Dutton paints himself into a petulant corner over jobs summit (2022)

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Dutton paints himself into a petulant corner over jobs summit (1)

Fiona Katauskas' view

Peter Dutton isn't looking too relevant these days. Turning down the government's invitation to attend the September jobs summit, dismissing it as a stunt or talkfest, he's painted himself into a petulant corner and further marginalised his depleted party. Even his junior Coalition partner, David Littleproud, said he'd show up if invited, just to represent regional Australia. Good enough for the goose but not the gander.

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The Opposition Leader seems to be struggling not only with the new reality - that Australians favour constructive conversations over conflict - but with the past as well. Bob Hawke's National Economic Summit showed how profitable such a gathering of minds and divergent interests could be. Many reforms flowed from the summit, chief among them the prices and incomes accord between Labor and the ACTU. Unions agreed to moderate their inflationary wage demands in exchange for improvements in the "social wage" - the introduction of benefits such as better healthcare, higher pensions and unemployment benefits and ultimately superannuation.

The meeting of minds led to other defining reforms: the floating of the dollar, the scaling back of protectionism, economic engagement with Asia.

"I'd promised we'd have that summit within a month of me coming to office," Hawke told the ABC's Naomi Woodley in 2012. "We did and we had the representatives, federal government, state government, local government, large employers, small employers, trade unions, churches, welfare organisations. They were given by Treasury all the information that we had and so you had the people of Australia through their representative organisations informed in a way that they had never been before."

There are echoes of the early Hawke days in 2022, particularly the deficit inherited from the decades of Liberal National Party government - even if the numbers seem quaintly minuscule four decades on. Hawke again: "It was pretty tough I can tell you because the election was on Saturday the 5th of March and on the Sunday [Treasury secretary] John Stone came around and saw me and my people at the Lakeside Hotel in Canberra and revealed that the budget deficit for the upcoming year 83-84 was going to be $9.5 billion and accompanying that information was a note saying that this represented the worst sort of management of an economy [of] any Western nation since in the post-war period."

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

It's unlikely the September summit will have the grandeur of Hawke's gathering but it will be too important to miss, especially for the sake of trying to score a political point. The opposition will struggle to appear relevant if it forgoes a seat at the table, instead choosing to snipe from the sidelines.

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Dutts, you need to get on board with this. Who knows, you might even have some constructive suggestions.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Should Peter Dutton put down the brickbat and attend the jobs summit? What do you hope the jobs summit will achieve? Or is Dutton right and it will just be a talkfest? Email us: echidna@theechidna.com.au

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- Australians with the condition known as long COVID are faced with months-long waiting lists for clinics as cases rise in "sobering" projections. Currently, Long COVID is estimated to affect about 5 per cent of people who contract COVID-19, according to a University of NSW study. On current daily rates, that translates to 1300 new long COVID cases each day, cardiologist and Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Professor Jason Kovacic said.

- China's ambassador to Australia has blamed the United States for escalating tensions in Taiwan Strait as his nation conducts live-fire drills near Taiwan after a visit from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Xiao Qian also said Labor's election win was a "possible opportunity" for a reset in relations between China and Australia, but the ambassador suggested the federal government should shape more positive views of the regional power and accused the media of fostering negative opinions.

- Independent MP Helen Haines is seeking a senior role in oversight of the Albanese government's still-to-be-revealed federal anti-corruption commission legislation once it hits Federal Parliament early next month. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has garnered praise from crossbenchers in the House and Senate for recent roundtable consultations over the signature Labor election promise to establish a federal ICAC with "teeth" by the end of the year.

THEY SAID IT: "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

YOU SAID IT: Oh, Qantas, you have a serious image problem and you've got the echidnas seriously spiky.

"I was a Qantas employee from the late 1960s to the early 2000s. It was a source of pride then but no longer. Privatisation started the rot, then Alan Joyce dragged this once great icon into the dirt, all while being obscenely overpaid as CEO," Heather says.

"I have been loyal to Qantas over many years but won't fly with them again because of the poor service and disregard for customers," says Vanessa.

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Susan says privatisation ruined the airline: "Those who worked for Qantas in the 'good old days' tend to hiss whenever they see the words the 'Spirit of Australia'. And, of course, that was not to say it was perfect but the spirit was still there. When it ceased to be a government instrumentality was when the downward slide to today began."

"What proud reputation?," asks S. "On the AU/UK run - even in the heady days of having leg room and empty seats in cattle class - the 'stewardesses' were invariably nasty to females travelling alone, same broken seats, bad food and old planes for years. I switched to Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines years ago and only fly Qantas or British Airways (marginally ruder) when I have to (except for work). Virgin have always cancelled or delayed domestic flights with no notification so no change there."

Sally from Freshwater had some kind words to say: "In Qantas's defence I have recently returned from London via Singapore with Qantas on their new A380. Though it was a fully booked flight and there was a slight delay from Heathrow as there were only three staff on check-in, everyone stayed calm and a lot of our passengers were returning Commonwealth Games swimmers and crew with enormous amounts of luggage. Again we weren't held up in Singapore and landed at 5am, on time, in Sydney. My flight over in June on an A380 was completely full though left on time and landed on time. The staff were friendly and helpful and service was good. My baggage was fine. After hearing horrendous stories, I was very pleased. PS Love The Echidna." Aw shucks, Sal, thank you.

A fair amount of spikiness directed at CEO Alan Joyce.

Alan says: "Alan Joyce should have not been given that position as head of Qantas. He has completely stuffed it. Shareholders should have him sacked."

Tony says much the same: "Alan Joyce must be the most overpaid CEO. He should be sacked now and made to return all his earnings from Qantas since COVID began."

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Barry says: "He has a history of putting his customers last and blaming everyone else."

And the last word goes to Warren, who saw the airline boss recently: "Alan Joyce was in the Sydney domestic terminal early last Saturday morning, quickly wheeling a small travel suitcase, with a friend, past the shops. I wondered where he was travelling to and what his experience would be. I wanted to ask him if the later flight he'd chosen had also been cancelled and if he too had been allocated the first flight of the day. I wanted to tell him how disruptive the cancellations, changes and delays are to the Mental Health Service where I work. Psychiatrists travelling from Sydney for two days rural work have limited time to see inpatients and clients of the Community Mental Health Team. Frequently the community clinics have to be cancelled because we lose about half the psychiatrist's first day or they have to leave earlier on their second day. This is a huge waste of resources for the health service and leads to all sorts of problems for clinicians and their clients."

Dutton paints himself into a petulant corner over jobs summit (2)

John Hanscombe

National reporter, Australian Community Media

Four decades in the media, working in print and television. Formerly editor of the South Coast Register and Milton Ulladulla Times. Based on the South Coast of NSW.

Four decades in the media, working in print and television. Formerly editor of the South Coast Register and Milton Ulladulla Times. Based on the South Coast of NSW.

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