by Alan Thornhill
The New South Wales Premier, Mike Baird, is set for a comfortable victory in today’s State elections, according to a new poll.
The Morgan poll puts the vote for the conservative coalition he leads at 57.5 per cent, against Labor’s 42.5 per cent, on a two party preferred basis.
However the Labor Leader, Luke Foley, still hasn’t given up hope of snatching victory, in a late run.
But pollster, Gary Morgan, said: “…. Mike Baird is set to win tomorrow’s NSW State Election comfortably despite the L-NP support falling substantially since the 2011 NSW Election.”
“The ‘Presidential-style’ campaign run by the NSW Liberal Party – concentrating heavily on the popular Baird – Australia’s most popular political leader – appears to have worked,” Mr Morgan added.
He said Luke Foley had attempted to ‘scare’ voters out of handing Baird his first election victory as leader by warning of increased electricity prices if the Coalition pass their controversial legislation leasing 49 per cent of the ‘poles and wires’ for 99 year to private enterprise.
However Mr Morgan added:” judging by the momentum in the final week of the campaign, the positive messages presented by Baird on the campaign trail have proved to be ‘the winner’ against Foley’s negativity.”
by Alan Thornhill
Will she stop there?
After a day of humiliation – and a sensational eye-roll – that went viral – Julie Bishop emerged victorious.
Her day had started badly, with being humiliated on air, when it became clear that Ms Bishop knew nothing of a plan to make further “small cuts” in foreign aid.
Even though she is, arguably, Tony Abbott’s most successful minister.
That was reported in Mr Abbott’s favourite newspaper, The Australian.
So it wasn’t too hard to make a connection.
That dark thought was confirmed in parliament, later, as the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, was bloviating, about the virtues of the Expenditure Review Committee launched, many years ago, by Malcolm Fraser.
Julie’s eyes rolled and her head sunk into her hands.
It was clearly all too much, for a foreign minister just back from cyclone-devastated Vanuatu, where she had learnt, all too clearly, just how important foreign aid can be, in Australia’s neighbourhood.
There could be no doubt about Ms Bishop’s dismay.
Especially as there had already been an $11 billion cut in Australia’s foreign aid, the biggest single cut in the Abbott government’s first budget, last May.
Ms Bishop’s very public breakdown, in parliament, came at a critical time.
This week’s sittings will be the last, before parliament rises, ahead of its budget sittings in May this year.
More particularly, Ms Bishop’s clear expression of disbelief came on the eve of a, perhaps critical, Liberal party meeting.
The Abbott camp panicked.
Senior ministers were quickly sent around to assure Ms Bishop that – despite that story in The Australian – there would – indeed – be no further cuts to foreign aid, in this year’s budget.
Bishop takes Treasurer, to extend the chess image.
But, to repeat the question, will she stop there?
Readers will recall that the first challenge to Mr Abbott’s leadership was led by another West Australian Liberal, Dennis Jensen.
And Mr Jensen must have been encouraged by the unexpectedly high 31-69 support he got for a spill.
Tony Abbott, himself was chastened.
However, despite his promise to do better, he continues to embarrass the Liberal party, most recently with an inappropriate jibe, based on a reference to the Nazi regime.
But will his opponents, within the Liberal party, seek another spill, today?
Politically, the dangers are obvious.
Just ask the Labor party.
However, Mr Abbott’s opponents also see risk in leaving him where he is.
And today’s party meeting will be the last chance they will get, to remove the Abbott-Hockey team, before the imminent budget.
Things have changed since the last – unsuccessful – move against Mr Abbott, earlier this year.
He had no clear rival, back then.
As one critic put it, only “an empty chair” was against him.
But, by late yesterday, the victorious Julie Bishop was looking quite prime ministerial.
And Malcolm Turnbull was invisible.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government has approved a proposal by Japan Post to acquire Toll Holdings Limited.
The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, announced the decision today.
Toll is Australia’s largest supply chain company employing around 40,000 people, with operations in road, rail, sea, air and warehousing in 55 countries.
Japan Post is a public corporation that provides postal services in Japan.
Mr Hockey said: “the Government welcomes foreign investment where it is not contrary to our national interest.
” Foreign investment has helped build Australia’s economy and will continue to enhance the wellbeing of Australians by supporting economic growth and prosperity,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott has offended the Irish Prime Minister, with a Saint Patrick’s Day message, which associated the Irish with heavy drinking.
Fairfax newspapers are reporting that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told an Irish newspaper he had watched Mr Abbott’s video.
Mr Kenny said he rejected the perception that Ireland was synonymous with alcohol.
Other critics have described Mr Abbott’s message as “patronising.”
Mr Abbott describes St Patrick’s Day, in his message, as the one day when “it’s good to be green”.
He says it is “a great day for the Irish, and the English, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians and everyone who cares to come to a party.”
And he signs off with an apology that “I can’t be there to share a Guinness or two or maybe even three”.
Mr Kenny said he had heard Mr Abbott’s comments and he didn’t agree with them.
“I’ve heard the Prime Minister’s comments.
He made them.
“I don’t agree with that,” he told the Irish Independent.
“I think that it is perfectly in order for so many Irish people in Australia to have an enjoyable celebration of St Patrick’s Day and St Patrick’s week, and to do so in a thoroughly responsible fashion.
“There has been a long-term view of a stage Irish perception.
