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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Annabell Crab mussings

Western democracy was so much easier 300 years ago, when it was illegal for journalists to report the goings-on in Parliament.

In those days, politicians could say whatever they liked to their voters, and whatever they liked in the parliament, without the irksome risk of inconsistencies between the former and latter exciting discontent.

It was an agreeable arrangement all round, and very different from Australia Votes 2022, a campaign in which a backbencher breaking wind in Gladstone can cause entire houses of cards to collapse in leafy neighbourhoods a two-week horse ride away.

Item: Former resources minister and current LNP Senator Matt Canavan yesterday offered the view that the net zero emissions goal was “dead in the water”.

This is not — so far as Senator Canavan is concerned — an uncharacteristic remark.

Senator Canavan is on Team Coal Forever and wants a new coal-fired power station for Christmas. (He also points out — validly — that China is building new coal-fired stations hand over fist, something that it somehow manages to do without incurring climate-related huffiness in the Pacific.)

But Senator Canavan did make his remarks on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, which means the Prime Minister’s day has substantially been taken up with attempts to douse the already-smouldering perception that his net zero deal with the Nats (a mysterious and unlegislated arrangement that seems to involve the Nats getting many expensive dams in return for maintaining a mutinous silence on emissions reduction) isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on.

Play Video. Duration: 35 seconds
Matt Canavan’s views ‘not the Coalitions or the government’s position: PM

Here comes the teal


Why the fuss? Well, for one, Senator Canavan’s remarks interfere with what Mr Morrison would much rather be doing, which is rebadging Labor’s emissions policy as a “sneaky carbon tax”.

But more centrally, any apparent confirmation from any government figure that the net zero policy is junk plays right into the hands of the climate-minded independents trying to wrest affluent inner-city seats out of the trembling hands of Liberal MPs who are unused to fighting close-run campaigns.

Today, news.com.au published research by Redbridge pollster Kos Samaras suggesting that Wentworth “teal” independent Allegra Spender is on track to beat Liberal incumbent Dave Sharma.

Scott Morrison speaks in an air craft hanger surrounded by media.
Scott Morrison’s day was taken up with attempts to douse the already-smouldering perception that his net zero deal with the Nats isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

It’s well worth, if you missed it, listening to Patricia Karvelas’ interview with Mr Samaras on this morning’s RN Breakfast, in which the former Labor strategist compares the Liberals’ attempts to hold off the teal hordes to Labor’s historic struggles with Greens nibbling away at the party from the left.

Worth, too, listening to Mr Sharma on the same program explaining why Senator Canavan’s remarks aren’t a big deal.

The Climate 200 or “teal” independents tend to be, as a general rule, educated white women running against moderate Liberal MPs in affluent electorates.

It’s a free country, of course, and one of the rules of our democracy is that anyone can nominate as a candidate.

But Lordy, the exercise of this democratic prerogative by a bunch of women who should by rights quietly be voting for Dave Sharma, Trent Zimmerman, Tim Wilson, Josh Frydenberg, et al, has really got some Liberal blokes’ undies in a bunch.

What’s the real issue here?


Former PM John Howard last week grumped that the teals were nothing more than a mob of “anti-Liberal groupies”.

Former Victorian Liberal premier Ted Baillieu wailed piteously in The Age that the teals’ “unspoken objective is to chop out this next generation of Liberals”.

The teals have been called shallow, inexperienced, puppets and hypocrites. And in perhaps the most transfixing analysis of all, member for Mackellar Jason Falinski (under threat from Climate 200 candidate Sophie Scamps) told The Guardian that the independents should be donating their campaign funds to domestic violence shelters.

“I just think it is an immoral use of money; we have real problems in the world and for these guys to be spending $2 million against members of parliament, when, according to them, they agree with their member profiles, is just immoral.”

A composite image made of three separate images of three women in business attire.
The “teal independents” include (from left) Zali Steggall, Kylea Tink and Allegra Spender.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty, Supplied, ABC News: Mridula Amin)

This is, obviously, a tremendously front-foot approach from someone whose government recently spanked $38 billion on JobSeeker for companies that didn’t need it.

