• Hannah Phillips

The Week in Politics


Is Tony Abbott Intending to Pull the Pin?


There are indications that Tony Abbott will not renominate for the seat of Warringah at the next election. This is the most plausible explanation for his confession to Annabel Crabb that, on account of a post-prandial nap from which he couldn’t be awakened, he missed several divisions on the legislation for Kevin Rudd’s second tranche of stimulus spending during the global financial crisis. The confession has received the expected po-faced response from the media and politicians, including the Prime Minister, and it is unlikely that a politician with ambitions for a future political career would have made the admissions.

There are other indications that the former Prime Minister may be ready to call it a day. The government is well behind in the polls and is unlikely to win the next election. In this case Malcolm Turnbull will not be the leader of the Liberal Party and the leadership will probably be transferred to someone from the next generation. A new leader, who will probably come from the conservative wing of the party, won’t want someone from the old guard looking over his shoulder, so Tony Abbott, if re-elected, would remain on the back bench. While former Prime Ministers have a bully pulpit while their Party is in power, when they are in opposition and on the back bench they are reduced from roosters to feather dusters.

The fact Mr Abbott will effectively double his salary if he leaves Parliament and accesses his parliamentary superannuation should not be overlooked. At the same time he could resume his old profession of journalism and probably earn the equivalent of his current salary as radio, print and television commentator. With a change of leader he would be free to offer commentary on politics without being accused of undermining the Liberal leadership. A change of government will call for a rebuilding of the Liberal Party. Tony Abbott is politically astute enough to realise that his time has passed. The fight for an Australia populated by self-sufficient individualists is over for the time being.

The new cause for the Liberal Party into the medium future will be for a government that costs less rather than smaller government. It will be framed around leaders who are management experts as opposed to political philosophers. The aim will be a balanced budget rather than a smaller budget. A new Liberal Party will also have to return to issues like tax reform and federalism but will have to do this unencumbered by the baggage of past attempts.

The new leadership will also reformulate policy on energy and climate changewhich will have to take account of the measures an incoming Labor government will introduce with the sup-port of the Greens. It is unlikely there will be any appetite in Parliament or the electorate to resurrect old carbon price battles.A Tony Abbott let loose in the media will have free rein to push the old conservative causes. His skill as an at-tack dog will be appreciated by a large audience made up of disenfranchised conservatives and progressives who love to hate him. He could have a long and illustrious ca-reer in an area where he is comparatively highly skilled.

Bill Shorten Tries to Buy the West

Bill Shorten has promised to establish a $1.6 billion special fund to offset Western Australia’s short fall in GST revenue. The “Fair Share for Western Australia Fund” will lift the Commonwealth subvention from 34% of the GST revenue to 70%. The earnings from the fund will be used to finance infrastructure in WA. Mr Shorten has ridiculed the Prime Minister’s claim to be the first to identify that WA’s share is unfair, saying “I plan on being the first Prime Minister to fix the problem.” WA Premier Mark McGowan described it as a “giant leap forward” and welcomed competition for the “affection’ of West Australians.” The GST issue is resonating with Western Australian voters. It was one of the main reasons that Labor won the state election and Mark McGowan became Premier. The issue has been addressed in the past by a special payment from the Commonwealth to the state. However Western Australian politicians, including federal ministers like Christian Porter, want a commitment from the Commonwealth to a 70% floor on GST returned to the state. The problem with this arrangement is that it would mean reducing the allocation to jurisdictions like South

Australia and the Northern Territory. At the moment the iron ore price is heading towards $100 so the royalties being collected by the Western Australia government are considerably greater than they were six months ago. If the iron ore price continued at its current level for some time then the fund might be seen as gilding the lily if it were introduced in two years’ time. WA Premier Mark McGowan is underwhelmed by the $1.6 billion fund. He believes that the short fall in government funding is closer to $10 billion. He’s arguing that GST revenue should be distributed on an equal per capita basis which would financially cripple a jurisdiction like the Northern Territory with a small revenue base and massive expenditure on services. This sort of an outcome would be entirely inconsistent with Bill Shorten’s in equality mantra,

Federal Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, who also happens to be a Western Australian Senator, told journal-ists that Mr Shorten was simply trying to play catch-up with the Turnbull government. He made the point that the government had been paying the Western Australian government $1.2 billion a year for the last three yearsto supplement the GST payment. WA Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said that what was required was reform of the GST allocations not higher taxation as proposed by Labor with a token payment back. Over the weekend he announced that he had legal advice that the GST carve up was unconstitutional because it breached section 90 of the constitution which says that preference should not be given to any states. Dr Nahan said that the Western Australian Liberals might mount a High Court challenge.Mr Shorten was open about his ambition to win seats in Western Australia including those of ministers Chris-tian Porter and Michael Keenan. He said that he wasn’t interested in getting into power because the government tripped over his shoelaces but because he has a better plan for the nation and its citizens.However there’s no doubt that the proposal for a ‘Fair Share for Western Australia Fund’ is no more than a populist pitch for Western Australian seats. Moreover it has been tried before: Kevin Rudd promised Western Australia an ongoing supplement of $100 million a year however it was never delivered.

Helping Mature Age Australians Into Work

Minister for Employment Senator Michaelia Cash today announced five locations chosen to be trial sites for the new Career Transition Assistance Program, which will help prepare mature aged Australians for new jobs.

Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, said the Government is delivering on a commitment in the 2017–18 Budget to create more opportunities for those aged over 50 to re-skill and re-enter the workforce.

“Mature age Australians bring a lifetime of skills and experience to the workforce. It is critical for the individual and for the economy that this experience isn’t lost if older workers find themselves out of work,” Minister Cash said.

The Career Transition Assistance Program is part of the $110 million Mature Age Employment Package announced in the 2017-18 Budget.

The package also includes the expansion of the successful National Work Experience Program and Pathway to Work pilots which support mature age and other Australians to take up re-cruitment opportunities on major projects.

The Career Transition Assistance Program will initially be trialled in five locations from 1 July 2018, ahead of a national rollout in 2020.

The five trial regions are Ballarat (VIC), Somerset (QLD), Central West (NSW), Adelaide South (SA) and Perth North (WA).

For more information about the Career Transition Assis-tance please visit; https://www.employment.gov.au/career-transition-assistance-program.

Treasurer Comes Out Swinging Over Defacing of Captain James Cook Statue

The Treasurer Scott Morrison has come out swinging over the defacement of the statue of Captain James Cook in his Electorate named after Cook.

He said “enough is enough. This is a bloody disgrace” “This is an insult to all fair minded Australians”.

“This kind of rubbish does not help keep one indigenous child safe, in school or end up in a job”.

He deemed the act as “BS political grandstanding and vandalism”.

Assistant Minister Pitt to lead mining talks at Australia Business Week in India

Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Keith Pitt will lead the mining equipment, technology and services related seminars, meetings and events at Australia Business Week in India 2017.

The first Australia Business Week was in India in 2015, more than 150 business delegates will participate this year.

Delegates will have the opportunity to meet Indian businesses and officials in more than 75 sessions and site visits.

“India is the world’s fastest growing major economy and our trade and investment ties with this important partner are becoming stronger each year.

By 2030 India is forecast to be the third largest economy in the world, and will also have one of the youngest populations,” said Mr Pitt.

The business mission will be led by Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister, Steven Ciobo, and Australian Government Ministers will visit cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bhopal.

Mr Pitt will play a major role in the energy and resources sector delegation across both New Delhi and Kolkata.In 2016, India was Australia’s fifth biggest export market for goods, the sixth for services exports, and total goods and services exports were worth $14.1 billion.

Mr Pitt said two-way trade had grown from about $609 million in 2004 to $20.7 billion in 2016.

“Two-way trade between Australia and India has grown rapidly but more can always be done to expand our trade and investment ties, particularly by bringing businesses together.“

Australia Business Week in India 2017 will build on the success of the inaugural event in 2015, which created lasting relationships and generated millions of dollars of business.”

Asylum Seekers to be Denied Support

Fairfax Media is reporting that it has come into possession of leaked documents which show that refugees currently in Australia for medical treatment will be denied government support from today.

They will lose income support immediately and will have three weeks to get out of government funded accommodation.

They will also have to make arrangements to quit the country.

“You will need to find money each week for your own accommodation costs ... you will also be responsible for all your other living costs like food, clothing, and transport,” the department’s fact sheet says.

Minster for Human Services Alan Tudge told Sky News that he didn’t think it was “unreasonable” to withdraw taxpayers’ support if they refused to return to their countries of origin.

“In these cases their medical condition has been treated and they are now healthy and can return back to Nauru, or to Manus Island or their home country, and that’s what we require them to do,” he said on Sunday.

Human rights lawyers accused the government of being inhumane.

Hugh De Kretser of the Human Rights Law Centre said that there were about 100 asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island in Australia and some of them had been here for four years.

Labor immigration spokesman, Shayne Neumann, said that there were more likely to be 400 former Nauru and Manus residents here.

He accused the government of stooping to a new low in inhumanity.

“By purposefully making these people destitute and homeless, the Turnbull government can only be exacerbating the health conditions which asylum seekers were originally transferred to Australia to be treated for,” Mr Neumann said in a statement.

The implication is that a large proportion of the asylum seekers are suffering from mental health problems.

There is no indication of whether they have been declared to have been cured by appropriate medical professionals.

Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan told the media that asylum seekers who are not eligible to remain in Australia will be able to access Medicare if they needed it but that they would not be able get social services payments.

For as long as they remained in Australia they would be expected to work to support themselves.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale told reporters that this is a monstrous decision that doesn’t reflect who Australians really are.

“We are talking about people who are traumatised and people who are vulnerable and what we are seeing is a minister prepared to inflict more pain, more suffering, on innocent people who are doing nothing other than seek-ing protection.”

The government is yet to confirm the details of the policy however refugee lawyers were claiming that notices had been sent out this morning to about 100 single refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.

One issue that needs clari-fication is whether, if asylum seekers find employment in Australia, they will be allowed to stay.

It is clear the government believes that transfer to Australia for medical treatment is a ploy to secure permanent residency in Australia.

Today's Daily Telegraph reports on a large number of transferees who have claimed to have lower back pain and who are now deemed to be healthy.

Now that people on Nauru and Manus Island have been offered resettle-ment in situ or in third countries they should be treated where they reside like other locals.

Subscribe to Inside Canberra

http://insidecanberra.com/