Bring it on Scott!

Known and hated (at least by me) is “Foxtel News after Dark”. One after another, know-all hosts ad nauseum, all with the same pro-coal, climate change denying rhetoric, and ungracious bitter anti-Turnbull tirades. Night after night. Week after week. Same old topics! I’m rarely tuned-in unless I want to be reminded of how violently I disagree with them. In fact, I would be prepared to pay a premium to have their programs excluded from my Foxtel subscription. I often think of cancelling my contract, but could I live without the AFL and the A league football?

I hoped, vainly it turns out, that since the ascension of coalophil Scott Morrison, we might come to enjoy some ABC inspired investigative journalism, and perhaps even a few Indigenous performing arts programs on Foxtel. Not yet. Little has changed, even although the Coalition won an election the polls for the last three years under Turnbull consistently showed they would lose. Surprise! Surprise! They also now have a mandate for coal power up North! How successful is “Foxtel News after Dark”?

Okay! Okay! I get it! You’ve won! Please Foxtel News, give it a rest. Don’t just malign us Environmental Liberals turned Greenies over this issue.  The burden of proof on global warming is with you, not us. Bring it on and show us it can be done safely.. If you are wrong, voters won’t forget.

 Scott Morrison has already presided over what Tony Abbott wanted but hadn’t been able to achieve by the time he lost his safe Liberal seat.  i.e. Regulatory approval for a new thermal coal mine in Central Queensland.

No ordinary mine, Adani is ambitiously the world’s largest, and the probable fore-runner of several others in the coal-rich Galilee Basin. It has been suggested that at full production with the help of other eager would-be developers such as Gina Rhinehart and Clive Palmer, Australia’s coal exports could be doubled to over 600 million tonnes per year.

This, plus the regional new coal-fired power station Clive Palmer is keen to build, how many new jobs might be created?

This is the vision that they argue won the election for the Coalition and has given them a mandate for coal! Jobs it may bring, but at what price?

How many coal miners will lose their lives or health? Who was it that said, don’t be scared of coal? Like asbestos, it is harmless when undisturbed, but potentially lethal when handled, and is carcinogenic.

Will adjacent land owners and others be concerned about depletion of the precious aquifers in drought-prone Central Queensland, and the risk of pollution of the Great Artesian Basin with lethal heavy-metal poisoning?

The Abbot Point Port Terminal operated by Adani (AAPT) has a handling capacity of 50 million tonnes per annum exporting metallurgical coal from mines in the Bowen Basin. To handle stockpiled coal from the Adani mine via the 200 km long Carmichael Railway Network (CRN) with anticipated production of 60 million tonnes per annum, it will be necessary to increase the capacity of the Port entailing dredging and new constructions.

Already under threat, Australia’s unique Great Barrier Reef in the vicinity of Bowen, is highly likely to be damaged from these changes, from shipping accidents and from cyclonic flooding of the huge coal stockpiles.

Over-riding every other consideration however is what effect ramping-up Australia’s thermal coal production will have on global warming and climate change.

Although the Coalition decisively won the May 18 Australian federal election, it can scarcely be viewed as a referendum on climate change. We expect our politicians to be responsible and reduce carbon emissions from the burning of coal for electricity generation.  

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How good is Adani Eh?

In his victory speech, Scott Morrison acknowledged the contributions of Tony Abbott who lost his seat after 25 years in parliament, but made no mention of his immediate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, who had appointed him to the key position of Treasurer in his government.

This omission suggests that Morrison is trying to restore harmony and functionality to the government and is prepared to appease the demands of the Conservative faction to achieve this. But will leaving Joyce in limbo jeopardize this?

ScoMo may believe in miraculous election victories, but he has to acknowledge that it has more likely been the strategies of the Conservatives that has put him in the Lodge. Indeed, it is the Conservatives that have been the big election winners.

Not only have they successfully removed a Prime Minister they disliked, but they have been able to retain office after doing so.  By attaining a working majority, they are now in a position to finally implement the pro-coal policies of Tony Abbott, that ignored climate change concerns, and frustrated Malcolm Turnbull into calling a spill for the leadership.

