In most respects, this past week in politics was pretty unedifying. The budget was barely mentioned, the Treasurer lost the plot, the government further ramped up its rhetoric on national security despite internal ructions, and the Opposition played politics with the Sydney Siege.
The unexpected bright spot was the speed with which the stalemate over marriage equality seems to have been overcome.
In the space of a week we’ve gone from the referendum in Ireland that voted in support of marriage equality, to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten trying to wedge PM Tony Abbott on the issue by forcing a debate in the parliament, Labor and Coalition MPs declaring a change of heart in support of the issue, and then finally an agreement on a non-political approach that will involve all parties and has the imprimatur of the PM.
Just when we thought the Treasurer was getting his mojo back, this week he reverted to his old persona: Sloppy Joe.
During a live televised appearance the Treasurer wilted under questioning from an audience made up of political junkies and wannabes, seemingly offering to change GST policy on the run and casting doubt on the Prime Minister’s cast-iron commitment not to change the tax treatment of superannuation.
As a result, the PM had to contend with dancing tampons competing for media coverage with his latest flag-infested pronouncements on national security.
Like most “overnight sensations” the change of mood in the federal parliament for marriage equality has been a long time coming.
Australia lags behind other “conservative” nations such as the UK, New Zealand and now Ireland on allowing same sex partners to marry.
While 72 per cent of Australians support marriage equality, those that do not support the change are often concentrated in pockets within electorates.
Labor’s Tony Burke is one of several MPs who’ve taken the brave decision to support same-sex marriage despite voters in their electorates being opposed. Bravo.
Same leopard, same spots
Born-again nice guy Scott Morrison demonstrated this week that he hasn’t entirely given up the tough guy routine developed when he was Immigration Minister.
Announcing the details of the one-month wait for the dole to be introduced for young unemployed (revised from the six-month wait proposed in last year’s budget), Social Services Minister essentially declared war on bludgers.
He told young people they “don’t have the option of walking from the school gate to the front door of the Centrelink office,” and can’t simply “go shopping” for welfare benefits.
Career limiting move?
While Scott Morrison seemed to relish the opportunity to return to his bovver-boy ways, the Prime Minister got little more than grief for his escalating toughness on terrorists – and this time the criticism came from an unexpected quarter.
A leak to the media from Cabinet suggested six senior ministers challenged the PM on his proposal to strip Australian citizenship from some Australians who participate in terrorist activities.
Perhaps even more worrying than the leak from the government’s inner-sanctum was Mr Abbott’s reported assurance to Cabinet members that the Daily Telegraph had not pre-emptively been briefed, on the assumption Cabinet would rubber-stamp the proposal.
Inconveniently for the PM, a story appeared in the Daily Telegraph the next day that appeared to contradict this guarantee.
On planet WTF
The Prime Minister might not have been successful in making national security the story of the week (at least not in the way he intended), but it would be fair to say the Opposition had a more frustrating week.
First, Labor released a two-page summary of an economic modelling report to demonstrate that this year’s budget was also unfair.
However, the missing report quickly became the story and its absence exposed the Opposition to Government criticisms that the data was shonky, which persisted even after the report was made available.
Then Labor Leader Bill Shorten was howled down for playing politics with marriage equality.
But even if Labor was feeling slightly irrelevant, this in no way excuses the Opposition from trying to turn the Government’s only remaining strength – national security – against it by politicising the Sydney Siege.
And while not suggesting outright that the A-G was responsible for the man not being apprehended before he became the Lindt Cafe gunman, Labor left it for others to connect the dots and hold the Abbott Government responsible.
Labor strategists are bonkers if they think the voting public will buy this ploy; particularly once it becomes known that Monis was a serial correspondent who’d also written to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard when they were in government.