I don’t know about you but my impression is that the Turnbull government is a chaotic mess! Aaron Patrick at the Fin Review says this week’s Newspoll, again 53-47 TPP to Labor, makes Malcolm Turnbull look like Julia Gillard in Liberal drag. That’s five Newspolls in a row.
- The Prime Minister is diligent, consensual and organised. But the government, without clear control of Parliament, struggles politically under a relentless attack from a ruthless Opposition Leader.
Sounds like 2013? It’s actually 2016.
I think that’s over-hyping both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, but Turnbull is certainly in choppy waters.
When Malcolm Turnbull returned from Chile, he was asked three times whether he supported Peter Dutton’s remarks about Lebanese migrants. Katherine Murphy reports Turnbull heard the question clearly but he wasn’t able to answer; he couldn’t support Dutton, he couldn’t condemn him:
- The prime minister just had to stand there, smiling, face fixed into a mask, pretending, as if the meaningless formulations coming out of his mouth had any meaning – and inviting assembled journalists to buy into this fiction, to validate nonsense.
Murphy explains that Dutton is the most powerful figure on the conservative right, and as such can’t be criticized. Most commentators thought, like Fraser’s immigration minister Ian McPhee, thaht Dutton’s remarks were outrageous.
Labor MP and counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly, who was born in Egypt, says she’s received death threats since Dutton made his statement.
Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim made a fair point:
- “Just because something is fact doesn’t mean that it’s reasonable or productive to talk about it”
In parliament Turnbull was laying into Shorten, saying it was all Bill’s fault.
Somehow the more Turnbull talks the less it means anything.
Which is why it is hard to take him seriously and deal with him.
Which brings me to the backpackers tax. This ABC piece gives the history. The tax of 32.5% from the first dollar earnt was announced without any stakeholder consultation in the 2015 budget, to be implemented from 1 July 2016. There was a riot on the land (it also affects tourism) and the Government delayed the implementation to January 2017, so that there could be consultations after the election. Meanwhile both Labor and the LNP counted the tax in their election budgeting; Labor demanded the LNP do away with it, but steadfastly refused to say what they would do.
Four months after the election, Barnaby Joyce came up with a 19% tax on backpackers’ earnings and a 95% tax on their superannuation.
Labor shunted the compromise plan to the Senate Economics Committee for review, who came back with 10.5%, which happens to be the same as New Zealand.
The ABC has generally represented the issue as one where both sides are being political and intransigent.
All their reporters should have a listen to the interview of Joel Fitzgibbon by Patricia Karvelas.
The Government had talked to Labor and asked them not to bring the matter to a vote, because they wanted to talk about a compromise. Fitzgibbon says Labor is ready to talk, but instead we’ve had foghorn blather from Joyce and company.
There is criticism that 10.5% would be unfair to Australian workers. Fitzgibbon says the average backpacker earns $13K which is under the tax-free threshold. He also says that there were other reasons why backpackers were starting to go cold on Australia. Anything more than 10.5% as a headline rate was not really viable. However, they were open to talking, when the LNP were ready.
Laura Tingle reckons that:
- the government has actually managed to get a more manageable Senate out of the DD than the old one, even if the horse-trading on the two bills – which extends from water policy to major breakthroughs on whistleblower legislation – displays the breadth of interests the government must accommodate.
However, they will need to get the ABCC legislation through to have any chance of looking like they are in control of the agenda. She gives them marks for having learnt something about senate management. Yet the deals they do gives so many of the crossbench a platform to spruik, the whole thing looks chaotic. As Gillard knows, your success in getting bills through does not necessarily make a government look competent.
Fitzgibbon says they are bound to come to talk about the backpackers tax. It is just not viable for them to go back to their electorates and tell them, sorry it’s 32.5%. They just had to get in a bit of politicking first.