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View from the Street: Backbench angry about Safe Schools review, demand review

And why that no-jab-no-pay thing might not be the best idea ever. Your news of the day, reduced to a snarky rant.

Electionwatch 2016: The Soul-Sapping Crawl of Democracy!

We still might not know when the election will be, friends, or exactly how voting in the election will work out - although both questions should be sort of answered as the week crawls on.

"I deeply oppose the things that Safe Schools do in my own fevered imagination, and the similarly fevered imaginations ...
"I deeply oppose the things that Safe Schools do in my own fevered imagination, and the similarly fevered imaginations of my colleagues." 

However, at least we have a better idea of what the battlelines are going to be.

Labor laid out its plan via leader Bill Shorten's address at the National Press Club on Tuesday, in which he basically said "that stuff that Labor have traditionally been in favour of but haven't actually done much to support over the last few years? That."

The boldest move was supporting a goal of full employment - a term that fell out of vogue around the time that the government of Paul Keating floated the dollar, deregulated our markets and went "eh, tying ourselves to the terrifying vagaries of the international economy should be fine".

(And what a cool thing that was for Australians! After all, remember those dark days in the '80s when people on a working class wage could still afford a house and send their kids to university? Thank heavens we've moved on from that national nightmare!)

Anyway, Shorten has pledged that a Labor government would seek a future with "every Australian working to their full capacity", as well as committing to other key Labor areas, promising "a united Labor team of believers in jobs, education, health, a fair tax system and real action on climate change".

That "united" bit is especially telling, since Shorten was quick to remind everyone "The prime minister's betrayals on climate change, marriage equality, the republic and Safe Schools diminish him – and they diminish us all."

And that's when the government decided it was an excellent time to immediately fight over the whole Safe Schools program again.

A safe space

More specifically, the weirder bits of the backbench were angry about their own review into the Safe Schools program - an opt-in program designed to curb bullying of LGBTI kids specifically and all kids generally - by Professor Bill Louden of the University of Western Australia, which concluded that the program was useful, age-appropriate, and in keeping with the aims of the national curriculum.

Naturally, the senators and MPs who had erroneously claimed it read like a pornographic manual by sexual predators that encouraged bullying of heterosexual children by pushing a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism accepted the review as having put their concerns to rest and got on with the important business of representing their constituents in the highest public off…

Nah, just kidding! They threw more tantrums and demanded an immediate review of the program.

You know, again.

When MPs Attack!

Nationals MP George Christensen wasn't about to accept the opinion of some egghead with a fancy degree and extensive experience in the educational sector, declaring that he "will be calling for the program either to be axed outright, or the funding to be suspended pending a full blown parliamentary inquiry." He also used the cover of parliamentary privilege to accuse Professor Louden of being a "paedophilia advocate". Which is… what's the opposite of "praiseworthy and smart"?

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi was similarly unimpressed with not getting his way, reiterating his evidence-free assertion that the Safe Schools program provided links to sadomasochism sites and encouraged promiscuous behaviour in 12- and 13-year-olds: claims which are as shocking as they are completely made up.

Dumped minister Eric Abetz was also quick to accuse the program of pushing "an agenda", presumably because he feels it doesn't give enough weight to the pro-bullying side of the debate?

So, in other words, the conservative wing of the Coalition is going to keep demanding review after review until one discovers stuff that conforms to their weird fantasies about secret homosexual cabals attempting to destroy Australia, or something.

Oh, the lead up to that plebiscite is going to be a hoot!

Liberals Against Capitalism?

While this was going on Malcolm Turnbull was laying out part of his election plan with the surprise announcement that he'll adopt the "effects test" to prevent large companies from pursuing strategies with the "purpose, effect or likely effect" of reducing competition - which puts the low-regulation, free-market party in direct opposition with the operation of the unregulated free market, surely?

The intent is to help small business operate in the face of bigger competitors. However, it also puts the Coalition at odds with the big corporate players that tend to support the party - not least through donations - which seems like an interesting decision at this point.

Even the reliably pro-Liberal Business Council were cranky about it, with president Catherine Livingstone declaring "If Australia wants to have an innovation-driven economy, this is poor policy,"

And to be clear: it's not that the legislation is even a bad idea. It's just weird to see the Coalition seek to disadvantage big business.

The Needle and the Awesomeness Done

V from the S would like to preface this item with an important disclaimer: vaccination is one of the greatest, cheapest and most effective population health measures humans have ever come up with.

And it was ostensibly in this excellent spirit that the government introduced the policy of "no jab, no pay" - a system by which people lose welfare benefits if their children are not vaccinated. Except… well, there are a few problems.

One is that the vast majority of parents with unvaccinated kids are not avoiding it because of principle, but for a much more mundane reason: poverty.

Even when Medicare covers vaccinations, getting kids to a doctor is not necessarily straightforward when time, transport and access to services are factors. Indeed, the University of Adelaide concluded that only one in six unvaccinated children are jab-free because their parents believe in anti-vax conspiracy horseshit.

The other problem is that the government's own system apparently doesn't work since the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register is reportedly replete with errors.

That's because the system relies on accurate and timely information being entered into a database by individual doctors and nurses, who obviously have plenty of time on their hands to meticulously ensure full and accurate entry of data and are never going to be completely run off their feet, much less distracted by emergencies.

Also, until very recently the register didn't record anyone's immunisations after age seven, meaning that anyone that couldn't brandish paperwork demonstrating their teenage child had been immunised had the choice of missing payments or getting their kids to re-vaccinate - which isn't especially dangerous, but is definitely wasteful.

And not that one would want to speculate as to the real motivations behind this policy - perish the thought! - but given that the government has been trumpeting the $500 million it's saving on welfare payments this looks suspiciously like punitive action against welfare recipients rather than a keen interest in science-based medicine.

Of course, that's not to suggest that those in the party in power don't like science, of course. Why, it's not as though they dispute the existence of climate change, or have been slashing funding to basic research, or runnning expensive spurious enquiries into whether wind turbines create sickness-ghosts.

After all, they also take independent reviews of anti-bullying programs very serio… oh, that's right.

The cocktail hour: there's only one solution…

…kittens! That'll make everything better, right?

See you tomorrow, team, and cheers.

The top stories on smh.com.au on Wednesday:

1. Super Tuesday 2 live: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton target unassailable leads
2. $1.8 million worth of televisions added to the Dick Smith fire sale after bizarre legal case
3. Judge Judy's astonishing annual salary of $US47 million revealed in lawsuit
4. Michael Lawler's Four Corners appearance did 'devastating damage' to his professional standing: report
5. Conservative MPs angry after Safe Schools review finds program should not be scrapped

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