The Turnbull government is all but finished, and the Liberals will now need to work out who they are


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To become prime minister, Turnbull made himself a willing hostage at the outset to right-wing policies that contradicted his political persona.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Chris Wallace, Australian National University

A relationship of mutual convenience between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the federal Liberal Party is drawing to a close. Each used the other for practical purposes.

Turnbull used the Liberal Party as his vehicle to enter parliamentary politics and become prime minister, having earlier tried but failed to win behind-the-scenes preferment for a Labor seat.

The Liberal Party, in turn, used Turnbull to squeeze out another election win in 2016, papering his face over that of his unpopular predecessor, Tony Abbott, who by mid-election cycle had proven a likely electoral loser.

To become prime minister, Turnbull made himself a willing hostage at the outset to right-wing policies that contradicted his political persona. Early expectations among some that he would use his ascension to drag the federal Coalition towards the centre and some sort of meaningful relationship with the contemporary world gradually expired. Moderate swinging voters became disillusioned.




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Abbott’s vengeful policy terrorism and Liberal frontbencher Peter Dutton’s prime ministerial ambitions, meanwhile, dragged internal Liberal Party politics further and further to the extreme. In choosing to remain hostage to this right-wing lunge in conservative politics in Australia, rather than standing and fighting to move it back to the mainstream, Turnbull erased his moderate face, destroying his only utility – electoral utility – to the Liberals. He wrecked his prime ministership in the process. Faustian deals sometimes work in politics. This one did not.

Turnbull is one of a small number of prominent Liberals who, early on in their careers, could have gone either way in their party-political allegiance. The others are John Hewson, Peter Costello, Brendan Nelson and, incredibly, so it seems now, Tony Abbott.

Each explored or contemplated a Labor path to parliament. Nelson was actually at one time a Labor Party branch member. Abbott corresponded with his Catholic political mentor, B.A. Santamaria, openly canvassing both his Labor and Liberal party political options. Of the five, four became party leaders, and two of those became prime ministers. Beyond their rather striking success rate in rising to, or near, the top, it is hard to draw conclusions about them as a group.

In his no confidence motion speech against the prime minister in parliament yesterday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten likened Turnbull to the weak and, by the end, despised early 1970s Liberal prime minister Billy McMahon. And there is something to the comparison. History has judged McMahon a vacuous, dissembling Sydney powermonger. The crushing contemporary verdict on Turnbull is that he has no core set of beliefs from which to dissemble: just an emptiness that only the prestige of the prime ministership can fulfil. The obvious neediness at the heart of Turnbull’s pursuit of power fatally deprived him of the ballast necessary for good judgment to be exercised and competent leadership to be achieved.

Where the McMahon government parallel is spot on is in relation to the Liberal Party itself. Following the long reign of Sir Robert Menzies, three Liberal prime ministers passed in quick succession: Harold Holt, John Gorton and McMahon. Holt drowned in office; Gorton was ousted from office by the plotting McMahon; and McMahon was pushed from office by a resurgent Labor Party led by Gough Whitlam.

Menzies had hung on too long as prime minister and left no-one in his wake with the authority to hold the Liberals together; open party warfare was the result.




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Menzies’ modern iteration, John Howard, made the same mistake. The Abbott government, the Turnbull government and the nascent – and likely short-lived – Dutton government, all operating against the backdrop of intense internal party conflict, is the unhappy result. This is not just unfortunate for the Liberal Party and its supporters, but also a disaster for Australia, where coherent and comprehensive responses to policy challenges of the utmost seriousness remain unaddressed.

An early election won’t save Malcolm Turnbull. His franchise has expired.

The riven state of the Liberal Party makes a Dutton government a short-lived proposition at most. A change of government federally, at an election sooner rather than later, is likely. This will be a good thing for politics across the board, because the Liberal Party needs time for reflection and regeneration.

Does it want to be a party of Trumpists? A party of Menzian Liberals? A socially conservative Howard-style government, pragmatically buying off swinging voters with middle-class welfare handouts election after election?

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The Conversation

The Liberals need to work out who they are, what they are and who they can unite behind before their electoral fortunes can be restored. Good policy and good government in Australia should not have to wait while they sort themselves out.

