News National The best and worst of politics

The best and worst of politics

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Things are hotting up on the political scene as we get closer to this year’s federal budget.

So while you were all getting on with your busy lives, the were plenty of ups and downs from the week in politics.

Bishop blocked on Iran asylum handback
Labor looks at negative gearing in bid to reduce house prices
‘You will never settle in Australia’: Dutton’s warning

Here are some of the key winners and losers from the week that deserve some attention.

MVP (most valuable politician)

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop copped a lot of grief for wearing a headscarf when visiting Iran, which is predominantly Islamic.

Ms Bishop did so in accordance with the religious requirement for Muslim women to dress modestly and cover their hair.

Her critics pointed to US First Lady Michelle Obama and former US Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton who’ve flouted the tradition when visiting Islamic countries.

Perhaps the American woman saw little need to be respectful of other nations’ cultural sensitivities, but it is no doubt a sign of our Foreign Minister’s deft touch on diplomatic matters that she decided to don the veil.

It’s also worth noting Ms Bishop acted similarly when granted an audience with the Pope, acceding to yet another religious tradition that requires women to dress modestly and cover their hair.

Career limiting move (if they had their time again, they wouldn’t have said or done this)

shadow treasurer chris bowen and the budget
‘Courageous’ Chris Bowen. Photo: Getty

It’s usual practice for the party in opposition to hold off announcing policies until as close to the election as possible.

To do otherwise exposes the policies to extended criticism and scare campaigns. In some instances, releasing policies early also allows governments to steal a popular policy, robbing the opposition of an important point of differentiation.

Nevertheless, the Labor opposition has announced a number of policies in recent weeks; more than a year out from the next election.

First there was the plan to crack down on multinational corporations shifting their profits offshore to minimise the tax they paid in Australia. Then there was a policy to reduce superannuation tax concessions for wealthy retirees.

But it’s another policy foreshadowed this week that may end up being a career-limiting move for Labor. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said winding back negative gearing would be among the options considered by Labor, but “any changes we took to negative gearing would be taken to the next election”.

Sir Humphrey Appleby would call this a “courageous” move.

The joker (most memorable one liner, gag or zinger)

The Abbott Government’s harsh treatment of asylum seekers was in the spotlight again this week, initially as news emerged of a video produced by the Government aimed at convincing refugees held in detention on Nauru to accept resettlement in Cambodia.

The Government’s willingness to dump genuine asylum seekers in the poverty-stricken nation is in stark contrast to the official travel advice given to Australians wanting to visit the country; it warns about the risk of assault, armed robberies and the poor quality of medical and health services.

A similar lack of humanity was shown for asylum seekers returned to Vietnam last week by the Australian Navy.

However it was a one-liner delivered by the Prime Minister this week that truly encapsulated the callous disregard the Government has for asylum seekers, whether they are seeking refuge in Australia or some other country.

Dr Bjorn Lomberg has few fans in the climate action movement. Photo: AAP

When asked about the 900 people presumed drowned after trying to reach Italy from Libya, PM Abbott said “I suppose we must grieve for the lost, but …”, before essentially blaming the dead for their fate.

What planet is he/she on? (most outlandish policy idea/comment of the week)

It’s fair to say a number of the Prime Minister’s captain’s calls fall into the “what was he thinking?” category.

The latest is the granting of $4 million for the climate action establishment’s bete noir, Bjorn Lomberg, to establish a think tank at University of Western Australia.

Dr Lomberg’s long and notorious track record is largely because he advocates that, while climate change is real, other global challenges such as eradicating malaria are more important.

His new taxpayer-funded gig is considered even more galling because it’s been created at a time when the Abbott Government is cutting funding to science and universities.

More of this

New-ish Health Minister Sussan Ley continues to set the standard when it comes to finding a way through tricky policy challenges.

Having inherited the odorous mess that was the health reforms proposed in last year’s budget, the Minister wasted no time dumping the rebate cut for short GP consultations that her predecessor tried to sneak in over the Christmas break.

She’s also ruled out the unpopular GP co-payment.

Now, Ms Ley is actually consulting with the experts and the people affected to make health policy more affordable.

This week she launched a review of the 5500 services funded by Medicare, another on funding models, and a crackdown on the abuse of Medicare by some GPs.

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