Veteran Canberra hand Laurie Oakes’ prediction of an early federal election was so qualified as to be the political equivalent of backing the full Melbourne Cup card. If the Budget is extraordinarily well received, if there is a Budget reform Bill and so on, were presented as clues but the reality is that the chance of Tony Abbott calling an early election is at best low in the extreme even though Tuesday’s Budget will contain no cruel cuts or broken promises. The key determinant in returning the Budget to solvency remains the will of the Senate but with Labor doggedly refusing to support even cuts which it once proposed and screwballs like the former PUPs, Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus, I suggest the focus will be on a modest document and an attempt at a better sales campaign. When it comes to pre-Budget tactics, Bill Shorten is still all hat and no cattle. Sounding like a Boy Scout, he demands honesty and fairness from the government but dithers about any practical solutions to meet the cost of the pie-in-the-sky policies Labor locked into future spending before washing their hands of any responsibility for their ongoing care and maintenance.
In an era of cloying hashtag sentimentality and conspicuous compassion, the commemoration of executed heroin smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran by the Australian Catholic University was unfortunately to be expected. Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven said the two four-year full tuition grants would be known as the Mercy Scholarships ‘after the quality so desperately denied’ the smack peddlers. No word if the ACU plans to compensate the thousands of families affected by the drugs delivered by these chaps on their more successful runs. The Indonesians execrable handling of the executions was totally abhorrent and that point was made. Even so, there were lamentably stupid calls made by the usual ABC/Fairfax employees and associated habitués of the Twitterverse for sanctions and boycotts which would have hurt Australia more than anyone connected with the Indonesian justice system. As the death penalty for drug smuggling was such a major plank in Joko Widodo’s election platform just last year, it seems a mite hypocritical for the normally vociferous supporters of multiculturalism to hold this element of Indonesian culture in such contempt – or is their rage contempt for a politician who has delivered on an election promise? It is a little like the hatred the Coalition attracts for stopping the boats and saving lives. Why do I doubt the ACU offering a scholarship marking Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison’s practical respect for the sanctity of human life? AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin cleared up a number of points about the Bali 9 during his press conference, almost all of them due to blatantly ill-informed and prejudiced reporting. He made it absolutely clear that information provided by a lawyer working for the family of convicted smuggler Scott Rush did not tip off the AFP to the existence of the drug syndicate though it won’t stop the barking mad conspiracistas. Why Rush’s parents didn’t exercise their parental responsibility and tell their son they were prepared to report their concerns directly to the police has never been adequately explained. Commissioner Colvin also said it was ‘absolutely, categorically’ untrue that the Bali 9 were ‘shopped’ to Indonesia to ‘curry favour’ with Jakarta, describing the suggestion as ‘fanciful and offensive’, but again the nutters are unlikely to be deterred from their campaign of denigration. According to the softly-spoken commissioner, the scale of the drug problem was such that amphetamines, cocaine and heroin seized since 2012 could have provided eight hits to every man, woman and child in Australia. ‘Which Australian citizens do you want us to protect?’ he asked.
With cyclonic rains falling on Sydney in the past month despite the dire warnings of the notoriously inaccurate forecaster Tim Flannery, it seemed only proper to don the oil skins and join fellow members of the League of Ancient Mariners for their annual get-together on Sydney Harbour to hear a report on the salvage of the beached Pasha Bulker at Newcastle in the aftermath of a similar East Coast Low in 2007. Until last year, we would all take a special ferry to Watson’s Bay Wharf, stop for one beer at the Watson’s Bay pub and wend our way up to the mess at HMAS Watson for a rousing lunch but security is such now we stay on the ferry. The salvage expert cancelled (maybe the weather delivered more work) but the members, retired merchant and naval men and women, and a handful of honorary Ancients, like me, heard from a guest who outlined the demise of Australian shipping. Another honorary, Sir Peter Cosgrove, who had addressed us after successfully leading the 22-nation INTERFET force into East Timor in 1999, proposed the toast to the League and reminisced about his engagements with the RAN, the seasickness, and the unwanted dunkings he had endured whilst being transferred between ships suspended from lines run between the jackstaffs of the transporting vessels. He said he was tea-bagged. He might adopt another term; tea-bagging means something very different to young people these days.
As The Speccie goes to print, I’ll be plugged into the internet watching the results in the UK election come in. The polls would indicate that achievement counts for little these days with voters. I prefer my Conservatives somewhat drier than David Cameron but the UK economy has outshone the Euro-norm and Cameron’s policies leave Ed Miliband’s Labour Party platform looking like a crude Albanian socialist manifesto. The Conservatives have earned the opportunity to keep going forward, the UK doesn’t deserve to have Labour drag it backward.