Bleats

Who's In Line For the NSW Labor Leadership Now It's Definitely On?

Our money is on our final suggestion.

So, who’s going to be the new leader of the NSW Labor Party?

Michael Daley has already stepped aside as leader, given the comprehensive non-success of his campaign to unseat the Liberal Party’s Gladys Berejiklian as premier on Saturday.

This… this is how ballots are counted, right?

The party have issued a statement that “The NSW Labor Party Officers have resolved to hold the rank-and-file ballot for Leader of the NSW Parliamentary Party, after the 2019 Federal Election. The NSW Labor Party is on official campaign footing and is committed to the task of electing a Shorten Labor Government over the next seven weeks,” with deputy leader Penny Sharpe acting as the NSW Labor leader until the ballot happens.

The plan is that Labor will keep a lid on things until after the federal election in May, since a five week leadership ballot will definitely overlap with the federal campaign and give ammunition to the portrayal of the party as riven by disunity, but one should never underestimate the power of Labor to be sprinting to victory and then abruptly decide to pick a fight with their own shoes.

It’s just possible that a few weeks of letting passions subside and uniting everyone in the battle for the federal prize might soften internal opinions of the man who’s catastrophic final week of campaigning guaranteed Labor more time on the opposition benches, but let’s be honest: it won’t.

So, as party embark of two months of I’m-not-campaigning-for-the-leadership-you-are-no-you-shut-up, who are the options?

CHRIS MINNS
The Shadow Minister for Water was a strong and vocal critic of Daley’s leaked claim that “Asians with PhDs” were threatening jobs for ‘Straylian yoof. On the other hand, he did only just hang onto his seat by the very skin of his fingernails and fared badly in the last leadership spill following the allegations that preceded then-leader Luke Foley’s resignation late last year.

Still, as Daley’s most vocal critic he’s the one most people are picking – not least because men in politics are rewarded for being combatitive in public.

JODI McKAY
The former journalist is the party’s most senior female shadow minister and is Shadow Minister for Transport and also Roads, Maritime and Freight. So key Sydney obsessions, in other words.

Then again, Strathfield’s not that safe a seat either. And NSW Labor haven’t exactly been great about putting women into leadership, except when they know that defeat’s on the horizon and they want someone to maybe save some of the furniture. Isn’t that right, Kristina Keneally?

PRUE CAR
She’s got plenty of campaigning experience as a former strategist, and Londonderry is one of the ALP’s more secure seats.

However, she’s not even in the shadow ministry, and has also not exactly thrown her name in the hat as far as the media are concerned – although given her background in the arts of politics, maybe she’s thinking long game here…

PENNY SHARPE
The acting leader is in the upper house following her failed tilt at the seat of Newtown, so she’d need to be parachuted into a safe lower house seat first. And it’s not like there are heaps of options lying around right now. Unless the member for Marboubra – one M. Daley – happens to decide to spend more time with his family come May…

NEVILLE WRAN
NSW folk of a certain age still speak fondly of “Nifty Nev”, who enjoyed a decade as the second longest serving premier of the state from 1976 to 1986, before resigning undefeated.

The only things standing in the way of a triumphant return would be both that he’s not currently a sitting MP, and also that he died in 2014. Still, he’s got more name recognition than anyone else on the list. Except maybe…

JIMMY GIGGLE

Well, it’s better than the light rail.

While James Giggle has been notoriously unpolitical in his public utterances on the ABC, his strong pro-owl stance and strong interest in ensuring that they have access to the nighty-night sky would likely play well in a capital city obsessed with the flightpath and increasingly worried about environmental degradation.

Sadly, he has yet to throw his hat in the ring. Also, it turns out he’s from Victoria, so there’s that.

Scott Morrison's Feeble Attempt To Clear The Air With Waleed Aly Really Backfired, Didn't It?

Sometimes it's better just to shut the hell up, really.

Here’s a tip for Prime Ministers who think that they might have a bit of a problem with, say, being perceived as having at best a blind spot around Islam: when doing a nationally televised interview on the subject, don’t follow Scott Morrison’s example.

Morrison went on The Project on Thursday evening, less than a week after his office threatened to sue the show for defamation, to have a sit down with Waleed Aly to clear the air over the suggestion that maybe the government has a problem with Muslims. And the PM absolutely nailed it, if “nailed it” means “made things orders of magnitude worse”

A metaphor.

By turns defensive and condescending the Prime Minister deliberately misconstrued questions he didn’t like, got shirty with the impertinent interviewer for asking questions like “are you going to preference One Nation, following their statement that Islam is a disease?” (Answer: not a no), talked over Aly constantly, and made viewers gaze longingly at the quiet leadership and dignity of New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden and dream of what might have been.

The biggest problem, however, was the specific flashpoint of whether or not the now-PM had suggested exploiting community fears about Muslims, or whether he was noting it as an issue which needed to be addressed.

See, in 2011 then-Sydney Morning Herald journalist Lenore Taylor wrote a well-supported and highly detailed piece which claimed that in a shadow cabinet meeting in December 2010 Morrison had brought up community concerns about Islam and immigration as a possible vote-winning strategy, and that the meeting’s chair Julie Bishop had shut it down, pointing out that the party had a “non discriminatory immigration policy”.

