This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
Defying gravity and common sense was popular in Australia a little over a century ago. Caught in the grip of a worldwide fascination with spiritualism - a quasi-religious movement promising followers they could communicate with the dead - crowds of true believers flocked to town halls and country fairs to watch spirit mediums leave the ground and float in the air in an apparent defiance of the laws of physics.
It was, of course, a simple trick magicians call the "Balducci Levitation". If you want to try it in the privacy of your home simply watch this. But those preferring a more recent example of someone hovering so high above a crowd they can no longer hear them need only consider Scott Morrison's comments yesterday on why he opposes a national integrity commission.
"If we are going to so disempower our elected officials to do things about what is needed in their communities, then what is the point?" Morrison said in an interview with Nine's newspapers. "We can't just hand government over to faceless officials to make decisions that impact the lives of Australians ... it wouldn't be Australia any more if that was the case. It would be some kind of public autocracy."
Most reasonable people with their feet firmly planted on the ground would suggest that promising everything from $320,000 for a dog park in a marginal seat (La Trobe) to $20 million for an indoor pool in another marginal electorate (Corangamite) might not be the best use of taxpayer's funds at a time when interest rates and the cost of living are rising. It's why repeated polls show an overwhelming majority of Australians, weary of this endless pork barrelling and other political scandals, are demanding a federal anti-corruption body.
"I understand why people want it," said Morrison. "But I also know that if you get it wrong it could cause a lot of damage ... I am trying to prevent a massive mistake."
A massive mistake? The government went to the last election promising an integrity commission and drafted "toothless" legislation that would have allowed public hearings for law enforcement issues but not for allegations of government corruption. It was never introduced for debate and since then Morrison has become even more opposed to the idea, labelling the ICAC in NSW as a "kangaroo court". He also did not explain how an independent federal body, presumably staffed by some of the sharpest legal minds in the country, would somehow turn the country into a "public autocracy."
So who was former deputy Liberal leader Fred Chaney talking about yesterday when he came out in support of the teal independents? "We've got people in Parliament now whose primary interest is the business of politics and not enough interest in the business of good government," said the former Fraser government minister. "I like to think that in previous generations there were people there whose primary concern was the national interest ... rather than saying 'What's the political answer we can get away with today?"
Morrison's antagonistic approach to an integrity commission is perplexing given his reputation as a professional politician with a finely tuned ear for public sentiment. He might well believe his passionate stance morally places him far above the madding crowd. But he can only defy gravity for so long. An integrity commission might well be one issue that brings him back to earth with a thud on May 21.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you support Scott Morrison's stance on an integrity commission? Are there better ways of stemming the practice of pork barrelling? And if you happen to live in a safe seat, have you actually seen your local MP during this campaign? Send us your views: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- The Coalition said it would freeze the deeming rate - one of the key methods determining pension payments - for the next two years as part of a plan to combat the rising cost of living. Labor immediately said it would match the move.
- One Nation chose several candidates to stand for parliament in states where they do not reside, according to a report in The Guardian.
- Former prime minister John Howard repeated his claim that teal independents are nothing more than "anti-Liberal groupies" and that any seat they won would spell the end of the Morrison government.
THEY SAID IT: "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." - Alan Moore.
YOU SAID IT: "Why cannot all parties have the same budget for political advertising? How can it be legal to lie to the public? I resent the amount of taxpayers money spent in campaigns and pork barrelling. If that money had been spent on housing, health or education we would be in a much better position now." - Lee.
"While Albanese makes gaffes and may not be a gifted public speaker, he is human. Morrison on the other hand is purely a jingle junkie and could talk underwater. It doesn't make him a good person, let alone Prime Minister." - Deb.
"If we all want more we need to pay more, not less." - John.
"Living in a rural area we are always short of medical personnel. Are we doing enough to encourage Australians to take up these positions without having to import them all? The same applies to teaching. This reflects poorly on government 'manpower' planning and management policy and practice which are apparently deficient." - Chris.
"Summer temperatures are nearing 50 degrees in some places with mass dying of native birds and mammals. The fact of climate warming and unpredictability is beyond obvious. In 1788, there were fewer than one million people living and having lived sustainably in Australia for tens of thousands of years. Since then, we have cut down around 50 per cent of our native forests, abused and overused our rivers and most of all our mightiest river, the Murray-Darling, and increasing salinity is destroying ever larger tracts of originally fertile land. What are we thinking!" - Dominique.
"No-one is game to seriously consider population, despite it being the great elephant in the room. The leading scientists have made it quite clear that Australia has just about reached its sustainable population already. There will be no water or food for a much larger population so we should be attempting to live at sustainable levels for the good of the planet." - Murray.
"Compulsory voting must never be revoked. A little research would expose what eventuates in countries without this legislation. Uncle Sam, anyone? I am against optional preferential voting. It really isn't that difficult to record your preferences. Many have given their lives in other countries for these privileges. Put a little thought into your vote." - Kim.
"It is often said that Australia has compulsory voting, but this is wrong. We have a system called "compulsory voting" but because voting is confidential then no one knows what you do in the privacy of the voting booth. It is, of course, important that you have your name ticked off, else you may cop a fine, but do you have to vote?" - Bernard.
"Slowmo, where is the money coming from? My small pockets? You couldn't find it before the election was called, but it appears suddenly! We've already got a $2 trillion plus debt. Yes, we know you, and don't want any more of you..." - Lynette.
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