Some commentators have expressed the view that with the protagonists for the “wets” and the “dries” of the Liberal Party gone, Scott Morrison is free to do as he likes, stamp his authority on the Coalition, and to establish a new political dynasty.  He, however, might well respond “would that it were so simple”.  

He is under some pressure since the election result to fast-track the Central Queensland Carmichael Mine in the Galilee Basin, inland from Rockhampton, in spite of valid environmental concerns. Assuming he agrees, what incentives is his government prepared to give to make it happen?

When Adani was not able to raise the finance for a A$16.5 project they decided to self-fund a much smaller operation of $2 billion with a proposed operational life-span of 60 years, and production of $2.3 billion tonnes of coal, or $60 million tonnes a year.

A relevant unpredictable factor is the future price of coal, and the risk that coal could soon become a stranded asset. It would be prudent if Adani were able to secure firm contracts in the proposed Asian market, before starting operations. Might it not be cheaper for Adani to provide power to poor Indian consumers from renewables, than to import coal from Australia for electricity generation?

Initially slated to provide 10,000 jobs, a more conservative estimate is 1500 but what is Adani’s record in terms of employee Health and Safety?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmichael_coal_mine

For the case against the Adani Mine, North Queenslanders should study Get Up’s website “the Adani files” before pinning their hopes on Adani to find them jobs.

https://adanifiles.com.au/

Another valuable reference source is the website of the Environmental Justice Australia organisation.

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Naughty News Corp

Three days ago, The Sunshine Coast Daily, published by News Corp Australia, ran a picture of Queensland Premier, Anastacia Palaszczuk with the headline “Anna, you’re next” and the subheadline “Labor rout puts Premier in crosshairs”.

This gives credence to the widespread perception that News Corp engages in bullying and intimidating journalism, to manipulate public opinion and achieve their preferred political outcomes. It is blatantly threatening ongoing poor press unless there is compliance. At best it is in poor taste and trashes their professional reputation.

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Barnaby Joyce Overlooked

The consensus view is that Scott Morrison did a good job choosing his new ministerial team, managing not to disappoint too many deserving colleagues.

An exception perhaps is former National Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister between February 2016 and February 2018, Barnaby Joyce.

In deference to his former status, and previous role under Scott Morrison as Envoy for drought mitigation, he surely deserved at least a curtesy call from the PM to discuss his future, instead of having to find-out about his demotion via Twitter.

A year ago, he had been deeply hurt by a very public rebuke from PM Malcolm Turnbull, whom he had served loyally, over his highly publicized unwise relationship with a former staffer.  Others might have concealed their indiscretion by aborting the pregnancy, but Barnaby did not because of his religious scruples. Turnbull’s lack of sensitivity to his Deputy’s plight may have triggered the movement that unseated him.

Scott Morrison’s dilemma in how to accommodate Barnaby Joyce is not too dissimilar from the one which confronted Malcolm Turnbull in September 2015 after he had defeated Tony Abbott in a ballot for the leadership.

Turnbull chose to relegate him to the back-bench, but in retrospect might it have been wiser to give him an appropriate cabinet position or find him a suitable diplomatic post?

As of 27 May 2019, Barnaby Joyce had received in his NSW seat of New England, 59,126 of 111,979 eligible votes or 64.83% of the two-party preferred vote. Clearly his electorate believes in him and thinks that the allegations of sexual impropriety which forced him to resign his ministerial positions 15 months ago, should not now be an issue.

Furthermore, since his demotion, he has lent his support to the Queensland pro-coal lobby that tipped voter support in favour of the Coalition. He deserves kudos for this.

No doubt Barnaby believes he has served his time in the political wilderness and that now he should be seriously considered for return to an important role.

But has Scott Morrison already made his decision? Is Barnaby’s time past, and having tarnished his reputation, will he never receive a second chance?

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Chris Bowen’s Misleading Imputation Example

46-year-old Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen was a panelist on the ABC program Q and A on Monday evening 29/04/2019 defending Labor’s policy proposals should they win the Federal election on May 18.

Although his arguments seemed convincing, the example he gave to justify the massive raiding of retiree funds by ending cash Imputation Credit payments was quite misleading. Savings to the government are expected to exceed $56 billion over a ten-year period and are ear-marked to fund projects Labor thinks are more deserving.

