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The Coalition will have to do better than rely on bogus announceables, attacking Labor and lurid scare campaigns

“Scott Morrison had a choice between standing up for ripped off workers or sucking up to a tosser who ripped them off and he chose the tosser. He chose Clive Palmer,” Labor’s Anthony Albanese, MP Federal Member for Grayndler Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Shadow Minister for Tourism

A land down-under stands tall this week as our nation is regaled with tales of former glory from our annual Anzackery bash, vows of congestion-busting and refugee-capping via Coalition focus-groups and a Labor policy with teeth, its $2.4 billion pensioner dental plan – along with a $4 billion boost to childcare subsidies announced Sunday.

William Richard Shorten is also impressing those contacted by News Poll which reports late Sunday his highest approval rating since March 2015, with 39 percent of voters satisfied with his performance. He’s also narrowed the gap between himself and Morrison in preferred Prime Minister to 37 percent compared with ScoMo’s 45 percent.

The poll puts the Coalition 49 to 51, two-party preferred which is an improvement of one point on its last survey, yet YouGov Galaxy conducted by Sunday News Corp tabloids, published Saturday, has the margin 48-52.

Capturing the nation’s imagination, a last-minute Coalition preference deal with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party may give Palmer the edge over Hanson’s One Nation and put Malcolm Roberts out of the race. Digger ScoMo, on the other hand, may imagine himself heroically plucking victory from the jaws of disaster; going over the top at The Nek in a Gallipoli all in his own mind, to win a few preferences in some marginal lower house Queensland seats.

History is against Morrison. “In the last three decades, Labor has won 86 seats on preferences after trailing on first preferences. The Coalition has won two,” election analyst, Anthony Green, cheerfully tells ABC TV. Clive was present for 25 of 400 votes last time he was an MP, Labor reminds Insiders. “It’s a marriage between a con-man and an ad-man” ventures Penny Wong leading wags on social media to suggest that ScoMo’s tag should be “failed ad-man”.

It’s a week of mythic stories of larrikin heroes, noble sacrifice, true grit and other inspiring fictions of national identity, our unique courage, enterprise and ingenuity – our can-do attitude – from ANZAC Cove to Uruzgan, while our amazing run of luck with getting multinational mining companies to dig up our buried treasure, take our water and taxpayer subsidies, wreck our environment, extinguish our unique wildlife and evade paying tax continues.

Exxon Mobile’s $33.1 billion over four years with zero tax paid will be hard to beat – but Adani’s got form.

Adani has breached its licence twice in two years and was prosecuted for releasing coal-contaminated water near the Great Barrier Reef, but its scaled-down, 15 million tonnes a year, mini-monster, a mine opposed by two-thirds of Australians, gets a federal government rubber-stamp on its flawed groundwater management plan.

CSIRO tells the minister the plan is useless given its poor modelling and is riddled with errors and false assumptions.

“The modelling used is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act are met,” the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia state in a joint report.

Adani underestimates how the mine will guzzle bore water local farmers rely on. The water will be drained more severely; more quickly than predicted, the scientists warn. Above all, the mine could drain Doongmabulla an ecologically sensitive ancient natural springs complex, exceeding strict limits on draw-down of the springs’ waters.

But there’s more. Adani also gets a secret sweetheart royalty holiday possibly worth hundreds of millions, unlimited free water, a $100 million access road and an airport funded by Rockhampton and Townsville local councils in a not so open tender deal which has attracted the attention of the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission.

Giant Canadian uranium miner, Cameco, with its massive Yeelirrie mine, 500km north of Kalgoorlie in Environment Minister “M.I.A.” Melissa Price’s Durack, WA, electorate also gets approval. Is Price bullied into any decision? Nope, just “intense pressure” over Adani by her QLD colleagues, James McGrath, Matt Canavan and Peter Dutton.

We know from previous incidents, revealed by Julia Banks and others that there’s no bullying in the Coalition. Nor any hard feelings. Julia will now exchange her preferences with Labor in the seat of Flinders, she announces Sunday.