Chris Wallace, ARC DECRA Fellow, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Government report provides important opportunity to rethink Australia’s relationship with India



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Importantly, the new strategy is ambitious, and will be led by, at least for now, the governments of Malcolm Turnbull and Narendra Modi.
AAP/Ella Pellegrini

Craig Jeffrey, University of Melbourne

By 2060, India may be the world’s largest economy. It will certainly be the world’s most populous country. At that point, Australians will ask, “What did we do in the 2020s to build a relationship with this superpower?” They may also ask: “How did economic cooperation with India benefit both countries in the early 21st century?”

The federal government’s report, An India Economic Strategy to 2035, was launched last week in Brisbane. Written by University of Queensland Chancellor Peter Varghese, it is an excellent basis for reflecting on these questions and the wider issue of Australia-India cooperation.

The strategy identifies numerous sectors – health, education, and tourism, for example – that can help enhance economic cooperation, and in which Australia has some comparative advantage. It also specifies ten Indian states as targets for collaboration based on their economic heft, commitment to reform, and relevance to the sectors in which Australia has competitive advantages.

Importantly, the strategy is ambitious. It sets itself the goal by 2035 to lift India into Australia’s top three export markets. It intends for India to become “the third largest destination in Asia for Australian outward investment”, and for it to be brought “into the inner circle of Australia’s strategic partnerships.”




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The strategy emphasises two areas that need attention in order to meet these objectives. First, Australia needs to leverage the strengths of the Indian diaspora, which now numbers about 455,000.

The rapid growth of the Indian diaspora population can be a spur to economic cooperation. The Indian population in places like Silicon Valley drive the IT and biotech booms in India and the US. Canada is highly adept in enrolling its Indian diaspora in projects of national and international development.

Second, Australia needs to build more knowledge of India and support organisations that work on the bilateral relationship. While Australia made a pivot towards China in the last quarter of the 20th century, businesses, governments, and the public developed comparatively little knowledge about India.

The emphasis on China led to a neglect of India in education, media, and the policy sphere. There is a need to rebuild public understanding of India and the institutions that can activate this understanding to achieve lasting impact. Culture and arts will be very important here, both as a sector and enabler – points implicit in the strategy.

Varghese says we need to move beyond constantly drawing comparisons between India and China. “India is not the next China,” he writes. India is a distinct opportunity for engagement that merits discussion in its own terms.

The base from which Australia is working with respect to cooperation is certainly different: Australian exports to India are less than a sixth of those to China.

Two further issues will be crucial for the strategy’s successful implementation. The first concerns the relationship between growth and wellbeing. It is clear that the India Economic Strategy imagines enhanced cooperation not as a basis for economic growth as such, but also higher standards of living.

There is a need to reflect carefully here. We must think not only about spurring growth in the Australian and Indian economies, but also ensuring that growth is meaningful in four ways: that it addresses social and economic inequalities, creates jobs, is environmentally sustainable, and fosters opportunities to lead fulfilling social and cultural lives.

This is where the comparison between India and China is important. Since 2000, India’s economic growth has been not much more than half as effective at lifting people out of poverty as China’s economic growth. This means that for every 1% growth in Gross Democratic Product in China nearly twice as many people are elevated out of income poverty as in India. This partly reflects the depth of social inequalities in India.




Read more:
Australia and India: some way to go yet


In the context of rising concern over inequality in Australia as well, the key question is: How can international economic cooperation create growth that reduces inequalities, generates jobs, and protects the environment in the countries concerned? It is a question that puts Australia and India on the same side of the table.

A second issue concerns the term “navigation”, which is in the title of the strategy. As the Danish anthropologist Professor Henrik Vigh has pointed out, navigation is a great metaphor. It connotes plotting and re-plotting a course on a moving plane. The complexity of that plane in this case calls to mind the six degrees of motion of a boat: pitch, roll, yaw, sway, heave, and surge. The strategy’s recommendations and ideas are excellent, and can be re-calibrated as India and Australia pitch, heave, and yaw.

The ConversationThe India Economic Strategy is an exciting document written with confidence and ambition. It provides a foundation for reflecting on economic cooperation and striving for meaningful growth.

Craig Jeffrey, Director and CEO of the Australia India Institute; Professor of Development Geography, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

UN delivers strong rebuke to Australian government on women’s rights



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The UN committee issued over 90 recommendations for improvement, demonstrating that negative aspects far outweigh progress on women’s rights.
Shutterstock

Maria Nawaz, UNSW and Tess Deegan, UNSW

This week, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women handed down its recommendations from its review of Australia’s compliance with the women’s rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The UN delivered a scathing critique of Australia’s failures to protect and promote the rights of women and girls.




Read more:
UN set to review Australia’s record on women’s rights – and may find it wanting


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is a UN treaty body, made up of 23 independent experts from around the world, and its key functions include:

  • examining state parties’ implementation of rights under the convention

  • making recommendations detailing how state parties can improve compliance with the convention

  • accepting individual complaints about violations of rights under the convention

What did the committee say about Australia’s record on women’s rights?

The committee noted areas of improvement, including marriage equality, the introduction of the paid parental leave scheme and the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status and family responsibilities.

However, it also issued over 90 recommendations for improvement, demonstrating that negative aspects far outweigh progress on women’s rights.

Human rights framework

The committee reiterated its 2010 recommendations that Australia should introduce a charter of rights. The Committee also recommended that Australia harmonise state, federal and territory discrimination laws to enhance their effectiveness in prohibiting discrimination against women.

The committee denounced funding cuts to the Australian Human Rights Commission, and emphasised the importance of the government respecting the independence of the commission.

Violence against women and sexual harassment

The committee noted the endemic nature of violence against women, with one in three women experiencing physical violence, and almost one in five women experiencing sexual violence. The committee recommended that the government reinforce efforts to change behaviours that lead to violence against women. This includes encouraging reporting violence, and adequately funding services under the National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children.

The committee raised the prevalence of sexual harassment, and recommended that the government take into account the outcomes of the national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment, encourage reporting and impose appropriate sanctions on perpetrators.

Women’s economic disadvantage

The committee condemned the government’s lack of gender budget analysis. It said:

The Committee considers that some of the State party’s recent cuts to social, health, education and justice budgets, reduction of taxes for high income groups and increase of the defence budget represent a setback…

It recommended the government take immediate measures to mitigate the effect of recent budget cuts on women, implement gender-responsive budgeting in the allocation of public resources, and reinstate the funding of services catering to women’s rights.

Access to justice

The committee criticised funding cuts to legal assistance services, and urged the government to implement the recommendations of the 2014 Productivity Commission Inquiry into Access to Justice. This includes ensuring adequate funding for community legal centres and legal aid.

The committee raised concern at provisions in funding agreements that restrict the ability of community legal centres and civil society organisations to advocate for women’s rights, and recommended the government remove provisions from funding agreements that restrict freedom of expression.

Treatment of diverse groups of women

The committee recognised that diverse groups of women, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, LGBTI women, women with disability, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, refugee women and older women experience greater barriers to accessing and enforcing their rights.

These include discrimination, lack of access to appropriate services, higher risk of violence, higher unemployment and homelessness rates, and lower representation in public life. The committee recommended numerous measures to improve gender equality for diverse groups of women.

Where to from here?

The release of these recommendations comes at a time of great uncertainty in international human rights. We’re seeing a disturbing retreat from fundamental human rights principles and institutions across the world.

While Australia has been using its seat on the Human Rights Council to advocate at the international level for the rights of women and girls, the gap between our global leadership on gender equality and the reality faced by women and girls in the Australian community is stark.




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Australia has an extremely poor record of implementing treaty body recommendations. During the committee’s review of Australia last month, the Australian government, while stating that it takes its international obligations “incredibly seriously”, admitted that on most fronts it had no plans to amend laws or policies to improve protection of the rights of women and girls in the Australian community.

As part of the committee’s follow-up procedure, Australia must explain to the committee what steps it has taken to implement priority recommendations within two years.

The committee’s four priority recommendations focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, funding for women’s services, reproductive rights, and ending offshore processing of refugees.

The ConversationThe challenge for Australia is to engage positively with the committee’s recommendations and implement changes to improve human rights for women and girls at home

Maria Nawaz, Law Reform Solicitor/Clinical Legal Supervisor, Kingsford Legal Centre UNSW; Lecturer, UNSW Human Rights Clinic, UNSW and Tess Deegan, Law Reform Solicitor/Clinical Legal Supervisor at Kingsford Legal Centre, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Turnbull government says no losers in its new GST carve-up plan


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The federal government promises to subsidise the transition to a new formula for carving up the GST revenue, after rejecting an alternative proposed by the Productivity Commission inquiry it ordered.

