Malcolm in the Muddle

In my Commentary last Wednesday I suggested that “it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he [Turnbull] is not a genuine Liberal”.

Safe Schools Program

I had not expected that to be so quickly reflected in a petition (was this not discussed in the party room?) sent to Turnbull by a majority of Coalition backbenchers rejecting the snap review of an anti-bullying program for gay and transgender children ordered by the Prime Minister. As indicated in the article below, “Some 43 MPs, including former prime minister Tony Abbott, have demanded a parliamentary ­inquiry to allow submissions from parents and teachers concerned about the scheme and pushed for a suspension of the program’s ­funding”. It is possible there is more than 43 opponents but they are reluctant to say so publicly.

I have not personally examined the Safe Schools program, which was established by the previous Labor government and is supported by the present Opposition.  But I am concerned that it appears to include more than an anti-bullying scheme and extends to the provision of   “guidance” to pupils who have just reached puberty about how to judge their sexual inclinations – and those of others. That concern is enhanced by the report that the program may have been developed by a male academic (and supported by other similarly-minded male academics) who is sympathetic to sexual relations between men.

This apart, State Governments themselves are well able to decide on bullying policies. There is surely no need for a national policy on sex education at schools and the Federal Government should not be involving itself in programs involving schools which are run by State governments.

At a minimum this program should be examined by a Parliamentary inquiry. If Turnbull had any policy for reducing the extent of Federal regulatory involvement he should support its abandonment.

Competition Policy

The Turnbull government’s decision to adopt a policy which judges competition according to whether it has the effect of lessening competition is clearly a political one designed to satisfy the National Party (and Barnaby Joyce in particular) and to oppose Abbott, whose government decided not to accept the recommendation of the Harper Competition review. That recommendation was made despite it finding that of 11 previous completion reviews only one supported an effects test. Indeed the Turnbull government initially decided against it too.

More importantly, as Simon Cowan of the Centre for Independent Studies points out, it is a fallacy to think that companies can enter a market, force the competition out of business and then jack up the price indefinitely. Particularly in the services and retail industries there are always potential challengers including from overseas. The likely results of an effects test policy will be the protection of inefficient small businesses and an increase in prices.

The decision (which would not occur until sometime after the election and would then be subject to change) has been welcomed by the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims. He was employed in the office of Bob Hawke when Hawke was PM and his statements have indicated that he is a regulator par excellence. He would welcome the opportunity to expand the size of the ACCC and to have the opportunity to decide against Woolworths, Coles or Bunnings because they “forced” a smaller business out.

The Muddle

I have previously referred to a critique of Turnbull published in The Australian by former Labor minister, Graham Richardson. Whether the basis of the latest critique is correct or not, the article in today’s Australian repeats his critique on the basis that Turnbull’s apparent objective seems to be one of seeking a double dissolution from the Governor General  even though his government will have voted on one occasion against  debating the ABCC legislation. According to Richardson, “There is no method in this muddle. It is just a muddle of one man’s making – the man whose job security now seems to dominate all thought and discussion on election timing and policy formation: the Prime Minister”


Despite his continued use of language which should unsuited to a President, and the opposition of the official Republican Party (or perhaps because of it), Trump has obtained 673 of the delegates allocated for the national convention in July. This is 47 percent and might not be sufficient to make him the Republican candidate. Many would welcome that.

But it is desirable to reflect on the fact that without Trump many of the issues he (justifiably) raised in the race for the White House would not have been raised at all. That is discussed in this article by Andrew Bolt. One might add that we need a Trump in Australia, albeit one with decent language.

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