MUNGO MACCALLUM. Morrison suffers mental congestion.

Scott Morrison’s slogan of the week was congestion busting —  he was in favour of it.

This was hardly surprising, as he had already christened his minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge, his minister for congestion business – something of a demotion from his complex portfolio, one might have thought, but still a better result than that for the Immigration Minister, David Coleman, who appears to have been frozen out altogether.

In any case, the great marketeer has taken it over, at least for the week, and has been spruiking it through the traffic jams of Sydney and Melbourne. But, like so many of his brain bubbles, this one too is all spin and absolutely no substance.

Morrison’s solution to the congestion is, apparently to reduce by some 30,000 the cap on permanent immigration. Last year this was calculated at 190.000. But in fact only a few more than 160.000 arrived (where the hell were they?), so the cap seems hardly necessary. And of course, even if it was reduced more drastically, it would do less than bugger all for congestion – as long as any net immigration continues, congestion will get worse.

But that’s the good news – when it comes to congestion, immigration is only the tip of the tail of the elephant in the room. Some 80 per cent of our congesters are not immigrants, but Australians being born, tourists, student and guest workers, and no one is suggesting their numbers should be cut. And as Morrison has always insisted (well, until last week) that immigration is a net economic benefit anyway.

The problems of congestion come from not the new arrivals, but the lack of facilities to manage them. Morrison keeps boasting about the vast amount of infrastructure in the pipe line, but even when it is delivered, it will be too little and too late. Infrastructure has been a political plaything, announced as ad hoc pork-barrelling on the eve of each election.

What is needed is serious planning on all levels of government – it must entail not only housing and jobs, but schools, hospitals, parks and above all sensible transport options – not just more and bigger roads, but public trains and busses to actually do something about the congestion.

Morrison’s only other idea is the age old one of decentralisation – our current Prime Minister’s version is to restrict the visa of newcomers to keep them outside the congested areas. This is clearly unenforceable and possibly unconstitutional, but it accords with Morrison’s authoritarian instincts. And it sounds tough. Who needs a plan when you have a slogan?

Bill Shorten at least had a plan last week – not a great plan, certainly not an ideal plan, but its mere existence was greeted with some relief. His solution to the long-running stand off on energy and climate change consists, basically, of Josh Frydenberg’s National Energy Guarantee with ramped out targets for emissions reduction and renewables and the obligatory set of steak knives in the form of subsidised batteries for those who could afford them.

And given that although Frydenberg’s NEG had been passed by the party room and was described by Scott Morrison as the best thing since sliced bread it was eventually canned by the mad right, Shorten is ready to bypass parliament to implement its core elements without legislation if that becomes necessary.

The policy is obviously a compromise, so it is hardly surprising that both the Greens and business have their reservations. But interestingly, the two sides have the basis of furious agreement; both would prefer something far simpler, more certain  and more efficient: a carbon tax, or if that is a step too hard, some kind of emissions trading system.

Labor’s spokesman Mark Butler has already hinted that this could be in the mix, which has predictably sparked the arsonists of the coalition to start their usual inferno. Angus Taylor, in his standard inflammable mood, calls the Labor policy a wrecking ball – déjà vu from the Abbott years. Time for the Whyalla wipe out and the $100 leg of lamb.

But given the total inability of Abbott, Turnbull and now Morrison to manage the issue in more than five years in office, the big scare campaign must suffer from a credibility problem. Taylor’s only reply is to ignore the climate change entirely and rabbit on about the big stick he will wield on the wicked energy companies and a vague warning of divestiture – an idea that horrifies business across its many boards.

The Labor plan needs a lot of improvement, but at least it’s something – it’s a start. Whereas, after the Victorian disaster, the Liberals are again floundering around behind the blocks.

As the senior Victorian Liberal deputy leader Josh Frydenberg offered the usual excuses: the result a was all about state issues and had absolutely nothing to do with the federal shenanigans. And indeed, state Liberal leader Matthew Guy was a political hole in the air, and the sinister presence of  state president Michael Kroger lurking around the edges s did not help.

