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Empty attack is back

It’s not surprising that the government has decided to target Bill Shorten personally and to run a scare campaign on Labor’s policies rather than pointing to the scoreboard after two terms in government.  There’s not a lot worth drawing attention to.

When asked about his government’s achievements on Monday night, Malcolm Turnbull claimed the Gonski school-funding reforms which, as Leigh Sales reminded him, are just fine-tuning of a Labor policy that the Coalition fought tooth and nail against.

He mentioned the restoration of the ABCC but the Commissioner has been receiving some flak from judges.

In April last year, a case brought by Nigel Hadgkiss against the CFMEU was labelled “an abuse of process” by the judge who ruled the director of Fair Work was being “unjustifiably vexatious” and was seeking to “relitigate” matters that had already been settled between the employer and the union.

Yet this case was one often mentioned by Michaelia Cash and Malcolm Turnbull to justify the reintroduction of the ABCC in December last year.

In March this year, Hadgkiss was in the firing line again when a federal court judge blasted the ABCC for wasting time and taxpayers’ money on taking two CFMEU officials to court for “having a cup of tea with a mate”.

In scathing and extraordinary criticism of the construction industry watchdog, Justice Tony North told parties on Friday it was “astounding” that commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss had briefed silk and conducted days of hearing with dozens of participants, including Australian Federal Police, over “such a miniscule, insignificant affair”.

“For goodness sake, I don’t know what this inspectorate is doing.”

He said when the ABCC “use[s] public resources to bring the bar down to this level, it really calls into question the exercise of the discretion to proceed”.

Malcolm claimed another achievement was “reducing company tax so that small and medium businesses can invest and get ahead.”

Yet the March quarter business investment survey showed that firms in non-resource industries had capital outlays of $75 billion in the 12 months to March, which was a minute 0.9 per cent increase over their spending a year earlier.  It is exactly the same as they spent in 2008-09, despite 40 per cent growth in the nominal economy in that period.

The Economic Outlook released by the RBA this month showed that strong profits don’t necessarily lead to more investment.

Although mining companies’ profits have been strong over the past year or so, this is not expected to lead to much additional investment spending; information from the Bank’s liaison and company announcements have indicated that firms have generally used the additional income to pay down debt, pay dividends and increase share buybacks.

Capex figures released today show some improvement but the graph tells the real story.

Malcolm also asked “What about reforming child care, so that families on lower incomes in particular get more access to child care than they could before?”

Except you can’t get child care assistance unless you are working, but you can’t work unless the kids are in care.  There is no grace period.  Families earning $65,710 or less who fail the activity test (minimum four hours a week work or study) will have their access halved to 12 hours a week.

“Maybe you lose a job, you’re between contracts, your casual shifts change or perhaps you have a child who needs to go through therapy assessments, or an elderly relative who needs settling into residential care.  For whatever reason, if one parent doesn’t meet the activity test you lose your child care subsidy completely,” said Sam.

The reforms do mean that some working parents needing childcare are better off but it comes at the price of an indexation freeze for two years in the base rate and maximum payment rates for family payments.

Malcolm then bravely claimed “We don’t talk about infrastructure: we’re getting it built. Whether it’s Snowy Hydro; whether it’s the inland rail; whether it is one big infrastructure project after another, we’re getting on with it.”

We are spending $29 million on a feasibility study for Snowy-Hydro and they haven’t even decided the route for the inland rail yet so Malcolm is engaging in premature congratulation.

Danny Price, an energy economist and former adviser to Malcolm Turnbull, said Snowy 2.0 would use 30 per cent more electricity pumping water up a hill than it generated by letting it flow down the hill and put “a massive load on the system, equivalent to a large aluminium smelter”.

“When announcing Snowy 2.0, it was said that water will be pumped up the hill using surplus renewable supply. However, it will be many, many years before that is true. In the meantime the largest beneficiary of Snowy 2.0 will be base-load, coal-fired generation. The truth of the matter is that Snowy 2.0 breathes new life into coal.”

Malcolm then went to the Coalition safe place.

“What about the way in which we’ve taken one step after another to ensure that Australians are protected against terrorism?”

One could argue that Howard’s decision to invade Iraq, along with the Liberal Party’s deliberate decision to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate, added to the threat rather than alleviating it.  They have been warned time and again to stop alienating the Muslim community who are the actual ones keeping us safe.

Malcolm confidently stated that “Every one of our policies will deliver more investment and more employment,” but they claimed the same thing with the abolition of the carbon and mining taxes and the introduction of the free trade agreements, none of which lived up to the promises.  The government’s own modelling shows that, by 2035, the three FTAs with China, Japan and Korea will have produced an estimated total of 5434 additional jobs.

If that was the best Turnbull could come up with, it’s no wonder he has decided his campaign strategy is to say “Labor is running an anti-business, anti-investment, anti-jobs, politics of envy campaign, which will only set us back.”

