October 30, 2018
Jonathan Biggins, who has been sending up politicians as part of The Wharf Revue for almost two decades, has some sharp words about social media - “the enemy of democracy, not its ally” - and a warning on political correctness.
“We are entering an age of a new puritanism that is actually not only driven by the censorious right but by the equally censorious left who are saying this is no longer acceptable,” he tells The Conversation.
“We’ve always had a free rein at the wharf but I can see shadows looming at the door”.
October 23, 2018
Some in the Nationals would like Barnaby Joyce back in the leadership before the election. Joyce speaking to The Conversation repeats that if the leadership were offered, he would be up for it - though he insists he is not canvassing.
But his critics think he would have a “woman problem” - and Joyce acknowledges that to win support back from rural women he “would certainly have a lot of work to do”.
The former deputy prime minister is the government’s special drought envoy, and ahead of Friday’s Drought Summit he says there’s still a lot to be done. While there’s been some recent rain, even for those farmers who have received it “the real relief does not become evident until such time as the money turns up at the bank”.
October 17, 2018
Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Peter Jennings, says it would be "silly" to claim - as Scott Morrison does - that there is no connection between this week's announcement about the possible relocation of Australia's embassy to Jerusalem and Saturday's Wentworth byelection.
This kind of decision would not have been considered by Malcolm Turnbull, Jennings says and if Julie Bishop were still foreign minister she "would have put up quite a fight".
On Morrison's general foreign policy approach so far, Jennings says the new PM seems to be taking a more "conciliatory tone" to China. "If we see the Prime Minister moving away from the relatively hard line position that Malcolm Turnbull evolved over several years about China, that to me would be a concern."
October 10, 2018
The government’s majority is at stake in the October 20 Wentworth byelection, when the Liberals face voters still reeling from the loss of their member Malcolm Turnbull.
ABC election analyst Antony Green says there’s likely to be a 10 per cent swing “as a start” - the result of losing Turnbull’s personal vote and a generally more intense battle. He says “the only danger” to the Liberals not winning the seat is high profile independent Kerryn Phelps but she may have made it harder for herself by “mucking up her preference comments earlier”.
Liberal candidate Dave Sharma recognises the public’s disappointment and disillusionment with politicians and if elected is keen to “help improve the tone of the debate in Canberra”. He accepts “absolutely” the science of man-made or anthropogenic climate change and believes in Australia “keeping our international commitments” on Paris.
Labor’s Tim Murray is “quite confident” he will finish second on the primary vote (although the ALP’s best chance of ousting the Liberals is to run third and help elect Phelps with its preferences). On the issue of asylum seekers, which has dogged his party, Murray says a Labor government should press for New Zealand to take more than its original offer of an annual 150: “Taking 300 would go a long way to resolving the problem of children being held in detention”.
Phelps says she has received a lot of thanks for putting her hand up for Wentworth but has also been subject to “dirty tricks”. Despite her confusing messages on preferences, she’s confident she can come second if enough “disaffected Liberals and people who agree with my progressive policy agenda are prepared to put their support behind [me].”
October 3, 2018
Shadow minister for financial services Clare O'Neil, who is leading Labor’s “roundtables” for victims of the banks and other financial institutions, says the ALP exercise will give a voice to people in areas the Royal Commission hasn’t had time to visit.
“There’s vast swathes of the country where the commission hasn’t been at all.” she tells The Conversation. “I just utterly reject that this is a political exercise”, she says in answer to government criticism.
O'Neil says she has “a lot of confidence” in Commissioner Kenneth Hayne but is concerned that with only four months until the final report there have not yet been any policy proposals. “It’s just that I think we will get to a better result if the government gives the commissioner more time.”
September 26, 2018
With Scott Morrison flagging his government will take a hard line on industrial relations, especially the CFMEU, Labor’s shadow minister for employment and workplace relations, Brendan O'Connor will have a tough job ahead of the election.
O'Connor says Labor remains totally opposed to the government’s Ensuring Integrity legislation, which the Coalition wants to resurrect. “I can’t see this bill in any way being salvageable, and that’s why of course it sat for a year without the Senate debating it,” he says.
O'Connor acknowledges there have been problems with “civil breaches” by the Construction division of the CFMEU but insists the claims of bad behaviour have been “highly exaggerated”. “It is very hard to take this government seriously when it politicises institutions it establishes and uses those institutions for political purposes … this government really has no standing and no regard for the rule of law when it actually acts unlawfully itself and then wants to attack other institutions for acting unlawfully,” O'Connor says.