Mad-dog James McGrath merely threatened to call publicly for Ms Price to be sacked if she didn’t sign off on the project. Jacqueline Maley hates that the Coalition campaign is a bit of men’s shed, blokes-only show but that’s what you get with ScoMo who promised to look into the whole bullying thing, last September after Ann Sudmalis quit.

Maley is disgusted by ScoMo’s duck-shoving, not to mention his high-handed if not autocratic, abortion gag.

“There has been no investigation into the claims of misogynistic bullying made following the coup against Malcolm Turnbull, and just before the campaign began, Morrison decreed that the issue of abortion was a “debate” that doesn’t “unite” Australians, and was therefore not “good for the country”.

Mining is clearly good for the country, the Coalition contends, but it has botched both uranium and coal decisions in its rush to win votes and reward a mining lobby which donated $45,000 to the LNP last year. Good for the country? There is every reason, economic, environmental or health, to leave our coal and uranium underground.

“55,000 jobs depend on our coal mining industry. That’s what it does. And I think that’s great for Australia,” crows “Stunts” ScoMo who gained notoriety for waving a lump of coal at the despatch box. But 55,000 jobs is less than half of one per cent of Australia’s workforce. And far from being great for us, it’s toxic and costly. Taxpayers fork out $12 billion, a year in fossil-fuel subsidies alone. Other costs are borne by government. Then there are health costs.

Coal mining is the second greatest source of coarse particle pollution (22%) after metal ore mining (28%). Australia’s 92 coal mines emitted 320 million kg of PM10 (coarse particles) in 2017-18. There is no safe threshold for coal dust. Coal particulates contain heavy metals; toxic at low concentrations.

Coal dust blows out over MacKay from open stockpiles and uncovered rail wagons when the wind is right and port workers along with mine workers contract black lung, a disease thought to have been eradicated in 2015.

What’s great about inhaling lead, mercury, nickel, tin, cadmium, mercury, antimony, and arsenic, as well as radio isotopes of thorium and strontium? Fine coal dust causes a range of diseases and health problems including an increased incidence of heart and respiratory diseases like asthma and lung cancer.

Coal is toxic; lethal. Along with the enormous, social and environmental costs of coal mining and coal burning are how it helps to shorten our lives. If you live within 50km of a coal-fired power station, you are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than your peers who live further away. Not that our states appear alarmed.

The government’s National Pollutant Inventory NPI’s April 2019 report shows our State governments allow coal-fired power stations to pump out as much as 20 times more toxic air pollution than other countries allow. Coal-fired power stations are the main source of Australia’s fine particle pollution (26% of the national ‘all sources’ total), oxides of nitrogen (26%), and sulphur dioxide (49%). They are responsible for a health bill of $2.6 billion, P.A.

Australia produces 5.5% of the world’s coal. We export more coal than any other nation; 38% of the world’s total coal exports. But there is little to be proud of. Assuming that only two million of the seven million deaths attributed to air pollution are due to coal burning, Australian coal causes 110 000 deaths each year.

All uranium ends up as either nuclear weapons or highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. Yet Yeelirrie’s approval is only after the federal government is persuaded to drop a requirement that would render it less hazardous – a requirement that the company demonstrate that no species would be made extinct. This requirement had previously caused the WA EPA in 2016 to issue advice that the mine not be implemented.

Matthias Cormann tells Sky News the approval was made 5 March but it is not until 10 April, the day before the election date is proclaimed, that the news is quietly posted on the department’s website. Australian Conservation Foundation’s national nuclear campaigner, Dave Sweeney, deplores a political decision based on a flawed process.

An environmental catastrophe, Yeelirrie may yield over 35 million tonnes of radioactive waste, consume 10 billion litres of groundwater while 2500 hectares of vegetation will be razed for its nine-kilometre long open pit.