In the absence of any real achievement or credible policy, empty attack is back.


  1. havanaliedown

    “stop alienating the Muslim community”… or they might attack us?

  2. Kaye Lee

    What a facile response havanaliedown. I am sure you don’t need me to explain it to you. I see you too are in distraction mode. Understandable.

  3. Jai Ritter

    I wish there were actually journalists that held these bullshit artists to account and challenged their blatant lies and alternative facts. I can’t even listen to or watch interviews involving any of the LNP politicians. They aren’t even interviews anymore, they’re just a free platform to spew their rubbish.

  4. Rossleigh

    Gee, kaye lee, haven’t you learned by now? havanaliedown doesn’t understand words like “facile”! Ok, he’ll probably look it up and tell us that he does, but there’s no point in engaging him because he’ll just change the argument to whether or not he already understood the meaning of this or that when it’s clear that he understands only one or two things and he’ll comment on them endlessly until we talk about the little bit he understands. He probably won’t comment on this apart from to say, “I commented, you’re wrong, ha ha!”

  5. digochre

    Thanks for the article Kaye.

  6. Glenn Barry

    Empty attack is back, did it really ever leave?
    Good article which rightly highlights the policy abyss of the LNP

    Scomo this evening on 7:30 was back to his usual habit of talking at his interviewer in a borderline abusive fashion, all the while saying absolutely nothing


    I’d wish a journalist or anyone would ask an LNP MP (Labor to a lesser extent) where is all this white nativist anti-immigration and anti-Islam (and other) agitprop coming from, while avoiding grounded policy making for the nation?

    It’s supposedly about splitting the left (especially some of the older Labor constituency to vote against ‘immigrants’), but it seems to have split the centre and centre right, hence Liberals in chaos, parliamentary democracy gridlocked (aka UK/USA), not helped by the lack of informed and grounded policies versus top down from the IPA etc. and communicated by NewsCorp?

    No wonder they all act like ‘sock puppets’; many Moslems should be a natural core constituency for LNP due to being conservative, pious, community minded and small business people. So LNP is happy to attack and demonise one of their potentially significant future constituencies, why are they or who is encouraging them in committing hari kari?

  8. Kaye Lee


    Many things the Coalition does are counterintuitive. In this case, they are courting the listeners of Ray Hadley, Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt. They are responding to opinion polls and focus groups rather than leading. They are competing with Pauline and Cory for the bigot vote.

    In December 2010, there was a meeting where shadow ministers were asked to bring three ideas for issues on which the Coalition should concentrate its political attack during that parliamentary term. Exploiting fears about Muslims was Scott Morrison’s suggestion. At the time, “several colleagues, including the deputy leader, Julie Bishop, and the former immigration minister Philip Ruddock, strongly disagreed with the suggestion, pointing out that the Coalition had long supported a non-discriminatory immigration policy and saying it was not an issue that should be pursued.” Guess they changed their mind.

  9. Jaquix

    I watched the interview in question Kaye, and thought what a ridiculously weak list of “signature achievements”. None were any such thing and I enjoyed your unpacking them. Esp. the ABCC part. Msm just don’t give us this info. Turnbull gets away with sounding credible, with content that just isn’t true. Total failure. Your article deserves a much wider audience. Thank you!

  10. Terry2

    And yet we are screaming out for a national energy policy and a progressive clean energy target and this mob have marketing meetings with energy suppliers who, as a major concession, agree to tell us when our artificial discount period is coming to an end.

    We have a massive problem with political donations and all agree that we need to take action to make the donation system transparent with public disclosure in real-time yet they do nothing.

  11. Kaye Lee

    John Hewson’s opinion……

    One of the most farcical, and disturbing, aspects of political and public attitudes to government spending is how it is acceptable to launch attack after attack on so-called abuses in welfare spending, “dole bludgers” and the like, while wasting billions and billions on poorly specified and implemented major projects, particularly in defence procurement and infrastructure.

    Sure, welfare abuse must be addressed to ensure that adequate benefits are effectively directed to those in genuine need. But the amounts “saved” are mostly petty relative to what are often massive cost overruns, and wasteful pork barrel spending for the sake of “jobs and growth”, or “national security”, or whatever emotive justification is proffered for the said project.

    In recent years, we have seen the submarine projects farce for the sake of jobs (and votes) in South Australia and the National Broadband Network debacle, the consequences of which are starting to bite politically.

    Now, governments are threatening coal and gas-fired power plants, a massive expansion of Snowy Hydro and so on to cover up for years of neglect, short-term political point-scoring, and bad policy. Billions and billions are being committed, and this will not prove to be the full sum of it, if ever delivered.

    These projects, and many others, are simply being driven by base politics and pork barrelling, rather than good and effective government. Take for example the Brisbane-to-Melbourne inland freight rail line, favoured by Barnaby Joyce, and the second Sydney airport, favoured by Malcolm Turnbull.