The government’s plan, to be released by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Thursday, would ensure the fiscal capacity of all states and territories was “at least the equal of NSW or Victoria, whichever is higher”.

“Benchmarking all states and territories to the economies of the two largest states will remove the effects of extreme circumstances, like the mining boom, from Australia’s GST distribution system,” Morrison said.

A “floor” would also be set, below which no state could fall. From 2022-23, this would be 70 cents per person per dollar of the GST, rising to 75 cents from 2024-25.

The changes follow years of complaint by Western Australia, after its share of the GST revenue fell drastically. The GST has threatened to be a federal election issue in WA, where the Liberals have several vulnerable seats.

In its report, commissioned by Morrison last year, the PC recommended distribution being equalised on an average of all states and territories. But Morrison said the PC’s model would move too far from the “fair go” principle – it would risk leaving behind the smaller states.

As well, it would cause “unnecessary disruption and transition costs that most states, and the Commonwealth, would not be able to reasonably accept or absorb”, he said in a statement.

The PC report was sent to the states and territories on Wednesday. When details started leaking late Wednesday Malcolm Turnbull quickly declared its proposed model had been rejected. He told a news conference that under the government’s plan “no state will be worse off and indeed every state will be better off”.

The transition to the new system would be over eight years from 2019-20, eased by funds from the federal government.

Short term untied funding would be given over three years from 2019-20 to ensure no state received less than 70 cents per person per GST dollar.

Also, Morrison said, “a fair and sustainable transition to a new equalisation standard will be ensured through an additional, direct, and permanent Commonwealth boost to the pool of funds to be distributed among the states”.

The Commonwealth would put in $600 million in 2021-22, with a second injection of $250 million in 2024-25. The additional Commonwealth funding would be indexed.

Morrison will go on a road show to sell the plan to the states, with a special meeting of the Council on Federal Financial Relations to be held in September.

The government is aiming for agreement on transition arrangements being reached by the end of the year.

Morrison said: “This will be the first time real changes have been made to fix problems in how the GST is shared since the GST was introduced almost 20 years ago”.

In its report, the PC said the current approach to horizontal fiscal equalisation (HFE), though having strengths, “also has significant weaknesses. Reform and development opportunities are likely being missed at the expense of community wellbeing over time”.

While equity should remain at the system’s heart, “there is a need for a better balance between equity and efficiency”. The Commonwealth should set a revised objective for HFE “to provide states with the fiscal capacity to deliver a reasonable standard of services,” the PC said.

The present system “seeks to give all states the same fiscal capacity to deliver public services. To do this, all states are brought up to the fiscal capacity of the fiscally strongest state”.

Correction

The ConversationThe original story has been corrected – it wrongly said that state consent was needed for the change. Morrison told a news conference on Thursday he wanted state and territory agreement, but it is not formally required.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Constant attacks on the ABC will come back to haunt the Coalition government



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ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has launched a strong defence of the public broadcaster.
AAP/Julian Smith

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

In January 1931, as the newly elected United Australia Party government of Joseph Lyons was contemplating the establishment of a national broadcasting service, the prime minister received a deputation of prominent Melburnians, including a barrister and member of the Victorian parliament, Robert Gordon Menzies.

They urged that the new broadcasting service “be organised on an independent basis and that cultural potentialities of the Broadcast Service be considered a matter of primary importance”. The broadcast service came to be named the Australian Broadcasting Commission and went to air for the first time on July 1 1932.

It is a measure of how far today’s Liberal Party has drifted away from the values and ideals of its founder, Menzies, that last Saturday its federal council should have resoundingly adopted a motion that the ABC should be privatised.

One of the proponents of the motion was Mitchell Collier, the federal vice-president of the Young Liberals. He said there was no economic case to keep the broadcaster in public hands.




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No economic case. Where the ABC is concerned, that is a false premise on which to proceed. The ABC was explicitly not established for economic purposes or in pursuit of an economic ideology. It was established for social, educational and cultural purposes.

It was also established on an explicitly non-commercial basis: it takes no advertising. Why? Because it was believed advertising would weaken its independence. The policymakers of the 1930s had seen only too clearly how beholden the newspaper proprietors of the day had become to commercial imperatives: the demands of advertisers and the pressure to increase circulation, even at the cost of editorial quality and integrity.

The newspapers of the day had also become mouthpieces for sectional interests. In Melbourne, The Argus stood for the interests of the mercantile classes and conservative political causes; The Age for a kind of Protestant liberalism and social justice. It supported the miners at Eureka.

