License article

View from the Street: Which leader is contradicting themselves most?

Or, which policy blind spot is being most aggressively ignored? Your news of the weekend, reduced to a snarky rant.

Show comments

Ballot boxing

There's a thing called "confirmation bias" that is the bane of human existence.

Put simply, it's the very human tendency to remember the information that supports one's own existing beliefs, and ignore stuff that doesn't. Like, for example, a certain V from the S columnist last Wednesday, who wrote a piece about the plans to change the Senate ballot which basically went ABANDON SHIP THE END IS NIGHT ABANDON WHAT YOU CANNOT CARRY AND RUN, RUN, AND NEVER LOOK BACK.

Thankfully, V from the S readers are a shrewd lot, who pointed out the dubious assumptions of the analysis being cited in said column (as the ever-reliable Antony Green outlined at his ABC blog). And it's massively appreciated, friends: you folks ensure this system is self-correcting. Please, honestly, don't stop.

And importantly, it's a great reminder that if something seems too good - or in this case, bad - to be true, it needs to be looked at with a dispassionate eye. There's enough strident hyperbole in Australian politics without V from the S adding to the hysteria like a jerk. 


Which people matter

There were rallies around the nation over the weekend demanding that the government not privatise elements of Medicare, which it claims will streamline payments in a tech-savvy disruptive new 21st century cyber-something-something innovation and detractors fears marks the first step toward adopting a US style user-pay model in place of the rather brilliant public safety net that we currently enjoy.

And so it's no surprise that federal Labor leader Bill Shorten would choose to address the Sydney rally on Saturday. After all, Medicare is a Labor invention - created by the Gough Whitlam government, and then torn down by the Liberal government of Malcolm Fraser, before being rebuilt by Labor's Bob Hawke and then largely protected since.

The government has already announced plans to cut rebates for a range of screening services - you know, that stuff that catches diseases earlier when they're therefore easier and cheaper to address? - and Shorten had a lot to say about how this would leave the vulnerable at risk. Which is true. 

Except, somewhat predictably, people started calling out for the closure of offshore detention camps filled with vulnerable people at risk, which developed into a chant of "let them stay" in support of the 267 people slated to be returned to Nauru.

Shorten ignored the calls on the day, much as he's doing with the rest of his policy. But those cries are only getting louder - which is why baby "Asha" will reportedly not be sent to Nauru.

So that's one exception down - only 266 to go!

Offshore detention: still a terrible idea!

That moment of compassion and sanity seems like the exception rather than the rule, mind, since the government is frantically attempting to cut deals with Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to resettle people currently on Manus Island and Nauru. 

That's because those deemed to be genuine refugees can't be sent back where they came from, but we're still clinging to the increasingly mad-looking policy of never letting them settle in Australia in case… um, something. 

It also comes after the government turned down an offer from New Zealand to let the Nauru-bound refugees settle there. See, NZ is too nice and too safe and children clearly don't deserve that. Why, it'd just be an incentive for other people to flee war and oppression!

And the resettlement plan should work a treat, obviously. After all, Indonesia has historically loved the way that we keep violating their borders to chase refugee boats back, and there was the shining triumph that was the Cambodia deal then-Immigration minister Scott Morrison was so gosh-darn proud of cutting.

That shining success managed to briefly resettle five people for a mere $55 million before Morrison's replacement Peter Dutton admitted Cambodia had decided to exclusively resettle the money but take no more people, thanks. Mission accomplished, chaps! 

Speaking of Nauru, the government there have now cancelled all visitor visas for Australian and New Zealand tourists after alleging on Twitter than an ABC journalist snuck in under the cunning disguise of not-being-a-journalist (since all journalist visas attract a non-refundable $8000 application fee, and are also almost always refused).

The ABC have denied this claim, and the government's tweet was deleted, but the policy stands. And if there's one thing that history has shown us, it's that angrily secretive governments that actively prevent scrutiny always do nothing but good.

After all, as the old saying goes: where there's smoke, there's definitely no fire - that's for darn sure! 

Boats, unstopped

Also, y'know, the boats haven't stopped coming.

The government doesn't report on that, of course, since they're classified "on-water" matters, but we have other ways of finding out. Such as the fact that 220 naval recruits are currently engaged in a class action claiming that they never received the training or qualifications they were promised when they signed up.

Their case includes a telling comment from their lawyer, Stewart Levitt, regarding those recruits that complained about being punished with undesirable  assignments: "a number of trainees who were dispatched to chase boat people back to Indonesia, for example." Gosh, it's almost as though there are boats coming, and that getting naval vessels to chase them on the open ocean might indicate that "saving lives at sea" isn't really the absolute tippity-toppity number one priority of everyone involved after all!

Fortunately in all the bad news is the happy announcement that offshore detention service provider Broadspectrum - aka The Artists Formerly Known As Transfield - has posted profits of $17.7 million in the past six months - which is definitely great news, since it means either our government are paying them too much, they're cutting corners, or both. Neat!

Small victories

Labor did have a win, though, in that their detailed plan to roll back negative gearing on investment property - restricting it to new developments from July 2017 - has been given the thumbs-up by independent modelling from the Australian National University's Centre for Social Research and Methods.

Short version of long story is that this would reduce the upwards pressure on housing prices, not so much making housing more affordable as less-not-affordable.

Turnbull has predictably blasted Labor's plan, insisting that "The consequence of it will be a decline in property prices, every home owner in Australia has a lot to fear from Bill Shorten."

The problem Malc has is that this can only be true if negative gearing does in fact artificially inflate property prices - which the government keep angrily insisting isn't the case. 

The government is also maintaining the somewhat fiddly line that middle and low income earners are the big beneficiaries of negative gearing, which is bollocks for a bunch of reasons (not least because the mere act of negative gearing reduces someone's taxable income - that, after all, is the entire freakin' point). Indeed, The Conversation have a good breakdown on how the stats can be misleadingly used to support pretty much any position here.

Of course, neither the current situation nor the proposed amendments does much for people who rent, or indeed for anyone who's unlikely to ever get onto the property ladder. Then again, the government's not super-fussed about those folks - heck, they should just get a good job that pays good money, right

The cocktail hour: when in doubt…

Between now and the inevitable class war, let us - as we so often must - sate our displeasure with kittens. 

Pour a strong one, team, and see you back here tomorrow.

Andrew P Street's book The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott is out now, and available through Booktopia.

The top stories at on Sunday were:

  1. Man sues government after Border Force officer secretly texted on his phone
  2. Heartbreaking news dominating Nine presenter Yvonne Sampson's life off the screen
  3. What is life now without you': Sudanese community in despair after three women killed in car crash following police chase
  4. New lead in hunt for Prabha Kumar's killer 
  5. Storm in a double 'D' cup: Sydney massage centre challenges illegal brothel claim