Thursday 28th of May 2020

political hell is paved with good intentions...

no free kicks

Although his circumstances are vastly different, Anthony Albanese is in sync with Scott Morrison in using the authority of leadership to the maximum.

In Mr Albanese's case, this has ranged from his determination to expel rogue union official John Setka from the ALP (a work still in progress), to new Question Time tactics and the Opposition's handling of the Government's wedge politics on legislation.

As Labor continues to absorb the consequences of its defeat, this week Mr Albanese gave his Caucus a sharp lecture about the harsh realities of this Parliament.

Labor's tough political reality

Highlighting that the post-election Senate crossbench is much less pliable for Labor, he said the situation was effectively akin to when the Howard government won control of the Upper House.

Unable to secure amendments to legislation, "we will often be confronted with circumstances where we have to vote on an issue which involves measures we agree with and measures we disagree with", Mr Albanese said. 

"The Government is wanting to focus on us, with claiming every piece of legislation is a test for Labor."


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... and bad decisions...

caving in...


To be sarcastic and fair to the Labor Party and the Libs, it's possible that they've devised a fiendish plan to get more money out of China, than selling a few ship loads of global warming coal.


Here, in Gus's devious mind, one can observe the brilliance of those two political parties to solve treasury's cash flow problem and global warming at the same time. Less coal, more cash? How? What is a better way than to cream the Chinese pocket moneys by inviting their high rollers to loose a few millions every night of the week at the roulettes. Imagine. Ten fast-tracked visas to Chinese billionaires, each losing a million and a half every night, this would give you a return, after expenses paid, of about $2 billion plus per annum. Clever, Hey? So, tell those independent bleeding hearts to suck on a lemon.

Even Fred Nile became in favour of James' Casino, despite being a religious nuts opposed to gambling — BECAUSE HE REALISED the importance of the sting... Let them come!!! Visa! Visa! Which billionaire does not have an Aussie visa, with a special clause to spend a couple of nights at the Crown Casino and another two nights at the Star Casino...

Oh Boy...




Let's just refresh our memories, shall we?

Over the last week, there have been allegations published by Nine that Australian consular officials fast tracked visas for Chinese gamblers, that a Border Force official was moonlighting by providing security for someone wanted by Interpol and that at least two ministers and an MP had lobbied the Department of Home Affairs to help get high rollers into the country more easily.

There were allegations, summarised in Federal Parliament, that a mammoth Australian company, Crown Casino had "links to organised crime, money laundering, the improper activity by consular officials, tampering with poker machines, and domestic violence and drug trafficking on Crown property".

There's been plenty more of course, rolling out over the course of the week.

Lucky, you would think, that Federal Parliament was sitting, so that the Government was in Canberra, available to be asked to questions about these shocking revelations, and of course, to spring into action to do something about them.

Five days later, the extraordinary silence from the major parties on the issue on Monday still lingers as loudly over federal politics as if someone had let off a very large cannon.


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solutions to the problems...




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scummo on a crap-raft, labor nails its foot to the floor...

Tensions have again flared at the WA Labor conference, a day after the party was embarrassed by a walk-out and heckling and booing of senior office holders.

Key points:
  • Members of two unions refused to stand for Anthony Albanese after his conference speech
  • Mr Albanese has been trying to have Victorian union boss John Setka expelled from the party
  • Tensions also erupted over the Government's plans to build a new port in Kwinana


Drama over the party's position on the Fremantle Port and heavy criticism of the McGowan Government's policies followed a mixed reaction to the keynote speech by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Maritime Union of Australia pointedly refused to join in a standing ovation for Mr Albanese, amid tension over the leader's push to expel Victorian union boss John Setka from the party.

But Mr Albanese avoided a repeat of the first day of the WA party conference, when party members walked out during a Welcome to Country ceremony and boycotted a speech by Premier Mark McGowan.


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you say albo, some say scomo, we need some mojo...

Given Anthony Albanese now holds the job he coveted for so long, some in Labor are rather surprised that Project Albo still needs a fair bit of work.

A developing view in Labor's parliamentary ranks is that Mr Albanese has not yet made the necessary transition to Opposition Leader.

But for the time being, Labor's giving their new leader a lot of slack. This year's a write-off. Absolutely no point, MPs reckon, expecting anything too much.

After all, everyone's either too knackered from the relentlessness of 24-7 campaigning or too emotionally exhausted from the election shock to invest too much, just yet.

But next year's going to have to be different, senior Labor folk say.

There will have been some changes, both in Project Albo and the broader Labor strategy.

Politicians are hard markers, especially those who thought they'd been led to the Promised Land, only to find a bloke in a baseball cap got there first with his blue army.

Albanese seeks to stamp authority on party

Mr Albanese's prowess as a tactician is not doubted. It's his other attributes, evident since becoming Labor leader, that've been causing some concern in Labor ranks.

Firstly, he has to learn when to stop talking and practise the art of distillation, they say.

One of his colleagues said that Mr Albanese's (Beazleyesque) prolixity is evident in private, as well as public, and that shadow Cabinet's political and strategic discussions are too often dominated by long Albanese monologues.

It's hoped that his new chief of staff Tim Gartrell, a political professional with a significant ALP pedigree, will be able to bring greater discipline on this front.

Another view from the Labor trench is that a return of the Albo who "loves to fight Tories" would be welcome.

Combative with a light, often humorous touch, the old Albo has largely been locked in the cupboard since he became leader.

Constructing a relatable image to contrast with ScoMo's honed ordinariness is not a superficial consideration, it's a necessity.


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the summit of collapsed blancmange...

These are dark days for the Australian left, writes Ben Eltham.

Anyone who thinks that elections don’t matter would do well to observe the smoking ruins of Australian social democracy this week, in the wake of Scott Morrison’s tax cuts.

As the Coalitions staggering $158 billion tax cut sailed through the Parliament last week , we caught a glimpse of a newer, stranger and grimmer Australia, a nation even more divided and unequal than we feared.

Seven weeks ago, Australia seemed headed towards a Shorten Labor government. The ALP had an ambitious policy agenda to make Australia fairer and more equal, winding back tax subsidies to the rich and investing heavily in health and education. Labor’s vision wasn’t exactly democratic socialism, but it was certainly a cautious step towards repairing the damage wrought by three decades of neoliberalism. 

Less than two months and a surprise election victory later, Scott Morrison’s Coalition has just delivered one of the largest upward redistributions in modern Australian history. 

What do the tax cuts mean? In the short term, voters get a handy tax rebate that will stimulate the ailing domestic economy. In the longer term, the passage of the massive tax bill heralds a new era of flat taxes in this country, pointing the way to a level of inequality that will make the discontents and resentments of the 2019 election look like kindergarten spats. 

The tax cuts voted through this week will flatten Australia’s tax system in ways that few voters understand, but which will slowly and inexorably grind away what’s left of Australia’s communal life. Tens of billions of dollars of tax cuts will be handed to the wealthiest in our society. A ticking time bomb has also been set to detonate underneath the federal budget in 2024. If the Coalition is still in power, it will use it to slash Commonwealth spending to social services, ripping the guts out of education and Medicare, and further rending Australia’s threadbare social safety net. 

The rich will get richer – much richer. They will use the extra disposable income to buy bigger houses, better holidays, and more expensive private schooling for their pampered children. For the well-to-do, times will be good. They will enjoy the last decades of a dying planet happily ensconced in a golden cage of conspicuous consumption.


ScoMo’s miraculous victory has been accompanied by a noticeable malaise on the left of politics. Progressives are despondent. The Labor Party looks clueless, the Greens irrelevant, trade unions impotent, GetUp embarrassed. 

Not for the first time, the left in Australia has fundamentally underestimated the resilience and the organisation of everyday conservativism, in a small-holder democracy more concerned with housing prices than atmospheric carbon concentrations. 

Even for those accustomed to the strange fragility of the modern Australian Labor Party, the weeks since May 18 have been something to behold. Barely had Bill Shorten resigned, before senior Labor figures began to announce that the problem was Labor’s supposedly radical left-wing agenda. Much heed was paid to figures like Joel Fitzgibbon, shaken by a big swing to One Nation in his Hunter Valley electorate. Jim Chalmers, the new shadow treasurer, rushed to reassure everyone that Labor had spent too much time attacking the “top end of town”, and that people earning $200,000 a year were by no means rich. That most nebulous of terms, “aspiration”, and Labor’s desire to recapture it, was on the tip of Anthony Albanese’s tongue. Over the weekend, he hinted he was dumping Labor’s policies on negative gearing.

