basically, the Amazon effect is that a higher level of competitive pressure from the rising level of on-line retail sales is holding back price increases that might otherwise have occurred.
Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last: The crown prince has big plans to bring back a level of tolerance to his society. - New York Times

Senior party figures express hope the ballot result will bring to an end the infighting
Law, Politics and Ideology: The Regulatory Response to Trade Union Corruption in Australia - UNSW Law Journal 

Europe at Its UgliestT: he Refugee Scandal on the Island of Lesbos - Der Spiegel
As winter arrives, the situation on the Greek island of Lesbos is unsustainable. Conditions at the refugee camps are horrific and island residents are tired of being left in the lurch by Athens and the EU.
With the loss of its caliphate, ISIS could turn even more reckless and radical - Washington Post

Muslims Are Often the First Victims of Muslim Terrorists - Bloomberg
The massacre in Egypt is only the latest grim reminder.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Sexual harassment and a shocking failure by the Canberra press gallery

What we call the mainstream media has largely been absent from the New England by-election. The consensus wisdom apparently is that Barnaby Joyce will win easily so there is nothing to report. Let the yokels of the local papers do their thing reporting on the 16 other candidates. We smarties of the Canberra press gallery will get on with covering important matters while the deputy Prime Minister coasts to victory. Not for them to stick their bib into the questions of sexual harassment and worse that are continuing to surface in the wilds of the social media. The commentators on what they regard as the important matters of political life have decided that the private life of a politician should stay private and is not a legitimate concern for the voters.
This attitude of the Canberra press gallery stands in stark contrast to the approach of their peers in other countries to matters of sexual harassment by elected politicians. And I am not writing here about the stories of a Coalition minister having a sexual liaison with a member of his staff that did or not result in an abortion. The seemingly uninvestigated matter is one alleging that an MP chased a young women into a toilet & molested another after the 2012 Rural Women Awards. And the allegation comes not from some anonymous miscreant on Twitter but from the highly regarded former independent member for New England Tony Windsor.
You will find references to the incident in my report Trying to make sense of the social media references to the problems of Barnaby Joyce. As Mr Windsor has tweeted, "If sexual harassment to be really dealt with ppl need to out these people ..silence means complicence , time to stare it down." And in another tweet from Mr Windsor: "Petrified girl ,Mother worried about consequences , prominent figure ...frightened ppl believe the system will fail them."
Surely that's a matter of sexual harassment deserving of investigation.
But in one sense, I suppose, it does not matter. In small cities like Armidale and Tamworth it does not need a report on the National Nine News or in the Sydney Morning Herald for news to spread. Rumours true and false spread widely enough by word of mouth.
The issues raised by Mr Windsor will have their influence on the result on 2 December despite the virtual mainstream media blackout.

"You hit the wrong note Billy Goat" makes a fitting end to the Queensland election campaign

"Vote One Nation?": Qld LNP leader's 'Steven Marshall moment'

Queensland Liberal National Party leader Tim Nicholls has blamed the effect of a 27-day state election campaign for a slip of the tongue in which he almost urged voters to support One Nation at tomorrow's poll - a gaffe eerily echoing South Australian Liberal leader Steven Marshall's infamous election-eve appeal to "Vote Labor". - From InDaily

Pauline Hanson's forgotten candidate breaks into our political singalong

Hanson doesn't know her candidate's name

Senator Hanson was visiting a lighting factory in the new seat of Toohey on Thursday morning when asked if she knew the name of the local One Nation candidate.

The candidate, Guansheng (Victor) Zhang, was not present for the press conference and Ms Hanson was open about not knowing who he was.

"I couldn't tell you who the candidate is in Toohey, it's a completely new seat," Senator Hanson admitted.

No reported sightings of Barnaby Joyce as voting gets underway in New England and other news and views

By-election CountryMinded candidate says it's to improve the economy - The Inverell Times
Not many election candidates go into an election proposing the growing of narcotics as the new industry to revive an economy.
But Peter Mailler is up-front about it: “Medicinal cannabis is one of our key platforms. It's potentially a multi-billion dollar industry for Australia."
Barnaby Joyce says he had no prior warning of $40,000 farming prize from Gina Rinehart - ABC
"I'm trying to work out how to be polite on the stage while in the back of my head I'm desperately working out how to get this thing back," he said.
Countdown to the New England byelection is now on - The Guyra Argus
More than 2000 people have already cast their vote in Armidale as the countdown begins to next Saturday’s New England byelection. ... Armidale-based Independent Rob Taber said he’s been busy travelling “up and down” the region for the past two weeks. “I’m trying to get to as many places I can,” he told Fairfax Media on Wednesday night.“It’s so difficult in such a short campaign but we are doing our best and certainly getting around all the major towns.”
The dispiriting Queensland election campaign is a perfect example of Australia's shrinking political ambition - Brisbane Times
The Queensland election is a choice between a Brisbane rail tunnel and a North Queensland power plant and dams. That's about it, really. It's hardly an inspiring contest. It certainly isn't a battle of ideas. In effect, it's a sad, all too recognisable microcosm of Australia's declining two-party political system.
Bitcoin Mining Now Consuming More Electricity Than 159 Countries Including Ireland & Most Countries In Africa - Power Compare

Clarke hints at deal between Murdoch and Cameron: Former justice secretary says Sun switched sides abruptly ahead of 2010 election - Financial Times
Kenneth Clarke has suggested that Rupert Murdoch struck a deal with David Cameron ahead of the 2010 election which ensured that his Sun newspaper would back Mr Cameron’s election campaign. It included taking on Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, as communications director, if he won.
Flynn's lawyers end communication with Trump team, signaling cooperation with Mueller: NY Times - Reuters
Lawyers for Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, have told Trump’s legal team they can no longer discuss a probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, indicating Flynn may be cooperating with the investigation, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Country on verge of election as Taoiseach refuses to sack Frances Fitzgerald - The Irish Times
Fine Gael executive council to meet as officials get ready for election in mid-January
No joke: China government warns northern cities to get serious in war on smog - Reuters

Discovery of the cabinet leaker would present bigger problem than the leak

Grattan on Friday:

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

What on earth was Julie Bishop thinking when she declared she’d support a “formal investigation” into this week’s damaging cabinet leak?

