My previous Commentary have argued that, as a Coalition leader facing an election, Scott Morrison needs to get cracking on enunciating policies asap in the New Year. But although active since early January, he seems to have focussed on matters which are mostly “organisational” and would have limited appeal to the electorate in general. Indeed, his poor handling of some of these matters might even have attracted negative comment or a sort of “well what was that all about”.
In my Commentary published on 18 November I suggested the handling of the Bourke St incident indicated serious deficiencies. This has been confirmed by developments since then. Most important has been the statement by Victorian Attorney General Pakula that Victorian police had not received information from federal sources which would warrant them acting to at least monitor the now dead Muslim terrorist, Shire Ali. But Victorian police chief Ashton subsequently announced that they had in fact received the necessary federal information. This prompted me to send a letter to the press arguing that Pakula should resign but, as he has stuck to his guns and has been supported by Victorian Premier Andrews, that won’t happen a couple of days before the election (see OZ on Bourke St Terrorist Revelations and Pakula Claims Not Informed of Terrorists Passport Withdrawal).
Last Sunday’s Commentary on the killing by a Somalian (Shire Ali) in Bourke St gave the gist of PM Morrison’s reaction that “I am the first to protect religious freedom in this country, but it also means I must be the first to call out religious extremism,” he said. “Religious extremism takes many forms around the world, and no religion is immune from it … But here in Australia, we would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism … is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam.”
Today’s media contains reports which are of serious concern in regard to the capacity of governments and political leaders to operate or propound policies which are in the interests of communities considered as an entity rather than of particular groups. These are briefly described below and, except for two, the attachments.
Comments now emanating from the PM and Treasurer are alarming. They imply that the Coalition is following a line that is not dissimilar to that adopted by Turnbull and most of the ministers he appointed (some of which have in fact been re-appointed by Morrison). It would not be surprising if Turnbull himself has been consulted on some issues which have emerged since he lost his PM position (Morrison indicated last week that he had been speaking to Turnbull “pretty frequently”). True, some have responded well to Morrison’s more acceptable mannerisms than those attributed to Turnbull, but what counts is the substance of decision-making.
Weekend Australian ran an article by former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, Karl Rove, in which, contrary to his usual practice with articles written for the Wall St Journal, he states no outright opinions and suggests no answers because it was “an especially chaotic and jam-packed week” (see attached Rove Asks What is Happening in the US). I have much the same feeling about developments in Australia as well as in the US, both of which leave some important questions outstanding.
As expected, the London address by Abbott has led to many critiques, including some that attempt to present his analysis as ridiculous partly be being selective in quotes. I respond to some of these critiques below. Suffice to say here is that the response so far by Turnbull and Frydenberg is basically limited to saying “well he didn’t say that when he was PM” (see Frydeneberg’s Critique of Abbott). Turnbull has refused to comment on Abbott’s address but has rejected any withdrawal from the Paris agreement (see Turnbull to Stick to Paris) But the responses by some backbenchers indicate that Abbott has stirred the possum –and on more than one tree. He has also reinforced (without actually saying it) the problems with Turnbull. In The Australian, Simon Benson points out that the government led by Turnbull has created a policy vacuum and “when the government does finally dump the CET, Abbott will doubtless be there congratulating them for finally listening to him” (see Benson on Turnbull).
Today’s Australian reports that, at tomorrow’s meeting with his state counterparts, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg will “press his state and territory counterparts to agree to 49 of the 50 recommendations contained in the blueprint for reform handed down by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel last month, arguing that they will inject ‘stability and security’ into the market”. He will also “demand that Victoria and the Northern Territory lift their bans on onshore gas development. However “the meeting will not consider the proposed Clean Energy Target (CET), which is a priority for some states and many in industry, because of Coalition divisions over the policy” (see Finkel Not on Agenda for Meeting with States).