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.
Although as this is written more than 30% of votes still need to be counted, it now looks almost certain that Labor will be returned and may even have a majority of seats. As the ABC election expert Green says,even if Premier Palaszczuk “falls a seat short, she doesn't have to do any deals. She can leave it to the Parliament to vote her out, because it would be unlikely that all the crossbench would vote against them at once. "It is a fixed-term Parliament — the Government can't just resign and walk out of office and leave someone else to form government — they can't do that, so somebody will form government. "So it is very hard to see how anyone other than Annastacia Palaszczuk can form government in the new Parliament. "They have a certain 46, and they only need one more vote and at the moment we are giving them another two seats on a prediction." (see Labor to Win in Qld Election). Note the failure of One Nation while the Kapper party may get two seats.
As soon as Turnbull arrived back in Australia from his visit to Israel for the BeerSheba, he held a press conference in Perth at which he rejected the idea of having an audit to determine whether MPs have complied with the constitutional requirement of having no foreign ancestry or, if so, of having renounced it before becoming federal MPs. He particularly attacked reports that Frydenberg might be deemed to be of Hungarian ancestry because his mother was born in Hungary but escaped the killing of Jews there and migrated to Australia. Frydenberg is reported as telling the ABC that “I did seek some advice and I am very confident with that advice but also contacted the embassy here and I was very comforted by conversations with them”.
Why was Environment Minister Frydenberg unable to tell his equivalent ministers from the States what Clean Energy Target (CET) the Commonwealth government proposes? According to his comments made just before his meeting with State ministers on 14 July: “There will be discussion about the clean energy target, but ... we received the report just five weeks ago,” Mr Frydenberg said. “We need to get this right. Dr Finkel made it very clear that the clean energy target, if it would be implemented would be from 2020, so there is no rush. What is important is to get the policy right” (see Frydenberg on CET).
Turnbull’s address to the National Press Club was supposed to set out his policy agenda for 2017. Perhaps the first thing to note is that his text made no mention at all of the election of Trump as the new President of the US and the possible need for Australia to change some of its policies as the result of the major changes being implemented by Trump. This was surprising if only because of the importance of the US as a world power and our alliance with this country. But also because Trump appears to be reversing many of the major policies pursued by Obama, some of which have implications for Australia’s.
During the first of the two weeks break from Parliament (Yes, it must have had the fewest meeting days for some years!), Turnbull spent some time in Queensland, possibly reflecting the number of marginal seats there and with One Nation seen as posing an increasing threat (although it’s polling percentage for Australia dropped slightly in the latest Newspoll). Of course, PMs are on the job all the time and when there is some spare time they can buy votes.
Yesterday’s The Australian detailed the bias we all know already exists at the ABC: in this instance our reference point is a TV presentation by ABC Four Corners, apparently approved by editorial director Sunderland (and with no reference to the almost invisible “new” CEO Guthrie). This presentation obviously grossly distorted the behaviour of the Nauruan community and the standard of government facilities in Nauru and, hence, its unsuitability to accommodate “refugees” trying to come to Australia. The ABC (and its sister SBS) are well known supporters of the refugee cause.
It is becoming more difficult by the day to guess what rationale is behind the limited policy announcements Malcolm Turnbull is starting to make. One interpretation of Turnbull’s latest announcement is that he reached a personal view that he needed to announce something new. That led to his decision to announce a “new” policy on federal-state relations without providing substantive detail because he thought that there would general agreement that something needed to be done to reduce the vertical fiscal imbalance between the Federal and State governments. And that there would be much discussion of the idea and praise for him for initiating it.