Monday, April 29, 2019

No let-up in Bill’s wobbles

The 2019 election campaign continues to be about give and take: Bill Shorten wants to remind voters what Labor is prepared to give and Scott Morrison wants to remind voters what Labor wants to take.

This remains the essence of the choice between two sides offering diametrically opposed policy and economic approaches based on tax cuts and growth or more tax and redistribution. Essentially the argument is about tax and spending: who gets taxed and who gets the benefit of spending.

The Opposition Leader campaigns on being able to spend more than the Coalition — such as the $600 million announced yesterday to fight domestic violence — and still have bigger budget surpluses and less debt because he is going to raise more tax from the “top end of town”.

“We want to stand up for Australian workers. We want to make sure they get better pay and better quality of work. This government just wants to cut schools and hospitals, cut penalty rates, so they can give tax cuts to the top end of town,” Shorten said this week.

The Prime Minister argues Labor’s new taxes on business, investors and high-income earners will dampen the economy and kill jobs while the Coalition’s tax cuts will create growth and jobs. Morrison says he doesn’t think Shorten “has the faintest clue about how business operates in this country, otherwise he wouldn’t be putting $387 billion worth of higher taxes on the Australian economy. As we found out, he doesn’t even know what those tax policies are.”

Disparate polls suggest although Labor’s lead over the Coalition has narrowed, the ALP and Shorten are still the frontrunners and favoured to win on May 18. But Shorten’s campaign, strong on positive announcements and targeting the “chaos” of the Coalition, has been weakened by a lack of attention to detail in the central tax argument, plus mixed messages.

The Labor leader correctly makes the point that Morrison’s focus on his personal popularity doesn’t matter as much as the policy arguments.

This is because he’s had a longstanding low level of voter satisfaction and he has trailed Morrison as preferred prime minister, yet voters have given Labor, under him, a lead over the Coalition. Besides, supposedly “unpopular” opposition leaders have won elections before.

The problem for Shorten is that he will be seen as incompetent and not across detail if he continues to make mistakes.

This week in Queensland, he was confronted with a tax anomaly and stumbled. It wasn’t a detailed and tricky question about negative gearing, franking credits or superannuation. It was a blue-collar worker with hi-vis stripes on his sleeves who wanted a tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 year.

The reason the worker at the coal export terminal in Gladstone wanted relief for people earning $70,000 more than Labor’s $180,000-a-year limit on tax cuts was that a “lot of people” at the coal port earn more than $250,000.

This is a conundrum for Labor, because a lot of traditional supporters get paid enough to fall within the ALP’s class of high-income earners and get lumped in with the “top end of town”. It is also part of the danger of political parties sending mixed messages during an election campaign. If voters are confused about a party’s policies, they are more inclined to vote for the clear message.

Labor’s central message for more than a year has been about wages and taxes: that “everything is rising except your wages”, and the ALP wants to redistribute tax wealth. Next week there will be even greater concentration on the “living wage” from Labor.

On Tuesday, Shorten, in front of TV cameras, was in his element — surrounded by workers. But rather than directly respond to a friendly unionist’s request for a tax cut with the cold truth that he would raise that worker’s tax, Shorten airily responded: “We’re going to look at that.”

Less than a week after having to backtrack and “take it on the chin” over a claim that Labor had no plans to change superannuation policies, when there are new taxes worth $34bn, Shorten had again answered without thinking.

It is easy to understand why Shorten, trailing as preferred PM and with a negative net satisfaction rating, wouldn’t want to disappoint a unionist asking for tax relief. But it highlighted the difficulty in redistributing tax revenue.

In previous elections Labor has suffered after imposing a cut-off point for income-tax relief that was below what a lot of Labor voters were earning or aspired to earn.

When an arbitrary income threshold is set there is no discrimination based on how people earn their money, where they live or how they vote. As Shorten pointed out, the worker he spoke to was on a good “union contract” that paid him $250,000 a year. But it still meant he was in the “top end of town” with bankers and business, and would have to pay Labor’s restored deficit levy — and increased taxes — for workers earning more than $180,000 a year.

