• Hannah Phillips

The Week in Politics


The advent of populist politics into the Senate has turned it into something resembling a Marx Brothers movie without Groucho’s impeccable logic.


To paraphrase the sublime Groucho, the catch-cry for most of the crossbenchers could well be “I wouldn’t want to stay in a party that would have me as a member.”

After Pauline Hanson’s meltdown last week there were rumours that Senator Brian Burston was going to quit One Nation and enter a loose alliance with David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democrats, Fraser Anning of the Katter Australia Party, and Cory Bernardi of the Australian Conservatives.

However on Tuesday Senator Burston said that he was still a member of One Nation but declared on Wednesday that he would vote for the government’s personal income tax cuts in defiance of his leader.

It remains to be seen whether Barnaby Joyce has done more damage than merely self-destruct.

The Prime Minister has been visiting drought affected areas in NSW and Queensland and his listening tour seems to be going down well in the bush.

The government will probably extend the farm household allowance for another three years and make the definitions of drought eligibility easier to satisfy.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud also seems to have ideas for the adaptation of farm properties to meet the changes wrought by global warming.

So, in the circumstances, Barnaby Joyce could well be deemed surplus to requirements.

In the Tasmanian electorate of Braddon the economy appears to be booming because of the North Asia free trade agreements and the government could well be rewarded despite the Labor scare campaign.

In Longman in Queensland, the Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek told journalists on Thursday that the Coalition was going to cut money for schools, hospitals and pensioners.

She also rejected One Nation’s position of supporting Labor on tax, saying that Pauline Hanson did not deserve the electors’ votes.

George Walker

From the Gallery

  • The Barnaby, Vikki and Seb show: We tried. We really tried to watch Channel 7’s so-called ‘tell all’ interview with the dysfunctional family of the month. We made it through to the second ad before we concluded that you really have to draw the line somewhere. After all self-destruction, via name calling, unsubstantiated allegations about unnamed conservative persons, and a general aura of sentimental claptrap, shouldn’t be a spectator sport. The blowback from the interview, which, according to reports, clearly excluded a number of questions the answers to which many of us would have found quite interesting, entails suggestions from senior Nats among others that the former Deputy PM should consider his future, to which Barnaby responded with his usual robustness and a whole bunch of emails to paid-up National Party members in New England to confirm his intention to try to retain the seat by re-contesting the next federal election. In the meantime, Joyce’s nemesis, the incurably optimistic Tony Windsor, his predecessor as Member for New England, hasn’t ruled out another tilt at re-election.

  • You can tell there’s an election or several in the offing when … the advertisements with which we’re bombarded offer a touch of the political absurd. Labor’s launched an ad which compares Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce to ‘Thelma and Louise’. At the risk of stating the obvious, we think the metaphor that’s supposed to spring to mind is the driving over the cliff thing. It doesn’t look likely that the ad will have much impact in the South Australian seat of Mayo where the Centre Alliance (formerly the Nick Xenophon Team) candidate Rebekkah Sharkie looks set to take the laurels. According to Pollbludger, she’s ahead of the Libs’ Georgina Downer, daughter of Howard government minister Alexander, 57% to 43% after the allocation of preferences. There’s been a lot of attention paid to the Coalition’s pre-selection issues in the lead-up to next year’s general election but it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the opposition either. It was announced at the end of last week that Reg Coutts, a communications consultant and a member of the panel that advised the Labor government on the NBN, would be Labor’s candidate for the Mayo by-election. Professor Coutts’ first action as the nominee was to declare that Ms Sharkie should be re-elected as the member for Mayo. Alice Dawkins, daughter of Hawke - Keating government minister Joe Dawkins and previously thought to be the front runner, was pipped at the post by Mr Coutts on the day. Call us cynical but it occurs to us that a candidate of Dawkin’s pedigree would limit Labor’s ability to attack Downer on dynastic grounds.

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