Reports that the federal government is committed to bailing out Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter -- and has pressured AGL to offer a below-market deal on electricity supply -- will be welcomed by the 600 workers at the plant, and by the people of Portland more generally. For the rest of us, it provides an object lesson on the policy incoherence of the Abbott-Turnbull government in just about every dimension. 

The only way to understand this government is in terms of tribal loyalties and enmities. Policy positions are determined by the state of these loyalties and enmities, but their valence can change rapidly with shifts in the relative standing of different groups, so that yesterday’s orthodoxy is today’s heresy.