Volume 73 – number 19 – political news

Published 26 June 2020

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The Week in Politics

Canberra, Australia – 26 June 2020: Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy fronts a press conference with Prime Minister for the last time before taking up the role as the Secretary of the Department of Health on 13 July 2020. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

The theme this week followed on from the Prime Minister’s visit to Polo Flat where he spoke about infrastructure and jobs as part of the Snowy 2.0 project. Polo Flat is a construction site for the concrete segment factory.

On Monday Prime Minister Scott Morrison was on hand at West Pennant Hills to do a drive through of the NorthConnex tunnel, a major milestone for the M1-M2 link in Sydney’s north. 

ConnexNorth end to end drive through

This week the government made several announcements about funding to unlock infrastructure jobs around the country. The total funding announcements, across all projects was close to $1 billion dollars.

Both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese were supporting their candidates for the upcoming Eden-Monaro by-election.

The Prime Minister visited Allied Natural Wood Exports woodchip mill with Minister Littleproud and Dr Fiona Kotvojs, Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro. 

The Prime Minister announced four new initiatives to support the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires and the effects of COVID-19 are set to form a major plank in the rebuilding effort in communities across Australia.

Albanese gave a plug for Labor’s Kristy McBain when speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday. 

When talking about Kristy McBain during the Q&A session Albanese said, “people should cast a vote for Kristy McBain. She’s the outstanding candidate. She’s the only person as well who, I will get a chance for an ad here, the only person who their party wanted. The truth is that the Libs and Nats were too busy fighting each other within and fighting against that went on for weeks which is why the by-election was delayed. Kristy McBain was our first choice. She’s the best choice for Eden-Monaro.”

Yass, Australia – 24 June 2020: Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain in Yass during a doorstop interview in Banjo Paterson Park. She said, “People decide when they are pre polling, whether they are postal voting or voting on election day who they give their preferences to. Whether they choose to follow somebody how to vote card, or whether they go in with their own list made up, it is up to the individual voter how they give their preferences. How to vote cards are simply a guide. I’m after people’s number one preference first. That’s my priority.” when asked about preferences for the Eden-Monaro by-election. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

Albanese also fronted the media at Parliament House on Tuesday along with Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus as they called for a Royal Commission into Robodebt.

Canberra, Australia – 23 June 2020: Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Oppostion answering a question with Bill Shorten and Mark Dreyfus. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

On Thursday the Prime Minister was in Sydney with Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety, and the Arts to announce a $250 million JobMaker plan to restart Australia’s creative economy.

The week ended with another National Cabinet Meeting and with the announcement that Australia and New Zealand will host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, also the Finance Minister issued a media release with the monthly financial statements for May.

When It Comes To Zero Emissions – Renewables Won’t Cut It

In her recent Quarterly Essay “The Coal Curse – resources, climate and Australia’s future”, Professor Judith Brett argues that our best prospect for a prosperous future is to move to a manufacturing economy powered by renewable energy. As the essay makes clear, Professor Brett is a political scientist who knows nothing about electrical and energy engineering.

At the same time as Professor Brett was compiling her essay Australia was being visited by Professor Chris Greig of Princeton University who heads up the Rapid Switch Project, a project involving universities in Australia, India, China, Europe and the United States and who was a recent guest on an Energy Policy Institute of Australia webinar. He said the essential aim of the project is to develop a deeper understanding of viable pathways to achieve zero emissions futures and explores how fast we can expect to decarbonise the whole of any economy.

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By John McDonnell

Albo on science

Canberra, Australia – 24 June 2020: Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Opposition answers a question from Greg Brown where he said, “One of the things that has happened during the pandemic as well is that I think the public have responded well to governments and oppositions across the board Federally.” Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

Science was the principal subject of the Opposition Leader’s address to the National Press Club on Wednesday last and the Government’s approach to supporting and funding it.  

Whilst there was general agreement about its importance and support for it, the second point was one of some disagreement,

Mr Albanese’s speech was decidedly direct and focussed on the importance of science to the country’s future – [em rule] and who could disagree with that?  Well, certainly not this scientist.  

A few of his salient points were as follow.

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By Jon Millard

Eden-Monaro candidate Kristy McBain visits Yass

Yass, Australia – 24 June 2020: Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen and Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain viewing the Yass Valley Times with editor Jasmin Jones before a doorstop interview in Banjo Paterson Park. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain visited Yass on Wednesday morning to meet with locals and hold a doorstop interview with Shadow Minister for Health Chris McMahon. 