As the man considered most likely to become prime minister next month, Shorten can’t afford to talk about hitting the top end of town to pay for $2.3bn in cancer care or $600m to fight domestic violence when he’s in Melbourne, and then say something different when he’s caught eye-to-eye with a Gladstone worker whose tax is going to rise under Labor.

It was bound to be a challenge for both sides to reconcile vast differences in priorities between voters in Deakin and Higgins in metropolitan Melbourne and those in regional Queensland, but Shorten has found it more difficult.

Tax wasn’t the only mixed message that hurt Shorten’s campaign in Queensland as he stood next to candidates who were saying different things to their leader about the Adani coal development in the Carmichael basin.

As Morrison travelled in Queensland, where the Coalition hopes to pick up seats, he was able to benefit from the cabinet decision just before the election was called to sign off on the Adani development and leave the final approval in the hands of the state Labor government. There is no confusion now from the Coalition, it has done all it can to get under way a new coal development that would create hundreds of jobs in central Queensland.

Morrison bit the bullet on Adani and has the benefit of a clear message in Queensland even if it’s unpopular in inner-city Melbourne and Sydney. But Shorten has no such clarity and was badgered about whether he would review the Adani decision in government, and what such a review might actually mean.

When confronted with comments from Labor’s candidate for Dawson, Belinda Hassan, that the ALP is committed to reviewing the federal approvals for the development, he said: “I have made it clear that we have no plans to review it. Our position is that the deals have to stack up commercially. We’ll be guided by the best science. I’m going to implement the law of the land. No more, no less, and of course we’re not going to engage in sovereign risk”.

When pressed, he had to say there would be no review, “full stop” — and no matter what candidates say, the decision would be up to a Labor cabinet.

At the end of the first week of the campaign, after stumbles over super, electric vehicles and negative gearing, Labor looked forward to a reset over Easter, but the second week of the campaign looked dangerously like more of the same for Shorten’s team.


Labor can’t explain 20 per cent payrises

Labor does not know how its taxpayer-funded 20 per cent pay increase to childcare workers will be delivered.

Opposition early childhood education spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth said a future Shorten government would consult with the sector on the best way workers can receive an average pay increase of $11,300.

“We will work with the sector and with the educators to work on a mechanism to deliver it. We have said the quantum of 20 per cent over eight years and we will work with the detail and the staging with the sector after that,” Ms Rishworth said.

“We want to have a consultative process about how we do it. We are not going to come on high about how we are going to do it. We want to work with the sector to deliver it over eight years.”

“We have said the commonwealth would fully fund this pay increase.”

When asked if childcare workers could receive a cash top up from the government, Ms Rishworth said: “I’m not going to go through hypotheticals. As I said, the people that we want to work with is the centres, the peak bodies, the educators and their representatives on how best we can deliver this.”

Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said it was critical workers in the low-paid sector receive a pay rise.

“We will negotiate with the sector. All stakeholders will be involved in making sure we implement this,” Mr O’Connor said.

“But it is critical that if we are going to take preschool eduction seriously in this country, if we are going to attract and retain dedicated staff, then we need to remunerate them properly.”


GetUp has dropped the mask.  They are a well-funded far-Left group whose whole aim is to destroy opponents by hook or by crook

GetUp is an organisation that seeks to destroy. It does not run candidates itself. Its operating method is to damage and destroy its opponents, whom it blackens through a combination of personal character assassination and political critique. It boasts about its influence at the 2016 election and its ability to terminate at this election Coalition MPs of what it calls the “hard right”. Its agenda now is ambitious in the extreme. It seeks, in effect, the partial political beheading of the Liberal Party. It targets Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton, followed by a line of others — Kevin Andrews, Greg Hunt, Josh Frydenberg, Christian Porter and Nicolle Flint.

Its method is an Australian version of the US brand of political action committees that are getting stronger at each election and are basic to the disrepute of US politics. PACs are formed by like-minded people, raise money and run campaigns to elect or defeat candidates, some being constructive but many viciously negative.

GetUp is a highly sophisticated operation, feared by the Liberals, trading on the idea of a “flourishing and fair” Australia. But it has been caught in its own hubris this election and risks being exposed as an extremist organisation of the Left fighting its declared extremists on the Right.

