Saturday salon 17/12

1. Do we need a new conservative party?

One Nation would tell us we’ve already got one, but Essential Report has now conducted a poll about an Abbott-based party, asking the question:

    If a new conservative party was formed and included people like Tony Abbott, how likely would you be to vote for them?

Overall the answer is ‘not very likely’ with ‘Total unlikely’ at 58% and ‘Total likely’ at 23%. However the Lib/Nat preference is evenly split at 41% each way.

Laura Tingle says politics is still framed in terms of yet another leader who may not make it through the elected term:

    Just think of how that plays out in the way we think about politics. For starters, it means we always presume that the biggest threat to a leader comes from his colleagues, not the voters. That, in turn, means we see all a leaders’ actions in terms of fighting off internal challenges, rather than shoring up the vote.

Phillip Coorey says it’s not Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews who lead the conservatives.

    Over the course of this year, a new guard has emerged led by the younger brigade of Mathias Cormann, Peter Dutton and up-and-coming Victorian backbencher Michael Sukkar. Others like ACT Senator Zed Seselja play important roles.

Above all it’s Peter Dutton and Matthias Cormann that Turnbull trusts and consults, and they have the ear of 85 to 90 per cent of Liberal conservatives. So while he keeps doing what he’s told, he should be alright, unless Julie Bishop or someone convinces the party they need a real leader.

The one out on a limb is Scott Morrison, with whom Turnbull has no working relationship.

2. Bill Leak’s cartoon

Chris Graham, editor and publisher of New Matilda, thinks Bill Leak will win his case in the Human Rights Commission, and he thinks there is a silver lining:

    if a Bill Leak win deals another substantial blow to Andrew Bolt and his ilk, and casts more light on the lie that white free speech is under threat, I think that’s a price we have to be willing to pay.

Graham thinks Leak’s cartoon is racist and not at all funny.

He think Leak will be seen under Section 18d of the Racial Discrimination Act to have acted in good faith, expressed honestly held beliefs, and their expression will be seen as in the public interest. Graham doesn’t hold back:

    I don’t like what Bill Leak draws. Indeed, I don’t like what I think Leak is… a privileged white buffoon who never outgrew a childhood compulsion to attract attention, any attention, good or bad.

But, he says, free speech does need to be protected, and he believes that is what will happen.

I’ll be interested as to how all this turns out. I don’t believe the HRC will rule on the law, merely try to conciliate, and I think that’s as far as it may go, unless someone subsequently take him to the Federal Court. More here.

I understand Chris Graham identifies as Aboriginal.

3. Limits to embryology research

Human embryos grown in a lab are implanted after seven days if that is the purpose. For research purposes embryos may be kept for another seven days only, according to the New Scientist:

    Guidelines set by national medical societies in the US prohibit growing embryos in the lab for more than 14 days. In the UK and 11 other countries, that limit is enshrined in legislation, and embryos must be destroyed before they develop further.

In both the US and the UK these limits are now under review.

14 days is not completely arbitrary. At that time a so-called ‘primitive streak appears’ in the embryo, the first indication of bilateral symmetry. Before that time an embryo could split into two, to form identical twins, or two could fuse into one.

The article says that from a philosophical point of view:

    the crucial matter for moral status is sentience, and the capacity to have feelings, says DeGrazia [David DeGrazia, a bioethicist at George Washington University in Washington DC]. That comes much later, perhaps early in the third trimester – far beyond the stage we can imagine embryos reaching in the lab, and what many people would be comfortable with.

At this stage the thinking is not to stretch it beyond three weeks, which “would allow the current trajectory of research to continue, without ruffling too many feathers.”

Scientists are clear that they do not want to make the decision. Extending the limit would obviously help to understand the development process of the embryo, and could also assist with genetic and degenerative diseases. Any new limit will be scientifically arbitrary.

However, there is still a lot to learn about what happens in the first 14 days.