Bishop was defending herself as the questions swirled about who might be the leaker, saying it wasn’t her. But to have one of the most senior ministers – she’s deputy Liberal leader too - talking about a probe into cabinet members just underlines the serious breakdown not just in the government’s discipline but in its common sense as well.

The leaked story was by the Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson, reporting that a “despondent”: cabinet had discussed, in the context of the backbench revolt on banking, whether the government should capitulate and hold a royal commission.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said no; Peter Dutton, one of the conservatives who has had Malcolm Turnbull’s back, was reported to be “opposed in principle” but open to the idea on pragmatic grounds. But Turnbull remains against changing policy and has said this publicly.

For Bishop the affair is a rerun of an old movie. After a leak from the Abbott cabinet, Bishop denied being the source, saying that if the prime minister found the culprit he would “take some action”.

In retrospect, if not always at the time, it seems obvious the 2015 leaks were mostly inspired by those wanting a coup.

This time, the “who” and the “why” aren’t clear. There is no evidence of any organised push against Turnbull, like there was against Abbott, although leadership speculation has become media grist.

The leaks, of which there have been several, may be driven by the general angst around or reflect jostling by various players in uncertain times.

We’ve seen publicly the respective positioning by Morrison and Dutton on the marriage legislation, with Morrison putting himself at the forefront of the “safeguards” brigade and Dutton – on this issues as on others - looking for a compromise way through.

Anyway, there won’t be an investigation. The Australian Federal Police almost never finds the source of leaks to the media, but imagine if it had an unexpected success! That indeed would present a problem.

Bill Shorten described the situation as the government eating itself. Alternatively, think of an army in untidy retreat, sloshing through heavy mud, when it becomes every soldier for himself.

We’re back to the Gillard days or, for those with a sense of history, to the Liberal party of the late 1960s, as it lost its way in the post-Menzies years.

Despite cabinet’s now well-canvassed discussion, the government is still faced with the push from the Nationals’ rebels for parliament to set up a commission of inquiry (only marginally different from a royal commission) into the banks.

Turnbull has tried to minimise the scope for the rebels and Labor to make trouble by cancelling next week’s House of Representatives sitting, but the action just exposed his weakness.

The rebels are unbowed with Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan on Thursday circulating his private senator’s bill for “a commission of inquiry into banking, insurance, superannuation, financial and related services”.

O'Sullivan confirms he is determined. “I’m not someone who blinks”, he said. He dismissed suggestions his absent leader, Barnaby Joyce, was trying to dissuade him. He’d spoken to Joyce early on - Joyce just “asked me to keep him posted”.

It should be remembered the Nationals generally have no problem in cracking down on the banks. In fact, if a proposal for a royal commission were put to the Nationals’ party room, it would likely get up. Nationals assistant minister Keith Pitt was blunt on Thursday: “Clearly the government’s position is not for a royal commission, however we do have a number of members in the Nats who think it’s something that they want”.

Amid the tumult, former prime minister John Howard has used the occasion of Friday’s tenth anniversary of being turfed out of office to buy into the contemporary debates on banking and taxation.

The latter debate was reignited after Turnbull held out the prospect of personal income tax relief in a major address on Monday, albeit devoid of detail. On Thursday Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was dealing with scepticism about its affordability, arguing “we have effectively already assumed future further tax cuts in our budget projections”.

Howard claimed a banking commission would be “rank socialism” - to which O'Sullivan says, “I don’t understand what he means”.

As for tax, Howard, who nearly lost office in his (successful) pursuit of a GST, told Sky it would benefit the government “if it were to embrace very significant further tax reform”. This should include the GST, which couldn’t be left “where it is indefinitely”.

The best of luck with that. Turnbull is tossing tax into the mix to try to show voters he has some sugar in his back pocket to put on their tables. But sweeping reform would see losers as well as winners. For a government perennially behind in the polls, with the slenderest majority before it fell into its current minority position, a major tax overhaul including the GST would take more bravery than presently in sight.

The tenth anniversary of the Howard government’s defeat is also the anniversary of the loss of his own seat of Bennelong. Now the Liberals are again fighting to hold Bennelong, after John Alexander became a victim of the citizenship crisis.

It is too early to get a real sense of how that December 16 byelection will go. On a 9.7 % margin, Alexander has a big buffer, as he faces Labor’s Kristina Keneally.

But this week the Liberal campaign, already looking lack lustre, was snagged by an embarrassing 1990s video of Alexander telling a crude Irish joke and another about “a black guy in Chicago” describing a rape.

Alexander wasn’t the only government byelection candidate who became an embarrassment. There was Joyce’s jaunt from his New England campaign to Canberra for “AgDay”, described as the “brainchild” of his good friend Gina Rinehart, who presented him with a $40,000 cheque, reward for being a “champion of our industry”. He only belatedly declined the money.

The ConversationIt was another example of the poor judgement that infects this government.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.