The week in politics, the week to come.
Were you looking for pre-Budget leaks last week? For big announcements from Labor?
There was only one story in town. The Al Jazeera sting on Pauline Hanson’s One Nation – plus Hanson and her Dumb and Dumber’s ludicrous responses – was the only story in town.
Yes, the sting operation was borderline ethical. But making a deliberate decision to go to Washington to lobby the National Rifle Association, the Koch brothers and other conservative bankrollers in return for undermining if not destroying the Howard-Fischer gun law reforms that have kept Australia free of mass shootings for over 20 years is not only unethical, but despicable.
Clearly, Hanson saw the bit of the doco where the NRA flak told James Ashby and Steve Dickson the best form of defence is offence, offence, offence. Defending those two bozos so aggressively was not just Hanson on the offensive, but was offensive in itself – to the Australian people she believed would swallow such drivel.
Ashby and Dickson two knew what they were doing and what they wanted out of it.
They reprehensibly appeared to offer to contract out drafting One Nation’s guns policy to someone they believed a pro-gun activist. They didn’t care they were trashing a national consensus on gun control bought with the blood of Martin Bryant’s victims. All they wanted to get was cash for One Nation’s push to grab the government of the day ‘by the testicles’. They ballsed it up.
As for being caught peddling Port Arthur conspiracy theories, the kindest thing that can be said of Hanson is that she was tailoring her pitch to what she thought her audience wanted to hear.
Even some who know Hanson best think she’s gone too far this time. They say she may hold her core support of those who believe she’s right even when she’s wrong, but other disaffected conservative voters will look elsewhere or even return to the Coalition. We’ll see in May.
But there are smoking gun questions no one has yet asked about NRA-gate that would leave Hanson high and dry. Did she approve Dumb and Dumber’s trip to the US to peddle their filth? Did she approve beforehand their soliciting financial and other support from the US gun lobby? Did they keep her constantly updated by phone and email about their meetings? Did she give them direction on what to say and ask for?
If she honestly answers “Yes” to any one of these questions, she’s finished – if she isn’t finished already.
PM Scott Morrison therefore rightly said attacking the National Firearms Agreement was the last straw, and he would put One Nation below Labor on May’s ballot papers. It may cost him seats in regional Queensland, but it may well save more outside the Deep North.
Yet while Morrison has agonised, Shorten knows he’ll get more than a generous share of One Nation preferences without preferencing them himself, so happily plays sanctimonious Elmer Gantry. His hypocrisy knows no bounds.
As for Shorten’s Sunday declaration his government will mandate power-sharing between blokes and sheilas, with a promise the next G-G will be a sheila, what a virtue-signalling load of bunk typical of the Buggins’ turn mentality of Labor factional politics.
If you think Shorten will power-share with Tanya Plibsersek, waiting to devour him should he falter in government, think again. Shorten is playing the gender card with everyone else’s job – not his own.
It’s Budget week. The three sitting days in Canberra when the nation’s powerful and wannabes gather to hear a couple of set-piece speeches, and parties and MPs use their presence to run their biggest and booziest fundraisers of the year.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s mission is simple. Deliver a Budget with a nominal surplus, sensible spending on useful stuff that both benefits the nation and boosts the Coalition’s election prospects, and ensure no new taxes (and ideally tax cuts) in contrast to Labor‘s grievance-exploiting new tax agenda. Prudence over profligacy.
It’s disappointing, however, the Coalition’s sending cheques to help battlers with the cost of their power bills. The government can’t lower the power price water, so it will raise the bridge instead. And it looks suspiciously like a Rudd-esque cash splash.
Frydenberg’s Today chat with Nine’s Chris Uhlmann on Sunday shows the magnitude of the government’s political task. For fifteen minutes a well-briefed Frydenberg doggedly stayed on message, ably defending the government’s sound economic record. But Uhlmann was having none of it, saying when it comes to numbers, the only one that matters is three: how it can the Coalition claim to be a good government having burned through three PMs?
Constrained by budget confidentiality (where’s Laurie Oakes to leak a Budget to when you need him?), Frydenberg’s response was ‘watch the Budget on Tuesday night rather than MAFS’.
If that becomes the benchmark of Budget success, he’s stuffed.
But Morrison and Frydenberg’s biggest Budget week threat isn’t Married at First Sight, where treachery, infidelity and deception are celebrated and rewarded (just as in politics). It’s Shorten’s reply speech on Thursday night.
If Shorten barnstorms, cannily pressing envy politics buttons with some meaty and laser-targeted spending promises and declaring that, once again, It’s Time for Labor, this benighted parliament could rise with Shorten having not only the last word, but the political ascendancy going into the campaign.
Perhaps he’ll channel Gough Whitlam. Instead of rows of enthusiastic 1972 celebs – most of whose names, if you watch the grainy video on YouTube, are lost in the mists of time – Shorten will invoke the great man’s ‘men and women of Australia’ spiel, with an off-key chorus of Jane Caro, Dee Madigan, Van Badham and Wendy Harmer and other Labor-supporting s’lebs belting out the It’s Time song from the public gallery.
Scheduling the Budget this way was a calculated risk for Morrison and Frydenberg. If they win the week, they’re in the best possible shape for the May 11 election Morrison is likely to call next weekend; if Shorten does, the only issue is the size of the Labor majority.
Strap yourselves in, politics tragics, all this and Brexit too makes for a week’s compelling viewing!
Highlight of the week
Who can go past Pauline Hanson’s train wreck of a press conference?
One last thought about it: she who constantly whinges that no one is loyal to her boasted about how she sacked her two most faithful advisers, John Pasquarelli and David Oldfield.
Politicians who believe loyalty is a one-way street usually get what’s coming to them. So may it be, finally, with Pauline Hanson.
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