This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
Instead of allowing Australia to enjoy a sleep-in during another long weekend, Peter Dutton spent yesterday sounding alarm bells and insisting the nation nervously look under its bed. Apart from the usual monsters lurking there like secretive Labor tax hikes and muscled-up transgender athletes plotting to dominate women's sport, the defence minister wanted to shine a light on another familiar bogeyman - that old Red Devil itself, China.
"I make this point," said Dutton yesterday in the pointed style of politicians who always make their point by pointedly pointing out they are about to do so. "China conduct their business in a very different way than we do ... we don't pay off; we don't bribe people. The Chinese certainly do and they have demonstrated that in Africa and elsewhere."
Dutton's real point was not whether the Solomon Islands had been given a paper bag stuffed with cash in order to sign its recent security pact with China. "People can draw their own conclusions," he said. His purpose, of course, was to provide another visceral reminder that the world's most populous nation remains on the march toward global domination and will let nothing stand in its way.
Labor's Penny Wong - along with the rest of the opposition front bench - have spent days labelling the Chinese deal with the Solomon Islands the "worst Australian foreign policy blunder since the end of WWII''. But the government, clearly caught short by the agreement and facing the possibility of a Chinese military base less than 2000km from our mainland, is not about to allow such an embarrassment to bog itself down in an election campaign.
This is, after all, the campaign you have when there is absolutely nothing new to talk about. After watching the obliteration of Bill Shorten in 2019 for daring to go to an election with an array of detailed if controversial policies, both parties have decided it is safer to recycle old issues and resort to some traditional scaremongering. The Reds might not be under our beds just yet, according to Dutton. But they're in the next room and they're coming for us...
Underlining this lack of imagination was yesterday's announcement by the Morrison Government of a "Lower Tax Guarantee" during the next term of Parliament as well as an "ironclad guarantee" that it would deliver its planned $100 billion in tax relief. There was absolutely nothing new in the announcement, which pledged no new taxes on superannuation, small business, housing or electricity. Not even Labor had suggested they would. But, of course, it gave the coalition a chance to raise the spectre of a future Labor government raising taxes because that, after all, is what they always do.
One of the most common phrases heard on the campaign trail last week was "asleep at the wheel". It's how Labor described the government's handling of the Solomon Islands issue, Scott Morrison's holidays during the bushfires and the delays over vaccine rollouts. It's also a phrase the Coalition adopted to describe Anthony Albanese's first nervous days on the hustings.
All that talk of people sleeping at the wheel simply reminded The Echidna of an observation made years ago by the American humorist Jack Handey. "When I die I want to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather ... not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."
It used to be a funny gag. But it no longer feels that way given we are now the passengers trapped on this endless campaign trail to nowhere...
HAVE YOUR SAY: How should Australia react to Chinese meddling in the Pacific? Is it time to overhaul Australia's taxation system? And is the debate over transgender athletes a genuine election issue? Send us your views: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Labor announced a $111 million health plan to provide more workers and services "to close the gap in indigenous health". The package will focus on chronic kidney and rheumatic heart diseases. Labor Senator Penny Wong said First Nations people were four times more likely to die from both ailments than other Australians. Labor also pledged more than $510 million to better support war veterans, including $220 million for new frontline staff to reduce waiting times and clear a large backlog of unprocessed claims.
- Apart from declaring its "Lower tax Guarantee", the Coalition announced a $14 million plan to reduce youth crime and antisocial behaviour in Alice Springs during a campaign visit to the Northern Territory.
THEY SAID IT: "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax." - Albert Einstein.
YOU SAID IT: "I shouldn't have watched the debate the other night - I lost my voice shouting at the TV. Now I remember why it's called the Idiot Box." - Daniel.
"I wouldn't waste money on a royal commission into the pandemic that won't be acted on or taken seriously. Politicians don't seem to want to know how they could improve. It's like large projects I have worked on where we document "lessons learned" and no one learns any lessons because the same mistakes are repeated." - Deb.
"I disagree with the statement Australia handled the pandemic efficiently . The instant the Ruby Princess crept into Sydney Harbour many hundreds of lives were destroyed as a result of cancelled medical appointments. The health authorities should have been less hasty." - Billie.
"While the LNP is in power, royal commissions into anything are a waste of time. They simply ignore the recommendations or cherry-pick those recommendations that are very low hanging fruit or support those that they think will give them political mileage" - Ian.
"For decades politicians shunned royal commissions, fearful of what they might reveal. But now they realise royal commissions can be used as a way of curtailing debate and kicking the can down the road until the issues are forgotten. There have been nine royal commissions in the last decade. What proportion of all those recommendations have been fully implemented? - Cliff.
"Indeed we need a royal commission into the preparedness for and handling of the pandemic. What rebuilding of public health infrastructure is needed? How can we most effectively engage the public in planning and response preparation? What can we do to manage future pandemics in the context of a warming climate?" - Peter.
"Of course no politician wants to talk about COVID-19. They have refused to listen to the expert medical opinion from day one." - Murray.
"What would be the point of spending millions of dollars on a royal commission into the pandemic when we know that 99 percent of what is recommended will never be acted on despite the political lip service." - Jeanette.
"A pandemic royal commission - what will that achieve? Alas, climate change and the environment are the fundamentals to a successful future economically and socially. They need to be addressed now." - Chris
"No. It's not time for a royal commission. When our pandemic response was one of the best in the world, why bother? Australia defended itself against an unknown viral attack whose course was completely unpredictable. Time to get over it, media." - Stuart.
"Neither major party is saying anything about climate change and emissions reduction. Each party's policy is inadequate. What's worse is that journalists don't quiz them about it. The Coalition lies about it and does nothing. Labor is not sufficiently ambitious. It's the elephant in the room. And it's a huge one." - Oliver.
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