At the time Morrison didn’t dispute the claim that he had raised the matter as a political strategy, and there the matter lay for eight years until Aly cited it in his post-Christchurch on camera editorial, at which point the denials came thick and fast that such a conversation ever took place at all.

Taylor, who is now one of the editors at Guardian Australia, responded by tweeting the following:

After Aly’s editorial the Prime Minister’s Office delivered a threat, and several frontbenchers were trotted out to echo the PM’s insistence that this was a “repugnant lie”, including current Health Minister Greg Hunt who kept denying that such a statement was ever made in the meeting.

And then at Morrison’s press conference on Wednesday The New Daily‘s Samantha Maiden pointed out to Morrison that Hunt had admitted he wasn’t even at the meeting in question, citing an interview which Hunt did on the ABC in 2011 saying as much.

At which point Morrison abruptly cut the presser short and scurried away.

But suddenly in this interview on the Project, the story changed again with an exasperated Morrison telling Aly that it was all just a wacky misunderstanding!

“Well, I was concerned that we needed to address [community worries about Muslims], which is what I’ve been doing inside and outside of the parliament for the last ten years of my life!” he insisted. “I was acknowledging that there were these fears in the community and that we had to address them, not exploit them.”

And that’s that! Funny it didn’t come up before, huh? Say, in 2011 when Taylor published her article, or last Friday after Aly’s piece on The Project, or when Maiden brought it up on Wednesday, or literally any other time in the past eight years? 

Anyway, now that’s all cleared up and we don’t need to think too much more about the matter. After all, it’s not like the prime minister would then go on 3AW the following morning and, just for example, praise One Nation’s leader Pauline Hanson for her constructive role on “a lot of important issues”.

After all, that would be silly!

High Speed Rail Is The Big Dumb Idea Our Politicians Just Can’t Stop Promising

It seems like every Australian Prime Minister secretly wants to be our national Fat Controller.

If you are the sort of person who would rather never ever ever read the news and remain in blissful ignorance of politics then a) you may have come to the wrong website but we’re still delighted you’re here, and b) you could ensure that you were ready for elections by setting a Google Alert for the term “high speed rail Australia”.

Like so many infrastructure projects it’s something which only ever gets mentioned during campaigns when politicians want to look like they have a big picture vision for the country, and then gets firmly put back in the election cupboard until next time.

In fact it’s so much of a joke that it’s literally the basis of an episode of Utopia. From season one. SEASON ONE, people.

It was first floated by the government of Malcolm Fraser in 1978, with a meeting of premiers to go “eh, sure, maybe” because everyone balked at the cost. Since then it’s been raised like clockwork by almost every government since and quietly killed off for the exact same reasons: the insane cost and lack of any clear need for it.

After Fraser’s flirtation, Bob Hawke looked into it in 1984. The Very Fast Train from Sydney to Canberra and Melbourne was a periodically favourite project of the Keating and Howard governments in the 90s, until Howard fell in love with the Speedrail project in time for the 1998 election.

Rudd and Gillard both revisited the Very Fast Train concept at strategically useful times, and Malcolm Turnbull reactivated it in 2016, reversing the Abbott government having shut it down, thereby annoying the Nationals.

And then this week the current PM [checks notes] Scott Morrison attempted to leaven his announcement of immigration cuts by pretending it was because of lessening pressure on infrastructure and that part of the answer was – quelle surprise!high speed rail (followed by Labor unveiling their own strategy), including Sydney to Brisbane in just half an hour at sci-fi speeds over 1200 kmph.

And sure, it’s nice to see a tacit admission that the problem with Australia’s infrastructure isn’t immigrants but governmental failures to address infrastructure, but even so the problems with this plan are legion.

For a start, the fastest passenger trains in the world – Japan’s Shinkansen High-Speed Train Network – travel at a bit over 300kmph. Which is amazingly high speed, but only a quarter what Mozza is claiming his magic choo-choo will achieve.

Secondly, rail is staggeringly expensive to build. A conventional high-speed rail link would need an estimated $200 billion just for the Sydney-Melbourne leg, and that’s before you factor in the inevitable overruns which dog every infrastructure project.

There’s also the problem that we don’t, y’know, actually need it.

“…provided we have a rail corridor down the east coast that takes in major regional centres.”

Sure, it would be nice and useful and certainly environmentally responsible… provided that we took a large percentage of the trucks off the roads which are currently delivering freight, and the airplanes from the skies which are currently delivering passengers.

And which government wants to wear the inevitable campaign about job losses in transport and aviation thanks to a government-subsidised competitor?

And we might want to check whether any of the politicians and consultants who have been privy to discussions about the likely rail corridor have, say, purchased cheap land along it in the hopes forcing a massive sale price back to the government.

Not that we’re saying that’s happened, of course, no no no no no no!

What’s more, it’s a massive undertaking that would require coordinated effort by multiple governments over subsequent terms – something which Australia doesn’t have a great history with. Isn’t that right, National Broadband Network? How’s things, National Disability Insurance Scheme?

Still, it’s always fun to see politicians boasting and arguing about projects they know will never, ever, ever happen.

After all, there’s nothing more important to discuss right at the moment, right?

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