The bipartisan political vision for the ABC was that it should not be vulnerable to sectional interests or commercial pressures, but should exist to serve the public interest in the widest sense.

The first paragraph of its charter captures the essence of these expectations:

The functions of the Corporation are to provide … innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services of a high standard … and … to provide broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community; and broadcasting programs of an educational nature.

No mention there of economic criteria.

Nonetheless, in a political age dominated by the narrow perspectives of neoclassical economics, it is self-evidently no longer enough to rely on ideals of the kind promoted by Menzies and reflected in the charter.

In her reply to the privatisation motion, the ABC’s managing director, Michelle Guthrie, told the Melbourne Press Club the ABC contributed more than $1 billion last financial year to the Australian economy, on a par with the public investment in the organisation.

She also advanced an efficiency argument, saying the ABC’s per capita funding had halved in real terms over the past 30 years, and warned that the latest cuts in funding – $83.7 million in a so-called efficiency dividend – would serve only to punish audiences.

Herein lies the political sting for the government, and especially for the National Party.

A motion to privatise the ABC, no matter how vigorously repudiated by the government, is political poison, especially in regional, rural and remote Australia.

These voters have watched as the Abbott-Turnbull administrations have cut the ABC’s funding by $338 million since 2014. They have watched as the ABC has been used – in Guthrie’s words yesterday – as a punching bag by narrow political, commercial or ideological interests.




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The politics behind the competitive neutrality inquiry into ABC and SBS


Guthrie was too diplomatic to nail the government or the Murdoch press. But the overt hostility to the ABC shown by the government over the past four years may now reap a political harvest.

That hostility has been demonstrated not only by the funding cuts but by sustained carping criticisms, vexatious complaints and political stunts exemplified by the current competitive neutrality inquiry.

It would be more accurately called the editorial neutering inquiry. Its focus is clearly on the ABC news service, as its own issues paper makes clear. That is the part of the ABC most detested by the government and the politician for whom the government is a cat’s paw in this, Pauline Hanson.

Each Tuesday, I engage in a pro-bono 25-minute segment on media issues with the presenter of ABC Radio Statewide Drive, Nicole Chvastek. The program is broadcast across regional Victoria and southern New South Wales, covering the National seats of Riverina, Mallee, Murray and Gippsland, and the Liberal seats of Farrer, Wannon, McMillan, Corangamite and McEwen.

Yesterday the talkback calls ran hot on this one issue: privatisation of the ABC. Yes, the ABC needed scrutiny; yes, the ABC was a bunch of lefties. But: where would we be without it?

The ConversationJust after 5pm, the Nationals served up their deputy leader, the Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie, to answer talkback calls on this issue. It was like something from the Colosseum.

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Government celebrates on tax, fights on energy


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The odds were always in the government’s favour in the battle to get its A$144 billion income tax package through parliament.

However much some Senate minnows might have objected to the package’s third stage – taking effect way out in 2024 and favouring the wealthy – they didn’t want to be blamed for denying middle and lower income earners early tax cuts.

Pauline Hanson – of course – attracted the limelight but at no point voted against stage three. But the two Centre Alliance (former Nick Xenophon Team) senators epitomised the dilemma – they voted (successfully) to amend the bill to exclude the last stage, but when the government said it was the whole package or nothing, they folded.

In response, they copped a serve from Tim Storer, the South Australian independent who was on the NXT election-ticket in 2016. Storer was the only crossbencher to hold out.

Clearly the government has had a big victory and Labor has taken a risk in saying that if elected, it will (Senate permitting!) repeal the legislation’s second and third stages, while keeping, and building on, the initial tax cuts.

What’s less clear is the size of the risk for Labor.

If the whole package had been defeated, the ALP would have been exposed as tax-cut spoilers. As it is, middle and lower income voters will know that whoever wins the election, they have a guaranteed tax cut, indeed a rather bigger one under Labor.

From Labor’s point of view, committing to repeal the second stage, which moves the threshold at which the 37% rate cuts in from $90,000 to $120,000, is more of a gamble than saying it will kill the third stage, which flattens the scale, with benefits directed to high earners.

But stage two doesn’t start until mid 2022, so a Labor government would not be taking away a bird in the hand but one that was still on the wing. Some voters might apply a discount to a cut so far in the future, even though it has been legislated.

