It's A Christmas Miracle! Scott Morrison Has Backflipped On That Foodbank Funding Cut
"Let them eat cak… I mean, nutritional basics sourced from participating retailers!"
Yesterday we wondered why the federal government would choose to slash funding to food charities, notably Foodbank, and force them to fight among themselves for a reduced funding pool to provide frontline services to Australians in need, and also to do this not long before Christmas.
And it turns out that the Prime Minister has just noticed that hey, that seems a bit mean-spirited and has abruptly reversed the decision. Which is good, but also makes clear that if you want something done in Australia at the moment the answer is to yell and yell again.
“I have listened and decided to increase the Food Relief budget by $1.5 million over the next 4.5 years,” he announced on Twitter. “This maintains Foodbank’s funding at $750K/yr, with Second Bite and OzHarvest funded as announced last week.”
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher was reportedly demanding to know why Foodbank “was only notified of the funding change just weeks before the demanding Christmas season” – information which, as head of the department, he might already be across that.
In any case, the news of the reprieve for frontline services has been roundly applauded, with the government winning plaudits for swiftly solving a problem which they created for themselves.
The Federal Government Have Just Slashed Funding To One Of Australia's Largest Food Charities So Merry Christmas
Because nothing says "we care" like "let's make frontline charities fight each other for funding".
The end of the year is an especially tricky time for a lot of people: casual workers find a lot if work dries up, a lot of companies wind down their employment until the new year, and saving get drained by seasonal travel costs and Christmas expenses.
For those living on the borderline during the year, the holiday season can tip them over the edge.
So, if you were a federal government led by an outspoken Christian desperate to rehabilitate their reputation as a hardline Immigration Minister and/or a penny-pinching treasurer, especially one currently facing a wipe out at the next election with the latest poll showing a solid ten percent deficit, would right now be a great time to slash funding to a food charity?
You’re not helping, clown.
If you’re the current federal government under PM Scott Morrison, the answer is “sure, let’s drop the funding from $750,000 to $427,000. Three years ago the funding was $1.5 million, to be clear.
Just for context, remember that the planned monument for Captain Cook is costed at half a billion dollars, and the government were able to scrape up $122 million for the unfunded same sex marriage postal vote, so this is more a matter of priorities than money. For the government $1.5 million for Foodbank would be chicken feed, with an emphasis on the “feed” bit.
According to SBS’s report, “In February Foodbank asked the government for $10.5 million over three years, which it said would return $316 million to the Australian economy.” So this… well, it’s not exactly what they asked for.
That funding is specifically for what’s called their “key staples” program, which gets things like bread, rice, pasta, vegetables and bread to hungry Australians.
It comes as demand for Foodbank and similar charities is at record levels. For context, Foodbank provides 67 million meals a year to charities across the country, by negotiating with manfucatuyres, producers and retailers, and goes out to more than 1750 schools around Australia.
Social Services minister Paul Fletcher has been spinning it as a funding bonanza, with Foodbank, SecondBite and OzHarvest sharing in “more than $4.5 million.” Except, and here’s the trick, it’s to cover four and a half years. Just keep that weird funding window in mind in case anyone mentions “a record funding pool” or suchlike.
Labor have already leapt on the cut, with Bill Shorten demanding the cut be reversed and declaring “I am genuinely surprised by this mean and foolish decision.” You and us both, Bill.
“I’ll have a chat to the Social Services Minister and, if there’s any need to review that decision, then – it was a decision obviously made by the department – and we’ll take a look at that,” he told Studio 10 on Monday.
Malcolm Turnbull Would Still Very Much Like An Explanation As To Why He's Not Still Prime Minister, Thanks
The solo Q&A appearance of our most recent ex-PM was a masterclass in reputation management.
First up: in the interests of social responsibility we need to apologise for the Malcolm Turnbull Q&A Drinking Game: if you did in fact play it last night then you would very definitely be feeling rough today.
There was Malsplaining (about solar voltaic panels and Snowy 2.0!)! Multiple “let me just say this”-es! “A kind of madness!” “Lucy and I”! Big talk on renewable energy at odds with what he did when PM! Much talk of his accomplishments! We’ve had less woozy mornings, to be honest.
He even took something as a comment, in a Tony Jones tribute which got a good laugh.
And that was kind of the vibe of the thing: a generally friendly audience for a generally pretty chill Malcolm Turnbull very determined to remind everyone of the casually charming guy they were so hopeful about in 2015 rather than the increasingly prickly and belligerent fellow that was their PM until three months ago.
And make no mistake, this was a reputation-polishing exercise – even if he plumped for a nice blue sports coat instead of the leather jacket of old.
This was a Malcolm sighing about how the Liberal Party was blowing itself up and reminding everyone – multiple times over the course of the hour – that no explanation had been offered for why he needed to be removed. Not by the plotters, not media magnates; not like back when he did it, certainly.
Singling out frontbenchers who brought the spill against him, including Steve Ciobo, Greg Hunt, Mathias Cormann, Peter Dutton. Mitch Fifield, and Michaela Cash – and, naturally, Tony Abbott – for the madness which “effectively blew up the government”, he was careful not to be seen to openly criticise his replacement. “I wish Scott all the best in the election,” he said, to laughter. “No, I really do.”
And on the face of it this was a human performance. He admitted that speaking about the coup hurt, and that his retreat to New York was largely about self-care after a devastating blow to his ego.
And that ego had clearly survived, because according to Malcolm, he’d done nothing wrong. At all.
Turnbull also took a somewhat rosy view of his own time as PM – blithely claiming that he had no issue with the ABC beyond a parental disappointment with its failure to be accurate and even handed (qualities which, as ever, seem to mean different things for citizens and people in political parties), and didn’t pause long enough to give anyone a chance to ask a follow up about the “efficiency dividends” inflicted on its funding.
Turnbull was also very, very happy to take credit for passing marriage equality without acknowledging the unnecessarily painful and divisive way it happened – pausing only to smirk about how Labor would have wished they’d done it instead, rather that that Australia’s LGBTIQI+ community and their friends and allies could have done without the hate speech and violence.
There were some flashes of anger – mentions of Barnaby Joyce’s suggest egomania got a chilly “You may very well say that but I couldn’t possibly comment.”
And he made some genuinely strong points: that parliament is not a welcoming place for women, that Australian elections are won in the centre and those that court the fringes are doomed to political irrelevance, and that the success of female small-L Liberals in traditionally safe Liberal seats such as his own is a sign that the party are not giving voters what they want.
But most of all this was about reminding people of the Malcolm they put all that optimism behind; the white knight that was going to bring sanity and science and transparency back to government after the excesses of the Abbott epoch, and hoping that helped them forget the PM that failed to do those things and couldn’t even convince his colleagues to trust in his leadership.
And, most of all, he sought to remind everyone to keep on demanding to know why he was rolled. Because who could begrudge the man a little vengeance?