But also: Can you imagine male candidates being told that their campaign funds ought morally to be redirected to those less fortunate than themselves? Is there a more unintentionally illuminating sentiment than, “well, the fellas have had a chat and we reckon you sheilas’d be better off giving your deposit to the poor”?

The howled question among these Liberal chaps seems to be “why are they targeting us?”, when perhaps the better question might be “why is it working?”.

I mean, Clive Palmer blew $60 million at the 2019 election without winning a single seat.

The major issue with the teals — and the one that seems to provoke the heavy precipitation of toys from Liberal prams — is that some of these chicks might actually win.

In a democracy, it’s not very cool to blame the voters. If voters are drawn to female candidates with views on climate action and accountability that would fit on a bumper sticker, and they have to cross the street to get it, then whose fault is that?

Quiet on the Labor front

Meanwhile it was a fairly quiet day for Labor. Their campaign — still without an isolating Albanese — flew into Canberra for the first pitstop inside their usual bubble (there are, after all, no seats in play here).

Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher were out whacking the Coalition on the economy and rising inflation while also announcing a policy on multinational tax avoidance.

Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher hold a press conference in Canberra.
Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher were out whacking the Coalition on the economy and rising inflation.(ABC News: Bianca De Marchi) 

And for those Australians watching on overseas — yes, confirms the Australian Electoral Commission, it’s going to be harder to register a vote in this election if you’re living overseas. So watch this, get organised, and don’t expect a sausage in a piece of bread.

And why is the ABC running free ads for political parties and candidates across its platforms?

Dear reader, we are obliged to. Please peruse this before firing off your angry missive, thank you.

Australia’s inflation shock will have Morrison contemplating an interest rate rise – and his political future

By David Speers

The last time interest rates rose during an election campaign was in 2007. Inflation had hit 3 per cent and the Reserve Bank was worried it might climb higher.

Its decision to hike rates just two and a half weeks before polling day didn’t go down well with the Howard government, to put it mildly.

Howard, already facing a likely election defeat and with nothing to lose, offered an immediate apology to mortgage holders:

“I don’t like it and I would say to the borrowers of Australia who are affected by this change that I am sorry about that, and I regret the additional burden that will be put upon them as a result.”

By the end of the month, he had lost the election and his own seat.

Scott Morrison must now be contemplating how he will respond if dealt his own mid-campaign interest rate whack next week. Don’t hold your breath for an apology.


Howard concedes election defeat
John Howard concedes defeat to Kevin Rudd in the federal election in November, 2007.(ABC TV)

Wednesday’s inflation data was a shock to both the government and the Reserve Bank. They were expecting a figure with a 4 in front of it. The 5.1 per cent result was another blow to the Coalition campaign. It confirmed what everyone’s been feeling at the check-out: prices haven’t been rising like this for decades.

Aware the inflation news was unlikely to be good, the Prime Minister addressed the media two hours before the numbers were released to prepare the ground. He acknowledged the pressure facing Australian families, reminded them of the cost-of-living hand-outs announced in the budget and pleaded with them to look overseas where the problem is far worse.

Morrison even produced a chart to demonstrate how much higher inflation is in other countries compared to “what the markets are estimating at 4.5 per cent in Australia”. It’s unclear whether anyone got the sharpie out to correct his chart when the real numbers came out.


federal treasurer josh frydenberg speaks at a lectern covered in microphones in front of australian and aboriginal flags
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said housing, food and transport costs are the key drivers of the inflation figures.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

Global comparisons will be little comfort

Even at 5.1 per cent, Morrison is correct about inflation being worse elsewhere. And the Treasurer is correct to blame the war in Ukraine and COVID supply constraints.

But international comparisons are likely to provide little comfort to those struggling to pay more for meat and seafood (up 6.2 per cent), fruit and vegetables (up 6.8 per cent), dwellings (up 6.7 per cent) and fuel (up 35 per cent). Especially when wages are limping well behind (up only 2.3 per cent over the past year).


Australia’s inflation shock will have Morrison contemplating an interest rate rise – and his political future

By David Speers

Australia’s inflation shock will have Morrison contemplating an interest rate rise – and his political future

By David Speers


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