To quote Aristotle: “One swallow does not a summer make”. Although Linda Lovelace might dispute that.

But, in our first week back in Canberra for 2018, you could have been forgiven for thinking a whole flock of birds had landed on the government party room roof.

The flurry of new year wing-flapping came with the latest opinion polls showing Malcolm Turnbull substantially widening his lead over Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister and the Coalition shrinking the two-party preferred to 52-48. And you could add to that some leadership mischief-making by Albo and the same Newspoll showing Tanya Plibersek the favoured Labor leader (25%) Anthony Albanese (25%) and Shorten (22%).

A bit of a cheat, allowing for Liberal voter mischief: when only Labor voters were polled Shorten won easily over Plibersek 37-27.

More than 25 polls now say that Labor will win the next federal election — which I do not believe will be held this year — but as I wrote here some months ago, I believe it is too early for Chloe and Bill to start measuring the curtains for The Lodge.

The election is still winnable for the Libs, but I’ll admit I was surprised this week when Ross Cameron, Donald Trump’s PR man and an increasingly right-wing, self-styled “outsider” on Sky News, predicted that not only would Turnbull lead the Libs to the election, but would win!

***

The Daily Telegraph’s clever page one headline “Bundle of Joyce” (and pic of his pregnant former staffer Vikki Campion) drew heaps of criticisms about it not being “news” — and certainly not front page news.

It had been covered up or ignored by the Press Gallery since before the New England byelection.

It was news on two grounds:

Last year, National Party leader Barnaby Joyce was also Deputy (and sometimes Acting) Prime Minister. He was facing pressure over dual citizenship, the High Court, and then a byelection. Adding a pregnancy to a woman who is not your wife would pile a lot of pressure on anybody.

But more importantly, it was Barnaby Joyce himself who injected his personal life into his political life last year. Supporting the No vote in the same-sex marriage debate, Joyce painted an idyllic man/woman picture of wedded bliss and talked about how he wanted his daughters to one day have that same sort of union that he had. Hoist by his own petard.

***

The ABC leaked “Cabinet papers”, which actually came from a real discarded cabinet, brought back a similar Melbourne scandal involving a famous, and venerable children’s charity.

The Berry Street home for orphans and other vulnerable foster kids in East Melbourne was having some renovations and a clear-out of some old, decrepit furniture. Like the numbskull who didn’t twig that locked, heavy, filing cabinets from the government’s inner sanctum might contain some documents that shouldn’t leave the building, somebody at Berry Street didn’t check the drawers.

I was on 3AW at the time and the papers, including medical records, “found their way” to me, as they say.

Luckily, I didn’t have the Libs bullish PR man, Craig Kelly, advising me (as he postured about the ABC’s rightful duty to return the papers) so I didn’t give them back.

I did edit out the names of 12 and 13-year-olds who had been sexually abused, had alcohol, drugs and petrol-sniffing addictions, and who had had teenage abortions.

It was a shocking lapse in security and confidentiality but we secured the files and returned them all to a sheepish executive.

***

Some things I didn’t think I would see in the Senate chamber on day one of the new session this week. The seat in front of me was empty. Last year’s occupant Lucy Gichuhi was now across the chamber sitting next to Jane Hume in the Liberals section. A clever get for the government over Christmas/New Year.

The seat to my left was also empty. It had been (briefly) occupied by Fraser Anning after he abandoned One Nation before even being sworn in. On day one this week he announced he would sit as an independent but moved to sit next to Cory Bernardi before announcing a “loose troika” with the Australian Conservatives and Lib Dem David Leyonhjelm.

But the biggest shock was seeing former government Senate leader, George Brandis, sitting near the cross-benchers, while his successor, Mathias Cormann, took his old seat at the despatch boxes. George, looking exceedingly relaxed as he prepares to replace Alexander Downer as the High Commish in London, was thumbing through a sheaf of tightly, typewritten pages. Probably a draft of his valedictory speech he delivered yesterday.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW