The big pictureThe election campaign has taken a back seat to devastating floods in New South Wales, the ACT and Tasmania. There are fears the death toll could rise as high as seven. Among the worst-hit areas is the north-west Tasmanian town of Latrobe, which is under water.
In political matters, the industrial dispute over the Country Fire Authority in Victoria continues to provide fuel for Malcolm Turnbull, who is using it to discuss new legislation restricting union powers. The Australian reports that Turnbull will block unions from striking “secret deals”, whatever that means.
I’ll let the Oz’s David Crowe and Rick Wallace explain:
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, appeared to back down on the deal last night, with his government now saying they will help the CFA and continue negotiations with the United Firefighters Union.Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told the Australian the government was considering changes to the Fair Work Act to shield the Victorian volunteers from the union’s attempts to extend its power over the firefighting authority.
“We are considering a number of possible amendments to the Fair Work Act that would address this issue,” Senator Cash said. “There is a clear pattern of behaviour when it comes to secret deals between unions and Labor governments which only benefits unions at the expense of all others. Whether it is destroying the livelihoods of truck drivers at the behest of the TWU, locking contractors out of the construction industry at the behest of the CFMEU or destroying the volunteer CFA at the behest of the UFU, Labor’s utter weakness in the face of greedy union bosses comes at an enormous cost to the community.”
I wrote an explainer about the dispute here.
On the campaign trailMalcolm Turnbull has suspended his campaign for the day to tour flood-affected areas in New South Wales. Three people have been confirmed dead in the floods: two in New South Wales and one in the ACT. In Tasmania four people are missing, feared dead.
Bill Shorten is in South Australia, where he plans to talk about apprenticeships. He has offered to suspend his campaign and join Turnbull touring flood zones – no word yet on Turnbull’s response but I think we can expect Shorten in flood areas soon.
The campaign you should be watchingLabor is reportedly concerned about the affect the CFA industrial dispute could have on its campaign for marginal Victorian seats, particularly McEwan, held by Labor’s Rob Mitchell, and Corangamite, held by Liberal MP Sarah Henderson.
The Age’s Richard Willingham writes that both seats are in high-risk bushfire zones. McEwan and Shorten are hoping voters quarantine the dispute as a state issue.
And another thing(s)It appeared viewers weren’t the only people terribly bored during the National Press Club leaders debate. Malcolm Turnbull says that if he’s to participate in another debate, he wants it to include questions from Facebook, which is a very on-brand demand.
Gareth Hutchens has more:
But the details of such a plan remain vague. Labor headquarters say there have been no negotiations over a third debate yet.The prime minister’s office believes the format of the first debate suited the opposition because few of the audience questions were about the economy and it thinks the format of the second debate was too boring for the public to engage with it.
Turnbull would like the format of the next debate to be more attractive for voters, particularly disengaged voters in marginal electorates.
With that goal in mind, he would like voters who will not be able to attend the event to still have the chance to engage directly with it. That means having some kind of system that allows questions to be submitted live via Facebook and answered by the prime minister and opposition leader.
In another display of modernity, Turnbull has declared that he is a feminist. Twice.
But he also used the word “Robogals” at a women in STEM event in Melbourne yesterday, so points off for that.
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