This was not supposed to happen. GetUp is a study in the extremism of progressive politics and its self-righteous belief any tactic is justified to crush its enemies. GetUp has peddled falsehoods about Andrews and Frydenberg and its universally condemned lifesaver advertisement against Abbott reveals GetUp as engaged in toxic tactics of the hard Left.

John Wanna, professor of public administration at the ANU, tells Inquirer: “They present themselves as being of the people but they are a restrictive, non-democratic organisation. It’s not an elected democratic model. They present themselves as being very nice but they operate like the PACs in America — their main purpose is to damage the other side. I think the danger for GetUp and the paradox may be that the more momentum it generates the more it might damage itself if it is seen to be subverting democracy. Its influence in that case may wane.

Asked about the withdrawn lifesaver advertisement, Abbott said: “There’s no doubt GetUp seek to mock their opponents. They have no sense of respect for service if their opponent doesn’t share their views. “They operate as a left-wing political mafia determined to rub out their opponents with campaigns based on prejudice.”

In his grassroots report about the GetUp campaign to destroy Abbott, Mike Seccombe in The Saturday Paper describes how its group leaders effectively worked a large crowd of volunteers with the sole aim of defeating Abbott: they tell people who to vote against, not who to vote for. Of course, the effect is to support the independent, Zali Steggall. The point, however, is that waging a campaign to destroy somebody is far easier than waging a campaign to get somebody elected. This is the distinctive point about GetUp. Unlike Scott Morrison or Bill Shorten or Pauline Hanson or even Palmer, who are trying to get themselves elected, GetUp exists solely to get people unelected.

The mentality this generates is destructive in the community but also seems to be self-corrupting. In the scripts it was using to turn voters against Andrews, GetUp accused Andrews of supporting gay conversion therapy. “This was a false and defamatory claim,” Andrews tells Inquirer. “I have never spoken about this issue in my life.”

Two branches in Andrews’s electorate put motions along these lines to the Liberal state council. Andrews was unaware of this until a newspaper report was published. He worked with Liberal state president Michael Kroger to have the motions withdrawn. When he discovered the GetUp script being used against him in its “conversation guides”, Andrews wrote to GetUp warning it was false and asking for the material to be withdrawn.

The point is obvious: when you create a demonised culture around a politician like Andrews on the grounds that he is an intolerable conservative, you can readily believe almost anything. A supporter of gay conversion therapy? Of course, why not?

The GetUp campaign against Frydenberg is purely opportunistic. The idea the Treasurer is part of the “hard right” is ludicrous. The justification, evidently, is that GetUp members wanted to target Frydenberg and claiming such a scalp would be an extraordinary triumph.

The “conversation guide” against Frydenberg says he “was part of the coup that removed Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister”. This is a lie, as anybody familiar with the leadership crisis knows. Is GetUp incompetent or unscrupulous, or both?

The script continued that Frydenberg “failed to get any real action on climate change” and was “part of the chaos in Canberra”.

This was a puerile justification for its effort to destroy him. GetUp seems ready to fabricate any excuse for its priorities. Frydenberg is under real pressure with multiple challenges in Kooyong, notably from Julian Burnside on behalf of the Greens.

But there was a comic aspect to this situation when GetUp national director Paul Oosting was put through the wringer by the ABC’s Jon Faine. It was a brilliant insight into GetUp’s real character and will become one of the moments of the campaign. Oosting refused to admit his organisation’s dishonesty: “I don’t think it’s misleading, Jon. I think that as I’ve outlined to you — I think there was a leadership coup in the Liberal Party … Josh Frydenberg was clearly the key beneficiary of that … I don’t think he became deputy prime minister by accident, did he?”

Oosting had to be corrected twice by Faine. Frydenberg is deputy prime minister? Wrong. Michael McCormack is the Deputy Prime Minister. Then he said Frydenberg is the finance minister. Wrong. Mathias Cormann has that job.

But Oosting refused to concede his script was inaccurate or unfair. He defended it by talking about climate change, an irrelevant point. Faine went to the essence. GetUp says it stands for a “different kind of politics”, so would Oosting in the cause of more integrity in politics concede his mistake? No way.