Groundwater levels may drop by 50cm and not recover for 200 years, according to Cameco’s own reports.

“Australia could be a leader and driver of renewable energy tech. Instead, the government is rushing through approvals of the Yeelirrie uranium mine and Adani coal mine in what could be the government’s dying days,” Sweeney says.

Yeelirrie means “place of death” in the language of the local Tjiwarl people who were not notified of the decision.

Place of death? Mining uranium could drive to extinction rare subterranean fauna species and harm other wildlife species like the rare and likely to become extinct Malleefowl, the vulnerable Princess parrot and Greater bilby.

The elusive Price drops off the radar. Labor says she’s in witness protection after another shonky Morrison deal.

Shonky? True, the minister did vow last October to wait until the WA Supreme Court ruled on the legitimacy of state government approvals. Granted also, mining won’t proceed until uranium prices rise, if they ever do, but, in the meantime, what a coup for the rule of brute force, duplicity and stupidity. Bugger science or due process.

Our lucky country’s spoilt for choice, national chaplain, Father Morrison, tells us in what Paul Bongiorno calls the PM’s “warm and cuddly appearances” for nightly television bulletins: remember the fallen, mind our own small business, (the nation’s backbone), have a go to get a fair go and don’t ask questions. Especially on the Reserve Bank’s tipped to cut interest rates or water rorts. Or anything else. ScoMo is into government by announceables.

ScoMo, like Abbott and like Rupert Murdoch and before him the great showman Phineas T Barnum, follow Hollywood’s golden rule, as Jerry Roberts notes in The Dumbing down of politics, religion and trade unions.

“People are stupid. Therefore, they should be fed garbage. An alternative rule goes back to the Scottish enlightenment and Presbyterian social conscience and says people are stupid because they are fed garbage.”

Morrison talks down to us at his peril. His folksy homilies, collection of caps and his tedious family anecdotes are barely coherent but the intent is clear; he seeks to patronise. Thus he alienates where he seeks to ingratiate. Nowhere is this clearer than in his pathological evasion of questions. His bullying, autocratic ego will be his undoing.

“Canberra bubble stuff” is ScoMo’s pet brush-off. Sometimes he borrows Angus Taylor’s favourite evasion “I’ve already answered that question.” Michelle Grattan notes a third evasive tactic he favours, also given detailed analysis by The Monthly’s Sean Kelly in The Rise, Duck and Weave of Australia’s no-fault Prime Minister.

Q: Should Clive Palmer, given he’s spending $50 million in advertising, pay the $70 million back to the Commonwealth plus the $7 million he owes to workers?

PM: Clive Palmer is making his own statements on those matters.

Plucky Gus, pencil-sharpie of post-modern Aussie mateship and rule by oligarchical collectivism may be our latest national hero, as he almost single-handedly bails out Team Barnaby; plugging leaks in the dyke of Watergate, a boondoggle where government pays $79 million for rain collected by agri-business rich and shrewd enough to build huge levees to divert overland flows into their own dams leaving high and dry the river system nature favours.

And sell it back to us. 28,000 megalitres. At huge profit. Exactly who profits is invisible thanks to cutting-edge Gus’s Cayman Island company, Eastern Australia Irrigation (EAI), parent of Eastern Australia Agriculture, (EAA), a mob the former director has nothing to do with now; knows nothing about. No further questions? But where’s the water?

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder confirms to Karen Middleton of The Saturday Paper that the two contentious water licences for which the federal government paid $79 million have returned next to no water to the environment since they were purchased two years ago. Is this why ScoMo and co insist there’s nothing to see here?

Our ABC has a go. ABC RN’s Patricia Karvelas asks Barnaby Joyce some fair and reasonable questions, Monday. Why buy water that cannot be returned to the environment? Why pay so much for rights to water so unreliable? Why no open tender? Who were the beneficiaries? It’s a train-wreck of an interview from an MP who could well be our next deputy PM should the Coalition be returned to office. But only if you’re looking for accountability, lucidity or logic.

