From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

All about timing. The latest push for marriage equality to pass into law in Australia by a rogue group of backbench Liberals is not an accident. There are just three sitting weeks before mid-September, when there will be two important events. Firstly, it is the time when Malcolm Turnbull will overtake Tony Abbott in number of days as prime minister, and the two-year anniversary of his challenge for the leadership. Secondly, long-time marriage equality supporter Liberal MP Warren Entsch is leaving for an overseas trip to act as a UN observer for three months, putting him out on any possible vote on the floor of Parliament until the end of the year.

The numbers are tight. Seventy-six votes are needed to pass the law. Labor has 69 (nice) elected MPs in the House of Reps, and not all of them are on board with same-sex marriage. Some may abstain. Including the crossbench of four, the maximum vote without government MPs is 73, meaning that there would need to be, at the very least, three MPs willing to cross the floor. Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Warren Entsch, Trevor Evans, and the recently confirmed floor-crosser Jason Woods would give a small buffer if a couple of Labor MPs abstain or aren’t there for the vote.  If Entsch has already left for the UN, it means there’s a good chance the issue won’t be resolved before next year.

Hewett’s scenic, merry dance around direct talk. The Fin’s Tory maven Jennifer Hewett got heavy today on terrorism in a piece entitled “Direct talk needed on terror threat not just extra airport security We were instantly reminded of Tom Gleeson’s Hard Chat and were excited to find what home truths Hewett would deliver. No more gilding the lily, no more sugar-coating the truth, time to tell it straight, to stop pussyfooting around, no quarter asked, no pardons begged, just good old straight shooting. “Most political leaders will still be trying to calm community fears rather than exacerbate them … most Western leaders are still trying to hold together their multi-ethnic and increasingly Muslim domestic populations rather than stoke divisions,” Hewett said. But “an Australian government can no longer avoid referring specifically to ‘Islamic’ terrorism and must address head-on the failure of a percentage of Muslims to integrate into Australian society. This is just one element of the new political fashion demanding more direct talk from political leaders about the concerns of those they seek to govern.”

So, we wondered, what exactly did Hewett have in mind? What “direct talk” do we need to hear from Malcolm Turnbull? “The political system and its rhetoric must adjust too.” she said. OK. We get the message. Or, rather, we are waiting for the message: what does Hewett want to hear as she waits in an near-empty departures hall having arrived hours before her flight?

She never says. She ends with “The future awaits, impatiently”. But apparently not so impatiently that we can’t wait a little longer. So Hewett apparently wants more targeted criticism of Muslims from political leaders, but is afraid to spell out what she thinks they should say? At least shock jocks come out and actually utter the offensive things they think. Hewett seems to want the kudos of appearing tough without going to the trouble of upsetting anyone.

The best way to fight radicalisation is to discriminate against Muslims. Speaking of which, yesterday, 2GB’s Chris Smith took some time out from failing to hear his co-hosts express their hilariously murderous thoughts about Islam to add his own edifying contribution to the subject. Following the news that four Lebanese-Australians had been apprehended for an alleged plot to blow up or gas a commercial plane bound for the Middle East, Smith said the phrase that gets shock jocks salivating, “Now, I’ll cop a barrage for this, but …” before casually suggesting that, despite no proven or suggested link between the alleged plotters and airport workers, we disqualify a religious group from certain kinds of work in Australia:

“… is it not time we consider suspending all Muslim workers at airports Australia wide? Yes, it is a discriminatory rule. Most of those men and women are doing the right thing: working and providing for their families but there is only one link to radical Islamic insiders working for IS, and that’s the Islamic religion.”

All Trump does is win (apparently). Maybe she’s alone, but when Anthony Scaramucci called The New Yorker and spat a mouthful of flaming garbage about the media and his co-workers down the phone without clarifying whether he was on the record, and then described the resulting story on Twitter as though it a breach of trust, Ms Tips thought Donald Trump had truly met his soul mate. How could a clueless, self-aggrandising alpha type with no impulse control and tendency to self-pity and no understanding of how his role worked fail to thrive in Trump’s White House? Alas it was not to be, and the breakneck hiring and firing policies that, presumably Scaramucci was supposed to help manage, continued at dizzying speed, claiming Scaramucci himself. It’s hard enough for Trump opponents to keep up with, let alone those trying to put a positive spin on the actions of this most unusual of presidents. US conservative news site The Federalist fell victim to this chaos. First, just before the announcement, it posted “Why Anthony Scaramucci Is The Man Trump And America Need“: 

And then, very soon after the announcement that Scaramucci was being ditched, a new take was needed. Now, apparently, it was worth asking “Why Scaramucci’s Firing Might Be Good News For Donald Trump” — which the author admits represents “hopeful thinking”. The sidebar of “related articles” alongside this second piece gives some insight into the mental gymnastics that are required to make sense of a single morning of Trump’s decision-making, particularly when one is fighting their way to a positive interpretation of it.

More prison assaults. The troubled Melbourne Assessment Prison has claimed another set of casualties, with three prison worker needing medical attention after being injured by a violent inmate at the weekend. The incident was first reported by “Prison Lockdown” on 3AW’s Rumour File, and this morning a spokesperson confirmed that paramedics had been called out to the Melbourne Assessment Prison to treat the three staff members for minor injuries. The spokesperson further said the incident had been referred to police for investigation. Violence by inmates against prison staff in Victoria has been an ongoing issue, and new legislation ensuring those who assault staff in prison will face tougher penalties has been introduced by the Andrews government.

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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