My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 1 January 2019

by ray goodlass

2018 nothing to crow about

One of my favourite songs at this time of year is John Lennon’s ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’, which certainly dates me but also encourages feelings of hope as he ushers in the New Year with “Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear”.

We’ve certainly had plenty to fear in the year past, from a federal government apparently oblivious to the dangers of climate change and happy to ditch the closest it came to a national energy plan.

However, the year began with something we hadn’t expected to fear – seemingly libidinous National Party MPs, as news broke that then Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was expecting a baby with his former staffer Vikki Campion, followed later in the month with news that he was stepping down as Deputy PM.

Which ushered in our very own federal MP Michael McCormack becoming leader of the Nats and therefore Deputy PM.

It’s probably too early to tell how history will judge Mr McCormack in that position, but there have been murmurings of concern about how he handled the Nats’ other sex scandal, the Andrew Broad ‘Sugar Daddy’ affair, which neatly book-ended the year for us.

Both disgraced MPs championed ‘traditional family values’ during the Marriage Equality campaign, which by their conduct presumably means cheating on your wife.

The Nats aren’t the only party to suffer sex scandals. The ALP’s Dirt Unit found some ammunition with which to attack the Victorian Greens in the state election, and here the Greens NSW Jeremy Buckingham eventually resigned from the party after allegedly “bringing it into disrepute”. Thankfully, after some equivocation, Labor’s Luke Foley left the scene quickly.

These sexually charged shenanigans point towards a much bigger picture that dominated our political news this year, which is the position of women in the Lib/Nats coalition, and how they are treated. It really does beggar belief that there are only two female National Party federal MPs!

The change in Liberal Party parliamentary leadership from Malcolm Turnbul to Scott Morrison via an attempted coup by the apparently innumerate Peter Dutton brought to light accusations of bullying by the men of the coalition towards the women in their respective parties, highlighted by the move of Julia Banks to the cross bench, thereby further cementing the government’s loss of its majority in the House of Representatives.

That was of course achieved earlier by the Liberals losing the Wentworth by-election to Dr Kerryn Phelps, triggered by Malcolm Turnbull’s resignation after he lost the above-mentioned Liberal Party parliamentary leadership.

The Wentworth by-election highlighted the disenchantment by voters of the major parties, certainly on the conservative side of politics, a trend initiated a month earlier by our very own Dr Joe McGirr winning the Wagga by-election following the resignation of the disgraced Daryl Maguire.

It will be interesting to see if Dr McGirr’s victory carries over to the general election next March, especially as the Nationals are running a candidate for the first time in decades.

Another major development this past year was the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, which finally opened in February. It provided an ongoing series of revelations of misconduct, most notably of billing customers for services not provided, blatantly bad financial advice given in order to gain commissions, and billing deceased persons, again often for services not provided.

As well as its findings the Royal Commission was characterised by its late arrival after years of the coalition government resisting its establishment despite calls for it to be instituted by the Greens and the ALP. And despite a few heads rolling it is remarkable how many CEOs survived, after only a few formulaic mea culpas.

On the other side of the industrial front it was pleasing to see an estimated 100,000 union workers march through Melbourne’s CBD in protest about workplace conditions, thereby kicking off the Australian Council of Trade Union’s “Change the Rules” campaign, which Sally McManus has successfully rolled out across the country throughout the year.

PM Morrison’s tenure began with a disturbing trend, government by Trump-like thought bubble, when he announced, during the Wentworth by-election, that he would consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the Australian embassy there. His eventual decision, after finally consulting cabinet, was a compromise that satisfied no one.