How voters react to Labor’s position will also depend on whether the government can convincingly sell its arguments that the ALP is dissing “aspiration”, engaging in “class warfare” and, via a range of policies, is the “high tax” party.

Also, the debate over tax cuts can’t be seen in isolation. The opposition has money to use and policies still to unveil. Polls show people have other priorities – fiscal consolidation, spending in certain areas. Voters at the election will look at the full menus before them, as well as the leaders and the government’s record.

Nevertheless, the results in the July 28 byelections will be interpreted as a referendum on the competing tax plans, though other factors will feed into those contests as well. Super Saturday will reset the political landscape in one way or another.

It would have been a huge setback if the government hadn’t secured its income tax package, which was the budget’s centrepiece. Politically, there’s less at stake in its intention to put to a Senate vote next week its tax cuts for big business. On current numbers this legislation is headed for defeat.

More crucial than the fate of the company tax cuts is the government’s long struggle to nail down its national energy guarantee (NEG), with the crunch coming when Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg meets his Council of Australian Government counterparts on August 10.

The tax win has further enhanced the reputation of Senate leader and chief negotiator Mathias Cormann. The outcome of the NEG negotiation will be important for Frydenberg’s reputation.

On tax, the battle was only with the parliament. On energy, Frydenberg has to wrangle state and territory ministers (the ACT is particularly challenging), and also fend off an insurgency from Tony Abbott and other sceptics, who ran interference at this week’s Coalition parties meeting. As well, unease seems to be growing among some Nationals, including frontbencher Keith Pitt.

After an earlier general discussion in the party room, the Abbott band had wanted the NEG plan returned there before the August meeting. This isn’t happening – the next broad party room consideration is due when the legislation comes forward. But that doesn’t prevent ad hoc sorties of Tuesday’s kind.

Abbott also launched public attacks covering not just the energy issue itself but the way Malcolm Turnbull runs the party room.

“I think the government is more interested in reducing emissions than it is in cutting prices,” he told 2GB on Wednesday. And it was “a big mistake for the Coalition to sub-contract out its energy policy to the Labor state governments”.

He left open the option of crossing the floor when legislation comes. It will formalise the emissions reduction target. The critics will cavil at any provision that would facilitate a Labor government moving to a more stringent target. Yet this flexibility might be needed to secure a deal for the package.

Abbott said he hoped things wouldn’t get to the floor-crossing stage but “the executive government needs to understand that you can’t take the party room for granted”.

He complained at Turnbull’s “practice of discussing legislation at enormous length every party room meeting before we actually get to backbenchers’ questions and comments”, declaring this “completely unprecedented”.

While by necessity, “the government spends an enormous amount of time negotiating with the crossbench”, it needed to “spend a bit more time talking to the backbench,” he said.

There are obvious retorts to Abbott’s criticisms. For example, on the “sub-contracting” to the states, it is the states that have the main responsibilities in this area.

As to party processes, while he contrasted Turnbull’s style with his own and that of Howard and others, some colleagues were quick to recall his notorious “captain’s calls”, especially the paid parental leave scheme.

By late Thursday, the pro-NEG forces were mobilised, with an assortment of backbench Liberals (Julia Banks, Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson) and Nationals (Mark Coulton, Andrew Broad) publicly rallying to its defence.

As the Coalition celebrates on tax, the internal heat over the NEG has suddenly been turned up to high, with the disunity going on full display.

The ConversationFrydenberg’s timetable means he doesn’t have to deliver on the NEG until after the byelections. But when it comes to the main election game, a credible (though inevitably disputed) energy policy is as crucial for the government as having its income tax plan in place.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Government set to call Senate’s bluff on income tax bill


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Senate on Thursday is set to pass intact the government’s A$144 billion three-stage income tax package – but whether the plan is fully delivered will depend on who wins the election.

On Wednesday the Senate voted 36-32 for an amended package that removed the third stage of the plan. This stage, implemented in 2024, gives tax cuts to higher income earners, flattening the tax scale so the same marginal rate would apply through incomes from $41,000 to $200,000.

But the government has declared the legislation must be passed as a whole, and the House of Representatives on Thursday will reject the amended package.

After intense lobbying of the crossbench, the government is considered to have the required backing to carry the original bill when it is re-presented to the Senate.

