Wren's week: the Labor conference, neoliberalism, Andrew Broad and Majak Daw

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Kevin Rudd accepting his Life Membership of the ALP (screenshot via YouTube).

This week, John Wren discusses the Labor's unity, the Coalition's pursuit of neoliberalism, Andrew Broad's shameful behaviour and Majak Daw's tragedy.

Wren's Week


THE LAST WEEK has been extraordinary.

We’ve seen the Labor Party come together and present as a competent, professional and united government-in-waiting, while the already utterly dysfunctional Coalition Government actually degenerated further, something few people thought possible.

Labor’s National Conference was a triumph. The conference’s enforced delay (recall Turnbull cynically scheduled the five super Saturday By-Elections for the exact weekend Labor’s conference was originally planned) played perfectly into Labor’s hands. Parliament was over for the year, so there was clear air for Labor to promote its many policy announcements.

Further, it was only three to six months out from the Election, so it was effectively a campaign launch as well. The acrimonious debates that are common in national conferences disappeared as all delegates understood the need for solidarity.

Our next PM, Bill Shorten, delivered a stirring speech that was widely broadcast. Commentators across the political spectrum (yes even the right) have been forced to concede Shorten nailed his speech. Those of us who have seen Bill at his many town hall meetings were less surprised.

The obvious gap between Shorten and the bumbling glossolalia of Morrison is now obvious to most observers.

Morrison, so desperate to derail Shorten any way he could, called a hasty press conference scheduled right in the middle of Shorten’s speech to announce David Hurley as the next Governor-General.

As the role doesn’t commence until mid-2019, Morrison has already politicised the role. Had Hurley any gumption, he would have refused to participate in the stunt. The fact he did speaks volumes. The role of Governor-General has already been degraded as a result.

With any luck, Hurley will be Australia’s last Governor-General. Vive la République!

Also notable was the award of Labor Life Membership to Kevin Rudd, Australia’s last Labor PM. Rudd has been brought back into the fold and it is remarkable that it was Shorten, despite Rudd canning him in his memoirs, who brought him back. Shorten again demonstrated he is the bigger man and a genuine leader. "The light on the hill" burns brightly within Shorten.

During the conference, the Government made its second attempt to distract, with Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann presenting the Mid-Year Economic Financial Outlook (MYEFO). They proudly announced a return to surplus (maybe, in a few years). It did not take long for economists across the spectrum to pull it apart and call it a sham. Let’s be clear, they did not announce a return to surplus, they announced a forecast to return to surplus. Very different beasts.

The forecasted surplus has been achieved by increased revenues as a result of increasing global commodity prices, and savage cuts of services such as rural internet and university research and many other services.

Let’s not forget, all a surplus represents is the difference between the tax revenue government collects and the money it spends on services. Anyone can create a surplus by selling assets to temporarily boost income (the Peter Costello model) and cutting services and deferring payments.

Cutting services that people want takes money out of the economy and creates further economic pressure down the track. The Coalition Government has demonstrated yet again its irresponsibility with respect to the country’s finances. The myth of the Liberal Party's superior economic management is now glaringly obvious.

Just as the Morrison, Frydenberg and Cormann were working out how to deflect from the blunt questioning of their MYEFO scam, Nationals MP and Cabinet Member Andrew Broad sent them a lifeline.

New Idea Magazine (yes, correct) broke the story of Broad’s online dating and sugar daddy antics in Hong Kong. Like his National colleague before him, Barnaby Joyce, Broad had presented himself as a family man with conservative Christian family values. His hypocrisy is gobsmacking and embarrassing. Especially when the magazine printed extracts of his text exchanges with the young lady in question.

It then came to pass that other women had made similar complaints about Broad over the past year or so.

It took a couple of days, but Broad resigned from Cabinet and then announced he would not be re-contesting as a candidate at the upcoming election. He should have resigned immediately, but apparently, Morrison had cynically talked him into staying on to save his disintegrating Government.

Finally, this week, I’d like to comment on the tragedy of North Melbourne AFL star Majak Daw. Majak is a Sudanese-born Australian who arrived here aged 12 without speaking a word of English. He had never seen AFL played but had a talent for it. He has battled his way to the top. Last year was a breakthrough season for him. He is also active with disadvantaged kids in the western suburbs of Melbourne and is a genuine role model for many, both within and outside of his South Sudanese community.

He is well liked and respected within the club. However, like many prominent sportspeople, Majak has his demons and they sadly manifested themselves on Tuesday.

I know people within the club and the “African gangs” toxic rhetoric of Morrison, Dutton, Guy and others had a profound effect on Majak. Not directly, but it meant that many people in the street stopped seeing Majak as human or as a star footballer; they saw him as a criminal and a thug.

No matter how hard Majak worked to be a success on-and-off the field, people still looked askance at him when he walked into a shop or pub or wherever. Others in the Sudanese community are affected the same way. Mental health are now an issue within the community.

Majak’s action came after an argument with his girlfriend, but it would be naïve to blame that alone for his mental state. When our political leaders articulate a hate campaign against a minority there are victims, real human victims. Dutton, Morrison, Guy and others along with their accomplices at Murdoch’s Herald Sun who started the African gang narrative carry responsibility. The hypocrisy of the Herald Sun in particular with Mark Knight’s cartoons is breathtaking.

You can follow John Wren on Twitter @JohnWren1950.

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