The main focus for McBain was to talk about the need for a maternity ward at Yass hospital. McBain and Bowen were looking to gain some mileage out of the Prime Minister’s answer about women being forced to give birth on the side of the Barton Highway.

The full video of the doorstop interview will be available in the membership site. Visit http://insidecanberra.com/subscriber-content/

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Government spends big on infrastructure

Last Sunday the government announced the first of a series of infrastructure investments in shovel-ready projects as part of the Commonwealth’s JobMaker plan. First up was a $223 million partnership with the McGowan Government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said further investment in infrastructure would play a critical role in the Commonwealth’s JobMaker plan and help the West Australian economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Partnering with state and territory governments to invest in more major infrastructure projects across Australia is a key part of our JobMaker plan to rebuild our economy and create more jobs,” the Prime Minister said.

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From the Archives

The following content is from Inside Canberra Volume 60, No 549 published on June 29, 2007

“Mass media not that interested in Aboriginal initiative

John Howard’s initiative to sort out Northern Territory aboriginal settlements has had one plus for him: he has kept Kevin Rudd quiet for a week. Since Howard’s release of the totally unexpected plan to take over Aboriginal communities, the main political criticism has come from Aboriginals themselves and social academics. If this NT initiative was aimed at wedging Labor (which we believe it was), it hasn’t worked. Rudd immediately said he supported the campaign. The TV media most watched by voters – NINE, SEVEN and TEN news – has not given a big run to goings-on in the NT.

Remote issue for most voters

In Sydney, The Daily Telegraph, and in Melbourne, The Herald Sun, have shown limited interest. On the other hand, the two Fairfax broadsheets – The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age – have come out against the scheme all guns blazing. On Wednesday, The Age was particularly tough, with a big front page story headed – ‘The Government is using these children to win the election’, along with, ‘This is our black children overboard’. Its headings were all quotes from angry residents of the town who had stories of neglect by governments (the NT Government as well, of course). For most voters, the plight of Aborigines in Northern Australia is a long way removed from their daily lives. Unlike the Tampa and children overboard (which was used to generate fear of terrorists), there is nothing threatening about Aborigines.

Pearson has a criticism

Noel Pearson is condemning ‘nay’ sayers against the government intervention program, yet himself raises queries. He has criticised the program for docking the welfare payments of responsible Aboriginal parents, as well as those said to be neglecting their children. Treasurer Secretary, Ken Henry, this week addressed the Pearson organised Cape York Conference in Cairns. The edited version of his speech in Wednesday’s Canberra Times did not criticise the Government’s plan, nor did he mention it. We can take it for granted that, as with Howard’s Murray-Darling water scheme and his plan for dealing with global warming, Treasury was not consulted on the program for intervention in Aboriginal settlements, thank you very much.

Treasury chief says fix the basics

Henry, who 18 months ago had visited Cape York settlements, believes welfare has to be changed to improve economic and social incentives. Yet to do this, Aborigines need to leverage their human capital through better education, physical and mental health. None of Henry’s views feature in Howard’s plan. On the contrary, the Howard plan provides for the government to manage the withholding of payments to assure children are given proper care. How this is to be done via police and the Army, is far from clear.”

Boswell election promise

Ron Boswell declined to comment about Hall’s move, but he insists opposition to the mandatory code – which he says he fought successfully for – is not the view of a majority of growers. From our contacts we doubt this. Boswell also insists John Anderson, when Nationals leader during the last election campaign, did not promise supermarkets would be required to abide by the Code. Anderson’s press release of 1 October 2004 said, in part – “A re-elected Coalition government will impose a mandatory code of conduct on the horticultural industry. The code will give producers a fairer deal on their terms of trade and on resolving disputes with produce buyers, which are in many stances, large supermarket chains.” Clearly, growers were entitled to believe the code would include supermarkets. Anderson promised the code within 100 days of re-election of the government, yet it was not until late last year it became a reality.”

Barnaby against supermarkets

The Nationals are furious growers have turned to independent and former Nat, Bob Katter, to speak for them. Obviously,  pressure from big supermarkets saw the Howard government buckle on forcing them into the code. Barnaby Joyce told us this week that while he regarded Hall as a good friend, it would not prevent him from continuing to campaign against the over-centralisation of the Australian retail market by the major supermarkets. Joyce says this over-centralisation is not in the interests of Australian consumers because it lacks competition. Secondly, it denies the right of Australians to go into small business. “If they do go into the retail business against the supermarkets they are driven out by pricing cutting – something which in the United States means a jail sentence – but in Australia it is quite alright”, Joyce said. He added he was preparing amendments to the Government’s own Trade Practices Act amendments currently before the Senate. He believes they lack sufficient protection for small business.

