Polling Stationary, Shorten Exposed, Welfare Dependency, Obama & Iran

Today’s virtually stationary Newspoll confirms that the “selling” of the budget has a long way to go. Of some interest is the big drop in the satisfaction rate for Shorten, whose negativity seems to have exceeded anything Abbott was accused of when Opposition leader.

Of related interest is the claim made at the Royal Commission that, when he was a Parliamentary Secretary to Rudd, Shorten gave $5,000 to a candidate seeking election to an HSU position but, at the same time, publicly supported the election of his opponent. This follows the claim already made by former AWU official Kernohan that, when Shorten was also a senior AWU official, he advised Kernohan not to pursue investigations into the Wilson slush fund established on Gillard’s legal advice. One leftist commentator has quickly claimed today that there is an absence of documentation damaging to Shorten. But denials of puzzling involvements in a union election, and support for a slush fund sourced from a company threatened with union disruption, without any accompanying explanations, may raise questions about the acceptability of his leadership of Labor.

Abbott’s Parliamentary Secretary, Alan Tudge, has written an article claiming welfare dependence has got worse over the past 14 years and quoting supporting evidence, including that 59 per cent of unemployment benefit recipients are now exempt from having to look for work. But such commentary needs to be much more extensive, preferably in documentary form, and be made by senior Ministers too.

It also misses the important point, made in my letter published in today’s Australian, that the large increase in real incomes over the past 20 years is the main reason for reducing welfare coverage. Also, that the failure to present a “tough” budget on spending is reflected in the provision made in it for an increase in taxation.

What to make of reports of possible talks between the US and Iran over jihadism in Iraq? One interpretation is that Iran has recognised that Obama’s “withdrawal” strategy in the Middle East means that it has nothing to lose by publicly involving itself in responding to the Iraq uprising by Sunnis. There is no sign that Obama has finished “weighing his options” or that he is seriously concerned about the potential wider implications. Other developments, such as the kidnapping of Israeli children (probably by the body that wants Israel destroyed – Hamas) and further terrorist activity in Kenya, suggest growing recognition of the US withdrawal strategy by Islamic extremists.

By contrast, Abbott told Parliament that “we are faced with the situation of a terrorist state … it is a security disaster for the Middle East and also for the wider world”. This, and the quotes below, indicate that Abbott was well briefed on terrorism and its source for his overseas visit. One hopes that his reference to “a radical Islamist group” will bring such sources of concern into the open in Australia too.