With life-expectancy projected to soon rise into the mid-nineties, retirees wishing to be as independent as possible of government subsidies, must now work out how to make their superannuation last for possibly three decades from retirement, on a reduced dividend income stream.

Chris Bowen’s example to illustrate the purported inequity in the taxation treatment of a salary worker, and the earnings of a retiree with a self-managed superfund:

 “A nurse on $67,000 pays $13,000 in income tax. A retired shareholder with dividend income of $67,000 from shares in their self-managed super fund pays $0 in income tax and gets a tax refund of more than $27,000 from the Government. Same income, different outcome.” #qanda

Criticisms

  1. Is it not outrageously misleading to equate fund earnings with dividend income not taking into account capital losses, which can be substantial in market downturns and crashes?
  2. Wages from personal exertion provide for current financial needs. Superannuation savings on the other hand must meet as much as possible of their expenses in retirement over up to three decades or more of life. The fact is that most retirees qualify within a decade or so of retirement, for a full or part pension.
  3. Superannuants have paid already paid 15% contributions tax, and tax on fund earnings until retirement. They have forfeited the contributions tax they have paid on their capital losses, and seen the value of their savings eroded by inflation. It is therefore unfair to deny them access to Imputation Credits, on the basis of not paying tax.
  4. The nurse’s income of $67,000 p.a. is within the average range.  The Average Wage of all workers, full and part-time, is estimated to be $62,128, whilst the Median Wage for workers is $55,000. The example of the retiree’s dividend income implies a fund balance of 1-2 million dollars if the dividend return on the portfolio is between 3.5% and 7%. I suspect that this is way in excess of the balance of most retirees. In the context of this comparison of the two groups, it implies that SMSFs are vehicles for millionaires and multimillionaires to avoid taxation. At least that is the way Labor is presenting this policy.

Other considerations that I would like clarified.

In flagging their policy on Imputation Credits, Labor has always asserted that the intention is to end cash payments only. Will then Imputation Credits still be availble to offset tax due on SMSFs in the accumulation phase?.

Labor has backed-down on withdrawing Imputation Credits from retirees on the pension. Will this concession also apply to those on a part pension?

It would seem that Labor’s proposal is virtually a tax on recent retirees, and could have the effect of influencing them to run down their fund balance in order to qualify for dependable pensioner benefits. Will measures be taken to stop them doing this?

It is possible that with diminished dividend income, retirees may seek to bolster their earnings with more capital gains. Is there any intention on the part of Labor to then tax their capital gains? If so, retirees should be able to offset imputation credits from their tax liability.

Disclaimer

This post is written from the perspective of a retiree likely to be affected by Labor’s proposed superannuation changes. No claim is made for particular investment or financial expertise, and readers should discuss any issues of concern with their own advisors.

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Should Water Diversion be now reconsidered for North Queensland?

Don’t just unthinkingly blame Barnaby Joyce for reigniting controversy within the Coalition on the eve of the election by spruiking a controversial policy, previously discarded by the Queensland State government, for a government subsidized coal-fired power plant in North Queensland.


It has actually been the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, energetic conservative Queensland Senator Matt Canavan’s idea. He argues that despite the capital cost, it would deliver jobs, and he hopes, cheaper power for consumers. However he discounts environmental risks that are fresh in the minds of many
Queenslanders after a summer of extreme weather with drought, bush-fires, cyclones, floods and coral reef damage.

His admirable unswerving support of coal could prove a brave call, both for him, and the government’s chances of re-election. Has he given any thought to how such disasters could be tackled, rather than aggravated as he proposes?

There is a scheme, moth-balled since 1938, but raised from time to time by politicians including former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, that could deliver benefits for North Queenslanders in the face of climate change. I refer to what is known as the Bradfield Scheme after Queensland born civil engineer Dr John Bradfield, designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Brisbane’s Story Bridge.

It is an inland irrigation scheme that diverts some river flow from the upper reaches of the Tully, Herbert and Burdekin rivers into the Thomson River on the Western side of the Great Dividing Range. In a boost for agriculture, it would irrigate more than 7,800 sq. km, cap erosion in Central Queensland, provide hydro-electric power, help control flooding, and likely improve the health of the Reef

It is a project that has hitherto been considered too expensive to implement but in the light of the cost of disaster relief, Matt Canavan for the Coalition, or an incoming Labor Administration, must surely explore the possibility of a modern version of the Bradfield Scheme.

