Bleats

Why Is Employment Minister Michaelia Cash Hiding From Everyone These Days?

How can you trumpet your employment numbers when your employment minister is busy hiding from the media?

Let’s say you’re a government who, to be polite, the nation is increasingly swiping left upon. And let’s say you had a budget to deliver in a few weeks in which you wanted to really sell your credentials as economic managers of the nation. And let’s say that you had genuinely good news about employment in Australia that you wanted to sell. You’d have your Employment Minister getting out and about yelling about it at every opportunity, surely?

And yet said minister has been downright coy of late, keeping herself very much in the background. And that’s because this government really cannot catch a break at the moment.

Senator Michaelia Cash has had a horror run in recent times and is facing three awfully large obstacles to getting her message out. One is a whiteboard, behind which she has hidden from impertinent questions from know-it-all journalists.

Yeah, that wasn’t a metaphor.

(This isn’t an isolated incident either. Cash has done a handful of press conferences in Canberra, but reportedly keeps changing the location at the last minute without informing BuzzFeed in what seems like a deliberate attempt to avoid answering question from her bête noire, political journalist Alice Workman.)

The other two issues are rather more serious, and the fact that Cash has been assiduously avoiding addressing either of them for months now suggests that there’s absolutely nothing to hide. After all, as the old saying goes, “if there’s smoke there’s definitely no fire what are you implying how very dare you?”

First there’s the Australian Federal Police raid on the offices of the Australian Workers Union over an alleged donation they made to advocacy group GetUp! – a donation which, even if true, wasn’t actually illegal – and the fact that the media mysteriously knew about the imminent raid before the AWU did.

It was established that the leak to media came from Cash’s office and a staffer was sacked over the matter, but neither said staffer nor Cash has deigned to answer questions about the matter despite this actually being illegal. There’s an AFP investigation happening into the matter, supposedly, although the AFP have also made clear it’s a low priority for them.

Given what’s been revealed about the financial sector in the last little while, it’s especially weird that a union should get such heavy treatment as opposed to, say, banks. ACTU secretary Sally McManus summed it up rather nicely on Twitter:

The second is rather more tragic, and harder to justify. Two years ago 18 year old Josh Park-Fing died in an accident on a Work for the Dole project. At the time Cash promised there’d be an inquiry which would have answers within a month. And nothing has happened since. 

Cash’s office has insisted that there have been changes made to the way W for the D programmes operate since, but they’ve declined to explain what those changes are or how they’ve been implemented. And Labor are now threatening to force Cash to release the report she’s declined to make public.

Labor’s Ed Husic isn’t letting this lie either: “There isn’t a whiteboard in the country big enough to shield Michaelia Cash from the growing safety concerns about this failing jobs program.”

Mind you, Cash is pretty skilled at avoiding questions about things she doesn’t like. Like, for example, her own staffing – watch how she responds to the question “who is your chief of staff” with ” FEMALE STAFFERS ARE FLEEING BILL SHORTEN’S OFFICE!” A claim which doesn’t appear to be based on anything, but… well, just watch:

So, in short: if Cash is to keep avoiding scrutiny over things happening in her office and in her portfolio, she’s really going to need a bigger whiteboard.

The Government Would Now Like You To Forget They Opposed This Royal Commission Into The Banking Sector, OK?

It's amazing what weeks and weeks of horrific revelations about criminal behaviour will do to change a government's mind about whether or not the financial sector was basically doing a tops job.

The banking royal commission has turned into a bonanza for the news media who have been able to fill headline after headline with astonishingly dodgy behaviour by the financial sector.

Every sitting day has revealed more mea culpas from banks apologising for everything from dubious financial advice to exorbitant fees to, as AMP coughed to yesterday, charging customers for services they didn’t remotely provide – and then lied about it to the regulator ASIC.

Also this week we’ve learned that Westpac were giving straight up wrong investment advice to a couple to manoeuvre them into taking an investment property loan, and who ended up losing their home as a result.

And then the Commonwealth Bank have admitted to charging customers for up to a decade after their death – a period in which, historically, people need very little financial advice.

And to top it all off, one of Macquarie Bank’s former executives, Dr Tony Castagna, is now facing jail time after being found guilty on fraud and money laundering charges – and, awkwardly, that’s also the bank that once boasted a significant employee named M. Turnbull.

So it’s no surprise that the government have been railing against the criminality that has been exposed and are promising that those responsible will be punished. What they’re hoping, though, is that you forget how similarly strident they were last year when insisting that a royal commission was a witch hunt that sought to punish the financial sector for reasons of pure envy and spite.