We learnt a lot. We learnt from Oosting’s own mouth that GetUp is as dodgy and deceptive as any of the major parties. On second thoughts, it’s worse — neither Morrison nor Shorten would have been stupid enough to defend such dishonesty. The next time anyone from GetUp tries to spin the line they want a better or more moral politics, you can either laugh or shut the door.

What is obvious is the cavalier irresponsibility with which GetUp makes its claims. It supposedly has seven priority targets in this campaign and it engaged in dishonesty about two of them. The evidence from Andrews and Frydenberg is that GetUp trades in deception.

The denigration of Abbott was even worse and even more revealing. In the ad Abbott is depicted as a lifesaver who refuses to save a drowning person by repeating lines supposed to reveal climate change denialism, and then laughs at the apparent drowning.

Shorten said the ad was “grossly disrespectful” to lifesavers. He said it was wrong to denigrate Abbott for his volunteer work as a lifesaver and the ad was “well out of line”. John Howard said it was “outrageous to suggest a man who has given years of his life to volunteer organisations would allow somebody to drown while he sat there and sneered at it”. Former Labor minister Stephen Conroy said GetUp “deserve all the condemnation they get”.

The ad was pulled by GetUp only after complaints by the 150,000-strong Royal Life Saving Society. GetUp said it had the greatest respect for the lifesaving movement. There was no sign of regret about the way Abbott was depicted. If ever there was a forked-tongue apology this was it. Only a fool would think it genuine. Abbott, for the record, has a long history as a volunteer firefighter and lifesaver where, in fact, he has actually saved people.

What does this ad reveal about GetUp and its culture? The ad had to be created, produced and authorised. It was not an accident. This was intended. The implication is that Abbott was prepared to see people die because of his attitude on climate change. It is the best example so far of how the self-righteous moralism of GetUp leads to the debasement of our politics because of a willingness to demonise an individual without any sense of restraint or decency. This is a warped culture on display — accept Labor or Liberal at any time but don’t accept this.

This is nothing but fermentation of hatred on the assumption that because it is Abbott it is justified. This is what many progressives assert with a passion that borders on hysteria. And once you cross this threshold for one person, you will cross it whenever it is convenient for anybody else that suits your purpose. This is what GetUp represents. Will any of this hurt GetUp? Its activists will be unaffected. Perhaps a few of its volunteers from middle Australia might think twice. No responsible board of directors would tolerate this performance, and if the directors take no action, that will confirm the nature of this group and the hypocrisy of its claims.

This goes to the point made by Wanna: “If you join GetUp you join as a supporter but you are not a member. This is a non-democratic model many not-for-profits use where the executive directors have the power and can operate as a cohesive group.” So far it has been successful.

The supporters are happy volunteers, convinced they are doing democracy a service. What happens if GetUp, despite its tactics, succeeds in beheading an echelon of senior Liberals? Fundamental to the operation of PACs in the US is that they must be “independent” of parties or candidates, yet they exist to support or oppose parties or candidates. Sound familiar?

As for Clive Palmer, he has nothing constructive to offer our political system. Palmer’s ads say he aims to form a government. He does not campaign, offer policies, subject himself to the media or the public. He just buys ads and his real purpose is to win Senate places and attempt to gain the balance of power on the Senate crossbench.

Such a prospect has only one consequence — more dysfunction and chaos in parliament. There is no precedent in Australia’s history for what Palmer is doing. Consider the public vindication if Palmer spends $50m and gets nothing — if the lot is wasted. That would be a sweet moment, or would it?

The downside is that One Nation would get more Senate seats. Every sign post-election is that Australia needs action to salvage the mechanics and culture of its democracy. But didn’t we know that?


Pro coal and anti coal groups face off in Queensland coal town

A police spokeswoman said an emergency call was made before midnight on Saturday after reports a loud noise was heard near the camp of protesters at Clermont. Police it was suspected the noise could have been a firecracker and no one had reported seeing the source of the noise.

Stop Adani convoy organiser and former Greens leader Bob Brown said demonstrators were having a great day in the town after a hostile reception yesterday. ‘‘There were a few firecrackers over the fence in the middle of the night, but everybody had a cracker of a night,” Mr Brown said.

