Much of the 2019 election campaign has been about candidates dropping out for all kinds of disastrous reasons. Perhaps more telling, however, has been the white noise from Australia seasoned, or at least existing, politicians. Who we haven’t heard from, and why, speaks volumes about what we could see at the 46th parliament.
After being thrust into the environment portfolio post-Libspill, Price briefly grabbed headlines for dismissing the IPCC’s report on fossil fuel deadlines without having read it, issuing a poor taste jab about Pacific aid to former Kiribati president Anote Tong, and preemptively announcing a grant winner for a then-non-existent fund. Unsurprisingly, the “L-plate minister” has basically kept mum since last summer’s record-breaking natural disasters, earning her the “invisible minister” moniker well before election season.
Price announced approval for Adani’s groundwater plans and a controversial WA uranium mine just days before the election announcement. The move was compounded by public pressure from LNP colleagues, and a short estimates appearance, and subsequent revelations about CSIRO and Environment Australia’s Adani “approval”. Now Price has well and truly gone to ground. She missed the Coalition’s $200 million recycling announcement, has ignored Tony Burke’s calls for debates and issued just a brief Facebook statement after last week’s disastrous UN report into mass extinctions.
Scott Morrison’s first and apparently only appearance with her came during some crowd high-fives at his one-man-band party launch, and has been forced to confirm she’d return to the portfolio to an obviously delighted Bill Shorten during the leaders’ debate.
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While last year’s Libspill has meant the Coalition’s campaign has focused almost solely on Scott Morrison (with the notable exceptions of Josh Frydenberg and Greg Hunt), Labor hasn’t entirely been an open book. Most notable has been the ALP’s waffling about whether they’d keep the controversial Home Affairs department, which was their excuse for rejecting Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s request for a debate with shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann.
Even if we accept Labor’s “we haven’t thought that far ahead” excuse, the fact Neumann only seems to stick his head up for politically safe controversies like the au pair saga means he’s Labor’s default shadow invisible minister. (Can you cast a shadow if you’re invisible?)
With the “watergate” scandal breaking just days into the campaign, it’s hardly surprising to see the Energy Minister keep a low profile with journalists, even the ones he’s not actively threatening with defamation.
Taylor appears to have skipped both open forums for Hume candidates, sticking instead to one Goulburn Chamber of Commerce and Industry forum that rival candidates allege included pre-approved questions.
He also knocked back an offer from Mark Butler to debate at the National Press Club, instead suggesting moving the event to an apparently more convenient site: the NSW Business Council. In fairness, when Butler rejected the change of location, Taylor declared he was still perfectly happy to debate against himself.
Taylor can look forward to further calls for a royal commission into Watergate if Labor gets over the line.
Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott
Both have been outspoken during their local fights, but neither has appeared with Scott Morrison since the election. Abbott has consistently rebuffed Crikey journalist and Warringah bureau chief Charlie Lewis’ invitations for interview.