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Coalition shoots itself in the foot

Last updated on 24 October 2016

Australian politics, never pretty, has taken a further ugly turn, as the government shot itself in the foot over an open conflict between former prime minister and now Liberal backbencher Tony Abbott, and the party’s current leader, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The governing Coalition had planned to focus parliamentary attention on a bill now before the Senate to reinstate the construction industry watchdog, abolished by the Gillard government, and thereby hopefully to restore some semblance of law and order to the nation’s overpriced construction industry, overshadowed by union threats to company officers and other thuggery.

About 100 members or associates of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union(CFEMU)  are awaiting trial for serious crimes. The Australian Financial Review recently described the union’s business model as “law-breaking”

“Behind the raw statistics are campaigns of violent intimidation by which the Labor-affiliated CFMEU uses its monopoly over the supply of workers to control major construction sites, extending into blatant price-fixing arrangements with construction companies that ratchet up the cost of building everything from office towers to transport infrastructure”, the paper opined.

The working days lost to industrial action in the construction industry in the past year is five times the national average.

Instead of a planned focus on this legislation, which is rejected by Opposition leader Bill Shorten in return for a CFEMU pledge to back his party leadership, Mr Turnbull was forced into open warfare with Mr Abbott over gun control. Ironically both men back a current ban on importing  the multi-action Adler shotgun, but the issue that divided them was whether Mr Abbott, when prime minister, had supported negotiations with a cross bench senator over its import in return for his support for the anti CFEMU legislation.

Australian media, on permanent watch for any break out of hostilities between the two men, had  a field day, as did the Opposition front bench, which plied Turnbull with questions he did not answer very well.

Another week of no progress in Australian politics.

Michelle Grattan on the Turnbull-Abbott battle