Sometimes a series of events don't really require any commentary... all you need to do is to draw the key events together so that their meaning becomes clearer than if the events are looked at in isolation.
The Safe Schools debate (if you can call it that) has been very emotive so perhaps the best place to start is with some very funny commentary on the changes to the program as agreed to by Simon Birmingham and Malcolm Turnbull .
It is worth examining the events that shaped the Coalition's attitude to the Safe Schools program and the irresistible drive for seemingly urgent and significant change.Those events are outlined below in what approximates the order in which they occurred.
In November last year the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) slammed the Safe Schools Program.
In early February Cory Bernardi labels the program a 'gay manual' and calls its supporters 'hetero-phobic'
On the 10th of February the ACL continues its attacks on the program.
In mid February, Family First Senator Bob Day echoes Bernardi's calls for defunding of the program, calling it 'Gay Lifestyle promotion' rather than an anti-bullying program.
In late February George Christiansen likens the program to Paedophilic grooming.
Turnbull orders a review of the program after concerted right wing pressure.
On February 29th Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, appears on ABC's Q&A further pressing the case to shut down the Safe Schools Program
Turnbull faces another backbench revolt, this time over the results of the review he had authorised into the program. George Christiansen hands Turnbull a petition signed by more than half of the government's backbenchers asking that the program be suspended until a full parliamentary inquiry in conducted.
Tony Abbott is a signatory to Christiansen's petition despite having launched it.
Turnbull defends letting the debate on Safe Schools run so long and acts as an apologist for some very unsavoury remarks by attacking the opposition for their criticisms of the tone of the debate.
The government makes significant changes to the Safe Schools program which please far right conservative George Christensen who welcomes the 'gutting' of the program.
Protests against the changes are currently being organised.
70,000 signatures are collected by Senator Simms from The Greens in support of the Safe Schools program. Cory Bernardi's petition to defund the program collected only 9500 signatures.
Writer Daniel Swain sums up the actions of Christensen and Bernardi beautifully in this article and opens the article powerfully with:
The Safe Schools debate in Parliament takes us back to the playground. Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and their supporters claim to be motivated by belief in traditional gender roles and family choice.
Cory Bernardi underlines the point being made by Daniel Swain with an aggressive and dismissive email to a concerned parent.
You can make you own mind up about the reasons behind Malcolm Turnbull's decisions and actions, and who the key influencers were... the ACL, government back benchers, particular Senators or MPs. You can also make up your own mind as to whether Bernardi and Christiansen (as apparent intolerant bullies) would benefit from participating in the program.
At the end of the day it probably doesn't matter too much... Christiansen and Bernardi are unlikely to ever change, and the decision to alter the program has been made and likely tucked away out of sight until after the election.
What it is worth being clear about is... what the Safe Schools program is actually about and what are its merits and weaknesses. You can also decide that for your self by reading the program... in my opinion it is well structured, easy to read and its intent seems very clear.
What is less clear is what the all fuss has been about. We could ask George and Cory to explain but I'd say most of us feel we've heard more than enough from them
by Mark Enders
The Turnbull government is in real trouble, with desperation setting in. The latest attempt to blackmail the Senate cross-bench is not about getting legislation through, it is about forcing an election as soon as possible... before their chances of re-election sink any lower.
Just about every poll has the government at a 50-50 chance of winning the next election with the Morgan poll recently joining the pack. And Newspoll has Turnbull's satisfaction entering negative territory. It's a very big fall from the heady heights of only a few months ago.
Malcolm has said he welcomes a 15 week election campaign because it will shine a light on the opposition. But it will also shine a light on the shambles that Turnbull leads. And that shambles extends to Malcolm himself. As a trained Lawyer and a very experienced debater, Turnbull is used to arguing for things he doesn't actually believe in. But sadly, for the government's aspirations. he isn't very good at it.
Case in point... his appearance on ABC's 7.30 program Monday night.
He began strongly by suggesting that a multi-layered approach to reform and economic transition was required. He then went on to suggest that the government was implementing IR reform (I don't believe they have yet), Tax reform (maybe... but we all have to wait until the budget), competition law reform (commentary on 'the effects test' suggest it is a potential mess but only time will tell), Innovation (lets all get excited like Malcolm wants), Defense spending (how... when most of the contracts will go offshore.. to Japan, the US, Germany), reformed bankruptcy law (assuming the system isn't rorted... which it likely will be by some).
As usual, Malcolm spends some time saying next to nothing. Many have compared Turnbull to Rudd... all talk and no action. That appears to be a valid criticism.
Tony Abbott's great strength as leader was that he knew when to walk away and shut his mouth, before his foot ended up where it didn't belong. Turnbull doesn't have that insight.... as the Leigh Sales interview proved.
The next excerpt from the interview is a marvelous example of Malcolm talking around in circles, in a very long winded way, hoping he would lose people along the way.
His argument goes like this - tax policy is about competing priorities and shifting taxes and benefits to suit different sectors of the economy, it drives investment decisions, negative gearing is such a vehicle for investment in property.
Leigh Sales then asks why a government dedicated to the free market would support market distorting policies like negative gearing to which Malcolm responds - negative gearing is not a tax concession, it is a tax principle that has been in place forever (although it was introduced in the 1960's to stimulate new construction), and a tax deduction is not an incentive to invest.
Malcolm has just argued that black is white. But he keeps going...
He suggests that changes to negative gearing are irresponsible. These are changes supported by long standing Greens policy:
Turnbull is opposed to changes (recently proposed by Labor) as they will affect investment decisions (black is now black again) - investors will be competing with new home buyers in the outer suburbs driving them out of the market. In the inner city where there is a lot of rental stock investors will only be able to sell to owner occupiers (which is not true), this will drive down rental availability and drive up rents while driving down resale prices for apartments as well as drive down inner city construction..
It's an argument built on a number of crazy assumptions - that renters can never become buyers, that people only want to rent in the inner city and buy in the outer suburbs, that investors won't want to invest in new inner city construction (which can still be negatively geared) and that some investors won't see the merit in buying old rental housing stock.
It's confusing I know, which is the whole purpose of Malcolm's argument. The election campaign hasn't even started and Turnbull is out of the blocks with a long interview in which he contradicts himself several times. If Malcolm is the great communicator of this government... they are in serious trouble.
Malcolm is the kind of man who when he finds himself in a hole... he dig faster and deeper and more elaborate tools. It's difficult to watch, like a slow motion train wreck
For some real clarity and some light relief on Malcolm Turnbull and the government he leads we can only turn to a cartoonist.... First Dog on the Moon.
The Blog has been offline for some time but has returned just in time - to provide an alternative perspective in Townsville in a Federal election year.
Expect the blog to post well referenced articles, to propose innovative ideas for our region, and speak up for those who have been long abandoned by the major parties.
A lot has happened since our last post - we've seen the back of the worst PM in Australia's history, we've seen him replaced by an egalitarian republican who believes in equality and climate science but does nothing on marriage equality, the republic or avoiding dangerous climate change.
Australian politics is still difficult to fathom, but has been nothing was more ridiculous than Greg Hunt being awarded best Minister in the Whole Universe... or something to that effect. First Dog on The Moon can make more sense of it than I can.
Stay tuned for even more interesting time ahead.
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.