But no more did our Prime Minister’s rare and unwelcome appearance with his boorish intrusion into Pellegrini’s café in search of a photo opportunity. A  loss of this magnitude means that there is plenty of blame to share around, and Morrison will collect a fair chunk of it.

The only possible straw to cling to is the hope that the Cabbage Patchers’ righteous wrath will now be assuaged and they will be kinder to Morrison when his  own poll comes to fruition in the all too near future. But you wouldn’t want to count on it, and the immediate indications are that Morrison is permanently on the nose in what the triumphant Daniel Andrews now calls the most progressive state in the country.

The sainted Robert Menzies used to call it the jewel in the Liberal crown.  These days it is clearly a very long way from the mythical base; the electorate has moved on, but Morrison is still running around in ever decreasing circles, and if he continues his destination is inevitable.

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9 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM. Morrison suffers mental congestion.

  1. Evan and Don, you are on the money. By moving to the right, the ALP, American Democrats, British Labour etc shifted the centre to the right. Bob Menzies was a socialist on today’s measure. The trick was knowing when to stop. Tony Abbot missed his chance to hold the centre in 2014 when he and his dill of a treasurer, Joe Hockey, plunged to the right and led the Liberals over the cliff.

    Now the challenge will be to drag Labor back to the left, at least a little. Sally McManus will help here. She understands neoliberalism

  2. Laurie Mills says:

    On energy policy – or lack thereof – FauxMo is at it again stating: ‘We have gone from pink batts to pink batteries. They never learn from their mistakes, the Labor Party,’ Mr Morrison told reporters.

    A Spin Doctor never lets the facts get in the way of a good story. Pink batts have saved an enormous amount of carbon dioxide pollution by saving an enourmous amount of coal-fired electricity, and contribute to saving the Planet each and every day.

    As an example, a friend’s landlord used the Pink Batts scheme to insulate the rental property, saving about 30% of my friend’s electricity bills. Renters rarely articipate in renewable energy schemes, and Pink Batts is an exception. Once installed, they save until the property is demolished – a gift that keeps giving.

    The COALition should check the physics and facts, and enter the climate management debate when they have something positive to contribute.

    • Peter Best says:

      Further to the pink batts bullshit horror story, the batts were not only useful, but there were fewer injuries and deaths than usual during the time the scheme was running, But, like “good things trickle-down when the rich are made richer” and “the coalition are better economic managers” the pink batts story lives on, a ridiculous zombie that can never die.

  3. Hettie Lynch says:

    Reading between the lines of the Labor Energy policy statement, I think that Shorten has indicated that if the Coalition nutters refuse to accept the modified NEG, Labor will ditch it too, and go with the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan. That would make far more sense, and I sincerely hope it is what happens.
    The ISP provides a detailed roadmap for the transition from fossil-fueled electricity to clean energy. The suggested timeline is way too slow, but that is not difficult to change.
    The provision of the necessary upgrades to the transmission grid, the slowest component of the transition, could be completed in about 7 years. The rest will be happening at the same time, but faster. We could be almost 100% clean by 2026. BRING IT ON!

  4. Don Macrae says:

    I assume that Labor are in favour of a carbon tax – not a tax in the normal sense but a redistribution from the polluters to everyone – but they don’t say so because they think it impolitic. But maybe Bill should say ‘There WILL be a carbon tax under a government I lead’. The community may well be ready for that and the Coalition’s conniptions will become even sillier.

    • Peter Best says:

      The electorate knows that a carbon tax is evil. The coalition told them that it was, and they believed it with all their hearts and tiny brains. Whatever Labor introduces, they can’t call it a carbon tax. That would be like promising to clone Hitler if they’re elected.

  5. Max Bourke says:

    Mungo do you think the stranded asset that is the current LNP brand will be of any value to its owners Rhinehart and the Aust Mining Ind Council afttnext election

  6. Evan Hadkins says:

    Have Victorians moved or have the parties? I.e. is Labor now what a centrish Liberal party once was?

    • Don Macrae says:

      That is an interesting way of looking at it. Several decades of shrieking neo-liberalism have may have succeeded in moving the entire political apparatus to the right.

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