HOUSE OF CARDS
A dramatic day in the federal Senate has seen the chamber vote just after midnight this morning to extend the cashless welfare card in four largely-Indigenous towns, as well as a plan to make it voluntary for people currently on the basics card in the Northern Territory.
The new version of the law will today re-enter the House of Representatives after the Morrison government initially attempted to make the card, which quarantines 80% of welfare recipients payments for use on select items, permanent in the four trial sites and compulsory in the Northern Territory.
However, as The Sydney Morning Herald explains, opposition from Independent senator Rex Patrick — and a grassroots campaign that got #RejectCDCRex trending on Twitter — saw the government make a last-minute deal with Centre Alliance for a new, reduced extension of the scheme, which would have otherwise ended in the new year.
PS: Just a month after the government shelled out $1.2 billion for robodebt, ABC reports that private debt collectors working for Centrelink currently face penalties if they are unable to claw back enough cash.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
PPS: And tucked away in that packed Senate day was the first report from the COVID-19 inquiry, which The Guardian explains found the Morrison government failed to anticipate crippling staff shortages and high PPE demand.
BETTER OFF WITH BETTER OFF
With parliament facing its final sitting day of the year today, The Australian ($) reports that Attorney-General Christian Porter is prepared to dump a proposed, temporary dismantling of the “better off overall test” — changes that Crikey explained yesterday would stand to further undermine wages — in an attempt to secure the omnibus industrial relations package’s passage.
The change may help prevent the Coalition from facing a repeat of yesterday’s fight in the Senate, and help secure other changes ACTU Secretary Sally McManus says would make it nearly “impossible” for casual workers to force employers to eventually classify them as permanent and would “retrospectively takes away rights they would have to paid leave”.
PS: In a nice bit of synchronicity, the ABC reports that the ATO’s latest corporate tax transparency data reveals hundreds of companies pay no tax in Australia.
JUDGEMENT OF PARIS
According to The Guardian, the Morrison government will today release updated greenhouse gas emissions projections that claim Australia could just miss its (relatively weak) 2030 Paris target of 26-28% on 2005 levels by 56 million tonnes.
Officials have apparently revised down projections that last year found Australia would only hit the target with the government’s made-up “carryover credits” scheme (which, for anyone who missed that brain fart, involved transferring gains from Australia’s disproportionately-generous 2020 Kyoto target).
Scott Morrison reportedly intended to flag a shift away from reliance on that policy at a pre-Glasgow climate summit this weekend, but the fact it is reserved for countries with ambitious, or even tangible emissions goals means there’s a decent chance he won’t get a speaking slot.
PS: While Angus Taylor’s claims Australia will beat its Paris target have been repeated verbatim by The Australian ($), clean tech analyst Ketan Joshi has emphasised that, as no data has been published, “for now: assume full deception and deviousness, because these data sets get delayed for days for good reasons”.
VALE MUNGO MACCALLUM
Legendary Australian political journalist Mungo MacCallum has passed away at the age of 78, roughly a week after he announced his retirement due to ill health.
News of MacCallum’s passing comes via his editor at The Monthly, Nick Feik, who announced on Twitter:
The great Mungo MacCallum has left us. After years battling ill-health, he passed away this afternoon. He was a legend of Australian political journalism. We will remember him for his irreverence and humour, his humanity and his insight. Mungo, you will be missed.
For more on someone whose journalism will leave an irreparable hole in the industry, see Crikey’s tribute on this retirement last week, Kerry O’Brien’s 2019 profile, or MacCallum’s final piece at The Monthly, ‘“Morrison’s climate flip: Australia has a lot of catching up to do on emissions reduction”, published November 30.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
After making a deal with the Morrison government to extend the cashless welfare card for another two years, the Centre Alliance senator bails from Parliament House entirely rather than stay to explain his new position.
“For public consumption, there are four Scott Morrisons. There’s the daggy dad (how good is the daggy dad?); the serious leader (see agitprop photos of Scott-at-desk); the smarmy dismisser (reserved for parliament and the media); and, most rarely, righteous anger Scott.”
“The PM’s spin doctors have been hard at work this year, generating catchy slogans and cleverly crafted Instagram posts at every turn.
“But as Crikey wrote in October, Scott Morrison’s marketing obsession goes far beyond the realm of public relations — it has seeped into his policymaking too. And with millions being spent on focus groups to refine the Treasury department’s economic recovery message, it seems nothing is beyond the reach of spinners.”
“The bloody Aussie dollar just keeps going up. This is not what we need to generate a strong recovery.
“As the next graph shows, the Australian dollar plunged in the depths of the crisis back in March. Since then it recovered to its previous levels around the level of 70 US cents, and after the US election it roared upward even more.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
So much for consensus: Morrison government’s industrial relations bill is a business wish list — Jim Stanford (The Conversation): “The bill doesn’t just take the employers’ side in the five issues debated at those roundtables (award simplification, enterprise agreements, casual work, compliance and enforcement, and “greenfields agreements” for new enterprises). One of its biggest changes is to suspend rules that prevent enterprise agreements from undercutting minimum award standards. This proposal wasn’t even discussed at the roundtables.”
Ita Buttrose to offer no retreat on ABC Four Corners program ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian): “There has been a dramatic change in a key policy area by the Morrison government. It has abandoned its suppression strategy after concluding it has fallen short of its objective, so will go all out now for elimination. No, we are not talking about an escalation of the war against the coronavirus. We mean the war against the ABC.”
At this weekend’s climate summit, no one will be perfect but Australia will be awful — Ketan Joshi (RenewEconomy): “Timing never really seems to work out for Australia’s government. This Saturday, there will be a relatively big ‘Climate Ambition Summit’, held on the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement. It’s hosted by UK Prime minister Boris Johnson and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and governments will be ‘invited to present more ambitious and high-quality climate plans, as well as COVID recovery plans, new finance commitments and measures to limit global warming to 1.5C’.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The final Crikey Talks event for 2020, “A very Crikey Christmas”, will be hosted by reporters Charlie Lewis and Amber Schultz and feature journalists: Margot Saville, David Hardaker, Kishor Napier-Raman, Janine Perrett, Bernard Keane, Georgia Wilkins and Michael Bradley.
This event will be available to Inside Access members tonight at 6pm.
The Wheeler Centre will host webinar event “Make It New: 2021 and Beyond”, with Trent Dalton, Bruce Pascoe, N’arweet Carolyn Briggs, Paul Kelly, Jazz Money, and Wheeler Centre CEO Caro Llewellyn.