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Wren's week: Australia's recession, refugee baiting and Labour day

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Christopher Pyne has quit the Parliament ahead of the 2019 Election (image by Sgt. Vernon Young Jr via U.S. Department of Defense).

This week, John Wren analyses the Liberal's Party drift towards electoral defeat, Scott Morrison's political opportunism with "boat people" and the importance of celebrating Labour Day.

Wren’s Week

9/03/19

HAD enough yet? There is change in the air. The polls don’t tell the true story.

Australians have had enough.

They are sick of the lies, sick of the corruption, sick of the spin, sick of the financial waste. They know a change of government is coming, they’re welcoming it. There is an incipient rage in the community that Morrison, entrenched in his right-wing Canberra bubble, has not picked up on. Every day he delays the election, that rage, borne out of frustration, escalates.

Since my last column, Steve “the throat slitter” Ciobo and Christopher Pyne have both pulled the pin and announced their resignations at the election. Morrison has habitually referred to their departures as “retirements” to suggest that they are not voting with their feet.

They are NOT retiring, both will likely move into lucrative private sector roles. In fact, both have probably already got them set up. The rats are most definitely leaving the sinking ship. Leaving now, also ensures they both maximise their ridiculously generous defined benefit pension scheme. The scheme calculates the pension based on the prior three years’ average salary.

If both spend a year or so in Opposition at significantly reduced salaries, that will have a major impact on their pension, so better to go now, to maximise trough feeding potential.

These pensions have also enraged voters. Pyne will take home $220k a year and Ciobo $187k a year for the rest of their lives, regardless of whatever other income they may have. It is the same scheme that allowed the arch-leaner Joe Hockey to draw his massive pension, while also drawing a massive salary as US Ambassador. Hockey recently commented to Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne that he still had to struggle with school fees and so on. Unbelievable really.

The reality is that moderates within the Liberal Party (those to the left of Ghengis Khan) are abandoning the party in droves. The party is now firmly in the hands of the hard right; Morrison, Abbott, Dutton, Taylor, Hawke.

The party has dragged itself so far to the political right it has not just disenfranchised its own members and traditional voters, but a significant number of its own elected MPs as well. It is no wonder they are on the nose. Australian elections are fought over the middle ground. For some arcane reason, the Libs have vacated the battlefield thinking they can now win the war from the extreme right flank. It’s madness.

Some time ago I forecast that the Liberals would split. Instead, they’ve just purged the moderates, shrinking the party. Politics abhors a vacuum. We see centrist independents like Kerryn Phelps and Rebekha Sharkie filling the space. Julia Banks is another who will contest Health Minister Greg Hunt in his Flinders lectorate. There will be many more.

My prediction is that these centrist independents will eventually coalesce into a moderate centre-right party that will eventually become more powerful than the old fading extreme-right Liberal Party.

Bizarrely, in their desperation to hold onto power, we see government cabinet ministers and the Ersatz PM doubling down on their right-wing nutjobbery. Angus Taylor, the Energy Minister was crucified by Barrie Cassidy on his Insiders program. Taylor basically cherry-picked Australia’s emissions data claiming that they were reducing.

They are demonstrably not. Cassidy called him out on it and he just locked in denying reality with all his might. It was a total train-wreck that was repeated on social media. Taylor is an embarrassment to the Government. Grossly out of his depth and little more than a bought and paid for coal industry lobbyist.

Australia’s worst ever Environment Minister and possibly the Government’s most incompetent Minister, Melissa Price, followed suit the next day, also claiming emissions were abating. Just utter nonsense that leaves even the most impartial observer speechless.

Morrison then took his Cirque de Scomo all the way to Christmas Island with a staged photo op with the head of the ADF and other hangers-on, trying to whip of fear of invasion by brown-skinned asylum seekers. It was an incredibly costly exercise, working out to about $4000 per minute. So, what we are seeing is a Liberal Party government going from “debt and deficit disaster” rhetoric in 2014 to doubling the national debt by 2019 coupled with a willingness to spend well nigh any amount to try to scare voters back to them.

It isn’t working. The only thing truly scaring voters is the prospect of another three years of the Liberal party in power.

Morrison’s Christmas Island thunder was largely stolen anyway by the news that Australia has entered a per capita recession. This is not good economic news for the Government.

We saw the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hold a press conference where he studiously avoided any mention of the economy. It was again laughable by another Minister who is grossly out of his depth.

Only the day before Morrison publicly stated that there would be a recession under a Labor Government. 

The very next day, of course, we learned that he’d already plunged us into one. Technically Morrison was correct. There will be a recession under the incoming Labor Government but that was only because it has already started and it will be up to Labor to once again clean up the Liberal Party’s mess.

Interestingly, the last time Australia experienced a per-capita recession was in the dying days of the Howard Liberal Government in 2006. It prefigured a massive election wins for the Labor Party in 2007 (Rudd’s Kevin07 campaign). I expect this recession will spark a similar result.

This, of course, is the last thing Frydenberg needs. The day before, prominent barrister and Queen's Counsel Julian Burnside announced he would be standing for the Greens against Frydenberg in Kooyong. Well-financed high profile centrist independent Oliver Yates is also standing.

Kooyong is the seat of Menzies and Peacock. It is the bluest of blue-ribbon Liberal seats. The last thing Frydenberg would have ever expected is to have to fight for his seat but fight he must. I drove through Camberwell today and Frydenberg’s election billboards are already prominent and the election has not even been called yet! Preferences will decide Kooyong. There could be an upset. Wentworth proved there are no safe Liberal seats anymore. It’s a seat to watch. Get your popcorn ready.

It’s a long weekend in Victoria this weekend. Monday is our Labour Day. It is a day to remember the courageous work of the trade unionists that fought for and won our eight-hour day; eight hours for rest, eight hours work and eight hours recreation.

While workers rights and incomes are ever under threat, we should pause to recognise those who have gone before us and use their past victories to inspire us to keep on fighting. Unions are the last bastion against predatory capitalism. Join yours today! If not now, when?

You can join your union here.

You can follow John Wren on Twitter @JohnWren1950.

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