(IMAGE: AAP/MICK TSIKAS)

Look who’s talking Not for the first time in the Morrison government, some poor schmo has this morning accidentally emailed out the day’s talking points to Australia’s journalists. Ten thousand words of dot points ensuring the party of individual liberty is all on the same page while creating the simulacra of being interviewed. (Tipsters, if you hear a pollie employ the phrase “getting Australians out from under to doona”, please let us know.)

As ever, the most interesting sections are the “IF ASKED” notes, a sign to what’s worrying the government at the moment. So following Senator Gerard Rennick’s seeming assertion on Sky News that the Coalition doesn’t support any federal integrity commission — even the relatively supine one that it is actually proposing — MPs are directed to say Rennick has since “clarified” his comments.

That was then Another talking point MPs have been asked to hammer home is the party’s “deep concern” about “the mental health impacts of a prolonged lockdown on Melbourne residents”. Indeed, they’ve already been mining this, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday tweeting that his “message to the premier of Victoria today and every day, is please understand the significant impact the harsh lockdown is having on the mental health of Victorians”. Meanwhile, acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge tweeted out stats about the devastating impacts of lockdown on mental health.

While a certain amount of hypocrisy in politics is to be expected, a point-scoring focus on mental health issues is particularly galling from these two. Frydenberg’s passionate concern comes roughly a fortnight after the government announced it will bring JobSeeker back below the poverty line. We’ve always thought that being able to afford three meals a day and pay rent probably beats out a mindfulness app when it comes to well being.

As for Tudge, even if you take his involvement in the robodebt disaster out of the equation (you shouldn’t, over 2000 people died after receving debt notices, 633 of whom were designated as “vulnerable” at the time) or the time he leaked the personal details of a blogger who criticised the disastrous program to the press, he is now behind the push to take the mobile phones of those we keep in immigration detention.

Welcome to the swamp Nine papers report that the Department of Finance’s inquiry into the offices of Liberal MPs Michael Sukkar and Kevin Andrews has ceased without hearing from staff about “whether they engaged in party political work at taxpayer expense”.

Depressing as that is on its own, what of course is also noteworthy is that even if the independent reviewer had contacted those staff members, Finance has no coercive powers. So those staffers could have, with no real repercussions, just told them to sod off.

A short history of… Yesterday, Victorian state Labor member for Burwood Will Fowles was caught aping the phrasing of a speech from centrist-decency pornography The West Wing. It’s far from the first time the work of Aaron Sorkin has infected the rhetoric of a centre-left politician.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese (then-transport minister) was caught back in 2012, lifting his description of Tony Abbott — “He’s only interested in two things, making Australians afraid of it and telling them who’s to blame for it” — verbatim from 1995’s The American President. And while it’s not exactly plagiarism, there was a notable similarity between then-PM Kevin Rudd’s defence of marriage equality on Q+A in 2013 — warning against biblical literalism — and an argument The West Wing’s president Jed Barlett uses to shut down a bible-bashing pundit.

And it’s not just the left — former British prime minister Theresa May chucked another embarrassment on the pile that she accumulated during the unbelievably cursed conservative party conference in 2017 (yep, THAT one) when she was accused of lifting Sorkin’s lines for her keynote address.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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