Labor. Labor. Labor. Labor. Barnaby seeks to shift the blame. Evade all responsibility. It’s a surreal performance – a Dadaist interpretation of ministerial irresponsibility. “How would I know?” is his most lucid response.

“And Labor did it, too.” The lie is repeated by ScoMo’s daggy dad, avatar, our nation’s post-truth pastor. That Labor ran open tenders, is way too much information for most voters, ScoMo calculates. Meanwhile, his turd-polishing unit will come up with other trusty falsehoods: Taylor’s water problem is all due to politics anyway. One side is just as bad as the other. The line is now received wisdom on energy, despite its palpable absurdity.

Perhaps, after all, it’s the river’s fault? In a novel twist, former NSW MP Pru Goward blames the victim,

“Governments have struggled with how do we solve sharing a very poor river. Let’s face it, it’s a terrible river, between three states with all these competing interests.”

ANZAC Day brings a brief lull in the slanging-match between our business, banking and mining proxies, the volatile, Liberal, National Coalition, telling lies about Labor death taxes while trying to bribe voters with tax cuts and the representatives of their wage-slaves, Labor, once a workers’ party but, now, badly ravaged by the neoliberal pox.

Coalition campaigning gets a boost from a fake news item in local Chinese language social media about how Labor plans school programmes to instruct youngsters in gay sex. It’s an extension of the disinformation circulated about the Safe Schools anti-bullying programme. A photograph of William Richard Shorten accompanies the article which warns readers of Mandarin using recycled scare tactics from some quarters of the marriage equality debate.

“That men can use women’s toilets. For men to wear women’s clothing. That the following vocabulary cannot be used: dad, mum, older brother, younger brother, older sister, younger sister, uncle, aunt, boy, girl, pregnant, and other gendered words.”

From Queensland, appears a fresh source of hope to the far right or just far out. The civil war the Coalition loves to call its” broad church” whose views on climate change, are enriched by such luminaries as Craig Kelly and Tony Abbott will embrace its recent recruit, Queensland LNP climate nut and (winnable) number three spot senate candidate, Gerard Rennick, whose $30,000 party donation last year is totally unrelated to his pre-selection.

An advocate of a nuclear-armed Australia and a self-professed Russophile, Gerry has a compelling case. He “hates it when we vilify the Russians”, “They don’t want to be hated. I mean, they’re part of the West: they drink, they’re Christians, they play soccer, they’re Caucasians, they have very similar customs and values to us.”

Rennick will not only be a big help to Penny Wong on foreign policy but a boon to the Senate’s deliberations on climate and energy with his belief that the Bureau of meteorology fakes data to pump up global warming hysteria. To be fair to Gerard, this mad claim is one of many circulated to all conservative candidates by our friendly IPA.

Of course, there’s no real cessation of hostilities. ‘Our heroes don’t just belong to the past, they live with us today,’ claims ScoMo in Townsville, where he embraces coal-mining, the Coalition’s back to the future portal with its iconic anti-Greenie, Australia based around real heroes, big blokes digging up stuff in our glorious war on nature and science.

All is well, however, in Rupert Murdoch’s media monopoly where scribes quietly declare their man Morrison to be well in front of shifty Bill Shorten. Others give the Murdoch empire a pat on the back. Election campaign and Canberra bubble veteran, Michelle Grattan, opines,

“Morrison so far has more than held his own on the campaign trail; Bill Shorten has under-performed. Second, the Liberals’ relentlessly negative campaign looks dangerous for Labor. This is especially so as Shorten is facing the full weight of News Corp’s hostility.”

Grattan is articulating a key component of the upcoming federal election, the mainstream media narrative. The scorer, whom she awaits eagerly is of course News Poll. Expect a frenzy of adulation as “Morrison closes gap”. In truth, the News Poll may well be an outlier while Labor needs a uniform swing of just one per cent to win government. Pre-polling will open Monday and it’s clear that many voters have already made up their minds.

