From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. How much publicity can a party extract from a single announcement? If you cast your mind back to September last year, Bill Shorten tried to find a silver lining on revelations about then-frontbencher Sam Dastyari’s expenses by promising to reform the political donations system. Labor would ban foreign donations, ban donation splitting, lower the threshold for reporting back to $1000 and tie public finance directly to campaign expenditure — just like it proposed to do in 2009, when the Coalition and Steve Fielding combined to stymie the reforms. Labor was as good as its word and introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Donation Reform and Transparency) Bill 2016 quietly into the Senate in late November — the second reading speech was simply tabled by Labor’s Don Farrell — and nothing further was said in the chamber about it. Now, in the wake of Malcolm Turnbull’s self-inflicted wound on his donation to the Liberal Party, Labor’s decided to ramp things up again and this morning introduced the same bill into the House of Representatives, with Bill Shorten himself speaking on it and piously calling for bipartisanship. We know Labor has a much better record on donations disclosure than the Liberals, yes, but we always balk when Bill Shorten, who didn’t report a $60,000+ donation for seven years, starts talking about fixing the system.

Fact check on penalty rates. An offhand comment by Arthur Sinodinos on Insiders yesterday caught Ms Tips’ attention when the Industry Minister said Bill Shorten’s record as workplace minister was another example of the Labor leader’s hypocrisy — an accusation that forms the government’s main political strategy at the moment. Discussing Turnbull’s “sycophant” speech, Sinodinos said:

“Look, Barrie, what that speech was the Prime Minister framing Bill Shorten as someone who says one thing and does another. You go back through his career, whether it is support for company taxes, cuts at other times, the first workplace minister to actually have a reduction in penalty rates and awards …”

Sorry, what now? Firstly, it is not the Workplace Relations minister who sets penalty rates. That is the role of the Fair Work Commission, and both major parties have stated it should remain that way.

Shorten was minister for employment and workplace relations from December 14, 2011, to July 1, 2013, during which time the Fair Work award modernisation process was happening. The Fair Work Act incorporated several state-based awards and agreements into single awards setting the penalty rates for whole industries. As a result some states’ penalty rates rose for some working hours, while in other states penalty rates fell for those same hours. Notwithstanding the fact these changes were being driven by legislation that predated his time as minister, the claim just doesn’t stack up. Kevin Andrews was workplace relations minister during the introduction of the WorkChoices legislation, which predated Shorten’s tenure by some five years.

WorkChoices removed the No Disadvantage Test for individual agreements, allowing employers to slash penalty rates. According to Griffith University research: “In the period May–September 2006, some 76 per cent of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) abolished shift work loading, 68 per cent of AWAs abolished penalty rates and 52 per cent abolished overtime pay.”  

The most recent cut to penalty rates was a 25% reduction for some casual employees in restaurants on Sundays, which occurred in June 2014 under Shorten’s successor, Eric Abetz.

Malcolm Roberts to host anti-UN party. On Sunday Senator Arthur Sinodinos said that One Nation has become lot more “sophisticated”, while this morning Tony Abbott said the party was “more nuanced” than it had been in the 1990s, when John Howard committed to not preferencing the party. We’re not sure what part of the party Sinodinos and Abbott are looking at, but we are struggling to see what is sophisticated or nuanced in Senator Malcolm Roberts’ latest invite to his parliamentary colleagues to an event where he calls for an end to the United Nations. An invitation sent out on Friday afternoon said “the United Nations has outlived its usefulness and must be replaced with a new international body, one comprised solely of those nations governed by democratic principles, devoted to genuine democracy, equality and peaceful relations throughout the world”. The name for this new body? The “Covenant of Democratic Nations”.

One of the speakers at the event is Edwin Black, who wrote IBM and the Holocaust, a book claiming the IT company’s technology allowed the Nazi regime to know the location of Jews in Germany before the Holocaust. Black is also hosting events promoting his Covenant of Democratic Nations in Melbourne and Sydney. The Melbourne event is sponsored by Likud, Zionism Victoria and the Zionist Federation of Australia.

 

Stutch’s compliment comes with a sting. Ms Tips often enjoys the weekly email from Australian Financial Review editor Michael Stutchbury sent to subscribers of the paper, but we found last Friday’s edition particularly revealing when Stutch recounted speaking at the launch of Spectator editor and AFR columnist Rowan Dean’s new book, Way Beyond Satire.

Stutch wrote: “The upstairs room in Sydney’s Pyrmont Bridge Hotel was pumping, with the Australian Spectator editor’s fellow Sky News identity, Paul Murray, in full flight and a crowd that included David Flint, Keith Windschuttle, Bronwyn Bishop, John and Nancy Stone and new NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet — but also state Labor leader Luke Foley.”

If that line-up isn’t “pumping” enough for you, Mark Latham was also there, and the “upbeat mood” was “pro-Trump, Malcolm-sceptic, politically incorrect and conservative-identifying”. The write-up gives a bit of insight into what Stutch thinks of Dean, who he calls the paper’s “leading deplorable”:

“Called up to speak, I said that Dean had become the leading deplorable for our Nancy boy finance sector publication following Latham’s controversial 2015 departure. I regurgitated Fleur Anderson’s line about Cory Bernardi no longer identifying as a Liberal.  I half-mentioned how Latham himself had been known to bag fellow columnist Dean as a right-wing nutter. And I lamely suggested that, while Trump had demolished the cultural Left, the conservative Right was surely becoming fertile ground for satire. Not sure that registered!”

As a side note, Dean’s book of columns is published by Wilkinson Publishing, which also published Andrew Bolt’s latest, Worth Fighting For, and will soon publish Australian cartoonist Bill Leak’s collection of cartoons titled, Trigger Warning. Looks like the outfit might be a competitor to Connor Court publishing, which has almost had a monopoly on the weird and wonderful of the Australian political publishing world.

Spotted. Collingwood president and former Channel Nine CEO Eddie McGuire was spotted at Princes Park in Melbourne on Saturday night, as Collingwood’s women’s AFL team took on Melbourne. Usually this wouldn’t be newsworthy, but McGuire didn’t bother to show up to the side’s history-making clash with Carlton the week before, choosing to be at the Anthony Mundine/Danny Green fight in Adelaide. His presence didn’t help the team, though — they fell short of a win, leaving their bid to play in the grand final looking desperate.

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Peter Fray

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