There's an argument which is going to be thrown around during the probably-imminent election campaign, which is this: the recalcitrant Senate have been actively working against the Abbott/Turnbull government and failing to respect the Coalition's mandate. That's why the government have been able to pass so little of their signature legislation, and that's why there's a need to change the way that the Senate is elected.
Of course, there's another way to look at it: that the Abbott/Turnbull government can't even convince the people that agree with them to agree with them.
After all, it shouldn't be hard to persuade a crossbench made up almost entirely of social and economic conservatives to support the government's socially and economically conservative agenda. Their ongoing failure in that regard suggests that either they've been pushing terrible legislation, are unusually terrible negotiators, or both.
And negotiation and consultation is weak and stupid, right? It just wastes time and nothing ever gets done - or, in the case of the government of Julia Gillard, passes 500-plus pieces of legislation in a scant three years, the highest rate of any Australian government in history, despite Labor having control of neither house of Parliament.
And in the spirit of open and sensible negotiation ahead of the threat of Senate ballot changes and a possible double dissolution, the Prime Minister went with a strategy that was downright Abbottian: negotiation via explicit public threat.
Negotiation by tantrum!
The idea of holding things hostage in order to advance the government's agenda was a popular one during the Abbott years, from then immigration minister Scott Morrison refusing to release children in detention on Christmas Island unless he was awarded sweeping new powers (which shamefully succeeded) to then education minister Christopher Pyne pledging to cut unrelated scientific research if he didn't get to deregulate university feeds (which swiftly failed).
So it's good to see that Turnbull isn't above using the exact same strategy with regards a double dissolution election, telling the Senate "start passing our industrial relations legislation quick smart and we won't have to take away your jobs, there's a good crossbench."
"The only reason to go to … a double dissolution is to resolve a deadlock," the PM told ABC Radio on Friday morning. "[If the crossbench and non-government parties] vote for those bills then there would be no question, we wouldn't even be talking about the possibility of a double dissolution … The only reason that I would consider advising the Governor-General to effect a double dissolution would be in order to deal with bills that had been rejected."
He's also been finessing that promise he made not to go to an early election, arguing that "any election in the second half of this year could not reasonably be described as early because the last election was in the first week of September, as I recall."
And the PM clearly has an exciting definition of what "early" means, specifically that July isn't significantly earlier than the September-October election that he was originally promising. Which seems hopeful?
But this does put a different spin on the whole changing-the-senate-ballot thing, because now the Greens and Nick Xenophon can no longer pretend that the DD strategy is about further perfecting our already mighty democracy and not intended entirely as a constitutional cudgel designed to bash the crossbench.
So, will they support the changes regardless? We should find out this week!
The lunatics have taken over the asylum (seeker policy)
There were developments that were either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether you support human rights or alternatively think that forcibly returning Iranian asylum seekers back home sounds like an excellent idea.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had suggested that the upcoming visit by Iran Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Mohammad Javad Zarif would be an opportunity to nut out a deal with to send failed refugees back to Iran on the condition that their government totally pinky swear to not persecute them - you know, like not jail or execute them for being gay, for example, which Iran enthusiastically does - with her office assuring the West Australian that such negotiations were "well advanced".
However, Iranian Ambassador Abdolhossein Vahaji corrected Bishop's claims on Friday, clarifying that they're not so much "well advanced" as "a complete fantasy".
"No agreement. No improvement in that regard," Mr Vahaji bluntly stated, pointing out that Iran currently hosts around three million Afghan refugees - a number somewhat greater than the 9000 "legacy caseload" that Australia's complaining about - and shrugged that "Your country [is] in a position that you have to accept asylum seekers."
Iran is lecturing you about humanitarian policy, Jules. That's not a roaring endorsement.
Great ideas, well executed
It's another of the ongoing series of triumphs in our nation's inept handling of refugees, following the revelation that the deal to give Cambodia $55 million - a deal cut by Scott Morrison and managed by his replacement Peter Dutton - in order to successfully resettle a grand total of two people before Cambodia took the money and declined to take any more people. Money well spent - or, in Duffer's immortal words, "a pretty good outcome".
And it turns out that the two that were taken are not living with the housing, medical care or basic support they were promised - which is possibly not the biggest surprise in the world.
Indeed, as one of the two refugees - 26-year-old Mohammed Roshid - told Fairfax from floor of the barely-furnished office in which he currently lives, "I feel unwell, lonely and sad. I fear that I will die here."
Crazy as it seems when dealing with one of the most corrupt governments on the planet, it turns out that all that stuff he was promised - accommodation, help setting up a business, cash to get on his feet - haven't exactly happened, and as a Rohingya Muslim in a majority Buddhist country, he's still facing the same persecution which forced him to flee in the first place.
And given that Papua New Guinea have indicated they're not keen to continue housing refugees on Manus Island since they can't afford to resettle them, it's almost as though Australia needs to think of a new strategy to deal with asylum seekers.
If only there was some sort of regional framework in place that could be used to address displacement of people in the Asia-Pacific region, to which Australia was a signatory and in which we could take a leadership role if we weren't so obsessed with treating refugees as a national security issue rather than a humanitarian one.
The cocktail hour: yep, another one…
It's getting to the point where the appearance of a rock star from the '60s or '70s in the news immediately triggers a "oh god, who's died now?" response.
And this time it's Keith Emerson, the keyboard playing third of British prog-rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who chose to leave aged 71 after battling illnesses both physical and mental over the last decade: a tragic end to a storied life.
Remember his work through the progtacular Fanfare for the Common Man, friends, and raise a glass in tribute. See you back here tomorrow, friends.
The top stories on smh.com.au on Sunday were:
- Night of violence in Sydney CBD: mass brawl outside concert venue
- Amputations due to diabetes up 25 per cent in two years
- Barack Obama's brutal assessment of the rise of Donald Trump
- Mother turns in son after video of teens throwing seat from moving train posted on social media
- Shameful treatment of Ian Thorpe over 'pill' pic shows media is stuck in 1950s