“I reject that. I think it’s really important that we understand that we have a national day that can be celebrated worldwide, St Patrick’s Day,” Mr Kenny added.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says there will be more RAAF mercy flights to the cyclone stricken Pacific island nation of Vanuatu today.
The Prime Minister made the promise in a telephone call to his counterpart in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, last night.
Mr Abbott also told Prime Minister Joe Natuman of Australia’s plans for a humanitarian response to the devastation left by Cyclone Pam.
He said RAAF flights would deliver additional personnel and supplies today.
Mr Abbott said he had also spoken to the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, about the disaster.
He welcomed the UK’s announcement of £2 million worth of assistance.
The two Prime Ministers agreed that Australia and the United Kingdom would cooperate in assisting with Vanuatu’s recovery from Pam.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of severe food shortages in Port Vila, as people who fled the cyclone’s destruction gathered in the island nation’s capital.
by Alan Thornhill
High speed fibre based internet will be a privilege for the rich, under government policies, Labor says.
The previous Labor government had proposed a fibre based high speed broadband network, in the policies it took to the last Federal election.
However the Coalition, which won that election, declared that would be too expensive.
But the debate continues.
In a statement today, Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Communication, said the NBN co. had “snuck out” details of the government’s broadband policy late last night.
And he said:” Turnbull’s ‘Technology Choice’ policy reveals that it could cost households “from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars” to get fibre from the node to your house.
“Home owners will also have to pay $600 just to get a quote,” Mr Clare said.
“Under Labor, 93 per cent of the population would have received fibre to their homes, and NBN Co did not charge anything for the physical connection.
“Under the Liberal Party if you live in a fibre-to-the-node area you will have to pay through the nose to get a superfast, reliable fibre connection.
“This will mean only the rich can afford super-fast fibre broadband, whilst the poor will be stuck with the old copper network to their home.
“Tony Abbott is trying to create a two-tiered US style university system and a two-tiered health system.
“Now Malcolm Turnbull is creating a two-tiered NBN – one for the rich and one for the poor.
“Before the election, Labor warned that under Malcolm Turnbull’s second-rate broadband plan households and small business in fibre-to-the-node areas would be forced to pay up to $5,000 for a fibre connection.
“At the time, Turnbull referred to ‘Fibre on Demand’ charges costing “about $2,250.”
“Now it looks as if these charges could be up to “tens of thousands of dollars,” Mr Clare said.
“This is another broken promise and shows once again that you can’t trust anything this Government says,” he added.
“This follows the Government’s other broken promises in December last year with the announcement of two new NBN taxes.
“Late last year the Abbott Government also announced that it would abolish uniform wholesale pricing and bought back the old copper network John Howard sold last century.
“This is just more evidence that this Liberal Government is untrustworthy, unfair and out of touch,” Mr Clare said.
by Alan Thornhill
Twice, already this week, Tony Abbott has made a snolleygoster of himself.
That word, according to a Facebook friend, means a rude, ignorant person.
My friend says, too, that the word – derivation unknown – applies particularly to politicians.
Or, perhaps, it’s just more obvious among them, because their job requires them to talk so much.
The Prime Minister first displayed his splendid grasp of snolleygosterism this week, when he said Australians are “sick of being lectured” by the United Nations.
That was his response to a UN report, that his government has been treating asylum seekers badly, even talking of torture.
Mr Abbott really clinched the title of “Snolleygoster of the Week,” though, with his second venture onto this playing field.
That came, on Tuesday, when he said Aborigines, living in remote communities, could not expect taxpayers to support their “lifestyle choices” indefinitely.
He made that remark in Western Australia, in support of the State Coalition government there, in its plan to close about half of the State’s remote Aboriginal communities, after Federal government funding cuts.
Critics, including the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, who said Mr Abbott’s remark reflected “pre-Mabo” thinking, were hinting that the Prime Minister’s words did not reflect a deep understanding of Australian history.
British colonists, after all, did acquire Aboriginal land on very unequal terms, by raising guns against boomerangs, and introducing disastrous diseases, to which Aborigines had no resistance.
Duress, in fact.
So it is, at least, arguable that their descendants, now living off that land, still have an unpaid debt, to Australia’s Aboriginal people.
Mr Abbott first displayed his fine Prime Ministerial style – as a snolleygoster – when he famously declared, shortly his election, that he couldn’t be “the suppository of all information.”
Even Lewis Carroll could not have imagined this man.
by Alan Thornhill
An local Muslim leader says Tony Abbott was “incredibly reckless” in the speech he gave about terrorism on Monday.
Samier Dundan, President of the Lebanese Muslim Association, also said the Prime Minister had “displayed a profound lack of awareness” of what local Muslims had done.
“The antagonistic rhetoric used by the Prime Minister is politically opportunistic and exacerbates the atmosphere of Islamophobia and intolerance,” Mr Dundan said.
The issue “of greatest concern” was the Prime Minister’s suggestion that Muslim leaders “must do more” to vocally and explicitly condemn violent extremism – and be more practical in promoting Islam as a religion of peace.
Mr Dundan said Muslim leaders and the Muslim community had gone to great lengths to illustrate that their faith “is completely dissociated from violence committed in its name.”
But the Prime Minister had shown “a worrying lack of comprehension of the ongoing engagement and work of the Muslim community.”
“Few would fail to see this new found focus on ‘national security’ as anything other than an attempt at gaining public approval, especially in the light of the contemporary political climate,” Mr Dundan said.
“The combination of divisive language and lack of acknowledgement only serve to further distance the Muslim community from the government,” he added.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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