Senate leader Mathias Cormann on Wednesday won Senate support for a motion for the bill when it is returned on Thursday to be voted on without further debate. All the crossbenchers except South Australian independent Tim Storer voted for this. Debate on the legislation was also cut short on Wednesday.

Centre Alliance senators Stirling Griff and Rex Patrick voted to strip out stage three, but are now set to vote with the government.

Griff said what while “we are going to make our final decision on the floor”, “we are not going to say no to low and middle income earners getting tax cuts.”

He said stage three was two elections away, and so there was plenty of time to try to knock it out.

Storer lashed out at the Centre Alliance senators. Centre Alliance is the renamed former Nick Xenophon Team – Storer was on its ticket at the election.

“They supported an amendment to remove Stage 3 of the bill … but say they will vote with the government to approve the bill in its entirety when it returns to the Senate,” he said. “We can only conclude Centre Alliance’s initial opposition to Stage 3 was all for show”.

Labor this week committed a Shorten government to repealing the last two stages of the plan if it had been legislated. Instead, Labor would maintain and enhance the first stage, directed to middle and lower income earners.

The first stage starts this year and gives a tax offset to a maximum of $530 for taxpayers earning up to $90,000. Labor would then build this to a maximum offset of $928. The ALP alternative would cost $73 billion over a decade.

An analysis by the progressive think tank The Australia Institute said that almost 95% of the benefits of stage three “go exclusively to top 20%, while 75% of taxpayers get no benefit at all”.

“We’re not splitting the bill,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said. “Our personal tax plan is not about creating winners and losers, setting winners against losers. It is about ensuring that all Australians win.”

Malcolm Turnbull said the government would reject any amendment “because we want all Australians to get the benefit of a comprehensive tax reform. We want to ensure that 94% of Australians don’t have to pay any more than 32.5% for every extra dollar they earn. We want to reward and encourage aspiration”.

“Aspiration is what is driving the Australian economy,” he said.

The ConversationBill Shorten said: “Labor is going to support tax reductions for lower paid workers, 10 million of them. …We have a better plan. We’re going to provide a tax refund, a tax cut, of $928 a year … for most people. That means over three years, that’s nearly $3,000.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Turnbull government to give national apology to victims of child sexual abuse


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull will give a formal national apology on October 22 to victims of child sexual abuse, as part of the federal response to the royal commission.

Outlining the government’s detailed response on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that Western Australia had now agreed to sign on to the redress scheme so there will be a fully national scheme from July 1.

Victims will be entitled to up to A$150,000, with average payments of $76,000. The maximum is lower than the $200,000 recommended by the commission, but the average will be higher. There will be a low evidentiary standard.

The government will set up a new National Office for Child Safety within the Social Services department, which it says will “work across government and sectors to develop and implement policies and strategies to enhance children’s safety and prevent future harm”.

But Turnbull was unspecific when questioned at a news conference about how to deal with one current big issue of child safety – protecting at risk children in some Indigenous communities. There has been recent controversy about whether too many or too few children are being removed from families. The issue has been highlighted by some high profile alleged rapes.

Turnbull said he had discussed the problem with the Northern Territory chief minister.

Asked about the level of removal of children he said: “the safety of children has to be paramount. It’s difficult to generalise about this because every case is different.” He pointed to the duty of parents and neighbours to ensure children’s safety. “If you … believe a child is being abused, don’t turn a blind eye.”

The government has opened consultations on the content of the national apology and the form of the ceremony.

The commission made 409 recommendations. Of these 84 relate to redress matters. Of the remaining 325, 122 are directed wholly or partly to the federal government, which has accepted 104 of them. It has noted the other 18, which mostly overlap other jurisdictions and will need more consideration. It has not rejected any recommendation.

The government said in a statement it expected non-government institutions would indicate what action they would take on recommendations of the commission and report annually in December, along with all governments. The government will report its progress annually for five years with a comprehensive review after a decade.

“Where institutions decide not to accept the royal commission’s recommendations they should state so and why”.

Speaking at his news conference Turnbull said: “The survivors that I’ve met and the personal stories that have been told to me have given me but a small insight into the betrayal you experienced at the hands of the people and institutions who were supposed to protect and care for you.”

“Now that we’ve uncovered the shocking truth, we must do everything in our power to honour the bravery of the thousands of people who came forward.”