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Scott’s Trump Card

This week Prime Minister Scott Morrison lost an historic vote, the first for a government in 90 years. It was a loss by only one vote, and might have been avoided had a neutral speaker been appointed as an interim measure to allow the speaker Tony Smith to cast his vote.

It was a Bill to allow the remaining 1000 odd detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to come to Australia for emergency medical treatment, if needed, on the say so of two doctors, but only with ministerial approval.

Scott Morrison at his ebullient best

Surprisingly the loss hasn’t disturbed his composure, and in subsequent debate, he has given no ground, and been at his aggressive best in castigating the Labor Party for its failure to stop the boats when in office.

Perhaps it is because he is now electioneering on a preferred issue on which he has undeniable authority. Turning back the boats was a crucial issue in winning the 2001 federal election for John Howard.

Scott Morrison can argue that Labor has once again weakened the Coalition’s successful border policy, and will have to take responsibility when the boats start arriving again on the rocky shores of a re-opened Christmas Island Detention Centre. It was on these very rocks that some poor desperate refugees lost their lives.

Even although about 78% of those still in detention have been processed and shown to be genuine refugees, it is distinctly possible that they will be sent to the Christmas Island facility to frustrate the provision of the new legislation.

A humanitarian Bill, condemned as weakness.


The Independents together with the opposition, have been painstaking in their efforts to come up with a Bill that neither jeopardizes Australia’s security nor grants sick detainees with back-door access to Australian residency, even although the government has been doing so on the quiet for sometime.

In addition the legislation specifies that the medical evacuation provisions apply only to the present cohort of detainees, not to any new arrivals. This clause eliminates Dr Kerryn Phelp’s Medevac Bill as an incentive to come to Australia. Furthermore Australia now has established a potent Border Force that should have no difficulty in continuing to turn back the boats.

In spite of this the government has fought the Bill at every turn, even to the point of trying to create a constitutional furphy. Yet the Bill has been passed, and is now law. Interestingly division vote results were given standing ovations from visitors in the gallery.

Why the opposition supported the legislation.

You might have thought that there was little need for changing the rules for the management of detainees, given that the Coalition since 2013 has stopped new boat arrivals, and successfully removed all but about one thousand, including all children; but has there been a price for this?

Although the government has been able to slowly but surely deal with the backlog of refugees in detention, and boasts that it has closed 19 detention centres, it is an almost impossible task to manage the expectations of those in indefinite detention, especially when they are battling crowded conditions and poor health.

The administration bureaucracy has come to be perceived as insensitive to the plight of valid refugees. It appears that they may have been vindictive to some by taking legal action to prevent them from going to Australia for medical care they did not think was needed. While there is a more than adequate doctor to population ratio, they do not have to my knowledge, a specialist psychiatric unit. 11 or 12 lost hope, and became so depressed, that they took their own lives.

There have also been delays in decision making with one detainee dying when he might have lived had he been evacuated earlier.

Disturbances and riots in the two detention centres have been regarded as insubordination to be punished, rather than symptomatic of genuine underlying mental and emotional anguish needing treatment.

What to do with asylum seekers is still an unresolved national problem

It was actually Kevin Rudd who in August 2013 declared that asylum seekers would never be able to settle in Australia, an announcement that caused international concern for the welfare of refugees at the time, but was adopted by the Abbott government after winning the ensuing election. It has been an important factor in altering the mind-set of refugees, and deterring people smugglers.

Although it may have been an effective deterrent, the difficulty of finding satisfactory alternative destinations has never been completely resolved in the five years of Coalition government, and the problem is likely to persist for further refugees, unless there is a change in the present policy vowing to never let them enter Australia.

Not only are their liberties curtailed, and their housing conditions basic, many have encountered hostility from the locals on Manus Island, and all face daily uncertainty about their fate. Little wonder that so many men, women and children have developed severe mental health problems waiting.

