News Political business as usual, as patience continues to wears thin
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Political business as usual, as patience continues to wears thin

federal parliament
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have challenges on all fronts. Photo: AAP
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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will give the coronavirus-depleted Parliament a statement on the Budget on Tuesday.

It’s instead of the real thing, but is an attempt to fireproof the government from the increasing political flak over its management of itself and the crises the nation is facing.

The six-week truce, which saw commendable national unity, is drawing to an inevitable end; business closures are hard to sustain when there is every appearance the rate of infections is now under world-beating control.

Patience is wearing very thin when the government’s multibillion-dollar relief and support programs have failed to deliver for many who were eligible for them and for the millions who were excluded.

Mr Frydenberg will abandon any thought of a “snap back”, let alone the promise of one.

Instead he will tell the nation desperate for a return to better times that we are in for a ‘‘long haul’’ before we return to anything that resembles what was considered normal before the virus hit.

Instead he will tell the nation desperate for a return to better times that we are in for a “long haul” before we return to anything that resembles what was considered normal before the virus hit.

Abandoned is the much-touted promise of returning the first Budget surplus this year since the halcyon days of the Howard/Costello years.

According to the Deloitte Access Economics Budget Monitor instead of a being back in the black, Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg will preside over the biggest Budget deficit in Australia’s history close to $142 billion.

The Labor Opposition says now is the time for scrutiny and in his latest “vision statement” Anthony Albanese is looking beyond the coronavirus to the by-election in the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro and to a time when he hopes to replace what he sees as the failed prescriptions of the Liberals.

Mr Albanese told a near-empty caucus room in Canberra that the challenge is not to “snap back to insecure work, to job seekers stuck in poverty, to scientists being ignored” but to move forward “having not just survived the pandemic, but having learned from it”.

Labor’s parliamentary tactician Tony Burke listed on Insiders the issues the Opposition will raise in the three question times this week.

They go to the design and timetable for the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments made all the more problematic by forecasts like Deloitte’s that unemployment will not return to anywhere near the low levels pre-pandemic until 2024.

New revelations on the role of the Prime Minister’s office in the notorious sports rorts affair will not be ignored, much to the dismissive annoyance of Scott Morrison.

When asked about them at his Monday news conference the Prime Minister was sarcastically dismissive: “Good to see the Canberra Press Gallery is back to politics as usual with Parliament coming back.”

His sensitivity is understandable, especially when his Emergency Services Minister David Littleproud had to give assurances on ABC radio that the $630 million bushfire recovery funds now earmarked for local communities and councils will not be colour coded.

Disgraced former sports minister Bridget McKenzie used the coding to identify electorates the government wanted to target at the last election.

The fact is the bushfire-ravaged victims in Eden-Monaro will need a lot of convincing.

Community leader Andrew Haydon in Cobargo – one of the worst-hit villages – says they haven’t received “a red cent of the money already promised”.

Mr Littleproud blames the state governments for the complexity, bureaucracy and confusion that has seen only one-third of the $2 billion Mr Morrison promised in January being delivered.

The complaints are not limited to NSW, Victoria and South Australia, according to independent MPs in those states experiencing the same frustrations.

The Liberals are yet to announce a candidate for Eden-Monaro.

Fiona Kotvojs who achieved a 2.5 per cent swing against Labor last time, has nominated. The delay in anointing her is being put down to the party looking for a more high-profile candidate.

Hardly a vote of confidence.

But the Prime Minister has a lot more to worry about other than Eden-Monaro.

He warned on Monday the virus “is not beaten. It hasn’t gone anywhere. The virus is still out there”. And it’s not going to give him political cover any more.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics