August 10th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Boris Johnson and the EU: Crash through or just crash

EDITORIAL When will Morrison stamp his authority on his mandate?

CANBERRA OBSERVED A quick peek into the security shadows

ENVIRONMENT When apex predators hit the turbines, think of the clean energy

HUMAN RIGHTS Unalienable rights can be recognised, not made up

SECURITY Australian Signals Directorate comes out of the shadows

RURAL AFFAIRS Distress, economic and societal, pervades Australia

GENDER POLITICS I was America's first non-binary person: It was all a sham

FICTION Mick and the Little Man

HUMOUR Japan G20: Donny meets Jenny

MUSIC Dire tonics: Departure from harmony has proved a flop

CINEMA The Lion King: Remake takes a deeper look

BOOK REVIEW Public enemy No. 1 and his twin, No. 2

BOOK REVIEW In the market with the Angelic Doctor



NSW ABORTION BILL Clear and present danger to women's health

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When will Morrison stamp his authority on his mandate?

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, August 10, 2019

Scott Morrison’s win forced the Queensland Government to take the brakes off coalmining developments in the Galilee Basin and forced federal Labor to allow Parliament to pass his tax cuts.

This win makes his planned industrial relations reforms more likely to pass.

Morrison has also been adept at rallying general party support with his attacks on the campaign run by GetUp to unseat conservative Coalition MPs at the election.

However, the Government is yet to present effective and decisive policies on major issues of concern to the electorate.

The election flattened Labor’s radical environmental policies, which would have involved a major shutdown of the nation’s base-load power stations. Morrison’s win has cleared the way for the Government to announce major energy initiatives.

It could put on hold, reduce, or scrap, the renewable energy targets, and put serious incentives in place to build new super-critical high-efficiency coal-fired power stations. It could announce nuclear energy projects, reversing 45 years of political aversion to nuclear power, although nuclear is still more expensive than coal to generate power.

The rising cost of electricity is not only impacting consumers, it’s undermining the international competitiveness of our industries. Yet, to date there have been no major new energy policies.

Outside the major capitals, large swathes of regional Australia, which were responsible for the Government’s win, are suffering economic distress. In these distressed areas (see Mark McGovern's article in this issue), rural and related industries have low (and often negative) profitability. The loss of population precipitates a spiralling decline of services like schools and health care.

These regions are suffering from 30 years of ideologically driven deregulation and privatisation policies under National Competition Policy and from radical free trade policies.

While the Government is planning a major drought-relief package, these regions need new policies to make farming profitable and to keep farmers on their farms, and to revitalise downstream industries and thereby reverse the haemorrhaging of local communities.

Urgently needed are new reservoirs, roads and other infrastructure, and policies that allow farmers to re-establish collective marketing arrangements like single selling desks to restore the market power between farmers, processors and retailers, and help them to survive in highly subsidised world markets.

The banking royal commission has opened the way for new Government policies on banking.

Public support for a Government-backed development bank, focused on long-term investment, would be overwhelming. There are plenty of models for such a bank, such as Germany’s KfW, New Zealand’s Kiwibank and our own former Commonwealth Development Bank.

Such banks are versatile in their scope. They can be geared to focus on infrastructure, or export industries, or small-to-medium enterprises, or reconstructing agriculture, or housing, or alternative financial services to the major banks, or any combination of these.

At this uncertain time, when the world is still at risk of another major international financial meltdown like the 2008-09 global financial crisis (GFC), the Government has the opportunity to establish a major new financial institution that both provides new investments in the economy and generates prosperity without relying on inflated property and financial markets and mining exports.

Government leaders say they will introduce legislation to defend religious freedom, which was also a big issue that swung voters in many Labor electorates to the Coalition at the federal election. However, there has been scant consultation with major stakeholders.

Further, if the Government takes a middle-of-the-road approach to legislation, it will fail to solve the complex, manifold threats to the freedoms of both religious and secular Australians that are the foundation of a tolerant democracy.

Of concern was the Attorney General’s terms of reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission, which called for the new legislation to “limit and if possible remove” exemptions for faith-based schools, while still protecting religious freedom.

At stake are the rights of people who believe that humans are biologically male or female. Gender-identity laws that allow males to identify as female and claim the same rights as women, put at risk women and girls in schools, sports and female safe spaces.

At stake are employees who face restrictive corporate codes of conduct that have little to do with their work. At stake is the exercise of conscience by health-care professionals, who increasingly face hostile state laws forcing them to provide services that conflict with good medical practice.

If the Government introduces ineffective legislation and then expects a newly appointed Australian Human Rights Commission religious discrimination commissioner to deal with attacks on fundamental freedoms, then it will have seriously underestimated the problems that many Coalition voters want resolved.

If Labor’s failed massive policy platform was “a thousand-page suicide note”, as it was described by some, then the Morrison Government risks just the opposite problem: an electoral backlash if it is indecisive and ineffective.

Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council.

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