With his brother Michael the CFMEU's national secretary, O'Connor indicates that in government he would recuse himself from decisions made specifically by the minister – though not from general workplace policy relevant to the union. "I would consider the situation and if I thought there was a perceived conflict or a conflict I certainly would of course absent myself," he said.
September 13, 2018
Independent Cathy McGowan and Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie share more in common than just sitting on the crossbench. The members for Indi and Mayo respectively have dug in to retain their seats - they believe there is “a mood” in the community for alternative candidates.
McGowan and Sharkie have given the government their confidence until the Wentworth byelection - after which they will consult with their electorates. They think Kerryn Phelps would have “an excellent chance” of winning the byelection if she runs. Sharkie said “I would certainly be keen to support her in any capacity and that just might be phone calls just to give her some support”.
Even a few weeks after the leadership spill, Sharkie said “there is still a lot of grieving in Mayo for the loss of Malcolm Turnbull”. The feeling in Indi was “very similar”, McGowan said “except there was another level” - the loss of an energy policy.
On the Liberal’s problems with unity and women, McGowan said “It’s not just the bullying it’s how they work together as a team. In making themselves into a much better party they might open themselves to greater diversity and to better systems and practices for managing conflict.”
September 7, 2018
Former Victorian Liberal senator Judith Troeth is no stranger to speaking out forthrightly on issues, even when that goes against her party’s position.
In this podcast, Troeth says the party should adopt quotas to rectify the “abysmally low numbers” of Liberal women in parliament. “We should have quotas, but not forever … to get the numbers up”.
One of the group of moderates when she was in parliament (1993- 2011), Troeth is concerned about the party’s drift to the right. “Sometimes i feel as though i am standing on the extreme left … when everyone who knows me knows I’m certainly not”. She partly attributes the present situation to newer MPs being reluctant to rock the boat. Troeth’s advice to them? “Be brave and let your conscience be your mouth piece.”
On asylum seekers - an issue over which she confronted then prime minister John Howard - Troeth believes “quite strongly” that on humanitarian grounds people who have been processed and found to be refugees on Manus and Nauru should be allowed to come to Australia and stay.
August 8, 2018
Barnaby Joyce has confirmed he could cross the floor on the federal legislation associated with the National Energy Guarantee. “Of course I could,” he says in an interview with The Conversation.
Joyce is out on the author’s circuit for his just-released book Weatherboard and Iron, which reprises the personal saga that took him from deputy prime minister to backbencher, as well as canvassing life in Canberra and policy issues.
On the NEG, he says in this podcast: “If it comes back from COAG and it’s absolutely untenable in regards to what happens to power prices and it forces even more misery onto people that can no longer afford power then I think you’re almost duty bound to leave that option [crossing the floor] up your sleeve.”
Asked whether the government should ditch its tax cuts for big business if it cannot get them through the Senate, Joyce says: “To be quite frank I’ve probably got a different view than some of my colleagues, in that I look at the company tax cuts and I say, well we have to also be internationally competitive.”
Provocatively, Joyce says the Nationals should run a candidate in the NSW Labor held seat of Eden-Monaro - which would mean contesting against a Liberal contender.
On future aspirations, Joyce makes it clear he would like to return to the frontbench after the election. “If I was offered that I would never knock it back,” he said. “In politics you should try to get to the point of most effect – because that’s how you bring the best outcome”.
August 1, 2018
Incoming Labor national president Wayne Swan has made it clear he will have an assertive voice in the role, as the party moves towards next year’s election.
While many in the ALP would like action on party reform, Swan says bluntly it’s not top of mind for him. “I made it very clear [in campaigning for the presidency] that party reform in the first instance was not my priority,” he says. “My priority is winning the battle of ideas.”
Looking to the rescheduled party conference in December, Swan acknowledges there will be battles on issues such as asylum seekers. But “we have to be mature about it – and I think the party will be”. “I think you’ve seen from the Labor party for the last five years a degree of unity of purpose that has been very strong, and I think that will shine through what will be very passionate debates at the national conference”.
Swan alleges that the Liberal party has been taken over by “tea party fanatics who are dedicated to actually trashing government as an institution”. He stops short of calling Malcolm Turnbull a “tea party fanatic” but says the Prime Minister is “dancing to the tune [of them] at every turn … people like Peter Dutton, people like the Institute of Public Affairs.”