The Conversation“The royal commission has made very clear that we all have a role to play to keep our children safe – governments, schools, sporting clubs, churches, charitable institutions and, of course, all of us.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Government response to child abuse royal commission is positive, but will need to go beyond an apology



File 20180613 153641 10xvkzd.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Attorney-General Christian Porter, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Australian Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan announce the government’s response to the child abuse royal commission.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Timothy W. Jones, La Trobe University

The federal government has announced it will establish a National Office for Child Safety and issue a formal apology as part of its response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In addition, every state and territory has committed to join the National Redress Scheme. Australia’s major churches and youth organisations have also joined the scheme.

The timing of the announcement meets a commitment of the Council of Australian Governments to respond to the recommendations of the Royal Commission’s final report by June 2018. However, the apology, the lead item of this announcement, will not be issued until October 22, 2018, to coincide with national children’s week.

The Royal Commission made 409 recommendations in total. Of these, 84 deal with redress, which the government is addressing in the National Redress Scheme, due to commence next month. Of the remaining 122 recommendations directed at the Australian government, 104 have been accepted and 18 remain under review. None has so far been rejected.




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Royal commission recommends sweeping reforms for Catholic Church to end child abuse


Survivors of abuse consistently state that they want recognition and redress for the past harms and injustices that were done to them.

Recognition

One of the most disturbing elements in the history of child sexual abuse is our capacity, as a society, to be in denial. As I have written elsewhere, we have myriad techniques of keeping disturbing knowledge at bay: there are many ways of not knowing.

We can deny that something happened, we can deny that we understood what happened, and we can deny the legal and moral implications that follow an event. All of these forms of denial are seen in the history of child sexual abuse.

Thankfully, all of these forms of denial were combated by the Royal Commission. You could say it was a momentous exercise in recognition: it brought horrific abuses into public consciousness; it treated survivors of abuse with great dignity and respect; and, it made a comprehensive series of recommendations to deal with the legal and moral implications of the public recognition of this history of abuse.

Through its 57 public case studies, 8,013 private sessions, and over 68,000 calls, letters and emails received, the commission established beyond any doubt the reality and the gravity of Australia’s history of institutional abuse.

Redress

Recognising this history brings legal and moral implications for its redress. So far, the government has responded with uncharacteristic alacrity in accepting and implementing the key recommendations of the Royal Commission.

But justice for historic offences is not simple, and I await with interest the responses of child sex abuse survivor groups to the government’s announcement.

For most people, justice looks like punishment for the guilty. The Royal Commission has referred over 2,500 matters to police for investigation. In recent times, we have seen some prominent cases go to trial, including the most senior Roman Catholic yet to face charges of child sex crimes, Cardinal George Pell.

The National Redress Scheme is the flagship instrument of redress emerging in the wake of the Royal Commission. Legislation has passed the lower house and is now before the Senate. It proposes average payments to victims of $76,000, with maximum payments of $150,000.

These amounts are lower than amounts typically awarded in civil courts in Australia, and significantly lower than settlements awarded in some international jurisdictions.




Read more:
The royal commission’s final report has landed – now to make sure there is an adequate redress scheme


However, the lower standards of evidence required to be awarded a settlement through the redress scheme, relative to standards in criminal or civil law, and being able to avoid cross-examination in court, may make this option more attractive for many survivors. The redress scheme provides access to counselling and psychological services, and provides an option for survivors to receive a direct personal response from the responsible institution.

Australian jurisdictions are also reforming laws to make it easier to sue churches and other institutions.

The establishment of a National Office for Child Safety, along with a raft of national standards and safety frameworks, is heartening.

Apology

The fact is, though, that most of the institutions in which the majority of the historic abuse unearthed by the Royal Commission occurred no longer exist. The institutions of “care” run by churches and the states – orphanages, missions, boarding schools – have largely been disbanded.

Ironically, most current child removal and child trauma can be found at a site for which we have already had an apology, but for which redress has been woefully inadequate. The 1997 Bringing Them Home report into the Stolen Generations opened up public inquiry into child abuse in Australia.

The comprehensiveness of the Child Abuse Royal Commission, and the government’s promised response, is heartening. But as the Stolen Generations apology painfully illustrates, apologies without action become empty, bitter words.

The ConversationLet’s hope that the apology to victims of institutional abuse, to be delivered in October, is well crafted, and sincerely delivered. And that substantial redress is delivered.

Timothy W. Jones, Senior Lecturer in History, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.