The last weekend in October would have been a pretty horrible time for Victorians. First on Saturday they found out that Mike Brady can sing ‘Up there Cazaly’ without 100,000 of his closest friends around him at the MCG. To add insult to injury, the ‘backing band’ was the Queensland Symphony Orchestra who made their contribution from Brisbane. On Sunday, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews delayed for a few days the ‘major’ lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in metro Melbourne as flagged for Sunday during the week leading up to October 25. Andrews must have known that he was going to come in for a grilling by all and sundry. It didn’t stop him standing there at his now traditional press conference (it was well over 100 daily ‘appearances’ by then) and answered all the genuine questions to the best of his ability while he discussed the reasons for the decision.
In comparison, recently the Coalition Government announced that the NBN Network around Australia would be subject to additional work so that the speed and reliability would be increased. For those that came in late, the NBN was a Rudd Government initiative to have fibre optic communications cable linking the vast majority of properties in Australia. When Tony Abbott became Prime Minister, the NBN plan was changed with the claim that the fibre to the premises model was too expensive for Australia and there was no real need for better than ADSL levels of speed on the internet. With Abbott making statements like this
“Do we really want to invest $50 billion of hard earned taxpayers money in what is essentially a video entertainment system?”
— Press conference, 20 December, 2010
“[We] are absolutely confident that 25 megs is going to be enough, more than enough, for the average household.”
— Joint press conference, 9 April, 2013.
What else did we expect? The emasculation of the NBN network under Abbott was a cabinet decision and a number of the current Coalition Ministers were in the Abbott Ministry.
While anyone is entitled to change their mind based on new evidence, when the Morrison Government announced that they were prepared to reconfigure parts of the NBN to closely resemble the original Rudd Government vision, did Morrison (who was in the Abbott Cabinet) front up, admit the mistake and discuss with members of the media why the apparent backflip was going to occur? Of course not. The Communications Minister went along to the National Press Club on his behalf.
While the Communication Minister mumbled something about return on investment and cash flows — it’s pretty obvious that the ALP’s plan to ‘do it right, do it once and do it with fibre’ would have been cheaper in the long term. We don’t know the real reason why Morrison and his Ministry changed their minds — they might have observed the issues around usage of the NBN in the pandemic or they might have been ashamed by Australia continually dropping down the quality and speed of broadband service rankings. For all we know the real reason Morrison hasn’t been up front with Australia is that he may want to bring his ideological Pentecostal mate Stuart Robert back into cabinet and ensure that Robert can get good broadband services in the Gold Coast Hinterland (and not be caught out spending $2,000 a month on a wireless connection this time around). Regardless, the initial $50 billion for the Rudd version of the NBN looks cheap now in the middle of a recession.
Mathias Cormann has recently resigned as a Senator. He was appointed to the role of Finance Minister in all three versions of the current Coalition Government and held the position until his retirement. The Abbott Government reversed the former Gillard ALP Government’s carbon emissions reduction program, which has effectively meant that Australia has gone from one of the front runners in management of carbon emissions, which are having a serious detrimental impact on the world’s environment, to one of the laggards. As Katherine Murphy discussed recently in The Guardian
The record shows the finance minister was opposed to the Liberal party supporting emissions trading in the absence of a global agreement when Malcolm Turnbull was shown the door by colleagues the first time in 2009.
Cormann prosecuted the Coalition’s opposition to the “carbon tax” in media interviews and on social media. Cormann then moved against Turnbull in 2018 when the Liberal party was again convulsed by a policy that would have mandated a not very ambitious level of emissions reduction in the energy sector — although more recent events are multifactorial.
Murphy’s article discusses with some disbelief
Startlingly, at the start of the week, Cormann told a conference organised by the German government he was on board with a green recovery
If you were inclined to being droll, you might say Cormann broke out his inner green girlie man. The pandemic, he said, created “opportunities like the pursuit of an inclusive and future-focused recovery, including a green recovery with an increased reliance on renewables, improved energy efficiency, addressing climate change and accelerating the transition to a lower-emissions future.”
While Cormann’s position might have changed (which won’t hurt his job prospects with the OECD either), surely he has an obligation to tell Australians why there is a complete about face once he has left the Coalition Government.
Politics in Australia is claimed to be managed according to the Westminster system based on practices in the UK. The Ministry for any particular government relies on the concept of solidarity and collective decision making. The tradition in Westminster Parliaments such as Australia’s is if you are a member of the Ministry and can’t abide by a decision, you resign your Ministry. It should be noted that no Minister publicly did so throughout the Abbott Prime Ministership.
So who has the honesty here? Morrison or Cormann don’t have the intestinal fortitude to front up, admit they or others in their circle of influence have either been influenced by new evidence or have played politics with our collective futures. While Andrews may have made some mistakes, he fronts up, admits the problem and discusses how they will fix it, despite the obvious shellacking he will receive as a result.
And the Coalition wonder why Andrews is still popular.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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