4. Mid-year budget report to bring credit rating downgrade

Scott Morrison has told his colleagues the issue is all but decided:

    Treasurer Scott Morrison has told cabinet’s powerful budget razor gang to prepare for the worst on the AAA rating, suggesting it will be lost barring some unexpected change that sways credit agencies at the last minute.

Much as the Government will try to blame Labor, a downgrading would be a severe blow to the Coalition’s credibility after more than three years managing the budget. MYEFO, the mid-year budget review, is due on Monday, and the downgrading could come as soon as Monday afternoon, with the credit agencies vying to get in first.

Ross Gittins reckons Chris Bowen is right:

    One of the Abbott-Turnbull government’s various acts of economic vandalism is its politicisation of the once-proud federal Treasury.

First there was the sacking of Martin Parkinson as head of Treasury, and his replacement with John Fraser, a retired funds manager, hand-picked by Abbott, who learnt his economics under the notorious John Stone.

    When Fraser returned in triumph to take the top job, singing the praises of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and David Cameron’s austerity policy in Britain, it seemed clear he hadn’t spent the intervening decades keeping up with developments in thinking about fiscal (budgetary) policy.

This was followed by an intergenerational report, which

    had been turned into a partisan propaganda rag, full of dubious figuring intended to prove the Abbott government’s failure to return to budget to surplus as promised was all the fault of the previous Labor government. The media tossed the report aside.

The latest piece of propaganda is the publication of a report on The Effectiveness of Federal Fiscal Policy, commissioned from Professor Tony Makin, of Griffith University. The report starts by rubbishing that deluded fool John Maynard Keynes, who, presumably, will never attain the intellectual heights reached by Makin and his mates, – and then reprises Makin’s well-rehearsed argument that the Rudd government’s budgetary stimulus was an unnecessary disaster.

It’s a transparent propaganda piece designed to blame everything on the Rudd Government’s response to the GFC, back in 2008, absolving this government of any responsibility.

7 thoughts on “Saturday salon 17/12”

  1. The rating companies rate countries according to their idea of what good economic management looks like. Their ideas are not necessarily what is best for the countries at this point in time.
    Unfortunately Morrison will probably use the rating drop to yet again blame everything on what Rudd did in response to the GFC While Labor will point to more recent failings.
    Shame that they can’t agree that the credit raters have got it wrong and what Aus needs right now is a stimulating budget that doesn’t worry too much about budget balance.

  2. Stephen Koukoulas: Coalition’s policy ineptitude exposed as Myefo points to multiple credit downgrades

    He is not impressed. Wayne Swan’s efforts with the GFC and shoring up growth were rewarded in 2011 with the present AAA credit rating.

    Now, as 2016 draws to a close, GDP growth is stalling, the unemployment rate is stuck nearer 6% than 5%, underemployment is near record highs and wages growth has fallen to a record low.

    These are the core reasons for the likely credit rating downgrade. Had fiscal policy been used to support growth, the ratings agencies would have seen the pro-growth strategy. Had the budget been repaired, albeit it at the cost of growth, the rating agencies would have rewarded that strategy.

    Blowing out the budget with falling GDP is a mark of policy ineptitude.

    Standard and Poor’s have maintained the rating, but clearly they expect more, and it seems likely that there will be a downgrade next year. Koukoulas thinks more than one.

  3. Fairfax reports that the Senator Rhiannon faction now calls itself Green Renewal, and has a manifesto worthy of the old SPA or more recent Trotskyites.

    Truly, the Senator is the daughter of her late SPA (earlier CPA, earlier ACP) parents, the Browns.

    I suspect the NSW Greens don’t need this.
    Richard Di Natale doesn’t sound very impressed.

  4. Ambigulous, I think it’s a case of arrested development for the Greens in NSW, at least in Sydney at a federal level. As John D has pointed out they have made progress elsewhere in the state and at other levels of government.

  5. Ambigulous, thanks for the heads up about “Left Renewal”. I’ve included it in today’s SS, with Bob Brown’s reaction.

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