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“This was a huge victory. They can see it from the moon, but certainly from Brussels as well.”
Said Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban after early results in the weekend’s national election gave his Fidesz party a big lead. Orban has a fraught relationship with the European Union – and he referred to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky as an “opponent” in his victory speech. Unlike Poland, Hungary has refused to supply weapons to its neighbour Ukraine to fight against the Russian invasion.
1. Australian fighter jets and naval vessels will get new long-range strike missiles sooner than planned, The Australian reports (PW). Defence Minister Peter Dutton will announce the accelerated timetable and accompanying $3.5 billion today.
2. Voters like the Coalition Government’s $8.6 billion cost of living package unveiled in last week’s Budget, but Labor leader Anthony Albanese has overtaken PM Scott Morrison as preferred PM. That’s according to the latest SMH/Age Resolve Political Monitor.
3. The reaction to Tassie Premier Peter Gutwein’s resignation yesterday is one of shock. Politicians across the board and business and community representatives have wished him well, the Hobart Mercury says (PW).
4. US President Joe Biden has again called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal”. He and other world leaders have expressed their horror over reports of Ukrainian civilians being tortured and killed by Russian forces in towns and cities on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv.
5. A new climate report is out from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, focusing on mitigation. Long story short, a lot of big things need to change fast – like, in the next couple of years – to head off the worst effects of global warming.
Going deeper: The Great Resignation hits Tasmania
As far as shock political resignations go, this is right up there. Peter Gutwein has been Tassie’s premier for just 2 years, and he led the Liberal Party to an election victory in May last year. So the big question is, why now? Gutwein says he’s spent the last couple of years focussing on “everyone else’s family”, and now it’s time to look after his own. He says he’s got “nothing left in the tank”, and no one should be in the job if they can’t give “110%”.
● Abuse survivors paid tribute to Gutwein, who revealed earlier this month that he was the victim of a sexual assault as a 16yo.
● PM Scott Morrison said his Tassie colleague “did not put a foot wrong” in his response to the COVID pandemic.
What it means: Morrison is going to miss him. And he’s going just as a federal election campaign is ramping up, so it’s a blow for the Libs in Tassie, where there are 2 seats in the north of the state they have to retain. That’s Bass (held by Bridget Archer by 0.4%) and Braddon (held by Gavin Pearce by 3.1%).
What’s next: The Tassie Parliament has been prorogued until after Easter, and the Tasmanian Liberals will elect a new leader later in the week. Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff and Minister for Finance Michael Ferguson are serious contenders for the top job.
Hard hats, hi-vis and marginal seats… The faux election campaign’s in full swing
With the Budget done and dusted, nothing is stopping PM Morrison from formally setting a date for a 14 or 21 May election. Until he does, both he and Labor’s Anthony Albanese are doing a kind of dry-run. Albanese has been focusing on Queensland since the weekend – and Labor has some work to do there. It holds just 6 out of 30 federal seats. Meanwhile, Morrison has been in the Victorian seat of Chisholm, which the Liberals’ Gladys Liu holds with a 0.5 margin – and today he’s off to Hughes (hint: hello Craig Kelly…) in southwestern Sydney.
● The Libs would have been heartened by a Herald-Sun survey in Chisholm (PW) which had the party’s primary vote on 45% – better than its result in 2019. Note: marginal seat polling isn’t super accurate because of small sample sizes, but it’s still something…
● The Coalition is facing a tricky landscape in Victoria where the so-called “teal” independents (partly financed by Simon Holmes à Court’s Climate 200 group) are running high profile campaigns in safe conservative seats… It means the Liberals will need to use scarce resources that would otherwise be utilised in more marginal contests.
What it means: Some fascinating local contests across the country – and possibly some surprises ahead.
