July 30th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Success of sex-change surgery a propaganda lie

CANBERRA OBSERVED Add two to cabinet as a conservative estimate

GENDER WARS Safe Schools provokes personal pronoun furore

ELECTION ROUNDUP Captain Titanic shuffles deck chairs

EDITORIAL Why court rules against Beijing on South China Sea

VICTORIA Turnbull must move to douse CFA dispute

ENVIRONMENT Wind, solar push up SA electricity prices


AUSTRALIAN HISTORY Dr John Burton - public servant and Soviet agent

U.S. HISTORY AND POLITICS Is Trump long-awaited successor to Huey Long?

MUSIC A medium whose meaning is hidden from words

CINEMA No man on the mean roads of the Outback: Goldstone

BOOK REVIEW A significant first novel

BOOK REVIEW A certain rottenness in the state of Victoria


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Add two to cabinet as a conservative estimate

News Weekly, July 30, 2016

As the aftershocks of Malcolm Turnbull’s poor showing at the election continue to rumble through the government, there are glimmers of hope that the voice of the conservatives will not be completely sidelined in the Government’s second term.

Mr Turnbull opted to keep his frontbench largely intact, resisting entreaties to bring in more conservatives.


Matt Canavan

Experienced MPs like Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz and, of course, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, continue to be underutilised on the backbench, though Prime Minister Turnbull has elevated ACT Senator Zed Seselja and Queensland Senator Matt Canavan to his frontbench.


Senator Seselja has been named Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, while Senator Canavan, courtesy of his unique position within the Nationals, has had a meteoric rise into cabinet as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia.

Senator Seselja, aged 39, has been a rusted-on Abbott supporter but, having served as opposition leader in the ACT Parliament for five years, he is also an experienced, articulate, telegenic and grounded politician whose talents Mr Turnbull has recognised.

Senator Seselja has continued to argue, for instance, that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act be amended to prevent people from exploiting the law because it insists that alleged racist and other offences can be entirely subjective. Asking a person simply, “Where are you from?” can be a form of “hate speech” if the person deems it to be offensive.

On same-sex marriage, Senator Seselja has taken a principled position on supporting the traditional family despite the fact that his hometown of Canberra is arguably the most progressive jurisdiction in the country.

In short, Senator Seselja has the grounding and the experience to begin his ministerial career.

Senator Canavan’s elevation has been entirely different. Only three years ago Senator Canavan, who is just 36, was working as a staffer in Senator Barnaby Joyce’s Canberra office.

Shoehorned into the Senate on the back of Mr Joyce’s popularity in Queensland, Senator Canavan has made it into the ministry in part because there are no other serious candidates in the Queensland Nationals who remain a dominant force in the Parliamentary party.

A former Productivity Commission employee, Senator Canavan would normally be thought of as an economic dry, but under the tutelage of Barnaby Joyce has a more pro-small business, nationalistic bent.


Zed Seselja

In his maiden speech in the Senate in July, 2014, Senator Canavan called for the introduction of an effects test into competition law to protect small business against the dominance of major retailers, namely Coles and Woolworths. Fiercely resisted by Liberals in the Abbott Government, the policy is now official Coalition policy under the Turnbull Government.


Senator Canavan has also backed allowing young people to access their superannuation to buy a home and “income splitting”, which gives single-income families more favourable tax treatment.

Senator Canavan’s maiden speech says a lot about his political philosophy: “In my time here I want try to make sure all Australians can choose their own job, buy their own home, start their own business or have their own family. For each small Australian to be big they must be free from big government, big banks, big unions and big corporations.

“In the Nationals party we believe that small is beautiful. Small farms and small businesses allow more Australians to have a stake in their country, smaller towns provide greater community spirit and the smallest social unit of society, the family, is the most important one for us all. As Aristotle noted: ‘The nature of every thing is best seen in its smallest portions.’”

Senator Canavan has also argued that “McEwenism” is misunderstood.

“What drove John McEwen was not a desire to impose higher tariffs but to protect the wealth-producing industries of our nation. Once again, our wealth-producing industries need support. Our agricultural, mining, manufacturing and tourism industries face high taxes, overregulation and, most of all, a complacency that they will keep producing wealth regardless of what we do in this place.”

Senator Canavan will be a strong ally for Mr Joyce at the cabinet table when the economic and other battles are fought. He also has the potential to bring a policy rigour that has not been present in the Nationals since former Treasury Secretary John Stone was a senator for Queensland.

However, he will also have to manage the fierce political battleground between miners and farmers over coal seam gas, particularly in Queensland.

It will be a steep learning curve for Senator Canavan and there will be many pitfalls along the way, not least of which will be enemies of the conservatives within the Coalition.

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