The Coalition’s hasty, flawed, last minute mining approvals are unlikely to provide the boost in popularity it seeks. If public opinion polls are any guide, neither new mine is likely to win hearts and minds. Nor is it certain either will proceed if only on economic grounds and each could face a series of legal challenges over the approval process.

What is clear is that any political party that underestimates voters’ intelligence and common sense is in for a rude awakening. With three weeks until election day and still no sign of policies on energy, environment, education, the Coalition will have to do better than rely on bogus announceables, attacking Labor and lurid scare campaigns.

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  1. Patagonian

    All this environmental vandalism for a donation of $45K from the mining lobby? That’s a pretty crap deal for ‘the best economic managers’ to strike.

  2. paul walter

    I wonder if Angus Taylor’s Watergate didn’t throw them out of sync last week. Anyone who has been following must find that it stinks.

  3. RomeoCharlie29

    49/51 if that’s good news, then that’s pretty heavy spin and anyway, apart from The Murdochracy (and maybe Fran Kelly) who believes Newspoll any more?

    If I wereBill Shorten I would be taking the leadership of the CFMMEU into a small room and beating the shit out of them for their betrayal of their members interests with their support of Adani. They are obviously too stupid to see that the best deal for long term jobs is a transition away from coal to something sustainable, and beginning soon.

    Regarding the campaign, Morrison is a bit like that toy drummer, bashing away, making noise but not going anywhere. And looking pretty lonely. He does a good line in bullshit but I suspect that I am like a lot of people, I hit the mute button when he speaks.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Peter Dutton’s Iron Force strikes again.

    An IT problem is causing chaos at Australia’s international airports, with significant delays in processing inbound and outbound passengers sparking long queues….every international airport in the country has been affected.

    In a statement, the Australian Border Force (ABF) said it was working with the Department of Home Affairs to resolve an “IT systems outage”.

  5. David Tyler

    Dutton’s serial incompetence continues – remember he was the AMA’s worst Health Minister? Plenty of evidence of chaos in ABF. Then they stopped patrols to save money. Marvellous solution. Perhaps they’ve done something similar with IT.

    The merger of customs and immigration prior to Home Affairs had none of the benefits Abbott promised for it.

    The IT systems are not part of the problems reported in the last audit office report – an indictment of Home Affairs’ processing of citizenship but they wouldn’t help the general situation. Home Affairs was created against expert advice. It ought be disbanded. It doesn’t work and it puts too much power in the hands of the minister nominally in charge.

  6. Kronomex

    “Peter Dutton’s Iron Force strikes again.”

    Let me guess: the fifteen monkeys that they use for typing have gone on strike for more bananas and peanuts and are throwing poo at anyone that comes near them?
    How about the three hundred slugs they use keep falling off the keyboards?

  7. Bronte ALLAN

    The one thing that scares me is, despite ALL the lies, untruths etc that this fcking inept bloody COALition keeps on sprouting on a daily (hourly?) basis, it seems far to many of the voting public still think that everything they say, everything they do (?), are still going to vote for this rabble of flat earth, climate change denying, happy clapper, right wing, obscenely over-paid mob of wankers! And, according to Slo Mo, EVERYTHING that is supposedly “wrong” here in Australia MUST be the fault of all those bloody “socialist” Labor lot. Of course all this is so true, NOT!!! I really fear for Australia, if this bloody lot of incompetents gets in for another 3 years! God help us all, & I am not religious! Great article, David!

  8. David Tyler

    UAP preference guesses by the News Poll team account for the apparent narrowing of the gap. On the raw figures, as Laura Tingle and others comment, the TPP vote would be still on 48:52. Note that it’s all over the media that the gap is closing and by implication Bill had better lift his game. This is the dominant media narrative, given a spin by Michelle Grattan and others as noted.