Thankfully GOAT has a longer memory. Let’s take a little trip down Hypocrisy Lane!

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in May 2016: Now our banking system is a very important part of our financial stability. What Bill [Shorten] is proposing, as he said in an article he had in the Telegraph the other day, he said in his heading, “Time to put the banks in the dock”. Now “the dock” is where the criminal stands – the accused person stands in a criminal trial. So here you’ve got Bill, who wants to be Prime Minister of Australia, who says you should line the banks up as though they’re accused of a crime, as though they’re all criminals… The only beneficiaries from a banking Royal Commission, Bill, will be the legal profession – it’ll go years and years, cost hundreds of millions of dollars and then it’ll write a report.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in April 2018: he’s overseas at the moment – but the leader of the party in the Senate, Mathias Cormann, has just confirmed on the PM’s behalf that the royal commission might be extended due to the sheer volume of revelations.

Treasurer Scott Morrison in August 2016: “[A Royal Commission] is nothing more than a populist whinge from Bill Shorten… He is playing reckless political games with one of the core pillars of our economy. He’s acting with callous disregard and complete political opportunism.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison in April 2018, after telling the ABC that bank execs could face prison: “They have said that they basically charged people for services they didn’t provide and they have admitted to statements that were misleading to ASIC and to their own customers, and this is deeply distressing.”

Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer in August 2017: “This idea that somehow our financial system is not operating well is completely false.”

Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer in April 2018: “It is fair to say that giving the royal commission broad terms of reference, giving it broad autonomy to go after bad misconduct and to look into the financial services sector was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Bizarrely, the only person to confess they’d underestimated the extent of the problem and apologise for being wrong was former Nationals leader and current backbencher (and expectant father) Barnaby Joyce, who tweeted…

…which is the closest thing we’ve seen to leadership from anyone in the government on the matter so far.

Health Minister Greg Hunt Was Asked About The Liberal Party's Support for Gay Conversion Therapy And It Did Not Go Well

The trick to deliberately changing the subject is not to do it such a hamfisted way that everyone laughs about you changing the subject.

So your health minister went on ABC Radio today to have a bit of a chinwag with Patricia Karvalas about the Greens’ proposal to legalise recreational marijuana – a suggestion which he does not like in the least, repeating his claim that this would lead to a watershed of health issues since pot was a gateway drug for harder things like ice and heroin.

(And just for the record, the idea of the “gateway drug” is not one that people who work in the addiction realm take seriously, since there’s no concrete evidence that doing a soft drug like pot leads to a hard drug like meth. Correlation doesn’t necessarily show causation: a study that today’s serial killers saw Sesame Street as children doesn’t prove that Elmo turns a person into a cold blooded killer, no matter how much intuitive sense that idea makes.  If you’re interested, The Conversation has a great summary of the arguments for and against marijuana legislation, Greg.)

And then Karvalas asked about the Victorian Liberals – of which Hunt is one – considering a motion repealing the state’s ban on gay conversion therapy, and the interview took a weird turn.

You’re welcome.

“Look, it’s not something I support, it’s not federal government policy, it’s not going to be federal government policy and we’re not about to change our position on that,” Hunt replied.

And then he went on.

“People are entitled to have different views, views that I disagree with. What I do worry about is this constant view that nobody is anywhere allowed to have a different view. As a journalist, I would hope you would believe in freedom of speech.”

And yes, she does – and said as much. This, however, wasn’t enough for Hunt, since he kept asking her the same question, and then lamented that she hadn’t answered it. Which, to be clear, she had.

“You asked questions that you want to present as a game but this is a real discussion about freedom of speech and this was your chance – and I hope you run this in full,” he said, perhaps not being aware that he was on live radio at the time.

And let’s be clear: while Hunt was defending the rights of people to believe that conversion therapy is a legitimate thing even if he personally disagrees, that’s not what Karvalas was asking about. She was specifically asking about the party’s decision to debate it at a state council meeting with a view to adding it to the election policy platform, and why the Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger had intervened to prevent it being moved.

If anything, Hunt’s apparent concern about “this constant view that nobody is anywhere allowed to have a different view” should be brought up with Kroger – who actually did censor discussion of the matter – rather than with Karvalas who was literally giving Hunt a platform to speak freely. Seems a bit like displacement there, Greggles. And some pretty badly-executed subject changing and victim-playing.

And while we’re on the subject of the Greens’ new policy platform, we’d be remiss not to draw attention to this exchange on Twitter between conservative broadcaster Miranda Devine and Greens leader Richard di Natale…

Hope there’s some salve to hand for that sick burn, Miranda. OUCH.

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