Australia Morrison faces threats from all sides in chaotic final days of Parliament

14:16  25 november  2021
14:16  25 november  2021 Source:   crikey.com.au

Make do and amend

  Make do and amend Good morning, early birds. The Victorian government will amend its controversial pandemic bill, and despite a COP26 agreement to phase down coal Scott Morrison has told reporters the industry will be around for decades to come. It's the news you need to know, with Kishor Napier-Raman.The Andrews government’s bill which gives the premier power to declare a pandemic, and the health minster authority to make health orders, passed the Labor-controlled lower house last month. Since then, it’s been criticised by legal bodies and human rights groups over its lack of oversight.

It’s hard to remember the last time Scott Morrison had a “good” day. But back in Parliament this week, where he can’t hide under a hard-hat and hi-viz, the threats to the prime minister have circled even closer. On the one hand, there’s a Labor opposition increasingly focused on Morrison’s problems with honesty. Morrison’s weak question time performances suggests those attacks are landing.

  Morrison faces threats from all sides in chaotic final days of Parliament © Provided by Crikey

Arguably more troubling for Morrison right now, though, is the opposition from his own side of the ideological divide, threatening to disrupt the government’s already meagre legislative agenda in the final sitting weeks of the year, and possibly the term. Rather than wedge Labor, Morrison’s long-promised religious discrimination bill has only exposed division within the government. And the issue of vaccine mandates continues to anger the conservative rump, and embolden far-right minor parties.

No place for threats against MPs: Morrison

  No place for threats against MPs: Morrison Prime Minister Scott Morrison has condemned the violence and threats levelled against politicians at anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protests."Threats and intimidation has no place in Australia," the prime minister told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

The rebels

The week began with two Senators, Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic threatening to withhold their votes unless the government acted on vaccine mandates and introduced more compensation for people with alleged adverse reactions to immunisation. The government won Rennick’s support for procedural motions by lowering the vaccine compensation loss threshold from $5000 to $1000. It’s still not enough for Antic.

The two were joined by Matt Canavan, Sam McMahon and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells in crossing the floor to vote for One Nation’s unsuccessful anti-vaccine mandate bill. Northern Territory Senator McMahon is also considering voting against the government’s controversial voter ID laws.

George Christensen, who threatens to cross the floor on something approximately every few weeks, is also threatening to cause havoc over vaccine mandates, which he yesterday compared to decrees by “Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot,” before calling for civil disobedience. He actually made good on that promise yesterday, voting with Labor on a litigation funding bill, on which the government had to eke out crossbench support to avoid an embarrassing lower house defeat.

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The moderates vs the faithful

Video: Conservative voters 'important' to the Coalition (Sky News Australia)

Morrison was happier when introducing the religious discrimination bill to Parliament this morning, speaking straight to faith communities and hitting out at “cancel culture” and “Twitter trolls”. But the fierce internal division in the background still lingers, and means that pre-election promise might never be legislated this term.

On one side, moderates like Trent Zimmerman, Dave Sharma, Katie Allen, Andrew Bragg, Fiona Martin, Warren Entsch and Bridget Archer want more protection for LGBTIQ students and teachers at religious schools. Archer, whose northern Tasmanian seat of Bass is the Coalition’s most marginal, questioned why the government was prioritising religious discrimination over a Commonwealth integrity commission, and this morning crossed the floor to allow debate on Helen Haines’ integrity commission bill. Then, as rookie speaker Andrew Wallace flailed, government lost two successive votes on the integrity commission in the house (although the crossbench lacked an absolute majority required to suspend standing orders and force a debate).

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But on the other side of the religious freedom coin, conservatives like Tony Pasin, Matt O’Sullivan, Ben Small and Phil Thompson are urging the government not to water down the bill.

The outsiders

Pauline Hanson had already threatened to cause the government “so much chaos” during its final sitting weeks, over One Nation’s opposition to vaccine mandates. Hanson’s anti-mandates bill lost, and at most, the party has managed to get widespread condemnation for allegedly leaking Senator Jacqui Lambie’s phone number.

But the anti-vax adjacent far-right could pose more of a longer-term electoral problem for Morrison. Backed by the financial might of mining billionaire Clive Palmer, the United Australia Party are establishing themselves as the voice of anti-vaccine/mandate/lockdown disgruntlement. While Palmer’s bid to make Craig Kelly prime minister will probably fail, he’s got enough money to cause electoral havoc. A preference deal with the Liberal Democrats could help failed Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, who he once called a “little Hitler”, into the Senate at the expense of a Liberal spot.

Desperate measures: Morrison in danger of misjudging what Australians think is important

  Desperate measures: Morrison in danger of misjudging what Australians think is important In winking at protesters who threatened violence, the Prime Minister may be alienating the majority.But not, it seems, politics. Asked a short and simple question last week about protesters advocating violence against politicians, Scott Morrison began with a statement of disapproval. Unfortunately, he then went on. Most casual observers will not have realised just how much he went on. He talked about people being frustrated. He talked about freedom. He talked about governments stepping back, and about people taking their lives back. He said he was against mandatory vaccines. The unvaccinated should soon be able to get coffee in Brisbane.

For Morrison, who last week seemed to wink at the anti-government protests, the UAP effect is a challenge. Lean in too hard, and he’s easily tarred as indulging the crazies. But Palmer’s money, and polling which suggests a growing UAP primary vote in key suburban marginals, makes it hard to look away. Given One Nation preferences laid the foundation for the Coalition’s election-winning swings in regional Queensland, and UAP’s ad blitz helped dampen Labor’s primary vote, keeping the crazies onside might make electoral sense for Morrison.

The frenemies

Looking ahead to the election, and more threats lie within Morrison’s own ranks. There’s already some loose Canberra bubble chatter about Peter Dutton having the numbers, such is the frustration with the prime minister’s recent performance. Morrison isn’t getting rolled, but the Defence Minister is lining himself up as the successor should Morrison lose next year, and he wants us to know it.

Planning for that election has been dealt a blow by another frenemy: Dominic Perrottet. The NSW Premier is unhappy with Morrison poaching state MPs to run in the federal election. With NSW key to Morrison’s re-election chances, it’s another slightly sour relationship he needs to work.

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Morrison works hard to make the case for a Dutton prime ministership .
If Scott Morrison's awful week wasn't enough, Defence Minister Peter Dutton will speak at the National Press Club today. Inevitably, the comparison will be made between a disciplined performer and a shambolic leader.Morrison has headed to South Australia, where he is now not building any submarines and is unlikely to ever do so. On current polling from Roy Morgan, things aren’t too bad for Morrison there: Labor only leads 55.5-44.5%, which is actually down a little. That would only pick up Boothby. Not as bad as further west — in WA, Labor would pick up three and go close to a fourth seat on a monster 9% swing.

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This is interesting!