    In desperation under the impact of electricity prices, and as yet another sop to the Nationals, the government is promising to fund a new ultra super-critical coal-fired power station when, clearly, the private sector wouldn’t contemplate such a project.

    Time to take the short-term politics out of such significant projects. Start by using the objectivity and independence of the Productivity Commission.

  12. Johno

    We have a Clayton’s government. The government when you don’t have a government. (in other words, effing useless)

  13. 245179

    John……….yes we do, useless. But come election time we’ll vote the majority back to canberra.

  14. helvityni

    Dr Hewson: the one and only Liberal politician I have time for…. in a box of rotten apples, he’s the only good one.

  15. Claudio Pompili

    Thank you Kaye.

    Interesting that December 2010 meeting and Morrison’s suggestion of exploiting fears about Muslims. Apart from the hypocrisy, coming from a person of faith, it makes one wonder about Morrison’s mental state; consider his hubris and sociopathic pleasure of abusing asylum-seekers during his time as Immigration Minister, so much so that his far-right colleagues saw in him a future PM. His star shone so brightly in that role but dimmed significantly as Treasurer. The limelight has remained on the Immigration Minister role and the far-right glory has shifted to the execrable Peter Dutton. Sadly, fear-mongering appears to work every time on a significant portion of the Australian public.

  16. Kaye Lee

    Scott Morrison was also the one who, when Leigh Sales asked him what happened to the “debt and deficit disaster”, admitted that was just politics.

    This time they are running with the ridiculous “politics of envy” which translates to protecting privilege.

    Liberal Party playbook

    1. Promote and exploit fear, whether it be Muslim terrorists, North Korea, China, socialism – hell, we are even supposed to be afraid of asylum seekers
    2. Use the tobacco lobby’s strategy to deny climate change
    3. Blame renewable energy for rising electricity prices, loss of jobs, wind turbine sickness, cows not producing milk….
    4. Convince everyone that unionists and environmentalists are all criminal thugs
    5. Pay consultancy fees to mates to get desired results
    6. Position yourself for a job with a party donor after politics.

    On point 5 there, there was a paper submitted to Fair Work during the penalty rates inquiry which showed (with empirical evidence) that reducing Sunday penalty rates did not lead to a rise in employment. The PGA commissioned Deloittes to refute the paper’s findings. The refuting was done by Mike Pezzullo’s wife who conveniently works for Deloittes and it was very sloppy work, unlike the paper it was reviewing, but told the government what it wanted to hear. Pezzullo is Dutton’s sidekick in the Warlord Ministry.

  17. laramelia

    I love your articles Kaye &, like many, wish MSM would lift its game to your level. I’d also “kill” for your filing system. “Premature congratulation” led to one of my best smirks for weeks. Thank you for everything.

  18. Kaye Lee


    I don’t have a filing system, just a good memory and google. 🙂

  19. seaworks

    “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”

  20. Möbius Ecko

    Other tactics in the Liberal Party playbook. The first one I mention should be number 1 in any list, and is used by just about all right wingers.

    .1. Blame and attack Labor for everything, undermining them at every turn.

    A standard operating tactic of Howard’s, done to a lesser extent by the current Liberals:

    — Create a crisis, come in and rescue the crisis you created by promising and throwing lots of public money on it, and blame everyone else for the crisis you created, but most of all blame Labor if you can.

  21. stephentardrew

    Great one once again Kaye many thanks.

  22. townsvilleblog

    Kaye, thanks again for another insightful article, and helvityni I know that sometimes in text I write confusing things but I wholeheartedly agree with your last comment, but I don’t give him too much time because when all is said and done he is still a tory whose policies are there to achieve only one aim, and that is to deprive and destroy working people.

  23. Andreas Bimba

    The negative appraisal of pumped hydro is unfair in my opinion. The lifetime of such systems should be very long and these systems will ultimately form an extremely useful part of a fully renewable electricity generation sector where regulating mismatches between electricity supply and demand is critical.

    The 30% wasted energy merely means the energy return is 70% – you get back 70% of the electricity that was used to pump the water up to the high level reservoir, whenever the electricity is needed. As the electricity used to pump the water in a fully renewable electricity generation system represents surplus capacity that would otherwise have been lost, 70% return is a lot better than 0%.

  24. Grinseed

    Only 96% think Dutton the most inhumane politician ever? What utter bastard were the other 4% thinking of?

  25. John Wilson

    The sad thing is that parliament is about playing the man and not the game. If it spent more time I constructive debate we might get good government. Also it needs to understand the separation of powers. If the high court makes a judgement that a Minister is in error this means that the minister’s decisions needs closer scrutiny. Making laws based on secret information is not good law. The accused has the right under the Constitution to be told what he/she has been accused and then defend themselves. The public also has the right to know what secret information is being used. The minister could make any reason fictitious or otherwise just to get his/her way. This is not justice

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