Volume 73 – Number 24 – political news

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The Week in Politics

Photo of Prime Minister Scott Morrison doing an elbow bump with Ken Wyatt MP Minister for Indigenous Australians
Canberra, Australia – 30 July 2020: Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison touch elbows at the press conference to announce a National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Photo by Rob Keating (https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au).

With Parliament not sitting the main focus has been on Victoria’s continued struggle to fight against COVID-19.

The Prime Minister spent Monday in Sydney where he announced that the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission is moving into a new mode, shifting its focus to concentrate on creating jobs and stimulating our economy as we learn to live with this pandemic…

AUSMIN

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper met in Washington DC on 28 July 2020 for the 30th Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). 

You can read the Joint Statement Australia-US Ministerial Consultations here – https://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/united-states-of-america/ausmin/joint-statement-ausmin-2020

Victorian COVID-19 Aged Care crisis

On Wednesday the Prime Minister was back in Canberra and fronted the media with Professor Brendan Murphy who was in his new role as Secretary of the Department of Health….

On Thursday Victoria reported the most COVID-19 cases in a single day with 721 new cases. That figure grabbed a lot of attention so when the Prime Minister assembled the media on Thursday he had to address that situation…

Closing the Gap Agreement

Canberra, Australia – 30 July 2020: Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians speaking during the press conference to announce a National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner looks on. Photo by Rob Keating (https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au).

The Prime Minister switched back to discussing the Closing the Gap Agreement and opened by saying, “The issue of achieving those aspirations for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians together are of great significance to our country, not just now but into the future. It is a national aspiration, a national goal, a national task. 

Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians was invited to speak and said, “The concept of Closing the Gap was an idea that arose from the Human Rights Commissioner of the day, Tom Calma. Tom put forward a series of propositions and the first signing of a Closing the Gap Agreement was done by a former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd… 

Pat Turner said, “Today we now have a comprehensive set of commitments from governments that places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations at the centre of Closing the Gap. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what is best for our communities, not governments, and this National Agreement means that decisions of Government on Closing the Gap need to be negotiated and agreed with us.”

On Friday Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Kristina Keneally released a media release that claimed the Government had covered up mistakes made in the Ruby Princess debacle…

Small business – Big task

Canberra, Australia – 29 July 2020: NPC President Sabra Lane, COSBOA CEO Peter Strong and Ombudsman, The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Kate Carnell with the Go Local First signs after they adressed the NPC. Photo by Rob Keating (https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au)

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell AO, and Peter Strong, CEO of Council or Small Business Australia, addressed the National Press Club last Wednesday on the topic of ‘Australian Small Businesses s Sector Critical to Unlocking Jobs’…

By Jon Millard

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From the archives

The following content is from Inside Canberra Volume 53, No 219 published on August 4, 2000

Outlook hopeless on land degradation

The most ominous failure of the ALP National Conference went unreported, yet concerned the most serious crisis facing Australia today – the degradation of vast tracts of agricultural land, mainly through salination. Unless dealt with, it will mean a catastrophic reduction in agricultural output, the ruin of infrastructure such as roads, railways and buildings and in the end it will turn hundreds of now viable communities in the hinterland into ghost towns. This issue is infinitely more important than who wins the next election, the threat of inflation, problems of the GST or unemployment. For South Australia and Adelaide, of course, this is an issue of paramount importance – is the State to have a future with a guaranteed supply of clean water or not?

State rights no answer

It was not surprising therefore essay was the source of a resolution put to the national conference states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and SA should see their powers over the catchments of the Murray Darling basin to allow the issue of land degradation to be dealt with on a national basis. Moving the resolution, Ralph Clark, a state SA MP, said the health of the basin was declining at a rate which was outstripping healing efforts. Seconder, Labor Senator Chris Schacht, a member of Federal Labor’s front bench, declared national intervention was required to overcome state rights. The states, he said, had failed to agree on action. Not surprisingly, the resolution was easily defeated, with Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and Queensland Premier Peter Beattie declaring they had no intention of ceding any powers. And that was that.

Cooperation not the answer

This means neither of the Labour Party nor the collision are prepared to act beyond pious appeals for “cooperative” approach is to deal with the problem. The states haven’t enough funds to go anywhere near dealing with salination in the Murray–Darling basin and in the WA wheatbelt. And on basic strategies for the basin, the four States simply cannot agree. If the restoration of health in the basin involved, for example, closing down the cotton industry, no New South Wales government would do so and even if it did, could not possibly afford the massive compensation which would be required for cotton growers. As things now stand, a future Federal Government will not act until degradation of the interior of the continent reaches catastrophic proportions. Just as the States pre-Federation could not even agree on a rail gauge, with the mess eventually having to be fixed by the Commonwealth so the disagreement by the states over land degradation will eventually have to be addressed by the Commonwealth, if it’s not too late.

Beazley unconvincing on trade

Kim Beazley photographed at DFAT on March 5, 2014

As we have been forecasting for months, the feature of the National Conference was the stoush over “free trade”. Predictably, the counter argument for a “free trade” from Doug Cameron, national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, was defeated on faction numbers 105 to 82. If the outcome was ever in doubt, it was a raised when Kim Beazley entered the debate to support Peter Cook, Shadow Trade Minister, and oppose the Cameron amendment. The conference simply could not deliver a slap in the face to its leader on such a critical issue following the term of Labor had been in since the Della Bosco furorel. Yet Cameron made the best speech of the conference and received the greatest applause of any speaker. Cameron said later the issue was not over, and it isn’t. Labor will have to take account of the fact whatever the details of the argument, the electorate is overwhelmingly on Cameron’s side and against the free trade dictum of the Labor establishment. Beazley spoke with considerable vigor, but the content was anything but convincing. For example, he would not have impressed industry with his assertion “nought, five, 10% tariffs make no darned difference at all. Does it mean a Labor government would accept the recommendation of the productivity commission the remaining 5% tariff would be abolished? We doubt it, but why leave it hanging as Beazley has? The trade policy approved by the national conference is basically the same as that followed by the Hawke and Keating Government’s and then the Howard Government. Its core is to plead with our trading partners to open their markets to Australian exports, particularly agricultural products and lead as the most open market in the world.

Boosting bids for airport

Late last month, David Mortimer, chairman of the Sydney Airport Corporation, officiated at the launch of the upgrade of the international terminal at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. He declared to an audience of aviation VIPs the $600 million cost of the terminal extensions was well spent. What he didn’t touch on was the anger of the international airlines, including of course Qantas and Ansett, at being asked to make major contribution to this spending through a 130% increase in aeronautical charges. The airlines, with good reason, believe they, and ultimately the passengers, are being asked where exorbitant charges far above CPI increases in the interest of Finance Minister John Fahey and his department maximising the building of KSA, the “jewel in the crown” of Australian airports. Yet there is considerable doubt whether the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will be prepared to endorse such a massive increase by the Sydney Airport Corporation which is in a monopoly position. Alan Fels said last week it would be a month or two before a final ruling was made on the proposed aeronautical charges at KSA. He gave more than a hint of being unimpressed saying it is a very large increase their seeking. He added most people expect there will be some reduction on what’s proposed.

Above is a summary version of this edition. Paid Subscribers gain access to the full version of the newsletter as well as accessing video content in the members site and also there are back copies of the newsletter.
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