Australia’s manifestly rigid and hard-hearted management of refugees contrasts starkly with the willingness of the German government to accept about one million displaced persons from Syria, the Middle East, and Africa. We do not have anything like the problem they are dealing with.

Admittedly all nations have the right to determine who is eligible to enter their country, but is it humane to ban refugees forever from entering Australia because they have bypassed our processing protocol? Should we not take into consideration the urgency of their situation?

Given the difficulty Australia has had, and will continue to experience in re-settling refugees elsewhere, is it not cruel to keep them in indefinite detention?

Asylum seeker policy should be bipartisan. We want political parties to tell us how they will tackle the nation’s problems such as this, without point-scoring over how good they are, or have been.


aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1314/BoatArrivals

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asylum_in_Australia

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-03/rudd-announces-asylum-policy/4863226

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Sovereign_Borders

 

 

 

 

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Australia’s Third Political Option

Currently the Australian government has 74 Coalition members in the House of Representatives, 58 of whom are members of the Liberal Party of Australia, and 16 are members of the Nationals.

The Opposition is formed by the Australian Labor Party with 69 members.

The 7 remaining members, often referred to as the Crossbench, are formed of 4 Independents, and single members of 3 minor parties, Australian Greens, Centre Alliance, and Katter’s Australian Party.

The Crossbench Political Option

The Crossbench should not be written off as far as political power is concerned, since they have frequently held the “balance of power” if not in the House of Representatives, at least in the Senate.

One need only recall the “hung parliament” from the 2010 federal election in which the ALP was able to provide stable government with the support of 3 Independents and one Australian Green under the Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard.

The power of the Crossbench could well be greater after the 2019 election if small-l Liberal voters who feel disenfranchised by the shift of the Liberal Party to the Right and are wary of Labor’s economic credentials, look for candidates who best represent their policy preferences.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who has held the safe Liberal seat of Warringah for the past 24 years, now has a formidable high-profile Independent Candidate in Zali Steggall. The veteran of many a political battle has betrayed his feeling of vulnerability by urging voters to vote for the ALP candidate rather than the Independent, Zali Steggall.

Even the very elite of the Liberal Party face the possibility of defeat at the next election by well credentialed Independent candidates if the present trend continues. You might imagine that rebellious Conservatives would refrain in an election campaign from continuing to provoke Moderate Liberal voters, but not so.

For me the most egregious media stirrer of unrest is the smirking indefatigable Andrew Bolt who is completely undeterred from promoting fanciful conspiracy theories, this time that it is Malcolm Turnbull who is orchestrating an Independent campaign against those responsible for his overthrow. Where is the evidence Andrew?

House of Representatives Crossbench on display in First Q and A for 2019

The Panelists for the ABC’s first Q and A program for 2019 on 04/02/2019 were five members of the House of Representatives Crossbench:

  • Adam Bandt, Greens Party, for the seat of Melbourne
  • Julia Banks, currently an Independent for the seat of Chisholm
  • Kerryn Phelps, Independent Member for the seat of Wentworth
  • Rebekha Sharkie, Centre Alliance Member for Mayo
  • Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for the seat of Denison.

I understand that it was Adam Brandt who first mooted a Banking Royal Commission, not Labor. Each of the above five members have made valuable parliamentary contributions, including Dr Kerryn Phelps who has already come up with a well thought-out Urgent Medical Treatment Bill that will provide prompt expert compassionate healthcare for asylum seekers without undermining the integrity of Australia’s refugee policy.

Thank God we all have a democratic vote!


Despite the limitations of our political system, individual parliamentarians and political parties are eventually accountable at the ballot-box.

Let us vote for those we think have Australia’s best interests at heart, rather than their own!


Posted in Political debate

Time for voters to scrutinize Labor’s economic policies.

With less than four months until Australia’s proposed federal election 18 May 2019, it is time for those long-term Liberal supporters who have been disgusted with the antics of the right and are proposing to change their allegiance, to take another look at Labor’s radical economic proposals. Will they be willing to accept possible adverse economic consequences of voting Labor?

Are Liberals Deserting a sinking ship or Is the Party undergoing a Renewal Process?