However, anti-Adani protesters complained that rocks had been hurled at cars in the convoy and women were “abused and threatened”.

An additional 100 anti-mining protesters were due to arrive to join a Stop Adani rally in the town on Sunday.

Clermont’s three pubs refused to serve convoy participants yesterday and a sign was hung from a hotel which read, “go home and turn off your power and walk”. Another read, “Mr Brown and ‘Stop Adani’ protesters, you may have travelled far and wide but you won’t get food inside”.

The publican of the Grand Hotel in Clermont, Kel Appleton, said the town had been brought together by going toe-to-toe with the Stop Adani group.

“We’re just normal people, we don’t go pushing our rhetoric on anyone else like they do to us.” Mr Appleton said.

Mr Appleton said having United Australia Party leader and senate hopeful Clive Palmer, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and LNP MP Michelle Landry under the same balcony at his pub on Saturday was a surprise. The politicians arrived to show support for locals yesterday.

He said he understood locals would now leave the anti-Adani protesters alone in the town’s showgrounds as they held today’s rally.  “We still get treated we’re like a bunch of hooligans but we’re not, like I’m half proud of being called a redneck, we probably are, we live out west, there’s graziers, there’s cotton farmers,” he said. “People have driven up from Toowoomba (nine hours away) to stand on our side. “That’s what brought everyone together, just being all good people, you know.”

Mr Brown said some impartial business owners had “expressed regret” at the hostility and he thanked Queensland police for keeping the peace. “This is about every Australian child’s future security in a rapidly heating planet,” Mr Brown said in the statement. “You can back your children or you can back Gautam Adani’s mine but you can’t have both.”

The anti-Adani convoy to stop Adani’s Galilee Basin mine is trying to convince the coal-reliant Queensland town it would be better off without the industry.

But the 400-strong convoy was greeted by jeering Clermont residents lining the main street of the central Queensland mining town on Saturday.

Mr Brown has accused the counterprotesters of “thuggery”.

The former Australian Greens leader, said his “law-abiding and peaceful” convoy would be welcomed in the town, but for a “gaggle” of right-wing politicians including Matt Canavan, Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer, who spent yesterday afternoon rallying the “start Adani” group.

“It’s a complete fabrication that people in central Queensland aren’t worried about this mine,” Mr Brown said. “I was braced for a hostile reception in Mackay and it turned out it was mega-friendly.

“We should all be committed to putting the aggression to one side and talking about the issues, the key issue being the future of our children.”

However, Mr Brown said pro-Adani supporters had threatened local restaurants, forcing them to cancel reservations for members of his convoy, describing an “air of thuggery” about the group.

Police redirected the convoy to an alternate road, away from the main street, in a bid to avoid violent clashes, he said.

“Some of them came up to us, surrounding cars and tearing off flags and stickers,” he said.

State shadow mining minister Dale Last, also in Clermont, said residents were “very angry that this group’s coming out here to tell them what they should and shouldn’t be doing.” “I think these protesters will be left in no doubt they’ve walked into a hornet’s nest in this country,” he said. “They’re going to get a very, very hostile reception, I can assure you of that.”

Adani Australia thanked its supporters in a tweet on Saturday: “Amazing turnout with hundreds in Mackay showing up to support the coal industry.”

An anti-Adani rally on Sunday is expected to include speeches and singing.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here


Paul said...

Getup is basically a Globalist, Zionist-funded (Soros, whose job is to manage disruption from the Left of the aisle, while the likes of Adelson manage the Right) astro-turf organisation that preys on the intellectual vanity of young city people, mostly female and "diverse".

The Eartnest manifesto captures it remarkably well for what the ABC called a "rant".

Paul said...

Getup is basically a Globalist, Zionist-funded (Soros, whose job is to manage disruption from the Left of the aisle, while the likes of Adelson manage the Right) astro-turf organisation that preys on the intellectual vanity of young city people, mostly female and "diverse".

The Earnest manifesto captures it remarkably well for what the ABC called a "rant".

(resend. Misspelled Earnest)