16
Feb
2019

Minority Govt Problems; Over-rule Qld Labor’s Refusal on Adani Coal Mine

The Problem Facing Morrison’s Minority Government

In yesterday’s Commentary I drew attention to Labor’s success in forcing legislation through Parliament which allowed asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island to “doctor” themselves to Australia for treatment without ministerial approval (except for security reasons). I added that “it also remains to be seen how long he can run a minority government where there is an opposition which is able to force legislation right through Parliament and effectively change the Coalition’s policies on other matters too” .

I added that “there has already been a (failed) attempt today to establish a Royal Commission on some failure of access to disabilities and there will inevitably be a debate on aspects of the budget set to be presented in early April. That would provide Labor/Greens with opportunities to have amendments to the budget passed through Parliament not by the Coalition but by the Opposition”.

Some recipients of Commentary indicated that they did not understand my analysis and in particular my (and others) view that an early election might be called. Today we have an illustration of what I meant. A report in Weekend Australian reports that

Scott Morrison is on track for an unprecedented second defeat on a key piece of legislation within two weeks, with Labor “confid­ent” of passing a small-business policy in an alliance with Greens and independents. The government was consid­er­ing last night how to deal with another potential loss on the floor of the House of Representatives after it suffered the first defeat on legislation in nearly 80 years with the passage of Labor’s refugee medivac bill on Tuesday. The Prime Minister faces inter­nal spotfires as rebel Nationals MPs threaten to support Labor’s small-business overhaul in a damaging move that could split the Coalition, test the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and undermine Mr Morrison’s authority (see More Challenges to Minority Government).

As Parliament is sitting again from 18-21 February  before the budget there are likely to be further attempts to “govern” by Labor/Greens, including in regard to the alleged need for more “action” on climate change. Then there is the period after the budget but before the election when Parliament will again be sitting  from 4-18 April and when more attempts at governing by Labor/Greens/et al would be likely to occur.

All this suggests that it would be in Morrison’s own interests to call an early election, not now but as soon as possible after the budget has been presented.

Qld Left Labor Runs The State & Is Stopping Adani Coal Mine From Starting

Readers will be aware that the Indian owners of the Adani coal proposal in Queensland have been seeking approval for 7 years and thought they had it only to find that the Queensland Labor government has made a last minute attempt to stop it by asking an active environmentalist to advise whether the risk to an endangered finch would be too great. He duly did so advise.

Today’s Weekend Australian reports that “an extraordinary alliance of industry, unions and councils were last night in talks to lobby for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s intervention to save the project that promises thousands of jobs.  The contentious review of Adani’s black-throated finch management plan was ordered by ­Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch’s department in December, just weeks after Adani announced it had funding for the mine. The findings of the review — chaired by Brendan Wintle, a Melbourne University academic associated with anti-coal activism — are set to delay construction of the mine, which cannot begin without state approval of the plan to protect the endangered bird. After Ms Trad yesterday called on Adani to “engage in the ­process” led by Professor Wintle, Adani chief executive Lucas Dow claimed the review’s “misinformed and conflicting findings” demonstrated the report was biased and must be scrapped. In a letter to the government, Mr Dow outlines five key areas where he says the review contradicts the previous evidence accepted by the Environment Department, which had workshopped the plan with the company over 18 months and seven drafts before it was submitted” (see Morrison Cautions on Adani)

Unfortunately, the best that Scott Morrison could respond yesterday was to caution “the state government against “playing games” with jobs in north Queensland, which ­already suffered high unemployment before it was ravaged by floods this month. “I think the people of Queensland are dealing with enough at the moment without having decisions to take away their jobs,” the Prime Minister said.“We support the mining industry. We want to see mining jobs and we want to be able to see projects stand on their two feet and be given a go on the basis of their commercial realities.”

Given the changeable voting in Queensland for federal elections Morrison should be weighing in much more strongly. My attempt failed to have published a suggested response published. However, that suggested response may be worth repeating here, viz

It is not surprising that Queensland’s Labor government has established an inquiry into the dangers from an Adani coal mine to a finch. As you point out, that government is controlled by the left-wing and the Premier is just a front ( “Labor can no longer pretend it supports Adani”, 15/2). And, as shown by its behavior in forcing Shorten to edge open border controls without proper ministerial decisions, the left-wing constitutes a real threat to governing Australia federally if constituents are fooled into voting Labor in May.

The Morrison government needs to find ways of attracting the attention of voters to what they are in for if Labor wins. One possible way of getting their attention would be to adopt the same strategy as Clive Palmer has in full scale adverts on TV and published media. Of course, by presenting such rubbish in such a way Palmer is now losing the attention of voters.

A Coalition adverts strategy would be structured to identify the many problems in the policies already announced by Labor, such as border openings, increases in taxation and unbelievable reductions in emissions by 2030. It is not too early to start a Palmer-like strategy now.

There are other possibilities, including asking a credit rating agency to examine Queensland’s rating. Queensland’s LNP opposition has undertaken to restore the AAA rating which Labor lost and it could play that role with Federal support. It might even be possible for the Federal government to use its external affairs power to approve the mine by saying it is important for Australia’s foreign relations with India and its foreign investment policy that it go ahead.

It is in the interests of the Morrison government, both economic and political, to do as much as it can to have the Adani mine started.

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