What’s next: By his own admission, Albanese will be spending a lot more time in Queensland. The state didn’t show federal Labor much love last election – the Adani coal mine was considered a big factor in that – and so those regional seats will need some convincing on local jobs.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan rocked by political crises
It’s been a tumultuous few months in parts of the sub-continent, culminating this week in big political events. Sri Lanka’s entire cabinet resigned yesterday after protestors defied a government curfew and took to the streets angry at shortages of food, fuel, electricity and medicine. It’s been called the worst economic crisis in almost 80 years.
● While government members fell on their swords, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa are still in power, infuriating many Sri Lankans who blame the “family cabal” for their country’s woes. The President has asked opposition MPs to join the cabinet as a way through the economic crisis.
● Meanwhile, Pakistan’s issues are more predictable but still dramatic. PM Imran Khan had been expected to lose a no-confidence motion, but some manoeuvring by his party has put his fate in the hands of the nation’s Supreme Court, which is expected to decide today if blocking the vote was constitutional.
What does it mean: Instability reigns. No Prime Minister has ever completed their full 5-year term in Pakistan. And in Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised change and prosperity when he was elected president in 2019, but things are worse.
What’s next: Fresh elections are likely in Pakistan within 90 days, and security forces are moving to high alert. And in Sri Lanka, protestors are on the streets chanting “go Gota go”.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam won’t go for another 5-year term after a controversial period in office. Lam’s tenure was marked by a China-driven security crackdown that quashed dissent and saw pro-democracy campaigners thrown in jail.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has called the defacement of one of his campaign posters with a swastika “obscene”. The signage of another Kooyong candidate, independent Monique Ryan, was also recently defaced.
Federal Attorney-General Michaelia Cash requested that the amounts paid out to the women who were sexually harassed by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon be kept confidential. Reports say the amounts paid out were large sums, and the 3 complainants were “very happy” with the settlement.
Australian armoured vehicles are on their way to Ukraine after a direct request from President Volodymyr Zelensky during last week’s address to Federal Parliament. The 4 Bushmasters will be flown to Europe from the RAAF Base at Amberley.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet spent his first day back from paternity leave touring the flood-devastated town of Lismore. He promised $20,000 grants to help uninsured flood victims across the state.
The Morrison Government has made a stack of appointments to courts, boards and agencies as the curtain closes on this term of government. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal will get a new influx of former pollies, staffers and friends of the government.
And it’s almost pens down for the Australian Public Service. Phil Gaetjens, the secretary of the Prime Minister’s department, and Peter Woolcott, the head of the Public Service Commission, have told officials to familiarise themselves with the caretaker conventions (PW) ahead of a campaign being called.
Labor’s Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers is giving his post-Budget address to the National Press Club today – so we thought we’d take a look at how much googling has been done on Jim (in red) versus his opposite number Josh Frydenberg (in blue) over the last year. Election campaigns tend to level out interest in both major parties, so the alternative money man will be expecting his stocks to rise…
PM Scott Morrison is visiting the southern Sydney electorates of Hughes (held by former Liberal-turned-UAP leader Craig Kelly by 9.8%) and Banks (held by Liberal David Coleman by 6.3%)
Labor leader Anthony Albanese will be in Canberra to address the National Farmers’ Federation Conference at 11.15am. Morrison’s pre-recorded address will be played at 9.20am
From 8.30am – COSBOA hosts its National Small Business Summit featuring former PM Julia Gillard, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims, Tax Office Commissioner Chris Jordan, ASIC Commissioner Danielle Press, Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker, and Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commissioner Gary Johns – Sydney
12.00pm – ASIC chair Joseph Longo to speak on the corporate regulator’s priorities for 2022 and beyond at av event hosted by CEDA – Melbourne
12.30pm – Labor’s Jim Chalmers delivers his post-Budget address to the National Press Club – Parliament House, Canberra
2.00pm – The NSW Court of Appeal to rule on the validity of recent state Liberal preselections after the party’s Federal Executive took over the process
2.30pm – Pinch and punch, it’s the first Tuesday of the month… The Reserve Bank to make an announcement on interest rates following its monthly meeting
And former US President Barack Obama will return to the White House for the first time since he left office to promote health care reform
*All times in AEST unless noted