    William Bowe points out “the two-party preferred … raised eyebrows as the primary votes are of a kind that would normally be associated with 52-48. The answer, it turns out, is that a preference split of 60-40 in favour of the Coalition is being applied to the UAP vote.” Sorry, RomeoCharlie29 no spin.

    Important to remember that it’s just one hypothesis about how Palmer’s mob will, in, fact direct their preferences. For more information including the ways News Poll explain their decision there’s William Bowe’s excellent website:

  9. New England Cocky

    Aw c’mon David Tyler ….. the 48/52 vote has an alleged margin of error of 2%, so there has been no real change in the fiddling of the longitudinal study of voter intentions. Statistics 100, mate! Only most journalists did not do Science or Mathematics and so do not understand what they are writing about.

  10. David Tyler

    Margin of error (MOE) or margin of sampling error as it was once more correctly called – the random variation from sample to sample, is one of the most misunderstood concepts in popular political commentary, New England Cocky.

    I did study statistical maths, as it turns out and I also have a fair grasp of the larger issue, the main reasons why opinion polls are fallible instruments in attempting to measure voters’ intentions.

    My point in the post is not about MOE. It’s about the pollsters’ assumptions regarding UAP preferences. By guessing Clive Palmer’s preferences will flow mostly to the Coalition, Galaxy Research, the firm which now runs Newspoll, may have made the gap between the two parties appear narrower than it really is.

    As it happens, this is precisely what commentators have pounced on. The news is full of shaky assumptions about Bill “stumbling”, Morrison “closing the gap” and similar inanities.

    Percentage of support for a party affects margin of error, making Palmer’s data problematic. So, too, of course does sample size affect MOE.

    I have been unable to discover the size of the sample surveyed by News Poll in the results published Sunday, but a 2% error rate means that if you interrogate the total population, you can be sure that between 38% and 42% would pick the same answer. The smaller the allowed margin of error, the larger the sample has to be. Typically, Newspoll samples 1600-1800.

    As Kevin Bonham points out, most of what is said about margin of error in opinion polls is wrong. In his words, MOE is just one way of describing the uncertainty involved in random polling – it’s not a licence to claim, for example, that 51% is the same as 52% because there’s a stated 2% error margin.

    It’s a fascinating subject and worth an article or two in itself. I thank you for raising the issue.

    As for MOE, Kevin Bonham explains eight common errors here:

    Peter Brent also has a clear discussion of the MOE problem here

  11. Kaye Lee

    7 studio audience has given the first #AUSVote19 debate to Bill Shorten

    Of the 48 people in the audience 25 thought Mr Shorten did the better job

    12 thought Scott Morrison won

    11 were undecided

  12. Alcibiades

    The sample size was 2136 voters surveyed between April 26 and April 28(only three days. Fri & Sat/Sun over a long weekend). Some rather remarkably brave & convenient preference flow assumptions & choices were made, which consequently therefore coincidentally allowed for rounding down.

    Remove the rounding, and we end up with:

    LNP 48.6 v ALP 51.4

    Remove rounding and use the historical preference flows for UAP when PUP last ran in 2013:

    47.9 v 52.1

    Remove rounding & use the most recent/accurate preference flows from 2016 for ‘Others’, rather than raising UAP to significant party status contrary to past 2PP poll methodology:

    47.7 v 52.3

    Even if ‘this’ Newspoll was accepted as valid, the Coalition cannot win without a Primary vote of ~42%, this poll was 38% (‘trend’ 35.2% in QLD State). Second preference flows from Minor & micro parties do not compensate for a sustained collapse in Coalition primary vote for now 54 lost Newspolls.

    Reality is, No Change. A blip. There has been no discernible ‘tightening’, nor improvement to the Coalition primary vote. No Change to the sustained aggregate ‘trend’. Manipulated, anomalous change in methodology, accompanied by matched partisan rhetoric from the MSM. Essentially trumpeted uncritically without looking under the bonnet.

    ‘Conservatively’, the ‘trend’ is ALP 87 v LNP 58 HoR seats …

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