Global warming questions

Australian industry awaits John Howard’s decision on his plan to reduce global warming by controlling emissions. Sometime next year (if he wins the election), Howard says he will announce a long term ‘aspirational’ target for reducing emissions. A national cap and trade emissions trading scheme will begin operation in Australia no later than 2012. The severity or weakness of the cap will decide how many permits will be circulating, and in turn, the emission trading market will decide their value, day by day, or even hour by hour. The Government will also decide whether to: give the permits to emission polluters free of charge; put a specific price on permits; or auction the permits. The Business Council of Australia wants free permits. The renewables and power generators favour auctions, with the funds being used for much needed research into low emission technology over and above funds already being raised by companies, or being provided by governments.

Emission trading deficient

“Coleman pointed out emissions trading failed miserably in Europe. Then there is the difficulty of designing the security to be traded, the fixing of their volumes and policing against scam merchants selling carbon havens. “Weaknesses and holes in artificial government-run markets all too often simply provide generous windfalls for speculators,” Coleman warns. He dismisses out of hand the idea that the UN could run a global emissions trading system. Schwarzenegger is more ambitious than Rudd, whose 60% reduction target for 2050 has been attacked by Howard as guaranteeing ruination for the economy, and elimination of the coal industry. Arnie has a target of 80% by 2050. Further, far from saying it will create a burden, he says it is already beginning to transform the Californian economy in the same way as space and aviation did, and later when IT produced the Silicon Valley economic bonanza. The Governor says scientists and venture capitalists are flocking to California to take part in the development and deployment of clean technology. What can be done immediately in Australia is to embark on a full-scale energy efficiency program spanning the home to the factory, and transport. Authorities say it could reduce emissions by 30%, and far from costing anything, would save the nation billions in hard cash.”

Inquiry into renewables

The House Industry and Resources Committee is to report on renewable energy, and has announced it will now include bioenergy in its study. Biomass can be converted into bioenergy using a variety of materials such as agricultural crops, forestry and food industry residues, municipal landfill wastes and waste streams from agricultural product processing. The inquiry is at the request of the Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane. Written submissions on the terms of reference close on 29 June. Contact the committee on ir.reps@aph.gov.au.”

Govt to talk up Defence

From now to the election, watch out for a lot of hype from the Government reminding voters that it is only John Howard who is to be trusted to look after our national security. Announcements were made last week in regard to construction programs for three air warfare destroyers and two big amphibious troop carrier ships (although little explanation of why they are needed), with funding set at billions of dollars more than first estimated. The respected Australian Defence Business Review magazine notes the annual Defence+Industry Conference in August, and  2007 Land Warfare Conference in October (both being held in Adelaide), as additional platforms for major new defence and national domestic security announcements. Recall that Adelaide is one of the Government’s election prospect bad spots. Brendan Nelson will deliver the third Defence Update (from the original 2000 Defence White Paper) during the election campaign, no doubt accompanied by further – as yet unknown – Defence announcements.

Diggers want action in Iraq

Meanwhile, John Howard has sparked speculation that he may be considering beginning a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq, before the election. On Meet the Press last Sunday, the PM was confronted with a video of Brendan Nelson addressing Australian troops earlier in the year in the south of Iraq. The video showed an Australian soldier saying to the Minister, that while Nelson was talking about NATO nations not pulling their weight inAfghanistan, others were sayingAustralia was not pulling its weight in these conflicts. The soldier went on – “And there’s really a very real sense that our forces are being withheld from actual combat roles … I think that some of our coalition partners are starting to certainly make comments on the ground to (Australian) soldiers about that.

Photos from this week

Yass, Australia – 24 June 2020: Shadow Minister for Health Chris Bowen playing peek-a-boo before a doorstop interview in Banjo Paterson Park in Yass. He was campaigning with the Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au
Canberra, Australia – 26 June 2020: Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference with a Chinese visitor filming on her phone during the press conference. She was representing Xinhua. Due to a colleague not wanting to be filmed herself there was a bit of a scuffle and questions asked by security. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au
Canberra, Australia – 26 June 2020: Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy laughs when the Prime Minister mentioned a story he has shared. The PM said, “A little girl who said, how did you get out of the television? I’m sure some of you get that from time to time, but I think it’s a sign of endearment. And so thank you very much. And I’ll hand over the CMO.”. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au
Canberra, Australia – 26 June 2020: Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrived for a press conference wearing a Matildas scarf following the successful bid to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Federal government contributed $5 million towards the bid. Australia and New Zealand will be co-hosts. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

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