Albanese’s flirtation with ‘aspiration’ is half right – many voters do long for a better life for themselves and their family. But if Labor had more courage, it could examine some more fundamental aspirations than a few hundred dollars of tax cuts. Could a party of workers also nurture hopes for a better society, an affordable dwelling, a safe climate, a steady job at a living wage? Ever the conscientious technocrats, contemporary Labor struggles to articulate such lofty goals – or even conceive of them. 

All this culminated in the first week of Parliament’s return. In a few short days, Labor voted for the government’s tax cuts, voted against a motion to raise the rate of Newstart, and voted for a motion in support of the Carmichael coal mine and the opening up of the Gallilee coal basin. Even die-hard Labor supporters were horrified, while neutral observers were mystified

For six years, Labor staked its electoral fortunes on a message of fairness and a suite of policies that sought to make Australia more equal. All of this now seems to have gone by the wayside. May 18 was certainly a bad shock. But it was scarcely a landslide. How could an election defeat, even one this disappointing, suddenly unmoor the ALP from its fundamental values? And why would a proud party, 130 years old, walk away from the progressive base that still accounts for a third of the electorate? 

This points to something more worrying in the modern ALP: a fundamental confusion about what it stands for. Should the lives of workers simply be measured in dollar terms, or are there broader meanings, perhaps even spiritual yearnings? Does Labor now stand for workers on $200,000 a year, but not for those on unemployment benefits? If the ALP’s sole purpose is to win power to enhance the lives of working people, what can it achieve in opposition?


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a great night of zingers...

The Canberra Press Gallery Midwinter Ball is one of the most exclusive and anticipated dates on the calendars of pollies and journalists alike.

The 20-year tradition brings media and politicians together, with healthy servings of food and alcohol, to poke fun at themselves and each other — with the cameras off.

But Parliament is also a leaky place — especially when the speeches are good.


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a post mortem on a bicycle rolling backwards downhill...

by Mungo MacCallum

As they sweat on the results of the long drawn out post mortem over Labor’s loss in the unlosable election, the warlords are already staking out their own positions.

The feeling seems to be that since a protracted series of blame games are inevitable, a least they can make a pretence of moving forward, even though they are in fact moving backwards.

And nowhere is the retreat more retrograde and dispiriting than the demand that the party of progress should abandon its long term targets on climate change and succumb, yet again, to the Government’s manifestly inadequate agenda.

Such right-wing luminaries as Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles are now suggesting that capitulation would help things along in Queensland and Western Australia. Their rationale appears to be that the Labor votes were down in both and since the two are traditionally designated as the mining states, forgetting about emissions would bring the punters flocking back to the fold.

The logic is patently absurd. While Labor mishandled the Adani issue and Bob Brown’s quixotic caravan of protest did not help, the real problems in Queensland were Clive Palmer, Pauline Hanson and the monopolised Murdoch media — none of whom would have moved a nanometre if Labor’s target for emissions reduction was 45 per cent, 28 per cent or zero.

But hey, you have to blame something and it sure as hell isn’t going to be us. So the so-called policy relies essentially on self-preservation — a mixture of timidity and perversity.

If it were to be implemented it is not clear how it would play out, but the lessons from history is not promising. And not even ancient history — it is only a little over ten years ago that former PM Kevin Rudd walked away from what he once called the "great moral challenge of our times" and put his own ambitious plans for climate change on the backburner.

Dumping what was seen as a core belief – a principal point of difference between Labor and the Coalition – caused a slump in his Government’s support and the resulting polls, both public and private, provided the excuse the recalcitrant faction bosses needed to replace him, leading to all the instability and vendettas that followed.

The heavies of Sussex Street and beyond were not interested in climate change — their idea of a moral challenge is grabbing the last dim sum from a long lunch in Chinatown. But the rank and file and the swinging voters saw Rudd’s defection from the cause a betrayal, not only because most of them believed in it, but because it showed that when the pressure was put on him, he was just another political opportunist — one who preferred expediency to principle.

And this is precisely the risk Albanese is already accused of — that he stands for nothing, that he is driven by the polls and the focus groups, and thus is not worth supporting. He has got away with caution and moderation to date, but climate change is the big one; and will become more urgent as the extreme weather and the passionate politics become more intense.

If self-preservation is really involved, he needs, this time, to hold firm. It may be a long way to the next election, but tapping the mat on this one could be irreparable.

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Note: Albanese has never understood global warming and he is a "coal man"...