December 2nd 2017

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL Turnbull redefines terms of marriage vote

CANBERRA OBSERVED Turnbull is running on empty as margin shrinks

GENDER POLITICS Northern Territory proposes recognising fluid genders

ENVIRONMENT Sea levels are not on the rise: research

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Our clinging to the fringe is stultifying development

FREEDOM Where to now after the marriage redefinition vote?

EDUCATION Unions and the ALP have gutted the curriculum

ECONOMICS The West faces tests of its own resilience

CULTURE The mysterious birth of technology

DRUGS AND SOCIETY Addiction and the cultural repression of spiritual values

OPINION Don't stand by as the fight for freedom begins

LITERATURE Britain's Kazuo Ishiguro a worthy Nobel laureate

HUMOUR Whispers from court side

MUSIC Funny tones: Playing it for a laugh

CINEMA Murder on the Orient Express: First-class mayhem

BOOK REVIEW Disentangling the free-market fraud

BOOK REVIEW Not inscrutible, just ambitious


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Turnbull is running on empty as margin shrinks

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, December 2, 2017

Soon after 8pm on December 5, it is likely that the long-term fate of the current Parliament will be known.

That is the deadline for MPs in the House of Representatives to provide the paperwork on their citizenship credentials to the Parliament.

Senators have to get their homework in by December 1.

The day after December 5: An empty chamber?

No one knows how many MPs will have found potential problems about their status and will therefore need to have them clarified, but it could be half a dozen or more.

From that point the MPs in question will have their eligibility referred to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns. And from there, like last time, some will likely be declared validly elected, and some will not, resulting in a “super byelection Saturday” to be held at some point in the early months of 2018.

Depending on the result of that Saturday election, the current Coalition Government will survive or fall.

There is not a lot of wriggle room for Malcolm Turnbull. The loss of a couple of seats would mean the likelihood of a general election being forced upon him soon after.

So far Labor has managed to escape the citizenship mess, with Bill Shorten asserting that Labor’s processes are superior while refusing to acknowledge the question marks hanging over several of his own Parliamentary team.

Mr Shorten’s confidence may be proven to be correct, but the High Court’s recent rulings taking an absolutely rigorous interpretation of section 44c of the Constitution may yet overshoot Labor’s alleged superior pre-selection processes.

In which case Mr Shorten will look extremely cynical and silly after holding out for months and constantly pointing the finger at the Government’s ineptitude.

But this will be small solace to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is likely to have more of his own MPs also exposed as ineligible ineligible.

The voters meanwhile will view the citizenship fiasco with increasing exasperation.

For them there are no special circumstances when they are asked to fill out a government form for a benefit, a pension, or citizenship for that matter. The bureaucracy is cold to excuses about lack of knowledge or failure to check.

The citizenship saga has caused voter incredulity and further alienation from the Parliamentary process.

Historically, Australia’s democracy tends to be a fairly hands-off affair. The people vote for the government once every three years and generally allow the elected government to get on with it in the meantime. If the government performs particularly badly, the people throw it out.

The arrival of regular polls, the 24-hour news cycle and, more recently, ubiquitous social media has made politics more intrusive for voters whose preference is for politics not to interfere in their lives.

The fact that MPs haven’t done the basics in terms of checking their eligibility at the time of nominating for such an important position in the democratic system goes down very badly with voters.

That said voters also realise that the idea that Barnaby Joyce, born and raised in Tamworth, but now a “New Zealander” from his father, is also absurd.

Similarly, John Alexander, who played for his country in Davis Cup competitions, is now found to be “British”. Meanwhile, Mr Alexander is being challenged by the Las Vegas-born former Labor premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally.

Australian Financial Review columnist Jennifer Hewett described the current situation as “an extraordinarily messy, confused end to the Parliamentary year”, but with the Prime Minister attempting to display a sense of calm amid the chaos.

“I know it sells more newspapers to write headlines about chaos and threats to democracy,” the PM told a group of executives and chairs of Australia’s largest companies. “And of course increasingly the hyperbolic outrage and sensation of the twittersphere [sic] has infected much of the mainstream media.

“The challenges to Australia’s Parliament have proven its strength, not its frailties. It has also proven that in times of uncertainty, the nation needs calm and measured leadership; a steady hand at the helm – even if it does result in people asking me why I am so calm.”

Hewett’s commentary that followed went like this: “Plenty of Liberal backbenchers won’t find it quite so easy to fall asleep as they count down to Santa’s safe arrival.”

The Government may well limp to the end of the year with a “calm” Prime Minister at the helm, but unless there is a dramatic change of fortunes for Mr Turnbull, the problems for the Government look to be compounding not shrinking.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm