Comment: Good thing the adults are back in charge

Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews , Minister for Education Christopher Pyne and Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time in the House of Representatives. (AAP)

When it comes to this week in politics, were you distracted by sexism, invective and the distant rumbling of leadership speculation? Well, here's what you missed.

I don’t know about you, but I love the adults being back in charge.

Under the previous mob we’d always have to deal with Ministers who didn’t understand their portfolios, sexist abuse being hurled around the parliament, and endless ruminations about leadership speculation.

Good thing those days are behind us, eh?

The sideshow factor has been pretty big this week. It really shouldn’t have been. The Senate Budget Estimate committees were in full swing and there was plenty of fat to chew in those.

It was one of those weeks where the opposition really didn’t have to do anything except sit back and watch. But even doing that was found to be dangerous for the ALP (and members of "the left") as they were rebuked by various right-wing sections of the media for not jumping to attention quick enough when Clive Palmer slurred Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

We learned that the government had done no modelling on the impact of the GP co-payment on visits to emergency rooms. The best it had done was to look at modelling done by some states on what would happen to GP visits if emergency waiting times improved!

The lack of modelling shouldn’t be that surprising given the Senate Estimates also revealed that the "medical research future fund" was thought up in April and that the Health Department was not all that sure about how it would work. You now, small things, like what it would research.

At least we can’t blame the National Health and Medical Research Council, because it was not asked to provide any advice. And of course why would they be asked? Experts only get in the way when a Budget is being planned.

The Defence portfolio estimates committee found that the suggestion in April by the Prime Minister that the purchase of the Joint Strike Fighter would not involve new money was a bit of a fudge. Far from having $12bn in capital sitting in some air-force capability fund earning interest, all we have is a line item in the Defence portfolio budget statement which currently amounts to about $3bn over the next 4 years.

Far from being old money, it is money which needs to be budgeted in each progressive budget.

We then learned that emergency payments to people on the dole would come from savings achieved by cutting the dole. So we have a system where money is taken away from people so that it can then be given to them. It seems to be a favourite tactic of this government, which boasts of increasing support for low income people to attend university, and funding this in the future by cutting expenditure to universities and forcing people to repay back their university debt earlier and at a higher rate.

But Senate estimates aside, not a great deal happened. It was the type of week where Tony Abbott left the country, Warren Truss acted as PM, and no one was really wondering if it made much of a difference.

It was one of those weeks where the opposition really didn’t have to do anything except sit back and watch.

But even doing that was found to be dangerous for the ALP (and members of "the left"), as they were rebuked by various right-wing sections of the media for not jumping to attention quick enough when Clive Palmer slurred Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

The criticism which came from those who gleefully gave not one stuff when Julia Gillard was subjected to attacks, suggested members of the left and feminists were hypocritically silent. Mostly the argument involved ignoring anyone from the left or any feminists who actually did criticise Palmer, and instead cherry pick various people who they thought should have said something. For some, this would be a logically tough thing to do, but given most of these journalists and commentators spend their time cherry-picking climate change and economic data, they did it with ease.

But the biggest sideshow was Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones deciding to coincidentally complain about Malcolm Turnbull supposedly wanting to be leader again, and then for Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones to complain that Malcolm Turnbull was complaining about Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, and then Andrew Bolt complaining that Malcolm Turnbull went on Alan Jones’ show to complain about Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, when really what Malcolm Turnbull should be doing is ignoring Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones.

That is pretty good advice, really. The pity is that more in the Liberal Party don’t take it.

Greg Jericho is an economics and politics blogger and writes for The Guardian and The Drum.

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