According to “Happy Jack” Scott Morrison’s confident reassurances, the Party is being refreshed by the changes now afoot, but to most onlookers it looks more like all is not well within the divided Coalition and they are about to be voted out of office:

  • Current ministers Kelly O’Dwyer, David Bushby, Michael Keenan and Nigel Scullion are not seeking re-election for personal reasons.
  • Several Conservative Liberal members such as Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton, face a voting backlash from their electorates.
  • Julia Banks and Ann Sudumalis have left the Party with accusations of sexism and bullying.
  • The National Party Member for Mallee Andrew Broad has resigned over admitted sexual indiscretions.
  • SA Senator Lucy Gichuhi and NSW Senator Jim Molan have been demoted on their State tickets, and are unlikely to be returned.
  • There have been rumours that former Turnbull Ministers, Julie Bishop, and Craig Laundy are also thinking of not running.

With the Coalition in disarray, is Labor a safe alternative for disaffected small-l Liberal supporters?

Federal Labor, in contradistinction to the Coalition, is presenting as a united Party ready to assume office with a talented team of near equal numbers of women and men, a commitment to the Environment, and a well intentioned desire to improve the lot of the less fortunate in society.

Believers in the core Liberal values of small government, and private enterprise, are likely however to be uneasy about Labor’s oft stated intention to end negative gearing except for new constructions, and properties already negatively geared. The current capital gains tax concession of 50% will be simultaneously halved to a 25% concession.

Ambitiously, Labor has three unrelated objectives for these two measures:

  • more affordable housing
  • wealth redistribution
  • raising revenue to fund their reform initiatives.

In essence Labor is not prepared to construct and manage affordable rental accommodation itself, but expects investors to do so for them, whilst increasing their financial risks, and diminishing their return.

Savvy investors will undoubtedly consider options to thwart the government’s plan to increase their taxes, and at the same time to vilify them for being rich.

Does Labor have the discipline to manage economic uncertainty?

Labor governments aspire to being reformist, and good reforms are usually expensive. This is not to say that they are what Paul Keating derogatorily called “bleeding hearts”

He himself was a pragmatist, who did not hesitate to employ the economic levers available to him to meet Labor objectives. Unfortunately, the economy did suffer under his supervision, as he allowed interest rates to rise to a stratospheric 17% to control inflation. Business activity stalled under high costs, and faced with an election in NSW, he opted to restore the negative gearing he had abolished three years earlier.

Rentals increased 25% between1985 and 1987, but it was only in Sydney and Perth that there was an increase in Nominal Rents with the rent rise exceeding the inflation rate (then about 16-17%). Soon after restoring negative gearing, the stock-market crashed, plunging Australia into further financial crisis.


Posted in Political debate

Complacency, the curse of incumbency!

In the last few days of Parliamentary sitting this year, PM Scott Morrison and his team repeatedly accused the Labor Party of gloating over the divisions within the Coalition, and taking for granted a victory at the next election. But if anything it is they, rather than Labor, that is exhibiting a dangerously complacent culture.

Two terms from incumbency, the Labor Party is being as painstaking as possible to avoid the appearance of complacency. They are developing democratically agreed party policy positions, and their rhetoric has softened. Labor is being seen as the more likely party to form government, and even Andrew Bolt has acknowledged this by interviewing Bill Shorten on his Sky News program.

The perception is that Labor has built a diligent and competent team, eager and able to assume office with moderate policies, now that the Coalition is faltering. Much of the Coalition’s squabbling and self-serving poor parliamentary behaviour over the past year can be ascribed to having become complacent in office. They have developed a misplaced sense of self-importance and entitlement. Their year of disgrace has now ended with the revelations of the sexual indiscretions of the National Party Member for Mallee, Andrew Broad.

Rather than imposing a needed discipline on the Coalition, an ebullient and triumphal sounding Scott Morrison has cockily vaunted his advantage over Bill Shorten in the polls of preferred prime minister. He obviously fancies his chances of winning at the approaching election contest between the two of them.

Many previously loyal supporters have been quite appalled and angered by the Liberal antics of this year. So they may well express their disapproval, especially of those they hold most responsible, by casting their vote elsewhere this time. In fact, a term or two in the wilderness of opposition may be just what the Coalition needs to remake its image.

Posted in Political debate